Bert gazed at her calmly.
“I have not the faintest idea, my dear woman!” Then they laughed in the old fashion, together.
“But do look at the sunlight coming down through the trees, and the water beyond there,” Nancy presently said. “Isn’t it a lovely place—Holly Court? Really this is a wonderful garden.”
“That’s what I was thinking,” Bert agreed. It had been many months, perhaps years, since the Bradleys had commented upon the sunlight, as it fell all summer long through the boughs of their own trees.
Gradually the crowd melted away, and the acrid odour of wet wood mingled with the smell of burning. And gradually that second odour gave way to the persuasive sweetness of the summer evening, the sharp, delicate fragrance that is loosed when the first dew falls, and the perfumes of reviving flowers. Holly Court still smoked sulkily, and here and there in its black ruins some special object flamed brightly: Nancy’s linen chest and the pineapple bed went on burning when the other things were done. It was nearly sunset when the Bradleys walked slowly about the wreck, and laughed or bemoaned themselves as they recognized what was gone, or what was left.
That night they slept in the garage. With a flash of her old independence, Nancy so decided it. She was firm in declining the hospitable offers that would have scattered the Bradleys among the neighbouring homes for the night.
“No, no—we’re all together,” Nancy said, smiling. “I don’t want to separate again, for a while.” She calmly estimated the salvage--beds and bedding, some chairs, rugs, and small tables, tumbled heaps of the children’s clothes, and odd lots of china and glass.
Priscilla was presently set to amuse herself, on a rug on the lawn, and the enraptured children and Agnes and the new puppy bustled joyfully about among the heterogeneous possessions of the evicted family, under Nancy’s direction. There was much hilarity, as the new settling began, the boys were miracles of obedience and intelligence, and Anne laughed some colour into her face for the first time in weeks. Nancy was in her element, there was much to do, and she was the only person who knew how it should be done. Even Bert stood amazed at her efficiency, and accepted her orders admiringly.
In the exquisite summer twilight she sent him to the Biggerstaffs’. Nobody had yet found sleeping wear for the man of the family, that was message one. And message two was the grateful acceptance of the fresh milk that had been offered. Everybody he met wanted to add something to these modest demands. Bert had not felt himself so surrounded with affection and sympathy for many years. At seven o’clock he was back at the garage, heavily laden, but cheerful.
Nancy leaned out of the upper window, where geraniums in boxes bloomed as they had bloomed when first the Bradleys came to Holly Court and called out joyfully, “See how nice we are!” The children, laughing and stumbling over each other, were carrying miscellaneous loads of clothing and bedding upstairs. Bert picked up two pillows and an odd bureau drawer full of garments, and followed them. His wife, busy and smiling, greeted him.