The story of a wife’s rebellion and a husband's discovery that last year's clothes may mar this year's happiness
GRACE STROBEL KERN
ANNE kicked at the blouse that had slid off the bed and now lay in a discouraged heap on the floor.
“I'm sick to death of you," she said aloud. She turned to the garments laid out on the bed. “You’re all short and long in the wrong places. You’re jokes, that’s what you are. And not very funny ones, either. I don’t wonder Ben doesn’t look at you. I don’t like to, either. This ‘poor thing but mine own stuff’ never applied to clothes.”
She sat down on the edge of the bed and stared at the stubbed toes of last summer’s sport shoes she was wearing out in the house. But their shabby state did not register. She was thinking about what she could wear to that first subscription dance. Of course Ben would want to go to the whole series. He always did. She wanted to, herself. She’d had such a good time last winter. But it just seemed as though she couldn’t go without some kind of a new evening dress. She got cold all over. How could she go and meet all the men she had danced with last winter if she didn’t have some new clothes! If she’d only had an allowance she would have saved for this. She’d been a goop not to get Ben to agree to it before they were married. But she did hate to talk about money then, and now she couldn’t be “outspoken and frank” as the other girls said they were. And Ben really was nice, if he was queer about actual cash. He never said much when the bills came in. “I suppose I could go ahead and charge clothes,” she thought, “but I just can’t without telling Ben about it first. It doesn’t seem honest.”
“Oh, well,” she sighed, “at least Ben likes my cooking.” She began to hang the garments up again. The evening dress too short in front, the scant Jersey, the faded chiffon, went back into their places.
Anne brushed back her crisp curls, powdered her nose, tidied the dressing table. She pulled a clean apron from the dresser drawer, but as she started to put it on she hesitated before the mirror. She looked critically at the girl who faced her there. “You’re not bad,” she thought. “You’re slim. Your ankles don’t look like coffee pots. You don’t have to depend on a permanent and you don’t need to pluck your eyebrows. If you only had some decent clothes.” She sighed, shrugged and turned away.
For the next hour Anne forgot her clothes problem. In her small white kitchen she beat, she basted, she stirred. With intent face she tasted the sauce, to be sure she had just the shade of seasoning that Ben liked best. She skilfully molded the butter into lily shape and snipped off tiny stems of parsley to lie in the centre to simulate the stamen. She hollowed the tomatoes with great care and filled them lightly with salad and then pressed the mayonnaise through a pastry tube and garnished the whole with tiny rosebuds of the dressing. She drew the container out of the freezing unit in the ice-box to see if the dessert had frozen to the right consistency. As she worked she whistled softly. When the table was set she stroked the glossy linen which she herself had ironed, patted the gleaming knives and forks into even line. The apartment was fragrant with roasting meat, well seasoned, done to a turn. It was sweet with odor.
“I could do that now if I had to,” she thought. “I believe I’d like it better than my old job. Fd hate an office again.”
AS THE clock struck seven the telephone rang. Anne ^ thought, as she went into the dining room to answer it, that she hoped the roast wasn’t getting too brown. But as she talked she discovered that the dinner she had thought smelled so good, had only made the rooms stuffy. The glass wasn’t so sparkly; those flowers made of butter were silly. For Ben wasn’t coming home. He was taking that new woman client from Montreal to dinner. "No,” she said flatly, “it doesn’t matter. I know it’s business. Good-by.” She cleared the table and washed up the dishes. As she worked automatically with her hands, her mind whirled around Ben. Ben hated restaurant meals. Ben never wanted to go out to eat. Lunches in town were bad enough. He said her dinners were better than any chef’s no matter who or where. That Montreal girl, yes, that was the one Ben had said wore such stunning clothes. Funny, Ben to notice clothes. But he’d spoken about Edith Murray's clothes, too, last week. It would be a joke if Ben got clothes-conscious about everyone but Anne.
Her eyes smarted but she blinked back the tears. Not so darned funny after all, perhaps. She remembered the tired clothes in the bedroom closet, the tarnished silver slippers that wouldn’t brighten up, the dingy white pumps.
The day of the first dance arrived, however, and found Anne still without a new evening dress. Ben hadn’t been unkind about it. He had just gone blank when she had mentioned the fact that her last year's gown was hopelessly passé, and said that it looked all right to him. And before he had gone down town he mentioned the fact that business was rotten.
As she waited for Ben to come to dinner she went to the hall and picked up the evening paper. Back in the living room she turned on the reading light by Ben’s chair, and curled her feet under her as she sat down to read. She read the headlines on the first page and then turned to the woman’s page. She reached for the shears on the table to cut out a recipe for an ice-box pudding she was sure Ben would like, when her eye caught a small advertisement at the bottom of the page, under the heading:
“Too late to classify.”
She read it over casually, cut out her recipe and started to fold the paper. But she turned back to the advertisement again, as women do, fitting herself idly in the “Help Wanted” advertisements.
“Wanted—A tea room with high-class clientele wants part-time cook. Must be careful, intelligent, artistic if possible. Hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. even’ day except Sunday. Apply in person between the hours of 10 and 11, Wednesday and Thursday, at 50C Market Street.”
After the morning work was done, Anne hauled the old dress out of the closet and shook it out. She sighed. It was such a mess. She looked it over. Not an inch to spare anywhere to make a belt. She’d need every bit of the hem to let down. She ripped, basted, hemmed. Of course it wasn’t long enough then, but it had to do. She rummaged in a box of old ribbons and found a piece of velvet, which, under the electric light, was approximately the right color. She concocted a belt of that. At least she’d have a waistline. She held her hands at her waist. A good slim one, too. Thank heaven she wasn’t thick around the middle yet!
She cleaned and pressed and worked at it until she actually sold herself the idea that the old thing didn’t look half bad. Her shoes were terrible! Well, she could dance anyway. The women would notice her feet but perhaps the men wouldn’t. And after a few dances she could pretend that the reason they looked so bad was because they’d been stepped on.
When she was dressed that night Ben seemed to think she looked all right. And she had a few moments of hope until she got into the women’s dressing room. Then it was worse than she had dreamed it could be. There was a fairly conservative crowd that made up the subscription dances and Anne had counted on moderation in the way the women took up the new style. But no ! Every last woman seemed to have tried to outdo the others in the length of her skirts and the amount of back she dared to have cut out of her gown. Anne tried to think how disagreeable it would be for them to dance in those trailing draperies, and how hateful it would be to dance with a man’s hand plastered all
over your bare shoulder blades. But she had to grit her teeth to keep from crying when she looked in the glass.
Silly short skirt! Silly little round neck ! Silly little belt ! Anybody could see it didn’t belong with the dress ! No one would blame Ben if he left her in the background. She powdered her nose, fluffed her curls, and chatted, however, until Edith Murray, in a new rust-colored chiffon, more lovely than the one Ben had raved about before, came up to her.
“What a clever child you are, Nannie!” she said. She patted Anne on the shoulder. Anne winced. “You’ve done wonders with your dress!” She sighed. “I wish I had the knack you have—it must be such a help.”
Anne choked. ‘“Excuse me,” she muttered. She dashed into the wash room. “Dam her! Dam! Damn!!” Tears streaked down her hot cheeks. She cried a minute. Then she took a towel and dabbed it in cold water and held it to her eyes until the teary look faded. She bathed her cheeks, took a drink of water, and set her teeth. She’d see it out ! But if Edith Murray patronized her again, she’d better look out.
Anne repowdered her shiny nose out in the dressing room, now empty, applied some lipstick—which she knew Ben hated—and sat down for a moment to be sure she had herself in hand. She could hear the music of the first dance. That made her feel better. She’d forget about the dress when she was dancing. She tried a dance step as she opened the door. She hoped Ben would be ready so she wouldn’t have to wait an instant.
But out in the hall no Ben was to be seen. She stood
uncertainly beside the door, and looked down the hall into the room where everyone was dancing. Then she saw Ben fox-trot past the opening with Edith Murray in his arms. Before she had a chance to move, however, a man whom she identified vaguely as one of the new men in town, came up and asked her to dance.
So she had a good time of a sort, and it was not until the tenth dance that she saw Ben. Anne hadn’t suffered for partners. She was too good a dancer for that. And club dances were always well supplied with stags.
When Ben did get around to Anne she danced with him dutifully. She did not tell him that she had a complete mental programme of his dances to date, that she was perfectly conscious he had danced with Edith Murray three times, and that the other women he had had as partners were those whose clothes were the most striking in design and color. She listened quietly while he discussed the femininity of the new fashions and nodded her short curls in agreement when he said that he was convinced that women would come back to long hair. She felt curiously maternal. Ben was clearly unconscious that there was anything extraordinary in his discussing the current fashions with a wife who was absurdly outdated. Anne missed a step. That was it. He didn’t notice her any more. She’d thought it the other day. Now she knew it. It wasn’t his fault either, really. It was hers. She’d been a weak little goose to let herself get seedy like this—just because she was too proud to nag about clothes. But she’d have to think it out, just what to do. She stopped dancing.
“I think I’ll go home,” she said.
TH OR breakfast next morning Anne ■L served all Ben’s favorites. The grapefruit was garnished, the bacon fried to flaky crispness, the popovers richly crusty, the coffee perfect as always. After she gave him his second cup she was ready.
She felt all fluttery inside and the first time she tried to speak she made only a rasping noise in her throat. Ben peered around his newspaper. But when she said nothing he went back to his reading. “Fool!” Anne scolded herself. “You act as though he’d bite. Don’t behave like a Victorian female!” She cleared her throat.
“Ben,” her voice quivered so she hurried on, “I’d like an allowance.” “Huh?” Ben came out from behind the paper. “What did you
Anne wadded the edge of the tablecloth which lay across her lap into a hard ball. She clutched on to it. “Yes, an allowance.”
Ben laughed. “Allowance! What’s the matter? Is the little old pocket-book flat?” He reached into his pocket and drew out a five-dollar bill which he tossed across the table toward her.
She didn’t touch it. She still held desperately on to the ball of linen as though that might give her determination.
“It isn’t just the money. I want an allowance.” Her throat tightened up. She couldn’t say any more. And it was so stupid to keep mumbling that same word over.
Ben’s face flushed. “What’s got into you, Anne? Mother never had an allowance and she always got along O.K. You can get what you need at the stores, can’t you? I guess my credit is still good, though God knows how long it will be. Business is rotten. That woman up in Quebec is falling down. One of her kids broke a leg or skinned a thumb or something—anyway she isn’t sending in her stuff. And that woman who’s writing those garden articles has her photographs all balled up. The whole thing is a mess—a mess. I wish I had a good job laying bricks instead of trying to make a living selling anybody’s half-baked stories. I don’t know where I’m going to get off.”
“There it is again,” thought Anne dully. "Now how can I go and buy clothes!” She clutched at the strengthening ball of cloth and said, “That’s just it, Ben. If you’d give me an allowance—even a little one—you wouldn’t have the bills to worry about. You’d just be surprised at how well I’d do.”
“I never find fault with the bills, do I?” Ben jumped up out of his chair. “You ought to be married to some men I know. Then you’d hear about bills—”
“Yes, I know. You’re always kind,” said Anne dutifully. She knew the answer. She’d said it so many times.
“Well—-” Ben stuffed the morning paper into his pocket. Anne hadn’t read it. He walked around to her to kiss her. She turned her head. He shrugged and kissed her small pink ear. It was her cue then to jump. But somehow the kiss didn’t even tickle. Ben shrugged again. “Well, good-by old dear. See you at dinner. Going to have something
“I guess so. I don’t know,” said Anne vaguely, which wasn’t at all like her.
The outside door closed. She heard the elevator door out in the foyer slam open, slam shut. Anne did not stir from her chair. Moments passed. An hour. Her restless hands occasionally pushed the plates and cup before her into new
“Why, Anne! What is it? It isn’t time to go yet,” he protested.
“I have a headache. You don’t need to go. In fact, I’d rather go alone. I just want to go to bed. I’ll be all right in the morning. You get me a taxi.”
In the end she had her way. And when Ben came home she pretended to be asleep.
positions. Once, with elbows on the table, she rested her forehead against her cupped palms and closed her eyes. At last she rose slowly, started toward the living room, hesitated, and began to stack the breakfast dishes.
The telephone rang. At the sound of Edith Murray’s voice Anne's features tightened. "No,” she said briefly. “No, thanks a lot for asking. Yes, I know it will be a great party. No. Sorry.”
Anne hung up the receiver quietly. But she glared into the instrument as she stamped her foot. “No!” she said loudly. “I won’t go to your darned old party—nor to anything else till I get some decent clothes—and, By George, I’ll get ’em ! Ben Webster’ll know what I’m wearing before I get through!”
Without a glance at the disordered table she rushed straight into the living room, pawed through the week’s papers till she found the one she wanted. As she tore out the item she had sought, she mumbled, “Thursday. I’ve still got time.” With a rush she was out of morning dress and into street clothes. And as she left the apartment she banged the door behind her.
THE following weeks teased Ben Webster. He couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong, but everything was just enough out of order so that he was vaguely irritated. The house was orderly enough. The meals were good enough. But there never seemed to be any rich brown meats with potatoes roasted in the pan. Eternal chops and steaks, eternal jellied desserts, eternal lettuce salad. No butter posies, no steamed pudding with foamy yellow sauce. More than once he suspected the soup of having dwelt long in a can. Once he came home unexpectedly early and found Anne out and the breakfast dishes still unwashed. Anne had come in a little later but had offered no explanations. And he himself was uncomfortablv at a loss for words.
Anne, too, was unlike herself. She wouldn’t go out, except to the movies, and wouldn’t say why. She begged off from having company in to dinner. She looked just the same, only sometimes a little tired. Ben imagined she might not be well, but she denied any ill feelings and asked no sympathy. When Ben, annoyed by her refusal to accompany him, went to the second club dance, Anne cried but was unshaken in her determination. She wouldn’t go where Ben could compare her with other women till she could compete with them from underwear to evening wrap.
Anne herself felt like the heroine of a fast motion moving picture most of the time. Each morning after Ben left there was the frantic rush to get the apartment in order and to plan a dinner she could get quickly when she got home at night; the run for the train; the busy happy hours at the Market Street Tea Room where everyone exclaimed over her butter posies and her ideas for garnishes, tasted her sauces lingeringly, ordered second pieces of her spicy apple pies; then the hurry home to have dinner ready for Ben. Of course she was tired, sometimes so tired that she could have cried. But she couldn’t give up. Not with that Saturday envelope getting fatter each week. For Anne’s employer thought he had found the paragon of cooks and expressed his appreciation of the growing trade at the tea room in real dollars.
Indeed Anne was spending money these days very like a motion picture star. Her locked dresser drawers swelled with a regular trousseau. Silk, chiffon and lace crowded crinklette pyjamas and rayon undies. Her suitcase in the closet hid three pairs of perfectly smart shoes, one pair the most adorable evening shoes that ever lured a woman into a
haze where extravagance became acute necessity. Shopping was almost a trick in these busy days, and of course she wasn’t wearing any of the new clothes. But just the possession of them did something to her that she couldn’t put into words. Her brain seemed to work more rapidly, her fingers to grow more supple. She was always thinking up new combinations of foods, or flavors, and somehow they all seemed to get across.
Ben Webster, of course, knew no more of Anne’s growing wardrobe than he did of her part-time job. She couldn’t tell him, and she hadn’t got to things he would notice, like dresses. She had to get foundations right first. Besides, Ben had such antique ideas about some things, especially woman’s place. He would hate her being a wage earner. The working married woman was one of his pet hates. Anne often thought he belonged about two generations back. Sometimes she thought a little bitterly that he would like a return to the good old days when men did as they wished, and women as they were told. Not that Ben ever had done anything very desperate as far as she knew, but he did like to think of her as Kitty-in-the-kitchen cooking for him. Maybe that explained why he was sliding so easily into the way of seeking pleasure without her.
THE first time Anne knew of Ben’s coming to the tea room on Market Street was one afternoon when one of the waitresses came out into the serving room for a second piece of the rich black chocolate cake of which Anne had made a specialty. “Gee, Mrs. Webster, you ought to hear that fellow rave about your cake. This is his second piece and I’ll bet a dollar he’ll want a third. He sure does like to eat!”
As the girl went back to the table Anne peeked through the glass in the swinging door to see who it might be now who was so enthusiastic over her cake. It had been popular from the first day she had made it but few people ordered a second helping because it was both very rich and very expensive. At first, people moving about blocked her line of vision, then the waitress got in the way, but at last she got a good look at the customer. It was Ben Webster. And seated across from him was a girl so stunningly dressed that Anne’s heart jumped right up in her throat. She turned away from the door. She couldn’t stand there in the way. But after that brief glance Anne Webster could have given a police description of how that girl was dressed. The cut of her gown, the dash of her hat, the softness of the gloves on the table beside the perfect purse—all were heartbreakingly correct. Anne drew a glass of water. She felt faint. It was that girl from Montreal, she knew it.
That night at dinner at home Ben told Anne about taking a client out to lunch. “By George, we had good food,” he exclaimed. “It was at that tea room on Market Street. Everybody’s talking about the eats there. Do you know,” he added a little wistfully, “it tasted like your stuff, almost. At any rate, like you used to make things.” Anne could feel the blood rush into her face. She dropped her napkin to the floor. Perhaps bending over to get it would explain her red face. But Ben did not notice. He was talking about chocolate cake.
“Like yours—only the filling was~ different. Richer. Tasted as though maybe there was more butter in it.” “There is,” thought Anne. Then she said, “You are talking as though you didn't get enough to eat, Ben. I’m sure you have the right food combinations and enough calories. And I know you are getting the necessary vitamins.” Anne was hurt.
“Oh, it’s all right, dear,” Ben hastened to apologize. “Perhaps it’s me. Maybe my appetite is off.”
“Off!” thought Anne. “Two pieces of that chocolate cake ! I should think it would be off !” But when she spoke she changed the subject. “Did you bring the paper in with you?”
IT WAS easy for Anne to know how often Ben came to the tea room. At first it was amusing to have him tell at night about the good food he had there. And he was quite punctilious at first, too, in stating who had eaten with him. But as the girl from Montreal accompanied him more, he began to be less definite about his lunch partners. And at last Anne began to be really frightened when he did not mention his lunch dates any more. She knew he had them. For, day after day, as she sorted the charge checks she found double orders signed by Ben Webster. She seldom had a chance to look in the dining room now if she would have. She never saw Ben, but she knew that he came regularly. Business in the tea room was crowding ahead and Anne’s part-time job was growing so full that the manager was already urging her to make it full time. And as she grew more panicky over Ben, the full-time job with its generous remuneration and the suggestion of a part interest in the business began to take the aspect of a refuge.
By this time Anne had an evening dress, chosen keenly, critically. She longed to put it on for Ben, so he could see how its ivory suppleness caressed her slimness and how yellow her curls looked, and how brown her eyes were above its creamy folds. But somehow she couldn’t show off for Ben now. Nothing seemed right. They were so darned polite to each other, she thought, and winked back tears as she thought it.
Ben didn’t suggest going to the club dances any more, and she wouldn’t ask. Oh! Everything had gone wrong. She knew now that the pretties she had thought to earn to please him wouldn’t register at all. He didn’t care any more. She’d lost him, trying to hold him. She’d been such a smarty. Oh, why hadn’t she swallowed her beastly sensitiveness and pride and made him give her money for decent clothes! Now he had fallen for that Montreal girl—Well, he could have her. Anne sobbed.
AND then one night at dinner—a miserable affair from Anne’s point of view, one that even a poor cook would have been ashamed of, one she had thrown together because she had been so late getting home—Ben brought up the subject of the dinner party. Evidently it had been simmering in his mind for some time, for he had his guests well thought out. He wanted to ask Edith and Dick Murray, his brother Tom, and the girl from Montreal. Anne had just raised her glass of water as he began to name over the guests. Her hand shook so that the water slopped over on to the fingers that clutched the glass. She set it down quickly and hid her hands in her lap under 'the table so Ben would not see their trembling.
For a moment an absurd hope sprang up in Anne’s heart. If Ben were really in love with that girl he surely wouldn’t invite her there. Anne held her breath. Perhaps, even, Ben would suggest her getting a new dress for the party. Then she could show him the clothes she had, and confess to the job; he would understand, and they’d be happy again. But Ben didn’t. Instead, he suggested that Arme hire a cook to prepare the dinner!
Anne felt as though she were going to faint. This was
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the last straw. She wasn’t deceived. This suggestion did not come from any desire to spare her; she knew that. It was just Ben’s way of telling her she was a failure. And she had thought once that she could always depend on Ben’s appreciation of her cooking if everything else failed. Well, she’d failed all around with Ben, That much was plain. Funny, she didn’t want to cry. But her throat hurt. It ached with the choking feeling. She looked down at her hands lying in her lap, the right one uppermost. Calluses, a cut, the grime on her forefinger that wouldn’t ever quite wash out. Well, they didn’t think she was a failure down at the tea room. She wouldn’t hire a cook! She would cook this dinner and show Ben W’ebster. Then she would be through.
TT WAS the night of the dinner party.
Anne had been home all day. The apartment was in spotless order. Great bowls of red carnations sent out spicy fragrance in the living room. In the dining room gay red candles flanked another low bowl of the crimson blossoms. When Anne had suggested flowers for the party, Ben had sent in these dozens of the lovely flowers. Anne wanted to be thankful that her ivory gown would look so well against the scarlet posies. She was sure, however, that Ben’s unusual expenditure had nothing to do with her. Probably it was to please the girl from Montreal.
From the kitchen the blended aromas of the coming meal made Ben’s mouth water. But when he tried to go out there, Anne, wrapped in a huge coverall apron, shooed him away.
Just before the guests arrived, the young girl Anne had engaged to act as waitress came. Anne showed her the detailed written list which explained to the girl each step in the service of the dinner. Anne was leaving nothing to chance even though she was sure the girl was experienced at her job. This had to be a perfect dinner, a swan song dinner.
The little waitress opened the door for the guests. From the kitchen Anne heard Ben greet them one by one. They were all there. Slowly she unbuttoned the big apron, and slipped it off. She folded it meticulously and laid it over the back of a chair. She moved slowly toward the dining-room door but hesitated before a small mirror near the door. She patted her curls down, pinched her cheeks which were already glowing, straightened her shoulders and marched into the next room. But by the time she reached the living room her militant stride had melted into graceful movement which swung her ivory gown softly above the entrancing evening slippers.
Dinner moved along in perfect order. But Anne thought it would never come to an end. She tried to avoid Ben’s bewildered eyes. She looked everywhere but in his direction. He oughtn’t to stare at her so. Once she nodded to him to pay more attention to the girl from Montreal, his own guest.
At last the bridge table was set up. While the rest were grouping themselves around the table and Ben was fussing with the lamps to get them arranged so that everyone had good light on the cards, Anne
slipped out into the kitchen, paid the waitress and dismissed her. The disorder of the room disturbed her and she moved restlessly around, straightening things here and there. She dreaded to go back into the living room. The swing door into the dining room opened. Anne turned.
“I came out to pay the cook,” said Ben, reaching into his pocket.
Anne held out her hand. “You can give it to me,” said Anne. “I was the cook. I earned it.”
She turned to the cupboard. Now was the time to say it, but she couldn’t look at him.
“And you will be glad to know that I can earn enough by cooking so that I can get along. You can be free any time you want to. I’ll give you a divorce.” She was putting dishes on the shelves blindly.
"DEN WEBSTER caught her shoulders -L* and whirled her around. A cup crashed to the floor. “What do you mean, Anne?”
Anne’s arms hung limply at her sides. Slow tears rolled out of her eyes and fell unheeded on the new ivory gown. “I’ve known for a long time. Ever since that first subscription dance. You haven’t— you’ve hardly seen me this winter. Oh, yes, you’ve looked at me. But you haven’t really seen me. I was fool enough to think if I worked and bought myself some new clothes—but what’s the use of talking about it?”
“But we’ve got to talk about it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Why go into it?” said Anne wearily. “I’ve been working in that tea room where you eat all the while now. I saw you there with that girl in there.” She nodded toward the living room. “I don’t blame you. She’s stunning. I just happened to see you. I didn’t spy on you. But I couldn’t help know that all your slips were for double orders.”
Ben Webster laughed. “By George, so that’s why I ate so much in there—doubled my orders. I ought to have known it was your cooking. Everything always tastes just right. Sure, I’ve taken that girl out to lunch. Though not as often as you seem to think. I’ve camped on her trail. She brought in a novel to me early in the fall and it’s a best seller or I’ll never eat chocolate cake again. But she’s so infernally slow with her revision that we’ve all been frantic. Folks talk about trials! Just let ’em be in my boots for a few months and they’ll know what trials are. These writing women! She’s finished it at last, thank God. That’s why I wanted to have a specially nice dinner, you see. But Anne, you’ve been so standoffish and odd I could hardly talk to you. I couldn’t tell you about it. You didn’t seem to care about anything. And the eats, Anne! You ought to be ashamed, woman. If I hadn’t been sustained by your tea room I should probably have died of slow starvation.”
“Don’t be funny now, Ben.” Anne’s face was very red. “I haven’t meant to neglect you. But .haven’t you known how you’ve fallen for all the smartly dressed girls lately without seeming to care that I was looking like a dowdy little old hen? Don’t you remember how you stalled when I talked about a new evening dress? And how
annoyed you were when I wanted you to give me a dress allowance? Oh, we’re a thousand miles apart! You’ll never understand. We’d better end it.” She wrenched herself away from his grasp.
"Listen, Nancy darling.” Ben Webster was serious now. “It looks as though I’d been pretty blind, doesn’t it? But I swear you always look good to me. I don’t seem to notice what you have on. You’re just you. My Nancy girl. I don’t want anybody else as long as I live. About the clothes— why, I just thought you’d get what you needed and put it on the bills. But I’ll do any way you want me to. Just so you’ll be happy and stay home. I’ve been an
awful ass, I guess, but I love you, Anne.” He put his arms around her.
Anne stood quite still. Her head was pressed against Ben’s shoulder but her face was turned away. “Then you will give me an allowance? You can call it cook’s pay.” She would carry it through.
“Anything.” Ben promised fervently.
"But you do like me in my new dress?” persisted Anne in a small voice.
“I’d love you in a calico wrapper!” Ben kissed her.
When they went back to the living room Edith Murray looked up from her cards. “Why.” she said, "you look just like a bride, Anne!”