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Undertow (Chapter4)

2006-08-22 21:07

  Chapter Four

  They had been married eleven days, and were loitering over a Sunday luncheon in their tiny home, when they first seriously discussed finances; not theoretical finances, but finances as bounded on one side by Bert's worn, brown leather pocket-book, and on the other by his bank-book, with its confusing entries in black and red ink.

  Here on the table were seventeen dollars and eighty cents. Nancy had flattened the bills, and arranged the silver in piles, as they talked. This was Sunday; Bert would be paid on Saturday next. Could Nancy manage on that?

  Nancy felt a vague alarm. But she had been a wage earner herself. She rose to the situation at once.

  “Manage what, Bert? If you mean just meals, of course I can! But I won't have this much every week for meals ……?”

  Bert took out a fountain pen, and reached for a blank envelope.

  “Do you mind working it out?——I think it's such fun!”

  “I love it!” Nancy brought her brightest face to the problem. “Now let's see——what have we? Exactly one hundred a month.”

  “Thirteen hundred a year,” he corrected.

  “Yes, but let's not count that extra hundred, Bee!” Nancy, like all women, had given her new husband a new name. “Let's save that and have it to blow in, all in a heap, for something special?”

  “All right.” Bert digressed long enough to catch the white hand and kiss it, and say: “Isn't it wonderful——our sitting here planning things together? Aren't we going to have fun!”

  “Rent, thirty-five,” Nancy began, after an interlude. Bert, who had secured a large sheet of clean paper, made a neat entry, “Rent, $35.”

  “You make such nice, firm figures, mine are always wavy!” observed Nancy irrelevantly, at this. This led nowhere.

  “Now one quarter of that rent ought to come out every week,” Bert submitted presently. “Eight dollars and a half must be put aside every week.”

  “Out of this, too?” Nancy asked, touching the money on the table.

  “Well, that's all that's left of half my salary, drawn in advance,” Bert said, pondering. “Yes, you see——we pay a month in advance on the first!”

  “And what have we besides this, Bee? Your Aunt Mary's check, and—— and what else?”

  “Aunt Mary's hundred, which will certainly take care of the freight bills,” Bert calculated, “and that's all, except this.”

  “But, Bert——but, Bert——all that money we had in Boston?”

  Bert pointed to the table.

  “You behold the remainder.”

  “Weren't we the extravagant wretches!” mused Nancy. “Taxis——tea- parties——breakfast upstairs——silly pink silk stockings for Nancy, a silly pongee vest for Bert——”

  “But oh, what a grand time!” her husband finished unrepentantly.

  “Wasn't it!” Nancy agreed dreamily. But immediately she was businesslike again. “However, the lean years have set in,” she announced. “I'll have to count on a dollar a week laundry——laundry and rent nine dollars and a half; piano and telephone at the rate of three dollars a month——that's a dollar and a half more; milk, a quart of milk and half a pint of cream a day, a dollar and seventy-five cents more; what does that leave, Bert?”

  “It leaves twelve dollars and twenty-five cents,” said Bert.

  “But what about your lunches, dearest?”

  “Gosh! I forgot them,” Bert stated frankly. “I'll keep 'em under fifteen cents a day,” he added, “call it a dollar a week!”

  “You can't!” protested Nancy, with a look of despair.

  “I can if I've got to. Besides, we'll be off places, Sundays, and I'll come home for lunch Saturday, and you'll feed me up.”

  “But, Bert,” she began again presently, “I'll have to get ice, and car fares, and drugs, and soap, and thread, and butter, and bread, and meat, and salad-oil, and everything else in the world out of that eleven-fifty!” Bert was frowning hard.

  “You can't have the whole eleven-fifty,” he told her reluctantly, “I can walk one way, to Forty-Eighth Street, but I can't walk both. I'll have to have some car fare. And my office suit has got to be pressed about once every two weeks——”

  “And newspapers!” added Nancy, dolefully. “Seven cents more!” And they both burst into laughter. “But, Bee,” she said presently, ruffling his hair, as she sat on the arm of his chair, “really I do not know what we will do in case of dentist's bills, or illness, or when our clothes wear out. What do people do? Is thirty-five too much rent, or what?”

  “I'm darned if I know what they do!” Bert mused.

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