“I wish you wouldn’t take that tone with me,” Nancy said, sharply, “I merely meant to make a suggestion that might be helpful—”
A bitter quarrel followed, the bitterest they had ever known. Bert left the house without speaking to his wife the next morning, and Nancy looked out into the still August sunshine with a heavy weight on her heart, as, scowling, he wheeled the car under the maples, and swept away. She went about all day long silent and brooding, answering the children vaguely, and with occasional deep sighs. She told Mrs. Smith that Mr. Bradley would let her know about the hospital money right away, and planned a day at the tennis tournament, and a dinner after it, between periods of actual pain. It was all so stupid—it was all so sad and hopeless and unnecessary!
Bert had not meant what he said to her; she had not meant what she said to him, and they both knew it. But an ugly silence lasted between them for several days. They spoke to each other civilly, before other people; they dressed and went about with an outward semblance of pleasantness, and at home they spoke to the servants and the children.
No formal reconciliation ended this time of discomfort. Guests came to the house, and Bert addressed his wife with some faint spontaneity, and Nancy eagerly answered him. They never alluded to the quarrel; it might have been better if they had argued and cried and laughed away the pain, in the old way.
But they needed each other less now, and life was too full to be checked by a few moments of misunderstanding. Nancy learned to keep absolutely silent when Bert was launched upon one of his favourite tirades against her extravagance; perhaps the most maddening attitude she could have assumed. She would listen politely, her eyes wandering, her thoughts quite as obviously astray.
“But a lot you care!” Bert would finish angrily, “You go on and on, it’s charge and charge and charge—somebody’ll pay for it all! You’ve got to do as the other women do, no matter how crazy it is! I ask you—I ask you honestly, do you know what our Landmann bill was last month?”
“I’ve told you I didn’t know, Bert,” Nancy might answer patiently.
“Well, you ought to know!”
“I know this,” Nancy sometimes said gently, “that you are not yourself to-day; you’ve been eating too much, drinking too much, and going too hard. You can’t do it, Bert, you aren’t made that way. ...”
Then it was Bert’s turn to be icily silent, under the pleasant, even tones of his wife’s voice. Sometimes he desperately planned to break the rule of hospitality, to frighten Nancy by letting guests and neighbours see that something was wrong with the Bradleys. But he never had courage enough, it always seemed simpler and wiser to keep the surface smooth. Nancy, on her part, saw that there was