“The cleaner’s man, Hannah?” Nancy would ask, sighing. “You’ll have to give him all those things; the boys’ white coats are absolutely no good to them until they’re cleaned, and Mr. Bradley really needs the vests. And put in my blue waist, and all those gloves, and the lace waist, too—no use letting it wait!”
“The things to-day came collect, Mrs. Bradley,” Hannah might respectfully remind her.
“Oh, of course! And how much was it?—eleven-forty? Heavens! What made it so big?”
“Two suits, and your velvet dress, and one of Anne’s dresses. And the man came for your furs this morning, and the awning place telephoned that they would send a man out to measure the porches. Mr. Bradley sent a man back from the station to ask you about plants; but you were asleep, and I didn’t like to wake you!”
It was always something. Just as Nancy thought that the household expenses had been put behind her for a few days at least, a fresh crop sprang up. A room must be papered, the spare room needed curtains, Bert’s racket was broken, the children clamoured for new bathing-suits. Nancy knew two moods in the matter. There was the mood in which she simply refused to spend money, and talked darkly to the children of changes, and a life devoid of all this ridiculous waste; and there was the mood in which she told herself desperately that they would get through somehow, everyone else did, one had to live, after all. In the latter mood she ordered new glasses and new towels, and white shoes for all four children, and bottles of maraschino cherries, and tins of caviar and the latest novel, and four veils at a time.
“Mrs. Albert Bradley, Marlborough Gardens—by self,” Nancy said smoothly, swimming through the great city shops. Sometimes she was a little scared when the boxes and boxes and boxes came home, but after all, they really needed the things, she told herself. But needed or not, she and Bert began to quarrel about money, and to resent each other’s extravagances. The sense of an underlying financial distress permeated everything they did; Nancy’s face developed new expressions, she had a sharp look for the moment in which Bert told her that he was going to take their boys and the Underhill boys to the Hippodrome, or that he was going to play poker again. Bert rarely commented upon her own recklessness, further than to patiently ejaculate, “Lord!”
“Why do you say that, Bert?” she might ask, with violent self-control.
“Nothing, my dear, nothing!” Bert would return to his newspaper, or his razor. “I was just thinking. No matter!”
Nancy would stand, eyeing him sulphurously.