Bert could hear the diminishing trills of talk and laughter, the repeated good-nights. The oblong of light from the upper window faded suddenly from the lawn. Somewhere from the big closet at the back, lately filled with slip-covers and new tires, Agnes hummed over the subdued click and tinkle of dishes and silver, and he could hear Nancy’s feet coming carefully down the steep, unfamiliar stairway. Presently she joined him in the soft early darkness of the doorway, silently took the wide arm of his porch-chair, and leaned against his shoulder. Bert put his arm about her.
It was a heavenly summer evening, luminous even before the moon-rising. The last drift of smoke was gone, and the garden drenched with scent. Under the first stars the shrubs and trees stood in panoramic perspective; the lawns looked wide and smooth. Down the street, under a dark arch of elms, the lights of other houses showed yellow and warm; now and then a motor-car swept by, sending a circle of white light for a few moments against the gloom.
“Dead, dear?” Bert asked, after awhile. Nancy sighed contentedly before she answered:
“Tired, of course—a little!”
“Well,” summarized Bert, after another pause, “we have now reduced our problem somewhat. A man, his wife, his children. There we are!”
“A roof above his head, a maid-servant, and all the Sunday meals in the house!” Nancy added optimistically.
“A barn roof,” amended Bert.
“Barns have sheltered babies before this,” Nancy reflected whimsically. Again she sighed. “I suppose babies do burn to death, sometimes, Bert? One sees it in the paper; just a line or two. I remember—”
“Don’t let your mind dwell on that side of it, Nance. For that matter a brick might fall off the roof on our heads now.”
“Yes, I know. But Priscilla was my responsibility, and I was a mile away.”
“You’ll be a mile away from her many a time and oft,” Bert reminded her wholesomely.
“When I have to be,” she conceded, slowly. “But to-day—” Her voice sank, and Bert, glancing sidewise at her, saw that her face was very thoughtful. “Bert,” she said, “we have a good deal to be thankful for.”
“Everything in the world!”
Another silence. Then Nancy said briskly:
“Well! Listen to what I’ve planned, Bert, and tell me what you think. Item one: this is vacation, but when it’s over I want to start Anne and the boys in at the village school. They can cut right across the field at the back here, it’s just a good walk for them. They’re frantic to go, instead of to Fraulein, and I’m perfectly satisfied to have them!”
“Sure you are?” the man asked, a little touched, for this had been a long-disputed point.