The girl was vaguely disturbed and uneasy without knowing why. The newness and glamour of the possession of creature comforts, the absence of want, was wearing thin in spots. She was conscious of a lack. She was beginning to think and to question, and as there was no one in whom she might confide, she turned inward. Naturally, she couldn’t answer her own questions, and all her thoughts were as yet chaotic and confused. She wanted—well, what did she want, anyhow? She repeated to herself, “I want something different!” That something different should not include a dreary round of Mrs. MacGregor, a cold inspection by Mr. Chadwick Champneys; nor the thought of Peter Champneys. It would include laughter and—and people who were neither teachers nor guardians, but who were gay, and young, and kind. She began to be conscious of her own isolation. She had always been isolated. Once poverty had done it; and now money was doing it. Those girls she saw at church—she’d bet they went to parties, had loads of friends, had a good time, were loved; plenty of people wanted their love. For herself, as far back as she could look, she had never had a friend. Who cared for her love? Sometimes she watched the new maid, a distractingly pretty little Irish girl, black-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-faced. The girl tried to be demure, to restrain the laughter that was always near the surface; but her eyes danced, her cheek dimpled, she had what one might call a smiling voice. And the handsome young policeman on the corner was acutely aware of her. Nancy remembered one afternoon when she and Mrs. MacGregor happened to be coming in at the same time with Molly. It was Molly’s afternoon off and she was dressed trimly, and with taste. Under her little close-fitting hat her hair was like black satin, her face like a rose. The young policeman managed to pass the house at that moment, and lifted his cap to her; Nancy saw the look in the young man’s eyes. She followed Mrs. MacGregor into the house, rebelliously. Nobody had ever looked at her like that. Nobody was ever going to look at her like that. She remembered Peter Champneys’s eyes when they had first met hers. A dull flush stained her face, and bitterness overwhelmed her.
Mr. Champneys was busy; Mrs. MacGregor was satisfied—she had a position of authority; her creature comforts were exquisitely attended to; her salary was ample. The man saw his plans being carried forward, if not brilliantly at least creditably; the woman saw that her tasks were fulfilled. It never occurred to either that the girl might or should ask for more than she received, or that she might find her days dull. But Nancy was discovering that the body is more than raiment, and that one does not live by bread alone.
THE BRIGHT SHADOW