The spring, which brought many new occupations, mostly out of doors, had passed, and summer was past its zenith. Frank had worked untiringly from dawn to dark, so wearied that he frequently found it difficult to keep his eyes open until supper was over. But his enthusiasm never flagged. If everything went as well as he hoped, the additional quarter-section was assured. For some reason or other, possibly because he was beginning to feel a reaction after the hard work of the summer, Nora fancied that his spirits were less high than usual. He talked less of the coveted land than was his custom. She, herself, had never, in all her healthy life, felt so glowing with health and strength. She, too, had worked hard, finding almost every day some new task to perform. But aside from the natural fatigue at night, which long hours of dreamless sleep entirely dissipated, she felt all the better for her new experiences. For one thing, her steady improvement in all the arts of the good housewife made her daily routine much easier as well as giving her much secret satisfaction. Never in her life had she looked so well. The summer sun had given her a color which was most becoming.
One afternoon, shortly after dinner, she had gone out to gather a nosegay of wild flowers to brighten her little living-room. She was busily engaged in arranging them in a pudding bowl, smiling to think that her hand had lost none of the cunning to which Miss Wickham had always paid grudging tribute, even if her improvised vase was of homely ware, when she heard her husband’s step at the door. It was so unusual for him to return at this hour that for a moment she was almost startled.
“I didn’t know you were about.”
“Oh,” he said easily, “I ain’t got much to do to-day. I’ve been out with Sid Sharp and a man come over from Prentice.”
Having arranged her flowers to her satisfaction, she stepped back to view the effect. At that moment her husband’s eye fell on them.
“Say, what you got there?”
“Aren’t they pretty? I picked them just now. They’re so gay and cheerful.”
“Very.” But his tone had none of the enthusiasm with which he usually greeted her efforts to beautify the house.
“A few flowers make the shack look more bright and cozy.”
He took in the room with a glance that approved of everything.
“You’ve made it a real home, Nora. Mrs. Sharp never stops talking of how you’ve done it. She was saying only the other day it was because you was a lady. It does make a difference, I guess, although I didn’t use to think so.”
Nora gave him a smile full of indulgence.
“I’m glad you haven’t found me quite a hopeless failure.”
“I guess I’ve never been so comfortable in all my life. It’s what I always said: once English girls do take to the life, they make a better job of it than anybody.”