“You enjoyed it,” I ventured cautiously.
“Oh, yes,” she agreed. “And everyone was so nice to me—for your sake of course.”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” I said. “I shan’t tell you what Nancy and the others said about you.”
Maude had the gift of silence.
“What a beautiful house!” she sighed presently. “I know you’ll think me silly, but so much luxury as that frightens me a little. In England, in those places we saw, it seemed natural enough, but in America—! And they all your friends—seem to take it as a matter of course.”
“There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have beautiful things and well served dinners, too, if we have the money to pay for them.”
“I suppose not,” she agreed, absently.
That winter many other entertainments were given in our honour. But the conviction grew upon me that Maude had no real liking for the social side of life, that she acquiesced in it only on my account. Thus, at the very outset of our married career, an irritant developed: signs of it, indeed, were apparent from the first, when we were preparing the house we had rented for occupancy. Hurrying away from my office at odd times to furniture and department stores to help decide such momentous questions as curtains, carpets, chairs and tables I would often spy the tall, uncompromising figure of Susan Peters standing beside Maude’s, while an obliging clerk spread out, anxiously, rugs or wall-papers for their inspection.
“Why don’t you get Nancy to help you, too!” I ventured to ask her once.
“Ours is such a little house—compared to Nancy’s, Hugh.”
My attitude towards Susan had hitherto remained undefined. She was Tom’s wife and Tom’s affair. In spite of her marked disapproval of the modern trend in business and social life,—a prejudice she had communicated to Tom, as a bachelor I had not disliked her; and it was certain that these views had not mitigated Tom’s loyalty and affection for me. Susan had been my friend, as had her brother Perry, and Lucia, Perry’s wife: they made no secret of the fact that they deplored in me what they were pleased to call plutocratic obsessions, nor had their disapproval always been confined to badinage. Nancy, too, they looked upon as a renegade. I was able to bear their reproaches with the superior good nature that springs from success, to point out why the American tradition to which they so fatuously clung was a things of the past. The habit of taking dinner with them at least once a week had continued, and their arguments rather amused me. If they chose to dwell in a backwater out of touch with the current of great affairs, this was a matter to be deplored, but I did not feel strongly enough to resent it. So long as I remained a bachelor the relationship had not troubled me, but now that I was married I began to consider with some alarm its power to affect my welfare.