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Undertow (Chapter3)

2006-08-22 21:07

  Chapter Three

  It was a happy time, untroubled by the thought of money that was soon to be so important. Bert's various aunts and cousins sent him checks, and Nancy's stepmother sent her all her own mother's linen and silver, and odd pieces of mahogany on which the freight charges were frightful, and laces and an oil portrait or two. The trousseau was helped from all sides, every week had its miracle; and the hats, and the embroidered whiteness, and the smart street suit and the adorable kitchen ginghams accumulated as if by magic. Bert's mother sent delightfully monogrammed bed and table-linen, almost weekly. Nancy said it was preposterous for poor people to start in with such priceless possessions!

  Among the happy necessities of the time was the finding of a proper apartment. Nancy and Bert spent delightful Saturdays and Sundays wandering in quest of it; beginning half-seriously in February, when it seemed far too early to consider this detail, and continuing with augmented earnestness through the three succeeding months. Eventually they got both tired and discouraged, and felt dashed in the very opening of their new life, but finally the place was found, and they loved it instantly, and leased it without delay. It was in a new apartment house, in East Eleventh Street, four shiny and tiny rooms, on a fourth floor. Everything was almost too compact and convenient, Nancy thought; the ice box, gas stove, dumb-waiter, hanging light over the dining table, clothes line, and garbage chute, were already in place. It left an ambitious housekeeper small margin for original arrangement, but of course it did save money and time. The building was of pretty cream brick, clean and fresh, the street wide, and lined with dignified old brownstone houses, and the location perfect. She smothered a dream of wide old-fashioned rooms, quaintly furnished in chintzes and white paint. They had found no such enchanting places, except at exorbitant rents. Seventy-five dollars, or one hundred dollars, were asked for the simplest of them, and the plumbing facilities, and often the janitor service, were of the poorest. So Nancy abandoned the dream, and enthusiastically accepted the East Eleventh Street substitute, Bert becoming a tenant in the “George Eliot,” at a rental of thirty-five dollars a month. Some of the old Barrett furniture was too large for the place, but what she could use Nancy arranged with exquisite taste: fairly dancing with pleasure over the sitting room, where her chair and Bert's were in place, and the little droplight lighted on the little table. In this room they were going to read Dickens out loud, on winter nights.

  They were married on a hot April morning, a morning whose every second seemed to Nancy flooded with strange perfumes, and lighted with unearthly light. The sky was cloudless; the park bowered in fresh green; the streets, under new shadows, clean-swept and warm. Her gown was perfection, her new wide hat the most becoming she had ever worn; the girls, in their new gowns and hats, seemed so near and dear to her to-day. She was hardly conscious of Bert, but she remembered liking his big brother, who kissed her in so brotherly a fashion. Winter was over, the snow was gone at last, the trying and depressing rains and the cold were gone, too, and she and Bert were man and wife, and off to Boston for their honeymoon.

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