“No,” Bert decided thoughtfully. “I may want to get Sewall into this thing. We’ll have to go there—I wish to the deuce we could get rid of Pauline and Pierre; but I don’t see myself taking care of the car, somehow!”
“Everyone envies us Pauline,” Nancy observed. And seeing that he was still scowling thoughtfully at his black-coffee cup, she touched his hand affectionately again, and set herself seriously to soothe him. “But we’ll find ways of economizing, dear. I’ll watch the bills, and I’ll scold Pauline again about the butter and eggs and meat that she wastes. You must remember that you have a big family, Bert. You’re raising four healthy children, and you have a car, and a man, and a beautiful home, and a delightful group of friends, and two or three fine clubs—”
But for once Bert was not easily quieted. He put his head in his hands and gave a sort of groan.
“Don’t tell me what I’ve got—I know it all! Lord, I lie awake nights wondering what would happen to the crowd of you—However!” And dismissing the topic, he glanced at his watch. “I think I’ll turn in before anybody comes in, Nance. I need sleep.” With a long tired yawn, he started for the big square stairway; paused at her desk. “What’re all those?”
“Bills, Bert. I’m sorry to have you see them now. But we ought to pay some of them—I’ve been going over things, this afternoon. Now, especially if you’re going to make a fresh start, we ought to straighten things out. We ought to plan that we can spend so much money, and stick to that.”
Bert flipped the pile with a careless finger.
“We never will!” he said morosely. “We never have.”
“Oh, Bert—we used to clear everything off on the first of the month, and then celebrate, don’t you remember?”
He jerked his head impatiently.
“What’s the use of harking back to that? That was years ago, and things are different now. We’ll pull out of it, I’m not worried. Only, where we can, I think we ought to cut down.”
“Dentist—” Nancy said musingly. She had come over to stand beside him, and now glanced at one of the topmost bills. “You have to have a dentist,” she argued.
“Well, I’m too tired to go over ’em now!” Bert said, unsympathetically. “Leave ’em there—I’ll take them all up in a day or two!”
“But I was thinking,” Nancy said, following him upstairs, “That while you are about it, borrowing money for the new venture, you know—why not borrow an extra thousand or two, and clear this all up, and then we can really start fresh. You see interest on a thousand is only fifty dollars a year, and that—”
“That’s nonsense!” Bert answered, harshly, “Borrowing money for a business is one thing, and borrowing money to pay for household bills is another! I don’t propose to shame myself before men like Biggerstaff and Ingram by telling them that I can’t pay my butcher’s bill!”