Susan saw good little women ostracized for the fact that their husbands did not appear at ease in evening dress, for their evident respect for their own butlers, or for their mere eagerness to get into society. On the other hand, she saw warmly accepted and admired the beautiful Mrs. Nokesmith, who had married her second husband the day after her release from her first, and pretty Beulah Garrett, whose father had swindled a hundred trusting friends out of their entire capital, and Mrs. Lawrence Edwards, whose oldest son had just had a marriage, contracted with a Barbary Coast woman while he was intoxicated, canceled by law. Divorce and disease, and dishonesty and insanity did not seem so terrible as they once had; perhaps because they were never called by their real names. The insane were beautifully cared for and safely out of sight; to disease no allusion was ever made; dishonesty was carried on in mysterious business avenues far from public inspection and public thought; and, as Ella once pointed out, the happiest people in society were those who had been married unhappily, divorced, and more fortunately mated a second time. All the married women Ella knew had “crushes”—young men who lounged in every afternoon for tea and cigarettes and gossip, and filled chairs at dinner parties, and formed a background in a theater box. Sometimes one or two matrons and their admirers, properly chaperoned, or in safe numbers, went off on motoring trips, and perhaps encountered, at the Del Monte or Santa Cruz hotels their own husbands, with the women that they particularly admired. Nothing was considered quite so pitiful as the wife who found this arrangement at all distressing. “It’s always all right,” said Ella, broadly, to Susan.
In the autumn Susan went home for a week, for the Lancaster family was convulsed by the prospect of Alfie’s marriage to a little nobody whose father kept a large bakery in the Mission, and Susan was needed to brace Alfred’s mother for the blow. Mary Lou’s old admirer and his little, invalid wife, were staying at the house now, and Susan found “Ferd” a sad blow to her old romantic vision of him: a stout, little, ruddy-cheeked man, too brilliantly dressed, with hair turning gray, and an offensive habit of attacking the idle rich for Susan’s benefit, and dilating upon his own business successes. Georgie came over to spend a night in the old home while Susan was there, carrying the heavy, lumpy baby. Myra was teething now, cross and unmanageable, and Georgie was worried because a barley preparation did not seem to agree with her, and Joe disapproved of patent foods. Joe hoped that the new baby—Susan widened her eyes. Oh, yes, in May, Georgie announced simply, and with a tired sigh,— Joe hoped the new baby would be a boy. She herself hoped for a little girl, wouldn’t it be sweet to call it May? Georgie looked badly, and if she did not exactly break down and cry during her visit, Susan felt that tears were always close behind her eyes.