The Love Nest
"Gregg led Bartlett into a living-room that was five laps to the mile and suggestive of an Atlantic City auction sale."
"She was handsome in spite of her efforts to be handsomer."
Metropolitan 44 (October 1916): 14-16. 62-64.
How to Write Short Stories, 1926.
Round Up: The Stories of Ring Lardner, 1929.
Portable Lardner, 1946
Best Short Stories, 1959
Ring Lardner Reader, 1963
Setting: Various cities across the United States; Chicago,
Milwaukee, New York, New Orleans, etc..
Lou Gregg, the wealthy president of Modern Pictures invites a reporter, Bartlett, to spend some time at his house so that he can "see us just as we are." Little does he know, that's exactly what will happen.
Gregg shows the reporter around his palatial estate and introduces him to all of his possessions--including his wife. While offering Bartlett some alcohol, he notices some bourbon missing and suspects the help.
Celia, a former actress, introduces herself and welcomes Bartlett to what she calls her "love nest." Bartlett flatters her; she excuses her age and looks. When tasked with showing Bartlett around the house, she drinks with him instead--just to be polite.
As the evening progresses, the two continue drinking (Gregg had an appointment), and Celia's excuses for drinking (must "catch up," must try a sip to see what the fuss is about, etc.) fade away, and she admits she is drunk most of the time: "If I wasn't, I'd die!" She tells Bartlett, whom she calls Barker, that she is very sad, a "chronic mother," and feels like she is nothing more than Gregg's chattel.
She can't divorce him, because he hasn't done anything wrong. She wants better for her daughters, though. She wants them to get careers, not to give them up for a man like she did. She doesn't want them to be like her, "a thing."
In the morning, Bartlett apologizes to Gregg for drinking so much of his liquor. Celia says goodbye to Bartlett. All is back to normal.
Mr. Bartlett: a reporter for Mankind magazine. He is the cordial observer.
Lou Gregg: "the great man," president
of Modern Pictures; constantly says "I mean" and rephrases what he has said
without improvement; he enjoys showing off his possessions and telling
others about the perfect life he leads; he seems to be genuinely blind to
the reality of his home life. He brings Bartlett to the house to see
him and his family, but leaves shortly after.
Celia Sayles Gregg: a former film star who has given up her career for her husband Lou; she is uncomfortable with the current role she must play as happy housewife and mother, but does so convincingly until she is drunk; she feels washed up at 27 and drinks to numb her pain.
Harold Hodgson, Maria Blythe: actors.
Forbes: the Gregg's butler.
Mr. K. L. Latham: a businessman ("sugar people") who meets with Gregg at the golf course, leaving Bartlett alone with Celia.
Mr. King: another at the business meeting.
Hortense: the Gregg children's nurse.
Norma, Grace: the two named Gregg children, ages six and four respectively. The unnamed baby is one and a half.
Morris: described by Celia as "fat old Morris" and used as an example of another bad man leading a secret life; Celia insinuates that Morris would cheat more, but he's too cheap.