As has been said, Mrs. Sharp came, saw and wondered; but she had her own theory, all the same, which she confided to her husband.
All these little but significant changes, the result of their co-operative effort, had not been the work of days, but of weeks. By the time they had all been accomplished, the winter was practically over and spring was at hand. Looking back on it, it seemed impossibly short, although there had been times, in spite of her manifold occupations, when it had seemed to Nora that it was longer than any winter she had ever known. She looked forward to the coming spring with both pleasure and dread.
Through many a dark winter day she had pictured to herself how beautiful the prairie must be, clad in all the verdant livery of the most wonderful of the seasons. And yet it would mean a new solitude and loneliness to her, her husband, of necessity, being away through all the long daylight hours. She began to understand Gertie’s dread of having no one to speak to. She avoided asking herself the question as to whether it was loneliness in general or the particular loneliness of missing her husband that she dreaded.
But she was obliged to admit to herself that the winter had wrought more transformations than were to be seen in the little shack.
It had all come about so subtilely and gradually that she was almost unaware of it herself, this inward change in herself. Nora had by nature a quick and active mind, but she had also many inherited prejudices. It is a truism that it is much harder to unlearn than to learn, and for her it was harder, in the circumstances, than for the average person. Not that she was more set in her ways than other people, but that she had accepted from her childhood a definite set of ideas as to the proper conduct of life; a code, in other words, from which she had never conceived it possible to depart. People did certain things, or they did not; you played the game according to certain prescribed rules, or you didn’t play it with decent people, that was all there was to it. One might as well argue that there was no difference between right and wrong as to say that this was not so.
Of course there were plenty of people on the face of the earth who thought otherwise, such as Chinese, Aborigines, Turks, and all sorts of unpleasant natives of uncivilized countries—Nora lumped them together without discrimination or remorse—but no one planned to pass their lives among them. And as for the sentiment that Trotter had enunciated one day at her brother’s, that Canada was a country where everybody was as good as everybody else, that was, of course, utter nonsense. It was because the country was raw and new that such silly notions prevailed. No society could exist an hour founded upon any such theory.
And yet, here she was living with a man on terms of equality whom, when measured up with the standards she was accustomed to, failed impossibly. And yet, did he? That is, did he, in the larger sense? That he was woefully deficient in all the little niceties of life, that he was illiterate and ignorant could not be denied. But he was no man’s fool, and, as far as his light shone, he certainly lived up to it. That was just it. He had a standard of his own.