The change in Valancy has been extreme, but Barney has evidently changed as well. A loner for years, he is suddenly a husband sharing his isolated life with a wife whom he bluntly told at the outset of their marriage that he didn't love. He married Valancy as an act of kindness, and was no doubt resolved to make the best of the situation and make Valancy as happy as possible through the remainder of her life. It's obvious however, that the best of the situation is pretty darn good; I discussed in my post about chapters 29-31 how Barney has obviously come to appreciate the benefits of having a wife making a home for him. What's obvious through these chapters is how much he's come to enjoy having Valancy as a companion to share books and conversations- and silences- with. They are practically alone together for months on end during the stormy winter yet never grow bored and weary of each other's company. And Valancy notices that Barney laughs a great deal more than he used to, and that his laugh is now free of the undertone of cynicism that it frequently had previously.
Despite these observations, at the back of Valancy's mind lurks a niggling fear that Barney is just making the best of it out of charity. She tells herself that she doesn't need Barney to love her- in fact, it's best that he doesn't or her inevitable death would cause him pain. But she would like to believe that he truly likes her and will miss her as one would a good friend and companion. Her fears on this subject are finally put to rest one night in the late spring as they sit on a broken down fence watching the sunset and Barney tells her that she's such a nice person that he sometimes thinks that he's dreamed her up- she's almost too nice to be real. Perhaps being called "nice" by the man you love isn't what most women would dream of, but it relieves Valancy's greatest dread: not death, but the thought that Barney might secretly be a bit relieved when she's gone. Now she knows for sure that he likes her and will remember her fondly, something that can't be said of anyone else- even her family.