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Willa Cather (1873–1947). One of Ours. 1922.

Book Two: Enid


ENID decided that she would be married in the first week of June. Early in May the plasterers and painters began to be busy in the new house. The walls began to shine, and Claude went about all day, oiling and polishing the hard-pine floors and wainscoting. He hated to have anybody step on his floors. He planted gourd vines about the back porch, set out clematis and lilac bushes, and put in a kitchen garden. He and Enid were going to Denver and Colorado Springs for their wedding trip, but Ralph would be at home then, and he had promised to come over and water the flowers and shrubs if the weather was dry.

Enid often brought her work and sat sewing on the front porch while Claude was rubbing the woodwork inside the house, or digging and planting outside. This was the best part of his courtship. It seemed to him that he had never spent such happy days before. If Enid did not come, he kept looking down the road and listening, went from one thing to another and made no progress. He felt full of energy, so long as she sat there on the porch, with lace and ribbons and muslin in her lap. When he passed by, going in or out, and stopped to be near her for a moment, she seemed glad to have him tarry. She liked him to admire her needlework, and did not hesitate to show him the featherstitching and embroidery she was putting on her new underclothes. He could see, from the glances they exchanged, that the painters thought this very bold behaviour in one so soon to be a bride. He thought it very charming behaviour himself, though he would never have expected it of Enid. His heart beat hard when he realized how far she confided in him, how little she was afraid of him! She would let him linger there, standing over her and looking down at her quick fingers, or sitting on the ground at her feet, gazing at the muslin pinned to her knee, until his own sense of propriety told him to get about his work and spare the feelings of the painters.

“When are you going over to the timber claim with me?” he asked, dropping on the ground beside her one warm, windy afternoon. Enid was sitting on the porch floor, her back against a pillar, and her feet on one of those round mats of pursley that grow over hard-beaten earth. “I’ve found my flock of quail again. They live in the deep grass, over by a ditch that holds water most of the year. I’m going to plant a few rows of peas in there, so they’ll have a feeding ground at home. I consider Leonard’s cornfield a great danger. I don’t know whether to take him into my confidence or not.”

“You’ve told Ernest Havel, I suppose?”

“Oh, yes!” Claude replied, trying not to be aware of the little note of acrimony in her voice. “He’s perfectly safe. That place is a paradise for birds. The trees are full of nests. You can stand over there in the morning and hear the young robins squawking for their breakfast. Come up early tomorrow morning and go over with me, won’t you? But wear heavy shoes; it’s wet in the long grass.”

While they were talking a sudden whirlwind swept round the corner of the house, caught up the little mound of folded lace corset-covers and strewed them over the dusty yard. Claude ran after them with Enid’s flowered workbag and thrust them into it as he came upon one after another, fluttering in the weeds. When he returned, Enid had folded her needle-case and was putting on her hat. “Thank you,” she said with a smile. “Did you find everything?”

“I think so.” He hurried toward the car to hide his guilty face. One little lace thing he had not put into the bag, but had thrust into his pocket.

The next morning Enid came up early to hear the birds in the timber.