Trotter stood looking out of the window, while Marsh stretched himself lazily in one of the rocking chairs with a sigh of content. Things were beginning to shake down a little better. There had been a time yesterday when he feared that everything was off. He knew Nora’s temper of old and he knew his wife’s jealous fear of her criticism. It would take some rubbing to wear off the sharp corners. But things were coming out all right, after all. They’d soon be working together like a well-broken team. Gertie had been nasty about the bread. But apparently everything was patched up. And with Frank once gone, and the new chap—a man of the Trotter type, who would never obtrude himself—he foresaw that everything would run on wheels, an idea dear to his peace-loving soul.
Not that he was not sorry to lose Frank. In the first place, he liked him, and then he was a good, steady, hard-working fellow, one of the kind you didn’t have to stand over. But, naturally, he wanted to get back to his own place, now that he had saved up a bit. Every man liked being his own master.
Taylor alone had remained at his place at the table. Nora had cleared away everything except the dishes at his place. She never went near him if she could avoid it.
“I guess I’m in your way,” he said, rising.
“Not more than usual, thank you.”
Taylor gave a little laugh.
“I guess you’ll not be sorry to see the last of me.”
Nora paused in her work, and leaning on the table with both hands, looked him steadily in the face.
“I can’t honestly say that it makes the least difference to me whether you go or stay,” she said coldly.
“When does your train go, Frank?” asked Hornby from his corner.
“Half-past three; I’ll be starting from here in about an hour.”
“Reg can go over with you and drive the rig back again,” said Marsh.
“All right. I’ll go and dress myself in a bit.”
“I guess you’ll be glad to get back to your own place,” said Gertie warmly.
She had always liked Frank Taylor—a man who worked hard and earned his money. She did not begrudge him a cent of it, nor the pleasure he had in the thought of getting back to his own place. He was the kind of man who should set up for himself.
“Well, I guess I’ll not be sorry.” He sat looking out of the window with a sort of dreamy air, as if seeing far to the westward his own land.
So that was the reason for his going. He had a place of his own. He was only a hired man for the moment. Eddie had told her that a man frequently had to hire out after a succession of bad seasons. What of it? His keeping it to himself was the crowning impertinence!
“I’ll do the washing, Nora, and you can dry,” said Gertie in that peculiar tone which Nora had learned to recognize as the preface to something disagreeable.