Chapter Thirty-six

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.

"That's lovely, dear--and that just about finishes us, up here. You see we've cleared out these two big rooms, and the Ingrams' man came just in time to set up the beds. This is our room, and Agnes and the girls will have the other. The boys will have to sleep on the double couch downstairs, to-morrow they can have a tent on the lawn right back of us. Bring that drawer here, it goes in this chest. I thought it was missing, but we'll straighten everything out to-morrow, and see where we stand. The piano's out there on the lawn, and I wish you'd cover it with something, unless you get some one after supper to help you move it in. It goes in the corner where the boys' sleds were, downstairs. Supper's ready, Bert, if you are!"

"Perhaps you'd like me to dress?" Bert said, deeply amused. Anne and her brothers laughed uproariously, as they all went down the narrow stairs.

"No, but do come down and see how nice it is!" his wife said eagerly. Hanging on his arm, she showed him the comfort downstairs. The big room that had been large enough to house two cars had been swept, and the rugs laid over the concrete floor. Through a westerly window crossed by rose-vines the last light of the long day fell softly upon a small table set for supper. Priscilla was already in her high chair demanding food. At the back of the room, on the long table once used for tools and tubes, Agnes was busy with a coal-oil stove and Nancy's copper blazer. A heartening aroma of fresh coffee was mingling with other good odours from that region.