“I don’t believe we do!”
“I like Biggerstaff—and I like Rose and Fielding well enough!” Bert added presently, after profound thought, “but I don’t like ’em all day and all night! I don’t like this business of framing something up every Sunday—a lot of fur coats and robes, and all of us getting out half-frozen to eat dinners we don’t want, all over the place—”
“And hours and hours of making talk with women I really don’t care about, for me!” Nancy said. “I love Mary Ingram,” she said presently, “and the Biggerstaffs. But that’s about all.”
“Exactly,” said her husband grimly. “But it’s not the Ingrams nor the Biggerstaffs who made our club bill sixty dollars this month” he added.
“Bert! It wasn’t!”
“Oh, yes it was. Everyone of us had to take four tickets to the dance, you know, and we had two bottles of wine New Year’s Eve; it all counts up. But part of it was for Atherton, that cousin of Collins, he asked me to sign for him because he had more than the regulation number of guests!”
“But Bert, he’ll surely pay you?”
“Maybe he will, maybe he won’t; it’s just one of those things you can’t mention.”
“I could let Hannah go,” mused Nancy, “but in the rush last summer I let her help Pauline—waiting on table. Now Pauline won’t set her foot out of the kitchen for love or money.”
“And Pauline is wished on us as long as we keep Pierre,” Bert said, “No, you’ll need ’em all now, with the baby to run. But we’ll try to pull in a little where we can. My bills for the car are pretty heavy, and we’ve got a Tiffany bill for the Fielding kid’s present, and the prizes for the card party. That school of the boys—it’s worth all this, is it?”
Nancy did not answer; her brow was clouded with thought. Doctor, school, maids, car, table—it was all legitimate expense. Where might it be cut? For a few minutes they sat in silence, thinking. Then Bert sighed, shrugged his shoulders, and walked over to look down at Priscilla.
“Hello, Goo-goo!” said he: “You’re having a grand little time with your blanket, aren’t you?”
“I’ll truly take the whole thing in hand,” Nancy said, noticing with a little pang that dear old Bert was looking older, and grayer, than he had a few years ago. “When I come downstairs, self-denial week will set in!”
Her tone brought him to her side; he stooped to kiss the smiling face between the thick braids.
“You always stand by me, Nance!” he said gratefully.
There was no stopping half way, however. The current had caught the Bradleys and it carried them on. There was no expense that could be lessened without weakening the whole structure. Nancy grew sick of bills, bills that came in the mail, that were delivered, and that piled up on her desk. She honestly racked her brain to discover the honourable solution; there was no solution. Even while she pondered, Priscilla in her arms, the machinery that she and Bert had so eagerly constructed went on of its own power.