“Oh, I don’t know,” he said comfortably, “We’ve got the money. It amounts only to about five dollars a month, after all. I vote for the big one.”
“Well, of course it’ll be just the most glorious luxury that ever was,” Nancy agreed happily. She loved the water, and Bert enjoyed nothing so much in the world as an hour’s swimming with the children, but before that second summer was over they could not but see that their enthusiasm was unshared by the majority of their neighbours. The children all went in daily, at the stillwater, and the few young girls Marlborough Gardens boasted also went in, on Sundays, in marvellous costumes. At these times there was much picturesque grouping on the pier, and the float, and much low conversation between isolated couples, while flying soft hair was drying. Also the men of all ages went in, for perhaps ten minutes brisk overhand exercise, and came gasping out for showers and rough towelling.
But Nancy’s women friends did not care for sea-bathing, and she came to feel that there was something just a trifle provincial in the open joyousness with which the five Bradleys gathered for their Sunday riot. If there was a morning tide they were comparatively unnoticed, although there were always a few boats going out, and few men on the tennis courts. But when the tide was high in the afternoon, even Bert admitted that it was “darned conspicuous” for the family to file across the vision of the women who were playing bridge on the porch, and for Anne to shriek over her water-wings and the boys to yell, as they inevitably did yell, “Gee—it’s cold!”
Their real reason for more or less abandoning the habit was that there was so much else to do. Bert played golf, Nancy learned to score tennis as she watched it, and to avoid applause for errors, and to play excellent bridge for quarter-cent points. She went to two or three luncheons sometimes in a single week; and cold Sunday lunches, with much passing of beer and sharing of plates, were popular at Marlborough Gardens. Holly Court was especially suited to this sort of hospitality, and it was an easy sort to extend. Nancy sent the children off with Agnes, bribed her cook, bribed the laundress to wash all the table linen twice weekly, and on special occasions employed a large, efficient Swedish woman from the village for a day, or a week-end. “I’ll get Christiana,” was one of the phrases that fell frequently from Nancy’s lips.
Miraculously, finances stood the strain. Bert was doing well, and sometimes made several good commissions together—not as large as the famous commission, but still important. Neither he nor Nancy kept accounts any more, bills were paid as they came in, and money was put into the bank as it came in. Nancy had a check book, but she rarely used it. Sometimes, when Mrs. Biggerstaff or Mrs. Underhill asked her to join a Girls’ Home Society or demanded