They were getting from life, she mused, just what everyone wanted to get from life; home, friends, children, amusement. They lived near the greatest city, they could have anything that art and science provided, for the mere buying, no king could sleep in a softer bed, or eat more delicious fare. When Mary Ingram asked Nancy to go to the opera matinee with her, Nancy met women whose names had been only a joke to her, a few years ago. She found them rather like other persons, simple, friendly, interested in their nurseries and their gardens and anxious to reach their own firesides for tea. When Nancy and Bert went out with the Fieldings they had a different experience; they had dinners that were works of art, the finest box in the theatre, and wines that came cobwebbed and dusty to the table.
So that there was no height left to scale; “if we could only afford it,” mused Nancy. Belle Fielding could afford it, of course; her trouble was that the Fielding name was perhaps a trifle too surely connected with fabulous sums of money. And Mary Ingram could afford anything, despite her simple clothes and her fancy for long tramps and quiet evenings with her delicate husband and two big boys. Nancy sometimes wondered that with the Ingram income anyone could be satisfied with Marlborough Gardens, but after all, what was there better in all the world? Europe?—but that meant hotel cooking for the man. Nancy visualized an apartment in a big city hotel, a bungalow in California, a villa in Italy, and came back to the Gardens. Nothing was finer than this.
“If we could only appreciate it!” she said again, sighing. “And if we need only see the people we like—and if time didn’t fly so!” And of course if there were more money! She reflected that if she might go back a few years, to the time of their arrival at the Gardens, she might build far more wisely for her own happiness and Bert’s. They had been drawn in, they had followed the crowd, it was impossible to withdraw now. Nancy knew that something was troubling Bert in these days, she guessed it to be the one real cause for worry. She began almost to hope that he felt financial trouble near, it would be a relief to fling aside, the whole pretence to say openly and boldly, “we must economize,” and to go back to honest, simple living again. They could rent Holly Court—
Fired with enthusiasm, she looked for her check book, and for Bert’s, and with the counterfoils before her made some long calculations. The result horrified her. She and Bert between them had spent ten thousand dollars in twelve months. Nearly ten times the sum upon which they had been so happy, years ago! The loans upon the property still stood, twelve thousand dollars, and the additional three, they had never touched it. There was a bank balance, of course, but as Nancy courageously opened and read bill after bill, and flattened the whole into orderly pile under a paper weight, she saw their total far exceeded the money on hand to meet them. They could wait of course, but meanwhile debts were not standing still.