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Undertow (Chapter22)

2006-08-22 21:14

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Miraculously, finances stood the strain. Bert was doing well, and sometimes made several good commissions together——not as large as the famous commission, but still important. Neither he nor Nancy kept accounts any more, bills were paid as they came in, and money was put into the bank as it came in. Nancy had a check book, but she rarely used it. Sometimes, when Mrs. Biggerstaff or Mrs. Underhill asked her to join a Girls' Home Society or demanded a prize for the Charity Bridge, Nancy liked to show herself ready to help, but for other purposes she needed no money. She ordered all household goods by telephone, signed “chits” at the club, kept her bridge winnings loose in a small enamelled box, ready for losing, and, when she went into town, charged on her accounts right and left, and met Bert for luncheon. So that, when they really had their first serious talk about money, Nancy was able to say with a quite plausible air of innocence, “Well, Bert, I haven't asked you for one cent since the day I needed mileage. I don't waste money! I never did.”

  “Well, we've got it!” Bert said uncomfortably, on the day of this talk. He had vaguely hoped, as the month went by, that it was going to show him well ahead financially. However, if things “broke even,” he might well congratulate himself. Certainly they were having a glorious time, there was no denying that.

  “Do you recognize us, Bert?” Nancy sometimes asked him exultingly, as she tucked herself joyously into somebody's big tonneau, or snatched open a bureau drawer to find fresh prettiness for some unexpected outing. “Do you remember our wanting to join the Silver River Country Club! That little club!”

  “Gosh, it's queer!” Bert would agree, grinning. And late in the second summer he said, “If I put the Buller deal over, I think I'll get a car!”

  “Well, honestly, I think we ought to have a car,” Nancy said seriously, after a flashing look of delight, “It isn't an extravagance at all, Bert, if you really figure it out. The man does errands for you, saves you I don't know how much cab fare, takes care of the place, and Mary Ingram's man has a garbage incinerator——and saves that expense! Then, it's one of the things you truly ought to have, down here. You have friends down Saturday, you play golf, you play bridge after dinner——well and good. Sunday morning we swim, and come home to lunch, and then what? You can't ask other friends in to lunch and then propose that they take us in their cars down the island somewhere? And yet that's what they do; and I assure you it embarrasses me, over and over again.”

  “Oh, we'll have to have a car——I'm glad you see it,” said Bert.

  The Buller deal being duly completed, they got their car. The picturesque garage was no longer useless. A silent, wizened little Frenchman and his wife took possession of the big room over the kitchen, Pierre to manage the garden and the car, Pauline to cook- -she was a marvellous cook. Nancy kept Agnes, and got a little maid besides, who was to make herself generally useful in dining room and bedrooms.

  The new arrangement worked like a charm. There was no woman in the Gardens who did not envy the Bradleys their cook, and Nancy felt the possession of Pauline a real feather in her cap. Pauline exulted in emergencies, and Nancy and Bert experienced a fearful delight when they put her to the test, and sat bewildered at their own table, while the dainty courses followed one another from some mysterious source to which Pauline alone held the clue,

  The children were somewhat in the background now, but they seemed well cared for, and contented enough when they made their occasional appearances before their mother's friends. There was a fine private school in the Gardens, and although the fees for the two boys, with music lessons twice weekly, came to thirty dollars a month, Nancy paid it without self-reproach. The alternative was to send them into the village public school, which was attended by not one single child from the Gardens. The Ingram boys went away to boarding school at Pomfret, Dorothy Rose boarded in New York, and the Underbill boys had a tutor, who also had charge of one or two other boys preparing for college preparatory schools. While the boys were away Anne drifted about with her mother, or more often with Agnes, or was allowed to go to play with Cynthia Biggerstaff or Harriett Fielding.

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