Undertow by Kathleen Thompson Norris
"The whole trouble is that Bert loves neither the children nor myself any more!" she decided bitterly, on a certain August afternoon, when, with three other young wives and mothers, she was playing bridge at the club. It was a Saturday, and Bert was on the tennis courts, where the semi-finals in the tournament were being played. Nancy had watched all morning, and had lunched with the other women; the men merely snatched lunch, still talking of the play. Nancy had noticed disapprovingly that Bert was flushed and excited, her asides to him seemed to fall upon unhearing ears. He seemed entirely absorbed in what Oliver Rose and Joe Underhill were saying; he had lost his own chance for the cup, but was in high spirits, and was to umpire the afternoon games.
After luncheon Nancy rather discontentedly settled down to bridge, with Elsie Fielding, Ruth Biggerstaff and a young Mrs. Billings who had only recently come back to her home in the Gardens, after some years of travel. They were all pretty and gracious women, and just such a group as the Nancy of a few years ago would have envied heartily.
But to-day she felt deeply depressed, she knew not why. Perhaps watching the tennis had given her a slight headache; perhaps Bert's cavalier treatment of her latest idea of economizing, submitted to him only a few hours ago, still rankled in her breast.
"Bert," she had said to him suddenly, during a breakfast-table dissertation in which he had dwelt upon the business capability of some women, and the utter lack of it in others, "Why not rent Holly Court and go somewhere else for a year or two?"
Even as she spoke she had been smitten with a sudden dread of all this must entail for herself. But before she could qualify it, Bert's angry and impatient answer had come:
"Don't talk nonsense! Do you want everyone to think that, now I'm out for myself, I can't make a go of it? What would Ingram and Biggerstaff think, if I began to talk money tightness? I didn't leave the firm, and strike out for myself to give in this soon!"
Nancy had shrunk back, instantly silenced. She had not spoken to him again until Oliver Rose called, to remind them of the tennis, and then, hating herself while she did it, Nancy had forced herself to speak to Bert, and Bert had somewhat gruffly replied. Once at the club, all signs of the storm must be quickly brushed aside, but the lingering clouds lay over her heart now, and she felt desolate and troubled. She did not want to excuse herself and go home, she did not want to go out and watch more tennis, but she felt vaguely that she did not want to play bridge, either. The other women bored her.