Chapter Twenty-nine

No formal reconciliation ended this time of discomfort. Guests came to the house, and Bert addressed his wife with some faint spontaneity, and Nancy eagerly answered him. They never alluded to the quarrel; it might have been better if they had argued and cried and laughed away the pain, in the old way.

But they needed each other less now, and life was too full to be checked by a few moments of misunderstanding. Nancy learned to keep absolutely silent when Bert was launched upon one of his favourite tirades against her extravagance; perhaps the most maddening attitude she could have assumed. She would listen politely, her eyes wandering, her thoughts quite as obviously astray.

"But a lot you care!" Bert would finish angrily, "You go on and on, it's charge and charge and charge--somebody'll pay for it all! You've got to do as the other women do, no matter how crazy it is! I ask you--I ask you honestly, do you know what our Landmann bill was last month?"

"I've told you I didn't know, Bert," Nancy might answer patiently.

"Well, you ought to know!"

"I know this," Nancy sometimes said gently, "that you are not yourself to-day; you've been eating too much, drinking too much, and going too hard. You can't do it, Bert, you aren't made that way. ..."

Then it was Bert's turn to be icily silent, under the pleasant, even tones of his wife's voice. Sometimes he desperately planned to break the rule of hospitality, to frighten Nancy by letting guests and neighbours see that something was wrong with the Bradleys. But he never had courage enough, it always seemed simpler and wiser to keep the surface smooth. Nancy, on her part, saw that there was nothing to gain by a break of any sort. Bert was not the type to be intimidated by sulks and silences, and more definite steps might quickly carry the situation out of her hands. The present with Bert was difficult, but a future that did not include him was simply unthinkable. No, a woman who had four young children to consider had no redress; she could only endure. Nancy liked the martyr role, and frequently had cause, or imagined she had cause, for assuming it.