He was a splendid baby—that was part of the trouble. He was too splendid, he had never been equalled, and could never be replaced, and she would go stark, staring mad if anything happened to him! Nancy almost went mad, as it was. If the Cullinan Diamond had been placed in Nancy’s keeping, rather than worry about it as she worried about Junior, she would have flung it gaily into the East River. But she could not dispose of the baby; her greatest horror was the thought of ever separating from him, the fear that some day Bert might want to send him, the darling, innocent thing, at fourteen, to boarding-school, or that there might be a war, and Junior might enlist!
She showed him to visiting friends in silence. When Nancy had led them in to the bedroom, and raised a shade so that the tempered sun light revealed the fuzzy head and shut eyes and rotund linen-swathed form of Junior, she felt that words were unnecessary. She never really saw the baby’s face, she saw something idealized, haloed, angelic. In later year she used to say that none of the hundreds of snapshots Bert took of him really did the child justice. Junior had been the most exquisitely beautiful baby that any one ever saw, everyone said so.
When Bert got home at night, she usually had a request to make of him. Would he just look at Junior? No, he was all right, only he had hardly wanted his three o’clock nursing, and he was sleeping so hard—
And at this point, if she was tired—and she was always tired!— Nancy would break into tears. “Bert—hadn’t we better ask Colver to come and see him?” she would stammer, eagerly.
Ten minutes later she would be laughing, as she served Bert his dinner. Of course he was all right, only, being alone with him all day, she got to worrying. And she was tired.
Poor Nancy, she was not to know rest or leisure for many years to come. She was clever, and as resolutely as she had solved their first, simple problem, she set about solving this new one. They had forty dollars a week with which to manage now, but the extra money seemed only a special dispensation to provide for the growing demands of Junior.
Junior needed a coach, a crib, new shirts—“he is getting immense, the darling!” was Nancy’s one rapturous comment, when four of these were bought at sixty cents each. In November he needed two quarts of milk daily, and what his mother called “an ouncer” to take the top-milk safely from the bottle, and a small ice box for the carefully prepared bottles, and the bottles themselves. He always needed powder and safety-pins and new socks, and presently he had to have a coloured woman to do his washing, for Nancy was growing stronger and more interested in life in general, and came to the conclusion that he might safely be left for a few moments with Esmeralda, now and then.
He paid for these favours in his own way, and neither Bert nor Nancy ever felt that it was inadequate. When his sober fat face wrinkled into a smile of welcome to his father, Bert was moved almost to tears. When she wheeled him through the streets, royally benign after a full bottle, rosy-cheeked in his wooly white cap, Nancy felt almost too rich. Junior filled all the gaps in her life, it mattered not what she lacked while she had Junior.