Chapter Eighteen
 

An hour later they went to see Holly Court again. It was even lovelier than ever in the sweet spring twilight. Triangles of soft light lay upon its dusty, yet polished, floors. Bert said that the place certainly needed precious little furniture; Nancy added eagerly that one maid could do all the work. She drew a happy sketch of Bert and his friends, arriving hot and weary from the city, on summer afternoons, going down to the bay for a plunge, and coming back to find supper spread on the red-tiled porch. Bert liked the idea of winter fires, with snow and darkness outside and firelight and warmth within, and the Bradleys' friends driving up jolly and cold for an hour's talk, and a cup of tea.

"What do you think, dear?" said Bert to his wife, very low, when the agent had considerately withdrawn for a few minutes, and they could confer. "Think!" repeated Nancy, in delicate reproach, "Why, I suppose there is only one thing to think, Bert!"

"You--you like it, then?" he asked, a little nervously. "Of course, it's a corking place, and all that. And, as Rogers says, with what we have we could swing it easily. You see dear, I pay ten thousand, and take up twelve thousand more as a mortgage. Even then there's three thousand--"

Nancy looked despair.

"But that could be covered by a second mortgage," he reminded her, quickly. "That's a very ordinary thing. Everyone does that. Rogers will fix it up for me."

"Really, Bert?" she asked doubtfully.

"Oh, certainly! We do it every day, in the office. However, we've got to think this thing over seriously. It's twice--in fact, it's more than twice what we said. There's the interest on the mortgage, and the cost of the move, and my commutation, and club dues. Then of course, living's a little higher--there are no shops, just telephone service, the shops are in the village."

"But think of car fares--and how simply the children can dress" Nancy countered quickly. "And if they have all outdoors to play in, why, I could let Anna go, and just send out the laundry!"

"Well, we could think it over----" Bert began uncomfortably, but she cut him short. They had been standing beside one of the windows, and looking out at the soft twilight under the trees; now Nancy turned to her husband a pale, tense face, and rather bright eyes.

"Albert," said she, quickly and breathlessly, "if I could have a home like this I'd manage somehow! You've been saying we could have a nurse to help with the children--but I'd have one servant all my life--I'd do my own work! To have our friends down here--to have the children grow up in these surroundings--to have that club to go to--! We're not building for this year, or next year, dear. We've got the children's future to think of. Mind, I'm not trying to influence you, Bert," said Nancy, her eager tone changing suddenly to a flat, repressed voice, "You are the best judge, of course, and whatever you decide will be right. But I merely think that this is the loveliest place I ever saw in my life, and exactly what we've been hunting for--only far, far nicer!--and that if we can't have it we'd simply better give up house-hunting, because it's a mere waste of time, and resign ourselves to living in that detestable city for ever and ever! Of course to go on as we are going on, means no friends and no real home life for the children, everyone admits that the city is no place for children, and another thing, we'll never find anything like this again! But you do as you think best. Only I--that's what I feel, if you ask me."

And having talked the colour into her cheeks, and the tears into her eyes, Nancy turned her back upon her husband, and looked out into the garden again.