“Let’s make a rule,” she proposed one day. “Let’s confine our hospitality to persons we really and truly like. Nobody shall come here without express invitation!”
“You’re on!” Bert agreed enthusiastically.
Ten minutes later it chanced that two motor-loads of persons they both thoroughly disliked poured into Holly Court, and Nancy rushed out to scramble some sandwiches together in the frigid atmosphere of the kitchen, where Pauline and Hannah were sourly attacking the ruins of a company lunch.
“It’s maddening,” she said to Bert, later, when the intruders had honked away into the late summer afternoon, “But what can we do? Such a sweet day, and we have that noisy crowd to lunch, and then this!”
“Well, we’re having a lot of fun out of it, anyway!” Bert said, half-heartedly. Nancy did not answer.
But Nancy began to ask herself seriously; was it such fun? When house and maids and children, garden, car, table-linen and clothes had all been brought to the standard of Marlborough Gardens, was the result worth while? Who enjoyed them, who praised them? It was all taken for granted here; the other women were too deep in their own problems to note more than the satisfactory fact; the Bradleys kept the social law.
It was a terrible law. It meant that Nancy must spend every waking moment of her life in thought about constantly changing trifles— about the strip of embroidered linen that curtained the door, about the spoons that were placed on the table, about a hundred details of her dress, about every towel and plate, every stocking and hat-pin she possessed. She must watch the other women, and see how salad-dressing must be served, and what was the correct disposition of grapefruit. And more than that she must be reasonably conversant with the books and poetry of the day, the plays and the political atmosphere. She must always have the right clothing to wear, and be ready to change her plans at any time. She must be ready to run gaily down to the door at the most casual interruption; leaving Agnes to finish Priscilla’s bath just because Seward Smith felt in a mood to come and discuss the fairness of golf handicaps with his pretty, sensible neighbour.
She did not realize that she had been happier years ago, when every step Junior and Ned and Anne took was with Mother’s hand for guide, but she often found herself thinking of those days with a sort of wistful pain at her heart. Life had had a flavour then that it somehow lacked now. She had been tired, she had been too busy. But what richness the memories had; memories of three small heads about a kitchen table, memories of limp little socks and crumpled little garments left like dropped petals in Mother’s lap, at the end of the long day.
“Are we the same people?” mused Nancy. “Have I really my car and my man; is it the same old Bert whose buckskin pumps and whose silk handkerchiefs are imitated by all these rich men? No wonder we’ve lost our bearings a little, we’ve gone ahead—if it is ahead—too fast!”