With the lengthening days the world of Labrador was already donning its brief, annual smile. But the passing of winter was no easy thing. There had been rain and “freeze-up,” and rain again. And the whole countryside was a dripping, melting sea of wintry slush. The sun was rising higher in the steely heavens with each passing day, but winter was still reluctant. It passed on to its dissolution only under irresistible pressure.
Nancy, no less than Father Adam and those others, to whom the early thaw meant so much, watched the passing of winter with the closest interest. But her interest owed its origin to a far different inspiration. She knew it meant that her time at Sachigo was nearing its end, and the future with all its barrenness was staring at her.
She moved restlessly about the large kitchen while the Chinaman, Won-Li, was preparing toast over the cook stove. She stood awhile at the window and watched the winging of a seemingly endless flight of early geese passing up from the South. Then she turned away and glanced about the scrupulously clean and neat apartment. It was so very different from the place she had first discovered weeks ago.
After awhile she took up her position against the kitchen table, and stood there with her gaze upon the bent figure of the cook in its long, blue blouse. But she was scarcely interested in the man’s labours. She was not even waiting for him to complete them. She was just thinking, filled with apprehension and without confidence. Her mind was made up to a definite purpose whose seeming immensity left her staggered.
Nancy was no longer the distraught creature who had witnessed the terrible night of fire and battle down at the mill. Many weeks had passed since then. Weeks full of mental, bodily, and spiritual effort. From the first dark moments when she had begged the privilege of nursing the wounded missionary, broken in spirit, a beautiful creature well-nigh demented with the horror of the thing she believed herself to be, the woman soul of her had found a measure of peace.
It had been slow in coming. There had been moments when she had nearly broken under the burden of conscience. There had been moments when the weight of unutterable depression, and the sense of guilt, had come near to robbing her of her last shred of mental balance. But the woman’s mission of nursing had saved her in the end. That, and the physical effort to which she had applied herself.
It was all so single-minded and simple. It was all so beautifully pathetic. Nancy had found a careless household rapidly decaying through mannish indifference to comfort. She understood. These men were completely absorbed in the service of the great mills, and nothing else mattered to them. Oh, yes, that was understandable. She knew the feeling. She knew how it robbed its victim of every other consideration in life. So she had flung herself into the task of re-ordering the household of which she had been forced to become a part, that she might yield them comfort in their labours and help herself in her own effort to obtain peace of mind.