“Oh, well!” he said. “It ain’t worth crying over. What is the saying? ’Hell wasn’t built in a day’?”
Nora screamed with laughter. “I think you’re mixing two old saws. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Hell is paved with good intentions.”
“Well,” he laughed good-naturedly, “they both seem to hit the case.”
He certainly was unfailingly good-tempered. Not that there were not times when Nora did not have to remind herself of her new resolution and he, for his part, exercise all his forbearance. But in the main, things went more smoothly than either had dared to hope from their inauspicious beginning.
The thing that Nora found hardest to bear was that he never lost a certain masterful manner. It was a continual reminder that she had been defeated. Then, too, he had a maddening way of rewarding her for good conduct which was equally hard to bear, until she realized that it was perfectly unconscious on his part.
For example: after she had struggled for a week with her makeshift kitchen outfit, small in the beginning but greatly reduced by her destructive outburst on the night of their arrival, he had, without saying a word to her of his intentions, driven over to Prentice and laid in an entire new stock of crockery and several badly needed pots and pans.
Nora had found it hard to thank him. If they had been labeled “For a Good Child” she could not have felt more humiliated. And what was equally trying, he seemed to have divined her thoughts, for his smile, upon receiving her halting thanks, had not been without a touch of malicious amusement.
On the other hand, all her little efforts to beautify the little house and make it more livable met with his enthusiastic approval and support. He was as delighted as a child with everything she did, and often, when baffled for the moment by some lack of material for carrying out some proposed scheme, he came to the rescue with an ingenious suggestion which solved the vexed problem at once.
And so, gradually, to the no small wonder of her neighbor, Mrs. Sharp, the shack began to take on an air of homely brightness and comfort which that lady’s more pretentious place lacked, even after a residence of thirteen years.
Curtains tied back with gay ribands, taken from an old hat and refurbished, appeared at the windows; the old tin syrup cans, pasted over with dark green paper, were made to disgorge their mouldy stores and transform themselves into flower-pots holding scarlet geraniums; even the disreputable, rakish old rocking chair assumed a belated air of youth and respectability, wearing as it did a cushion of discreetly patterned chintz; and the packing-box table hid its deficiencies under a simple cloth. All these magic transformations Nora had achieved with various odds and ends which she found in her trunk.
Not to be outdone, Frank had contributed a well-made shelf to hold Nora’s precious books and a sort of cupboard for her sewing basket and, for the crowning touch, had with much labor contrived some rough chairs to take the place of the packing-box affairs of unpleasant memory.