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Kathleen Norris
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 103 pages of information about Undertow.

Chapter Eight

“The Old Hill House,” on the north Connecticut line, seemed almost too good to be true.  It was an unpretentious country hotel, and Nancy and Junior settled themselves in one of its hot, second-story rooms feeling almost guiltily happy.  Nancy kissed Bert good-bye on the first Monday morning assuring him that she had nothing to do!  To go down to meals, and they were good meals, without the slightest share in the work of preparing them, and to be able to wear dainty clothes without the ruinous contact with the kitchen, seemed too luxurious.

But she was not quite idle, none-the-less.  Junior had to have his morning bath, after breakfast, and while he was in the tub, his mother washed six bottles in the hand-basin.  Then, on a tiltish alcohol stove, Nancy had to boil his barley for twenty endless minutes.  When the stove upset there was an additional half-hour’s hard work, but even when it did not, it was usually ten o’clock before she went down to the kitchen for his two quarts of milk.  Then came the usual careful work with the “ouncer,” and the six filled bottles were put into Nancy’s own small ice-box, to which one of the maids was then supposed to bring a small piece of ice.  The left-over milk was taken back to the kitchen, and Nancy washed the little saucepan in her hand-basin, and put away stove and barley.  By this time Junior was ready for another bottle, and when he went to sleep his mother went down to the laundry with an arm-full of small garments.

There was no other way.  Labour was scarce in the village, and Nancy could get no one of the housemaids to take upon herself this daily task.  Women from the outside were not allowed in the hotel laundry, and so the task fell naturally to the baby’s mother.  She assumed it gladly, but when the line of snowy linen was blowing free in the summer wind, and the cake of soap had been put on its special rafter, and the tubs were draining, Nancy usually went up to her bedroom, tiptoeing in because of the sleeper, and flung herself down for a heavy nap.

After luncheon she gathered in her linen and watched by the wideawake baby.  Then they went down to the cool shade by the creek, and Junior threw stones, and splashed fat hands in the shallows, and his mother watched him adoringly.  It never entered her head that she was anything but privileged to be able to slave for him.  He was always and supremely worth while.  Nancy’s only terrors were that something would happen to rob her of the honour.  She wanted no other company; Junior was her world, except when Saturday’s noon train brought Bert.  She told her husband, and meant it, that she was too happy; they did not need the world.

But sometimes the world intruded, and turned Nancy’s hard-won philosophy to ashes.  She did not want to be idle, and she did not want to be rich, but when she saw women younger than herself, in no visible way inferior, who were both, her calm was shattered for a time.

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