The rest of the day would be rush and excitement, Nancy felt that she never would grow used to the delicious idleness of it all. During the week there were evenings that might have been as quiet as the old evenings, nothing happened, and if anybody came in it was only the Fieldings, or Mrs. Underhill and her son, for a game of bridge. But domestic peace is a habit, after all, and the Bradleys had lost the habit. Nancy was restless, beside her own hearth, even while she spangled a gown for the Hallowe’en ball, and discussed with Bert the details of the paper chase at the club, and the hunt breakfast to follow. She would ask Bert what the others were doing to-night, and would spring up full of eager anticipation when the inevitable rap of the brass knocker came.
Saturdays and Sundays were almost always a time of complete absorption. Everyone had company to entertain, everyone had plans. Nancy and Bert would come gaily into their home, on a Saturday afternoon, flushed from a luncheon party, and would entertain the noisy crowd in the dining room. After that the chugging of motors began again on the drive, and the watching children saw their parents depart in a trail of gay laughter.
There was a brief halt when a fourth child, Priscilla, was born. It was in the quiet days that followed Priscilla’s birth, that the Bradleys began to look certain unpleasant facts squarely in the face. They were running steadily deeper and deeper into debt. There were no sensational expenditures, but there were odd bills left unpaid, from midsummer, from early fall, from Christmas.
“And I don’t see where we can cut down,” said Bert, gloomily.
It was dusk of a bitter winter day. Nancy was lying on a wide couch beside her bedroom fire, Priscilla snuffled in a bassinet near by. In a lighted room adjoining, a nurse was washing bottles. The coming of the second daughter had somehow brought husband and wife nearer together than they had been for a long time, even now Nancy had been wrapped in peaceful thought; this was like the old times, when she had been tired and weak, and Bert had sat and talked about things, beside her! She brought her mind resolutely to bear upon all the distasteful suggestions contained in his involuntary remark.
“What specially worries you, Bert?” she asked.
He turned to her in quick gratitude for her sympathy.
“Nothing special, dear. We just get in deeper and deeper, that’s all. The table, and the servants, and the car, and your bill at Landmann’s—nothing stays within any limit any more! I don’t know where we stand, half the time. It’s not that!” He pulled at his pipe for a moment in silence. “It’s not that!” he burst out, “but I don’t think we get much out of it!”
Nancy glanced at him quickly, and then stared into the fire for a moment of silence. Then she said in a low tone: