And then some months after their seventh anniversary, Bert sold the Witcher Place.
This was the most important financial event of their lives. The Witcher Place had been so long in the hands of Bert’s firm for sale that it had become a household word in the Bradley family, and in other families. Nobody ever expected to pocket the handsome commission that the owner and the firm between them had placed upon the deal, and to Nancy the thing was only a myth until a certain autumn Sunday, when she and Bert and the children were roaming about the Jersey hills, and stumbled upon the place.
There it was; the decaying mansion, the neglected avenue and garden, the acres and acres of idle orchard and field. The faded signposts identified it, “Apply to the Estate of Eliot Witcher.”
“Bert, this isn’t the Witcher Place!” exclaimed his wife.
Bert was as interested as she. They pushed open the old gate, and ate their luncheon that day sitting on the lawn, under the elms that the first Eliot Witcher had planted a hundred years ago. The children ran wild over the garden, Anne took her nap on the leaf-strewn side porch.
“Bert—they never want two hundred thousand dollars for just this!”
Bert threw away his cigar, and flung himself luxuriously down for a nap.
“They’ll get it, Nance. Somebody’ll develop a real estate deal here some day. They must have a hundred acres here. You’ll see it--’Witcher Park’ or ‘Witcher Manor.’ The old chap who inherited it is as rich as Croesus, he was in the office the other day, he wants to sell.—Hello! I was in the office—garden—and so I said--if you please—”
Bert was going to sleep. His wife laughed sympathetically as the staggering words stopped, and deep and regular breathing took their place. She sat on in the afternoon sunlight, looking dreamily about her, and trying to picture life here a hundred years ago; the gracious young mistress of the new mansion, the ringlets and pantalettes, the Revloutionary[sic] War still well remembered, and the last George on the throne. And now the house was cold and dead, and strange little boys, in sandals and sturdy galatea, were shouting in the stable.
Perhaps she was drowsy herself; she started awake, and touched Bert. An old man and a young man had come in the opened gate, and were speaking to her.
“I beg your pardon!” It was the young man. “But—but do you own this place?”
“No—just picnicking!” said Bert, wide awake.
“But it is for sale?” asked the old man. Bert got up, and brushed the leaves from his clothes, and the three men walked down the drive together. Nancy, half-comprehending, all-hoping looked after them. She saw Bert give the young man his card, and glance at the same time at the faded sign, as if he appealed to it to confirm his claim.
She hardly dared speak when he came back. Anne awoke, and the boys must be summoned for the home trip. Bert moved dreamily, he seemed dazed. Only once did he speak of the Witcher Place that night, and then it was to say: