“I’m darned if I know what they do!” Bert mused.
They both were destined to learn how it was managed, and being young and healthy and in love, they learned easily, and with much laughter and delight. Bert’s share was perhaps the easier, for although he manfully walked to his office, polished his own shoes, and ate a tiresome and unsatisfying lunch five days a week, he had his reward on the sixth and seventh days, when Nancy petted and praised him.
Her part was harder. She never knew what it was to be free from financial concern. She fretted and contrived until the misspending of five cents seemed a genuine calamity to her, She walked to cheap markets, and endured the casual scorn of cheap clerks. She ironed Bert’s ties and pressed his trousers, saving car fares by walking, saving hospitality by letting her old friends see how busy and absorbed she was, saving food by her native skill and ingenuity.
But they lived royally, every meal was a triumph, every hour strangely bright. Of cooking meat, especially the more choice cuts, Nancy did little this year, but there was no appetizing combination of vegetables, soups, salads, hot breads, and iced drinks that she did not try. Bert said, and he meant it, that he had never lived so well in his life, and certainly the walls of the little apartment in the “George Eliot” were packed with joy. When their microscopic accounts balanced at the end of the week, they celebrated with a table-d’hete dinner down town—dinners from which they walked home gloriously happy, Nancy wondering over and over again how the restaurateurs could manage it, Bert, over his cigar, estimating carefully: “Well, Sweet, there wasn’t much cost to that soup, delicious as it was, and I suppose they buy that sole down at the docks, in the early morning...”
When Nancy had learned that she could live without a telephone, and had cut down the milk bill, and limited Bert to one butter ball per meal, she found she could manage easily. In August they gave two or three dinners, and Nancy displayed her pretty table furnishings to “the girls,” and gave them the secret of her iced tea. She told her husband that they got along because he was “so wonderful”; she felt that no financial tangle could resist Bert’s neatly pencilled little calculations, but Bert praised only her— what credit to him that he did not complain, when he was the most fortunate man in the world?
They came to be proud of their achievement. Nancy had Buckley Pearsall, Bert’s chief, and his wife, to dinner, and kindly Mrs. Pearsall could not enough praise the bride and her management. Later the Pearsalls asked the young Bradleys down to their Staten Island home for a week-end. “And think of the pure gain of not buying a thing for three days!” exulted Nancy, thereby convulsing her lord. She brought back late corn, two jars of Mrs. Pearsall’s preserved peaches, a great box of grapes to be made into jelly, and a basket of tomatoes. Bert said that she was a grafter, but he knew as well as she that Nancy’s pleasure in taking the gifts had given Mrs. Pearsall a genuine joy.