Involuntarily she sighed. How free she would be! She wished Clarence no ill, but the fact remained that, loose as was the bond between them, it galled and checked them both at every step. Their conversations were embittered by a thousand personalities, they instinctively knew how to hurt each other; a look from Clarence could crush his poised and accomplished wife into a mere sullen shrew, and she knew that it took less than a look from her—it took the mere existence of her youth and health and freshness—to infuriate him sometimes. At best, their relationship consciously avoided hostility. Rachael was silent, fuming; Clarence fumed and was silent; they sank to light monosyllables; they parted as quickly as possible. Would Clarence like to dine with this friend or that? Rachael didn’t think he would, but might as well ask him. No, thank you! he wouldn’t be found dead in that bunch. Did Rachael want to go with the Smiths and the Joneses to dine at the Highway, and dance afterward? Oh, horrors! no, thank you!
It was only when she spoke of Billy that Rachael was sure of his interest and attention, and of late she perforce had for Billy only criticism and disapproval. Rachael read the girl’s vain and shallow and pleasure-loving little heart far more truly than her father could, and she was conscious of a genuine fear lest Billy bring sorrow to them all. Society was indulgent, yes, but an insolent and undeveloped little girl like Billy could not snap her fingers at the law without suffering the full penalty. Rachael would suffer, too. Florence and her girls would suffer, and Clarence—well, Clarence would not bear it. “What an awful mix-up it is!” Rachael thought wearily. “And what a sickening, tiresome place this world is!”
And then suddenly the thought of Warren Gregory came back, and the new curious sensation of warmth tugged at her heart.
Mrs. Gardner Haviland, whirling home in her big car, after church, was hardly more pleased with life than was her beautiful sister-in-law, although she was not quite as conscious of dissatisfaction as was Rachael. Her position as a successful mother, wife, housekeeper, and member of society was theoretically so perfect that she derived from it, necessarily, an enormous amount of theoretical satisfaction. She could find no fault with herself or her environment; she was pleasantly ready with advice or with an opinion or with a verdict in every contingency that might arise in human affairs, as a Christian woman of unimpeachable moral standing. She knew her value in a hectic and reckless world. She did not approve of women smoking, or of suffrage, but she played a brilliant game of bridge, and did not object to an infinitesimal stake. She belonged to clubs and to their directorates, yet it was her boast that she knew every thought in her children’s hearts, and the personal lives and hopes and ambitions of her maids were as an open book to her.