“Take good care of them!” Bert said witheringly. But she only laughed at him from the sink. He followed her into the small, hot, neat kitchen, with the clean empty pint bottle and the quarter-pint bottle turned upside down near the bright faucets, and the enamel handles of the gas stove all turned out in an even row. Bert remembered that the last time he had been here was a cold May morning, when he and Nancy had made countless hot cakes. He had met her at church, and walked home with her, and while they were luxuriously finishing the last of the hot cakes the others had burst in, with the usual harum-scarum plans for the day. But that was May, and now it was July, and somehow the bloom seemed to be gone from their relationship.
They talked pleasantly, and after awhile Mrs. Terhune came in and talked, too. She was distressed about some shares she held in a traction company and Bert was able to be of real service to her, taking a careful memorandum, and promising to see her about it in a day. “For I expect we’ll see you round here in a day or two,” she said with simple archness. She was well used to the demands of Nancy’s beaux. Nancy looked particularly innocent and expectant at this, “Perhaps Mr. Bradley might come in and cheer you up, if I go off with Mrs. Featherstone for the week-end?” she suggested pleasantly. Mrs. Featherstone had been Virginia Belknap.
Bert presently bade her a cold good-bye. His reassurance to Mrs. Terhune was made the next day by telephone, and life became dark and dull to him. Certain things hurt him strangely—the sight of places where she had taken off the shabby gloves; and had seated herself happily opposite him for luncheon or tea; the sound of music she had hummed. He wanted to see her—not feverishly, nothing extreme, except that he wanted it every second of the time. A mild current of wanting to see Nancy underran all his days; he could control it, he decided, and to an extent he did. He ate and worked and even slept in spite of it. But it was always there, and it tired him, and made him feel old and sad.
And then they met; Bert idling through the September sweetness and softness and goldness of the park, Nancy briskly taking her business-like way from West Eightieth to East Seventy-second Street. What Nancy experienced in the next hour Bert could only guess, he knew that she was glad to see him, and that for some reason she was entirely off guard. For himself, he was like a thirsty animal that reaches trees, and shade, and the wide dimpling surface of clear waters. He had so often imagined meeting her, and had so longed to meet her, that he was actually a little confused, and wanted shakily to laugh, and to cling to her.
He walked to Seventy-second Street, with her and then to tea at a tiny place in Madison Avenue called the Prince Royal. And she settled herself opposite him, just as in his dreams—only so much more sweetly—and smiled at him from her dear faithful blue eyes, as she laid aside her gloves.