But Bert had his own ideas. When Nancy met him down town a day or two later, to go pick the coat, she found him quite unmanageable. He said that there was no hurry about the coat—they were right here in the housekeeping things, why not look at fireless cookers? In the end they bought an ice-cream freezer, and a fireless cooker, and two pairs of arctic overshoes, and an enormous oval-shaped basket upon which the blushing Nancy dropped a surreptitious kiss when the saleswoman was not looking, and a warm blue sweater for Nancy, and, quite incidentally, an eighteen-dollar overcoat for Bert.
Nancy’s lip trembled over this last purchase. They were nice overcoats, remarkable for the price, indeed—“marked down from twenty-five.” But—but she had wanted him to spend every cent of the fifty dollars for a stunning coat! Bert laughed at her April face. He took her triumphantly to the fifty-cent luncheon and they talked over it for a blissful hour. And when she left him at the office door, Nancy consoled herself by drifting into one of the near-by second-hand bookshops, and buying him a tiny Keats, “Pepy’s Diary” somewhat shabby as to cover, and George’s “Progress and Poverty,” at ten cents apiece. These books were piled at Bert’s place that night, and gave him almost as much pleasure as the overcoat did.
And even Nancy had to confess that the disputed garment looked warm and thick, when it came home in its green box, and that it was “fun” to open the other packages, and find the sweater, looking so wooly and comfortable, and the big basket destined for so precious a freight! She and Bert laughed and chattered over the thick papers and strings that bound the freezer and the cooker, and made chocolate ice-cream for dinner on Sunday, and never ate their breakfast oatmeal without a rapturous appreciation of the cooker.
She was still the centre of his universe and her own when she walked with her hand on his arm, to the little hospital around the corner, on a sweet April morning. The slow coming of spring had brought her a new tenderness and a new dependence, and instinctively she felt that, when she came home again, she would be a new Nancy. The wistfulness that marks any conscious human change had been hers for many days now; she was not distrustful, she was not unhappy, but she was sobered and thoughtful.
“We have been happy, haven’t we, Bert?” she said, more than once.
“We always will be, my darling! You know that.”
But she would only smile at him wisely, for reply. She was still happy, happier perhaps than ever. But she knew that she was no longer the mistress of her own happiness—it lay in other hands now.
So the universe was turned upside down for Nancy, and she lost, once and for all her position as its centre. The world, instead of a safe and cheerful place, became full of possible dangers for the baby, Albert the eighth. Nancy, instead of a self-reliant, optimistic woman, was only a weary, feeble, ignorant person who doubted her own power to protect this priceless treasure.