She and Bert were wrapped in a sort of stupor, after the events of the hot afternoon. Bert seemed to forget that a meal and a sleeping place must be provided for his tribe, and that his face was shockingly dirty, and he wore no coat. He found it delicious to have the placid Priscilla finish her interrupted nap in his arms, and enjoyed his sons’ comments as they came and went. Neither husband nor wife spoke much of the fire, but a rather gay conversation was carried on and there was much philosophical laughter of the sort that such an occasion always breeds.
“I might know that you would save that statue, Jack,” said Bert to one of the young Underhills. “We’ve been trying to break that for eleven years!”
“If that’s the case,” the youth said solemnly, and Nancy’s old happy laugh rang out as he flung the plaster Psyche in a smother of white fragments against the chimney.
“I suppose it would be only decent for me to get started at something,” she said, after a while. “It seems senseless to sit here and merely watch—”
“For pity’s sake sit still if you can,” old Mrs. Underbill said affectionately. “The fire company’s going, and people are all leaving now, anyway. And we’ve got to go, too, but Joe will be over again later—to bring you back with us. Just try to keep calm, Nancy, and don’t worry!”
Worry? Nancy knew that she had not been so free from actual worry for a long, long time. She remembered a dinner engagement with a pleasant reflection that it could not be kept. To-morrow, too, with its engagement to play cards and dine and dance, was now freed. And Monday—when she had promised to go to town and look for hats with Dorothy, and Tuesday, when those women were coming for lunch—it was all miraculously cancelled. A mere chance had loosed the bonds that neither her own desperate resolution nor Bert’s could break. She was Nancy Bradley again, a wife and mother and housekeeper first, and everything else afterward.
What would they do now—where would they go? She did not care. She had been afraid of a hundred contingencies only this morning, fretted with tiny necessities, annoyed by inessential details. Now a real event had come along, and she could breathe again.
“I wonder what I’ve been afraid of, all this time?” mused Nancy. And she smiled over a sudden, mutinous thought. How many of the women she knew would be glad to have their houses burned down between luncheon and dinner on a summer Saturday? She turned to Bert. “Pierre and Pauline may now consider themselves as automatically dismissed,” she said.
“They have already come to that conclusion,” Bert said, with some relish. “I am to figure out what I owe them, and mail them a check. Some of their things they got out—most of them, I guess. I saw someone putting their trunk on a wagon, awhile back, and I imagine that we have parted forever.”
“Hannah transfers herself this night to the Fielding menage” Nancy added after a while. “Which reduces our staff to Agnes. I never want to part with Agnes. You can’t buy tears and loyalty like that; they’re a gift from God, Where do we spend the night, by the way?”