“But just what do you mean, Bert?” she would pursue. “Do you mean that you don’t think I should have gotten the suit? I can’t wear that fur-trimmed suit into the summer, you know. The hat was eighteen dollars—do you think there’s another woman in the Gardens who pays no more than that? Lots of men haven’t four lovely children and a home to support, they haven’t wives who make all their friends welcome, as I do. Perhaps you feel that they are better off? If you don’t—I don’t see what you have to complain about. ...” And she would take her own way of punishing him for his air of detachment and superiority. Bert was not blameless, himself. It was all very well for Bert to talk of economy and self-denial, but Bert himself paid twelve dollars a pair for his golf-shoes, and was the first man at the club to order champagne at the dance suppers.
Smouldering with indignation, Nancy would shrug off her misgivings. Why should she hesitate over furs and new hangings for the study and the present for the Appletons, when Bert was so reckless? It would all be paid for, somehow.
“And why should I worry,” Nancy asked herself, “and try to save a few cents here and there, when Bert is simply flinging money right and left?”
But for all her ready argument, Nancy was sometimes wretchedly unhappy. She had many a bitter cry about it all—tears interrupted by the honking of motors in the road, and ended with a dash of powder, a cold towel pressed to hot eyes, and the cheerful fiction of a headache. It was all very well to laugh and chat over the tea-cups, to accept compliments upon her lovely home and her lovely children, but she knew herself a hypocrite even while she did so. She could not say what was wrong, but something was wrong.
Even the children seemed changed to her in these days. The boys were nice-looking, grinning little lads, in their linen suits and white canvas hats, but somehow they did not seem to belong to her any more. Her own boys, whose high chairs had stood in her kitchen a few years ago, while she cut cookies for them and their father, seemed to have no confidences to unfold, and no hopes to share with their mother, now. Sometimes they quite obviously avoided the society of the person who must eternally send them to wash their hands, and exclaim at the condition of their knees. Sometimes they whined and teased to go with her in the motor, and had to be sternly asked by their father if they wished to be punished. Pierre took them about with him on week days, and they played with the other boys of the Gardens, eating too much and staying up too late, but rarely in the way.
Anne was a shy, inarticulate little blonde now, thin, sensitive, and plain. Her hair was straight, and she had lost her baby curls. Nancy did what she could for her, with severe little smocks of blue and lemon colour, and duly started her to school with the boys. But Anne cried herself into being sick, at school, and it was decided to keep her at home for a while. So Anne followed Agnes about, Agnes and the radiant Priscilla, who was giggling her way through a dimpled, rose-pink babyhood; the best of the four, and the easiest to manage. Priscilla chewed her blue ribbons peacefully, through all domestic ups and downs, and never cried when the grown-ups went away, and left her with Agnes.