She introduced the new-comers, and as Bert, somewhat more at home in his cousin’s house than his wife was, fell into conversation with the middle-aged man nearest him, Dorothy dutifully addressed herself to Nancy. They spoke of Bert’s mother, and of Boston, and Dorothy asked Nancy if she liked tennis—or golfing—or yachting? There was to be quite a large dance at the club to-night, and an entertainment before it.
“Isn’t Dorothy a wonder, Mrs. Bradley?” asked Elaine. “She’s going to have twenty people to dinner, she runs this big house, she’s got a baby not yet six months old, and she looks about sixteen!”
“You must have wonderful maids,” suggested Nancy, smiling.
“I have!” said Dorothy amusedly, “They’re crazy about me—I don’t know why, because I work them like dogs. But of course we’re away a lot, and then they always have parties,” she added, “and they run things pretty much to suit themselves. But we have good meals, don’t we, Elaine?” she asked, childishly.
“Heavenly!” said Elaine. Nancy, trying to appear brightly sympathetic, smiled again.
But she and Bert dressed for dinner almost silently, an hour later. It was all delightful and luxurious, truly, and they were most considerately and hospitably accepted by the entire establishment. But something was wrong. Nancy did not know what it was, and she did not want to risk a mere childish outburst, so easily construed into jealousy. Perhaps it was jealousy.
She found herself arguing, as she dressed. This sort of thing was not life, after all. The quiet wife of an obscure man, rejoicing in her home and her children, had a thousand times more real pleasure. These well-dressed idle people didn’t count, after all. ...
“Sort of nice of Dorothy to send Hawkes in for us,” Bert said; “Did you hear her explain that she thought we’d be more comfortable with Hawkes, so she and Mrs. Catlin kept the younger man?”
“Considerate!” Nancy said, lifelessly.
“Isn’t it a wonder she isn’t spoiled?” Bert pursued.
“Really it is!”
“Benchley looks like an ass,” Bert conceded. “But he’s not so bad. He’s in the firm now, you know, and Dorothy was just telling me that he’s taken hold wonderfully.”
“Isn’t that nice?” Nancy said, mildly. She was struggling with her hair, which entirely refused to frame her face in its usual rich waves, and lay flat or split into unexpected partings despite her repeated efforts. “How’s that now, Bert? “she asked, turning toward him with an arrangement half-completed.
“Well—that’s all right—” he began uncertainly. Nancy, dropping the brown strands, and tossing the whole hot mass free, felt that she could burst into tears.
The dinner was an ordeal; her partner was unfortunately interested only in motor-cars, of which Nancy could find little that was intelligent to say. She felt like what she was, a humble relative out of her element. After dinner they were all packed into cars, and swept to the club.