Dummy again. She seemed to be dummy often, this afternoon. They were playing for quarter cents, but even that low stake, Nancy thought irritably, ran up into a considerable sum, when one’s partner bid as madly as young Mrs. Billings bid. She was doubled, and redoubled, and she lost and lost; Nancy saw Elsie’s white hand, with its gold pencil, daintily scoring four hundred—two hundred—three hundred.
“I thought I might as well try it,” said Mrs. Billings blithely, “but you didn’t give me much help, partner!”
“I didn’t bid, you know,” Nancy reminded her.
“Oh, I know you didn’t—it was entirely my own fault! Well, now, let’s try again. ...”
Suddenly it seemed to Nancy all wrong—her sitting here in the tempered summer light, playing cards throughout the afternoon. Inherited from some conscientious ancestor, shame stirred for a few minutes in her blood and she hated herself, and the club, and the women she played with. This was not a woman’s work in the world. Her children scattered about their own affairs, her household in the hands of strange women, her husband playing another game, with other idle men, and she, the wife and mother and manager, sitting idle, with bits of pasteboard in her hands. She was not even at home, she was in a public club—
She laughed out, as the primitive wave of feeling brought her to the crude analysis. It was funny—life was funny. For a few strange minutes she felt as curiously alien to the Marlborough Gardens Yacht Club as if she had been dropped from another world on to its porch. She had been a tired, busy woman, a few years ago; by what witchcraft had she been brought to this? Mrs. Billings was playing four hearts, doubled. Nancy was too deep in uneasy thought to care much what befell the hand. She began to plan changes, always her panacea in a dark mood. She would give up daytime playing, like Mary Ingram. And she would never play except at home, or in some other woman’s home. Nancy was no prude, but she was suddenly ashamed. She was ashamed to have new-comers at the club pass by, and see that she had nothing else to do, this afternoon, but watch a card game.
Sam Biggerstaff came to the door, and nodded to his wife. Nancy smiled at him; “Will I do?” No, he wanted Ruth.
So his wife put her cards in Nancy’s hand, and went out to talk to him. Nancy laughed, when she came back.
“You score two tricks doubled, Ruth. I think that’s too hard, after I played them!”
“Shameful!” said Mrs. Biggerstaff, in her breathless way, slipping into her seat. Two or three more hands were played, then Mrs. Fielding said suddenly:
“Is the tennis finished? Who won? Aren’t they all quiet—all of a sudden?”
The other two women glanced up idly, but Mrs. Biggerstaff said quietly:
“I dealt. No trumps.”