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Title: Kenny
Author: Dalrymple, Leona, 1884-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Kenny" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



KENNY

by

LEONA DALRYMPLE

Author of _Diane of the Green Van_, _The Lovable Meddler_

Illustrated by Joseph Pierre Nuyttens

The Reilly & Britton Co.
Chicago

Second Printing September 10, 1917



[Frontispiece: Joan]



CONTENTS

      I  Brian Rebels
     II  The Unsuccessful Parent
    III  In the Gay and Golden Weather
     IV  God's Green World of Spring
      V  At the Blast of a Horn
     VI  In the Garret
    VII  The Blossom Storm
   VIII  Joan
     IX  Adam Craig
      X  A Notebook
     XI  The Cabin in the Pines
    XII  Thraldom
   XIII  Kenny's Truth Crusade
    XIV  In Somebody's Boat
     XV  In Which Caliban Scores
    XVI  Tantrums
   XVII  Kenny Disappears
  XVIII  Brian Solves a Problem
    XIX  Samhain
     XX  The Chair by the Fire
     XXI  The Shadow of Death
    XXII  In the Cabin
   XXIII  A Miser's Will
    XXIV  Digging Dots
     XXV  Checkmate!
    XXVI  An Inspiration
   XXVII  Miser's Gold
  XXVIII  Kenny's Ward
    XXIX  The Studio Again
     XXX  Playtime
    XXXI  Fate Stabs
   XXXII  On Finlake Mountain
  XXXIII  In the Span of a Day
   XXXIV  A Face
    XXXV  The Penitent
   XXXVI  April
  XXXVII  Honeysuckle Days
 XXXVIII  Arcady Eludes a Seeker
   XXXIX  The Tension Snaps
      XL  The King of Youth
     XLI  When the Isle of Delight Receded
    XLII  The End of Kenny's Song



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Joan . . . . . . Frontispiece

He was sailing across, to romance he hoped, and surely to mystery

"'Tis Samhain, Adam," said Kenny, "the summer ending of the druids"

"I love you better than my life," Joan said, "and I may--may never--say
it again"



KENNY


CHAPTER I

BRIAN REBELS

"You needn't repeat it," said Brian with a flash of his quiet eyes.
"This time, Kenny, I mean to stay disinherited."

Kennicott O'Neill stared at his son and gasped.  The note of permanency
in the chronic rite of disinheritance was startling.  So was something
in the set of Brian's chin and the flush of anger burning steadily
beneath the dark of his skin.  Moreover, his eyes, warmly Irish like
his father's, and ordinarily humorous and kind, remained unflinchingly
aggressive.

With the air of an outraged emperor, the older man strode across the
studio and rapped upon his neighbor's wall for arbitration.

"Garry may be in bed," said Brian,

"And he may not."  It was much the same to Kenny.

He was a splendid figure--that Irishman.  His gorgeous Persian slippers
curled at the toes and ended in a pair of scarlet heels.  The
extraordinary mandarin combination of oriental magnificence and the
rags he affected for a bathrobe, hung from a pair of shoulders
noticeably broad and graceful.  If he wore his frayed splendor with a
certain picturesque distinction, it was the way he did all things, even
his delightful brogue which was if anything a shade too mellifluous to
be wholly unaffected.  What Kenny liked he kept if he could, even his
irresponsible youth and gayety.

Time had helped him there.  His auburn hair was still bright and thick.
And his eyes were as blue and merry now as when with pagan reverence he
had tramped and sketched as a lad among the ruined altars of the druids.

He had meant to wither his son with continued dignity and calm.  The
vagaries of Irish temper ordained otherwise.  Kenny glanced at the
fragments of a statuette conspicuously rearranged on a Louis XV table
almost submerged in the chaotic disorder of the studio, and lost his
head.

"Look at that!" he flung out furiously.

Brian had already looked--with guilt--and regretted.

"I broke it--accidentally," he admitted.

"Accidentally!  You flung a brush at it."

"I flung a brush across the studio," corrected Brian, "just after you
went out to pawn my shotgun."

"Damn the shotgun!"

"I can extend that same courtesy," reminded Brian, "to the statuette."

Things were going badly when the expected arbitrator rapped upon the
door, and losing ground, Kenny felt that he must needs dramatize his
parental right to authority for the benefit of Garry's ears and his own
pride.

"Silence!" he thundered, striding toward the door.  He flung it back
with the air of a conqueror.  His stage play fell rather flat.  Garry
Rittenhouse, in bathrobe and slippers, confronted the pair with a look
of weary inquiry.  He sometimes regretted that as a peacemaker he had
become an institution.  Nobody said anything.  Garry hunted cigarettes,
cleared a chair and sat down.

"It may or may not interest you two to know that I was in bed," he
began irritably.  "I wish to Heaven you'd fight in union hours."

Brian was sorry and said so.  Kenny, however, took immediate advantage
of Garry's attitude to sidetrack what he considered the preposterous
irrelevance of the shotgun, the one unessential thing in the studio,
and point with rising temper to the statuette.  It had, alas! been a
birthday present from Ann Marvin, whose statuettes, fashionable and
satiric, were famous.

It was like Kenny to have a grievance.  He was hardly ever without one.
But justification was rare indeed and he made the best of it.  He said
all that was on his mind without restraint as to duration or intensity,
thunderstruck at Brian's white-hot response.  For twenty minutes of
Irish fire and fury, Garry listened in amazement, sensing an
unaccustomed stubbornness in Brian's anger.

"Just a minute," said Garry, dazed.  "Let's get down to brass tacks.
Who and what began it?"

They both told him.

"One at a time, please!" he begged.  "I gather that you, Kenny, in need
of petty funds, went out to pawn Brian's shotgun.  And you, Brian,
losing your temper, flung a brush across the studio and smashed a
valued statuette--"

Kenny chose indignantly to tell it all again and overshot the mark,
bringing Garry down upon him with a bark.

"Now, see here, Kenny," he interposed curtly, "that's enough.  Brian's
usually sane and regular.  It's by no means a criminal offense for him
to pick a row with you about his shotgun.  And he didn't mean to smash
the statuette."

He waited for the voice of thunder in which Kenny, at a disadvantage,
would be sure to disinherit his son and, waiting, glanced a trifle
wryly at the littered studio.  What Brian lost by chronic
disinheritance lay ever before the eye, particularly now when Kenny, in
one of his periods of insolvency, was posted downstairs for club debt
and Mrs. Haggerty's insular notions about credit had driven him to
certain frugal devices with the few handkerchiefs he owned, one of
which was spread upon the nearest window pane to dry.

Garry's disgusted inventory missed nothing: a prayer rug for which
Kenny had toured into the south of Persia and led an Arabian Nights'
existence with pursuing bandits whom, by some extraordinary twist of
genius, he had conciliated and painted; an illuminated manuscript in
Gaelic which he claimed had been used by a warrior to ransom a king;
chain armor, weapons of all kinds, climes and periods; an Alpine horn,
reminiscent of the summer Kenny had saved a young painter's life at the
risk of his own; some old masters, a cittern, a Chinese cheng with
tubes and reeds, an ancient psaltery with wires you struck with a
crooked stick that was always lost (Kenny when the mood was upon him
evolved weird music from them all), an Italian dulcimer, a Welsh crwth
that was unpronounceably interesting (some of the strings you twanged
with your thumb and some you played with a bow); Chinese, Japanese,
Indian vases, some alas! sufficiently small for utilitarian purposes,
Salviati glass, feather embroidery, carved chairs and a chest.

A prodigal display--Kenny in his shifting periods of affluence was
always prodigal--but there had never been cups enough with handles in
the littered closet, Garry recalled, until Brian inspired had bought
too many bouillon cups, figuring that one handle always would be left;
Kenny could not remember to buy a teapot when he could and made tea in
a chafing dish; and he had been known to serve highballs in vases.

Garry glanced expectantly at his host and found him but a blur of
oriental color in a film of smoke.  As usual, when he was in a temper
or excited, he was smoking furiously.  But the threat of disinheritance
was not forthcoming.  If anything, the disinheritor was sulking.  And
the eyes of the disinheritee were intelligent and disconcerting.

"Well?" said Garry, amazed.

"I've already been disinherited," explained Brian dryly.  "Twice.  And
I'm leaving tonight--for good."

Garry sat up.

"You mean?" demanded Kenny coldly.

"I mean," flung out Brian, "that I'm tired of it all.  I'm sick to
death of painting sunsets."

Garry's startled glance sought and found a mediocre sunset on an easel.
Brian went in for sunsets.  He said so himself with an inexplicable air
of weariness and disgust.  He knew how to make them.

Kenny's glance too had found the sunset.  It stood beside a landscape,
brilliant and unforgettable, of his own.  Both men looked away.  Brian
smiled.

"You see?" he said quietly.

"Sunsets!" stammered Kenny, perversely taking up the keynote of his
son's rebellion literally.  "Sunsets!  I warned you, Brian--"

"Sunsets," said Brian, "and everything else you put on canvas with
paint and brush.  I can't paint.  You know it.  Garry knows it.  I know
it.  I've painted, Kenny, merely to please you.  I've nothing more than
a commonplace skill whipped into shape by an art school.  Aerial
battlefields--my sunsets--in more ways than one.  I paint 'em because
they happen to be the thing in Nature that thrills me most.  And when I
fire to a thing, most always I can manage somehow.  You yourself have
engineered for me every profitable commission I've ever had.  What's
more, Kenny, if ever once you'd put into real art the dreadful energy
I've put into my mediocrity--"

"You mean I'm lazy?" interrupted Kenny, bristling.

"Certainly not," said Brian with acid politeness.  "You're merely
subject to periodic fits of indolence.  You've said as much yourself."

It was irrefutable.  Kenny, offended, brought his fist down upon the
table with a bang.

"I know precisely what you're going to say," cut in Brian.  "I'm
ungrateful.  I'm not.  But it's misdirected generosity on your part,
Kenny.  And I'm through.  I'm tired," he added simply.  "I want to live
my own life away from the things I can't do well.  I'm tired of
drifting."

"And to-night?"

Brian flung out his hands.

"The last straw!" he said bitterly.

"You're meaning the shotgun, Brian?" demanded Kenny.

"I'm meaning the shotgun."

"What will you do?" interposed the peacemaker in the nick of time.

"I've done some free-lance reporting for John Whitaker," said Brian.
"I think he'll give me a big chance.  He's interested."  His voice--it
had in it at times a hint of Kenny's soft and captivating brogue--was
splendidly boyish and eager now.  "Foreign perhaps or war.  Maybe
Mexico.  Anything so I can write the truth, Garry, the big truth that's
down so far you have to dig for it, the passion of humanness--the
humanness of unrest.  I can't say it to-night.  I can only feel it."

Alarmed by this time, Kenny came turbulently into the conversation and
abused John Whitaker for his son's defection.  Brian, it was plain, had
been decoyed by bromidic tales of cub reporters and "record-smashing
beats."  He contrasted art and journalism and found Brian indifferent
to his scorn.

"It isn't just Whitaker and the sunsets and the desire to exchange the
sham of my 'art' for the truth of something real," said Brian.  "It's
everything.  It's the studio here and things like--like the shotgun.  I
hate the brilliant, disorderly hand-to-mouth sort of Bohemia, Kenny, in
which you seem to thrive.  Either we have a lot of money or a lot of
debts--"

Garry nodded.

"I suppose," went on Brian wearily, "that my nature must demand an
orderly security in essentials.  Plebeian, of course, but comfortable.
I mean, money in sufficient regularity, chairs you can sit down on
without looking first--" he shrugged.

Further detail and he would be drifting into deep water.  Life with
Kenny, who borrowed as freely as he gave, entailed petty harassments
that could not be named.

"Things," finished Brian.  "that are mine without a lock and key."

He had meant not to say it.  Kenny struck his hand fiercely against the
table.

"You hear that, Garry?" he demanded with an indignant bid for support.
"You hear that?  By the Lord Harry, Brian, it's damnable and indecent
to harp so upon the shotgun after smashing the statuette."

The circle was complete.  They were back to Kenny's grievance.  Brian
sighed.

"I wasn't thinking of the shotgun," he said.  "There have been times,
Kenny, when I hadn't a collar left--"

"He's right," put in Garry with quick sympathy.  "It's not just the
shotgun--"

"Garry, you shut up!" snapped Kenny, sweeping the fragments of Ann's
statuette into the table drawer and closing it with a bang.

"Please remember," reminded Garry, coldly, "that an established
privilege of mine, since I undertook this Hague stuff, is absolute
frankness."

"Br-r-r-r--"

"Who rapped for me?"

"Kenny did," said Brian.

"Any man," retorted Kenny bitterly, "may have a--a moment of lunacy.  I
thought you were impartial."

"You mean," said Garry keenly, "that when you rapped you'd been
hypnotized by the justice of your own case and felt a little reckless."

Kenny drew himself up splendidly and glared at Garry through a cloud of
smoke.

"Piffle!" said Garry.  "No stately stuff for me, Kenny, please.  It's
late and I'm tired.  I'll referee this thing in my own way.  I
repeat--it's not just the shotgun.  It's everything he owns."

"What for instance?" inquired Kenny, dangerously polite.

"His money, his clothes and his girls!" enumerated Garry brutally.
"You even pawned his fishing rods and golf clubs."

"I sent him a fern," said Kenny, affronted.  "Did he even water it?
No!"

"I think I paid for it," said Brian.

"Has he ever given me the proper degree of respect.  No!  He calls
me--Kenny!"

Garry laughed aloud at the wrathful search for grievance.  It was not
always easy to remember that Kenny had eloped at twenty with the young
wife who had died when his son was born; and that his son was
twenty-three.

"Go on," said Kenny.  "Laugh your fool head off.  I'm merely stating
facts."

"As for his tennis racquet," reminded Garry, and Kenny flushed.

It developed that of studio things the racquet and the shotgun had
seemed the least essential.  And the need had been imperative.

"Nevertheless," interposed Garry, "they and a number of other things
you pawned were Brian's."

Moreover, reverting to the fishing rods and golf clubs, Kenny would
like to have them both remember that it had been winter and one can
redeem most anything by summer.  He'd meant to.  He honestly had.

"But you didn't," said Garry.

"Great God," thundered Kenny, "you're like a parrot."  Fuming he
searched afield for cigarettes and found them at his elbow.  A noise at
the open window behind him brought him to his feet with a nervous start.

"What's that?  What's over there?" he demanded petulantly.

"Oh, it's only H-B," said Garry.  "He's come down the fire-escape.
Mac's likely forgotten to chain him."

The honey-bear, kept secretly in a studio upstairs and christened "H-B"
to cloak his identity--for the club rules denied him hospitality--came
in with a jaunty air of confidence.  At the sight of the three men he
turned tail and fled.  Kenny speeded his departure with a bouillon cup
and felt better.

As for clothes, Kenny began with new dignity, he must remind them both
that he had more than Brian, if now and again he did forget a minor
essential and have to forage for it.  He added with an air of rebuke
that Brian was welcome to anything he had, anything--to borrow, to wear
and to lose if he chose.

Brian received the offer with a glance of blank dismay and Garry with
difficulty repressed a smile.  Kenny's fashionable wardrobe, portentous
in all truth, had an unmistakable air of originality about it at once
foreign and striking.  There were times when he looked irresistibly
theatric and ducal.

Kenny repeated his willingness to lend his wardrobe.

"Of course you would,"  said Garry.  "Though it's hardly the point and
difficult to remember when Brian is in a hurry and has to send out a
boy to buy him a collar."

In the matter of money, to take up another point, Kenny felt that his
son had a peculiar genius for always having money somewhere.  Brian had
of necessity been saved considerable inconvenience by a tendency to
economy and resource.  As usual, if anybody suffered it was Kenny.

"For 'tis myself, dear lad," he finished, "that runs the scale a bit.
Faith, I'm that impecunious at times I'm beside myself with fret and
worry."

Brian steeled himself against the disarming gentleness of the change of
mood.  It was inevitably strategic.  Wily and magnetic Kenny always had
his way.  It was plain he thought to have it now with every instinct up
in arms at the thought of Brian's going.

"I've less genius, less debt and less money," conceded Brian, "but I've
a lot more capacity for worry and I'm tired of always being on my
guard.  I'm tired of bookkeeping--"

"Bookkeeping!"

"Bookkeeping lies!" said Brian bluntly.  "I've lied myself sometimes,
Kenny, to keep from denying a lie of yours."

The nature of the thrust was unexpected.  Kenny changed color and
resented the hyper-critical word.  To his mind it was neither filial
nor aesthetic.

"Lies!" he repeated indignantly, regarding his son with a look of
paralyzed inquiry.  "Lies!"

"Lies!" insisted Brian.  "You know precisely what I mean."

"I suppose, Kenny," said Garry fairly, "that a certain amount of
romancing is for you the wine of existence.  Your wit's insistent and
if a thing presents itself, tempting and warmly colored, you can't
refuse it expression simply because it isn't true.  You must make a
good story.  I've sometimes thought you'd have a qualm or two of
conscience if you didn't, as if it's an artistic obligation you've
ignored--to delight somebody's ears, even for a moment.  Perhaps you
don't realize how far afield you travel.  But it's pretty hard on
Brian."

It was the thing, as Garry knew, that taxed Brian's patience to the
utmost, plunged him into grotesque dilemmas and kept him keyed to an
abnormal alertness of memory.  Always his sense of loyalty revolted at
the notion of denying any tale that Kenny told.

Now Kenny's hurt stare left Brian unrepentant.  He lost his temper
utterly.  Thereafter he blazed out a hot-headed summary of book-keeping
that made his father gasp.

Kenny's air of conscious rectitude vanished.  In an instant he was
defensive and excited, resenting the unexpected need of the one and the
distraction of the other.  The sum of his episodic rambling on Brian's
tongue was appalling.  He was willing to concede that his imagination
was wayward and romantic.  But why in the name of Heaven must a
man--and an Irishman--justify the indiscretions of his wit?  Well, the
lad had always had an unnatural trend for fact.  Kenny remembered with
resentment the Irish fairies that even in his childhood Brian had been
unable to accept, excellent fairies with feet so big that in time of
storm they stood on their heads and used them for umbrellas!

Staggered by Brian's inflexible air of resolution, Kenny, his fingers
clenched in his hair, began another circle.  He reverted to his
grievance.  The quarrel this time was sharp and brief.  Brian hated
repetitions.  Hotly impenitent he flung out of the studio and slammed
his bedroom door, leaving Kenny dazed and defensive and utterly unable
to comprehend the twist of fate by which the dignity of his grievance
had been turned to disadvantage.

Garry glanced at the gray haze in the court beyond the window and rose.

"It's nearly daybreak," he said.  "And I've a model coming at ten.
She's busy and I can't stall."

He left Kenny amazed and aggrieved at his desertion.  Certainly in the
grip of untoward events, a man is entitled to someone with whom he can
talk it over.

Wakeful and nervous, Kenny smoked, raked his hair with his fingers and
brooded.  Brian had been disinherited much too often to resent it all
at once to-night.  As for the shotgun, that dispute or its equivalent
was certainly as normal a one as regularity could make it.  And he had
related many a tale unhampered by fact that Brian had simply ignored.

"What on earth has got into the lad?" he wondered impatiently.

Ah, well, he was a good lad, clean-cut and fine, with Irish eyes and an
Irish temper like his father.  Kenny forgot and forgave.  Both were a
spontaneity of temperament.  Brian and he would begin again.  That was
always pleasant.

He strode remorsefully to Brian's door and knocked.  There was no
answer.  He knocked again.  Ordinarily he would have flung back the
door with a show of temper.  Penitential, he opened it with an air of
gentle forbearance.  The room, which gave evidence of anger and hurried
packing, was empty, the door that opened into the corridor, ajar.

Brian was gone.

White and startled, Kenny unearthed the chafing dish and made himself
some coffee.

Brian, of course, would return in the morning, whistling and sane.  He
would call something back in his big, pleasant voice to the elevator
man who worshipped him, and bang the studio door.  The lad was not
given to such definite revolt.  Besides, Brian, he must remember, was
an O'Neill, an Irishman and a son of his, an indisputable trio of good
fortune; as such he could be depended upon not to make an ass of
himself.



CHAPTER II

THE UNSUCCESSFUL PARENT

Kenny slept as he lived, with a genius for dreams and adventure.  He
remembered moodily as he rose at noon that he had dreamed a
kaleidoscopic chase, precisely like a moving picture with himself a
star, in which, bolting through one taxi door and out another with a
shotgun in his hand, he had valiantly pursued a youth who had,
miraculously, found the crooked stick of the psaltery and stolen it.
The youth proved to be Brian.  That part was reasonable enough.  Brian
was the only one who could find the thing long enough to steal it.

It was not likely to be a day for work.  That he felt righteously could
not be expected.  Nevertheless, with hurt concession to certain talk of
indolence the night before, he donned a painter's smock and, filled
with a consciousness of tremendous energy to be expended in God's good
time, telephoned John Whitaker.

Yes, Brian had been there.  Where he was now, where he would be,
Whitaker did not feel at liberty to divulge.  Frankly he was pledged to
silence.  Kenny willing, he would be up to dinner at six.  He had a lot
to say.

Kenny banged the receiver into the hook in a blaze of temper, hurt and
unreasonable, and striding to the rear window flung it up to cool his
face.  There were bouillon cups upon the sill.  Bouillon cups!
Bouillon cups!  Thunder-and-turf!  There were bouillon cups everywhere.
Nobody but Brian would have bought so many handles.  A future of
handles loomed drearily ahead.  Brian could talk of disorder all he
chose.  Half of it was bouillon cups.  Bitterly resenting the reproach
they seemed to embody, stacked there upon the sill, Kenny passionately
desired to sweep them out of the window once and for all.  The desire
of the moment, ever his doom, proved overpowering.  The cups crashed
upon a roof below with prompt results.  Kenny was appalled at the
number of heads that appeared at studio windows, the head of Sidney
Fahr among them, round-eyed and incredulous.  Well, that part at least
was normal.  Sid's face advertised a chronic distrust of his senses.

Moreover, when Pietro appeared after a round of alarmed inquiry, Kenny
perversely chose to be truthful about it, insisted that it was not
accidental and refused to be sorry.  Afterward he admitted to Garry, it
was difficult to believe that one spontaneous ebullition of a nature
not untemperamental could provoke so much discussion, frivolous and
otherwise.  The thing might grow so, he threatened sulkily, that he'd
leave the club.

As for the immediate present, Fate had saddled him again with an
afternoon of moody indolence.  Certainly no Irishman with nerves strung
to an extraordinary pitch could work with Mike crawling snakily around
the lower roof intent upon china remnants whose freaks of shape seemed
to paralyze him into moments of agreeable interest.  Kenny at four
refused an invitation to tea and waited in growing gloom for Reynolds,
a dealer who, prodded always into inconvenient promptness by Kenny's
needs, had promised to combine inspection of the members' exhibition in
the gallery downstairs with the delivery of a check.  There were
critical possibilities if he did not appear.

Mike disappeared with the final fragment and Reynolds became the
grievance of the hour.  Kenny, fuming aimlessly around the studio,
resorted desperately at last to an unfailing means of stimulus.  He
made a careful toilet, donned a coat with a foreign looking waist-line,
rather high, and experimented with a new and picturesque stock that
fastened beneath his tie with a jeweled link.  As six o'clock arrived
and Reynolds' defection became a thing assured, his attitude toward
John Whitaker underwent an imperative change.  It would be impossible
now to greet him with hostile dignity.  He had become a definite need.

When at ten minutes past six the studio bell tinkled, Kenny, opening
the door, stared at Whitaker in tragic dismay and struck himself upon
the forehead.

"Mother of Men!" he groaned.  "I thought of course it would be
Reynolds.  He's bringing me a check."

John Whitaker looked unimpressed.  He merely blinked his recognition of
a subterfuge.

There was a parallel in his experience, a weekend arrival at Woodstock
when Kenny, farming in a flurry of enthusiasm, had come riding down to
meet his guest on a singular quadruped whose area of hide had thickened
strangely.  Brian called the uncurried quadruped a plush horse.  Kenny,
remembered Whitaker, had searched with tragic eyes for an invited
editor who had recklessly agreed to pay in advance for an excursion of
Kenny's into illustrating, ostensibly to pay for a cow.  And Kenny's
words had been: "My God, Whitaker!  Where's Graham?"  Moreover he had
struck himself fiercely on the forehead and Whitaker had grub-staked
his host to provisions until Graham arrived.

"Can't we eat in the grill?" asked Whitaker.  "It's raining."  Kenny
regarded him with a look of pained intelligence.

"I'm posted," he said.

"Then," said Whitaker, "I'll go out and buy something.  I'd rather eat
in the studio.  What'll I get?"

Kenny capriciously banned oysters.

"If you want a rarebit," he added, "we have some cheese."

He was still searching excitedly for the cheese when Whitaker returned.

"Reynolds," he flung out vindictively, "is positively the most
unreliable dealer I know.  He's erratic and irresponsible.  A man may
work himself to death and wait in the grave for his money.  Do you
wonder poor Blakelock met his doom through the cupidity of laggard
dealers?  Here am I on the verge of God knows what from overwork--"

Whitaker spared him disillusion.  Painting with Kenny was an
occupation, never work.  When it slipped tiresomely into the class of
work and palled, he threw it aside for something more diverting.

"The cheese in all probability," suggested Whitaker mildly, "wouldn't
be under the piano.  Or would it?  And don't bother anyway.  I took the
liberty of buying an emergency wedge while I was out."

Kenny wiped his forehead in amazed relief and piously thanked God he
hadn't wasted his appetite on middle-aged cakes.

"If you hadn't come when you did," he said, "I'd likely had to eat 'em,
thanks to Reynolds.  Now I'll send 'em up to H. B."  He peered
disgustedly into the bag and removed an irrelevant ace of spades.  Its
hibernation there seemed for an instant to annoy him as well it might.
There had been a furore in whist about it barely a week before.  Then
he used it irresponsibly for an I.O.U. and impaled it upon a strange
looking spike that seemed to pinion a heterogeneous admission of petty
debt.

Together they made the rarebit.  Whitaker waited with foreboding for
the storm to break.  But for some reason, though he was constrained and
impatient and feverishly active, Kenny avoided the subject of Brian.
He lost poise and patience all at once, pushed aside his plate and
challenged Whitaker with a look.

"Why did you want to eat in the studio?"

"I came to talk."

"Whitaker," blustered Kenny, "where's Brian?"

"Working."

"On your paper?"

"No.  Brian's left New York.  He's driving somebody's car.  And I found
the job for him through my paper.  When he has money enough he plans to
tramp off into God's green world of spring to get himself in trim.
Says he's stale and tired and thinking wrong.  In the fall he's going
abroad for me and that, Kenny, is about all I can tell you."

"You mean," flared Kenny, rising with a ragged napkin in his hand, "you
mean, John, it's all you will tell me!"

"Sit down," said Whitaker, toasting a cracker over the alcohol flame.
"I prefer a sensible talk without fireworks."

Surprised and nettled, Kenny obeyed in spite of himself.

"Now," went on Whitaker quietly, "I came here to-night because I'm
Brian's friend and yours."  He ignored the incredulous arch of Kenny's
eyebrows.  "Where Brian is, where he will be, I don't propose to tell
you, now or at any other time.  His wheres and his whens are the boy's
own business.  His whys I think you know.  He won't be back."

"He will!" thundered Kenny and thumped upon the table with his fist.

Whitaker patiently reassembled his supper.

"I think not," he said.

"You're not here to think," blazed Kenny.  "You're here to tell me what
you know."

"I'm here," corrected John Whitaker, "to get a few facts out of my
system for your own good and Brian's.  Kenny, how much of the truth can
you stand?"

Kenny threw up his hands with a reminiscent gesture of despair.

"Truth!" he repeated.  "Truth!"

"I know," put in Whitaker, "that you regard the truth as something
sacred, to be handled with delicacy and discretion.  But--"

Kenny told him sullenly to tell it if he could.

"I don't propose to urge Brian back here for a good many reasons.  In
the first place, he's not a painter--"

"John," interrupted Kenny hotly, "you are no judge of that.  I,
Kennicott O'Neill, am his father."

"And more's the pity," said Whitaker bluntly, "for you've made a mess
of it.  That's another reason."

Kenny turned a dark red.

"You mean?"

"I mean, Kenny," said Whitaker, his glance calm and level, "that as a
parent for Brian, you are an abject failure."

The word stung.  It was the first time in his life that Kenny had faced
it.  That he, Kennicott O'Neill, Academician, with Heaven knows how
many medals of distinction, could fail at anything, was a new thought,
bewildering and bitter.  This time he escaped from the table and flung
up a window.  Whitaker, he grumbled, never toasted crackers without
burning them.  Whitaker brought him back with a look.

"Sit down," he said again.  "I don't propose to talk while you roam
around the studio and kick things."

Kenny obeyed.  He looked a little white.

"I've tried to think this thing out fairly," said Whitaker.  "Why as a
parent for Brian you're a failure--"

"Well?"

"And the first and fundamental cause of your failure is, I think, your
hairbrained, unquenchable youth."

Kenny stared at him in astounded silence.

"I remember once around the fire here you told a Celtic tale of some
golden islands--Tirnanoge, wasn't it?--the Land of the Young--"

Might have been, Kenny said perversely.  He didn't remember.

"Ossian lived there with the daughter of the King of Youth for three
hundred years that seemed but three," reminded Whitaker.  "Well, no
matter.  The point is this: The Land of the Young and the King of Youth
always make me think of you."

"It is true," said Kenny with biting sarcasm, "that I still have hair
and teeth.  It is also true that I am the respectable if unsuccessful
parent of a son twenty-three years old and I myself am forty-four."

"Forty-four years young," admitted Whitaker.  "And Brian on the other
hand is twenty-three years old.  There you have it.  You know precisely
what I mean, Kenny.  Youth isn't always a matter of years.  It's a
state of being.  Sometimes it's an affliction and sometimes a gift.
Sometimes it's chronic and sometimes it's contagious enough to start an
epidemic.  You're as young and irresponsible as the wind.  You've never
grown up.  God knows whether or not you ever will.  But Brian has.
There's the clash."

"Go on," said Kenny with a dangerous flash of interest in his eyes.
"You've an undeniable facility, John, with what you call the truth."

"It's an unfortunate characteristic of highly temperamentalized
individuals--"

"Painters, Irishmen and O'Neills," put in Kenny with sulky impudence.

"That they frequently skirt the rocks for themselves with amazing
skill.  I mean just this: They don't always shipwreck their own lives."

Was that, Kenny would like to know, an essential of successful
parenthood?

"I mean," he paraphrased dryly, "must you wreck your own life, John, to
parent somebody else with skill?"  The wording of this rather pleased
him.  He brightened visibly.

Whitaker ignored his brazen air of assurance.  It was like Kenny, he
reflected, to find an unexpected loophole and emerge from it with the
air of a conqueror.

"People with an over-plus of temperament," he said, "wreck the lives of
others.  Brian has just stepped out in the nick of time."

"You mean," flashed Kenny with anger in his eyes, "you mean I've tried
to wreck the life of my own son?  By the powers of war, John, that's
too much!"

"I didn't say you had tried.  I mean merely that you were accidentally
succeeding.   The sunsets--"

"Damn the sunsets!" roared Kenny, losing his head.

"It was time for that," agreed Whitaker.

"Time for what?"

"You usually damn the irrefutable thing.  Why you wanted Brian to paint
pictures," went on Whitaker, ignoring Kenny's outraged sputter, "when
he couldn't, is and always has been a matter of considerable worry and
mystery to me--"

"It needn't have been.  That, I fancy, John, you can see for yourself.
I worry very little about how your paper is run."

"But I think I've solved it.  It's your vanity."

"My God!" said Kenny with a gasp.

"You wanted to have a hand in what he did.  Then you could afford to be
gracious.  There are some, Kenny, who must always direct in order to
enjoy."

There was a modicum of enjoyment with Whitaker around, hinted Kenny
sullenly.

Whitaker found his irrelevant trick of umbrage trying in the extreme.
He lost his temper and said that which he had meant to leave to
inference.

"Kenny, Brian's success, in which you, curiously enough, seem to have
had a visionary faith, would have linked him to you in a sort of
artistic dependence in which you shone with inferential genius and
generosity."

It hurt.

"So!" said Kenny, his color high.

"It may be," said Whitaker, feeling sorry for him, "that I've put that
rather strongly but I think I've dug into the underlying something
which, linked with your warm-hearted generosity and a real love for
Brian, made you stubborn and unreasonable about his work.  Of the big
gap in temperament and the host of petty things that maddened Brian to
the point of distraction, it's unnecessary for me to speak.  You must
know that your happy-go-lucky self-indulgence more often than not has
spelled discomfort of a definite sort for Brian.  You're generous, I'll
admit.  Generous to a fault.  But your generosity is always congenial.
It's never the sort that hurts.  The only kind of generosity that will
help in this crisis is the kind that hurts.  It's up to you, Kenny, to
do some mental house-cleaning, admit the cobwebs and brush them away,
instead of using them fantastically for drapery."

Whitaker thanked his lucky stars he'd gotten on so well.  Kenny,
affronted, was usually more capricious and elusive.

"Whitaker," said Kenny, his eyes imploring, "you don't--you can't mean
that Brian isn't coming back?"

Whitaker sighed.  After all, Kenny never heard all of anything, just as
he never read all of a letter unless it was asterisked and under-lined
and riveted to his attention by a multitude of pen devices.

"Kenny, have you been listening?"

"No!" lied Kenny.

"Brian," flung out Whitaker wrathfully, "isn't coming back.  I thank
God for his sake."

His loss of temper brought a hornet's nest about his ears.  Kenny swung
to his feet in smoldering fury.  He expressed his opinion of Whitaker,
editors, Brian and sons.  The sum of them merged into an unchristian
melee of officiousness and black ingratitude.  He recounted the events
of the night before with stinging sarcasm in proof of Brian's
regularity.  He ended magnificently by blaming Brian for the disorder
of the studio.  There were handles everywhere.  And Brian in an
exuberance of amiability had broken a statuette.  Likely Whitaker would
see even in that some form of paternal oppression.

"Whitaker," flung out Kenny indignantly, "Brian plays but one
instrument in this studio and we have a dozen.  Wasn't it precisely
like him to pick out that damned psaltery there with the crooked stick?
I mean--wasn't it like him to pick out something with a fiendish
appendage that could be lost, and keep the studio in an uproar when he
wanted to play it?"

Whitaker laughed in spite of himself.  The psaltery stick was famous.

Moreover, Brian--Brian, mind you, who talked of truth with
hair-splitting piety--Brian had that very day at noon forced his father
to the telling of a lie.

"But he wasn't here," said Whitaker, mystified.  "He lunched with me."

"The fact remains," insisted Kenny with dignity.  "I myself told Garry
Rittenhouse he'd gone up to Reynolds to collect some money.  And Garry,
thinking he had come back, believed it."

"Kenny," said Whitaker, his patience quite gone, "are you mad?  How on
earth did Brian force you into that lie?"

"By not coming home," said Kenny sulkily.  "If he'd come home as a lad
should, I needn't have told it.  You can see that for yourself."

Whitaker dazedly threw up his hands.

Having successfully baffled his opponent with the brilliancy of his
unreason, Kenny enlarged upon the humiliation he must experience when
Garry learned the truth.  At a familiar climax of self-glorification,
in which Kenny claimed he had saved Brian from no end of club-gossip by
his timely evasion of the truth, Whitaker lost his temper and went home.

He left his host in a dangerous mood of quiet.

It was a quiet unlike Kenny, who hated to think, and presently he flung
his pipe across the studio, fuming at what seemed to him unprecedented
disorder.  It was getting on his nerves.  No man could work in such a
hodge-podge.  Even inspiration was likely to be chaotic and futuristic.
Small blame to Brian if he resented it all.  To-morrow, if Reynolds
deigned to appear with his check, he would summon Mrs. Haggerty, and
the studio should have a cleaning that the mercenary old beldame would
remember.  Kenny vaguely coupled Mrs. Haggerty with the present
disorder and resented both, his defiant eyes lingering with new
interest upon a jumble of musical instruments in a corner.

With a muffled objurgation he fell upon the jumble and began to
overhaul it.  The object sought defied his fevered efforts to unearth
it and with teeth set, he ransacked the studio, resentfully flinging a
melee of hindrances right and left.

The telephone rang.

"Kenny," said Garry's patient voice, "what in Heaven's name are you
doing?  What hit the wall?"

"I'm hunting the stick to that damned psaltery," snapped Kenny and
banged the receiver into the hook, one hand as usual clenched
frenziedly in his hair.

Later, with the studio a record of earthquake, he found it under a
model stand and wiping his forehead anchored it to the psaltery for
good and all with a shoestring.

Horribly depressed he thumped on the wall for Garry, who came at once,
wondering wryly if Brian had come in and the need again was mediation.

"You might as well know," began Kenny at once, "that Brian didn't go up
to Reynolds for me this noon--"

Garry stared.

"It was a lie," flung out Kenny with a jerk, "a damnable, deliberate,
indecent lie.  Whitaker says he's gone for good."  His look was wistful
and indignant.  "Garry, what's wrong?" he demanded.  "What on earth
_is_ it?  Why couldn't things have gone on as they were, without God
knows how many people picking _me_ for a target?  As far as I can see
I'm merely maintaining my usual average of imperfection and all the
rest of the world has gone mad."

"I suppose, Kenny," began Garry lamely, "you must be starting a new
cycle.  Jan could tell you.  He talks a lot about the cycle of dates
and the philosophy of vibrations--"

"I know that I regard the truth as something sacred, to be handled with
delicacy and discretion," began Kenny with bitter fluency.  "I'm an
unsuccessful parent with an over-supply of hair and teeth, afflicted
with hairbrained, unquenchable youth.  I'd be a perennial in the Land
of the Young and could hobnob indefinitely with his Flighty Highness,
the King of Youth.  I'm forty-four years young and highly
temperamentalized.  I've made a mess of parenting Brian and I'm an
abject failure."

Garry looked at him.

"Just what are you talking about?" he asked.

"I know," pursued Kenny elaborately, "that it's unfortunate I haven't
wrecked my own life when I'm an accidental success at wrecking Brian's.
I'm full of cobwebs.  I damn irrefutable things and I've forced Brian
to a profession of sunsets to gratify my vanity.  Can you personally,
Garry, think of anything else?"

"Sit down!" said Garry.  "You're about as logical as a lunatic--"

"Tell Whitaker, do," begged  Kenny.  "There's one he missed.  Garry,
what's back of all this turmoil?  What's the real reason for Brian's
brain-storm?  I'm sick to death of Whitaker's wordy arabesque and
abuse.  I want facts."

"Brian said it all last night," reminded Garry.  "It's just another
case of a last straw."

"You honestly mean that the ancestors of the straw are the sunsets, the
disorder here--the--the--"  He thumped the table.  "Garry, I don't
lie.  I swear I don't.  I hate a liar.  I mean a dishonorable liar.  A
lie is an untruth that harms.  That's my definition.  Any man
embroiders sordid fact on occasion."

"On occasion!" admitted Garry.

Kenny, with his eye upon the fern in the window, missed the
significance.  It had registered his sincere regret--that fern--at the
need of pawning Brian's fishing rods and golf clubs.  Like Brian!  He
had failed utterly to comprehend the delicacy of the tribute.

Finding this point upon which he dwelt with some length equally
over-nice for Garry's perception, Kenny in a huff sent him home,
watered the fern, without in the least understanding the impulse, and
went to bed.  And dreaming as usual, he seemed to be hunting cobwebs
with a gun made of ferns.  He found them draped over huge pillars of
ice, marked in Brian's familiar sunset colors.  Truth.  And when
panting and sweating he had swept them all away with a wedge of cheese
he seemed to hear Whitaker's voice--calling him a failure.

Kenny felt that he had been visited by Far Darrig, the Gaelic bringer
of bad dreams.



CHAPTER III

IN THE GAY AND GOLDEN WEATHER

Spring came early and with the first marsh hawk Brian was on the road,
his eager youth crying out to the spring's hope and laughter.
Everywhere he caught the thrill of it.  Brooks released from an armor
of ice went singing by him.  Hill and meadow deepened verdantly into
smiles.  A little while now and the whole green earth in its tenderness
would dimple exquisitely, with every dimple a flower.  Mother Earth,
moistening the bare brown fields for the plough with a capricious tear
or so for the banished winter, was beginning again.  And so was he.
Hope swelled wistfully within him like song in the throat of the
bluebird and sap in the trees.  With the sun warm upon his face and the
gladness of spring in his veins, he sang with Pippa that "God's in his
Heaven, all's right with the world!"

Well, New York, thank God, lay to the back of him, veiling her
realities and truth in glitter, defying nearness.  Every human thing
that made for life lay there as surely as it lay here in God's quieter
world, but you never came close to it.

So he tramped away to green fields and hills and winding quiet roads,
spring riding into his heart, invincible and bold.

An arbutus filled him with the wonder of things, a sense of eternity, a
swift, inexplicable compassion, a longing for service to the needs of
men.  His ears thrilled to the song of the earth and the whistle of the
ploughman turning up the fresh brown earth.  He filled his lungs with
the wind of the open country, drank in the enchantment of the morning
and the dusk, his nostrils joyously alive to the smell of the furrowed
ground and a hint of burgeoning wild flowers.

But the first robin brought misgivings and remorse.  Brian remembered
Kenny's legend of the thorn ("worst of them all it was," said Kenny
gently, "and prickin' deepest!") and the robin who plucked it from the
bleeding brow of Christ.  So by the blood of the Son of Man had the
robin come by his red breast.

The legend filled Brian with yearning.  He softened dangerously to the
memory of a sketching tramp with Kenny fuming at his heels, his
excitement chronic.  Adventure had endlessly stalked Kenny for its own,
waylaid him at intervals when he passionately proclaimed his desire for
peace, and saddled Brian with the responsibilities of constant
guardianship.

Brian stubbornly put it all behind him.  Kenny, frantic with tenderness
and resolution, could sweep him credulously back into bondage if he
kept to the siege.  His promises were fluent always and alluring.  Only
by the courage of utter separation could Brian make his longed for
emancipation a thing assured.

So he tramped the highway, lingering by fence and rail to talk with
men, living and learning.  For the highway meant to him the passion of
life.  Hope and sorrow traveled it day and night in homely hearts.

And often his thoughts harked wistfully back to the words of a modern
poet which Kenny with his usual skill had set to music:

  "And often, often I'm longing still,
    This gay and golden weather,
  For my father's face by an Irish hill,
    And he and I together."

In the gay and golden weather things were going badly with the
unsuccessful parent.  For weeks now his life had been in ferment, his
moods as freakish as the wind.  What little regularity his life had
known departed to that limbo that had claimed his peace of mind.  That
he felt himself abnormally methodic lay entirely in the fact that he
watered the fern each day.  It had for him a morbid fascination.
Incomprehensible forces were sapping his faith in himself and the
future; and viciously at war with them, he nursed his grievance against
Brian only to find that it was less robust than any grievance should
be.  At any cost he wanted Brian back.

"He's taken care of me," remembered Kenny sadly, "since he was a bit of
a lad."

As ever, the thing withheld, Kenny ardently desired.  That thing was
Brian's presence.  Any Irishman, he decided fiercely, would understand
his terrified clinging to the things of the heart that belonged to him
by birth.  It was part of his race and creed.  He hated to be alone.
And Brian was all he had.  How lightly he had prized that one
possession until it became a thing denied, Kenny, sentimentalizing his
need, forgot.

Studio gossip, having concerned itself with Brian's going, almost to
the disruption of the Holbein Club, took up in perturbed detail the
glaring problem of Kenny's tantrums.  He was keeping everyone excited.

"Of course," mused Garry, "you could earn your living as a moving
picture actor--"

"Adams owes me five thousand dollars for his wife's portrait,"
sputtered Kenny.  "But I can't get it.  He's been sick for weeks.
Typhoid."

"And in the meantime?"

The shaft went home.  Kenny sent for a model--and sent her home.

"She was too ornamental and decidedly sympathetic," he explained
gloomily to Garry.  "I'm just in the mood to make a colossal fool of
myself.  She was the sort of girl you'd invite to tea to meet your
brother's wife."

"Kenny!"

"She was!" insisted Kenny.

"Any number of models are and you know it.  And that girl is Jan's
cousin."

"I make a point of never losing my head over a model," declared Kenny
with an air.  "It's a hindrance to work.  You concentrate on a type and
every picture you do advertises your devotion.  Suppose I married her!"

"Heaven help her!" snapped Garry, and went out, slamming the door.

Kenny offended, followed him home.  He felt aggrieved and talkative.

If Kenny had succeeded in propelling himself into one of his nervous
ecstasies of inspiration, thereby normalizing his existence to some
extent, if Reynolds had not appeared and simplified the painter's
credit to a point where he made no further search for unsympathetic
models.  Fate, weaving the destiny of two O'Neills, would have changed
her loom.  As it was, sick with brooding and pity for himself, Kenny
abandoned all pretense of labor and rushed on blindly to his fate.  The
spring was in his blood.  What form of midsummer madness lay ahead of
him depended now upon the hairtrigger of impulse.  A wind, a sketch,
the perfume of a flower, and he would be off wherever the reminiscence
called him.  He whistled constantly.  That, as Jan pointed out, was
always a bad sign with Kenny.  It meant that he felt perilously
transient and would rocket up in the air when a spark came that pleased
him.  He had been much the same, Fahr remembered, the summer he
embarked for Syria upon a tramp steamer--to the captain's frantic
regret.

In the end, feeling absurdly sorry for him, Garry unwittingly sent the
spark in by Pietro.

It was a letter from Brian.


  "Tavern of Stars
   Open Country
   God's Green World of Spring

"Dear Garry:

"The purpose of this letter is primarily a favor.  Therefore without
pretense I'll have done with it at once.  You'll find in the studio a
scrapbook of clippings which represent my ebullitions in print.
Whitaker wants them, I believe, for purposes of conference.  It will
save him running through his files.

"I've been on the road for weeks, tramping myself into blessed
weariness at night.  More often than not I sleep in the open.  I'm
writing this with the aid of a pocket searchlight.  Mine host, old
Gaffer Moon, smiles down upon the ashes of my camp fire, full-faced and
silver.  An excellent host!  Never once has he grumbled about light or
pay and he grants me a roof without question.  Ah! it's a blessed old
Tavern of Stars, Garry!  Ramshackle enough in all faith, for there are
gaps in the tree-walls and Dame Wind's a-sweeping night and day, but
luckily I've a blanket I carry by day and need by night.

"I've a road-mate.  I think in time he'll be my friend, though he isn't
yet.  And thereby hangs a tale.

"I camped to-night in a wood by a river and turned in early, feeling
tired.  Voices drifted hazily into my slumber after a while and I awoke
to find the moon riding high above the wood.  My fire was out, my room
in the Tavern of Stars still carpeted in shadow.  Beyond in the
moonlight two people had halted, a boy who was denouncing someone in a
hard and bitter voice and, clinging to his arm, a girl in a cloak, whom
I judged to be his sister.  Her eyes were like pools of ink and tragic
with imploring, Laughter would have made her lovely.  As it was, with
her lashes wet I could only think of Niobe and a passion of tears.  I
have rarely seen in a woman's face so much of the right kind of
sweetness.  It was an exquisite vigor of sweetness, not in the least
the kind that cloys.

"They were much alike, save that the boy's face was angry and
rebellious.  He was the younger of the two, seventeen or so, and would
have been in rags but for an unbelievable amount of mending.

"When I awoke, he had, I think, been urging his sister to go with him
and she had refused.  Before I could even so much as make them aware of
my nearness, things came to a climax.  The boy with a curse pushed her
away.  The hurt in his heart perhaps had made him rough.  But the girl
shrank away from him with a sob and ran back up the hill.  He watched
her climb to a hill-farm near the river, with shame and agony in his
eyes, and I thought he would follow.  Instead he plunged most
unexpectedly in my direction and finished his tragedy in comedy by
stumbling over me.  We both scrambled to our feet a shade resentful.

"He realized instantly that I had overheard and blazed out at me in a
passion of temper.  Running away had plainly given him an arrogant
conviction of manhood.  Garry, old dear, I had to thrash him for the
good of his soul and my Irish temper--he was so offensively independent
and unjust.

"It was a pretty job of thrashing but it did him good.  He threw
himself on the ground and sobbed like the kid he is.  While he was
pulling himself together, I built up the fire and made him some coffee.

"The blaze of the fire worried him--he was afraid his sister would see
it and come back.  But he drank the coffee and when I had damped the
fire to ease his mind, I explained to him just why I'd felt the need of
thrashing him.  For one thing I hadn't cared for the way he spoke to
his sister.  And for another I hadn't cared at all for his insults to
me.  He listened sullenly to the facts of my eavesdropping and
apologized.  When he found that I was disposed to be friendly he
blurted out his justification for running away: an eccentric old
invalid uncle who in all probability is not so evil as the boy claims.

"I had an odd feeling as we talked that he stands at the parting of the
ways.  Chance will make or mar him.  And therefore I told him that if
he insisted upon running away, he might as well tramp with me and think
it over.

"I don't quite know yet why I said it.

"He reminds me of Kenny somehow, save that Kenny's more of a kid.  Both
of them have an overdose of temperament and need a guardian with an
iron hand.  And both have a way about them.

"Likely, after the wind was so pitifully out of his sails I could have
dragged him up the hill home but if he has the notion of escape in his
head, he'd go again.

"After a good deal of talk, friendly and otherwise, we took turns at
the searchlight and wrote, each of us, a letter to his sister, I in a
sense seeking to guarantee a respectability I do not look or feel since
I am a truant myself with an indifferent amount of worldly goods.
However, I couldn't help thinking how she'd worry and I promised to see
him through.

"He's asleep now under my blanket, catching his breath at intervals
like a youngster who's carried heartbreak into his sleep.  Poor kid!  I
suppose he has.  I've promised him to be on the road before daybreak.

"He'll have to work his way, but that, of course, will be good for him.
What pennies I have I'm obliged to count with a provident eye.  I've
added to 'em from time to time along the road.  So far I've been
intermittently a rotten ploughman, a fair fence-mender and a skillful
whitewasher.  My amazing facility there I attribute to an
apprenticeship in sunsets.  Once, during a period of rain, I lived in a
corncrib for three days at an average of seven cents a day.  I've
reduced my need of kitchen equipment to a can-opener.  A can of
anything, I've discovered, provides food as well as a combination
saucepan and coffee pot.

"I miss Kenny but I dare not write to him.  Garry, you know how it is.
Unless I brace myself with a lot of temper, he can twist me around his
finger.  Even his letters are dangerous.  I can't--I won't go back to
sunsets.

"I often think these days of Kenny's wood-fire tales of the shrine of
Black Gartan where St. Columba was born.  Colomcille, old Kenny called
him around the wood-fire, didn't he?  Colomcille, Kenny said, having
been in exile, knew the homesick pangs himself and therefore could give
the good Irishmen who journeyed to his shrine strength to bear them.
I'm not in exile but there are times when I should be journeyin' off,
as Kenny says when the brogue is on him, to Black Gartan.  The curse of
the Celt!  Kenny swears there's no homesickness in the world like an
Irishman's passionate longing for home and kin.  Not that I long for
the studio.  God forbid!  Kenny's the symbol for it all.

"I've had some black minutes of remorse.  After all I had no earthly
right to blaze out so about the shotgun.  And you can't imagine how the
statuette upset me.

"Say hello to Kenny for me, won't you?  Tell him I'm brown and lean
already, and that I like the fortunes of the road."


It hurt of course that the letter was Garry's.  Nettled at first, Kenny
had half a mind not to read it.  Later, why it was Garry's, gave him a
sense of power.  Brian was homesick and repentant.  And with the fire
of his temper spent he was always manageable.  Kenny cursed the miles
between them.

He read the letter again and the poetry of the open road filled his
veins with the fire of inspiration.  Tavern of Stars!  Old Gaffer Moon,
full-faced and silver!  Tree-walls and Dame Wind a-sweeping!  Why, the
lad was a poet--a poet like his father.  And the big-hearted kindness
of him, thrashing the runaway into sense.  Irish temper there!  Kenny
felt a passionate thrill of pride in his offspring.  Yes, Brian was
like his father, thank God, even to the Celtic curse of homesickness.

"But to think of him," he marveled in a wave of tenderness, "living in
a corncrib on seven cents a day!"

Again and again he read between the lines, finding sanity and sense,
compassion and humor.  The inherited charm of Brian's personality
filled him with intense delight.

"Always," Kenny remembered, "he must be taking care of someone."

It gave him a sharp pang of jealousy that that someone was a stranger.

But the thrill of penance was in his blood.  If Brian was big enough to
see himself in the wrong, no less was Kennicott O'Neill, his
unsuccessful father.  And he had driven Brian forth upon the road.  For
that he must atone.

That the solution of everything now lay at hand, Kenny never doubted.
Already he had rocketed sentimentally into inspiration.  If a certain
vagueness of detail sent him roving abstractedly around the studio with
the letter in his hand, the inspiration in itself was amazingly clear.
Yes, he would fare forth and find Brian.  He would tramp every mile of
the road as Brian had done.  He would find the farmhouse, the wood and
the river!  There happily would be some clue or other that he needed.
And Kenny, in rags and penitential, his feet blistered by the hardships
of the road, would overtake his son and apologize for everything.  Nay,
more, he would promise anything.  After that the rest would be easy.
Brian had written it there in a letter.  Kenny could wind his son
around his finger.  Yes, it was all quite clear.  And Brian helpfully
would be shocked and thrilled at the sacrificial tribute of penance.
Kenny pursed his lips and nodded.  He would even concede the sunsets.
That, after John Whitaker's cold-blooded misinterpretation, was
necessary to his own self-respect--and Brian's happiness.

Ah, love was the only thing in the world that counted, love and art.
Not the love of woman, which was after all but an intermittent
intoxicant, but the love of one's own.

Kenny pitied in foretaste the ragged parent who would come upon the
camp fire of his son, picturesque and repentant, and dramatized the
meeting, a lump in his throat.  Emotionally it was complex to be actor
and audience both.  Thank God, he reflected, as he opened a closet
door, dragged forth a battered multitude of bags and suit cases and
began an impatient upheaval of bureau drawers, he was a man of action.
When Garry entered a half hour later he found the studio floor littered
with preparation.

"I'm off, this morning," he explained.  "In an hour now.  Garry, how
can I possibly reduce this mass to packing possibility?"

"Stop running around in circles!" commanded Garry, thunderstruck.
"What's it all about?  Where are you going?"

"I'm going," said Kenny with his chin out and his eyes defiant, "to
hunt Brian."

Garry stared blankly at the packing litter and the tall Irishman in the
center of it wearily mopping his forehead.  It was impossible to locate
the crags he must have leaped to reach his spectacular decision.  They
were shrouded in mystery.

"You mean," said Garry after a while, "that you will tour vaguely off,
seeking a farm on a hill, a wood, a river, a youngster in patches and
Brian's trail of camp fires?"

"Precisely," said Kenny with detestable confidence.  "See, even you
mark the clues with perfect logic."

"A farm on a hill," exclaimed Garry, "is of course a clue with absolute
individuality.  So is a wood and a river."

"So," supplemented Kenny with the calm, unhurried air of one who scores
an unexpected point, "is a postmark on a letter."

Startled, Garry reached for the envelope.  Kenny put it in his pocket.

"An obscure village in Pennsylvania," he explained with dignity, "where
your wood and your river will likely have definite individuality.  I
shall go there."

Garry scented danger and considered the outcome in horrified dismay,
regretting his rash flurry of sympathy.  It had become a boomerang.
What if Brian's protégé in a fit of remorse saw fit to keep his sister
posted?  Kenny would indeed find clues.  The possibility filled him
with foreboding.

"Kenny," he said with some heat, "I consider that you have absolutely
no right to take advantage of my letter to hunt Brian down.  I'm sorry
I sent it in.  If he wanted you to know where he is, he'd write you.  I
wish to Heaven I'd thought of that postmark!"

"I shall tramp every inch on foot!" swore Kenny proudly.  "Brian will
appreciate the spirit of the thing if you do not."

There was relief at least in that.  Garry drew a long breath.  If Kenny
tramped his way, another inexplicable factor in his lunacy, by the time
he reached the farmhouse Brian would be well on ahead.  And Garry was
bitterly familiar with Kenny's incapacity for steadiness of any kind.
Kenny, it developed, was thinking in similar vein.

"I take it there will be an interval of waiting before remorse will
lead the kid to write to his sister," he said.  "Otherwise I'd proceed
to the farmhouse at once in a flying machine."

The romance of this seemed to strike him strongly for an interval.
Then, mercifully, he repeated his intention of tramping.

"And then?" said Garry.

"Then," said Kenny with the utmost optimism, "I'll pick up his trail at
the farmhouse and from there I'll travel night and day until I overtake
him."

"And then?"

"The lad will come home with me."

"And then?"

"Good God, Garry," thundered Kenny, "I never knew anybody with such an
'And then?' sort of mind as you seem to have.  There's an 'And then?'
doubt after every glorious climax.  He'll be home.  That's sufficient."

"What about the scrapbook?"

"I've already sent it."

Garry glanced hopelessly at the melee on the floor.

"I suppose," he said coldly, "that you plan to go sagging along the
highway with a suit case in each hand and a bag or two on your back?"

"I plan," retorted Kenny, "to depart from here with one suit case which
will eventually become a knapsack.  The problem now is entirely one of
elimination.  Have you anything to do, Garry?"

"I have," said Garry distinctly.

Kenny looked hurt.

"I'm sorry," he said.  "Because you're a jewel at eliminatin'.  I mind
me of the sketching trip we took together.  You did all of the packing
then in a marvelous way."

Hopelessly uncertain what he ought to do, Garry lingered.  If by a word
he could restrain this madcap penitent from roving off in a fit of
sentimentality it must be spoken forcibly and at once.

"Brian," he said, "will never forgive me."

"Brian," said Kenny, "is a jewel for sense.  He'll love you for it."

Garry flung himself into a chair with a muttered imprecation.

"Now, Kenny," he said, "I want you to tell me precisely what you plan
to do."

Nothing loathe, Kenny obeyed.  He liked to talk.  Garry found his plans
indefinite and highly romantic.  It was plain the notion of footsore
penance had taken vigorous hold of his imagination and his love of
adventure.  Characteristically, since the actor on the highway was
himself, he saw no chance of failure.  To Garry's curt "ifs" he turned
a deaf ear and sulked.

In the end they quarreled badly.  Garry, raging inwardly, went home in
despair; and Kenny, after a tumultuous period of indecision, eliminated
a floorful of luggage.   In the rebound he took less than he should.
He was ready to go when the door opened and the head of Sidney Fahr
appeared.  Instantly his round eyes bulged with inquiry.

"Lord Almighty, Kenny," he said.  "You--you're not off for anywhere,
are you?"

"I am," said Kenny.

Sid came in and closed the door.

"I--I can't believe it!" he sputtered.

"Don't!" said Kenny.  He was out of sorts.  Garry, talking of honor and
letters, had given him a bad interval of indecision and guilt.

"It--it's amazing!" went on Sid.  "You were all right at breakfast--"

Kenny wheeled furiously.

"Sid," he snorted, "you're amazed when it rains.  You're amazed when it
snows.  You're amazed when the sun's out and amazed when it isn't.
Thunder-and-turf! you're always amazed!"  Whereupon he stalked out with
his suit case and slammed the door.

Sid pursed his lips and shook his head, his gaze riveted upon the door
panels in round-eyed incredulity.  To him Kenny was an incomprehensible
source of turbulence.

"The spark!" said Sid.  "Wonder what it's been?"

Then sharing the club-feeling of guardianship where Kenny was
concerned, the good-natured little painter embarked upon a tour of
inspection, locked the studio windows and trotted upstairs, still
amazed, to tell Jan all about it.

Thus Kenny departed from the Holbein Club, forgetting Fahr almost at
once.  He had recalled the tale of the Irish piper who added a phrase
to some fairy music he heard below him in a hill; and the fairies,
bursting forth in delight, had struck the hump from his back in reward.

Kenny himself had the same feeling of relief that the piper must have
had thereafter.  He too had lost his hump of worry.



CHAPTER IV

GOD'S GREEN WORLD OF SPRING

At a country inn the suit case became a knapsack.  Kenny went forth
into a world of old houses, apple blossoms and winding roads, likening
himself to Peredur who had gone in search of the Holy Grail.  The Grail
in this case was the holy boon of his son's forgiveness.

He went with the break of day at a swinging stride, his penitential
inspiration in the full flower of its freshness.  If misgiving claimed
him at all, it was merely a matter of shoes.  They were the kind, built
for walking, likely to be in a state of unromantic preservation at his
journey's end.  Kenny found in them a source of discontent and
speculation.

For the passion of life which to Brian's fancy haunted the highway,
Kenny had delightful substitute, fairies quaffing nectar from
flower-cups of dew or riding bridle paths of cloud on bits of straw.
In everything he chose to find an augury, from the night of birds to
the way of the wind, the curl of smoke or the color of a cloud.
Thirsty he longed for the drinking horn of Bran Galed or better still
of Finn, for Finn's horn held whatever you wanted.  And for a pattern
in moments of diversion, there was always the fairy Conconaugh, who
made love to every pretty shepherdess and milkmaid he met.  Many a
farmer's daughter smiled and blushed at the gallant sweep of Kenny's
cap.

So he tramped, peering delightedly under bushes for the green suits and
red caps of the Clan Shee, and every cleft of rock became the portal to
a fairy dwelling.  At sunset he discovered a fairy battle in the clouds
and when the moon rose, silhouettes, fairy-like and frail, scudded
mystically across the face of it.  Old Gaffer Moon, full-faced and
silver!

Brian's world of spring had been the world of men and women; Kenny's
world held Puck and Mab and Una.  He called her Oonagh.  If once he
remembered with longing that Oonagh's jovial fairy husband, King
Fionvarra, went to his revels on the back of a night-black steed with
nostrils aflame, he dismissed it as disloyal.  Brian too had been
tired, though he called it "blissfully weary."  That depended something
on the viewpoint.

When at last beside the embers of his camp fire, he spread his oilskin
and drew a blanket over him, the night sounds of the forest, a-crackle
with mystery, became the woodland spirits of King Arthur's men, blowing
their ghostly horns by the light of the moon.  Likely the wee folk
would come and dance beside the embers of his camp fire.

"By the powers of wildfire!" cried Kenny drowsily, "it is good to be
alive!"

In the morning there was mist and rain and Kenny tramped the sodden
world in a mood of sadness.  Melancholy dripped from the wet white
blossoms along the way.  The drenched green of the meadows brought
tragic thoughts of Erin and her fate.  Never a maid peeped over an
orchard fence.  Kenny bolstered his spirits again and again with some
lines of Wordsworth which as a picturesque part of his road equipment
he had copied into his notebook.


  "I roved o'er many a hill and many a dale,
  . . . . in heat or cold,
  Through many a wood, and many an open road,
  In sunshine and in shade, in wet and fair,
  Drooping or blithe of heart, as might befall,
  My best companions now the driving winds,
  And now the 'trotting brooks' and whispering trees--
  And now the music of my own sad steps,
  With many a short-lived thought that passed between
  And disappeared."


Never before had the words failed to thrill him with the romance of the
road.  Now as the rainy twilight threatened with never an inn in sight,
he lingered on the final lines: "The music of my own sad steps!"

Sad steps indeed that postponed his meeting with Brian!  Did he not owe
it to his son to travel with all possible speed to the farmhouse
instead of plodding belatedly along the highway in rain and gloom and
twilight?  Had he after all a right to indulge his passion for tramping
and footsore penance when already word might have come to the sister
with the ink-pool eyes?  The runaway was young.  His remorse would come
the quicker.  For every day he, Kenny, lingered in selfish penance on
the road, he must pay in a widening of distance between Brian and
himself.  Kenny quickened his sagging foot-steps.  Drenched and hungry,
he felt himself better able to see the thing in sane and unpoetic light.

It came to this: Would Brian prefer the rags of romantic loitering to
the speed, train or otherwise, of eager affection?  Surely not!  He
must not be selfish.  Foot-sore or foot-fresh, his remorse would be the
same.  With Brian it would be the inner things that counted.

At twilight Kenny found a thrifty farmer who agreed to take him in.  He
dried his clothes by the kitchen fire, hating the woolly smell of the
steam.  Later he slept in the haymow and lay awake far into the night,
listening in doubt and despair to the drip of the rain on the roof.
Nothing ever went quite right.  He must read again in Brian's letter
about the Tavern of Stars.  Beldame Rain seemed bent upon a
housecleaning.  Kenny, dreaming, departed from the barn in a flying
machine made of lilacs.  Its planes, he regretted, seemed merely sheets
of rain, specked foolishly with pine-needles.

He awoke to a subdued noise of voices in the barn below and wondered
disapprovingly if the farmer was just getting home.  It appeared that
he was getting up.  Horribly depressed and sorry for him, Kenny went to
sleep again.  When he awoke the sun was laughing iridescently from
meadow trails of rain.  The fragrance of wet pine came in through the
barn window.  The lilac in the garden was ready to flower.  Kenny
longed to be off.  Nevertheless he breakfasted at some length in the
farm kitchen and paid so handsomely in coin and grace that there was
talk of him for days.

Already the sun was warm.  It lay in a blanket of bright gold
everywhere.  Cloud shadows deepened a meadow here and there to
coolness.  The air was tonic, deliriously wine-sweet and heady.  Kenny
thought of honey and bees and clover and tramped and brooded.

The sun he hoped would presently abate its unromantic fervor.  Meantime
he must think.  Penance or the tribute of impatience?  Which should it
be?

It remained for an abandoned corncrib to plunge him into his original
fever of inspiration and remorse.  Brian had lived in a corncrib for
seven cents a day.  Brian had ploughed and Brian had mended fences.  He
had even dabbled in whitewash.  No, by the powers that be!  It was a
thing for penance after all.  Always at the farmhouse the trail would
be waiting.  What if he arrived there and the runaway had failed to
write?  What would he do then?

Rags and blisters and a bit of corncrib penance for himself!  It was
the only way.  It would give his need of Brian invincible weight.

Kenny climbed a fence and entered the corncrib by a flight of rickety
steps.  It was something of a wreck and unspeakably dusty.  Sneezing
violently he sat down and ate his supper of bread and cheese with
profound discontent.  Each tasted monotonously of the other.  Instead
of two articles of diet he appeared to have something heterogeneously
one in flavor.  The smell of cheese he hoped wouldn't attract rats and
remembered vaguely that a corncrib was architecturally immune from
rodents.  Well, no rat with discrimination would select a corncrib
abode anyway.  He'd fall through the floor slats.

Oppressed by the general air of slatty insecurity and the sight of a
basket of ancient cobs in one corner, Kenny wished passionately that he
hadn't always hated spiders, killed one with a shudder and pensively
watched the sunset through the corncrib bars.  It made him think of
flamingoes in flight.  One saw that best in India, flocks and flocks of
them in the sky like an exquisite flame of clouds.  Ah, India!  No, on
second thought he'd rather he in Iceland.

It sounded cooler.

When the moon etched silver bars upon the corncrib floor he went to
bed, regretting the preposterous fanlike spread of the corncrib walls.
Nothing walled should be smaller at the floor than it was at the top.
It gave one a hopeless feeling of constriction.  The feeling colored
his dreams.  Kenny found himself hazily adrift in an inquisitorial
corncrib made of bars of moon-plated silver.  They pressed in upon him
ever tighter and tighter until with a mighty sweep of his arms he burst
them all asunder.

He awoke at an undesirable hour, convinced that another farmer was
getting up.  The world was a mournful gray.  At the end of the corncrib
a head was peering in.  Kenny turned his searchlight on it and had a
moment of doubt.  The man was facially endowed for anything but virtue.
He was likely getting in--not up.

"Hum!" said Kenny suspiciously.  "Are you coming in, my good friend, or
are you going out?"

"I'm comin' into my own corncrib, damn you!" shouted the farmer with
unexpected malevolence, "and you're going out!"

Kenny, resistant, knew instantly that he was not.  He sat up.

"The acoustics, Silas," he said with cold disapproval, "are excellent.
Therefore--"

It was impossible to finish.  The farmer, finding the name offensively
rustic, roared into the corncrib that Kenny was a hobo without future
hope of heaven.  He and the corncrib, it seemed, knew the genus well.
Indeed, he looked in the corncrib for hope-lorn hoboes with the same
regularity that he looked in the hay for eggs.

He added some infuriated statistics about early rising.

"Come out of that!" he yelled.

Thoroughly out of patience Kenny flung the basket of corncobs at the
farmer's head.  An instant sputter of cobby profanity and the sound of
a backward scramble gave him grim delight.

"When I leave any bed at this hour," he called with terrible composure,
"it will be because I haven't a fist to explain a gentleman's habits.
It's of no earthly interest to me if fool farmers are getting up all
over the dawn.  So are the roosters.  Let 'em!"

But the basket of cobs had been persuasive.  Kenny saw beyond in the
dimness cobs and an empty basket.  The farmer was gone.  He lay down
again in deep disgust, merely reaching a pleasant stage of drowsiness
when the sound of voices near the corncrib roused him again.

This time he sat up with a jerk.

"Silas," he thundered, "is that you again?"

It was.  It was moreover a Silas arrogant and cautious who peered in
through the bars and stated profanely that he had a marshal with him, a
marshal with a badge.

Kenny considered the new complication with a startled frown.  It either
spelled retreat in a harrowing dawn with the marshal and Silas at his
heels or a temporary sojourn in a village jail.  And Kenny detested any
form of humiliation or discomfort.

"Silas," he said wearily, "this is a rotten corncrib.  It's sprained
and spavined and Lord knows what.  It's full of bugs and ants and
spiders and dust and passé corncobs and it's architecturally incorrect,
but if you and the marshal will hike off somewhere else and brag about
his badge, I'll buy it.  I've got to sleep."

Speechless, Silas stared through the slats and continued to stare until
his stupefied face became a source of irritation.  Kenny lost his
temper.  He raised his voice.

"You petrified lout!  I said I'd buy it."

The marshal, whose bravery seemed less in evidence than his badge,
summoned Silas to a point of safety.  They conferred in a murmur.
Kenny viciously killed a spider and strained his ears in vain to hear
the purport of the consultation.

After an interval of heated debate Silas returned and with an air of
scepticism demanded twenty-five dollars.  When Kenny, who never
questioned the price of anything, argued the point from motives of pure
antagonism, he called the marshal.  The marshal was conservative.  He
dallied with the need of coming.  Kenny took advantage of a dispute
among the enemy to count out the bills in concessional disgust and
shove them through the slats.  Silas, turning, brushed them with his
nose and leaped back in terror.  Then his hand shot upwards in an
avaricious clutch.  The amazed pair counted the bills and departed,
ever after confusing Kenny's identity with that of a famous lunatic
addicted to escapes.

Having detected all forms of degeneracy in the farmer's face Kenny
barricaded the door with a loose plank from the upper step, made sure
it would fall easily with a clatter, examined his revolver and had his
sleep out, thanks to the fact that the day proved cloudy.  He awoke to
flies and disillusion.  His head ached.  His back ached.  There was a
spider in his hat.  He wanted water.  He wanted a brook equipped with a
shower-bath and he wanted the luxury of eating what he chose.  Never,
never would he eat cheese again unless the hand of famine gripped him.
Perhaps not then.  The sum of his discontent plunged him into a black
temper in which he rehearsed the details of his morning's misadventure
with growing spleen and wished sincerely that Silas would appear again
and roar at him.  And, then, gingerly descending the rickety steps,
Kenny remembered that the corncrib was his.

His . . . and not his.  For he could not take it with him.  It was a
tantalizing thought.  Not that he wanted it.  God forbid!  Ever after
he would hate the sight of a corncrib.  He simply resented the notion
of leaving it behind for the vocal entertainment of Silas, who would
likely get up again with the roosters and roar into it at "hoboes."
Yes, the corncrib would revert to Silas, from whom he had merely rented
it for one night at a most appalling price.  The improvidence of it
shocked him.  Kenny retraced his footsteps in a blaze of indignation
and made a bonfire on the corncrib floor to which in a reckless spasm
of disgust he consigned the remainder of his supper.  The crazy
structure caught at once, with a smell of cheese.

Five minutes later Kenny's corncrib was a mass of flames and Silas had
appeared at the end of the field roaring incomprehensible profanity.
Kenny, waiting, whistled softly with a defiant air of calm.  The
corncrib was his.  He had a perfect right to burn it.  He meant to tell
Silas this in a quiet voice, but lost his temper and thundered it
instead.  Then in a fury he advanced to meet the disturber of his
morning sleep and made him pay in full for the disillusion of his days
upon the road.

He thrashed Silas into a mood of craven apology and left him with his
head in his hands.  To Kenny's disgusted glance he was like the Irish
Grogach of folk lore, who tumbles around among the hills with a good
deal of head and a lax body without much hint of bones.  Well, Brian
had thrashed somebody too.  There were times when it couldn't be
helped.  And Brian had lived in a corncrib at seven cents a day.  Kenny
whipped out his notebook.

"One day in a corncrib:" he wrote grimly.  "Twenty-five dollars!"

Brian and he were maintaining their customary scale of contrast.

The highway he abandoned almost at once and struck off through the
forest, reflecting with a frown that Silas would doubtless look up the
marshal and demand a warrant for his arrest.  Fate was at his heels
again obsessed by a mania for disturbing the peace of mind he craved.
He might even be hunted by a village posse.  And bloodhounds!  The
adventurous side of this rather pleased him.  It simply narrowed down
to this--it behooved him to loiter no longer in the green world of
spring.  Penance or no penance he must now try penitential speed.  How
on earth had he ever managed to blunder into a country all trees and no
rails?

He found a druid of a brook chanting paganly to trees and moss.
Ordinarily Kenny would have found its music and its shadows infinitely
poetic.  Now, wretchedly out of sorts, he plunged his face and hands
into a shady pool with a sigh of vast materialistic content, longed to
linger and cursed the village posse he fancied at his heels.  The first
romance of his flight from justice was waning rapidly.  With a groan he
plunged on, horribly full of aches and hunger.  Always now he would
understand the Gaelic legend of Far Goila, the gaunt Man of Hunger who
goes touring up and down the land in times of famine bringing luck to
those who feed him.  Even his taste for cheese was returning.  The
holocaust of the morning filled him with bitter regret.  As for his
feet, they felt shapeless and huge and fungus-like and full of burning
needles.  Oh, for the sandals of power of Fergus Mac Roigh!

At noon in utter desperation he bought a mule.

The mule brayed temptation at him from the fence of a forest shanty.  A
negress stood in the doorway.  Kenny, in no mood for haggling,
recklessly offered what he thought the mule was worth.  It looked
incredibly sturdy.  His voice evoked a ragged husband who came up out
of a cellar doorway eating a dwarfed banana.  The sight of the banana
made Kenny dizzy with emotion.

He demanded one at any price and bought six, ate them one after the
other without the pretense of a halt and moodily shied the last skin at
a sparrow, realizing then with a shock that the negro had already
untied the mule from the picket fence.  The precipitancy of it all made
him slightly uncomfortable.  Either the negro was too lazy to bargain
or the offer was out of all proportion to the mule's repute.  Kenny
asked.

"He's got a powahful sight of appetite fo' a po' man," explained the
darky fluently.  "I's glad to see him go.  Dat mule, sah, even eats de
pickets on de fence."

Kenny felt sincerely that he could understand.

"Just give him his haid, sah," called the negro as he climbed aboard,
"and he'll find de road outside fo' yoh."

Mule and rider disappeared with a sort of plunge.  Kenny's spirits
soared.  Substance and speed here enough for any man.  He remembered in
the first moment of his uplift that Cuchullin, foremost champion of the
Red Branch, had had a magic steed that rose from a lake.  Its name was
Leath Macha.

Very well, he would christen this amazing beast of sinews with the
compass nose, Leath Macha, and make him a gift of his head as the darky
advised.  Leath Macha--Kenny later found less poetic names he liked
better--developed a sylvan taste for roving and lost himself in no
time, pursuing elusive glints of greenness.  He seemed always seeking
food.  It came over his rider with a sickening wave of apprehension and
disgust that the unscrupulous negro, taking advantage of his plight,
had sold him what the southern darky calls an ornery mule, a mule that
charged forward with fiery snorts and halted only when it pleased him,
kicked backward when he did stop and plunged forward immediately
afterward with a horrible air of purpose.

Kenny groaned.  He was between the devil and the deep sea.  The
prospect of staying lost in a world of trees filled him with hungry
foreboding.  But he dreaded the open highway and pictured himself John
Gilpining through town and village, a thing of ridicule and helpless
progress.  Puck in the guise of a hairbrained mule!  He would pound
onward into the night and throw his rider with the dawn.

At dusk the mule came out unexpectedly upon a turnpike and halted with
a snort.  Perfectly convinced that he was planning something or other
spectacular and public, Kenny slid instantly from his back and grabbed
his knapsack.  He left Leath Macha in an attitude of hairtrigger
contemplation, apparently about to begin something at once.  When Kenny
looked back the dusk or the forest had engulfed him.  Likely the
latter.  Trained for the purpose, he decided in a blaze of wrath, Leath
Macha had returned to the negro and a diet of pickets.

Kenny, swinging down the turnpike in the vigor of desperation, felt no
single pang of penance.  His mood was primitive and pertinacious.  He
went forward with bee-like undeviation until he found an inn where he
bathed and shaved and ate.  He slept until midnight and ate again.  He
slept through the night and the morning and ate again, still with the
mental monotony of a cave-dweller.  Then he found a railroad and rode.
Not until he reached the town postmarked upon Brian's letter did he
trouble himself with anything but the primitive needs of primitive man.
Here, however, he permitted himself the luxury of a brief but wholly
satisfactory interval of summary.  The fortunes of the road had forced
him into the prodigal acquirement of a corncrib and a mule when he had
meant to please Brian by his economy.  He had burned the one and
abandoned the other, wholly necessary irregularities.  He had thrashed
a farmer.  A fugitive from justice he had suffered hunger and thirst
and every form of bodily torment.  And he had tramped through a day of
rain with sodden shoes and steaming garments.

Glory be to God! he had infused enough penance into his four days upon
the road to last an ancient martyr a lifetime.  Happily he had always
had a gift for concentration.



CHAPTER V

AT THE BLAST OF A HORN

The village was old and depressing.  Kenny, a conspicuous guest at the
one hotel, awoke at noon to less imaginative interest in the wood, the
farmhouse and the river than he'd known for days.  He had walked into
his picture.  Now with perspective gone, he felt uncertain and vaguely
alarmed.  Well, any quest that led to an inn like this, he felt, must
in itself be preposterous.

The innkeeper proved to be a mine of general information.  He knew
nothing at all specific but evinced a candid willingness to overcome
this by acquiring facts from Kenny.  Nobody he knew had run away from
an uncle.  Why was Kenny seeking uncles? . . .  Hum . . .  Joel
Ashley's boy had run away but the uncle there had been a stepmother.
Was the runaway boy anybody's long lost heir?  A pity!  One read such
things in the papers.  Years back there had been a scandal about a girl
who ran away to be an actress.

Kenny interrupted him long enough to order anything vehicular in the
village that would go.  The innkeeper shouted to a boy outside with a
bucket and asked Kenny how far the "rig" would have to travel.

"I'm going," Kenny told him shortly, "to find a river.  I'll keep going
until I find it."

The innkeeper after an interval of blank astonishment identified the
river at once.  Kenny felt encouraged.  Pressed to further detail,
however, he admitted a confusing plentitude of woods, hills and
farmhouses.  Dangerously near the state of mind Garry called "running
in circles," Kenny fumed out to wait for the hotel phaeton and climbed
into it with a shudder of disgust.  It had a mustard colored fringe.

But the phaeton creaked away into a wind and world of lilacs.  Kenny
forgot the inn.  He forgot the village.  Another gust of warm, sweet
wind, another shower of lilac stars beside a well, another lane and he
would have to paint or go mad.

He neither painted nor lost his reason.  He came instead to the river
and began again to fret.  The road that but a moment before had made a
feint of stopping for good and all at a dark and hilly wall of cedars,
swept around a rocky curve and revealed the glint of the river.  After
that by all the dictates of convenience it should have curved again and
continued its course to Kenny's destination, pleasantly parallel with
the bends of the river.  Instead it crossed the river bridge and went
off at a foolish tangent, disappearing over the crest of a hill.  Wild
and wooded country swept steeply down to the river edge.  Kenny, who
had made a vow of penitential speed, must continue his search on foot.
The prospect filled him with dismay.

He dismissed the phaeton at the bridge and stared up and down the river
in gloomy indecision.  Upstream or downstream?  Heaven alone knew!
Whichever way he elected to go would be the wrong way.  Fate, who had
saddled him with Silas and the mule, would see to that.

Then, having resentfully put his mind to it, he evolved some logic.
Brian, leaving the wood by the river, would not go back the way he had
come.  He would travel upstream and mail his letter when he found the
village.  Kenny conversely had found the village first.  Therefore he
must travel downstream to find the wood; downstream through a
disheartening tangle of bush and tree and brier and maybe snakes and
marshes.

With a groan he plunged into the wood, keeping well up the slope to
avoid the lower marshes.  He must spur himself to the start or he'd
never finish.  But his mind was in ferment.  What if the boy had
written to his sister?  Must he vagabond forth again with the morning
into a world of bucolic dawns, alarm-clock farmers, roosters, corncribs
and mules?  By the powers of wildfire, no!  He would buy a motorcycle.
On tires or toes he could wind Brian around his finger and he would!

In a flurry of bitter abstraction, he floundered into a marsh and
emerged mud-spattered and indignant.  Briers tore at him.  Below the
sun-mottled river glided endlessly on in sylvan peace.  The other shore
looked better.  There the wind-bent shag of trees was greener save
when, with a hint of rain, the breeze turned up an under-leaf ripple of
silver.  He met no one; no one but a madman, he reflected, would
explore the tangled banks of a hermit river.

At sunset, after seven slow weariful miles downstream in the brooding
quiet of a hot afternoon murmurous with birds and the sound of the
river, he came to the end of his journey--a wood, stretching steeply up
a cliff to a farmhouse lost in trees and ivy.  It was on the other side
of the river and there was no bridge.

Kenny, who believed all things of Fate when the pet or victim was
himself, refused absolutely to credit her crowning whimsy.  In a fury
of exasperation he clambered down to the water's edge and washed his
face; moodily mopping it with his handkerchief he stared across the
water.

The sun in a last blaze was going down behind the higher line of trees.
Roof peaks and chimney lay against a mat of gold.  Crows winging toward
the forest to the south speckled the sky behind the chimney.  To
Kenny's ardent fancy, the old house, built of gray and ancient stone,
became a rugged cameo set in gold and trees.  Whatever arable land
belonged to the hill-farm lay away from the river.  North and south
loomed only a primitive maze of trees.

A path wound steeply down to the river's edge and to a boat.  Kenny
stared at it in some resentment.

Well, if he must hunt a bridge he would rest there first beneath the
willow.  The sun had made him drowsy.  He might even camp on the river
bank and if ever a foot came down the path and toward the boat, he
would fire his revolver into the air and demand attention.  The
prospect pleased him.  He went toward the willow.

Fate having toyed with Kenny tossed him a rose and smiled.

There was a battered horn upon the willow and below a wooden sign:

  _Craig Farm Ferry
  Please blow the horn_

A battered horn of adventure!  What might it not evoke?  Woodland
spirits perhaps, romance, a ferryman!  Thank God the tree was old, the
horn battered and the willow naiadic in its grace.  A trio of blessing!

Kenny whistled softly in amazed delight and blew the horn.  Its blast
startled him and the wooded hills seemed to fling the echo back upon
him.  In better humor he flung himself down beneath a tree to wait for
the ferryman--and went peacefully to sleep.

St. Kevin had once fallen asleep at a window with his arms outstretched
in prayer; a swallow had made a nest in his hand and the saint had
waited for the swallow's young to hatch.  Kenny, with the legend dimly
adrift in his brain, dreamed that he too must wait until a ferryman
grew up.  He grew up on the further shore to a youth in patches and
then all at once the dream became a beautiful delight.  The youth by a
twist of woodland magic turned to a maid in a glory of old brocade.
Such a maid might have stepped from an ancient tapestry to come in
search of a knight of old.

"Mr. O'Neill!"

Kenny did not stir.  He must keep the dream to the end.  If he moved
now the maid would vanish.

"Mr. O'Neill!"  A hand touched his shoulder.

A haze of old brocade golden in the sunlight retreated and then loomed
persistently ahead.  The dream if anything became a shade more clear.
Well, if a man must dream, let him dream thus, vividly, turning the
clock back to maids unbelievably quaint and winsome in old brocade.
Sweet as an Irish smile, the face of this one, and as haunting.  And
beyond, an old flat-bottomed punt and a river, a real river--

Scarlet with confusion, Kenny sprang to his feet.  Queen of Heaven! the
girl was real.  She had stepped from the page of an old romance into
life and laughter, wearing for the mystification of chance beholders,
an old-time gown of gold brocade!  The mystery of her gown, the river
setting, the laughing sweetness of her face, rooted him to the spot in
wonder and delight.  He knew every subtlety of her coloring in one
glance.  Her soft exquisite eyes were brown.  Tragic, they might very
well seem pools of ink.  Her hair?  In the sun there was bronze, deep
and vivid, in the shadows brown.  And the sun had deepened her skin to
cream and tan and rose.  Thank God he was a Celt, an artist and an
aesthete!

He did not mean to keep on staring nor could he stop.  He was horribly
disturbed.  For he knew the signs as the traveler knows the landmarks
of an old, familiar road.  Heaven help him, one of his periodic fits of
madness was upon him!  It could not be helped.  He was falling in love
again.  And he was tragically sorry.  Brian would get so far ahead.

Standing there with lunacy in his veins and his head awhirl Kenny
looked ahead with foreboding and foresaw days of delicious torment.  He
knew with the profound and sorrowful wisdom of experience that it would
not, could not last.  Almost he could have forecast to the day the sad
descent into sanity, reactive, monotonous, unemotional, inevitable as
the end of the road.  But even with his conscience up in arms, he
welcomed his surrender.  Besides, rebellion, as he knew of old, was
utterly futile.  He must let the thing run its course.

The thought of flight from a peril of sweetness he banished instantly.
To run away was to deny himself the fullness of life men said he needed
as an artist.  It was unthinkable.  Nay, it was unscrupulous, for the
greatness of his gift Kenny regarded as an obligation.  Besides, Kenny
denied himself nothing that he wanted, having considered his wants in
detail and found them human, complex and delightful, and sufficiently
harmless.

Passionately at war with the new complication in his quest for Brian,
Kenny in frantic excitement blamed everything but himself.  He blamed
the girl.  A girl with a face like that had absolutely no right to be
loitering in a spot of such enchantment.  He blamed the mystery of her
gown.  Mystery always did for him.  He blamed the river and the sylvan
wildness all around him and went on staring.

"Please say something!"  The girl's laughter had changed to shyness,
then to mystification.

Kenny brushed his hair back with a sigh.  No fault of his if Fate grew
prankish and set the stage with gold brocade and an ancient boat and
such a ferryman.  He had evoked romance and mystery with the battered
horn and he could not escape.  All of it had fairly leaped at him and
caught him unawares.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said.

"For sleeping?"  The girl smiled a little.

"For staring!  First," he said, his Irish eyes laughing back at her
with the frank charm of a boy begging her to like him, "first I thought
you had stepped from a tapestry into my dream--"

The rich hint of rose in her skin deepened.  She glanced at her gown.

"Don't tell me about it!" begged Kenny impetuously.  And long afterward
she was to recognize in that eager gallantry the finest of tact.  "It's
a delight just to be wonderin'!  You called me Mr. O'Neill!" he added
blankly.

"Some letters had tumbled from your pocket."

Kenny's brow cleared.

"Besides, whenever the horn blew lately I thought it might be you."

This was too amazing.  But the girl's eyes were beautiful, ingenuous
and wholly sincere.  Dumfounded, Kenny turned away and gathered up his
letters.

"Mystery," he said, shaking his head, "is the spice of delight.  But I
like it diffused.  A bit more and I'll be knowing for sure that I'm
dreamin'."

"It's as simple as the letters," said the girl, smiling.  She drew a
letter from the pocket of her gown and held it out to him.  He read the
address with frank curiosity.  Well, thank Heaven, that was settled.
Her name was Joan West.

The handwriting was Garry's.

"For the love of Mike!" said Kenny, staring.

"Please read it," said Joan.  "It makes everything so simple."

Kenny obeyed.


"Dear Miss West:

"It was like Brian to write so splendidly of his father in an effort to
guarantee his own respectability as a suitable friend for your truant
brother and fix his identity for the sake of your peace of mind.  And
I'm glad he told you to write to me.

"Though at this particular minute I would like best to thrash Kennicott
O'Neill into work and sanity, I might just as well admit the fact that
I'm merely in the chronic state of all men who love him and pass on
cheerfully to a pleasant task.  All that Brian has said of his father
is true.  As for Brian himself, he's a lovable, hot-headed chap with a
head and a heart and too much of both for his own peace of mind.  And
he's so darned level-headed and unaffected he needs a Boswell.  I hope
I've made good.

"The O'Neills, in short, are a splendid pair of fellows with a rush of
Irish to the head.  They give each other more admiration and affection
when they're apart and more trouble when they're together than any two
men I have ever known.  Personally I think they're miserable apart and
hopeless together.  However, I'm no judge.  Five minutes of
concentration on their present problems fuddles my brain beyond the
point of intelligent logic.

"I must warn you that O'Neill senior is roving Heaven-knows-where in
search of your uncle's farm.  Knowing him fairly well I am convinced
that he'll rove most of the way in a Pullman, though he distinctly said
not.  He hopes to find at your farm a letter from your brother that
will furnish a clue.  Whereupon, I take it, he'll rove forth again to
seek his son and patch up a regular ballyhoo of a quarrel that almost
disrupted the Holbein Club.  You see, everybody insisted upon taking
both sides, with terrifying results.

"I pray Heaven that O'Neill senior may not find O'Neill junior, but
from now on I shall have a nervous conviction of the pair of them
quarreling all over the state of Pennsylvania.  In view of a certain
sentimental indiscretion of mine in permitting O'Neill to read his
son's letter to me and find the postmark, I feel guilty and
apprehensive.

"Your brother, I should say, is just a little safer with Brian than he
would be anywhere else in the confines of the universe.

"I enclose a newspaper article on Kennicott O'Neill, written just after
he had acquired one of the medals that fly up at him wherever he goes.
It's fairly accurate.

"Sincerely,

"Garry Rittenhouse."


With the girl's soft eyes upon him, Kenny felt that he could not be
expected to read each word of the letter.  He never did that anyhow.
He blurred through now with amazing speed, catching enough to gratify
and upset him.  The letter, reminiscent of his penitential quest for
Brian, roused voices that he did not want to hear.  Nor did he hear
them for long.  Joan was holding out the clipping, her slender arm in
its fall of yellowed lace a thing to catch the eye of any Irishman whom
Fate for the good of the world of art had made a painter.

Kenny took the clipping to insure his future peace of mind.  Yes, Garry
had displayed better judgment than, in the circumstances, might have
been expected.  The article he saw at a glance was an excellent one and
truthful.  He particularly liked the phrase "brilliant painter" and
hoped Garry had troubled to read the thing through himself before he
sent it.  It might inspire him to quotation in the grill-room.

Nevertheless, Kenny, with the clipping in his hand, had a picturesque
moment of confusion.

"It--it's just the sort of thing we call a 'blurb,' Miss West!" he
protested.

"It says in print," said the girl, her eyes wide and direct, "what your
son wrote in his letter."

The heart of the lad!  Kenny had a bad minute.  Until with his quest
upon the back of him he remembered Peredur and felt better.  Peredur
had gone in quest of the Holy Grail.  And he had found fair ladies.
History, romance, legend, call it what you please, was merely repeating
itself with the hero again Celtic and chivalrous.

With Peredur for precedent Kenny laughed softly, his eyes a-twinkle.

"Ah, well," he said with a hint more of brogue than usual, "we've an
Irish saying that there never was a fool who hadn't another fool to
admire him!  Trouble is," he added, saving himself and Brian with a
whimsical air of loyalty, "the lad is no fool!"

"It's helped so," said Joan, "to know that Don is with someone like
your son.  I cried a great deal the first night but the next day there
was Brian's letter and Don's.  And later this letter and you."

Kenny understood.  Brian could thank him for arriving in time.  The
mere sight of him had certified Brian's respectability and guaranteed
the runaway's welfare.

And now--he cleared his throat--now he must ask if the brother had
written later and supplied a clue.  It was utterly essential.  If he
had--Well, if he had, he had.  That's all there was to it!  And he must
do some thinking afterward, some painful thinking of the kind that
drove him mad.  He wondered for a moment, with his fingers by force of
habit traveling through his hair, if it really was dishonorable for him
to take advantage of Garry's letter to hunt his son to earth.  There
was a subtlety there in which Garry might be right.

Inwardly in turmoil Kenny took the plunge.

"And you--and you've heard from your brother!"

"No," said the girl sadly.  "Not since."

"Mother of Men!" said Kenny softly and drew a long breath.  The next
step in his quest became all at once amazingly clear.  And Kennicott
O'Neill was no man to shirk a duty, let John Whitaker say what he
chose.  He was an unsuccessful parent, please God, trying to make good.

"And I," said Kenny, "tramping the footsore, weary miles always with
the hope of a letter and a clue!"

"I'm sorry," said Joan, her brown eyes gentle.  "It would have been
wonderful if I could have sent you straight to your son and Donald."

"Wonderful!" repeated Kenny with a vague air of enthusiasm.  But he
rather wished she hadn't said it.

"What will you do?"

"I shall find an inn," said Kenny firmly, "and stay here until you do
hear."

"There is no inn."

"Then," said Kenny irresponsibly, "I shall camp here under the willow,
buying beans.  I have a can opener."

He caught in Joan's eyes a glint of gold and laughter and glanced
wistfully across the river at the house upon the cliff.  It was
undeniably roomy.

"If only your house had been an inn!" he said.  "An old, old ramshackle
inn, quaint and archaic like the punt yonder and your gown!  It's such
a wonderful spot."

Joan met his eyes and made no pretense of misunderstanding.  She could
not.

"Your uncle!" exclaimed Kenny with an air of inspiration and then
looked apologetic.

The girl's face flamed.  Oddly enough she looked at her gown.  Kenny
wondered why.  He found her distress and the hot color of her face
mystifying and lovely.

"I--I know he would!" said Joan in a low voice and looked away.  "The
house is large.  Rooms and rooms of it.  And only Uncle and I, save
Hughie and his family.  Hughie works the farm and lives yonder in the
kitchen wing."

Kenny reached for his knapsack and started toward the boat.

"Thank Heaven, that's settled!" he said pleasantly.  "You saw for
yourself what Garry said about work.  Honestly, Miss West, I ought to
work.  I ought to put in a summer sketching.  I can sketch here and
wait."

The punt, flat-bottomed and old, he proclaimed a delight.  When the
girl did not answer he turned and found her staring.  She seemed a
little dazed.

"I'm thinking," said Joan, her eyes round and grave with astonishment,
"how you seem always to have been here."

He laughed, his color high.  His face, Joan thought, was much too young
and vivid for anybody's father.  Their eyes met in new and difficult
readjustment and Kenny, his heart turbulent, turned back to the punt.

It was in his mind gallantly to scull the thing across.  The
announcement brought Joan to the edge of the water in a panic.

"You'd scull us both into a rock!" she exclaimed.  "The river is full
of them.  I know the best way over."

"Professional jealousy!" retorted Kenny, his eyes droll and tender.  "I
suppose you belong to the ferryman's union."  He dropped his knapsack
into the boat and busied himself with the painter.  "If the boat had
two oars," he told her laughing, "or I one arm, I know I could manage.
As it is, one oar and two arms--"

"It's much better," said Joan sensibly, "than two oars and one arm.
Please get in."

She went to the stern and stood there, waiting, one hand upon the oar.
Fascinated, Kenny climbed in.

What a ferryman! he mused as Joan sculled the punt from shore.  What a
gown and what a background!  The old brocade, flapping in the wind, was
gold like the afterglow behind the gables and the soft, haunting
shadows in the girl's eyes and hair.  What an ecstasy of unreality!
Boat and ferryman seemed some exquisite animate medallion of another
age.

Garry could have told him it was the way he saw his pictures, romantic
in his utter abandon, but Garry was not there and Kenny with his head
in the clouds rushed on to his doom.  The punt was a fairy boat sailing
him over a silver river to Hy Brazil, the Isle of Delight.  Ah!  Hy
Brazil!  You saw it on clear days and it receded when you followed.  It
was a melancholy thought and true.  The madness never lasted.

There are those for whom the present is merely anticipation of the
future or reminiscence of the past.  Kenny had the supreme gift of
living intensely and joyously in the present and the present for him
shone in the soft brown eyes of the ferryman in the stern.  Past and
future he shrugged to the winds.  For he was sailing across to romance,
he hoped, and surely to mystery.  Yes, surely to mystery!  Mystery
enough for any Celt in the battered horn, the ferry and the ferryman
yonder in the old-time gown.

[Illustration: He was sailing across to romance, he hoped, and surely
to mystery.]

"It was down there," said Joan, nodding, "where the river bends, that
Brian had his camp."

Brian's name was a shock.  Kenny came to earth for an instant.  Only
for an instant.  The monochrome of gold behind the gables was drifting
into color.  Here between the wooded heights where the river ran,
already there was shadow.  Twilight and afterglow!  Kenny in poetic
vein told of the Gray Man of the Path.  The Path was in Ireland, a
fissure in the cliff at Fairhead.  If you climbed well you could use
the Gray Man's Path and scale the cliff.  Kenny himself had climbed it.
Joan, busy with the single oar, lost nevertheless no single word of it.
She was eager and intent.

"I suppose," said Kenny, "that the Gray Man is the spirit of the mists
of Benmore.  But to me he's always Twilight.  Twilight anywhere."

The girl nodded, quick to catch his mood.

"And to-night," she said, "his path is the river.  He's coming now."

Kenny's Gray Man of the Twilight was stealing closer when they landed.

With the feeling of dreams still upon him he followed the girl up the
path.  It wound steeply upward among the trees, with here and there a
rude step fashioned of a boulder, and came out in an orchard on a hill.

Kenny stood stock-still.  Fate, he told himself, needed nothing further
for his utter undoing.  And if she did, it lay here in the orchard.  He
had come in blossom time.

Well, thanks to the crowded fullness of his emotional life, he knew
precisely what it meant.  He had adventured in blossoms before to the
torment of his heart and head.  In Spain.  He had forgotten the girl's
name but it began with an "I."  Now in the dusk he faced gnarled and
glimmering boughs of fleece.  The wind, fitful and chill since the
sunset, speckled the grayness beneath the trees with dim white fragrant
rain and stirred the drift of petals on the ground.  Stillness and
blossoms and the disillusion of intrusive fact!

Joan, lovelier to Kenny's eye than any blossom, seemed unaware of the
romance in the orchard.  She was intent upon a man coming down the
orchard hill.  Kenny sighed as he turned his eyes from her.

"It's Hughie," she said.  "He's watched for you too since the letter
came.  We all have.  Hughie!  Hughie!"

Hughie came toward them, sturdy, middle-aged and unpoetic for all his
head was under blossoms.

"Hughie!" called Joan.  "It's Mr. O'Neill.  He must have some supper.
Tell Hannah.  And I'll go speak to Uncle Adam."

Romance flitted off through the twilight with her.  Hungry, Kenny
embarked upon a reactive interval of common sense and followed Hughie,
who seemed inclined to talk of rain, to the kitchen door.  It was past
the supper hour.  Beyond in a huge, old-fashioned kitchen, yellow with
lamp light, Hughie's daughter, a ruddy-cheeked girl plump and wholesome
as an apple, was washing dishes.  Kenny liked her.  He liked the
shining kitchen.  The wood was dark and old.  He liked too the tiny
bird-like wife who trotted to the door at Hughie's call.  Her hair was
white and scant, her skin ruddy, her eyes as small and black as berries.

Kenny made her his slave.  He begged to eat in the kitchen.

Joan found him there a little later with everything in the pantry
spread before him.  His voice, gay and charming, sounded as if he had
liked Hannah for a very long time.  And Hannah's best lamp was on the
table.  There was a pleasant undercurrent of excitement in the kitchen.
Joan found her guest's engaging air of adaptability bewildering.  He
seemed all ease and sparkle.

At the rustle of her gown in the doorway, he sprang to his feet.

"Please sit down," she said, coloring at the unaccustomed deference.
"I've a message from Uncle Adam.  He understands about your son.  He
said you may wait here as long as you choose.  In any room."

Trotting flurried paths to the pantry and the stove, Hannah at this
point must needs halt midway between the two with the teapot in her
hand to tell the tale of Kenny's considerate plea for supper in the
kitchen.  Though it had been largely a matter of old wood and
lamp-yellow shadows, Kenny wished that a number of people who had never
troubled to be just and call him considerate could hear what she said.
Thank Heaven his self-respect was returning.  These simple people were
splendidly intuitional.  They understood.  An agreeable wave of
confidence in his own judgment filled him with benevolence.  He was to
lose that confidence strangely in a little while.  It came to him
sitting there that he felt much as he had felt in the old care-free
past before Brian had deserted, plunging him into abysmal despair.

"Perhaps to-night," Joan said, "you'd better sleep wherever Hannah
says.  And then tomorrow you can pick a room for yourself."

She slipped away with the grace of an elf.  Spurred to pictures by the
old brocade, Kenny wished he had some velvet knickerbockers and a satin
coat.  The thought of his knapsack wardrobe filled him with discontent.
Hum!  To-morrow he must prevail upon someone to conduct him to the
nearest village in wire communication with the outside world.

To Garry two days later came a telegram from Craig Farm.  It covered
three typewritten pages and read like a theatrical manager's costume
instructions to a star.

Garry stared.

"Oh, my Lord!" he groaned.  "The sister's pretty!"

After a dazed interval, however, he found comfort in the thought that
the postmark had been harmless.  It had served no other purpose than to
lead the penitential lunatic to Craig Farm.  He would likely get no
further.

"The ties in Brian's bureau," read Garry, thunderstruck at the wealth
of detail.  "My white flannels.  Have cleaned.  No place here.  Had to
ride seven miles with a milk-man to send this--"

Garry ran his eye over the rest and groaned again at the hopeless task
ahead.  Very well, he decided, reaching for the telephone, if he must
invade the O'Neill studio, excavate and pack, Sid could help and Mac
and Jan.  Waiting, he read the telegram again.  With Kenny's usual
sense of values there was one brief sentence relative to some materials
for work.  He left the responsibility of selection there to Garry.

"Work, hell!" exclaimed Garry, provoked.  "He wants work so he can fill
his time thinking up ways to evade it."



CHAPTER VI

IN THE GARRET

Rain came with the dawn.  Kenny, waking hours later with a nervous
sense of some unknown delight ahead, found the eaves and orchard
dripping.  The valley the old house faced was lost in mist.

The blossom storm!  So Hughie had called the rain he promised.  Kenny
liked the name.  Out there in the orchard gusty cudgels of wind and
water were beating the blossoms to earth.  It was a fancy rife with
poetic melancholy.

The smell of wet lilac sweeping in from a bush beneath his window made
him think somehow of Joan.  He wondered in a wave of tenderness if she
ferried the river too in storm and, glancing at his watch found the
hour disturbing.  Unfortunately in a wing remote from Hannah's trot and
bustle where save for the monotonous music of the rain, the brush of
dripping trees or depressing creaks, there was no noise at all, he had
as usual slept too long.  And one could never tell.  Silas's singular
notion of a rising hour might prevail here.  Best perhaps to go down a
little later and combine his breakfast with his lunch.  Meantime he
would avail himself of Joan's permission to pick a room for himself.

The house was big and old and abandoned for the most part to creaks and
dust and cobwebs.  Kenny peered into room after room with a fascinated
shiver, reading mystery in every shadow.  Thank fortune the room he had
was linked to the fragrant life of blossoms and lilacs.

A stairway he climbed came out delightfully in a garret musical with
rain and the plaintive chirping of wet birds huddled under dripping
eaves.  Unlike the rooms he had left below it was swept and clean.
There were trunks in one corner, a great many, and a cedar chest.
There should be a cedar chest.  It was as essential to an old garret
like this as violets in spring or sweetness in a girl's face.  The
chest was open.  With a low whistle of delight Kenny peered inside and
thought of the ferryman in her quaint brocade.  The chest was full to
the brim of old-time gowns, glints of faded satin and yellowed lace,
buckled slippers and old brocade.

"Mr. O'Neill!"

Kenny wheeled, his face scarlet with guilt and confusion.  Joan was
beside him, her startled eyes dark with reproach.  Even in his
stammering moment of apology he was dismayed to find that her gown was
commonplace, old and mended.

Joan caught his glance and colored.

"It's the dress I wear to Uncle," she said hurriedly.  "I--I meant you
never to see it.  He doesn't know.  Everything there in the cedar chest
he hates.  All of it belonged to my mother.  He wouldn't like me to
wear her gowns."

"In the name of Heaven," demanded Kenny, shocked, "why not?  It's a
beautiful thing--like the play-acting of a dryad!"

"My mother," said the girl in a low voice, "was on the stage."

Her challenging eyes, big and wistful, fanned his chivalry into
reckless flame.  The need of the hour was peculiar.  There was little
room for fact.  In a moment of wayward impulse he had slipped up a
stairway and blundered on a shrine.  He must not make another mistake.
The girl beside him was as timorous and defensive as a doe scenting an
alien breath in the wood of wild things.  A wrong step and in spirit
she would bound away from him forever.

"Odd!" said Kenny gently.  "So was mine."  And he thought for a
tormented minute of Brian and Garry and John Whitaker.  Not one of them
would understand.  He wanted only to be kind and in tune.

Joan caught her breath.  The softness and faith in her eyes hurt.

"You're not ashamed of it!"

"No," said Kenny, looking away,  "Certainly not.  Are you?"

"No," said Joan steadily.  "But Uncle is."

In this second interval of readjustment, yesterday seemed aeons back.
They had traveled far.  The peace and peril of the moment were
ineffably sweet.

"You can be yourself anywhere," said Joan clearly, taking from the
chest an exquisite old lavender gown for which she seemed to have come.
"And if your self is bad, the--the where doesn't matter."

Her insight rather startled him.  Often afterward he was to find in her
that curious ability to detach herself from custom and tradition, skiff
away the husks of cumulative prejudice and find the kernel of truth for
herself.

Joan went toward the stairs; he followed her with a troubled sigh.  The
stage mother bothered him.  With her he had bridged a gulf it would
have taken weeks to span, but the trust in Joan's eyes still hurt.  If
only he could have begun upon a rock, Brian's rock of fact and not the
shifting sands of his own errant fancy!  It would have been a glory to
live up to the faith in the girl's wistful eyes.

He was sorry he had climbed the stairway, sorry he had solved the
mystery of the brocade gown, sorry he had lied, sorry, frenziedly sorry
that whatever new thing slipped into his life, no matter how simple and
beautiful it seemed, took on the familiar complexity fatal to his peace
of mind.

But he was passionately grateful for the tense moment when Joan had
seemed to turn to him for sympathy, a wild and lonely dryad of a girl
in a mended gown.



CHAPTER VII

THE BLOSSOM STORM

At nightfall, with his telegram to Garry depressingly linked with a
memory of winding, sodden, lonely roads, dripping woods and the clink
of milk-cans, Kenny was summoned to the sitting room of Adam Craig.

A fire burned in the open fireplace.  Lamp-light softened the
shabbiness of the old room and shone pleasantly on dark wood and a
great many faded books.  Later Kenny knew that every book in the
farmhouse was here upon his shelves.  Adam Craig sat huddled in a
wheelchair.  Kenny thought of the runaway who hated him.  He thought of
Joan.  He thought of the bleak old rooms that seemed one in spirit with
the man before him.  A wrinkled, evil old man, he told himself with a
shudder, with piercing eyes and a face Italian in its subtlety.

Adam Craig looked steadily at the Irishman in the doorway and found his
stare returned.  The gaze of neither faltered.  So began what Kenny,
when his singular relations with the old man had goaded him to startled
appraisal, was pleased to call a "friendship that was never a
friendship and a feud that was never a feud."

"I sent you a message," said Adam Craig.

"Your niece brought it."

The old man tapped with slender, wasted fingers upon the arm of his
chair.

"What was it?" he asked guilelessly.

"As I remember it," stammered Kenny in surprise, "you were good enough
to say that I might stay here as long as I chose."

"Like all women and some Irishmen," said Adam Craig, "she lied.  I said
you could stay as long as you were willing to pay."

Kenny changed color.  The invalid chose to misinterpret his interval of
constraint.

"So," he said softly, "you don't always pay!"

The random shot of inference went home.  It was the first of many.
Kenny fought back his temper.  Affronted, he crossed the room and laid
a roll of bills upon the table.  Craig counted them with an irritating
show of care.

"That, Mr. O'Neill," he said, "will guarantee my hospitality for the
space of a month!"

He put the roll of money in the pocket of his bathrobe and Kenny
fancied his fingers loathe to leave it.

The drip of the rain and the gusty noise of wind that by daylight had
been no more than a melancholy adjunct to the poetry of wet blossoms,
became suddenly sinister and tragic and irresistibly atmospheric.
Kenny stared with new vision at the dreadful old man in the bathrobe.
One by one Kenny was fated to solve his mysteries when he wanted to
keep them.  He knew now in a flare of intuition why the old rooms had
been abandoned, why Joan ferried folk from the village in the valley to
the village across the river, why her gown of the morning and the rags
of the runaway had been pitifully patched and mended.  And he
remembered the mystery of her color, when, questing an inn, he had
glanced at the house on the cliff and hinted that her uncle might
consent to be his host.

"I know he would!"  Joan's low voice rang in his ears again with new
meaning.

Adam Craig was a miser.

He shrank at the thought.  Annoyed to find the old man's eyes boring
into him again, he cleared his throat and looked away.

"So," said Adam Craig, "you are a famous painter!"

"I am a painter," said Kenny stiffly.

"With medals," purred Adam.

"With medals."

A fit of coughing seemed for an interval to threaten the old man's very
life.

"Yonder in the closet," he said huskily, "is a bottle and some glasses.
Bring them here."

Kenny obeyed.

"Sit down."

With the old man's eyes upon him, hungry and expectant, as if he
clutched at the thought of companionship, Kenny reluctantly found a
chair for himself and sat down.  Pity made him gentle.  Year in and
year out, he remembered with a shiver, Adam Craig sat huddled here in
his wheel-chair listening to wind and rain, sleet and snow, the rustle
of summer trees and the wind of autumn.  It was a melancholy thought
and true.

Smoothly hospitable, the invalid poured brandy for himself and his
guest and chatted with an air of courtesy.  Kenny found himself in
quieter mood.  Reminiscence crackled in the wood-fire.  Nights in the
studio by the embers of a log many a Gaelic tale had glowed and
sparkled in his soft, delightful brogue for the ears of men who loved
his tales of folk lore and loved the teller.

Ah, Ireland, dark rosaleen of myths and mirth and melancholy.  The
thought of it all made him tender and sad.

Well, he would give this lonely man by the fire an hour of unalloyed
delight.  He would tell him tales of Ireland when brehons made the laws
and bards and harpers roved the green hills.  Kenny made his
opportunity and began.  He told a tale of Choulain, the mountain smith
who forged armor for the Ultonians.  He told a lighter tale of three
sisters whom he called Fair, Brown and Trembling.  With the brogue
strong upon him he told how Finn McCoul had stolen the clothes of a
bathing queen and he told in stirring phrase the exploits of Ireland's
mighty hero, Cuchullin.

He had never had a better listener.  Adam Craig fixed his piercing eyes
inscrutably upon the teller's face, drank glass after glass of brandy,
and remained polite, intent and silent.  Kenny, with his heart in the
telling, went on to the tale of Conoclach and the first harp.
Conoclach, he said, hating Cull, her husband, had run away from him
toward the sea.  There upon the sand lay the skeleton of a whale and
the wind playing upon the taut sinews made sounds low and soothing
enough to lull her to sleep.  And Cull, coming up, marveled at her
slumber, heard the murmuring of the wind through the sinews and made
the first harp.  Kenny liked the tale and he liked the way he told it.

Adam Craig nodded.

"Lies!" he said, springing the trap it had pleased him to bait with an
air of courtesy, "All lies."

Kenny flushed with annoyance.  The sacrilege of doubt when the tale was
Irish jarred.

"Lies!" said Adam Craig again, "adapted centuries ago by some Irish
word-thief."

"You are pleased to be humorous," said Kenny, glancing coldly at his
host.

"I am pleased," said the old man insolently, "to be truthful, not being
Irish.  Fair, Brown and Trembling!" he added with a sneer.  "Word for
word, it's the tale of Cinderella."

"The pattern for Cinderella!" corrected Kenny with a shrug.

Adam Craig glanced at him with narrowed eyes.

"And Finn McCoul and the bathing queen.  I can find you the German tale
of a stolen veil from which it's--borrowed."

"You can find me likely the name of a German who chose to delve into
Gaelic for his plot."

"You've a ready tongue."

"There are times when it's needed."

"As for the first harp," snapped Adam Craig, nettled, "there's a
Grecian lyre tale yonder on the shelf like it."

"Liar tale," said Kenny purposely misunderstanding.  Hum!  The Greeks,
he remembered regretfully, were clever adapters.

His air of assurance incensed the old man.

"As for that fool of a Cuchullin," he rasped, coughing a little, "where
is he different from Achilles?"

"A little different," said Kenny.  "Achilles, poor old scout, was much
the inferior of the two."

Again in fury Adam Craig coughed until it seemed that his life must
end.  Again he drank.  Kenny knew by the flurried brightness of his
eyes sunk deep in the yellowed gauntness of his face that he was drunk.
He shuddered and rose.  Already the old man's head was drooping toward
his chest in a drunken stupor.  With an effort he roused and leered.

"Cinderella, damn you!" he said.  "Cinderella and Achilles!"

"Cinderella," repeated Kenny pityingly.  "Cinderella and Achilles."

He stood uncertain what to do while Adam Craig slipped down in his
chair.  Drunk, perverse and cruel!  With the rain beating at the
windows Kenny thought of Joan, compassion in his heart, and rang for
Hughie.

"I--I'm afraid he's drunk," he whispered with a sense of guilt when
Hughie came.  "Perhaps I shouldn't have given him the bottle."

Hughie glanced at his watch.

"It's nine o'clock," he said.  "He's late."

"You mean?"

"Every night," said Hughie.  "The doctor gave up fightin' long ago."

Kenny went to his room filled with pity and disgust.

Gusts of wind and rain battered at the orchard blossoms the next day
and the next.  Kenny found a tuning outfit in a closet and spent his
days with Joan tuning the Craig piano.  He was grateful in the gloom of
dark wood and dust for the fantastic thing of lavender she wore.  It
was like a bit of iris in a bog, he told her, and was sorry when he saw
her glance with troubled eyes at the dust and cobwebs.

The river ran high and brown.  The horn beneath the willow was silent.
Each night Adam Craig sent for his guest.  The rain, he said, made him
lonesome.  Each night in a hopeless conflict of pity and dislike Kenny
went, rain and wind and Adam Craig getting horribly upon his nerves.

He was glad when the sun came and filled the valley, panoramic from the
farmhouse ridge, with a glory of light.  Milk-white clouds capped the
western hills.  Nearer, dotted peacefully with farms, red barns and
dark, straggling clumps of evergreen, the rolling valley stretched
unevenly among intersecting lines of trees.  At the foot of a hill rose
the spire of the village church.  To the south a crystal blaze of sun
showed water.

A world of lilac and dogwood and a few late apple blossoms clinging
bravely through the storm to sunshine.  And the world held Joan with
shadows of the sun in her hair and eyes and shadows of the past in her
gowns.

Ah, truly, it was good to be alive!



CHAPTER VIII

JOAN

Thus, warm and fragrant, the summer came with Kenny in the house of Adam
Craig, drifting pleasantly he knew and cared not where; with Brian on the
road with Donald West.

And Joan?  To her summer came with a new incomprehensible delight.  Out
of the void a bright spirit had roved into her world, sweeping her, eager
and unresistant, into youth and life and laughter.  He came from an
immensity of romantic experience, holding out his hands to her, with
tender eyes and a look of youth and charm and understanding in his vivid
face.

She had fought through drab and solitude to dreams and formless craving,
this girl of the hills.  What things of vigor her life had known were
cruel: a passionate shrinking from her uncle, a fear for the brother who
had hotly rebelled at the meager life around him, a loneliness aloof from
her kind and a vague hunger for some fuller, sweeter life beyond the
hills.  And with a blast of a horn the drab had vanished.

There were times when the girl's soft eyes opened wide in a panic of
incredulity.  He was a famous painter, this Irishman who had prevailed
upon her in a laughing moment to call him Kenny; a famous painter with a
personality as vivid as his face.  And yet he chose to linger at her
uncle's farm.  The color, the gayety, the sparkle, he seemed miraculously
to infuse into existence, left her breathless and startled.  And he knew
not one spot and one land.  He knew many spots, some wild and remote, and
many lands.  Joan marveled at the twist of Fate that had brought him to
the willow.

His individuality made its own appeal.  But there were subtler forces
working to the girl's surrender.  One, a deep abiding gratitude to him
and Brian.  Though she ran down the lane each morning and peered into the
letter box at the end for word of Donald, her disappointment now had
nothing in it of terror.  Donald, Kenny said, was with an O'Neill.  He
could not go wrong.  She accepted the statement, as she had accepted the
stage mother, with utter faith and gladness.

And Kenny was kind to her uncle and to her; kind with an infinite
delicacy of tact and feeling.  He seemed to understand the instinct for
beauty and adornment that sent her roving to her mother's trunks.  He
understood her dreams and her hunger.  He understood the spirit that had
led her to make the garret a sort of shrine to be swept and dusted, to be
kept apart and precious.  There was another force, subtle and exacting:
the girl's burgeoning womanhood.  Wistful for homage, she craved his
gallant tenderness and wanted always to be with him.  His frank glance of
admiration and his boyish smile were always a tribute.  So was his voice,
deep, gentle, sonorous as a sweet-toned bell.  Tones of it she knew were
kept for her alone.  The knowledge thrilled her.  She did not know why.

By the time the old wistaria vine outside her window shook in the wind
with a glory of purple, the over-crowded days were gliding one into the
other like a rain of stars.  Most of all, wakeful in the dark of her
room, she remembered the hours by the river when Kenny wove for her high,
peaked hats of rushes such as he claimed the Irish fairies wore, and told
her tales of Ireland with a trick of eloquence that made her laugh and
made her cry.  Odd! unlike her uncle he understood tears too.  A tear, he
said, was always trailing an Irishman's smile.  His sympathetic brogue,
smooth and soft and instinct with drollery, held for her a never-ending
fascination.

And always at the end of the day there was Kenny's Gray Man of the
Twilight stealing up the river all too soon.

Joan was not the only one to whom the sparkle of the irrepressible
Irishman's wit and humor was an energizing boon.  There was Hannah and
Hetty; and Hughie, too, though he stoutly denied it.  Life on the Craig
farm was no longer dull.

Kenny, at a loose end, kept the farm in ferment, evading the work Garry
had sent him, by a conscientious effort to assist others.  He was glad he
could paint if the mood seized him.  Denied the opportunity he knew he
would have fretted.  There was one singular, inexplicable thing about
work.  If there was work at hand, one could always find something else to
do, attractive and absorbing.  If there wasn't work to do, the sheer
shock of it seemed to dull you into mental vacuity and loose ends of time
came up and hit you in the face.  Garry had written something or other
like that sarcastically in a letter.

He helped Hannah churn and sang with a soft brogue, to her abashed
delight, a song he called "The Gurgling of the Churn."  He helped Hetty
milk the roan cow and sang while Hetty's apple-cheeks bloomed redder, an
exquisite folk tune of a pretty girl who milked a cow in Ireland.  Later
in the summer he even helped Hughie rake the hay and had a song for that.
As Hannah said, he seemed to have songs for everything and what he
couldn't sing he could play with dazzling skill on the old piano.

"There's 'lectricity," said Hannah, "in the very air."

"I wished," grumbled Hughie, "he'd put it in the ground instid.  The air
don't need it.  Workin' a farm like this on shares is like goin' to a
picnic behind old Nellie and startin' late.  You just know you won't git
there.  What ground up here ain't worked out is hills and stones and
hollers."

Hannah sighed.

Kenny knew with regret that he might have been a helpful factor in the
work of the farm but for a number of unforeseen reasons.  When he churned
the butter never came.  The roan cow disliked music and kicked over the
milk-pail with inartistic persistence.  The sun on the hay made his head
ache.

As for a picturesque task for which he had no song--well, he had promised
Joan to keep away from the punt when the horn beneath the willow blew for
a ferryman.  He had sculled the old white-haired minister into a rock
with delight to no one but Adam Craig, who had spent a whole evening
cackling about it.  He must always remember that it had not been his
fault.  The rock had merely scraped the punt while he was listening with
politeness to why the old man had "doubled up" his charge and had a
church on either side of the river.  And if Mr. Abbott had not risen in
gentle alarm and begun to teeter around, Kenny in an interval of frantic
excitement would not have been forced to fish him out of the stream by
his coattails.  He considered always that he saved the old man's life.
Nor had he meant to dab at him with the oar, thereby encouraging the
unfortunate old chap to duck and misinterpret his obvious intention to
save him.

But Joan had understood.  That was the chief essential.  Always Joan was
there upon the horizon of his day.  Whatever he thought, whatever he did,
was colored by a passionate desire for the girl's approval.  Her pleasure
became his delight; her smile his inspiration.  In that, he told himself,
pleased to interpret all things here in the sylvan heart of solitude in
the terms of romance and mystery, he was like the chivalrous warrior of
old who found his true happiness in gallantly serving a beautiful maid.
Joan was surely such a type as chivalry conceived.  She filled his Celtic
ideal and aroused all his gladness as a woman should.  And she was as shy
and beautiful as a wild flower and as unspoiled.  He blessed the old
gowns that quaintly framed her loveliness anew from day to day.  But they
had been his undoing.  He felt that he might have kept his head a little
longer but for the blaze of the gold brocade in the last light of the sun.

Laughter made her lovely.  Ah, there Brian had been right.  But then, he
reflected sadly, Brian was always right.  That, he could surely concede,
when Fate had put an end to his quest and doomed him to linger here in
the home of a miser, waiting, waiting, yes, waiting in impatience for
word of his son.  Well, perhaps he was not impatient, but at least he was
waiting.  And Brian had found in Joan's face the vigor of sweetness, not
the kind that cloys.  Kenny liked the words.

It was inevitable, with songs for everything, that he would have songs,
like the tenderer tones of his voice, that he kept for Joan alone, songs
that came softly to his lips when Nature stirred his fancy and Joan was
at his side in an old-time gown.

A lone pine, a wild geranium, a lark or Joan's garden where the
heliotrope grew; they were sparks to a fire of inspiration that came
forth in song.

There was one song he sang most often.

"What is it, Kenny?" Joan asked one sunset when Kenny on the farm porch
was finding the subtleties of color for her in the darkening valley below
them and the western sky above the hills.

"What's what, Arbutus, dear?" he asked with guile.

The "dear" didn't bother her.  It was frequently "Hannah, dear!" and
"Hetty, dear!" and Hughie was often "Hughie, darlin'."

"Why," asked Joan, "do you call me Arbutus?"

"Because you're like one," he said gently.

"And what was the song?"

"'My Love's an Arbutus,'" said Kenny demurely.  He knew at once that he
must not step so far ahead again.  She looked a little frightened.  Kenny
instantly called her attention to a gap in the range of hills to the west.

"Like the Devil's Bit in Ireland," he said.  "There the devil, poor lad,
bit a chunk out of a mountain and not liking the morsel over well,
treated it as you and I would treat a cherry pit."

Joan laughed.

"True." said Kenny, "every word of it.  I myself have seen the chunk he
threw away.  Tis the Rock of Cashel.  He's been bitin' again over there,
I take it.  To-morrow you and I will go down into the valley, seek the
unappetizin' rock he rejected and look it over."

"I think most likely," said Joan, "the farm's built on it."

And then the sound of the horn came over the water and Joan ran.

Kenny as usual cursed the horn.

With the valley filled with the first haze of twilight and the hills
still aglow, Kenny sat on the farm porch and brooded.  He had not meant
to frighten her.  The Arbutus gallantry he had considered strategic and
poetic.  There was the baffling thing about her that kept him piqued.
She was always shy and elusive.  Of convention she knew nothing at all;
yet like the shrine in the garret she kept herself apart and precious.
Always she seemed fluttering just ahead of him, like a will-of-the-wisp.
If he touched her hand ever so gently she drew it away.  The caresses
most girls he had known would have understood and accepted as part of the
summer idyl, he knew, instinctively, would be evaded.

Ah! the truth of it was she was an incomprehensible torment of delight.
For she roamed the fields and woods with him gladly, lunched in glens
remote it seemed from everything but the call of that infernal horn,
yielded to the enthusiasm of his maddest moods, romped with him like a
kitten or a child--and kept miraculously the poise and reticence of a
woman.  She talked freely of her brother; never of her uncle.

He was quick and impressionable, this gifted Irishman, with a trace of
the melancholy of his race and all of its cheer.  Melancholy was the one
mood in which Joan did not seem to flutter just ahead.  Always then she
followed, gentle, compassionate and shyly tender.  He was quick to find
it out and wily enough to feign it when in reality his heart was as light
and buoyant as a feather.

Save for the call of the horn beneath the willow, the girl was as free to
come and go as an oriole in the orchard; for that he was grateful.  But
whether Adam Craig's attitude was one of trust or cold indifference, he
could not fathom.  With Hughie and Hannah it was different.  They loved
Joan and trusted him.  That trust, he resolved, should not be futile.  He
could justify it and he would.  Joan, of course, was foredoomed to know
the delirium of the heart that had come to him that day beneath the
willow.  Fate could not deny him requital.  She never had.  Equally, of
course, Joan's delirium, like his own, would not last.  It could not.
The thought hurt his vanity a little.

It remained for him who had aroused it to linger here at the farm until
the fancy had run its course and she was quite herself!  Even if, long
before, his own madness had waned.  That was apt to happen, for he was
handicapped by an earlier start.  Yes, he would linger.  And he would be
scrupulous and honorable and kind.  Joan was young and a woman.  She
would nurse the shadows of her summer's idyl long after the idyl was
gone, and would mistake them for reality.  There with his wider
experience and the sad memory of much ebb and now he could be helpful.

Kenny shivered and refused to dwell upon a phase of life that was like
autumn and sere and drifting leaves.  It bothered him that the thought of
Hannah and Hughie had driven him to think it out.  He liked best in heart
things to think back, not too far, and never forward.

"Kenny!"  It was Joan's voice in the dusk.

Kenny forgot the sadness of his wisdom and foreboding.  He forgot the
future.  The thing to do always was to live in the present and now Joan's
voice, joyous and young, filled him with tenderness.

"Yes, Joan."

"The Gray Man of the Twilight's here.  See, he's climbed up from the
valley and he's coming down the walk."

From the Gray Man's misty robes came the fragrance of syringa.



CHAPTER IX

ADAM CRAIG

Joan, Kenny called his torment of delight in days that were exquisite
intaglios.  Adam Craig was a torment of another caliber.  He claimed
the evenings of his guest.

Kenny knew too well for his own peace of mind the pitiful diversions of
the old man's day.  It sapped his powers of resistance.  In the morning
there was the doctor, a weary little man, untemperamental and
mercifully impervious to insult, who chugged up the lane in a car that
needed but one twist of the crank to release a great many clattering
things.  All of them Kenny felt should be anchored more securely.
There was an occasional hour in the open.  At nightfall he sent for
Kenny and by nine he was drunk.

Again and again, wrought to a high pitch of resentment by the traps the
invalid baited with an air of courtesy, Kenny cursed his own weak-kneed
spasms of pity and surrender and resolved to break away.  Always when
Hughie rapped at his bedroom door he remembered the melancholy drip of
the blossom storm at Adam's windows, the invalid's hunger for news of
the outside world and the Spartan way he bore his pain.  Whatever the
nature of the disease that had wasted his body and etched shadows of
pain upon his subtle face, he never spoke of it.  Nor did he speak of
Donald or Joan, whom Kenny felt despairingly he hated and taunted into
secret tears.  If he resented the runaway's rebellion, he kept it to
himself.

One evening when he seemed to be quiet and in pain, and was taking,
Kenny noticed, the medicine that marked vague periods of crisis, Adam
said pensively that he had not meant to impugn the Gaelic folk lore.
He liked it.  It reflected the warm, poetic soul of a people.  Brandy,
alas, always made him quarrelsome and undependable of mood.  When the
rain came again and he had to have a fire, they would have more tales
of the Dark Rose Kenny loved.  Ireland, the Dark Rose!  The name was
like her history.  Yes, folk lore went with the crackle of a log and
the mournful music of rain upon a roof.  He could have his brandy later.

The rain came with its lonely patter and Kenny told him tales of
Ireland, delighted at the sympathetic quiet of his mood.  Unbrandied,
the evenings, after all, might become endurable.

"You see," Adam said once a little sadly, "without the brandy--"

Kenny nodded his approval.

When the clock struck nine he was in splendid fettle, brogue and all.

"For Ireland's harpers," he was boasting with a reckless air of pride,
"were better than any harpers in the world."

"Liars?" asked Adam blankly.

Kenny found his occasional pretense of deafness trying in the extreme.

"Harpers!" he repeated in a loud voice.  "And you heard me before."

Adam nodded.

"What do you mean," demanded Kenny suspiciously, "that you did hear me
or you didn't?"

"I did," said Adam suavely.  "Both times.  Go on with the story."

Somewhat nettled, Kenny obeyed.  Conscious, the minute he began, of a
muffled whistle, he glanced sharply at his host and found his glance
returned with a guileless air of inquiry.

"Adam," he said, "are you whistling?"

"My dear Kenny!" protested Adam.  "It's the wind.  I hear it myself."

Somewhat suspicious, for he fancied now he read in the invalid's
alertness a feline readiness to pounce, Kenny returned to the tale of
the harper who proved the right of Ireland to lead the world.  This
time the insolent whistle, louder and a shade defiant, convinced him
that his listener's mood had changed.  Adam was resenting his guest's
insistence upon the merits of his race by whistling "Yankee Doodle."

Kenny stopped and smiled, and the whistle rang out fiercely.

"A good old Irish tune, that, Adam," he said languidly.  "It's 'All the
way to Galway!'  Funny how it came to be known as Yankee Doodle."

In a fury of exasperation Adam propelled himself in his wheel-chair the
length of the room and back.

"You damned bragging Irishman!" he hissed.  "I think you lie.  You're
Irish and you hate to be outdone.  But I'll look it up."

His spirit was unconquerable, his ingenuity persistent and amazing.
Often when the clash of wit was sharp he cackled in perverse delight.
But composure maddened him.  Again and again, inwardly provoked to the
point of murder, Kenny threatened to break away from the goad of his
tongue.  Always then Adam appealed to his habits of pity and
treacherously on the strength of it wheedled him into other tales of
folk lore merely to refute them.  And always he blamed the brandy.
Kenny knew now that he lied.  Drunk, the old man was stupid; sober, he
was satanic in his cunning.

There was one tale of a fairy mill that, in startling circumstances,
Kenny told without interruption.  Fairies, in Ireland, said Kenny, had
ground the corn of mortals without pay until someone stole a bag of
meal that belonged to a widow.  Then the fairies, shocked at the ways
of men, abandoned the fairy mill forever.

He braced himself for the usual shaft of insolence, in a mood for
battle.  It did not come.  Adam had fallen forward in his chair
unconscious.  Kenny rang for Hughie and stared at the huddled figure in
the wheel-chair with eyes of new suspicion.  Adam Craig, he remembered,
with a sharp unbridled instinct for adding two and two, was a miser and
he hated the children of his widowed sister.  There could be a sinister
reason.



CHAPTER X

A NOTEBOOK

It seemed that Adam too could add his two and two.  In his quieter
hours of pain, when every warmer instinct of his guest was uppermost,
he was as curious as a woman.  His questions, put with the sad,
querulous courtesy of an invalid claiming privileges by reason of his
pain, were sometimes difficult to answer.

"Paul Pry!" murmured Kenny to himself one night.

Adam's sharp eyes snapped.

"Paul Pry, eh?" he quivered.  "You impudent devil!"

"A minute ago," reminded Kenny coldly, "when I told you you were
drinking too much brandy, you said you were deaf to-night."

"It's an intermittent affliction," purred Adam with a chuckle.  "You
struck me in a minute of vacation."

But the careless sobriquet of Kenny's rankled in the old man's mind and
bore a startling aftermath of fruit.

Kenny was Irish and conversational.  He had as usual talked too much,
unaware that Adam, with fiendish insight, was reading steadily between
the lines, ready to pounce.

"Paul Pry!" repeated the old man at intervals.  "Paul Pry!  You are a
selfish, hair-brained Irishman," he blazed suddenly, leaning forward,
baleful and intense.  "Some men feel and some men act.  But you act
only when you have to.  Life's a battle.  Do you fight?  No!  You glide
along and watch the others.  That's the way you've kept your youth.
You never linger on the things that prove unpleasant.  You think life
an individual adventure to be lived the way you choose.  It isn't.
It's a link in a chain that clanks.  You can't escape.  You won't
escape.  You're a play-actor with a gift for staging yourself and
you're as hungry for the limelight as a circus girl in spangles.  What
you need is the hurt of sacrifice.  You need to suffer and forget
yourself.  Damn you and your brogue and your folk lore.  You're the
most amazing liar I've ever met."

But Kenny heard no more.  He stumbled out of the sitting room and
slammed the door.

There was a lamp burning in his bedroom.  Kenny walked the floor in
anger and humiliation, his fingers clenched as usual in his hair.  Back
there in the studio with Whitaker's arraignment ringing in his ears, he
had been conscious of a terror he refused to face, a curious inner
crash of something vital to his peace of mind.  And he had fought it
back for days, plunging into the relief of penance with a gasp of hot
content.

Now Adam, sitting in separate judgment, had reached out into the void
and linked himself to Whitaker--to Brian, to Garry--and his barbs
stung.  That terror of misgiving, lulled into quietude here in the
peace and charm of his life with Joan, stirred within him hydra-headed
and drove the color from his face.  Then he blazed into rebellion.

Failure!  Vanity!  Self!  And Adam to-night had fused the verdict of
the other three.

Whether or not these things were true was at first of little moment.
The sting lay in the fact that someone had troubled to think them.  The
careless illusion, that what he thought of himself the world thought,
lay at his feet pricked into utter collapse.  It seemed to him as he
walked the floor in a tumult of hurt pride, that the world must accept
the man he knew himself to be, the man whose light-hearted existence he
loved to dramatize, a brilliant painter with piquant imperfections,
intensely human and  delightful.  He  passionately demanded that it
accept him so without question.  Good God!  No one had seemed to
question until Brian in a burst of temper had brought the world about
his ears.

Well, let the world misjudge him if it chose.  He was big enough, he
knew, to hold his head above it.

In a mood of lively irony he whipped forth a notebook and wrote a
sarcastic summary of his shortcomings, his lips curled in hostile
interest.

"Sunsets and vanity," he wrote with a flourish and lost his temper.
Well, that phase in Brian's life was closed forever, thanks to
Whitaker's meddling tongue.  Never again would Kenny lay himself open
to misinterpretation by seeking commissions for his son.  Brian could
write truth for Whitaker with a blue pencil and be damned!

"Hairbrained, unquenchable youth," he wrote next and added airily after
this: "This is likely hair and teeth."

"Irresponsible."

"Failure as a parent."  This he underlined.

"Need to suffer and learn something of the psychology of sacrifice."

"Romantic attitude toward the truth."

"Improvidence.  Need for plebeian regularity in money affairs and petty
debt."

"Disorder--chairs to sit down on without looking first."

"I borrow Brian's money and his clothes."

"Pawned shotgun, tennis racket, some fishing tackle and golf clubs."

"Note: Look over tickets."

"A tendency to indolence."

He had begun with an air of bored amusement; he finished grimly, read
and reread.  In the light of the Craig-and-Whitaker analysis, which
dovetailed in the similarity of their venom, the details might, he
fancied with a lifting of his brows, be classified under three general
headings: youth, irresponsibility and a romantic attitude toward the
truth.

The envious charge of youth he attributed instantly to the thinning of
John Whitaker's grayish hair, and felt better.  In irresponsibility he
read, agreeably, needful temperament.  And his romantic attitude toward
the truth was merely a brilliant overplus of imagination without which
life would be insufferably dull.

He read the list again with colors flying and drum beating victory.
Though singly he could refute each item, an unguarded perusal when he
felt complacent, brought the hot blood back to his face in a rush of
mortification and dismay.

With a curse he flung the book across the room.  Then unreasonably he
went after it and wrote at the end: "Life is a battle.  I do not fight.
And life is not an individual adventure."

The final sentence startled him most of all.

Again he read it all and the memory of Brian, white, aggressive,
desperately intent upon escape, came between him and his quest of
self-content.  It always bothered him.  It had driven him to hunt the
psaltery stick, repent his lie to Garry and water the fern.  It had
driven him out upon the road.  Mocking voices rose now from the depths.
Was it--could it all be true?  The shock of the thought was cataclysmic
and he longed for the self-respect and confidence in which he had
basked that night in Hannah's kitchen.  Must the world side with Brian?
He was sorry about the shotgun.  He was sorry about the sunsets.  By
the Blessed Bell of Clare, he was willing to be sorry about anything,
little as he felt himself to blame.  Was he to blame?  Had he not paid
for it all in his days of stormy penance?

Out of his white-hot revolt clear vision came to him, as it sometimes
did, with incomprehensible, dart-like swiftness, and leveled him to the
dust.  Some of it he would not face but he saw his days upon the road
with truth and shame.  He had failed in his penance.  Garry was right.
He did everything by fits and starts.  And he could justify whatever
was most conducive to his comfort and his inclination.  His pilgrimage
had been farcical.  He had fled from discomfort, magnifying pettiness
into tragedy.  And he had been disloyal to the son he loved.  For there
under the willow when his startled eyes had found Joan, he had
passionately made up his mind to linger.  Nay more, even then in the
dim recesses of his mind, he had hoped there would be no clue to send
him forth again in quest of Brian.  And if there had been, Kenny faced
the fact that he would not have gone. . . .  No, he would not have
gone. . . .  And Adam Craig was a vulture preying upon the unrest in
his heart that he had hoped to stifle.

He went downstairs with a shudder, craving stars and darkness, unbolted
the front door and went out upon the porch.

The valley was black.  Its lonely points of light vanished early.  Up
here on the ridge there was wind and quiet.  He peopled the gulf of
blackness ahead with things sinister and evil in spirit like Adam Craig
and turned his back upon it with a shiver.  There would be peace in the
voice of the river.

The starlight, dim and soft, had a sense of silver in its
indistinctness.  To Kenny, walking through the orchard, ghosts of
blossoms blew fragrantly above his head.  The blossoms were gone like
his peace of mind.  He hungered for Joan.

In the velvet dimness the wistaria vine beneath her window loomed forth
like a shower of shadow; a grotesque ladder of bloom warm to his mind
with invisible color and yet darker to his eye than the night with its
silver sheen of stars.

A ladder?  Kenny caught his breath and stood still, quite still.  It
was a ladder.  Some one was climbing down.  Branch after branch the
climber touched with unerring instinct and ran off noiselessly through
the orchard to the south.

Kenny's heart throbbed with a ghastly fear.

It was Joan.

He knew what lay to the south beyond the orchard: woodlands and
wildness, nothing else.  The fields Hughie cultivated stretched to the
north from the kitchen windows.  There in the forest to the south where
the river curved off at a tangent and flowed directly east, Brian had
had his camp.  On farther Joan had never cared to go.  Where did she go
now in the starlit darkness, climbing down the wistaria ladder with a
cloak around her shoulders?  To what did she venture through the
solitude of whispering trees and the gloom of the pine forest?

A lover's tryst?  Kenny sickened and choked.  He could not follow her.
He would not.

He turned back instead and went to bed to lie wakeful until dawn with
something new and horrible gnawing at his heartstrings.  Then he fell
asleep and dreamed of monsters.



CHAPTER XI

THE CABIN IN THE PINES

He did not mean to go again.  He did not mean to watch the wistaria
vine.  He went, he told himself wildly, to evade the summons that was
sure to come from Adam Craig.  But when the glimmer of wistaria swayed
beneath a footfall, madness came upon him and he went stealthily
through orchard and forest, stalking the flutter of a cloak.

The river turned.  Joan followed the bend for a little way and struck
off again into the thick of the forest through the cloistered gloom of
many pines.  She came, after what seemed to Kenny a long, long time, to
a rude cabin made of logs.  There was a light in the window.  Joan
opened the door and disappeared.

If he had known definitely what he thought, he told himself with an
Irish twist, the agony of his suspense would have been worse and less.
The sharp intensity of the pain in his heart terrified him.  Whatever
lay in the cabin of logs was something apart from him.  The night
noises of the forest blared strangely in his ears.  He was conscious of
the odor of pines; conscious of a shower of pine-needles when he
brushed back against a tree.  And there were cones beneath his feet.
But his madness would not bear him on to the cabin door.  At intervals
with fire in his brain he knew he heard the voice of a man.

In a vague eternity of minutes he waited until the door opened and
lamplight streamed brightly over the sill.  A man stepped forth.
Something seemed to snap in Kenny's heart.  Relief roared in his ears
and rushed unbidden to his lips.

"Oh, my God!" he gasped.

It was the gentle, white-haired minister with a book beneath his arm.

Startled the old man drew back and peered uncertainly into the
darkness.  Kenny approached.

"I--I beg your pardon," he said, wiping his forehead.  "I'm sorry."

Joan came to the door and stared.

"Kenny!" she exclaimed.  And her voice had in it a note of distress.
She glanced at Mr. Abbott, who glanced in turn at Kenny with an air of
gentle inquiry.  His confidence in Mr. O'Neill, never very robust, had
waned that day upon the river.  It was weakening more and more.

Tongue-tied and scarlet, Kenny stared into the cabin.  Its single room
with its raftered walls, books and a lamp, an old-fashioned stove, a
work-basket, a faded rag-carpet and the trophies of childhood, boy and
girl, was snug and comfortable.

"It's Donald's and mine," said Joan.  "We've always studied here with
Mr. Abbott."

"Mr. O'Neill," said the minister stiffly, "it--it has been a sort of
secret.  Mr. Craig was strangely opposed to the tuition I offered years
ago.  Joan settled the problem for herself."

It was evident all of it had lain a little sorely on the old man's
conscience.  It had been a singular problem, deception or the welfare
of the two children suffering at the hands of Adam Craig; and the need
of choice had driven him to prayer.

Kenny, glad at last to find his tongue, warmly commended his decision.

Joan blew out the light and locked the door.

"How did you find the cabin, Kenny?" she asked wonderingly.  "It's off
so in the wilder part of the forest.  No one comes this way."

Kenny told fluently of walking toward a star.

It was like him.  Joan smiled.

But the faith in her eyes upset him.  He wanted to be truthful.  Ah! if
only Fate would let him!

"And I startled you!" marveled Mr. Abbott.

"Yes," said Kenny.

He walked back through the silence of the pines with remorse in his
heart, paying little heed to Mr. Abbott's talk of vacation.  The
wistaria ladder, the cloister of pines, the lonely cabin where Joan
spent truant hours of peace, were to him things of infinite pathos.
And like the day in the garret, yesterday seemed aeons back.  He
wondered why, conscious of a subtle, unforgettable sense of change in
himself.  Something mysteriously had altered.

The memory of the pain and horror in his heart, he dismissed with a
frown.  As Adam said, he never dwelt upon the things that failed to
please him.  The pain was past.  The peace of the present lay in his
heart.  It had even crowded out the memory of Adam and the notebook.

He was glad when Mr. Abbott said good night and took a footpath to the
west.  Well, it had been a mystery this time that he hadn't wanted to
keep.  But why, Oh, why, he wondered a little sadly, must all his
mysteries end in anticlimax?  Absurd, the little man in his frock coat
trotting out of the cabin door!

"Joan, Joan!" he pleaded.  "Why didn't you tell me?  Am I then not your
friend?"

"I'm sorry, Kenny."  She laid her hand wistfully upon his arm.  "Mr.
Abbott asked me not to tell you."

"Why?"

"I don't know."

"You go there often?"

"Yes, at night.  I sew there and read and study.  To Donald and me it
was always a little like a home.  I used to patch his clothes there.
He hated them so.  You're not hurt?"

"Not--now."

"I'm glad."

At the wistaria ladder Kenny sighed.

"Must you?" he asked.  "I mean, Joan, can't you steal in by the door?"

"It's better not," said Joan, one hand already on the vine.  "Hughie
would scold if he knew.  For the wood is lonely.  And he would talk so
much of rain and snow.  Now I can come and go as I please."

She caught her cloak up and fastened it to insure the freedom of both
her hands.

"Good night, Kenny," she said shyly.  "I hope you find your star."

"I did," said Kenny.  "'Twas hiding in a cabin.  Good night, dear."



CHAPTER XII

THRALDOM

Hughie met him at the door.

"He's been askin' for you, Mr. O'Neill," he said.  "And he hasn't drank
a drop all evening."

"I shan't go," said Kenny.  "Depend upon it, Hughie, it's another
trick."

"I don't know," said Hughie hopelessly.  "It may be.  It's not for me
to deny, with all you take from him."  Hughie looked ashamed of
himself.  "I--I'm sorry for him."

Kenny groaned and set his teeth.

"I think," said Hughie, "he wants to apologize.  He wrote you a note
this morning and tore it up.  And when I put his brandy bottle on his
chair to-night he flung it at my head."

"I'll go this once," said Kenny.  "But, so help me Heaven, I'll never
go again!"

He went dully up the stair, cursing the blossom storm.  Its monotonous
patter on the roof had inspired Adam Craig to his first plea of
loneliness; it had left Kenny himself with a haunting memory of drab
solitude, pain and melancholy that seeped with a dripping sound into
his very marrow; and it had begun for him the singular thraldom,
inspired by pity, that he could not bring himself to understand.

Hughie had left the door of Adam's room ajar.  The invalid sat by the
table in his wheelchair, a book upon his knees, likely one of the
pirate tales in which he reveled.  His face was drawn and haggard, his
eyes closed.  With the wine of his excitement gone, he seemed but a
huddled heap of skin and bone.  A death's-head!  Kenny shuddered.
Unspeakable pity made him kind.  The old man yonder was off his guard;
he had pride and spirit that compelled respect.

Kenny softly closed the door and rapped.

"Come in!" said Adam Craig.  Almost Kenny could see him chirking up
into insolence and the pertness of a bird.  It was precisely as he had
expected.  When the door swung back, Adam was erect in his wheel-chair,
electric with challenge.  His eyes were once more bright and sharp.

"Kenny," he demanded with asperity, "where have you been?"

Kenny glanced at the faded books stacked upon the bookshelves; and with
the cabin uppermost in his mind he swung back dangerously to the
hostile mood of the night before.  Adam Craig was a miser, cruel and
selfish.  He had driven Joan and Donald to a refuge in the pines.

"I said," repeated Adam in a louder voice, "where have you been?"

"Picking wild flowers," said Kenny.

"You lie!" said Adam.  "It's your way of telling me to mind my own
business."

Kenny did not trouble to deny it.

"You've been sulking."

"Very well, then," said Kenny evenly, making use of his one weapon of
composure, "let's concede that I've been sulking."

He was sorry instantly.

Infuriated, Adam brought his fist down upon the arm of his wheel-chair
and, coughing, propelled himself up and down the room.

Kenny walked away to the window, sick with remorse.  For the old man
had coughed himself into gasping quiet.  What could he do?

A wayward Irish tune, ludicrously fitting, danced into his head and
made him smile.

"What shall I do with this silly old man?" whistled Kenny softly at the
window.

"What's that?" demanded Adam suspiciously.

The insolence in his voice struck fire again.  Kenny remembered his
notebook and the hour of accounting.  Never again would the forces Adam
had revived sink into the quietude of his first days here at the farm.

"What's what?" he asked perversely.

"That asinine tune you're whistling?"

"It's a song," said Kenny innocently, "about a wild flower.  And it was
very wild.  It had thorns."

"I think you lie," said Adam, glaring.  "But as I have no womanish
repertoire of songs to prove it, you can whistle it all you want and be
damned to you."

Kenny at the window availed himself of the privilege.

"What's the name of it?" snapped Adam after a while, ruffled by his
guest's persistence.

"'What shall I do with this silly old man?'" explained Kenny with a
grin.

"You impudent liar!" cried the old man in a high, angry voice.  "Do you
ever tell the truth?"

"Almost never," said Kenny.  "Do you?" And he went on with his
whistling.

Adam ignored his impudence.

"Well, then," he said, "it's time you began.  You're young enough, God
knows.  But it's not a youth of years.  It's a superficial youth of
spirit.  And you're old enough to tell the truth."

"How shall I learn?"

"Practice!"

Kenny wheeled.  Adam's careless dart had struck deep and sharp and it
rankled.

"Very well, Adam," he said, "I'll practice on you."

Truth!  Truth! he reflected passionately at the window.  Was the world
mad about it?  And what was the matter with himself?  Why did the
romantic freaks of his fancy always fill him now with vague worry?

"What," gasped Adam, staring, "did you say?"

"I said," flung out Kenny, "that I'd practice telling the truth and I'd
practice on you.  And by Heaven I will!"

He wiped his forehead with a shaky hand.  The room was warm, the lamp
flickering hotly in the summer breeze.  He thought of Joan and the
ferry.  Did she scull the old, flat-bottomed punt back and forth, back
and forth, when the winter wind was howling up the river?  What did she
wear when winter settled, sharp and bleak, upon the ridge?  Kenny
shivered.  He pictured her vividly in furs, warm and rosy, and hated
the lynx-like eyes of the miser in the wheel-chair who doled out
grudging pennies for nothing but his brandy.  There was much that he
could say if he told the truth; much the old man must be told if later
Joan with her secret tears was to be saved the brunt of his hellish
torment.  He would force Adam Craig to stop the ferry.  He would force
him to buy furs.  He would force him to endorse Mr. Abbott and his
kindness, force him to grant Joan her books and the right to study, if
she chose.  Why in Heaven's name should she creep through rain and snow
and shadows to the refuge in the pines?

He was dangerously excited with the fever of the old crusader in his
veins.  And then he thought of the trust in Joan's eyes when his tongue
rambled, and went cold with shame.  He must learn to tell the truth.
He would practice for his own sake--and for the sake of Joan.

With a sense of shock he realized that he had been very far away.  Adam
was choking and wheezing and gasping himself into weakness.

"For God's sake," exclaimed Kenny with a feeling of guilt, "what's the
matter?  Are you laughing or choking?"

"I'm laughing," said Adam, shaking with mirth.  "Kenny, I'm just
laughing."

"Well," said Kenny huffily, "laugh your head off if you want to.  I
mean what I say."

The old man chuckled.

"I'd be disappointed," he said, "if you didn't."

Kenny stared at him in intense disgust.  A perverse old lunatic!  He
would like his new diversion less perhaps as time went on.

"I want you to forget," Adam said abruptly, "about last night.  I
was--jealous.  I hate your health.  I--hate your straight legs--Oh, My
God!" he whispered, shuddering, and closed his eyes.  When he opened
them his smile was ghastly.

"Kenny," he said with a pitiful air of bravado, "do you know a tune, an
Irish tune called 'Eileen Aroon'?"

"Yes," said Kenny, clearing his throat.  "Yes."

"Whistle it."

Kenny obeyed.  His eyes were sympathetic,

"Well," said Adam in muffled tones, "it isn't Irish.  It's Robin Adair
and it came from Scotland."

But his voice was tired.

Kenny rummaged in the closet for his brandy.

"There are times," said Adam queerly, "when you've an open-hearted,
understanding way about you.  I believe you even know why I get drunk."

"Yes," said Kenny, "I think I do."

Adam dropped hack limply in his chair.

"It's because," he whispered, "I've--got--to--sleep!"

Startled at his manner, Kenny remembered the fairy mill and wondered.



CHAPTER XIII

KENNY'S TRUTH CRUSADE

Kenny began his truth crusade the next night.

"Adam," he said, halting on the threshold of the old man's sitting room
with one hand carelessly behind him and his attitude expectant and
determined, "I've often wondered why every book in the farmhouse is up
here on your shelves."

Adam cupped his ear with his hand.

"Wh-a-a-a-t?" he asked blankly.

Kenny brought the hand behind his back forward.  It held a megaphone.

"I said," he bellowed through it, "that I've often wondered why all the
books in the farmhouse are here upon your shelves."

Adam sat up.

"For God's sake, Kenny," he said.  "Close the door.  Where did you get
that thing?" he demanded with a scowl.

"It's Hughie's and the very sight of it was an inspiration."

"Give it to me!"

"On the contrary I intend to cure your deafness."

Adam stared.

"I mean just this: You can hear as well as I can.  You pretend to be
deaf when you don't want to hear."

"What?" snapped the old man with a glance like lightning.

"You told me to practice the truth," reminded Kenny, dropping into a
chair.  "I'm merely beginning.  I've a lot to say.  And the health of
your hearing, Adam, is an indispensable adjunct to my practice hour and
my peace of mind.  I'm merely insuring myself against your refusing
with a feint of deafness to hear what I have to say."

"For once," said Adam insolently, "you've scored.  But if ever I get my
hands on that damned megaphone, I'll burn it."

"You won't get your hands on it," retorted Kenny.  "And if you do I'll
buy a bigger one."

It was hard to begin but Kenny with his mouth set thought of Joan.  He
told Adam Craig he was a miser.

In the dreadful silence the tick of the old clock on the mantel seemed
to Kenny's distracted ears a perpetuity of measured taps upon a
death-drum.  He thought of Poe and the pit and the pendulum.  He
thought of Joan and told himself fiercely that he did it all for her;
for her he was winding around himself a chain foredoomed to clank.  And
he wondered why on earth the old man did not speak.

The suspense became intolerable.  Intensely excited, Kenny swung to his
feet.

"Well?" he said.

"Well!" said Adam and smiled a curious, inscrutable, twisted sort of
smile.  He had never looked so evil-eyed and subtle.  "One of your
greatest drawbacks, Kenny, is an Irish temper and a habit of
excitement."

"A miser!" repeated Kenny with defiance.  He must keep his feet upon
the path.  It was the prelude to all that he must say for Joan's
emancipation.

"A miser!" said Adam, nodding.  "Well, what of it?"

Kenny struck himself fiercely on the forehead, wondering if the word
had pleased and not provoked him.  The possibility shocked him into
fresh courage.  He said everything that was on his mind with deadly
quietness and an air of fixed purpose.  Then he picked up his megaphone
and started for the door.

"Adam," he said, "I've told you the truth, so help me God, in an hour
of practice.  Now, you can practice facing facts."

And he was gone.

He was courageous and persistent, with the thought of Joan always
spurring him to further effort.  Night after night he played his game
of truth and fought with desperation for the happiness of the girl
whose eyes had committed him irrevocably to a vow of honesty and fact.

He could not see that he was making any headway.

Adam listened with baffling intentness while his strange guest
practiced strangely the telling of truth.  He refuted nothing.  He
accepted everything that Kenny said with a corroborative, birdlike nod
of politeness.  With the megaphone upon the floor by Kenny's chair, he
made no further pretense of deafness.  He said nothing at all and Kenny
found his new inscrutable trick of silence unendurable.  One singular
fact loomed out above all others.  Adam shamelessly accepted the word
miser with a gloating chuckle.  He seemed to like it.  For Kenny,
generous to a fault and prodigal with money, the word embodied all
things hideous.

There were times when Kenny abandoned the hopeless battle and came at
Adam's plea, reserved and sullen.  Then with a solicitous air of virtue
the old man urged him to renew it.

"Kenny," he demanded more than once, "have you got your practicing
done?  You lack application.  If you're ever to learn truth at your
stage of ignorance you'll have to have it."

The goad went home.  He did lack application.  And Joan must not suffer
from that lack.

But in the end the old man tired him out; and the practice of truth
became a boomerang.

Adam Craig smoothly demanded reciprocal privileges.  Once more he told
Kenny the truth about himself and drove the tormented Irishman again
and again to his notebook.  It had for him a morbid fascination.  No
matter how resolute the disdain with which he began to read it, he
finished with his color high and his eyes incredulous and indignant.
The barbs failed to lose their sting.  They sank deeper and deeper.  In
a terror of defense Kenny returned to the fray with added vim.  But
Adam had a deftness with his barbs that his opponent lacked.
Compassion drove the younger man to restraint.  And Adam did not
scruple to hide behind the bulwark of his own debility.

Night after night, mutinous at the glaring fact that in this singular
battle of truth, Adam Craig was winning, Kenny rushed out into the
peace and darkness of the night to seek Joan.  It was inevitable that
he should see in the wistaria ladder the means to starlit hours of
delight.  It was inevitable that Joan, to whom the vine was no more
than an old, familiar stairway, would climb down to him with that shy
oblivion of convention that was as much a part of her as her
will-of-the-wisp charm.

They roamed in the dark silver of the star-light to the cabin in the
pines and the hours that Joan had spent with Mr. Abbott or the books
she loved, fell tinkling now with new melody into the lap of time.  In
the rude room, bright with lamplight and the trophies of childhood, the
girl listened tirelessly to a musical Irish voice that read to her with
brogue and tenderness enough to insure her interest in the reader no
less than in his task.  Kenny blessed the village congregation that had
sent Mr. Abbott forth upon his needed month of recreation.

When the nights were cool enough, they built a fire of pine cones in
the cabin stove and made tea and Kenny talked of Brian to ease his
troubled heart.  Joan listened wide-eyed to tales of the son Kenny said
was all things in one.

"And you quarreled!" said Joan.

"Yes," said Kenny.

"So did Donald and I.  How queer that is!  Was it your fault, Kenny?
Or was it Brian's?"

"It was my fault," said Kenny and lost his color.  "But I know now that
it wasn't the quarrel then that counted.  It was the things that had
gone before."

"How much you love him!" said Joan gently.

"Yes," said Kenny.  "In this world of hideous complexities and
uncertainty and--chains--of that at least I am sure."

"That," said Joan, "I like."

Mingled inextricably with this new fervor in his soul for truth, was
the memory of the inspirational stage mother.  The idle claim bothered
him more and more.  But there he was never brave enough to tell the
truth.

Well, it was a queer world and he--Kennicott O'Neill--was thrall to a
pitiful old fiend with the soul of a Caliban.  He was unspeakably
grateful for the relief of the hours when, with his conscience up in
arms, he could talk to Joan of Brian and ease his misdeeds of the past
by praise and appreciation.

A jewel of a lad!  Everybody loved his humor, his compassion and his
common sense.



CHAPTER XIV

IN SOMEBODY'S BOAT

The moon came silver in the valley and mingled with shadow among the
trees.  Owl's-light was nowhere, Kenny said, and the pines stood like
shaggy druids in the silver dusk.  The twilight of the moon he called
it.  Restless and poetic he begged Joan to help him find the lake down
yonder in the valley.  It was gleaming, to his fancy, with fairies'
fire.

They found the lake and somebody's boat.  Both were in a lonely glen.
Kenny unwillingly conceded the existence of somebody with a claim upon
the boat stronger than his own.

"But," he went on with an air of inspiration, "somebody is in the world
or he wouldn't be somebody; and the world's my friend.  Therefore by
moon-mad deduction somebody's my friend and I may take his boat."

He released the painter, smiling up into Joan's face.

"Beside," he added, "he's either a young dub who doesn't know the moon
is shining or an old cynic who doesn't care."

"Kenny!" said Joan, somewhat shocked by his inconsequent habits of
acquirement.  "I'm quite sure we shouldn't."

"Everything in the world you want to do," reminded Kenny, "you
shouldn't.  And everything in the world you shouldn't, you want to do!"

He flung his cigarette at a frog.

"The only thing to smoke on such a lake," he said, "is a fairy's pipe.
Come, jewel machree, happiness is the aim of life.  And my happiness
for the moment, is to glide forth upon the bosom of that lake with you.
Look, you can even see the gleam of silver shoes where the fairies
dance upon the ripples."

He was indeed moon-mad in mood and irresistible.  Joan smiled
compassionately at the pleading of his eyes.

"But, Kenny," she said, holding back, "the aim of life isn't just
happiness.  That might be very dreadful.  It's just happiness with the
least unhappiness to others."

He stared at her a little startled.  It was the sort of thing, he felt
rebelliously, that he should write down in his notebook.  Well, it was
no night for notebooks.  It was a night, a lake, a boat for lovers.

"Even granting that, girleen," he said, "it's not going to make
somebody unhappy if we take his boat.  For he won't know it.  And
therefore it will make us happy with the least possible unhappiness to
anybody else.  And, after all, it's more likely to be a fairy's boat,
for it's made of quicksilver.  Come, mavourneen, come!"

She climbed in unconvinced.

"Lordy!  Lordy!" breathed Kenny in delight.  "The lake is thatched with
moonbeams!"  And he thought of course of the legend of Killarney.
"'Twas a valley like this, Joan," he said, "all rich with fields and
pastures of green and there in the heart of it always was the fairy
fountain covered with a stone to keep the water from rushin' out.  And
then came the knight."

His eyes pleaded.  He was staging his legend and begging her to act.

"And then," said Joan smiling, "came the knight.  I think his eyes were
Irish."

"He saw a maid at the fountain," said Kenny, his eyes tender, "a maid
with a pitcher and her skin was cream and her cheeks were rose and
there were shadows of gold in her bronzy, nut-brown hair.  I'm sure she
wore a quaint old gown of blue and silver."

"Kenny!"

"And he liked her," said Kenny stubbornly.  "You can't deny him that."

"No," said Joan gently.  "And why should I deny it?  For the blue and
silver maid liked the knight."

Kenny's heart leaped to his eyes.

"They wandered on the hills and they wandered in the valley.  And then
the maid in blue and silver, who was all rose petals and sun shadows
and the glory of autumn, ran back to the fountain.  She had forgotten
to cover it with the stone and the valley was flooded.  There beautiful
and calm stretched the lake of Killarney and I hope it was moonlight."

"And the knight and the maid?"  Joan had forgotten their game of
pretense.  She was eager for the end of the story.

Kenny feathered his oars in silver spray and wondered impatiently why
all love stories ended in an anticlimax.  He had finished the story
artistically and well.  Luckily Joan had forgotten the stage and the
actors.

"I suppose," he said gloomily, "that the knight married the maid and
took her to dwell in a castle she must have hated.  And they lived
unhappily ever after."

Joan laughed.  She saw in his words merely a perverse dislike for
familiar endings and forgot it at once.  The moonlit lake had aroused
in her a yearning tenderness for the brother off somewhere in what,
Kenny said, Brian called his Tavern of Stars.

"Oh, Kenny," she sighed, "I wish Donald would write!"

The wish jarred.  Kenny frowned.  How could he wish it too!  And yet,
not wishing was disloyal, disloyal to Brian.  Upset, he turned, hurt
and sulky.  And presently as Joan, busy with thoughts of the truant
brother, continued unaware of the melancholy in his mood that never
failed to make its appeal to her tenderness, he began to hum.

Joan looked up.

"What a queer, wild tune!" she exclaimed.  "What is it, Kenny?  I've
never heard you sing it before."

"I never felt the need," said Kenny.  "It's called the 'Twisting of the
Rope.'  Long, long ago, girleen, a harper's gallantry to a pretty maid
angered her mother and she asked him to help her twist a straw rope.
And he did.  And twisting he had to back away and over the threshold
and the mother slammed the door in his face.  Faith, 'twas all to get
rid of him!"

It was impossible to miss the point.  Joan's face went scarlet.

"Oh, Kenny!" she said.  "You knew--surely you knew I couldn't mean
that."

It was a new delight to hear her say it.

"When Donald writes," reminded Kenny, "then I must go."  And watching
the girl's troubled face, he wondered with a thrill of triumph if at
last the madness of the summer was upon her.  Well, thank Heaven, he
was honest and honorable.  He would stay until the madness waned.
Always he was fated to climb down out of the clouds first.

Ah!  But what if Joan slipped back into sense and sanity first?  The
possibility filled him with panic.  What on earth would he do?



CHAPTER XV

IN WHICH CALIBAN SCORES

It was a prospect doomed to haunt him more and more as the summer which
had bade fail to be so full of peace, took on an indescribable
atmosphere of complication.  Where could he go, he wondered
despairingly, that life would not instantly pour around him a
distracting whirlpool of commotion?  Was he fated to rush through life
with his fingers clenched in his hair and his teeth set?  Was he
doomed, as Garry had once said, to run forever in circles of excitement?

Stumbling and tired, Kenny tried to keep his feet unswervingly in the
path of truth, colorless and uninviting as it seemed; but the strategy
of his practice hour in Adam's room he was forced to abandon, heartsick
for Joan and the future.  His battle for her he knew had been in vain.
Useless further to bombard with truth that silent, inscrutable Caliban
upstairs, whose fiendish power to drive him to his notebook when he
chose in turn to tell the truth, seemed uncanny.  And it was practice
enough to tell the truth to Joan!  God grant, in all sincerity, that he
might come to justify the faith in the dear eyes of her.

He made one last heroic effort to break his chain of thraldom.  After
an interval of bitter insubordination which ended each night in
surrender, he set his teeth and vowed by every sacred thing he knew
that to-morrow night, summons or no summons, he would not go to the
sitting room of Adam Craig.  He would secretly leave the farmhouse at
dusk with Joan and when Hughie knocked on his bedroom door, ready to
say that the old man was lonely and in pain, he would be safe and
serene in the cabin in the pines.  Was it fated to be his refuge too?

Torrential rain woke him in the morning.  Kenny stared out at the wet
valley in tragic unbelief.  It simply could not be; for he wanted a
dusk flecked with stars.  But the rain gave no promise of abating and
late that afternoon he altered the detail of his rebellion.
Fortunately there were other ways.  When the dusk closed in and the old
man watched the clock and waited, he would go boldly downstairs to the
old piano and register his rebellion in music that Adam Craig could
hear.  He would spend his evening openly with Joan; he would go through
fire and water; he would ride the whirlwind and direct the storm but
what this time he would assure his emancipation.

Instinct had warned him to abandon, in his hours with Adam Craig,
certain picturesque forms of attire in which he delighted.  To-night,
whistling with a feeling of gayety and unrestraint, he rummaged his
trunks, selecting his clothing with fastidious attention to minor
detail and held the lamp high at the end to afford a better glimpse of
the handsome Irishman smiling back at him from the mirror in the
bureau.  No doubt of it, give a fashionable tailor disposed to be
experimental, his head and enough money on account and he could create
a dash and piquancy worth while.  Always remembering that such a
creative artisan was fortunate to find a suitable contrast of shoulder
and hip to wear his inspiration.

Kenny in the best of spirits went downstairs.  The lamp in the parlor
was already lighted; soft yellow shadows lay upon the faded walls; dust
and cobwebs had long ago surrendered to the siege of Hannah's broom.
Kenny drew the curtains to close out the splash of rain upon the window
panes and went to the piano.  Even the noise of wind and rain left him
calm and cold and invincible.  He played brilliantly snatches of
everything he knew.  When Joan came and curled up in a chair beside him
with her chin upon her hand, he forgot Adam Craig entirely and went on
playing.  Not the music of rebellion; it was more the music of dreams,
dusk-moths of melody that flitted through his memory, curiously
iridescent.

He drifted dangerously after a while into the tenderness and passion of
the _Liebestraume_, the one thing perhaps that, loving, he knew to the
end; swept through the downward cadenza with exquisite accuracy and
feeling, and forgot the rest.  With the girl's soft pensive eyes upon
him he could have forgotten anything; he even forgot that love is
transient.

"Joan!" he gasped.

A loud voice rasped through the silence.

"Kenny!"

Joan shivered.  Kenny stared at her in terror.  It was the voice of
Adam Craig.

"Kenny!"  The voice, sharp with indignation, brought them both to their
feet.

"Yes?" stammered Kenny, his face scarlet.

"Do you know _all_ of anything?"

Lamp in hand Kenny went to the foot of the stairway.

"Adam," he demanded, staring up aghast at the wheel-chair and the
wrinkled, saturnine face bending over the railing with a leer of
triumph, "how in God's name did you get there?"

"Wheeled myself, you Irish fool!" snapped Adam.

Kenny went wearily up the stairway and set the lamp in a corner of the
hallway.

"Well," bristled the old man.  "Why don't you say something?  What are
you going to do about it?"

"It's the kind of night," said Kenny, "that you always have a fire.
I'm going to wheel you back where it's safe and warm."

Adam chuckled.

"That's what I thought you'd do," he jeered.

"And then?"

"Then," thundered Kenny in a blaze of temper, "I'm going back!"

As usual his show of temper filled the invalid with delight.

"Humph!" said he.  "So am I."

Kenny stopped the chair with a jerk.

"What do you mean by that?" he demanded.

"I mean," said Adam Craig, "that I'll wheel my chair back where I can
listen to music instead of rain.  And if you wheel me back I'll do it
again.  The hallway's dark and it's full of turns but I'll manage
somehow, if I break my neck."

There was danger at every turn.  A cold sweat came out on Kenny's
forehead.

"Adam," he said quietly, "how did you manage to get there in the first
place?  How did you open the door of your room?"

"Wheeled myself close to the knob and unlatched it--"

"Yes?"

"Then I wheeled myself out of the way and poked at the door with a
stick."

"Stick!  What stick?"

"A stick out of a shade.  Do you think I'm a fool?"

Kenny groaned.

"After that," purred the old man with a hint of pride, "until I got
into the dark hallway and began to bump, it was easy."

The sitting room door was still open.  Kenny wheeled his exasperating
old man of the sea over the sill in a terror of foreboding.

Adam stared at him.

"Where in the name of Heaven," he said, "did you get that rig?  You
look like an actor."

Kenny turned a dark red and ignored the question.

"Don't like it!" jeered the old man.

"There's a Shakespeare quotation," reminded Kenny dangerously, "that
begins--Hum! how does it begin?  Yes.  'There was no thought of
pleasing you' and so on.  That's it."

"You impudent devil!  Close the door."

"I'll close it when I go out.  And I'll lock it."

They faced each other in a silence perilously akin to hate.

"Are you a Christian?" hissed Adam Craig between his teeth.  "Or are
you a heartless pagan?"

"I'm a pagan," said Kenny.  "Orthodoxy, Adam," he added bitterly with
thoughts of Joan, "I leave for such compassionate hearts as yours."

"I don't want it!" said Adam instantly.  "It's churchiology, not
Christianity.  They are as different, thank God, as you and I."

A gust of wind and rain tore at the windows.  The old man fixed his
piercing eyes on Kenny's face.  Kenny shuddered and looked away.

"Hear the rain!" said Adam.

"I hear it," said Kenny hopelessly.

"And you'll lock me in!"

"Yes!"

"I'll ring for Hughie and tell him to batter the door down.  I would
rather bump myself into eternity down that hallway," flung out Adam
Craig passionately, banging his fist upon the arm of the wheel-chair,
"than sit here, alone, to-night."

With his hands clenched Kenny choked back his anger and faced his fate.
He could not lock the door.  Either he must stay or go back with the
haunting conviction that this hungry-eyed old fiend who could strum
with diabolic skill upon the sensitive strings of his very soul, would
propel himself in his wheel-chair to the stairway, there to sit like a
ghoul at the top.  Rain beat in Kenny's ears like a trumpet of doom.
He felt sick and dizzy.  No! with the memory of that last wonderful
moment when the music had blended into the fire of his tenderness, he
could not go back.  Invisible, Adam Craig would still be pervasive.  He
would jar the idyl into a mockery, the indefinable malignity of him,
alert and silent up there at the head of the stairs, floating down like
an evil wind to mingle with the reminiscent sound of rain.

"Well?" said the old man softly.

"Oh, my God!" said Kenny, wiping his forehead.  "I'll stay!"

"Good!" said Adam, moistening his lips.  "Good!  You know, Kenny," he
whispered, shivering, "I--I hate the rain."

"Yes," said Kenny wretchedly, "so do I."

"Kenny," said the old man later when Kenny had carried the lamp back
and made sure that Joan had gone to her room, "don't sulk.  You're old
enough to know better."

"I'm not sulking."

"You are."

"Very well, then, I am."

"You've had enough music for one night."

Kenny did not trouble to reply.  Whatever he said would be combated.

"Music," insisted Adam, "makes you as noisy as a magpie.  If you're not
whistling, you're singing some damned rake of an Irish song and if
you're not singing, you're at the piano battering out a scrap-heap of
tunes."

"From the first day until the last when he goes to sleep with a daisy
quilt over him," said Kenny stiffly, "an Irishman lives his life to
music."

"Humph!" said the old man, ready for battle, "the music of his own
voice, telling lies."

Reckless, Kenny used his one weapon of composure.  It made the old man
cough with fury and propel himself up and down the room in his
wheel-chair until, with a feeling of whirling fire in his brain, Kenny
wondered if a man could lose his sanity by watching an infuriated
lunatic in a wheel-chair narrowly miss everything in his way.

But he made no further effort at rebellion.  Instead he went each
night, invincible in his determination not to be outdone.  When by
playing on his pity Adam trapped him he smiled and shrugged.  When the
old man assailed him with shafts of truth, no matter what the aftermath
of communion with himself and his notebook, he accepted it with
composure and an air of interest.  When in a fury, Adam reviled him for
his phlegm, he laughed and was cursed for his pains.

"You told me, Adam," he said, "that my greatest drawback is a habit of
excitement and temper.  Excitable I shall probably be all my life.
It's temperamental.  But I'm learning to control my temper."

In a week his coolness and composure were bearing horrible fruit.

Exhausted by blind fits of rage, racking spells of coughing and more
brandy than usual, the invalid's weakness became pitifully apparent.
He seemed now but a shaking shadow, gray and gaunt.  Even the doctor,
who accepted him with fatalistic calm, confessed alarm.  And Kenny,
with his teeth set and his fingers clenched in his hair, faced another
problem.  He was to blame and he alone!  What in the literal name of
mercy was he to do?

There was one alternative left and one only.  Either he must meet the
old man's hunger for battle with a show of temper, the blacker the
better, or leave the farm for good.  But even with his thraldom heavy
on his soul the prospect of leaving Joan filled him with pain and
panic.  There remained then but the show of temper in which Adam would
be sure to thrive.

So Kenny set himself to his freak of mercy.  Thereafter, when the need
arose, he walked the floor under the piercing battery of Adam's eyes,
blazing forth a fury that, in the circumstances, with his sense of the
ridiculous upper-most, could not be real.  He raved and swore when he
wanted to collapse in a chair and rock with nervous laughter.

Keen, alert, intensely delighted, Adam began to thrive.  Chuckling he
slipped back to his normal state of debility.  Finding in the stress of
his victim's tempestuous surrender that he forgot the megaphone, he
perversely began again to have trouble with his ears.

Kenny and his megaphone returned to the fray.

Thus September came, warm and golden.  Haze, soft and indistinct lay in
the valley and on the hills.  Summer lingered in the garden but on the
ridge the nights were cool and in the swamplands, Hughie said, already
the maples were coloring with a hint of colder weather.  Here and there
on birch and poplar fluttered a yellowing leaf.

And Donald had not written.

Kenny, as the days slipped by, faced a new and tragic problem.  October
was at hand.  Work beckoned with urgent hand.  If he did not go soon
somebody would have to balance up his check book for him and tell him
how long he could live without working.  Brian, dear lad, had been a
jewel at figures.

But how _could_ he work with the thought of the winter wind and Joan
tormenting him?  And the snow-bound cabin in the pines?  And the ferry
and the ladder of icy vine?  And Adam Craig?

He could not, would not go!  And where in the name of all lunatics was
Brian?  Life in the studio without him would be impossible.  What did
he intend to do?  Could he, Kenny, settle down to work with the problem
of his penitential quest for his son still unsettled?

And why in the name of the Sacred Question-mark, was his life a string
of questions!

In the end he fled from Adam's tongue.  So he told himself.  In reality
panic plunged him into action.  His summer was ending.  His madness was
not.  And for that alarming fact he blamed Brian.

"I was worried," he remembered irritably, "and just in the mood to make
a colossal fool of myself.  And I have!"

Otherwise this seizure must have run its course by now.  It bothered
him that he had pledged himself to linger at the farm until Joan was
quite herself.  Surely the gods of love and honor would understand that
he had foreseen no such troublous dilemma as that which faced him now.
He must take himself in hand.  He must find an undisturbing level of
common sense and keep his roving feet upon it.  The need was drastic.

"I'll be back in a month," he told Joan, his lips white with compassion
for himself and her, and stared moodily at the blaze of autumn on the
hills, knowing he would not return.  "Often I've longed for a winter of
sketching in such a wild and lonely spot."

"And then," said Joan, "when Donald writes you must be here."

"I must be here," said Kenny.

That he felt was the kindest way.  Surely, surely it was the kindest.
It saved Joan the painful thought of permanent separation.  In a month
without him she would soon forget.  A month, he knew of old, worked
wonders.  Absence, he had proved again and again, never made a heart
grow fonder.  Propinquity was at once a danger and a cure.

Joan waved him down the farm lane, her soft eyes wistful.  An adorable
will-of-the-wisp!  Almost he could not bring himself to leave her.  But
for Hughie's eyes, he would have vaulted from the farm buggy, crying
her name.

"The farm," she had said with frank tears in her eyes, "will be just
like a grave without you."

Kenny knew it would.

The studio he found could match it.



CHAPTER XVI

TANTRUMS

Things went badly from the start.  Whitaker for one thing claimed to
have lost track of Brian and Kenny thought he lied.  For another, he
could not bring himself to work.  A sense in the studio of a presence
gone, he told Garry, haunted him, Brian's lazy authoritative
guardianship and the comparative order to which he could reduce
existence when he chose were indispensable to his daily comfort.

Ah! unbelievably care-free--those old devil-may-care days when Brian
had been content to work and laugh and quarrel!  Kenny, looking back
with longing, likened his plight to that of Ossian returning after
three hundred years of fairy bliss from the fabled delights of
Tirnanoge.  Touched earth he had, in spite of warning, and become on
the minute a wrinkled, old, old man.  So with Kenny.  He had touched
earth, he reflected tragically.  Never again would his fairyland be
quite the same.  Man talked of his flaws.  His fallibility they said
was monumental.  There was Adam who had morbidly incited him to a
notebook, a damnable, pervasive notebook which he tried in vain to
ignore.  There was Whitaker, to whom, at a loose end, he wrote a great
many letters of rebuke, some stately, some less so.  There was Brian,
whose absence had revolutionized his pleasant way of life; and Garry
and Jan and Sid, who at any cost merely wanted him to work.  Grievance
enough for any man who resented the disturbance of unneeded change.

The truth of it was, he owned at times, he was homesick for Joan and
fed his loneliness with letters he felt himself obliged to write.  That
was inevitable, for he had fled from an idyl and the memory of its
charm must lessen slowly.  Often with an eye upon the clock he found
himself picturing the routine of the farm and longing for its freedom
from the petty need of work.

He blew the horn beneath the willow and watched Joan cross the river in
the punt.  He climbed the garret stairway and helped her pick a gown.
He watched the Gray Man steal along the ridge, lingering in boxwood
paths and in the orchard.  And then with night among the pines and the
plaintive voice of autumn wind, Joan was climbing down the vine and
hurrying through the wood to the cabin, and Adam with his eye upon the
brandy was counting wearily when the clock struck.  How the wind would
rattle at his windows!  How the log would flare!  How Adam must be
longing for excitement!  And how glad he was that he himself had found
a safe hiding place in a lonely tree-stump for the lantern Joan had
reluctantly agreed to carry since the fall closed in.

Um . . .  Joan would be building a fire in the cabin now and drawing
the shades and Mr. Abbott would be picking his way through the pines
with a book beneath his arm.  Kenny glowered some at Mr. Abbott.  An
eye for nothing there but duty and even that he saw in a stark and
unromantic way.  And he lacked a sense of humor.  He'd proved it in the
river.  Joan answered his letters with an adorable primness that filled
him with delight.  It reflected Mr. Abbott.  But her letters ended
always with the naivete of a child.  They all missed him.

It was pleasant to be missed.

The pleasure was curiously reactive.  Kenny's irritability grew too
marked to be ignored.  Jan and Sid and Garry met and talked him over.

"What's wrong with him?" demanded Sid, amazed.  "Garry, what is it?
He's as quarrelsome as a magpie and nothing suits him.  He barks at the
club-boys and if you drift into the studio you're about as welcome as
the measles."

"It's not because he's busy," said Garry grimly.  "Nothing I've found
is further from his mind than the thought of work."

"And it's plain Brian isn't coming back," put in Jan.  "He might as
well face that fact and have done with it.  Personally I've lost
patience with him.  He acts like a sulky kid."

Later Jan improvised a "scarlet fever" placard which Kenny in the
course of time found nailed upon his door.  He read with amazed and
offended eyes that he was temporarily in temper quarantine.

It soon became apparent that life without Brian was maintaining even
more than its usual average of petty complication.  The problem of
small change Kenny found a torment.  There Brian had been a jewel.  It
simply narrowed down to this, he told Garry: No matter how he started,
he never had any.  Even a bag of change he had procured from the bank
in a moment of desperation was never to be found.  It got under things.
His eventual solution of the difficulty plunged the club into scandal
and uproar.  He found the bag of change and sprinkled coins into
everything in the studio that would hold them.

"Now," he informed Garry with moody satisfaction, "I'll always be able
to put my hand on some when I want it.  I wonder I didn't think of it
before.  I'm better with big sums.  Dimes and nickels and even quarters
make me nervous.  You know how it is, Garry.  I always have to come in
to you or do one of a number of desperate things.  And then if I can't
find a small coin and tip with a big one, Jan gets wind of it somehow
and talks by the hour about demoralizing the club-boys.  He's a pest."

The device at first bade fair to be successful.  Later there was
frenzied recourse to Garry to help him remember where on earth the
dimes were likely to be.  Later still the pages helped.  The sequel
came quickly.  The studio attained suspicious popularity with one or
two new untried boys who mined the studio in Kenny's absence and tipped
themselves.  Kenny, as scandalized as only Kenny could be, turned
sleuth and reported the thing in wrath.  Everybody missed something and
the club buzzed with scandal until the boys departed, likely, Kenny
thought bitterly, to retire for life on the dimes and nickels they had
dug out of his studio.

Why must he always be the central pivot of a whirlpool of excitement?
God knows he loved peace even if Fate never permitted him to sample it.
He laid the whole thing unconditionally at Brian's door.  Let Brian,
instead of shirking his usual numismatic responsibilities in some
indefinite green world of peace and calm, come home as he should.

As for work, Kenny loved work, Brian and Garry to the contrary.  If in
Brian's absence everything conspired against his passionate love of
industry, it was no fault of his.  Along with the torment of doubts
that assailed him, thanks to that infernal notebook, the studio kept
catapulting itself into a jungle of nerve-racking disorder in which it
was impossible to work.  And when Mrs. Haggerty fell upon it with the
horrible energy of the Philistine and found places for everything, the
studio became a place in which no self-respecting painter could be
expected to keep his inspiration or his temper.  Here again, Kenny felt
aggrievedly, was a condition which Brian's presence could have altered.
The lad had a way of mitigating order and disorder with a curious
result of comfort.

Garry lost his patience.

"You remind me," he said, "of the English squire who only drank ale on
two occasions; when he had goose for dinner and when he didn't."

Kenny remarked that the squire by reason of his nativity was a fool.
And the thing couldn't be helped.  The studio in order was impossible.
He added with an air of inspiration that it made him think of
mathematics.  Mathematics he considered a final argument against
anything.  Besides, he was unusually fallible.  Garry must always keep
that in mind.  Let the infallibles work.  If there was only something
he liked well enough, he'd drink himself to death.

"I suppose you are aware," thundered Garry, thoroughly exasperated,
"that even a painter must work to live?  The whole club's buzzing over
your tantrums.  There's been some talk of chaining you to an easel with
a brush in your hand for your own good."

Kenny as usual consigned the club to Gehenna.  Nevertheless, as Garry
saw, he winced.  Very well, he would work, furiously, as only he knew
how to work and when he had scored another brilliant success--

Fate intervened.  To his intense excitement Kenny was summoned for jury
duty.  He managed after much difficulty to place the blame of this too
at Brian's door.  Brian, he remembered, had flirted with the daughter
of an uptown judge.  Likely he had boasted about his father's
versatility.

Inevitably on the morning there was civic need of him at court, Kenny
awoke with a fever for work, shocked at his record of indolence.  Garry
found him in a painter's smock, conspicuously busy with a yard-stick
and crayon.  Everything in the studio on rollers had been rearranged.
A chafing dish of coffee, sufficient to stimulate him through a day of
fearful labor, stood upon a table beside a supply of cigarettes.

"Now, Kenny," said Garry, who was finding his responsibilities in
Brian's absence more or less complex, "you know hanged well you have
that jury thing on this morning.  I'm going with you."

Kenny filled a battered tin-cup with something he had to sniff for
purposes of identity, unearthed a number of brushes and defiantly
polished a palette with a wad of cheesecloth.

"I'll be damned if I go!" he bristled.  "I'm too busy."

Garry looked directly at him and compelled a slight faltering of his
gaze.

"It's the one day I've felt like work," blustered Kenny, squaring off
his canvas.  "You spoke of work, didn't you?  And a fool of an English
squire who ate goose?  Let the idle rich sit around in squads and swear
they don't read the newspapers.  I do.  Me on a jury!  My dear Garry!
I can't even sit still in my own studio.  You know that yourself."

Nevertheless after a heated argument he went wearily with Garry in a
taxi, particularly individualistic in his attire.  And he told the
judge in a richer brogue than usual that he was a painter subject to
irresistible fits of dreaminess and must be excused.  Garry, aghast,
stared at the judge and the judge, with peculiar interest stared at the
delinquent and excused him.

"Fortunately," Garry told him later, "your civic duties haven't spoiled
your day."

Kenny merely glanced at him with a gentle air of patience.  He would
like to remind Garry that he had wanted to work and, thanks to Brian,
the law had intervened.  Now the coffee would be cold and he hated the
sight of cold coffee.  It depressed him.

Things thickened alarmingly.  At three that afternoon, when he answered
a violent thump upon the wall, Garry found the Louis XV table in a
cloud of smoke; it was littered with vouchers and check books.  Kenny,
with his teeth set and one hand clenched in his hair, was figuring with
the speed of an expert without, Garry felt sure, an expert's results.
Brian, Kenny said aggrievedly, had always kept his check book straight.

"Look!" he flung out, indicating a problematical balance.  "Look at
that!  And the fool says I'm overdrawn."

"What particular fool?"

"Some clod of a mathematician," explained Kenny with contempt, "whom
the bank employs to insult its patrons.  Look here, Garry!  Look at
that balance.  Over a thousand dollars.  Do you wonder I told him he
had a sense of humor when he said I was overdrawn?  The young popinjay!
Arguing with me about my own balance!"

"How did it end?"

"I told him," said Kenny formally, "that the bank would most likely
demand his resignation in a few days.  And when he began to grow
mathematical and persistent, I hung up."

Garry patiently sorted the vouchers and balanced the check book while
Kenny in frenzied consideration of a new complication roved around the
studio and smoked.  He was a God-fearing Irishman.  He wanted peace.
But if ever a man's destiny knew unheard-of complication!  Well, all of
it could be traced to Brian's unscrupulous flight.  He must come back.
Kenny felt that his career was menaced.  Life in the studio had become
intolerable.  He had been embroiled in two scandals, thanks to Brian's
bouillon cups and Brian's unscrupulous shirking of numismatic
responsibility.  Everybody was talking about him; he had Garry's word
for it.  He couldn't work.  When he could he was summoned for jury
duty.  His accounts, like the studio, were in a mess and he'd
overdrawn.  If something didn't happen soon--

"Shut up!" said Garry.  "How on earth do you suppose that I can work
with you talking all over the studio?  Here are three pages of checks
when you were evidently hitting the high spots, that you've failed to
subtract.  Three on a page.  That makes your balance overdrawn."

Kenny struck an attitude of acute despair.  "God of my fathers!" he
groaned, changing color.  "It can't be.  Garry, it simply can not be!"

"It can and is," said Garry pushing away the book.

"Adams still owes me five thousand dollars for his wife's portrait,"
sputtered Kenny.

"And now he's out of town."

"What on earth did you do with Reynolds' last check?  You had enough
there to live a year."

Kenny looked dazed.

"I recognized the danger with Brian's commercial instinct gone," he
stammered, "and--and conserved my funds."

"You must have.  You bought a lot of clothes," reminded Garry.  "And
paid some bills."

"Some," admitted Kenny.

"Enough," commented Garry, "to establish, I suppose, one of your
startling flurries of credit."

Kenny had meant to pay more.  But the bank had put an end to that
to-day by intruding into his private affairs.  He'd even meant to
redeem Brian's shotgun and anything else he'd pawned.

"Lucky for Brian," put in Garry, "that you've mesmerized Simon into
holding things indefinitely even when you don't pay the interest.  And
of course you blew in a good part of the check on something foolish."

Kenny said with dignity that he'd bought a rug, nothing foolish.  It
hung over there.  An exquisite thing, sensuous and soft!  Color and
form enough to drive a man mad with delight.  He'd dreamt of the thing
for days before he bought it.  Indeed he'd meant not to buy it but
something had snapped in his brain when he looked at it.  Look at the
design.  Never once did it tire the eye, free-flowing and sure.  Its
intricate simplicity was amazing.

"And you paid a small fortune for it," said Garry.  "Don't sputter.
The voucher's here."

Kenny sulked.  Finding that Garry still had a tendency to finger
disconcerting checks and jot figures on a pad, he reached for his hat
and went out.

"I'm going to do some illustrating for Graham," he telephoned a little
later, "if I do it quick.  I'm with him now.  I presume it's etiquette
to do something financial when you're overdrawn.  Brian always watched
the bank to see that they put nothing over on me."

He disappeared from human ken for several days.  Garry, sniffing the
odor of coffee and cigarettes in the corridor outside his door,
pictured his horrible concentration.

"It's that hazy autumn sort of weather that gets me," he telephoned
nervously one morning.  "I don't want to work and I've got to finish
this stuff for Graham to-day.  He'll pay at once if I do.  Garry, I'm
going to lock the studio door and throw the key over the transom to
you.  Don't let me out, no matter what I say."

Obediently Garry at four ignored a violent thump upon the wall.  Then
the telephone rang and Kenny said with some annoyance that the work was
done.

When on the following day he found that Mr. Adams had returned and
wanted, purposefully perhaps, to come to tea, he lost his temper and
began at once to hunt cups, demanding of Garry why on earth Fate hadn't
smiled upon him before he wasted his vigor and inspiration in endless
hours of torture, doing pot-boilers.

"If he's coming to tea with a red-blooded check like that," said Garry,
"I'll lend you some decent cups.  Those bouillon cups are the limit."

"Oh, hell!" said Kenny moodily.  "I've talked with him.  I've even
answered his questions with politeness.  A man who wants to know if you
must have a north light to paint by will think it a rule of the guild
to double-handle teacups."



CHAPTER XVII

KENNY DISAPPEARS

That night Whitaker brought him news of Brian.  He was healthy and
happy and wrote no word of coming in.  There, Whitaker felt himself,
Brian was over-reticent.

"And the postmark?"  Kenny staring in disgust at a hole in his sock
transferred his glance to Whitaker.

"That," said Whitaker, "I'm not at liberty to give.  I've told you so
before."

Kenny drew himself up to his full height.

"John--" he thundered.

The door opened and Mac Brett, the young sculptor on the floor above
who harbored H. B., came in, somewhat mystified at the warmth of
Whitaker's greeting.

"Come on down to the grill to dinner," he suggested.  "Garry's down
there and Jan.  It's drizzling and a lot of men are staying in."

Kenny, moodily painting the skin beneath the hole in his sock black,
flung down the brush and found his coat.

"Once," said Mac in a panic of laughter, "he painted hairs on the bald
parts of Frieda Fuller's pony-skin coat.  Thick, plutocraticky sort of
hairs.  I shan't forget 'em.  And they melted and smudged her neck.
Remember, Kenny?  You ridged 'em beautifully--"

Kenny did not answer.  He strode toward the door.  Mac and Whitaker
exchanged comprehending glances of dismay and followed him down to the
grill.

It was a pleasant refuge from the autumn storm--that grill.  The dark
old wood framed light and color, sketches and a line of paintings.
Mac's sculptured ragamuffin looked wistfully down from his niche near
the open rafters upon a Round Table institutionally fraternal.  He
seemed always seeking warmth and food.  Kenny's old peasant in wrinkled
apple-faced cheer smiled broadly from the wall, listening to the click
of billiard balls with his painted eyes upon the doorway.

The hum and clatter at the Round Table stopped as Kenny entered.  It
was followed by an immediate scraping of chairs, pushed back, and a
hearty chorus of greeting but Kenny knew, intuitively, that the talk
had been of him.

He ate but little and went back to the studio to play dummy bridge with
Mac and Whitaker.  A loud thump on the studio door and a Morse dot and
dash announcement of identity on the bell just as he had pieced a pack
of cards together, filled him with intense resentment.

"Max Kreiling!" he said with a sniff.  And a little later: "Caesare!"
He thought perhaps, feeling as he did in a mood for murder, he wouldn't
let them in, abuse the door panel and the bell as they would.  Whitaker
did it for him.

"They'll come in and play music on my piano," he insisted sulkily, "and
sing notes into my air and I repeat I'm in no mood for music."

But Kreiling, big, blond and Teutonic, was already striding in with
Caesare at his heels.  They filled the air with joyous greetings,
thumped upon the intervening wall for Garry and unloaded their pockets
and an institutional leather bag.

"Cheese," rumbled Kreiling, "jam, coffee and mince pies."

Caesare unsheathed his fiddle and played a preposterous rag-time
interpretation of the Valkyrie's battle-cry.  It evoked an instant
response from the telephone.

"It's Mac," said Whitaker.  "He says he'll be down in a jiffy and bring
Jan with him."

"Tell him," grumbled Kenny, "to bring beer instead.  No fault of mine,
Max," he added, "if Jan comes down here and eats your cheese.  He's a
cheese lunatic.  Blame Tony.  He comes into my studio, does a Pied
Piper stunt on his fiddle and the whole building appears."

To Whitaker's amusement nobody heeded Kenny's petulance.  Caesare was
already building a wood-fire in the fireplace, complaining of the
chill.  Max Kreiling was furiously hunting missing sheets from a ragged
stack of music on the piano and grumbling in German about his host's
habits.  The fire flared.  Caesare's dark face, always tense, relaxed
into smiles.  When Garry appeared the wood-fire was blazing and Caesare
was plucking in nervous pizzicato at the strings of his fiddle.  Later
Mac arrived with beer, a loaf of rye bread and Jan, who gravitated at
once by permanent instinct to the cheese.

Kenny morosely hunted cigarettes and reflected with raised eyebrows
that the studio was never entirely his, not even when he wanted
vehemently to quarrel with Whitaker.  And last came Sidney Fahr, round
and merry, who looked casually in, nibbled at a gumdrop and professed
amazement to find so many there.  Kenny unreasonably chose to take
affront at his chronic amazement and withdrew to a corner in a state of
gloom and disgust, whence Kreiling, sensitively alive to atmospheric
dissonances, routed him forth with the heated accusation that he was
not _gemütlich_.

Whitaker looked on through a film of smoke.  Ordinarily he knew it was
the sort of evening that fired Kenny to his maddest mood of fun and
sparkle.  It was the romance of his Bohemia, the thing upon which he
fed his sense of the picturesque, ignoring the lesser things that
bothered Brian.  Men loved him.  In the glow of their camaraderie he
was always at his best, excited, joyous, irresponsibly gay and hearty.
But to-night the fun and sparkle passed him by.  Garry was right.  He
was surely not himself.  Could it be--just Brian?

"'Pagliacci!'" demanded someone.

Kreiling laughed indulgently and beckoned Jan to the piano.  His big
voice, powerful and tender, swept into the hush like a splendid bird.

Kenny snapped off the lights, plunged into tragic sadness by the
passion of his voice.  Somehow its poignant sweetness hurt.  The
droplight over the music and the flare of the fire leaped out of the
darkness like medallions.  Faintly from a corner came the whisper of
Caesare's violin, offering obligato.

Then he closed his eyes to block but the sight of rain splashing on the
window.  Enchanted rain surely!  For it transformed the single pane
into many, like a checkerboard of glass, and through it he was staring
queerly into the farm.

Kreiling mopped his forehead at the end and switched on the lights.
The silence he understood and liked but his keen eyes lingered in
surprise on Kenny's face.  His color was gone, his eyes curiously tired
and wistful.

"So!" said Kreiling gently and passed on to the cheese with deliberate
tact, pushing Jan away.  A minute later his hand came down with
heartiness on Kenny's shoulder.

"Spitzbube!" he rumbled affectionately.

Kenny laughed but Whitaker saw that his cigarette was shaking.

"Music," he reflected, feeling sympathetic, "always makes him wild and
sentimental.  And Max sang like an archangel."

"Now, Kenny," commanded Kreiling, nibbling cheese and rye bread, "play."

Kenny sullenly obeyed.  After the first effort, something rebellious
touched his sullen mood to fire and he played fragments of the Second
Rhapsodic with madness in his touch.

Sid, aware of it, stared in round-eyed apprehension at his back.

"He's just in the mood again for rocketing," he decided.

From then on Kenny's reckless gayety kept them in an uproar.

When someone clamored for a wood-fire tale he told them of Finn's love
for Deirdre.  But the discussion it provoked bored him and he dropped
back, smoking, in his chair,

"There is love and love," said Max Kreiling, "and to be in love is
torture and a thing of self, but when the big splendid tenderness comes
after the storm of self and craving, the tenderness that knows more of
giving than of demanding, it comes to stay.  But it's not the love of
barbarity like Finn's.  It's an evolution."

"Ask Kenny," said Mac mischievously.  "He's an expert."

"Love, my son," said Kenny wearily, "is poetic like summer lightning.
It flashes, blinds in a glory of light--and then disappears--in time."

He tired early and sent them home.  Whitaker longed to linger but the
moody cordiality of Kenny's good night was only too significant.  He
departed with regret.

"Garry!" called Kenny at the door.

Garry turned back.

"I meant you to wait," said Kenny irritably, "but you got out before I
could tell you."  He closed the door.  "Garry, what were the men in the
grill saying to-night when I came in?"

Caught unawares Garry flushed and stammered.

"Why," he evaded uncomfortably, "it began about the peasant picture in
the grillroom.  Everybody likes it."

"And then?"

"We talked some of the last thing you did--the winter landscape of snow
and pines."

Garry looked away.

"Out with it!" said Kenny suspiciously.  "For God's sake grant me the
privilege at least of lumping it all in one supreme period of upheaval.
They didn't like the pine picture?"

"On the contrary," Garry hastened to assure him, "Hazleton said you are
brilliantly skillful."

"Brilliantly skillful!  But?" prompted Kenny and looked a question.
"Brilliant skill," he added moodily, "doesn't always make a big
painter."

"Hazleton said as much," admitted Garry.

"I suppose it's best to tell you, Kenny," he added honestly, hoping to
spur the culprit on to more and better work.  "It may help.  They said
downstairs that you interpret everything, even trees and snow, in terms
of unreality.  You over-idealize.  I suppose it's your eternal need of
illusion.  We've spoken of that before."

"I'm not a photographer!" blazed Kenny.  "Any camera will give you
realistic detail.  Artistic too.  What else?  Go on, Garry.  I'm
calloused to the hearing of anything.  I merely thank God you've had no
newspaper training."

"Most of the older painters," Garry said with reluctance, "seem to feel
that--well, there's too colorful a dominance of self in your work.
Your personality always overshadows.  You've an extraordinary fluency
with color, a deft assurance, a brilliancy that leaves one rather
breathless and incredulous, but what you do is autocratically,
unforgettably--almost unforgivably--you!"

"Art," explained Kenny loftily, "is reality plus personality.  And
personalities are variously vivid and anaemic.  Unreal, over-idealized,
too colorful a dominance of self and personality overshadows," he
summarized after an interval of silence.  "And in the face of
that--success.  I am successful?"

"Undeniably."

"Even Hazleton, with his sordid gangs of Eastsiders nudging each other
on a dirty bench, can't deny it," bristled Kenny.

He had divided the honors of more than one exhibition with Hazleton and
admired and resented him impartially.

"It has been said," said Garry, ruffled by his air of triumph, "that
you paint down subtly to the popular fancy where you might paint up to
your own ideals."

The barb went home.  Kenny flushed.

"Your work," added Garry, "lacks the force and depth of sincerity.
Even in Brian's dreadful East River sunset over there, there's a
quality you lack, an eagerness for reality and truth and life as it is.
Brian has painted poorly what he saw but he painted boats for ragged
sailors.  Real boats.  You've painted brilliantly, in the pine picture
for instance, what you wanted to see, a dark forest for mystic folk to
dance in when the moonlight lies upon the snow."

"And what," inquired Kenny with a shade of sarcasm, "was the final
verdict of the grill jury when all the evidence was in?"

"Remember old Dirk, Kenny?  He said that the fullness of life came
through--sacrifice.  That all things, good and permanent and true, come
only out of suffering; that men pay for their dreams with pain."  He
let the full import of that drive home.  "The verdict was, that if
you'd forget your public and look for truth, paint with restraint and
less brilliant illusory abandon, you'd be a big painter."

"And that," said Kenny with icy politeness, "unalterably defines my
status as a painter.  In this club at least."

"You asked me--"

Kenny looked tired but he held out his hand.  "Dear lad," he said,
"'twas fine brave friendship to tell me--when I asked you."

Failure!  He, Kennicott O'Neill who had been decorated by the French
government!  The men in the grill then talked openly of his flaws and
the verdict, officious or otherwise, was failure.  Flaws!  He was not a
big painter.  He was merely a self-centered, impecunious, improvident
Irishman, indifferently skillful, whose vanity and self-indulgence had
driven his son off into a vague green world, God alone knew where.  He
_was_ a big painter!  Posterity would fling that back in the teeth of
men!

"Kenny!"

It was Garry's voice.

"I'm going."

"Oh," said Kenny vaguely.  "Yes, of course."

He was grateful when the door closed, though he stood for full a minute
afterward tapping on the table with his fingers.  Then indignantly he
looked up the word failure in Brian's dictionary and underscored it
heavily.

Ah! this world of his was amazingly awry and he himself was hurt and
unhappy.  After all, was there any romance, any camaraderie in the
Bohemia he once had loved.  By Heaven, no!  One had but to stare at the
studio with Brian's vision to see the thing aright.  Disorder and
carping tongues and loneliness!  God help him, how he longed to escape
somewhere, anywhere where there was peace--and faith and friendliness
in human eyes.

Afterward, a painter on the floor below, swore that Kenny had tramped
the floor all night and there had been occasional thuds.  At daylight
he had gone out hurriedly and banged the door.

Sid, entering the studio by the door Kenny had forgotten to lock, found
abundant evidence of frenzied packing and carried the news to the grill.

"I knew it," he said.  "I knew it last night.  By the Lord Harry, it
was in his eye.  Where on earth d'you suppose he's gone?"

"God knows," said Garry and heartily wished he'd kept the grillroom
verdict to himself.

At sunset Kenny blew the horn beneath the willow.

Twilight here among the vivid leaves was softly orange.  Where was the
invisible lamp, Kenny wondered with his blood singing, that filled the
world with golden dusk?  It lay reflected in the water and in the dim
and yellowed forest paths behind him.  And there behind the gables of
the farm, an autumn sunset focussed its softness into a brilliant blaze
of color.

Later when life was kind and peace was in his heart, Kenny was to paint
that picture with exquisite truth and restraint and call it "Afterglow."

At the flutter of a cloak on the cliff-path he slipped behind the
willow.

For an eternity it seemed he traced the forward sweep of the punt until
it grated on the shore.  And the surprise perversely came to him.

"Kenny!" called Joan.

There was mischief and laughter in her voice--and welcome.  And Kenny,
oblivious of the detail of his going, knew only that he stood beside
her in the golden dusk and that her eyes were curiously like shining,
leaf-brown stars.

"Ah!" he reproached, catching both her hands.  "You are a witch.
You're burning an invisible lamp of incense off somewhere in that
yellow wood and out of it comes the twilight and the secrets of the
world.  How did you know?"

"The horn was so excited!"

"The horn!"

Joan nodded.

"I know them all," she said.  "Mr. Abbott blows an apology for
disturbing me.  Mrs. Lawler is stout and when she's delivering butter
and eggs, her wind doesn't last and she gets no further than a toot,
and the blacksmith's wind is amazing--"

"Enough!" said Kenny sternly.  "You've too much wisdom.  But--"

"Of course," said Joan, "I didn't know you would ride to the village
yonder but I thought you might.  Uncle said you wouldn't come."

Kenny laughed.  Joan never knew that he had not meant to come again.

He found home in the farm kitchen and joyously pumping homely hands,
stepped at once on the tail of Hannah's cat.  Toby, after a vocal
minute of terror, fixed a hard eye upon his heel and withdrew at once
to a sheltered spot behind the stove.  He had learned before that Mr.
O'Neill with his head in the clouds was frequently unaware of feet
things.

Kenny went of his own accord to Adam's sitting room.

Almost he surprised a glint of welcome in the old man's piercing eye.

"Well, Adam," he said happily, "I'm back!"

"Humph!" said Adam ungraciously.  "I knew you would be."

By the end of the week Kenny forgot that he had been away.



CHAPTER XVIII

BRIAN SOLVES A PROBLEM

To Brian had come a problem of his own.  His vagabond days were nearly
over.  Now with the wind cool at twilight and the dawns sharp, the two
wayfarers, lean and brown as gypsies, were tramping back over the trail
of the summer, finding old fires and the delight of reminiscence.

"Don," said Brian one twilight as they swung along in the dust of a
country road, "if I'm not mistaken back yonder is the field where you
barked for a summer show.  Man alive," he added with a laugh, "how you
did bark!  Now with a summerful of health in your system and your voice
full of fresh air, I could understand it, but then!  Honestly, old top,
I didn't know it was in you!"

The boy looked up and laughed.

"It wasn't," he said with utter truth.  "You told me I could do it and
I--I just did."

"I knew you could do it!" said Brian with the vigor of confidence that
had made the boy his slave.  "Still, when you unleashed that first roar
and the crowd began to collect, I confess I thought you'd busted
something vital and were yelling for help."

Don glanced at this clothes.  The summer show had freed him from the
mended rags he hated.  Shirt and trousers, hat and shoes were as near
like Brian's as they could be.  So was the coat upon his arm and the
knapsack on his back.

"Whenever you tell me I can do a thing," he said, "and hang around to
see me do it, I can always somehow seem to make myself do it.  Look!"
he broke off with a boyish grin, pointing at a farmhouse on a distant
hill.  "There's the farm where you threw the can of whitewash at the
farmer when he swore at his wife for dropping the eggs and threatened
to lick her.  Wasn't he a sight!"

"He was!" admitted Brian.  "And wasn't he mad?  If he hadn't been a
coward he would have licked me instead.  As it was, I never fully
understood why his wife shied an egg at me.  However, that's all rather
a shady part of my past.  I'm not reminding you of the self-winding
blunderbuss you got in part payment for chopping wood, am I?  Or that
it went off by itself and shot a cabbage?"

Laughing they struck off into a twilight stretch of woods, found a
familiar clearing near a spring and made a fire.

"Well," said Brian when the fire was down to embers, "what's the
schedule?  You're road manager this week.  What do we eat?"

"Sausages," said Donald, unloading his pockets.  "A can of macaroni and
an apple pie."

"You disgraceful kid!" exclaimed Brian.  "Whenever you get into a
country store without a guard you kick over the traces and appear with
something in your pocket that busts a road rule and obligates me to a
sermon when I hate 'em.  Pie, my son, is effete and civilized.  It's
like feeding cream puffs to a wandering Arab.  You're apt to make him
stop his Arabing and hang around the spot where the cream puff grows.
However, now that you've brought the thing into camp, it would be
improvident not to eat it.  What am I, Don, wood-scout or cook?"

"Cook," said Donald.  "All day," he added, "you've been limping."

Brian made a fence of forked twigs, hung the sausages up to toast,
opened the can of macaroni and set it in the embers.  That Don had
noticed the limp gratified him immensely, even though it had been a
mere and prosaic matter of a blistered heel.

Whistling softly, he watched the boy gather wood.  Well, thank God! he
was as unlike that white-faced moody lad who had stumbled into his
Tavern of Stars as a boy could be.  He whistled a good deal.  He was as
slim as a sapling, the slimness of muscle and health.  His eyes were
clear and boyish.  And there was color in his face.  Best of all, to
Brian's mind, after the first sullen period of readjustment he had
worked his own salvation and reverted by wholesome instinct to boyhood
with its inexhaustible animal vigor, its gaucheries and its boisterous
minutes of frolic heretofore denied.  Now save for the hours by the
camp fire when he passionately blurted out again and again the tale of
his rebellion until Brian knew his life as he knew the weather-lore of
the open road, he seemed ever on the verge of laughter.

Brian smiled.  Attuned to the mood he summed up the achievement of his
own summer.  The brawn of splendid health and a clear head!  For the
one he could thank his gypsying; for the other, in a measure, he could
thank the boy.

In the lonely hours before he came with his problems there had been
solitude less soothing than Brian had expected.  There has been an
inclination to smoke and brood and nurse certain sentimental misgivings
about Kenny when the fire was low and the owls hooting in the forest.
After, mercifully--for they might have driven him back to
sunsets--there had been no time.  The life of another had made its
demand and sympathy with Brian was never passive.  Impossible somehow
not to romp with the young savage yonder rejoicing in his freedom, with
even work a lark!  Impossible not to laugh with him, fight out his
battles with him and surrender with a sigh of content to the weariness
and hunger of a caveman!

If now with autumn at hand the fortunes of the road had in them a grain
more of hardship and less of romance, it was to be expected.  Brian had
tramped to his goal.  The staleness was gone.  It was time to be up and
off, seeking Whitaker.

A sausage burst its casing with an appetizing sizzle and leaped, it
seemed of its own accord, into suicidal embers.  Brian rescued it with
a stick and looked up.  Don had come back with the wood.

"It's fall," said Brian.  "The wind's full of it to-night.  Last night
I was cold."

"So was I," said Don.  Brian thought he looked a little out-of-sorts.

"It narrows down to two things," said Brian, fishing in his pocket for
some forks and spoons.  "Either we must acquire another blanket or two
or get a job and sleep under cover until--"

The boy's imploring eyes upset him.  Brian turned a charred sausage and
sighed.  There was his problem, he knew: Don and his future.  And they
were barely twenty miles away from his uncle's farm.

"Remember the mountain quarry somewhere over there to the west?" he
asked.  "Suppose we hike over there in the morning and see if they need
some brawny arms to help 'em crush stone.  Seems to me there were a lot
of shacks up back of it on the mountain.  We could live in one of them."

"Yes."

"What's the matter?"

"Oh," said Don with an effort, "I'm a little blue.  I suppose it's the
fall."

They tramped west in the morning and climbed a winding road.  The
quarry lay ahead in the rocky wall of a mountain.

"Lord, what an out-of-the world spot!" exclaimed Brian in dismay.
"Don, you thought we were getting too close to your uncle's farm but
nobody'd find us here.  I suspect they have to build shacks to keep the
men contented.  That basin of stone looks as if it had been gouged out
of the mountainside by the hand of a giant."

A drill-runner was shouting to a man with a red flag as Brian climbed
into the pit.  The flagman waved him back.  A second later a dull blast
shook the quarry, earth and stone crumbled out of a fissure in the
cliff ahead, and the suspended labor of men awaiting the Titan aid of
inanimate force, turned to noise and bustle.

"Hum!" said Brian, glinting, "mostly dago labor.  Well, that doesn't
need to worry us, does it?  You stay here, Don, while I find the boss."

Don obeyed.  Derricks hung above the cars upon the spur track.  Farther
back a screen revolved and sorted stone.  Men were feeding the crusher
and men were busy at the drills but the boy's eyes, with an instinct
for adventure, followed a man who drove a mule-cart along an
overhanging ledge above the pit.  The task held for him a fearful
fascination.

"Needs men to load cars," announced Brian coming back, "and feed the
crusher.  In quarry caste I imagine that's about at the bottom.  The
shacks are furnished and four of them are empty.  We can take our pick.
What do you say?"

"Whatever you say," said Don.

"Well," said Brian, "to tell you the truth, I have the keys."

The quarry, he fancied as he climbed the path to the cluster of shacks,
would solve his problem for him and when the time was ripe he would
have his say.

The time ripened with frost in the morning and a harvest moon at night;
and Brian had failed to have his say.  A letter came from John Whitaker
definite in detail and a shade impatient.  Why was he loitering when
God's green world of spring had turned to autumn?  Was he still stale
and thinking wrong?

Brian set his lips to his task and spoke.

"Don," he said one night when the dishes were washed, the shack swept
and the lamp lighted, "I've been thinking a lot about you and what
you're going to do this winter."

The boy, who had been sparring with a kitten that had strayed into the
shack the day before, rose abruptly.

"You say you won't write to your sister until you've made good?"

"It isn't just that," stammered Donald, changing color.  "I--I don't
dare.  She'd beg me to come back--"

Brian nodded.

"Yes," he said.  "I know the feeling."

"And I won't go back!" flung out Donald passionately.  "I won't go
back.  I simply can't."

"It's better," said Brian sensibly, "if you don't.  For a number of
reasons.  But you must do something.  I mean something with the future
in view."

"Yes."

"As far as I can make out," went on Brian, puffing at his pipe, "you're
wildly unhappy and discontented at the farm and that worries your
sister.  Of course your absence worries her too but the two letters we
wrote that night you tumbled into my camp fire must have made her feel
a lot better, particularly since we both expressed our intention of
making the best of ourselves.  You say she won't leave your uncle
because he's an invalid.  That leaves you without any string to your
bow but your own inclination.  In a sense you've followed that too
long.  I mean, Don, shirking the course of study the old minister
mapped out for you when your sister kept on plugging.  You need it."

"Nothing mattered," said the boy bitterly.  "I knew I wouldn't stay.  I
didn't dare.  Once," he added in a low voice, "when Uncle cursed my
sister and threw a bottle of brandy at her, I made up my mind to kill
him."

"Good Lord!" said Brian, shocked.

"That's one of the reasons I don't dare go back.  I'm afraid.  You
can't guess what it is," he choked.  "He taunts and jeers and curses in
a breath and he gets drunk every night.  I wish to God he would die!"

The wish was horrible in its sincerity.  Brian ignored it.

"If you were older," said Brian, "and your chief need wasn't school,
I'd take you abroad with me, free lancing.  But in the circumstances,
with your welfare somewhere else, that's impossible."

Donald hung his head.

"I--I wish it wasn't," he blurted.  "I want to go wherever you go."

"That first night when I asked you to tramp along with me," said Brian
gently, "I said, in my letter to your sister, that I'd see you through.
That I'm going to do.  But you've got to help me.  I want you, after
I'm gone, to stay up here at the quarry, study nights, and next year
work your way through college."

The boy stared, blank terror in his eyes.

"A year's work will put you on your feet--your kind of work when the
mood is on you--and you can enter in the fall.  I know a chap who's
working his way through Yale.  He'd show you the ropes."

"Here!" said Donald.  "Alone!"

"Here," said Brian quietly, "alone.  I know you can do it."

Don brushed his hair back heavily from his forehead.  It was but little
browner than his face.  The gesture reminded Brian irresistibly of
Kenny, Kenny in rebellion.

"It isn't the college part," Don said hopelessly.  "There I think I'd
get through.  And I'd like to be an engineer.  It's the year here.  An
entrance examination would be stiff, wouldn't it, Brian?"

"Yes."

"I know chunks of a lot of things I don't need, almost nothing of
things I ought to know a lot about.  When I liked a thing, I studied.
And when I didn't I let it slide.  It worried my sister.  And I work by
fits and starts when there's nobody around to keep me at it.  Up here
alone, working all day and studying half the night, I'd never swing it.
It would mean the hardest kind of work."

"Once," said Brian, "I saw you chop wood for thirteen hours."

"You were there."

"And down there in the quarry Grogan says you can load more stone to
the hour than two wops."

"You're there feeding the crusher.  And you work as hard as I do."

Brian rose.  His pipe was out.  He knew as he knocked the ashes into a
saucer and filled again from a bowl of tobacco upon the mantel, that
Donald's eyes were upon him, abject with misery and remorse.  But
neither spoke.

Irritable and upset, Brian went out upon the porch.

The straggling cluster of shacks around the rude store were dark.
Grogan's weary men found bed early.  The moonlight was calm and cold
and weirdly bright.  A wind mournful with the rustle of dead leaves
came sharply from the trees behind the shack where by day the autumn
sun touched russet into gold and scarlet.  A bleak spot up here!  The
solitude of stone and struggle.  Could he expect Don to linger here and
fight his battle?  Brian, with the weight of his years heavy on his
shoulders, said honestly no.  And the problem still was with him.

He went down the steps and walked aimlessly along the ridge above the
quarry.  The bright emptiness below was grotesque with shadow, shadows
of ghost-like derricks, screens and drills.  On the spur track lay a
car half full of stone.  Standing there with the trainload of Donald's
labor at his feet, it came sharply to Brian that the boy stood again at
the parting of the ways.  And the year would tell.

To the right from the dank water of a quarry pool abandoned long since
to catfish and willows, a milk-white mist was rising eerily into the
moonlight.  Brian saw it but he saw it indistinctly.  He was thinking
of the boy's sister, her sweet face tragic with imploring.  It lay in
the mist and yet not in the mist, and it was binding him to obligation.
He had written a promise.  That promise he must keep.  The face his
memory etched upon the mist made its appeal to every finer instinct of
his courage.

Brian did not face his problem with excitement.  He faced it with
ruthless concentration.  All summer he had been groping through fog and
disillusion to the meaning of service, service to his fellowmen, and he
had groped through to something vague and lofty.  Service lay across
the water where men raved in the red fever of destruction, service and
inclination.  Could not one be mercifully the religion of the other?
Must service spring from the bitter dregs of self-denial?  Brian stared
wretchedly into the dank white mist curling in the moonlight like a
fallen cloud.  And again with his conscience up in arms he remembered
the face of Donald's sister.  In a sense he could thank the boy for the
peace of his summer.  And he had written his promise.  He was like
Kenny, that boy, inflammable of purpose, erratic in his vigor, and
likable.  And he needed a friend, inflexible and kindly.

"Always," said Brian, "I am slated to be somebody's keeper."

Could he shirk?  Had he shirked when he left the studio in anger?  Had
he a right to live his life his own way?  Had anybody?  His common
sense endorsed his earlier rebellion.  This was different.

"Whenever you tell me I can do a thing and hang around to see me do it,
I can seem to make myself do it somehow!"

The words echoed harshly in his ears; and at first Brian refused to
hear them.  Then inexorably he faced his fact.  He and he alone was the
spur to the boy's amazing energy.  A year?  Well, after all what was a
year?

He went back through the autumn moonlight with a sigh.

"Don," he said, "you're right.  You couldn't swing it up here alone.
I'll stick and see you through it."

Don looked up, his face scarlet with emotion.  Brian's hand was on his
shoulder.  And Brian's eyes were half humorous, half quizzical and
wholly tender.

"No, no, Brian, no!" he choked.  "I--I didn't mean that--"

"Of course you didn't," said Brian.  "I thought that much of it out for
myself."

Don's head went down upon his hands with a sob.

That night Brian wrote to Whitaker.



CHAPTER XIX

SAMHAIN

To Kenny in poetic mood the seasons were druidic.  There was May Eve
with its Bel fires when summer peeped over the hilltops at the cattle
driven through the sacred flames to protect them from disease.  There
was Midsummer's Eve with more fires, and if St. Patrick in unpagan zeal
had chosen to kindle his fires in honor of St. John, he could.  To
Kenny the festival was still druidic.  There was Samhain or summer
ending, when the November wind speeded the waning season with a flurry
of dead leaves; and to Kenny, Samhain came and drove him forth in the
chill dusk to face another problem.

He had come to the farm in blossom time and he had stared ahead to
sanity--in September at the latest.  Now with branches dark and bare
against the glorious sunsets that burned at night in the west long
after the valley was in shadow, even with talk in Hannah's kitchen of
early snow, his madness was if anything a trifle more acute.  Even the
dreaded hours with Adam ceased to trouble him in the joy of his days.
There was peace here and, thanks to Mr. Adams, who had simplified his
relations with the bank, freedom from work and worry.

The November twilight, scintillant with stars, lay darkly ahead.  He
forged through it in excitement.  He who could forecast with the wisdom
of experience the duration of his own enslavement had gone over his
time.  And, powers of wild-fire, he still kept going!  Something
emotionally was wrong.

It pleased him in a moody moment to busy himself with mathematics, much
as he hated them, and deduce a singular fact.  He had spent delicious
hours of many a day with many a maid.  But days and days and days with
one?  Not ever!

For one hour he had spent with some forgotten object of his adoration
in the past, he had spent five with Joan.  The thought alarmed him.  It
came to this.  If by rational reduction you translated each flare into
hours, the vertigo of his summer with Joan became at once in contrast
equivalent to years.  And by every law his infatuation should have
stopped the sooner.  How much longer would it linger?  What if
Christmas still found him turbulent and upset--and hating the thought
of the studio?  This furlough of his from work and worry must come to
an end in time!

Paralyzed by an infinite variety of prospects he stopped dead and
stared at the fading red behind the hills.  When had it altered--this
madness of his?  Why was it stronger?  Any man addicted to falling in
love knew well enough it shouldn't be.

It was his fate to remember as he stood there the talk of love around
the wood-fire.  He had barely listened.  Yet now his memory cast up
Kreiling's words and took his breath away.

"There is love and love and to be in love is torture and a thing of
self but when the big splendid tenderness comes after the storm of self
and craving, the tenderness that knows more of giving than of
demanding, it comes to stay.  But it's not the love of barbarity like
Finn's.  It's an evolution."

To stay! . . .  The thought was volcanic. . . .  _To stay_!

And yet . . . how different that first dizzy sweep of delight at the
sight of Joan's loveliness, from this big, nameless something that
filled his heart with humility and longing! . . .  How far away that
day beneath the willow when he had blown the horn! . . .  An eternity
lay between.

This love of his--no, it was no longer merely a storm of unrest.  It
was no longer merely a delirium of the senses in which he knew
suffering no less than ecstasy.  It was a big, kind, selfless
tenderness that grew from day to day.  A thing perhaps for eternity!

Kreiling was right.

Kenny's irreverent philosophy of the heart crumbled into ashes at his
feet.  Love he had once believed was poetic like summer lightning.  It
flashed, blinded in a glory of light and disappeared.  If it lingered
it would lose its mystery, It was a quest in which the emotion was
paramount; the object that inspired it merely essential and
subordinate.  Love was the only thing in the world worth while but
though a poet's love might fill his life with a perpetuity of delight
the object was bound to be a variant.  Kenny had often mourned for
departed madness.  He had never mourned the girl whom Chance had
appointed to inspire it.  Why mourn a flower that has bloomed and faded
when the bush is full?

And marriage?  That uncomfortable essential, legalists said, to
civilization and the transmission of property?  To Kenny marriage had
always seemed a little like the Land of the Ever-Young.  Mortals
imprisoned there soon tired of exile and longed for freedom and
distraction.  His own marriage was but a memory he refused to face, dim
and distant, an inexplicable flurry of sentimentality that had ended
tragically with Brian in his arms.  The brief year of it had been
poignant and at the end he had gone forth upon the hills, praying for
death.  That girl of long ago with the black-lashed eyes of Irish blue
like Brian's, he had loved with all the passionate tumult of boyhood;
and in the end he had lived for Brian, coming to believe as life
carelessly unfolded for him its book of heart-things that in time he
must have tired.  Lived for Brian!  Had he?  Or had he lived for
himself?

The memory he had crushed out of his heart in a panic long ago, now
left him with a terrified sense of obligation.  Why in this dreadful
moment of crisis when he had to think must even his memories accuse
him?  Brian!  Brian!  Always Brian!

The pang was spasmodic.  The immensity of his love for Joan swept
everything before it and filled him with terror and amazement.  To
stay!  Any other thought was a profanation.  And he must face another
problem.  If Joan's madness was the kind that waned, if for her there
was no madness, if the summer had left her tranquil and
indifferent. . . .  The uncertainty maddened him.

He struck a match and glanced at his watch.  It was supper time.  In an
hour now Joan likely would be coming to the cabin.  So, alas! would Mr.
Abbott.  Kenny struck off hurriedly toward the south.

The cabin was dark and silent.  He waited near it, endlessly it seemed,
smoking and wondering if his heart would ever stop its nervous
thumping.  If only she would come!  His head had begun to ache.  His
hand was shaking.  Where the blood pounded in his wrists there was a
flurried sense of pain.  And somehow the heavy odor of the pines and
the chill silence was depressing.

It was his fate to see Mr. Abbott come first.  Unaware of the Irishman
who drew back at his approach, his hot heart sick with disappointment,
he opened the door of the cabin and went in, the inevitable book under
his arm.  A second later the cabin window with its shade drawn, sprang
out of the shadow, a yellow checkerpane of light.  Kenny stalked off,
chafing intolerantly at the anticlimacteric tenor of his summer.

He saw her coming a long way off, her lantern bobbing along like a
firefly, and walked faster.  Impatience brought a cold sweat out upon
his forehead and then he needs must call her name before she could hear.

"Joan!" he called a little later.  The tenderness in his heart hurt.

The light faltered and became a fixed point in the darkness ahead.

"It is I, Kenny!" he called again.

Once more the firefly glimmer glided toward him.

"Kenny," called Joan in the darkness, "is it really you?  You
frightened me a little.  And why in the world didn't you come home to
supper?  Hannah's wondering where you are."

But his voice failed him and with shaking hand he took the lantern and
held it high above her head.  If he could but read her eyes!

Joan glanced up at him in wonder and the hood of her cloak tumbling
back upon her shoulders, bared her hair.  It shone, in the lantern
light, with an odd dark gold.  She had never seemed so lovely--or so
much a part of the lonely wood.

"Why do you stare so, Kenny?" she asked.  "And why are you so--quiet?"

"Mavourneen!" said Kenny.  And his eyes implored.

It was not at all what he had meant to say.  The word, tell-tale in its
tenderness, had seemed to speak itself.

Joan's face flamed.  But her eyes were beautiful and kind.

Kenny dropped the lantern with a crash and caught her in his arms.  She
cried and clung to him in the darkness.

"Joan!  Joan!" he said and kissed her.

He did not remember how long he stood there under the bright November
stars with Joan in his arms and his face upon her hair.  He knew his
eyes were wet.  He knew there was peace in his heart and a vast
content.  But something made him dumb and tongue-tied.

"Kenny!" exclaimed Joan.  "The lantern!"

"I know, colleen," said Kenny, "but one lantern more or less in an
epoch doesn't matter."

"Mr. Abbott will be waiting.  Suppose he came to look for me."

"God forbid!  I can't--I won't let you go."

"You must!"

"Joan, you are sure, _sure_ you love me?"

"I know," said Joan steadily, "that I love you.  I've known it since
that night upon the lake when you first spoke of--going.  I knew it
when you went.  And then when you came again.  When I think of the farm
without you it turns my heart to stone.  Every minute that I--I am away
from you, I am eager to be back."

"Bless your heart!"

She slipped out of his arms with a sigh.  His hands clung to her.

"Truly, truly, Kenny, I must go!"

"I'll come back with another lantern after supper."

"No," said Joan.  "Please don't.  Mr. Abbott might scold.  Besides,
every star is a lantern to-night.  And Uncle sent Hughie for you long
ago."

Kenny groaned.



CHAPTER XX

THE CHAIR BY THE FIRE

He went with her as far as he dared, and turned back with shining eyes
and stumbling feet.  He did not afterward remember his supper or what
he had eaten, though Hannah at his command had set the table in the
kitchen and Hughie had talked sensibly of pumpkins.  He did not
remember climbing the stairs to Adam's room.  The one thing that jarred
through his dreamy feeling of detachment was the old man's face.

"You're late!" he said.

"Yes," said Kenny happily, "I am."  Even now with Adam's piercing eyes
upon him, he had a feeling of invincibility; as if, aloof in the aerial
sphere in which he seemed to float, he could shut the old man out.

Adam stared at him with eagle-like intentness and a puzzled frown.  His
face said plainly that Kenny's mood was without precedent and therefore
strategical.  It behooved him to get to the bottom of it at once and be
on his guard.

"'Tis Samhain, Adam," said Kenny, "the summer ending of the druids.
And to-night the hills are open and the fairies are all out a-temptin'
mortals.  I myself have heard the fairy pipes showerin' sweetness
everywhere.  Wonderful music, Adam!  Silver-soft and allurin' and the
kind you can't forget!  It throws you into a trance and fills you with
beautiful longing.  I forgot to come home.  There!  I must tell Hannah
to put a light under the churn to-night.  Then the fairies, hating
fire, can't bewitch it."

[Illustration: "'Tis Samhain, Adam," said Kenny, "the summer ending of
the druids."]

Adam stared at him blankly.  He was in mad mood, this Irishman.  His
eyes, ardently blue and tender and intense, danced with incautious
gleams of laughter.  His color was high.  He was gay and utterly
friendly.

An odd jealous hunger sprang up in the invalid's eyes.

"Are you mad?" he demanded.

"Quite!" said Kenny.

"More like," said the old man tartly, "you're drunk."

"Drunk," nodded Kenny, "with heather ale.  Only the fairies know how to
make it now.  And who wouldn't be drunk in the head of him to-night
with the Good People dancing on the hills and the dead dancing with
them."

Adam frowned and shivered.

"You Irish," he said harshly, "are as morbid as you are poetic."

"'Tis all a part of the night," cried Kenny gayly and poured himself
some brandy.  "The druids," he remembered, "poured libations on the
ground to propitiate the evil spirits and the spirits of the dead; but,
Adam, I'm drinking to-night to Destiny!  To Destiny," he added under
his breath, "and the foreverness of her gift!"

"What gift," demanded Adam Craig, "are you trying to clinch with a gift
to yourself of my brandy?"

"The gift," said Kenny cryptically, "of--Life!"

Well, he had spoken truth there.  Life was love and love was life and
perhaps until now he'd known neither.

Still the old man stared at him in dazed and sullen envy.  His wild
vitality seemed a barrier impossible to surmount.

"And it isn't just Samhain," said Kenny, setting down his glass.  "Ugh,
Adam, your brandy's abominable!  It's the Eve of All Souls.  To-night
the dead revisit their homes.  Once I remember when I was tramping
through Ireland, an old woman left a chair by the fireside that the
spirit of her son might come back to her.  She even left some embers in
the fire."

"That," said Adam Craig with a shudder, "will be enough of your damned
ghosts and fairies."

Afterward to Kenny the evening was always a blur but he knew they had
gotten on badly.  And Adam, quiet and sullen, had drunk more than usual.

Kenny sparkled through the evening in a baffling, dreamlike oblivion to
everything but his thoughts, and floated away to his room, feeling
curiously light and iridescent.

He meant not to sleep.  He meant to roll the shades to the top and with
the cold wind upon his face and the stars winking in silver beneficence
overhead, to lie awake and think until the dawn came.  He slept
soundly, dreaming of thistledown and a little old woman in a green
cloak who came out of a hill and played a tune upon a sort of
lantern-flute.  The notes had winged off in bars of music written in
fire against the darkness.  He had not finished the dream when he was
awakened by someone knocking at his door.

It was Hughie, his face pale and disturbed.

"Mr. O'Neill," he said, "I'm wondering if you'd drive down to the
village and telephone the doctor to come here first.  Mr. Craig's had a
bad fall.  He's unconscious."

"Unconscious!" exclaimed Kenny, changing color.  "How on earth, Hughie,
did he fall?"

"I don't know," said Hughie sadly.  "He must have climbed out of bed in
the night."

"But, Hughie, he couldn't!"

"He could stagger a step or two," explained Hughie.  "Not far.  The
trouble's in his spine.  But he never dragged himself so far before."

"How far?"

"From his bed to his sitting room.  I found him in a heap by the fire."

"Poor devil!" said Kenny, shocked.

He dressed quickly.  Hannah helped him hitch the old mare to the buggy
and found him nervous and unfamiliar with his task.  Kenny drove off
down the lane, oppressed by the bleak wind and the bare black tangle of
branches ahead of him.  The tragic effort of Adam's wasted legs had
left him startled and uneasy.  For the life of him he could not put out
of his mind the tale of the old Irish woman and the chair she had left
by the fire on the Eve of All Souls for the visit of her dead son.  It
had bothered Adam Craig and made him shudder.  It bothered Kenny now.
He wished he hadn't remembered it last night or to-day.  But the sound
of Nellie's hoofs plodding along the soft dirt road was no more
recurrent than his own foreboding.  It filled him with sadness and
guilt.  Adam perhaps had dragged himself to the sitting room fire in a
drunken fit of superstition.  Seeking what?  Someone he had _wronged_?
The sinister spark inflamed his fancy.  His brain whirled.
Inexplicably the tale of the fairy mill and the rascal who stole the
widow's bag of meal linked itself with the mishap of the night before.
Then too Adam had fallen forward in his chair unconscious.

Nellie stumbled and jolted Kenny into sanity.  He put his thoughts
aside in horror.  But dreadful strings of mystery converged
persistently to one point: Adam Craig, the pitiful old miser who for
some reason huddled every book in the farmhouse on his shelves.  Fate
cruelly had brought melancholy into this, the first morning of his
love.  Kenny shivered with resentment.

He telephoned the doctor's farm and found him ready to start his weary
ambulant day; hamlet to hamlet, farm to farm, until dusk and often
after.  The bare thought of it filled Kenny with sympathetic gloom.
Then his brain began again to burn in speculation.  Frowning, he turned
back homewards up the hill and through the wood, where the road lay,
rough and lonely.

With his mind upon it he evolved Nellie from her harness and led her
into the stall.  When he had done with her halter he found that Joan
had slipped into the barn and stood a little way off, her soft eyes
intent upon him.

"Joan!" he exclaimed radiantly.  The sight of her was like a lilac wind
in fog.  The fog fled and you found the world clear and fragrant.

She came to him instantly, her face like a colorless flower, a faint
shadow in her eyes.

"Colleen!" said Kenny.  He kissed her gently.  Again he was conscious
with a flurried feeling of impatience that the force of his tenderness
would not rise to his lips.  He whose words of love had been so fluent
and poetic!

"Hannah sent me," said Joan.  "She was afraid you wouldn't know how to
get Nellie out of the shafts.  Oh, Kenny!"  There was quick compassion
in her eyes.

"Let's not think of sorrowful things, dear!" said Kenny swiftly.  "I
dreamed of a lantern."

"And I," said Joan, the rich rose tints he loved flaming in her face,
"I dreamed of you."

Kenny choked back the tender untruth he would have liked to utter.  For
an instant he hated the little old fairy in the green cloak who had
come forth from the hill in his dream.  How easy for the dream-god to
have made her--Joan!

"Joan," he said wistfully, "you're sure you love me!"

"Yes," said Joan.  "There is no one in my life I love so well."

"And it will last?"

Disturbed she glanced at him, her eyes dark with rebuke.

"Until the judgment day!" persisted Kenny.

"Kenny," she said, "why do you speak so strangely.  Love is love, isn't
it?  And if you who have known all things love me, how much more must I
who have lived so much alone, love and cling to you?"

He kissed her hair and pressed his cheek against it where the shadows
were soft and golden.

"I want you, heart of mine," he said steadily, "to love me in this
wonderful way that I love you.  There are ways and ways of loving."

That, in her girlhood dream of love, she could not see.  And Kenny was
passionately glad that his words were a riddle.

Then the horn came, clear and mellow, through the cold November air and
Joan drew the hood of her cloak about her head.

Kenny sighed.  He clung to her hand as she started away.

"Girleen," he said soberly, "the wind's cold.  Must you ferry the river
in winter, too?"

"Save when there's ice," said Joan.  "The bridge is three long miles
away."

From the barn doorway he watched the flutter of her cloak as she
hurried down the path to the river.



CHAPTER XXI

THE SHADOW OF DEATH

Kenny went back to the kitchen, hungry and depressed.  To his fancy, as
eager at times in its morbidity as in its lighter sparkle, the shadow
of death seemed brooding over the farmhouse.  This an hour later the
weary little doctor confirmed.  He had tired shadows around his eyes,
that doctor; he seemed always bored to death at the proneness of
mankind to ills and aches and babies; and his kind tired voice never
lost its drawl no matter what the crisis.

"It isn't just the spine trouble, Mr. O'Neill," he said.  "With that
alone he'd likely linger on for years.  And it isn't the trouble here
in his chest.  That's chronic and unimportant.  It's the brandy.  He
drinks a quart a night and he won't give it up."

"I know."

The doctor shook his head and pursed his lips.

"I think he'll just slip away without regaining consciousness.  Pulse
is barely a flutter.  Joan can tend him.   She's done it before.  Every
now and then for a good many years he's had a bedfast spell.  Poor
child!" The doctor cleared his throat.  "Well, Mr. O'Neill, such is
life!  I'll stop back to-night on my way home."

Distraught and rebellious, Kenny fought the girl's refusal to let
Hannah take her place.  She hid the mended gown he hated under an apron
of Hannah's, slipped into his arms and out again with tears upon her
cheeks, and fled from his protestations with her hands upon her ears.
Kenny followed her to the door of Adam's sitting room, frantic with
distress.  Verily, he thought, as the door closed gently in his face,
the quality of Joan's mercy was not strained.  It came like Portia's
gentle rain from Heaven.  It forgot and forgave and condoned.  But the
thought of her, flowerlike in the shadow of death, was unendurable.

Anxious to help, Kenny sculled the old punt back and forth, whenever
the horn blew, until dusk.  He had humbly pledged himself to curb a
tendency to speed and excitement and therefore ferried the river well
until a wind rose at twilight, clouds thickened overhead and a spatter
of rain blew into his face.  Then his patience waned and he tacked an
enormous sign upon the willow under one of Hughie's lanterns.  Owing to
illness, it said, the ferry had been discontinued.  Afterward he went
to tell Joan what he had done, and met the doctor on the stairway.

"By morning," he nodded slowly, answering Kenny's look.  "Yes, I'm
afraid he'll be gone.  I'd like to stay, Mr. O'Neill, for Joan's sake.
But there's a baby coming over at the Jensen farm.  There always is.
And my duty as I see it is more with life than with death."

"I'll stay with him," said Kenny.  "Joan must rest."

But she would not.

"Donald should be here too," she said.  "We are all he has."

"Then," said Kenny, his lips white, "I shall stay here with you."

The night closed in with gusty showers of rain.  There was no sound
from the high old-fashioned bed where Adam Craig lay, gray and still.
The silence, the gloom of dark wood, the grotesque shadows from a lamp
burning dimly on the bureau and the loud licking of the clock drove
Kenny with a shudder to the window.  Death to him who so passionately
loved life's gayety and its music was more a thing of horror than of
grief.  He found no solace in the wind and rain of the autumn night.
They plunged him instead into a mood of morbid imagery.  The weird
music of the wind became Ireland's cry of lament for her dead.  The
tossing boughs beyond the window, rain-spattered and somber, took on
eerily the outline of dark-cloaked women keeners rocking and chanting
the music of death.  The rain was tears.

Ochone!  Ochone!  The wind of sorrow rose and fell, rose and fell, with
unearthly cadence.  Kenny thought of the horrible Dullahaun who roves
about the country with his head under his arm and a death-warning basin
of blood in his hand ready to dash in the face of the unlucky wight who
answers his knock.

He shuddered and choked.  Then Joan slipped into the shelter of his
arm, terrified at the thought of death, cried and watched the rain with
him.

Adam Craig died at dawn with the rain he hated beating at the window.
And peace came wanly to his wrinkled face.



CHAPTER XXII

IN THE CABIN

They were hard days for Kenny, who hated gloom save when it was
picturesque and transient.  And they were harder for the pity and
misgiving in his heart.  He himself perhaps had hastened the old man's
death with a careless story.  Why had it bothered him?  Why had it
goaded his wasted legs to horrible effort?

Ordinarily Kenny knew he would have resented the intrusion of alien
sorrow into his life.  He hated sorrow.  Now for Joan's sake he made
himself a part of it.  If Joan must endure it, so could he.  But he
sickened at the need.

He was doomed to a tragic, unforgettable hour in the churchyard when
the voice of the old minister, conventional in its sadness, droned
wearily into his very soul:

"Ashes to ashes . . . dust to dust." . . .  The clock turned back and
he stood in a church by an Irish hill.  White and terrified, Kenny
remembered what in its vivid agony of detail he would fain have
forgotten.  Why, now, when Joan was slipping into his life, a lonely
waif of a girl in a black gown he hated, why must he think years back
to that soft-eyed Irish girl and Brian?  Had he broken his pledge to
her, driving her son away with a passion of self no less definite for
its careless gayety?  Eileen's son!  Eileen's son!  Sadness tore at
Kenny's heart and twitched at his dry, white lips.  Ah! why must he
live again that agonizing day when Eileen had gone out of his life
forever?

The voice went on, funereal, gentle.  Kenny's eyes blurred.  Sweat came
coldly forth upon his forehead.  At the first thud of earth he choked
and turned away, the pain unbearable.  Adam Craig had driven his nephew
away . . . with a passion of self . . . and he had died with mercy at
his bedside, not love.  A passionate hunger for Brian stirred in
Kenny's heart and made him lonely.  Ah! how farcical his penance!  Some
nameless thing of self linked him to Adam Craig.  The thought was
horrible.  Some nameless thing linked each mournful detail of to-day to
the tragedy of long ago. . . .  And then mercifully the thing became a
blur of November wind, a monotonous voice of sorrow, the thud of earth
and the end.

The coach toiled up the hill and Kenny, with Joan in his arms, forgot.

"Mavourneen," he said wistfully, "let's slip away, you and I, to the
cabin in the pines.  I want you to myself.  And there in the house--"
he looked away.  The thought of the old house, bleak and desolate at
its best and haunted now by the sense of a presence gone, oppressed him.

Joan nodded.

"And not that dress!" begged Kenny with a shudder.

She laid her cheek against his shoulder.

"It was just for to-day, Kenny.  Hannah thought it best."  Her soft
eyes, curiously child-like with the shadow of sadness in them, appealed
to him for understanding.  He kissed her, marveling afresh at the
tender miracle of peace and tenderness her presence brought him.

"Had I loved Uncle a great deal more--it isn't wrong for me to say that
now, Kenny?"

"It would be wrong, dear, if you made pretense of something you
couldn't feel."

"I--I meant that even then I could have mourned him better with my
heart than this--this dreadful dress.  It would carry gloom wherever I
went.  And that would be selfish."

He blessed her shy intelligence and kissed her again.  Then the
carriage stopped at the farmhouse door and Kenny hurried up to his room
to find clothes less formal and depressing.  Afterward he went ahead to
the cabin and built a fire.

The crackle of the wood was lively to his ears and cheerful.  The room
grew, warm and homelike.  When Joan came a little later, he was
whistling softly and making tea.  He liked her dress.  It was dark and
soft.  He liked the lace fichu at her throat.  And he liked the huge
old-fashioned cameo that fastened it.

"Hughie is hunting the key to the table-drawer," she said.  "I told him
about the cabin.  It doesn't matter now.  Poor Uncle!"  She blinked and
wiped her eyes.  "He didn't mean to be cruel, Kenny.  It was the brandy
and the pain.  If Hughie finds the key, he wondered if you'd go over
Uncle's papers to-night.  The will is there."

"The will!" said Kenny.  He put wood on the fire in some excitement.  A
miser's will!

Joan's eyes were tender.

"Kenny, how good you've been!"

"Nonsense!" he said brusquely.

"Hughie said so, too.  And Hannah and Hetty.  Someone had to think and
plan and you did it all so well.  And, Kenny, I told Hannah, that I'm
going to marry you and she cried and kissed me and--and poured a
wash-bowl full of tea for Hughie to wash his hands in!"

"The heart of her!" said Kenny.  "Come, girleen.  The tea's ready.  I
want to see you pour it."

He watched with his heart in his eyes while she poured his tea.  There
was a sense of home in the cabin here and the crackle of the fire was
the music of comfort.  Kenny drank a little of his tea and roved off to
the window to light a cigarette.

Beyond the November monotone of trees blazed the red of a sunset.  A
winter sunset!  The fall was over.

"Joan!" he called softly.  "Come, jewel machree, the Gray Man is
stealing through the pines."

She came at once and slipped into the circle of his arm.  Kenny held
her tight and found his courage.  He was restless, it seemed, and after
months of irresponsibility, the thought of work was bothering him
badly.  Kenny must leave the farm.  He must go soon; in a week.  And
his wife must go with him.

Joan's breathless amazement made him laugh.

"But, Kenny, I--I can't!" she said.

"And I," said Kenny stubbornly, "can't and won't go away and leave you
here.  The thought of winter and the hills and that barn of a house
when the wind is blowing would haunt me.  No, no, girleen!"

Joan looked up and smiled and her soft eyes were wistful.

"Kenny, I must study for another year!"

"Another year!" said Kenny blankly.  "Colleen, you've the wisdom of the
ages in your head right now."

Joan shook her head.

"I must learn to be your wife," she said.  "Now it--it dazzles and
frightens me--"

"Joan!"

"Have you forgotten, Kenny, that I have lived my life up here in hills
and trees.  And you--"

"Joan, please!" he begged in distress.

"But I can't forget," said the girl steadily.  "Whenever I read the
article Garry sent about 'Kennicott O'Neill, brilliant painter'--think
of it, Kenny!  'Brilliant painter!'--I go back and read again just to
be sure I'm not dreaming.  I've been so much alone that the thought of
going out into your world with you--terrifies me.  I could not bear to
have you--sorry!"

"Mavourneen!" he said, shocked.

There were tears upon her cheeks.

"I would only ask that you be your own dear self," said Kenny gently.
"And every man of my world and every woman will stare and envy!"

"I must know music and French," said Joan, checking the need upon her
fingers.  "I must know how to dance.  Now when I talk I must have
something to say.  Otherwise I feel shy and quiet.  I must learn how to
talk a great deal without saying anything as you do sometimes."

He laughed in delight at the final need.

"All of it," declared Kenny happily, "I can teach you."

"No," said Joan with a definite shake of her head.  "You would kiss me.
And I would always be right even when you knew I was wrong."

His eyes laughed at her mischievously.  But he caught her hands and
pressed them to his lips.

"Listen, dear," he pleaded.  "My world isn't a world of social climbers
or snobs or dollar-worshippers.  It's a world of gifted men and women
who haven't time to look up your ancestors or your bank balance before
they decide to be friendly and kind.  I know a poet whose mother was a
gypsy, a painter who's a baron and he says he can't help it, a French
girl who paints millionaire babies and her father was a tight-rope
walker in a circus.  My world, Joan, is the happy-go-lucky Bohemia of
success and the democracy of real talent.  We're actors and painters
and sculptors and writers and artists in general and all in all I think
we work a little more and play a little more, enjoy a little more and
suffer a little more than the rest of the world.  Once in a while to be
sure a head grows a bit too big and then we all take a bop at it!  But
the big thing is we're human; just folks, as a man in the grillroom
said one night.  We're human and we're kind.  It's not a smart set,
dear.  And it's not an ultra-fashionable four-hundredy thing.  God
forbid!  It's the kind of Bohemia I love.  And I'm sure you'll love it
too."

Her eyes were shining.  In the dusk her color came to him like the
glimmer of a flower.

"Kenny!" she exclaimed.  "How wonderful it all is, you and all of it!
And yet if--if I feel as I do, you must let me go for a year.
Otherwise if I lack confidence in myself--Oh, can't you see, Kenny, I
shall be shy and frightened and always ill at ease!"

"Go!" he echoed blankly.

"Somewhere," said Joan, "to study music and French and how to talk your
kind of nonsense.  Hannah says there must be money enough in Uncle's
estate for that."

"Where," said Kenny, his heart cold, "would you go?"

"I thought," said Joan demurely, "that perhaps I could study in New
York where I wouldn't be so--lonesome."

He caught her in his arms.

"Heart of mine!" he whispered.  "You thought of that."

"Then," said Joan, "I can learn something of your world before I become
a part of it.  Don't you see, Kenny?  I can look on and learn to
understand it.  I should like that.  Come, painter-man!  The tea's
cold.  And it's growing dark.  We'd better light the lamp."

With the tea-pot singing again on the fire and the lamp lighted, Kenny,
but momentarily tractable, had another interval of rebellion.  Joan, in
New York, might better be his wife.  Joan, studying, might better have
him near to talk his sort of nonsense, listen to her music and make
love volubly in French to which she needed the practice of reply.  His
plea was reckless and tender but Joan shook her head; and Kenny
realized with a sigh that her preposterous notion of unfitness was
strong in her mind and would not be denied.

"A year, Kenny!" pleaded Joan.  "After all, what is a year?  And at the
end I shall be so much happier and sure."  She came shyly to his chair
and slipped her arms around his neck.  "I want so much to do whatever
you want me to do.  And yet--and yet, Kenny, feeling as I do, I shall
be--Oh, so much happier if you will wait until I can come and say that
I am ready to be your wife."

"It will make you happier!" he said abruptly.

"Yes."

"Then, mavourneen," said Kenny, "it shall be as you say.  I care more
for your happiness than for my own."

They went back through the darkness hand in hand.



CHAPTER XXIII

A MISER'S WILL

Kenny lingered moodily over his supper.  His evening was casting its
shadow ahead.  He dreaded the thought of climbing the stairs to Adam's
empty room.  If he could have kept his hostile memories in the face of
death, he told himself impatiently, it would have been easier.  But
Garry was right.  He was wild and sentimental.  Only pitiful memories
lingered to haunt him: rain and loneliness and the old man's hunger for
excitement.

He went at last with a sigh, oppressed by the creak of the banister
where Adam had sat, sinister and silent in his wheel-chair, listening
to the music.  Memories were crowding thick upon him.  Again and again
he wished that he had never opened the door of the sitting room that
other night and caught the old man off his guard.  It had left a
specter in his mind, horrible in its pathos and intense.  Strung
fiercely to the thought of emptiness, it came upon him nevertheless, as
he opened the door, with a curious chill sense of palpability; as if
silence and emptiness could strike one in the face and make him falter.

The room was fireless and silent and unspeakably dreary.  Hughie had
left a lamp burning upon the table.  The key he had found in the pocket
of the old man's bathrobe lay beside it.

For an interval Kenny stood stock still, his color gone.  He faced
strange ghosts.  Here in this faded room, with its mystery of books, he
had known agonizing pity and torment, gusts of temper, selfish and
unselfish, real and feigned, moments of triumphal composure that now in
the emptiness it was his fate to remember with a sickening shudder of
remorse.  Here he had battled in vain for Joan, practicing brutally the
telling of much truth; and here with his probing finger, Adam Craig had
roused his slumbering conscience into new doubt and new despair.  And
here he must not forget he had told the tale of the fairy mill . . .
and suspicion had come darkly to his mind.  Suspicion of what?  That,
as ever, he refused to face.

A chair stood by the fireplace.  Kenny with a shudder moved it to a
distant corner.  He could not bear the memory of that last night when
he had barred the old man out from his joyous mood of sparkle, telling
Samhain tales of the fairies and the dead.

After all, had he meant always to be cruel, that keen-eyed old man with
his keener wits?  What conflict of spirit and body had lain behind his
fretful fits of temper?

Kenny turned, blinking, from the wheelchair, and his glance, blurred a
little, found the old man's glasses on the mantel.  The shabby case,
left behind while Adam faced the great adventure, was oddly pitiful.
Kenny cleared his throat.  He had his moment of rebellion then at the
inevitability of death and doom.  It behooved all of us, he remembered
with set lips, to be kind and mend quarrels while the sap of life ran
in our veins, strong and full.

The sight of the key upon the table sent his thoughts flying off at a
tangent.  A miser's will! . . .  Mother of Men!  It was a thing of
morbid mystery and romance!

Kenny sat down in wild excitement and opened the drawer.

He saw at once an orderly packet of papers.  The will, which barely a
month ago, Hughie said, he and Hannah had signed without reading, lay
uppermost.  Adam had written his will himself, disdaining lawyers.

Kenny opened the will and began to read.  He read as he always read in
moments of excitement, blurring through with a glance.  But though the
old man's writing was distinct and almost insolent in its boldness, the
portent of the written words did not filter through at once to his
understanding.  He frowned and read again.  Once more he read, pacing
the floor with unquiet eyes.  A number of things were becoming clearer.
There was in the first place no mention of the fugitive nephew.  Joan
was the sole heir.  There was one executor.  That executor was Joan's
guardian and Joan's guardian was one--Kennicott O'Neill!  Kenny read
the name aloud as if it belonged to someone else.  Joan's guardian!
Again he read the clause aloud with an exclamation of doubt and
unbelief.  It lay there definite and clear.  He was the sole executor
of Adam's will and he was Joan's guardian.  Startled he read the rest.

"To Kennicott O'Neill, my friend, my signet ring . . . to my niece,
Joan West, from whom, no matter what the circumstances, I have never
had an unkind word, I bequeath the Craig farm and all the land and all
the rest, residue and remainder of my wealth wheresoever situate,
provided the executor can find it."

Kenny went back with a feeling of numbness in his brain and read it all
again.

"The rest of my wealth wheresoever situate . . . provided the executor
can find it!"

Those words he scanned blankly with a feeling of much fire in his head
and a tantalizing cloud before his eyes.  They meant what?  Strange
hints and subtle smiles recurred to him. . . .  And Adam had been a
miser who read of buccaneers and hidden treasure. . . .  Buccaneers and
hidden treasure! . . .  He would have hidden pirates' gold, he had
said, under the biggest apple-tree in the orchard, under the lilac bush
or . . .  Where else had he said? . . .  And . . what . . had . .
he . . meant?

Kenny struck his head fiercely with his hand, raked his hair in the old
familiar gesture and roamed turbulently around the room with the will
in his hand.  He was conscious of that dangerous alertness in his brain
that with him always presaged some unusual clarity of vision, a
startling speed with the adding of two and two.  Four came now with
bewildering conviction.  Fragments of the puzzle of mystery that had
bothered him for days dropped dizzily into place, even the fairy mill
and the Eve of All Souls.  What wonder that in a drunken fit of
superstition Adam had staggered out to seek his dead!

With his hair in disarray from the frantic combing of his fingers,
Kenny went down to find Joan.  He read the will aloud to her,
controlling his voice with an effort.

"Don shall have the farm," said Joan.  "I shouldn't know what to do
with it."

Kenny read the baffling clause at the end of the will again.

"'All the rest, residue and remainder of my wealth, wheresoever
situate, provided the executor can find it.'"

It seemed to him in his excitement that he could not tell her what he
thought--that he could not say it all with care and calm when his head
was whirling.

"Joan," he said gently, "you must tell me everything you remember about
your mother and your father and your uncle.  And whether there was ever
money.  Much money," he insisted, his vivid face imploring.

Joan shook her head sadly.

"There is so little I remember, Kenny," she said.  "So very little.
There was never money.  I do not remember my mother or my father.
Neither does Donald.  We lived until I was eight with an old cousin,
Nellie Craig.  She said that uncle was a miser who loved nothing but
his brandy.  Then she died and we came here.  We had to come.  There
was no other place for us.  I remember that Don's clothes and mine were
always ragged until I grew old enough to mend them.  Then I found
mother's trunks in the garret.  Later Don and I thought of the ferry
and had for the first time some money of our own."

Kenny looked crestfallen.

"And there is nothing more?" he said.  "Think, Joan, think!"

"Nothing," said Joan.  "Donald and I were afraid of Uncle.  We never
dared to ask him questions.  And he never spoke of my mother save to
sneer and curse the stage.  What is it, Kenny?  What are you thinking?"

"I think," said Kenny, making a colossal effort to speak with the calm
he could not feel, "that somewhere buried on the farm is a great deal
of money.  I think it belonged to your mother and that it was left in
trust to your uncle for Donald and you--"

"Kenny!"

"I think," went on Kenny steadily, "that this singular clause in your
uncle's will was a miser's struggle between justice and his instinct
for hoarding and hiding.  Money he had kept so long he hated to
relinquish.  Yet he dared not keep it.  And so he buried the money.
God knows how or where, and shunted the responsibility of its finding
upon me.  If it was never found, as perhaps he hoped, he had still
fulfilled his trust and the dictates of his conscience in willing the
money back to you."

"But, Kenny, how could he bury it?"

"How often," reminded Kenny, "has Hughie in summer wheeled him out to
the orchard and left him there?  How often has he wheeled himself
around the walk by the lilac bush?  And he was clever and cunning.
Could he not, from time to time, hide the money in his bathrobe and
find some means of digging?"

Joan looked unconvinced.

"And where," she said, "would my mother, who earned her living on the
stage, get money?  A great deal, I mean?"

"I--I don't know," said Kenny, wiping the sweat from his forehead.  "I
wish I did.  Sometime or other, Joan, there has been Craig money and a
lot of it.  This old house is the house of an aristocrat with money
enough to gratify expensive whims.  Either the money was willed to her
or with the beauty she must have had, she married it.  They are the
things you and I must find out somehow.  Of one thing I am absolutely
convinced.  There is money.  It did not belong to your uncle.  It is
hidden somewhere on the farm."

He told her of the fairy mill, of the old man's gloating pride in the
word miser, of All Souls' Eve and Adam Craig's hints about the apple
tree and the lilac bush.

"And many another place," added Kenny bitterly, "that slipped by me for
I didn't listen!"

"It is unlikely," Joan said, "that he would find the opportunity for
hiding money in so many places.  Why then did he name them all?"

"His conscience forced him to give some inkling of the spot where he
had hidden money not his own.  But he purposely multiplied our chances
of failure.  Joan, I've got to get a spade and dig up the apple-tree!"

His excitement was contagious.  Neither of them heard Hughie in the
doorway until he spoke.

"Mr. O'Neill," he said eagerly, "have you read the will?"

Kenny struck himself upon the forehead and stared at Hughie in genuine
resentment.  Hughie was another problem.  But Hughie's quiet eyes
pleaded; and Hughie's ruddy face was honest.  Kenny told him all.

"I'm not surprised," said Hughie.  "From the minute I set foot here
three years back, I said, and Hannah said, that Mr. Craig was a miser.
And it's common talk in the village."

But Kenny was off through the doorway with the will in his hand.  Joan
and Hughie followed him to the kitchen.

Here when the will had been read again commotion seized them all.
Hughie went out to the barn to hunt a spade, Hannah trotted about
talking of wraps, Hetty found a lantern for Kenny and Kenny burned his
fingers lighting it, and stepped on the cat.  Joan soothed the outraged
feline with a nervous laugh.  There was madness in the air.  In an
interval of blank disgust in which he criticized the length of the
cat's tail and the clarion quality of his yell, Kenny fumed off
barnwards in search of Hughie.  His excitement was compelling.  Hannah
headed a cloaked exodus from the kitchen, chirping an astonishment
which she claimed was unprecedented in her quiet life.

They straggled up the orchard hill in a flutter.

It was snowing a little.  The coldness of the air was soft and heavy.
Hannah and Hughie held the lanterns high and with a startling attack
that made the dirt fly, Kenny began to dig.

The lantern light rayed off grotesquely through the leafless orchard
but the silent group, intent upon the energetic digger, watched only
the spot where the fan-like rays converged upon the spade.  The wind,
sharp, intermittent and bringing with it now and then a flurry of snow,
flapped their clothes about them.  Kenny, pausing to wipe his forehead,
thought the night warm.  Joan's eyes, dark, solemn, frightened, spurred
him on to greater effort.  He dug furiously, flinging earth in all
directions.  Hughie marvelled at his madcap speed and the strength of
his sinewy arms.  His jaw was set.  His face, dark and vivid in the
lantern light, shone with a boy's excitement.  But when the wind came
he looked defiant.  They could not know that to him, then, the spirit
of Adam Craig seemed to come with a sigh and a rustle and hover near
them.

Hughie took his turn at the spade but to Kenny his methodical
competence proved an irritant.  He was glad when Hughie's back gave out
and forced him to surrender.

"Mr. O'Neill," said Hannah flatly after what seemed an interminable
interval of digging, "you've dug a hole big enough to bury yourself.
Mr. Craig's money couldn't be no further down than that.  Myself I
think you'd better let it go until morning.  It's snowin' harder every
minute and we'll all get our death of cold."

Kenny shuddered at the homely phrase.  But he wiped the dirt and
perspiration from his forehead and went off toward the kitchen in
gloomy silence, his energy and optimism gone.



CHAPTER XXIV

DIGGING DOTS

So madness settled down upon the Craig farm.

Futile, flurried days of digging followed for which Kenny, delving
desperately in his memory, supplied forgotten clues.  Fearful lest the
villagers might take it into their heads to climb the hill to Craig
Farm and help them dig, he pledged every one to secrecy and went on
digging, with Hughie at his heels.  The suspense became fearful and
depressing.

On the third day Hannah rebelled.  The gloom and mystery were getting
on her nerves.

"Hetty," she said irritably, "if you're standin' at the window there,
figurin' out where Mr. Craig's money is likely to be buried, you can
stop it this minute and clean the lamps.  Your father's out pulling up
the floor-boards in the barn and Mr. O'Neill's digging up the lilac
bush for the third time.  And that's enough.  It beats me how Mr.
O'Neill can go on rememberin' so much now he's got his memory started.
He just seems to unravel things out of it overnight.  It keeps me all
worked up.  I feel as if I ought to whisper when I speak and every
night the minute I get to sleep I find myself diggin' in first one
outlandish place and then another.  And if I'm not diggin' in my sleep,
your father is, with jerks and starts and grunts enough to wake the
dead.  I'm all unstrung.  So far as I can see the only thing we're
findin' is nerves.  One thing I will say: It was dull and lonesome
before Mr. O'Neill came and I missed him when he went but dear knows,
it was peaceful.  It's been one thing right after the other.  Who upset
Mr. Abbott in the river, I'd like to know, and almost hit him in the
head with an oar?  Who kept Mr. Craig so upset that he threw his brandy
bottle at your father most every morning?  Who sang the roan cow into
kickin' at the milk?  Who--"

"Sh!" said Hetty.

It seemed that Mr. O'Neill at that minute was not digging up the lilac
bush.  There was a sound of hurried footsteps in the room beyond and he
came in with a piece of letter paper in his hand.

"Look, Hannah," he cried.  "Look!  I found it among Mr. Craig's papers.
It's a rude chart of the farm, picked out here and there in dots."

Hannah wiped her arms and put on her glasses.  The paper filled her
with excitement.

"Sakes alive, Mr. O'Neill," she exclaimed, "what will you do now?"

"Do?" said Kenny wildly.  "Do?  There's only one thing to do, of
course.  Hughie and I will dig up the dots.  I wish to Heaven I could
find a Leprechaun somewhere under a thorn-bush."

"What's a Leper John?" demanded Hannah.

"A fairy shoemaker," explained Kenny absently, "in a red coat and he
wears buckled shoes and knee-breeches and a hat with a peak and always
he's mendin' a shoe that he doesn't finish, find him and never once let
him trick you into lookin' away and he'll tell you where treasure is
hidden, always."

Hannah blinked.

"What ye need most to my mind, Mr. O'Neill," she said earnestly, "is a
regiment of grave-diggers and stone-cutters to help you and Hughie get
the thing done."

Night came upon them with Hughie digging up a dot beside the well and
Kenny again in the orchard.  Everything led back somehow to the
orchard, his memory, the chart, even his own conviction.

That night in a dream Kenny distinctly saw the weary little doctor with
a bag of mystery in his hand and a spade over his shoulder walking down
the orchard hill.

He awoke at dawn with a shiver of excitement.  The doctor!  What could
be more reasonable?  Adam had known him for a lifetime.  Whom else
would he trust?  The thought nerved him to heroics.

Kenny climbed out of bed and dressed, shiveringly conscious that the
morning was cold enough to turn his breath to steam.  It was that
period of indistinctness moreover when farmers and roosters, he knew,
were getting up all over the dawn, but Kenny, with little time and no
inclination at all for melancholy rebellion, tip-toed down the stairway
with his shoes in his hand.  He put them on by the kitchen fire.  There
was water by the window in a milk-pail.  He poured some in a basin,
washed his face and hands and found the water cold enough to hurt his
face.  Still his excitement kept him keyed to a pitch of singular and
optimistic hilarity.  Through the kitchen window came the pale glimmer
of snow.  He hoped Hughie wouldn't hear him harnessing Nellie, and
shoot at the barn.  The possibility sent him to the kitchen stairway.
It wound upward in an old-fashioned twist to the room above.

"Hughie!" he called in a low voice.  "Hughie!"

There was a noise of many creaks overhead.

"I'm going to hitch up Nellie and drive over to Dr. Cole's farm.  I--I
feel sure he buried the money!"

"God Almighty!" exclaimed Hughie.

But Kenny was already on his way to the kitchen door.



CHAPTER XXV

CHECKMATE!

Daylight came bleak and cold as Kenny drove rapidly up the doctor's
lane.  The aggrieved mare had traveled.  Through the farm window, green
with potted begonias, Kenny could see the doctor already at his
breakfast.  A young colored girl was pouring out his coffee.  The
doctor himself opened the door.

"Well, Mr. O'Neill," he exclaimed, "who's sick?  Not Joan, I hope?"

"No," said Kenny, following the doctor back to the table.  "No, nobody
sick."

"Sit down," invited the doctor, "I always figure you can talk as well
sitting as standing and you can rest.  Won't you have some breakfast?"

"I couldn't eat," said Kenny.  "Doctor," he added hoarsely, "would
it--be possible--for me--to speak to you--alone?"

The doctor nodded.  In a life made up of emergencies as his was,
nothing astonished him.

"Annie," he said kindly, "just tell Mrs. Cole not to hurry down to
breakfast.  And close the door."

Kenny took the will from his pocket and spread it on the table.

The doctor wearily fumbled for his glasses and put them on.

"Hum!" he said.  "The old man's will, eh?  I've been wondering about
it.  Well, he didn't leave much but the farm, did he?  And it might
have been better for Don and Joan if he'd taken it with him.  Nobody
around here would buy it.  A barn of a place!  And the land's full of
stone."

"Ah!" said Kenny significantly.  "But Adam Craig was a miser!"

"Pooh!" said the doctor with a sniff.  "Who told you that?"

Kenny stared.

"I found it out for myself," he said stiffly.  "Since then I have
learned that it is common rumor in the village.  And the old man, even
when I--I spoke of it directly to him, never troubled to deny it."

"Shucks!" said the little doctor crossly.  "He liked it.  It saved his
pride."

"Saved--his--pride!"

The doctor nodded.

"Mr. O'Neill," he said, "country folks stare less unkindly at a miser
than at some other things.  It hurt Adam, knowing his guilt, to see the
old Craig home going to rack and ruin.  Had a lot of money when his
father died.  A lot.  And he wanted folks to think he still had it.
But he didn't.  Went through it, Mr. O'Neill, hitting the high spots.
Came home a penniless wreck of a man, body and soul and pocketbook
warped beyond recall.  I was there when they settled up his estate.  As
a matter of fact my brother was his lawyer.  And what he hadn't lost in
gambling and dissipation he lost speculating in Wall Street.  Oh, he
never tried the miser stunt with me.  He knew that I knew that he
hadn't a cent."

"Not a cent!" echoed Kenny feebly.  "Not a cent!" He cleared his
throat.  "Not--a cent."

"Not a cent," said the doctor cheerfully.  "And barely a living from
that farm."

"Dr. Cole," said Kenny steadily, "he may have lost his own money.  Of
that I know nothing.  But what about his sister's?"

"Why," said the doctor at once, "she hadn't any.  Old Craig senior left
it all to Adam.  She ran away, you know, and went on the stage.  He
never forgot it.  'Tisn't much of a story.  She was a darned pretty
girl, high-spirited and clever, and the old man was a devil like Adam.
A scandal of that kind fussed us up pretty much in those days.  I
remember I went to see Cordelia once in some old-time play.  She was
wearing those old gowns that Joan, poor child, wears now.  Always had a
feeling after that that I was a part of the scandal.  Mother," he added
dryly, "felt so too."

The doctor shook his head lugubriously.

"She was a widow when she died," reminded Kenny.

"Yes."

"The money I mean must have come from her husband and she entrusted it
to Adam for Joan and Donald."

"But my dear fellow," said the doctor kindly, "he hadn't any.  He was
an actor chap.  Cordelia came home to the farm to die while Adam was in
Europe.  She hadn't a cent."

"Not a cent!" said Kenny again.  "Not a cent!"

"Not a cent," repeated the mystified doctor.

"Oh, my God!" said Kenny.  "And I've dug up the farm!"

It was the doctor's turn to stare.

"You dug up the farm!" he said blankly.

Sick with discouragement Kenny pointed to the will.

"Read it," he said bitterly.  "Particularly the 'remainder, residue and
situate' part."

The doctor read and he read slowly.  Before he reached the clause in
question Kenny was on his feet, mopping his forehead.  He told of the
fairy mill and the chair by the fire.

The doctor poured himself another cup of coffee and looked at Kenny
with a shade of asperity.  Fairies, it would seem, were a little out of
his line.

"Adam had a good many spells like that," he said, "'specially when he
was drinking hard.  Off like a shot, hanging out of his chair.  Mere
coincidence.  As for the night he staggered out to the sitting room, it
is possible as you suggest that he did it in a fit of drunken
superstition.  But there wasn't any money on his conscience.  Couldn't
be for there wasn't any.  If he feared at all to have his sister
revisit her home--queer notion, that, Mr. O'Neill!  You Irish run to
notions!--it was simply because he hadn't given her kids a square deal
and he knew it."

Again the doctor adjusted his glasses and went back to the will.

"Doctor," flung out Kenny desperately, "I myself have seen indisputable
proof in that house that Adam Craig was a miser--even the way he
handled money."

The doctor sighed and looked up.  And he smiled his weary,
understanding smile.

"What you saw, Mr. O'Neill," he said soberly, "was something very close
to poverty.  He was selfish and he had to have his brandy.  His economy
in every other way was horrible.  Horrible!  As for the way he handled
money, as I said before, he wanted you to think he was a miser.  It
seems," added the doctor dryly as he went back to his reading, "that he
was a grain too successful."

"He hated his sister," blurted Kenny.  "Why would he hate her and
revile her memory unless he knew he had wronged her?  Why did he have
black wakeful hours in bed and have to drink himself to sleep?"

"Adam," said the doctor with weary sarcasm, "fancied his sister had
brought disgrace upon the grand old family name of Craig.  She was a
good girl and clever.  But Adam believed in sacrifice and conventional
virtue--for women.  Most men do.  And he knew the way folks feel up
here about the stage.  The world's queer, Mr. O'Neill.  And Adam was
just a little queerer than the rest of it.  In a sense he had wronged
her.  God knows he was cruel enough to those two poor youngsters.  As
for his passion for drinking himself to sleep--well, when a man's had
straight legs and plenty of health, such a fate as Adam's hits hard.

"He hated Joan and Donald," said Kenny.  "Why?"

"He resented their drain upon his pocket-book.  He hadn't enough left
for them and brandy too.  Though the Lord knows they never cost him
much.  Nellie Craig had them for a while after Cordelia died.  Good old
soul, Nellie.  But her tongue hung in the middle and worked both ways
like a bell-clapper.  I always blamed her for the start of the miser
yarn.  Adam managed to get it over on her and that was enough."

He made a final effort to read the will and while Kenny sat in stony
silence, choking back a creepy feeling of despair, reached the clause
pertaining to the residue of Adam's wealth.

"Ah!" he said.

"Well?" choked Kenny.  "Is there some damned commonplace explanation
for that, too?"

The doctor tapped the paper with his stubby finger.

"And you," he marveled, "who knew so well his devilish cunning!  That
clause I think was his last cruel jest."

Kenny turned white.

"A trap!" he said.

"A trap," said the doctor.  "And you've swallowed bait and trap and
all."

"How he must have hated me?"

"On the contrary," said the little doctor warmly, "I think in his way
he was fond of you.  He counted the hours until nightfall, that I know."

"And I--" said Kenny with a sharp intake of his breath, "I killed him
with that story of the chair."

"Oh, nonsense, nonsense!" said the doctor kindly.  "Chair or no chair
he would have died just the same.  I saw it coming.  And your presence
there this summer freed him entirely from money worries.  He even paid
me."

"Yes," said Kenny, "my money helped him drink himself to death."

The doctor sighed.

"Oh, well," he said, "that too would have happened just the same."

Kenny brushed his hair back dazedly from his forehead and rose.  He
felt as if he had fallen from a great height and hit his head.  It was
numbly aquiver.  As he picked up the will and put it in his pocket,
Adam Craig, sinister and unassailable, seemed to mock him from the
grave.  His last trap!  Almost Kenny could hear him chuckle:
"Checkmate, Kenny, checkmate!  And the game is won."  How well he had
known his opponent's excitable fancy!

"Doctor," asked Kenny drearily, "why were all the books in the
farmhouse in Adam's room?"

"There," said the doctor, "I think he meant to be kind.  Cordelia had
had all sorts of schooling and so had he.  I think by denying the
youngsters books and too much knowledge, he thought to clip their wings
at the start and keep them contented.  In tune with the farm, I mean,
and willing to stay.  He'd seen enough of ruinous discontent when his
sister and himself went out in the world and tried their wings.  Just a
fancy.  I may be wrong.  Well, Mr. O'Neill, I'm sorry.  There's no
mystery and no money--"

"No," said Kenny dully, "no mystery and no money."  He moved toward the
door with a curious trance-like feeling that this was still a part of
his dream.

"Just a commonplace story of self," said the doctor, following him to
the door, "with two ragged little kids the victims.  Myself I think
it's just as well, Mr. O'Neill, to say as little as possible about
things of this sort.  Tales up here grow.  And fire that isn't fed goes
out.  It's bound to.  I never had the heart myself to deny the old
man's miser yarn.  When I do talk, I try to say as little as possible
and keep my two feet solidly on the ground."

He watched Kenny down the steps and into the buggy.

"Humph!" said the little doctor.  "Thought he had his fingers on a
regular swap-dollinger of a mystery, didn't he?  To my thinking, the
only mystery in the farmhouse is himself!"

And Kenny, climbing into the buggy in hot rebellion, felt that he had
come decked out gorgeously in rainbow balloons.  And the doctor,
practical and unromantic, had pushed a weary finger through them, one
by one, watching them collapse with his bored and kindly smile of
understanding.  Life after all, reflected Kenny irritably, was a matter
of adjectives and any man was at the mercy of his biographer.  He
himself could have told that story of Adam and Cordelia Craig until no
man could have called it commonplace and unromantic.



CHAPTER XXVI

AN INSPIRATION

Afterward Kenny thought that Nellie must have ambled into the doctor's
barnyard and turned herself, for he had no memory of guiding her.  A
paralyzed conviction of another anti-climax had gripped him.  He
remembered turning into the road with a haunting sense of eyes upon
him--Adam's eyes, piercing and bright with malevolent amusement.  The
chart!  The hints!  The will!  The cunning of him!  What would he tell
Hughie and Hannah and Hetty?  What would he tell Joan?  What was there
to tell save that he had put two and two together and made five, a
romantic five lurid with melodrama?

And the brutal practice hour in Adam's room when he had told the truth!
Kenny went sick and cold and shivered.  How unwittingly he had flung
the old man's poverty in his teeth!  How at times it must have hurt!
The memory made him shrink.  And it hadn't been truth.  He had battled
for Joan with misinterpretation and cruelty; he had practiced the truth
with the telling of untruth.  And the proud old man who veiled his
poverty with pretense, had listened, listened inscrutably and laughed,
ready to thrust from the grave itself.

Ah!  Fate was forever flinging down her gauntlet.

"To Kennicott O'Neill, my friend, my signet ring."  His friend!  In
spite of the practice hour--his friend.  Kenny's eyes smarted.

"Oh, Adam, Adam!" he said, sick at heart, "I beg your pardon."

The snow crunched steadily under Nellie's feet.  Kenny stared sadly at
the road ahead.  Could he tell Joan what now he knew: that when the few
bills were paid and the estate balanced, there would be no money left
for the year of study?

Perhaps Joan would marry him now--at once--to-morrow!  And they could
leave the farm together.  After all there was silver to his cloud.
Kenny brightened.

A preposterous notion of hers, that unfitness.  The memory of the
sunset hour in the cabin came again to darken the silver lining of his
cloud.  Joan's arms, Joan's voice, Joan's eyes had pleaded; it would
make her happier to wait and study and watch his world before she came
to it, his wife.

Kenny sighed.

It would make her--happier.  And the problem still was with him.

Kenny cursed the evil in the world that had forced men to convention.
If only he could help her!  If only--

A car was coming up behind him with a familiar noise of rattle.  It was
the doctor.  Kenny sat up, alert, inspired, excited.

"Doctor," he called cheerfully, "is there a long distance telephone
near?"

"A mile on.  Road to the right," called the doctor, inwardly amazed at
his visitor's mercurial disposition.  "They call it Rink's Hotel.  Not
much of a place.  Really a road house.  But you'll find a telephone."

Kenny found the telephone at Rink's Hotel in a pantry near the barroom
and closed the door to insure his privacy.  It seemed an interminable
interval of waiting, an interval of blankness filled with voices
calling numbers on to further voices, before the Club Central answered.
Again he waited, tapping with impatience on the table.  When the voice
came he wanted, it was far away and drowsy.  Kenny looked at his watch.
It was not yet eight o'clock.

"Garry," he said, "is that you?"

"Yes.  Who's calling?"

"It's I--Kenny."

"Kenny!"  Garry's astonished voice came clearly over the wire.  "Kenny,
where on earth did you go?" he demanded.  "And what's the matter?  Is
anything wrong?  What are you doing up in the middle of the night?"

Kenny snorted.

"Garry," he said, "I'm mailing to you now in a very few minutes my
check for four thousand dollars--"

"Say it again."

"I said--I'm mailing to you--my check--for--four thousand--dollars."

"Wait a minute, Kenny.  This wire must be out of order."

Kenny swore beneath his teeth.

"I said," he repeated with withering distinctness, "that
I--am--mailing--to--you--my--check--for--four--thousand--dollars.  And
I want you to cash it in old bills.  Get, that, Garry, please.  Old
bills."

"Old bills!" repeated Garry in a strangled voice.  "For the love of
Mike!  . . .  _Old bills_!"

"Garry!  For God's sake, listen!  This is absolute, unadulterated
common sense.  I want you to get that money in old bills, the older the
better.  Ragged if you can.  And I want you to send it to me, Craig
Farm, by registered package, special delivery."

"Are you in some mess or other?  Because if you are I'll bring it."

"No, I can wait.  I particularly don't want you to bring it.  I can't
explain now.  I'll write you all the details.  Then I want you to get a
statement from the bank.  Even with the four thousand gone, my balance
ought to be at least a thousand dollars.  See what they make it."

"Yes."

"Next I want you to call up Ann Marvin and ask her if she's still
looking for another girl to share her studio with her . . . Ann Marvin."

"Peggy's with her."

"I know that.  She said she wanted a third girl.  If she does, tell her
I'm bringing my ward--"

"Your--what!"

"My--ward--"

"Kenny," came in cold and scandalized tones from the other end, "have
you been to bed at all?"

"If you make any pretense at all of being my friend," roared Kenny in a
flash of temper, "will you do me the favor of assuming that I'm
serious?  I'm not drunk.  I'm not insane.  I've slept the night
through.  And I'm tired and terribly in earnest."

"You did say your ward."

"I did.  Mr. Craig--the uncle, you remember, an invalid--died.  And
he's made me the guardian of his niece--"

"The poor boob."  Garry's voice was sad and sincere.

"Garry!  Are you or are you not my friend?"

"I am."

"Then listen.  Next I want you to ask Max Kreiling for the name and
address of the French woman he knows who teaches music--"

"Just a minute, Kenny, old man.  Let me say this all after you.  I am
to cash your check for four thousand dollars in old bills.  Ragged if
possible.  I am to send it registered and special delivery to Craig
Farm.  I am to call up Ann and tell her about your--your ward.  And I'm
to ask Max for the name of the French woman who teaches music."

"Right.  Garry, has Brian been back?"

"No.  John Whitaker may have heard from him.  I don't know.  I haven't
seen him.  Oh, by the way, Kenny, Joe Curtis was in here blazing up and
down my studio.  Said you promised to paint his wife's portrait.
What'll I tell him?"

"Tell him," said Kenny, "to go to--No, never mind.  I'll be needing to
work.  Tell him I'll be back in New York positively by the end of next
week."



CHAPTER XXVII

MISER'S GOLD

He was passionately glad in the week that followed that Fate, prodigal
in her gifts to him, had made him too an actor with a genius for
convincing.  For he had to go on digging dots, feigning wild excitement
when his heart was cold within him.  He hated spades.  He hated dirt.
He almost hated Hughie, who went from dot to dot upon the chart with
unflagging zeal and system.  Kenny himself dug anywhere at any time and
moodily escaped when he could to write letters.  He was getting his
plans in line for departure.

He had settled the problem of the doctor, after an interval of bitter
struggle, with a combination of fact and fancy.  He said truthfully
that the doctor had rejected all notions of buried money with his usual
air of weariness.  He added untruthfully--and with set teeth he
challenged the Angel Gabriel to settle the tormenting problem in any
other way--that the doctor had conceded the probability of Adam's
burying money though he had had but a few thousand dollars at best to
bury.

"That," said Hughie, "is enough to dig for!"  And he went on with his
digging.

The need was desperate and Kenny did his best.  Of the doctor's story
of Adam and Cordelia Craig he told enough.  And he kept on talking
miser's gold when he hated the name of it.  His air of excitement, said
Hughie who talked endlessly of dots, dug and dreamed them, kept them
all upon their toes.

At nightfall of the third day when Kenny's hatred of dots was
approaching a frenzy and a ballet of spades danced with horrible rhythm
through his dreams, the package came from Garry.  Kenny took it with a
careless whistle and went slowly up the stairs.

The closing of his bedroom door transformed him.  He found matches and
a lamp and marveled at the erratic pounding of his heart.  It was a
muffled beat of triumph.  Mad laughter, tender and joyous, lurked
perilously in his throat.  His feet would have pirouetted in gay
abandon had he not, with much responsible feeling of control, forced
himself to walk with dignity and calm.  But his nervous flying fingers
fumbled clumsily with string and paper and taxed his patience to the
utmost.

The bills were incredibly old and ragged.  Kenny stared at them with a
low whistle of delight, blessing Garry.  Moreover, Fate and Garry had
chosen to solve a problem for him by packing the bills in a strong tin
box.  To unpack the money and dent the tin was the work of a moment.
When he had darkened the shining surface with lamp-smoke and rubbed it
clean with a handkerchief which he burned, the box, discolored and
dented, had an inescapable look of age, like the ragged bills.

Kenny went through the dark hallway to Adam's room with cat-like tread,
the searchlight that had been a part of his road equipment in his
pocket, a bag of wood-ash, purloined the day before from Hannah's
kitchen, and the battered box tucked unobtrusively beneath his coat.
He locked himself in and drew a long, gasping breath of intense relief.

Though wind creaks startled him again and again as he made a pedestal
of faded books for his searchlight and directed its glaring circle upon
the blackened wall of the fireplace, no dreaded hand upon the knob
disturbed him.

He worked noiselessly and with care, removing the lower bricks with his
penknife.

Brick after brick he loosened, burrowing deep in the solid wall; then
with infinite care and patience he walled the money in, filled the
crevices with wood-ash and hid the remaining bricks in the chimney.

He went down to supper with an unusual air of calm, but his head was
aching badly.  Hughie, Joan said, was nearing the last dot.  He was
discouraged and Hannah was cross.  Kenny toyed absently with the food
upon his plate.

"Mavourneen," he said, "I'm wondering."

"Wondering what, Kenny?"

"If perhaps the chart isn't purposely misleading--"

"Like Uncle's hints to you?"

"Yes."

"I hadn't thought of it."

"Every clue we have found has sent us out of doors."

"Would he, I wonder, Kenny, hide the money in the house?"

"I'm wondering too."

"The sitting room!"

"There," admitted Kenny, "he was often alone."

"Kenny, shall we look to-night?"

Kenny had his moment of doubt.

"We'll ask Hughie," he said.

And so with Hannah scoffing but noticeably on ahead with the lamp, they
climbed the stairs and tore the room to pieces--to no avail.  In a
final burst of inspiration Hughie dragged the faded carpet from its
tacks and filled the room with dust.  Sneezing and coughing, they faced
each other in the melee with looks of blank discouragement.  Even
Kenny's inexhaustible energy and excitement seemed on the point of
waning.  He stared drearily at the fireplace.

"It's cold in here," he said, shivering.

"Yes," said Joan, "we should have built a fire."

"The fireplace!" cried Hughie hoarsely.

"It's too late now," said Kenny irritably.  "I'm chilled through."

"No, no, Mr. O'Neill, I'm not meaning the fire.  It's the one place we
haven't looked."

"It won't hurt none to look, Mr. O'Neill," urged Hannah, who knew that
Kenny's energy was subject to undependable ebb and now.  "If Hughie
goes out of here with that fireplace on his mind, he'll dream all night
about it."

Kenny strode to the fireplace with Hughie at his heels and jerked
impatiently at the mantel.  It was sturdy and unyielding.

"I feared so," he said with a shrug.

Hughie seized the lamp.

"Hold the lamp, Mr. O'Neill," he begged, crouching.  "I've got to look
at them bricks.  Careful, sir!  You're tipping it."

Huddled in the glare of the lamp they stared in fascination at the
smoky bricks.

"The bricks are loose!" exclaimed Hughie.  "Look here!"  He rattled one
with his finger.

Kenny emitted a long low whistle of intense amazement.

"Hughie, where's your knife?" he flung out wildly.  "I think we're on
the trail!"

"The lamp's shaking!" warned Hannah.  "Let me hold it."

"Oh, my God!" gasped Hughie with the dot fever flaring in his honest
eyes.  "That ain't mortar.  It's only ashes.  Look!"

Kenny frantically pulled out a brick and dropped it with a clatter.
Another and another.

"Hold the lamp closer, Hannah!" directed Hughie, reaching within.
"There's something here!"

Shaking violently he pulled forth a battered box and flung back the
lid.  It was stuffed to the brim with ragged money.

"Glory be to God!" cried Kenny and proceeded to pull the mantel down.

But he found no more.

"And to think of him burrowin' there in the bricks," marveled Hannah,
"and him that weak a child could push him over."

"Ah!" said Kenny, "but his will was strong."

He counted the money with trembling fingers and a smile, curiously
pleased and tender, and declared his belief that the doctor was right.
The ragged hoarding--he shivered slightly with revulsion as he touched
a tattered bill--represented the rest, residue and remainder of Adam's
wealth wheresoever situate.  And thanks to Hughie's inspiration the
executor had found it.

"Four thousand dollars!" he announced at last in a voice of
disappointment.

"And a lucky thing," said Hughie with an air of pride, "that I thought
of the fireplace.  For it might have laid there buried for the rest of
time."

"Four thousand dollars!" gasped Hannah in a reverential voice.  "Four
thousand dollars!  Well, Mr. O'Neill, it may not be much, as you seem
to think after all the dots you and Hughie have been a-diggin', but I
say it's a lot.  It ought to buy the child all the frocks and teachers
in New York."

"It will see her through the year," said Kenny.

Joan's eyes widened.

"It would see me through a decade!" she exclaimed.

Kenny smiled.



CHAPTER XXVIII

KENNY'S WARD

Peace came mercifully to Craig farm with the finding of Adam's money.

"Toby," Joan whispered to the cat, her soft cheek pressed against his
fur, "I'm going away.  And I can't believe it!  I can't!  I can't!  I
can't!"

"Toby will miss you," said Hannah.  "And so will I.  And so will Hughie
and Hetty."  She cleared her throat.  "As for Mr. O'Neill, Toby won't
be likely to miss him at all.  He's stepped too many inches off his
tail.  Hughie thinks it must be paralyzed.  I never saw Mr. O'Neill
headin' for a new dot but what I knew Toby would be sure to stick his
tail in the way and start a row."

Joan's face clouded.

"Oh, Hannah, if only I knew where Donald is!"

Hannah sighed.

"I wish you did, dear."

"It seems so dreadful with Uncle gone and everything changed.  And
Donald doesn't even know.  Think, Hannah, I may pass him in the train."

"You may," said Hannah.  "And then again you mayn't."

"What if he comes home?  What if he writes?  It seems that I just
should be here."

"If he writes, I'll send the letter.  And if he comes, Hughie can ride
down and telegraph you word."

"It's snowing," exclaimed Joan at the kitchen window.  "Harder and
harder.  Oh, Hannah, if it keeps up we shan't be able to go to Briston
to-morrow for my suit."

"We'll go in the sleigh.  Hughie spoke of it at breakfast."

"A brown suit," mused Joan with shining eyes.  "A brown hat and furs!
Think, Hannah!  _Furs_!  I do hope I shall look well in them."

"Mr. O'Neill said you would and he ought to know."

Joan laughed and blushed.

At twilight the next night she came home dressed warmly in furs and a
suit the color of her eyes.

"She would wear it home, Mr. O'Neill," whispered Hannah on ahead.  "And
all, I think, to surprise you."

Often afterward Kenny remembered her there in the half twilight of the
kitchen, joyously crying out his name.  There had been a glimmer of
shining tin, a halo of light from the tilted stove-lids, purple at the
window panes and beyond snow and the distant tinkle of sleighbells in
the barn.  Hetty, he remembered, had lighted the kitchen lamp and
gasped.  A lovely child, proud and mischievous!  Her youth startled him.

In a week she was ready and eager to go but the day of farewell found
her clinging to Hannah in a panic.

When at last the old Craig carriage creaked slowly away down the lane
with Hannah and Hetty waving from the farm-porch, the spirit of
adventure flickered forlornly out and left her sobbing.

"Good-bye, Hannah dear!" she called, her eyes wet and wistful.
"Good-bye, Hetty!  And--and don't forget to write me _all_ the news!
And don't let Toby catch the birds!"

Hughie, blinking and upset, stared straight ahead at Nellie's ears.

Kenny sobered.  How great his trust!  Hannah, waving her apron back
there and wiping her eyes, trusted him.  And so did Hughie and Joan and
even perhaps old Adam Craig; and Mr. Abbott whose gentle grilling he
had endured with merely surface patience.

"Don't cry, Joan, please!" he begged, understanding how dear familiar
things are apt to loom in the pain of separation.  And then with her
hand to his lips, he pledged himself to make her happiness the religion
of his love.  It was a pledge he was destined to keep inviolate.

Ordinarily to Kenny, impatient in intervals of discomfort and delay,
the trip with its rural junctions and branch roads would have been
interminable torture.  But to-day, with Joan's eyes, wide, dark,
intent, he chose to marvel with her.

They lunched at noon between trains in a little country inn.  At seven,
having come after much fragmentary travel into a comforting world of
express trains and Pullmans, they dined in the train itself.  Joan
watched the flying landscape, dotted with snow and vanishing lights,
smiled with the shining wonder of it all in her eyes, and could not
eat.  Kenny tried scolding and found her sorry, but she could not eat.

By eleven, when the train thundered into the terminal at Thirty-third
Street, New York was wrapped in a scudding whirl of white dotted
dizzily with lights.  Already to Kenny, buoyant, excited and inclined
to stride around in purposeless circles, the lonely farm was very far
away.  He was back again in his own world with the roar of the city in
his ears--and Joan beside him.  Ah! there he knew was the reason for
his gladness.  Joan was beside him.

The taxi he commandeered threaded its way south through a maze of
lights, hurrying crowds and noisy, weaving traffic to a tenement in
Greenwich Village.  Joan, searching for the unknown sparkle of that
Bohemian world she had been unable to envisage, stared at the
unromantic basement doors ahead and clung to Kenny's hand.

"It's quite all right, mavourneen," he assured her mischievously.
"Bohemia and poverty rub shoulders down here.  It's picturesque.  And
my club is only five blocks east.  Beyond this door there's a
mysterious magic tunnel that runs straight through the house to
Somebody's back-yard.  And in the back-yard is a castle and in the
castle studios and skylights, electricity and steam heat and wide,
old-fashioned fireplaces.  Once it was a tenement--just like this with
fifty dirty people in it--but Ann with her magic wand has changed it
all."

The basement door at which he had been ringing a prolonged Morse dot
and dash announcement of identity clicked back and revealed a dimly
lighted tunnel.  At the end a flight of steps led up into a courtyard.

Kenny closed the outer door and blocked out the roar of the city.  New
York receded, its hum very far away.  Their heels clanked loudly in the
quiet.

As they climbed the steps and came out in the courtyard, Ann's windows,
trimly curtained, twinkled pleasantly through the snow ahead.

A girl stood waiting in the doorway.

"Hello, Ann!" called Kenny joyously.  "Is it you?"

"Hello, Kenny!" cried a pleasant contralto voice.  "Hurry up.  It's
snowing like fury."

Kenny seized Joan's hand and raced her across the courtyard and up the
steps.  When she came to a halt, shy and breathless, she was standing
by a crackling wood-fire in a room that seemed all coziness and color
and soft light.

A tall girl with black hair, a clear skin and intelligent eyes was
smiling at them both.

"Kenny," exclaimed Ann Marvin, "you Irish will-of-the-wisp!  Where have
you been?  Everybody's talking about you.  Joan, dear, shake the snow
off your coat.  You're beginning to melt."

Joan's eyes opened wide at the sound of her name.  Ann laughed and
pinched her flushed cheek.

"My dear," she said drolly, "I know more than your name.  Kenny sent me
a letter of measures, spiritual, mental and physical that would turn
Bertillon green with envy.  If ever you default with all the foolish
hearts in New York I'll turn you over to the police.  And you'll never
escape."

Joan clung to her with a smile and a sigh of relief that made them both
laugh.

"Ann," said Kenny in heartfelt gratitude, "you're a brick.  I don't
wonder Frank Barrington's head over heels in love with you.  You'll not
be mindin', Ann, dear, if I use your telephone?"

"Sure, no!" mimicked Ann broadly.  "It's yonder in the den."

Kenny at the telephone called the Players' Club and with his lips set
for battle, asked for John Whitaker, whose methodical habits of
diversion for once in his life he blessed.  When Whitaker's voice came,
brief and somewhat bored, he forgot to say: "Hello."

"Whitaker," he demanded, "where's Brian?  You must know by now."

"Kenny!  Is that you?"

"Yes."

"Where on earth have you been?"

"Away.  Where's Brian?"

"Where's Brian?" Whitaker snorted.  "He ought to be in a lunatic asylum
if you want my honest opinion.  As to where he is, I told you before
and I'm telling you again, I'm pledged to secrecy.  I've even destroyed
his address so I wouldn't be tempted--and my memory couldn't be worse.
I'd like to say right now, however, that he's more of an O'Neill than I
thought and I'm through with him."

"Phew!" whistled Kenny, much too astonished for battle.  "What--what's
up, John?"

"What's up?" barked Whitaker, his voice tinged with acid.  "Just this:
I handed the young fool a job that ten of the best newspaper men in New
York were pursuing and he turned me down cold to stay all winter in
some God-forsaken quarry where he's hacking up stone--"

"Hacking up stone!"

"Feels philanthropic.  Grinds stone all day and at night helps a kid
he's known six months cram for a college exam.  Damon and Pythias stuff
and I'm the goat.  Pythias is seventeen by the way and wants to work
his way through college."

"Mother of men!" said Kenny softly and thought of Joan's relief.

"Sounds very beautiful and lofty in a letter," went on Whitaker,
angling for sympathy, "but of all the damned, high-falutin' lunacy I've
ever seen in men, that's the limit."

He waited, confident in his expectation that Kenny would agree.  The
voice that came back fairly bristled with virtue and approval.

"You filled his head with notions about service, didn't you, Whitaker?"
demanded Kenny indignantly.  "What's your idea of service anyway that
now when Brian's got a chance to be of absolute service to a kid who
needs him, you kick up your hind-heels and howl your head off.  Sort of
a boomerang, isn't it?  You came up to my studio, old man, and unloaded
some facts.  Let me unload one right now.  I'm with Brian.  I think
he's a brick and a jewel for sense.  And you can go to thunder!"

And Kenny, with a gasping gurgle in his receiver ear, smiled sweetly
into the telephone and hung up with Whitaker roaring his name.  He was
amazed, delighted and triumphant, uppermost in his mind the thought of
Joan's peace of mind.  No further need to worry over Donald.

He kissed his finger-tips to Ann who appeared in the doorway.

"Your ward," she said, "is toasting her toes by the sitting-room fire.
Kenny, she's a dear!"

"As sweet," said Kenny proudly, "as an Irish smile!"



CHAPTER XXIX

THE STUDIO AGAIN

The night-watchman at the Holbein Club greeted the prodigal with a
broad smile of welcome.

"Wonder, I says, to the new bell-hop, I do wonder where Mr. O'Neill's
got to.  Everybody's been wonderin'.  Mr. Rittenhouse most of all," he
added, stopping the elevator at Kenny's floor.  "I heard him grumblin'
just last night in the elevator to Mr. Fahr.  Mr. Fahr seemed to feel
that you were off with the heathen somewhere paintin' 'em all up into
pictures."

Kenny found the studio in a soulless state of order and blamed it
instantly upon Garry.  Fifteen minutes later, gorgeous in his frayed
oriental bathrobe and his Persian slippers, he banged on the wall and
evoked a muffled shout of greeting.  As usual Garry might or might not
be in bed.  Kenny's time values had not altered.

Garry came at once in bathrobe and slippers.

"Lord, Kenny," he exclaimed warmly, "I'm glad you're back and sane.
But I'm mad as a wet hen!"

"At me?  My dear Garry!"

"You didn't write, you know, after you said you would.  You never
do--"

"I telegraphed instead."

"Your telegram," reminded Garry, "said 'O.K. Kenny.'  And I'm chuck
full of curiosity and questions.  Sit down.  Every chair in the
studio's on a furlough."

"So I see."

"You left the studio in something of a mess.  Sid tried to straighten
it out and nearly had brain fever.  Got to babbling and wringing his
hands and we sent for Haggerty.  She went on an order bust for two
days."

"The old shrew!  I suppose everything in the place is under something."

He found cigarettes and a chair and settled back with an air of lazy
comfort.

Garry made no attempt to disguise his impatience.

"Kenny," he said, "you're the limit.  If I'd ever telephoned into your
slumber and asked you to find four thousand ragged dollars and mail
them to me, and if I'd said I'd accidentally acquired a ward and was
bringing her back with me, you wouldn't sit there in patience and wait
for facts.  Mind, old dear, I want the truth.  It's likely to be a lot
queerer than anything you can make up."

Kenny sighed--and told the truth.  Garry listened in amazement.

"Kenny," he said slowly, "you've roamed off before and gotten yourself
into some extraordinary messes and I honestly thought that summer in
China had taught you a lesson.  But this tale of Adam Craig and the
miser money is the king-pin of them all.  You've absolutely got to
house-clean that instinct for melodrama out of existence.  It's a
peril; and furthermore expensive."

"Don't rub it in," said Kenny.  "Whatever you can think to say, I've
already told myself.  Though," he added pensively, "it's queer, Garry.
Wherever I go, things begin to thicken up before I've had a chance to
be at fault in any way.  And I'm so darned sick of anticlimaxes."

"You keep yourself keyed up to such a pitch that anything normal's got
to be an anticlimax!  Think of you digging dots when you knew there
wasn't any money!  Think of you with a ward!  Oh, my Lord!" finished
Garry with a gasp.  "It's incredible.  It--it really is."

Kenny flushed and gnawed nervously at his lips.  Could he tell Garry of
Samhain?

"And think of you," said Garry, his voice changing, "salting the old
man's fireplace with your own money so that his niece could come down
here and study French and music!  You wonderful, soft-hearted Irish
lunatic!  I love you for it!"

Kenny rose at once and began to bluster around the studio, damning
Haggerty.  There was something disturbingly warm and honest in Garry's
eyes.  Then with a sudden gesture of impatience he came back and his
troubled glance begged for understanding.

"Garry," he blurted, "there's one thing that probably we shan't be
telling people for a year at least.  And that is--that I love this girl
better than my life and I'm going to marry her."

He waited with a fierce hurt challenge in his eyes for irreverence and
incredulity and even perhaps good-natured jeers, but Garry, sensing
something big and unfamiliar, held out his hand.  Kenny wrung it in
passionate relief.

"What's my balance?" he demanded.

"I'm sorry I forgot that, Kenny.  It's eight hundred and forty odd
dollars."

"As usual," bristled Kenny, "they're lying."

Garry refused to discuss the point.

"And Brian, another Irish lunatic!" he marveled, shaking his head.
"Did Max write you the name of the French woman?"

"Yes.  'Twas a Madame Morny.  I've written her.  Garry, darlin', where
on earth did you find that inspired collection of green rags?"

"The bank managed somehow."

"Weren't they curious?"

"They were until I said the commission came from you.  After that
nobody asked anything."

Kenny went with him to the door, dreading the emptiness of the studio.
He was a little homesick for the farm.

The order was irresistibly reminiscent of Brian, of the notebook and
the struggle that had driven him forth, a penitent, upon the road.  The
fern was dead, like the first fever of his penance.  The thought upset
him.  Then something drew him to the door of Brian's room and he peered
in and closed it with a bang.



CHAPTER XXX

PLAYTIME

December found Joan with dark, happy eyes intent upon the rose-colored
phantasmagoria of existence, her worriment past.  Donald was safe with
Brian.  It hurt her a little that he did not write.

"I think, girleen," said Kenny, intuitional as always, "that he fears
to write, thinking of course you are still at the farm and would try to
tempt him back.  And I haven't a doubt he's set his teeth and vowed not
to come to you until he's made good."  As indeed he had.

After that, save for a wistful moment now and then, she seemed content,
trusting Brian.

Unhappiness lay behind her like a forgotten shadow.  After the
loneliness and the dreams and the hills, her playtime too had come as
Donald's had come to him in Brian's world of spring; and life was
whirling around her, brilliant, breathless, kaleidoscopic and
altogether beautiful, a fantastic fairyland that kept her dazzled and
delighted.

It had no shadows for her wondering eyes; the shadows lay behind her.
New York with its shops where with Ann she had gasped and laughed and
colored and stared into mirrors, its lights, its crowds, its theaters,
its opera where Max Kreiling sang and left her with a sob in her heart,
its amazing Bohemia of success of which Kenny was a part, seemed to her
but a never-ending sparkle of romance and kindness.  She spent
unwearied hours in Ann's studio, masquerading in a sculptor's smock and
staring at clay and marble with eyes of unbelief.  And she tarried for
amazed intervals in the studio upstairs where Margot Gilberte plied
Cellini's art, embedding pennyweights of metal in hot pitch that,
cooling, held it like a dark and shapeless hand while Margot sculptured
elfin leaves and scrolls upon it.  Curious things came to the jeweler's
desk where Margot worked; jewels cut and uncut, soft-colored
sea-pebbles, natural lumps of greenish copper, silver and gold and
brass (to Margot's eye there were no baser metals) malachite and coral
and New Zealand jade.  Joan handled them all with gasps of reverence.

"And this, Margot?  How green it is!"

"A peridot for a dewdrop in a leaf of gold.  And there, Question-mark,
are the pink tourmalines I propose to use for rosebuds in this necklace
of silver leaves."

"And blue sapphires!"

"They are for pools of sea-water in some golden seaweed and the pearls
are for buds in some cherry leaves."

"What an odd frail little tool, Margot!"

"I made it myself," said Margot.  "And now, cherie, if you don't run
along to Madame Morny, Kenny will scold me."

She delighted Madame Morny with her willingness to work.  She delighted
Kenny with her willingness to play.  Nothing tired her.  Together they
roamed to the quaint little restaurants of Bohemia; the Italian table
d'hotes where Kenny was inclined to twinkle at the youthful art
students who affected pretentious ties, the quiet old German restaurant
that once had been a church, Chinatown where you ate unskillfully with
chopsticks upon a table of onyx, and the Turkish restaurant where
everything, Sid said, was lamb.

"Garry found it," he insisted.  "I didn't.  I'm glad I didn't, though a
lot of the Salmagundi men go over there and like it.  The art students
too.  Forty cents.  Proprietor's the real thing--he wears a fizz."

"Fuzz, darlin'," corrected Kenny gently.

"Fez!" sputtered Sid in disgust.  "Fez, of course.  Everything's got
lamb in it, even the pastry and the coffee.  I swear it has!  I--I hate
lamb.  Didn't know the Turks went in for it so much, did you, Kenny?
Jan computed a table of lamb percentages on the menu and I felt like
bleating.  'Pon my word I did.  Menu's got a glossary and needs it.
Pilaf--that's rice.  Lamb's something else.  No, pilaf's lamb, and rice
is something else.  Oh, hanged if I know.  Lamb's lamb no matter how
you spell it."

"Come along with us," suggested Kenny.  His kindliness of late had
startled more than one, accustomed to his irresponsible caprices.

"Please do!" said Joan; and Sid, delighted, and amazed as always,
repudiated at once his hatred of lamb.  It was nourishing, he recalled
at once with a brazen air of sincerity, and the Turks disguise it in
amazingly enticing ways.

Joan laughed.

"Sid," she said, "you're a dear, blessed fibber and we want you with
us."

Her poise and adaptability were startling.  Her simplicity won them
all.  To the girls who lived in Ann's studio building she seemed all
laughter and happiness and breathless eagerness to please.

"She's just herself," said Peggy Jarvis, who lived with Ann and smiled
over the footlights each night in comedy that was comedy and to crowds
that were crowds, "She doesn't know that half the world is posing."

Joan spent an afternoon in Peggy's dressing room during a matinee and
came home with moist, excited eyes.

"Think, Peggy, think!" she exclaimed.  "Once long ago that was my
mother's life."

Peggy kissed her and rummaged for cigarettes.  Joan's eyes rested upon
her pretty face with troubled indulgence.

"Oh, Peggy," she pouted.  "Why do you smoke?"

"Because," said Peggy honestly, "I like it.  Does it shock you, dear?"

"It did at first," admitted Joan.  "And even now I shouldn't care to
smoke myself.  But then when that old painter Kenny likes so came here
with his wife, and her hair was so white and her face so kind, and she
smoked like a chimney--"

"Joan!"

"She did," insisted Joan.   "Well, then, Peggy, I just stayed awake
that night and thought it all out.  Peggy, do all painters' wives
smoke?  I mean--" she flushed and stammered.

Peggy's eyes were demure and roguish.

"You ridiculous child!" she said.  "Who's the painter?"

Joan turned scarlet and bit her lip.

"And what, sweetheart," begged Peggy with ready tact, "did you think
out?"

"If you smoke," said Joan, "because you really want to, Peggy, it's all
right.  But if a girl smokes just to--to appear startling and make men
look at her, then it's all wrong!"

Peggy kissed her.

"Joan, dear," she said, "you've the most amazing intelligence in that
small head that I ever met.  Hum.  If I'm not mistaken that's Kenny at
the door.  He never stops ringing until he's sure you know he's there."

Joan raced away to change her dress.

With excitement in her cheeks and eyes she was extraordinarily lovely.
Kenny with difficulty kept his feet firmly upon the floor a yard away
from her.  Peggy laughed up at him, her piquant face impudent and
understanding.

"Kenny," she said under her breath, "I suppose you know you're in love
with your ward?"

Kenny had had his flare with Peggy; and he had come out of it with
wounded vanity, somewhat baffled at Peggy's professed belief in the
transiency of feminine love.  After all, Peggy said pensively, she knew
too many charming men to promise an indeterminate interval of
concentration upon one.  Kenny deemed such a viewpoint heretical and
masculine; women were meant to be faithful.

Now he stared at the girl's saucy face with a startled flush.

"Peggy!" he said, "you little wretch!"

It was growing harder day by day to keep his love a secret.

Joan's first dance at the Holbein Club brought a train of complications.

Ann, interpretative, dressed her in snow-white tulle with here and
there a glint of silver.  The soft full skirt floated out above her
silver slippers like a cloud, but little whiter than her throat and
arms.  Peggy and Ann never told the tale of her rebellion or her
frantic wail:

"Oh, Peggy, Peggy!  I can't go.  They forgot the sleeves."

She came down the stairway like a flower, but her eyes were wistful and
troubled.

"Kenny, should I?"

"Should you what, dear?"

"Dance when--when Uncle--"

"If your heart is glad and your feet want to dance, mavourneen," said
Kenny gently, "then no conventional pretense of mourning shall stop
them.  You were kind and merciful while he lived.  Even he, dear, would
not ask more."

"If my Victrola arm has been winding in vain while you two practiced
half the floor off the studio," put in Ann, "I shall be offended.  I
dreamed last night that I was an organ-grinder teaching Sid to dance."

Joan laughed and kissed her.

The Holbein Club accepted her with a hum of delight.

"She _is_ beautiful!" said Jan.

"Beautiful, of course," said Somebody.  "Any girl in Kenny's life would
be beautiful or she wouldn't be there."

As for Kenny, his path was pleasant, as it always was.  If a waving arm
was not bidding for his attention, it was a laughing hail or a hearty
hand upon his shoulder.  His bright dark face sparkled with the zest of
popularity.

Joan thought him as care-free as a boy.

"We dance in the club gallery," he told her, smiling at the look of
wonder in her eyes.

"And the paintings and sculpture?"

"A members' exhibition.  The sculptured lion staring from his pedestal
at us is Jan's.  Look at the superb muscle play of his flank!  The
midsummer woods--see, how well the lad has painted _air_!--is Garry's.
And my pine picture's over there."

"And Sid?"

Kenny danced her the length of the gallery.  A white line of sculpture
gleamed on either side behind a rail of brass.

"Down here," he said.  "I saved it for the last.  The beggar's
painted--me!"

It was Kenny in a painter's smock intent upon a palette, vividly,
whimsically, delightfully Kenny.  There was tenderness and sympathy in
Sid's portrayal.

Joan clung to his hand in delight.

And was it all Bohemia, she asked.

Ah! admitted Kenny twinkling, there you had him.  Bohemia, he fancied,
was always wherever you yourself were not.  The men and women who did
big things were too busy for picturesque posing.  Bohemia, as legend
read it, had to do with rags and dreams and ambition without effort, a
shabby, down-at-heel pretension that glittered without gratifying.  The
Bohemians of to-day were the failures of to-morrow.  And the crowd who
lived at the Holbein Club lived, loved, worked and died much in the
fashion of less gifted folk.  If there was a Bohemia of success,
however, it danced here to-night.

But, girleen, the music was urging!  And who could resist the sweet
wild delirium of a violin's call?  Certainly not an Irishman intent
upon a moonbeam imprisoned in a girl's bright hair.  But one sound
sweeter!

"And that?" asked Joan as they glided away again among the dancers.

Kenny threw back his head and his eyes laughed.

"A robin singing in a blackthorn!"

Joan smiled at the boyish sparkle of his face.  He was so charmingly,
so irresponsibly young and gay.

His Bohemia of success she found a startling triumph.

"Joan's horribly disturbed," Ann telephoned in the morning.  "As her
guardian you'll have to settle a number of infatuated young men.  The
telephone's been ringing all morning.  I think it's a case of 'The line
forms on the right, gentlemen, on the right!'"

Kenny faced the problem with his fingers in his hair.

"Who's bothering her?" he demanded bluntly.

"The Art Students' League," said Ann demurely, "the Federation of Arts,
National Society of Portrait Painters, Architectural League, Watercolor
Society, Authors' League and the Prince who thinks he's a playwright."

"He's a piece of cheese!" said Kenny in intense disgust.  "What did
Joan think of him?"

"She said she didn't like him nearly so well as the art student who
plays a banjo in the orchestra because he needs the money.  Peggy knows
him."

"That was wholesome," admitted Kenny.  "But I don't think much of him
either.  He has absolutely no right when he's playing a banjo
commercially to recognize the girls on the floor.  I'll be over to
lunch."

It was a nerve-racking hour for Ann.  Kenny, pensive, ate but little.
He seemed very sorry for himself and eyed Joan with melancholy
tenderness.  When at last the dreadful subject was broached, Ann
stoutly defended everybody.

Frantic, Kenny pushed back his plate and began to stride around.

"Sit down," said Ann.  "You're making everybody nervous.  Of course you
don't blame Joan.  And of course you can't blame--"

"I'm not blaming anybody," sputtered Kenny.  "That club is a hot-bed of
shallow-minded, impressionable, fickle-minded boobs.  I can see plainly
that we'll have to be married to-day.  To-morrow at the latest."

"Kenny, please!" said Joan and the conflict began.

Finding the year still strongly in her mind, he surrendered with a
sigh, hurt and unhappy, remembering his vow that Joan's happiness
should be the religion of his love.

"Oh, you dear foolish people!" cried Ann in despair.  "Why don't you
announce your engagement in the Times and discourage the line once and
for all?"

"Of course!" said Kenny and looked at Joan.

"I shouldn't mind at all," said Joan, coloring.

Whereat Kenny called up the Times office, and the Holbein Club went mad
with delight.  Jan, without meaning to, got very drunk and shocked
himself, and Margot made the ring.  She did not know why Kenny wanted
the golden circlet barred crosswise like a frail ladder.  Nor why he
insisted upon a cluster of wistaria set in amethysts.

Even then misgivings sent him to Ann in a panic of conscience.

"Am I ungenerous?" he demanded.  "Perhaps Joan should have had a year
of utter freedom.  You know what I mean, Ann.  To come and go as she
pleases and with whom she pleases.  She's so young."  He flushed.

"Joan wouldn't have it different," said Ann, touched by the boyish
wistfulness of his eyes.  "She clings to you.  And she's as shy and
unspoiled as the day you brought her here.  This flurry of admiration
to her means nothing at all.  She's unhappy with strangers."

Kenny knew it was true and marveled.

"I would like to be generous," he admitted with an effort.  "But I
can't.  It's the simple truth, Ann, I can't.  Even the thought of her
liking other men--bothers me."

December was fated to hold for him another startling anticlimax.  It
came one snowy morning when he had slept even later than usual,
dreaming of an iridescent balloon that climbed higher and higher with
Joan peeping radiantly over the edge until at the peal of the telephone
bell it disappeared entirely.

Joan's voice instantly dispelled his irritation.

"Mavourneen!" he exclaimed.  "Up already!  And you danced half the
night."

"It's eleven o'clock," said Joan.  "Besides, I couldn't sleep.  I've
been thinking.  Remember, Kenny, when you read the will and I said that
Donald should have the farm?"

"Yes," said Kenny, somewhat mystified.  "I remember."

"If he's going to study and work his way through college, I don't think
he'd want it, do you?"

"No, dear, I doubt if he would.  What's in your mind, girleen?"

"Oh, I'm so glad you think so too!  Kenny--"

"Yes?"

"Do you know Jan's cousin, the pretty girl who's a model?  I know that
doesn't sound at all as if it had anything to do with the farm but it
has.  Jan's cousin said--I hardly know how to tell you, Kenny.  I don't
think I like telephones.  If I could see your face--"

"I'm wearing my guardian's face!"

"Oh!"

"And evidently it isn't popular."

"I like you--different.  Jan's cousin said that she could get me a
great deal of work if I wanted it--posing for head and shoulders--"

"Joan!"

"Oh, dear!" wailed Joan.  "That was a guardian's voice.  Please wait,
Kenny."

"I'm waiting."

"I'm going to keep the farm and give Don the rest of the four thousand
dollars. . . .  Did you say anything, Kenny?"

"No. . . .  No, I was just clearing my throat."

"I've only spent a little of it yet.  From now on I want to earn my
living like Peggy and Ann and Margot and all the others.  I'll still
have plenty of time to study and practice.  I wonder I didn't think of
it before.  It was selfish when I had the farm and Don not even
mentioned in the will.  I suppose I didn't think of it because here
things seem to happen so--so fast.  I'm always in a whirl."

"Yes," said Kenny sincerely.  "Things do happen fast."

She waited his approval and was the first to speak, a wondering hint of
reproach in her voice.

"Kenny, please say something!"

"To be truthful, dear," said Kenny in a queer voice, "you've taken my
breath away.  I'm thinking--just thinking."

"It's fair--"

"Yes, dear, it's fair enough."

"You don't disapprove?  Oh, I hope you won't.  It will make me so happy
to help Don through college."

"It will make you happy!" said Kenny and sighed.

"Ann had so many, many things to say against it.  She said she was
trying to see it all with your eyes--as a guardian.  But I told her
you're hardly ever--a guardian.  And your Bohemia is democratic, isn't
it?  And painters are respectable and worthy men and nothing like so
flighty as you read.  You've said so yourself.  And I like to work.
And there are so many charming girls who are models and Jan's cousin is
a Vassar girl--"  In her eagerness to convince him she lost her
breath.

"I'll come for you at Madame Morny's at four," Kenny told her, sick at
heart.  "And then, dear, I'll tell you exactly what I think."

And when he had rung off, he sat down weakly and laughed, his laugh
unmusical and sad.  The dreadful, dreadful irony of it!  How could he
deny her?  How _could_ he?  He who had surrounded her with women
friends, talented and independent, who believed in the gospel of work!
He liked her generosity.  He liked her willingness to work.  He blessed
the dear, selfless instincts of her heart, his eyes moist and tender.
And yet . . . and yet!  Kenny laughed again.  He had hidden his own
money in the fireplace to send through college a runaway youth he had
never seen!

On the way home from Madame Morny's in a taxi, for the snow had become
a blizzard, he made one final desperate effort to break her resolution.
It was futile.  Again she was passionately eager to please him.  Again
he found it a problem that involved her happiness and peace of mind.
Again, with his heart sore, be kissed her and surrendered to her wishes
with a sigh.

But he found the work for her himself with the older painters.

"Kenny, I'm so glad you asked me to bring mother's trunks with me,"
Joan told him.  "Aranyi has asked me to pose in the gold brocade."

Something sharp stabbed at Kenny's heart.

"I meant them," he said with a sigh, "for costume dances, but Aranyi
paints the texture of things with marvelous skill."

By the end of the month Joan's work day was full and he was seeing her
less than he had, save at night.  Garry begged her to pose for him,
carried his case to Kenny and met with blank refusal.

"I'm sorry, old man," Kenny finished inexorably, "but nothing under
forty need apply.  You, my son, are particularly flighty and fickle.
Just now you happen to be raving about Peggy, but every pretty face,
I've noticed, makes you forget the one before."

And Garry, who had been trying to marry Peggy for a year and was by no
means as uncertain and mercurial in his affections as Kenny would have
him believe, stared with eyes intelligent and reminiscent.

"Well," he said softly, "I'll be jiggered.  That's the limit!"

"Be jiggered!" Kenny told him shortly.  "And have done with it."

Garry raised his eyebrows and departed.  And Kenny, reverting to one of
his old frantic minutes, walked the floor.  He had accepted portrait
commissions that would keep him busy for months; for the ragged money
he had hidden in the fireplace had made his need of work imperative.
Otherwise he himself could have painted Joan in the gold brocade and in
all the others.

What had the money in the fireplace done for him?  It had doomed him to
work apart while other men painted the golden shadows in her hair.



CHAPTER XXXI

FATE STABS

March came to Kenny and found his studio with its haunting odor of
coffee and cigarettes, his brushes, his head and his heart, furiously
at work.  He was giving himself up to love and labor with a Celtic
intensity that Garry found appalling.  He planned endlessly to one
purpose: Joan's happiness, Joan's pleasure, Joan's future with him.
The memory of the ragged money laid aside for Don he dismissed with a
wry smile, gritting his teeth.  What mattered in the face of the
splendid fact that he was so joyously, so recklessly, so absurdly happy?

His life, with its deadly singleness of purpose, should have been
simple.  It attained a complexity at times at which he marveled.  An
inclination to blurt out the truth with panicky abruptness when he
wanted to lie, plunged him into more than one predicament.

"I'm always explaining to somebody," he complained bitterly to Garry,
"why I tell the truth--"

"You told Kenneth his dancing urchin was rotten--"

"It was," insisted Kenny.  "Garry, why is truth always unpleasant?  Why
can't it be as romantic and agreeable as the things you want to say?"

"Why," countered Garry, "isn't peace as romantic as war?  Ask somebody
who knows.  I don't."

He stared curiously at Kenny and shook his head.  A heavy hand with the
truth, that Irishman; and about as understandable in these splendid,
tender days of his idiocy and bliss, as March wind, comets or
star-dust.  His passion for truth was literally a passion, relentless
and exact.  He worked harder.  His steadiness, as Jan said, was grim
and conscious and a thing of terror to anything in his path.  He
wrestled with his check book and managed somehow to keep his studio in
order.  And he was kinder.  Fahr, in particular, remarked it; and Fahr,
worshipping Kenny, had sputtered and endured the brunt of many tempests.

"But, Garry," he confided, round-eyed and apprehensive, "honest Injun,
I don't think he ought to bottle up his temper that way.  Sometimes I
can almost see him swelling up and then when he speaks and I'm waiting
for an Irish roar, his voice is so quiet and pleasant that I feel
queer.  I--I swear I do.  Damn it all, I'm liking him more every day."

"So am I," said Garry honestly.  "But--"

"But what?"

"I wish he'd be less turbulently happy."

"Let him," said Sid sagely,  "Darn few can."

"A pendulum," reminded Garry, "swings both ways.  And he's an
extremist.  If he'd just plant his two feet solidly on the ground and
get his head out of the clouds.  He's got to do it sometime."

"Oh, hell," said Sid.  "Give him time.  If that girl was going to marry
me I'd climb up a few air-steps myself and stick my head into any old
cloud."

"Good old Sid!" said Garry affectionately.  "You'd be sure to hit your
head on a star and then you'd be amazed and--"

"Oh, you go to thunder!" blustered Sid.

By now Kenny's Bohemia was rushing through its yearly cycle of costume
dances.  Motley groups emerged at times from Ann's castle and departed
in taxis.

"And Gawd knows where," said Mrs. Ryan from the third floor front of
the tenement that faced the street.  "They're a wild bunch and my
Cassie'll never travel wid 'em.  Last week the architeks rigged up
somethin' fierce and danced in 'the streets of Paris,' wid bullyvard
cafes, they called 'em, built into the dance hall, an actress singin'
the Marseillaise in a flag, and a Roosian hussy dancin' in boots.  And
Mr. O'Neill, God save him for a pleasant gentleman though a bit wild in
the eye, took my Dinny up to be a gamin.  Gay-min.  I thought myself he
said a 'gay mon' and Dinny's a bit young; but I found he meant him to
peddle cigarettes about among the tables."

In the quaint old gowns that were delighting the older painters, Joan
glided through the shifting blare and color unaware of the eyes that
watched and liked her.  Not so Kenny.

He knew who stared and smiled and he knew who stared too long.  He was
inordinately proud of her.

"Kenny, please!" begged Garry.  "Let me paint her.  I'm going to
California in April and I won't have another chance.  I won't be back
until fall."

"My son--" began Kenny wearily.  Then he smiled.  "Oh, go ahead,
Garry, darlin'.  I'll not be mindin' a bit."

And Garry curiously enough caught the tantalizing charm of her
sweetness that had baffled many an older and wiser man.

Shadows had no part in the wonder of Kenny's winter, but an inclination
to forget his quarrel with Brian and his flare of penance, violent and
incomplete--for he had never reached the longed-for grail of his son's
forgiveness--troubled him vaguely.  In spasmodic moments of remorse he
read his notebook, tremendously buoyed up by an augmenting
consciousness of evolution.  Faint inner voices warned him at times not
to misinterpret his exultant happiness in terms of infallibility and
when they called to him he had his moments of humility and panic.

In one of them he tried to coax the fern back to life; once with an
alarming air of energy and importance, he departed in a taxi and bought
a great many things for Brian's room; once when miraculously the bank
and he agreed for a brief period upon his balance, he succumbed to a
mathematical fit of uplift and conscience, dashed off a bewildering
number of checks and left the overladen slate of his credit unmarked by
even an I.O.U.  His brilliant air of calm and satisfaction thereafter
was distinctly noticeable.

On the whole he was much too happy to be lonely or introspective.
Brian's absence and his splendid, sacrificial freak of service, had
been the price of Joan's content and the welfare of her brother.

Whitaker, journalism and God's green world of spring he had chosen
jealously to resent.  The thought of Donald West and a dim conviction
of quarry hardships filled him with a new sense of solidarity in Brian
and a passionate respect.  The current of his affection for his son was
subtly altering.  It was no longer careless and frenzied and
sentimental.  Nor was it selfish.  Something big and abiding had sprung
up out of the ashes of his penance.

By the end of March, with a record-breaking period of work behind him
and a furore of notoriety over his striking portrait of a famous beauty
compelling him to a radiant admission of success, Kenny found himself
lulled into the self-respecting quietude he craved.

Days back self-confidence had come to him in Hannah's kitchen and Adam
Craig, in the course of time, had crushed it out with a keen and
understanding leer.  Later it had returned with Adam's death, and the
weary voice of Doctor Cole had shattered it.

So now on a March night of wind and hail--and this time by telephone
after much tedious trouble with the wire, Doctor Cole's voice, tired,
sorrowful and kind, came stabbing intrusively into his full-blown
equanimity with a message of terror.

"Mr. O'Neill--"

"Yes."

"This is Doctor Cole of Briston, Pennsylvania."

Kenny stiffened.  He had never quite forgiven the doctor for that
bleak, anticlimacteric morning when he had driven dazedly away with
Nellie.  Adjectives, like a man's laughter, were to him an irrefutable
test.  With one you could definitely prefigure a man's degree of
refinement; with the other the aesthetic color of his soul.  And gray
was no color for any mortal's soul.

"Yes?"

"Mr. O'Neill," came the kind, tired voice, "I'm sorry, sorrier than I
can tell.  I've bad news for you.  There has been an accident, a quarry
explosion, and your son is badly injured."

A hot quiver swept through Kenny's body, ended at his face in a
stinging rush of blood and left him icy cold.

"Brian!"

"Yes. . . .  Are you there, Mr. O'Neill?"

"Yes. . . .  Yes, I am here.  Doctor. . . .  How--badly?"

"He is--well, conscious.  I can hardly say more," owned the doctor.
"Thank God he's young and strong.  There are no developed symptoms of
fracture yet but his skull--"

"Fracture!  Skull!"

"There's a chance.  Contusion now merely and a swollen condition.  The
soft parts are unbroken and that makes an accurate diagnosis difficult,
but I must warn you that there is an immediate risk to his life from
shock and perhaps compression--"

"Oh, my God!" said Kenny, his eyes wet.

"You see, Mr. O'Neill," said the doctor sadly, "there may be depressed
fragments of bone or effused blood.  We are watching closely.  But I
think you had better come to him at once.  There is a possibility--"

But there were some things that even the little doctor could not say.

"Still there, Mr. O'Neill?" he asked a little later.

"Yes.  Where is Brian now?"

"In a quarry shack on what we call up here the Finlake mountain."

"Finlake mountain!"

"Yes, barely eighteen miles across the valley from the farm.  They
couldn't find a doctor.  Carson is nearer but he was out.  Has a widely
scattered farm practice like my own and Don, frantic with terror,
telephoned to me.  We've done everything possible for him, Mr. O'Neill,
but his pulse is pretty feeble and it's difficult to rouse him.
Sensibility of course is blunted.  Bound to be--"

"I will be there," said Kenny, "as soon--as soon as it is possible.
There are but three north-bound trains at Briston?"

"Morning--eight-ten.  Noon, one-twenty-nine and night, seven-fifteen.
But don't get off at Briston, Mr. O'Neill.  Finlake, fifteen miles on,
is nearer--"

"I can not possibly make the morning train.  The changes make the trip
long.  Twelve hours. . . .  God!"

"I myself will meet you at Finlake.  It's three miles farther to the
quarry.  If you are not on the noon train I will meet the night--"

"I--I cannot thank you, Doctor Cole."  Kenny hung up, unaware that the
doctor was adding further detail.

Almost at once he unhooked the receiver and summoned the club central.
Afterward Pietro, who took his turn at the switchboard when the day
operator departed, spoke of the quiet curtness of his voice.

"Pietro?  Mr. O'Neill speaking.  I want you, at once, to look up the
earliest connecting train with Finlake, Pennsylvania, any road."

"Yes, sir," began Pietro.  "What--" but the receiver had clicked into
place.

Kenny stared with a shudder at the withered fern, his face as white as
chalk.

A tearing hand seemed clinging to his brain.

In the face of this grief-stricken terror that quaked and burned in his
soul, etching unforgettable scars, the recollection of his unsteady
spurts of penance rose to mock him with their artificiality.  His
remorse had been but a pale, theatric spree!  And now in this forgetful
winter of his love, Fate had decoyed him into optimistic quietude only
to thrust savagely and deep.  Remorse in the raw!  Was it
punishment--punishment for the farcical penitent on the highway who had
smiled into a woman's soft eyes, forgetting--

He answered Pietro's ring with a throbbing sense of confusion in his
forehead.

The best connecting train and the earliest left the Pennsylvania
Terminal at eleven.  It was now but five.  How could he wait?

"Pietro," he said, "give me now Doctor Barrington's office.  And tell
the operator to put me through to his private wire.  It's urgent.  I do
not want the nurse in the anteroom.  When you ring for me I want Dr.
Barrington ready at the other end and I want you yourself, Pietro, to
be sure he's there."

Pietro, obeyed, amazed and loyal.

"Frank?"  Hot relief surged in Kenny's heart at the chance ease of
connection.  "Kenny speaking."

"Hello, Kenny.  Nothing doing for me tonight, old man.  I've got to
sleep."

"I need you, Frank.  Brian has been injured--badly--in a quarry
explosion."

"Kenny!"

"A chance of skull fracture," said Kenny steadily.  "That means?"

"A possible operation."

"Can you leave with me at eleven o'clock to-night, Pennsylvania
Terminal?  It will mean at least two days.  He's at Finlake,
Pennsylvania, barely conscious--in the hands of a country doctor."

The brilliant industrious young surgeon on the other end gasped and
whistled.  He worked and played at heavy pressure.

"Kenny, old man," he said, "nothing is impossible.  Almost this is.
But it's you and Brian and that's enough,  I'll meet you at quarter of
eleven.  I'll go--thoroughly prepared.  Do you feel like telling me
more?"

"No."

Two receivers clicked and Kenny, remembering that he could not
definitely locate Joan until six, felt the tautness of his control slip
dangerously.

Eleven o'clock. . . .  How could he wait?  He paced the floor, his mind
in its chaotic desperation, numb and inelastic.  With his glance upon
the psaltery stick, a dim notion of accounting filtered curiously into
his mind and became obsessional.  He went shaking to Brian's room and
put the key of the chiffonier in his pocket.  Thank God the studio was
in order, save a chair or two.  Brian . . . would . . . be . . .
pleased.  Kenny stared at the withered fern and blinked.  An augury?
God forbid!  Then he flung the bill-file with its heterogeneous
collection of receipted I.O.U.'s into his bulging suit case and called
up Simon Meyer.

"Simon," he said, "whatever I happen to have there--there's a shotgun,
I know, and a tennis racket and some fishing rods. . . .  The rest for
the moment I can't recall. . . .  I want you to put all of it in a
bundle and send it here at once by special messenger.  I have the
tickets here. . . .  I'll have them ready. . . .  Yes, I'll give him a
check. . . .  No, Simon, it won't be certified and he'll take it as it
is."

He rang off and searched impatiently for pawn tickets.  Simon's
messenger arrived and, strained and hostile, Kenny looked over the
contents of the bundle and wrote a check.

Alone in the studio again, he flung up a window, his mind pushing ahead
to eleven o'clock.  It seemed to him then that he could not possibly
wait and go on fighting for his self-control.  A gust of sleet and hail
swept in with a pattering sound upon the floor.  Its cold, stinging
contact with his face refreshed him.  Kenny's brain cleared.  He gulped
and gasped.  Garry's car!  He would not wait.

"Frank," he telephoned after an unavailing interval of search for
Garry, "if you're willing we'll motor to Finlake in Garry's car.  He'll
not be mindin'.  I borrow it often.  It's a bad night of course--but we
could start now.  And we can make time on the road.  It's barely two
hundred and fifty miles but the branch roads and changes make
unendurable delay.  Shall I come for you in half an hour?"

Again Barrington gasped.  Again he whistled.  "Make it three quarters,"
he said, "and I think I can swing it."

"You're a jewel for sense," Kenny told him, a passionate note of
gratitude in his voice.  "I love you for it."

He called Ann's studio at six.  Joan had not returned.  Ann took the
message, startled and sympathetic.

"I'll wire her in the morning," he said and, hanging up, found that
Sidney Fahr had come in.  He stood with his back against the door, his
round face blank with terror.

"Kenny," he stammered, "I--I couldn't help hearing."  The hot sympathy
he could not bring himself to utter, flamed desperately in his
face--almost to the ruin of Kenny's iron control.  "I--I--I can do
something, can't I, Kenny?"

"Yes, Sid, darlin', you can," said Kenny gently.  "I'm taking Garry's
car.  You can square me with him."

"I--I'd even thrash him," mumbled Sid.

"Then if you will I'd like you to get in touch with Westcott's wife and
tell her.  I'm painting her portrait.  She comes to-morrow at ten.
Sid, could you--could you clean off those two chairs?"

Sid fell upon the nearest chair with fearful energy.  At the table
Kenny hurriedly wrote a check.

"And to-morrow I want you to deposit this to Brian's account.  I'm
paying back--what I owe him."  His mouth worked.

"Oh, Sid!" he said, his face scarlet.

"Now, now, now, Kenny," choked the little painter, winking and making
horrible faces at the littered chair, "don't you go to taking on.
Don't you do it.  I'll call up Westcott.  The old gladiator!"  Somehow
he turned his sniffle to a snort.  "What in thunder does she want to be
painted for anyway?  She's got a nose like a triangle and the
composition of her face is all wrong."

He blinked away the wetness on his lashes and wondered why, with every
other chair in the studio clear, Kenny should make a point of the
littered two.  But he did not ask.  Instead he entered upon a period of
fruitless and agitated trotting that lasted until Kenny came hack from
the garage with Garry's car.  Then Sid packed him in, made one last
terrible face and bolted across the sidewalk for the door.

Beyond the threshold he bolted for a telephone.

"Jan," he said in shocked tones, "I want you to come down to the bar
and watch me.  I--I've made up my mind to get drunk.  I've got to."  He
gulped.  "I'll tell you why when you come down."

"Oh, fiddlesticks!" said Jan in a bored voice.  "Go down to the grill
and eat something.  And order me an English mutton chop and some
macaroni.  I'll be down to dinner in five minutes."

Sid aggrievedly obeyed.



CHAPTER XXXII

ON FINLAKE MOUNTAIN

Frank Barrington was to tell wryly in the grillroom of that night-ride
in the sleety wind through a polar world of ghostly, ice-hung trees.
Every flying rod of the sleazy road he knew was a peril.  Even the
chains failed at times to grip.  For eight hours the whir of the motor
and the tearing sound of the wind blared in his ears.  For eight hours
he marveled at the silence and efficiency of the muffled driver beside
him who had apparently said all he intended to say upon the ferry.  He
drove even faster than Frank had anticipated; and he drove with more
care, as if, defiantly, he feared the traps of an evil destiny to keep
him from his goal.  At times he turned the swiveled searchlight upon a
road-sign and evoked a glistening play of silver on the trees.  Once,
cursing, he changed a tire; once the car skidded dangerously in a
circle but to Frank his air of confidence was hypnotically convincing.
The final stretch of the journey became a dim and frosty blur of sleety
trees.

At Finlake they began to climb.  It was after three when the headlights
blazed upon the quarry.

"I wired the doctor to wait," said Kenny.  "He knows you're with me."

"We leave the car here?"

"We'll have to."  He turned his searchlight on the cliff ahead.
"There's a path yonder."

"And which shack, I wonder?"

"There's a light in only one."

Frank worked his stiffened face to relieve the feeling of cold
contorted rubber and followed Kenny up the path.  Light glimmered dimly
through the jungle of frost upon the shack window.  Fronded whitely by
the sleet, the panes loomed out of the dark like an incandescent series
of camera plates, bizarre and oriental.  Frank shivered in the wind.

Doctor Cole opened the door.  Beyond in the rude room of the shack a
lamp flared smokily.

"Brian?" said Kenny, his color gone.

"Why," said Doctor Cole, "his pulse is a lot stronger, Mr. O'Neill, and
he complains now of pain--"

"That means?"

"It means, Kenny," said Frank Barrington, "that he has passed on
normally to the stage of reaction."  But his keen, intelligent eyes
sought Doctor Cole with a furtive lifting of his brows and asked a
question.

"Not a sign," said the little doctor gladly.  "If anything he's a shade
too wide awake.  And irritable.  I've been setting his leg--"

Kenny wheeled fiercely.

"His leg!" he said.  "His leg!"

"I'm sorry," stammered the doctor.  "I--I quite forgot you didn't
know. . . .  Broken between the knee and the hip," he added, turning to
Barrington.   "I thought it merely paresis of the muscles until--"

"Where is he?" put in Kenny sharply.  "What room?"

"There are only two rooms here," said Doctor Cole.  "The stairway's
yonder."

"Just a minute, Kenny."  Frank checked him with a gesture.  "I'm going
up first with Doctor Cole."

Kenny groaned.

"Sit down," said Frank kindly.  "Where's some brandy?  Thank you,
Doctor.  Now, Kenny, listen, please.  The first risk to Brian's life is
past.  I mean death from shock.  He's not drowsy and he's feeling pain.
His leg, in the face of other possibilities, is merely painful.  But I
must look at his head--"

"Frank, darlin'," said Kenny patiently, "I brought you up here to order
us all around.  Go to it."

He flung himself into a chair by the stove and drowsing after a while
in a reactive sweep of exhaustion, awakened with a terrified jerk.  A
boy was banking the red-hot stove, his white face like and yet
unlike--Joan's.

"Mr. O'Neill," he blurted with a boyish sob, "I--I did it.  I was
driving the mule-cart up the path.  Grogan told me not to but I--I
coaxed Tony.  And when some earth crumbled ahead I jerked back--too
quickly--and scared the mule.  I've got to tell somebody.  I've got
to. . . .  And nobody listens--"

"Tell me the rest," said Kenny wanly.  "I've been wonderin'."

"You see, Mr. O'Neill," he gulped, his eyes dark with grief and horror,
"the mule went back upon his haunches and drove the cart against a
boulder.  It came out and crashed over the ledge and through the roof
of the dynamite shack--"

"God!"  In that vivid moment of his picturing, Kenny wondered why he
should think of bouillon cups crashing loudly on a roof.

"And the other men were only scratched.  A while ago--when Brian sent
for me--he thought of it through all his pain--"

"He would," said Kenny.

"I--I wanted to kill myself."

"Oh, nonsense," said Kenny kindly.

Don flung his arm across his eyes and sobbed aloud.

"Oh," he choked, "if someone would only swear at me!"

"I--I'd like to," said Kenny wryly, "for your sake and for my own, but
I'm all--in."

He stared dully at the fire until the stair creaked and Frank came in
with Doctor Cole.

"There isn't yet," Frank told him, "a single pressure symptom that I
consider alarming and Doctor Cole has done wonders with his leg.  But
any emotional excitement is a danger.  Three minutes, old man."  He
followed Kenny up the stairway, watch in hand.

The raftered room was dim and quiet.  Kenny sickened at the faint odor
of antiseptics and softly closed the door.

Brian opened his eyes.

"Kenny, old dear," he said softly, "all these doctors are boobs.  Frank
in particular is an awful ass.  I told him so.  He's loaded with fool
questions.  One look at the Irish face of you is worth them all."

Kenny, staring at the pallid face upon the pillow, blinked and smiled.

"Frank told me you drove up here through the sleet," marveled Brian,
clinging to his hand.  "A god-forsaken spot!  I'm sorry--"

"Three minutes!" warned Frank Barrington at the door.  He knew Kenny
much too well to trust him further.

And Kenny made a wry face and departed--with torture in his throat.
His voice had failed him utterly.

A sleety dawn was graying at the windows.

"Bed!" commanded Barrington briefly.

"Doctor Cole has found another shack.  He's waiting for you."

"And you?"

"I'll sleep to-morrow."



CHAPTER XXXIII

IN THE SPAN OF A DAY

Kenny slept heavily until three that afternoon.  Don wakened him.

"My sister is here," he said.

"Joan!"

Don stared a little at his quick, astonished warmth.

"She wired Doctor Cole," he said, "and went to the farm.  He brought
her back with him at noon."

"The heart of her!  I might have known.  And Brian?"

Brian, it seemed, was wakeful and nervous, his pain intense.  The
pressure symptoms had not advanced.

"Head's better," Don finished.  "They've watched him like a hawk.  But
they're letting up a bit now--"

"And Dr. Barrington?"

"Asleep downstairs."

"Here?"

"Yes.  We found another cot.  The car's in Grogan's shed."

From the quarry below came the rumble of a blast.

"Would you think--" he demanded, but the futility of his protest made
him dumb.

"The world keeps on going," said Kenny.  He dressed hurriedly.

"Women," commented Don gloomily, following him down the stairs, "are
queer.  My sister wept all over me.  As if I hadn't had enough
shocks--"

He caught his breath and stumbled.  In the room below Barrington
stirred.

"Quiet, Don!" warned Kenny, sensing the tears of heartbreak that
quivered on his lashes.  He read the boy's hot heart with a renewed
shock of understanding; they were namelessly akin.

Cold sunlight lay upon the cluster of shacks.  The wind that bore the
rumble of the quarry upward was sharp and gusty and laden with stinging
particles of grit.  A group of Italian women, chattering and
gesticulating in, apparently, unheeded unison, lingered near the shack
where Brian lay, agonizingly conscious of nerve and body, irritably
weary of the inevitable doctor at his bedside.  Kenny charged them with
a look of indignation and shooed them to retreat in maledictory Italian.

Inside Joan was busy at the stove.

Kenny caught her hands, protesting, praising, thanking in a breath, and
Don, regarding them with a look of frank and bitter comprehension,
moved off toward the window with all a boy's disgust.  In the span of a
day he had learned and suffered over-much.  Grogan's world of drills
and noise down there was heartless and insistent. . . .  It went on and
on, puffing, drilling, sorting rattling stone.  Up here in the shack
was the lunacy of heart-things apart from him.  The thought filled him
with jealous anger.  And upstairs--  He wheeled and glared, fighting
down the agony in his throat.  Kenny was moving toward the stairway.

"Mr. O'Neill," barked Don, "Dr. Barrington particularly said you--you
were not to go up there.  He said that Brian's got to have the--the
quiet kind around--"

Joan's quick stare of reproach brought the color to his face.

"I--I beg your pardon, Mr. O'Neill," he blurted.   "He said--he said he
must have quiet."

"It's all right," said Kenny ruefully.  "Quite all right.  You've been
up?" he added quietly.

Don dug his toe into the floor and a hot flush suffused his forehead.

"To tell you the truth," he said with some annoyance, "Doctor
Barrington wouldn't let me in.  He seems to be able to manage a good
many things at once."

"Ah!" said Kenny.

"We must find still another cot," said Joan, pouring coffee at the
stove.

So in the dark hours of nervous unrestraint that marked for Don and
Kenny that lagging period of terror and suspense, Joan stepped to the
helm and steered.  And there was need of steering.

Chaos would have reigned without it.



CHAPTER XXXIV

A FACE

Vagueness lay for Brian in that shack room where the noise of forest
trees mourned always at the window.  Only pain was sharp . . .
colossal, rearing misshapen out of the blur induced by an awful
weakness.  Sleep wrenched him for horrible dreaming minutes from his
world of pain.  Pain wrenched him back.  At times a mammoth terror lay
in his soul, undefined yet grotesquely positive, as if, pushing back,
his consciousness foresaw that horrific catastrophe of noise and
belching terror, and waited, unable to sense any of its details save
the single one of personal tragedy and pain.  There were cramped
minutes when the rafters of the peaked roof seemed pressing down upon
him . . . and minutes of a diffused reaching out when the world, torn
by internal explosion, seemed flying away from him in fragments, even
walls receding from his cot which stayed, by a miracle, alone upon a
wind-swept moor.

Intervals were an eternity.  Familiarity with the detail of the room
engendered frantic loathing.  His brain conned over the faded colors in
the rag rug and encountered the unchangeable, bayonet-like crack in the
mirror with nervous fury.  No peace came with the darkness.  Each
familiar thing persisted, looming clearer to his tired mind by the very
effort his straining eyes made to reach it.  There was the table
clogged with doctors' litter . . . and there the other cot where Frank
pretended to sleep and kept his vigil . . . there the chair . . . and
there the dab of yellow in the rug that the sun struck into faded
gayety in the morning . . . and there the crack across the mirror, the
wriggling, distorted, foolish crack that seemed alive for all its
sameness.  And there was always the noise of wind which became a
corollary of his pain, pulsing with it, never quiet, an overtone that
tragically would not yield.

Into the blur of wind and weakness and pain came two miracles--a red
geranium peering out of the dusk of the room like a glowing coal,
unfamiliar and therefore a delight--a bit of velvet laughter in the
drab that caught his whole attention . . . the other a face.  The face
came first in a cloud of flower-spotted purple that he knew clearly was
in some way related to the hypodermic needle Frank had plunged into his
arm while the sunset still lay painted on the window. . . .  It took
form in the purple like a pansy--that face--grew sweet and vivid and
very real.  Mercifully its loveliness was changeable, losing its pansy
purples and gaining glints of gold . . . becoming less a pansy . . .
more a face flower-like with compassion.

"And now?" wondered Brian when the face came again.

"It is morning," said Joan.

At the sound of her voice there came within him an extraordinary
fusing, at once a pain and a delight . . . fragments of memory . . . a
moonbeam . . . tears . . . the crackle of a fire . . . a quarry
mist . . . the glory of stars . . . a meaning . . . a motive that
startled and defied him.

"There should be moonlight on your hair," said Brian, drifting slowly
back to a knowledge of reality and pain.

"Moonlight?"

"You are Joan."

"Yes.  At least until Doctor Cole finds someone else, I am at times
your nurse.  The pain, Brian?"  She bent over him, straightening a
pillow, touching his forehead with cool, questioning fingers.

"Not worse," said Brian.

"I am glad."

"There was a purple cloud," he said, frowning.

"The drug.  Doctor Barrington wanted you to sleep."

"And the geranium?"  His eyes sought it with relief.

"Kenny found it.  Grogan's wife had it in her window.  I think he must
have bullied her a little--"

"Bless him! . . .  Where's the mirror?"

"Downstairs.  I'm sleeping there."

"Thank God!"  He closed his eyes, his color ebbing.  "This plaster
cast," he apologized, "is like a suit of armor.  It bothers me."

"Poor fellow! . . .  Can you eat?"

"Not--yet. . . .  Who's cooking?"

"Sometimes Don; sometimes I--unless the doctor sends me here.
Once--Kenny."

Brian smiled.

"You are very good," he said simply.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE PENITENT

Brian's skull was young and elastic.  It saved him much, but Barrington
lingered until the period of suspense was at an end.  Kenny drove him
to the Finlake station.

"This car has been a godsend," he said.

"And Garry's wired me to keep it.  He's going to the coast."

"When?"

"Thursday."

Kenny's eyes were moist and grateful.

"Ah, Frank, darlin', you're a jewel!"

"Piffle!" countered Frank.  "Kenny, old dear, I think you hit a
chicken.  If at any time," he added at the station, "you feel the need
of me, I want you to wire.  He's bound to be nervous.  And if his
convalescence seems slow and irksome, remember that the reaction of a
shock like that isn't merely physical."

Kenny wrung his hand in silence.  He motored home, oppressed by the
bare line of hills and the noise of the quarry.

As usual the sight of Joan dispelled his gloom.  Brian's pain was less.
He had fallen asleep of his own accord.

"He asked for you," she added.

"You told him Frank wouldn't let me in?"

"Yes."

"Hum. . . .  Where's Don?"

"I sent him to the store."

Kenny darted away with an air of expectancy to the other shack, whence,
after an excited period of foraging, he emerged, carrying a bundle.
Frank, knowing him well enough to read his shining enthusiasm aright,
would have turned him back at Brian's door without a qualm.  But Frank
was not at hand.

"You look like a kid sneaking home with a stray cat!"  Brian told him
with a grin.

"What's in the bundle?"

"I've tried so many times to get in," admitted Kenny, "with Frank
nippin' me just as my hand was on the knob, that I'm feelin' a bit
surreptitious."  He held up a tennis racket and a shotgun.

"And everything else," he boasted with an air of triumph, "that I took
to Simon."

"And the bill-file!" exclaimed Brian, staring at the litter on the
floor.  "Jemima!"

"You remember it, Brian?  You hated the sight of it.  'Tis the stiletto
I stuck in a chunk of wax--"

"Lord, yes!  And you wrote the I.O.U.'s on anything from a playing card
to the end of a shirt."

"And never paid 'em until I had to," said Kenny with an unyielding air
of self-contempt.  "Many the time you checked 'em off, Brian, and
rebuked me as you should.  But that, by the Blessed Bell of Clare, is
all behind me."

He proudly exhibited the bizarre collection of scraps, initialed in
token of debt and reinitialed in token of payment.

"Brian--I--I--"

"Go ahead, old boy," said Brian, his eyes tender.  "I can see you've
got a lot on your mind."

"I paid 'em--every one!"

"So I see."

"And never again will you have to bookkeep lies.  I'm that truthful now
Sid worries a bit!"

Brian's amazed eyes twinkled.

"You delicious lunatic!" he said.

"I practiced," went on Kenny with his lips compressed.  "I practiced
hard--up at the farm with Adam."

"Joan's told me you were there.  I can't quite hitch things together
yet, but I will in time."

"A landslide of things seemed to happen the minute you went--"

"I always had a feeling," admitted Brian, "that if I didn't stick
around and keep an eye on you, a lot of things would happen."

"They did.  They've been happenin' ever since."

Brian flushed and put out his hand.

"Kenny, surely you guessed.  I was sorry--"

"Jewel machree, I was fair sick about the shotgun.  And after you went
I was willing to be sorry about anything--to get you back."

"And Ann's statuette.  Lord, I burn when I think of it."

"You couldn't be blamed for a bit of temper.  You're Irish, lad, and an
O'Neill.  'Tis a splendid inheritance but volcanic too."  He changed
color and began to roam around the room, his mind casting up a painful
memory.

"You'll never guess," he went on moodily, "what fell upon the head of
me after you went.  John Whitaker came up and took a shot at me.  And
Garry.  And then after a while when I was quieter, old Adam, stirring
me up afresh.  My ears are as used to the truth as my tongue."

"It's a darned shame!" said Brian warmly.  Kenny sighed.

"Ah, Brian," he said wistfully, "I was needin' it all.  You can't
conceive until you put your mind to it or--or write it down, what a
failure I've been--"

"Failure!"

"As a parent.  Even my penance on the road was--was like the rest."

"Your _penance_!"

"I bought a corncrib and a mule," flung out Kenny, roaming turbulently
around the room, "and thrashed a farmer.  And I hated the rain and the
smell of cheese and burned up the corn-crib--"

"Kenny, what are you talking about?"

Inexorably intent upon the easing of his conscience Kenny told the tale
of his penance with terrifying honesty and truth.

Brian listened and dared not smile.

"At first I--I hoped to find a clue," finished Kenny, wiping the sweat
from his forehead.  "And then after I--I saw Joan I hoped I wouldn't.
You're not blamin' me, Brian?"

"Not a bit.  I'd have lingered myself."

"The heart of you!" said Kenny, biting his lips.  "I don't deserve it.
Lad, dear, the sunsets are past.  I'm understandin'.  And if you want
Whitaker's job, I--I'm willing.  If you'd rather come back to the
studio and free-lance, I--I want you to know--" he gulped--"that
things are different.  There's order there and the--the chairs are
cleared.  Never a chair but what you can sit down on without staring
behind you.  You wished that, Brian--"

Brian turned his head.

"Yes," he said.  There were tears and laughter in his voice.

"The money and clothes I borrowed," went on Kenny fervidly, "are paid
back.  The clothes are safe in a new chiffonier and here's the key.  I
sealed it in an envelope and well I did.  I was badly needin' some
things you had and Pietro went out and bought them for me.  As for my
temper, it's a lot better.  A lot!  Sid marvels at it.  I--I do myself.
It all comes from the hell up there on the ridge with Adam."  He drew a
long breath.  "I've a record of work that will fill you with pride.
And though I seem to have a lot of money, I haven't bought a foolish
thing since the corncrib.   There's plebeian regularity enough in my
money affairs now, Brian, to please even you!  Though I'm havin' a bit
of a struggle with my check book.  You can see for yourself, can't you,
Brian, 'twould not be the disorderly Bohemia you seem to hate?  'Twould
not be hand-to-mouth.  Mind, I'm not seekin' to persuade you.  So help
me God, I--I want you to do just what you want to do yourself--"

"Kenny," said Brian dangerously, "if you go on one second more, you'll
have me sniffling--"

Horrified and guilty, Kenny bolted for the door, his hand clenched in
his hair.

"One thing more, Brian," he said, wheeling, "I--I've got to say it.
I've anchored that damned stick to the psaltery with a shoestring.
We--we couldn't lose it!"

And closing the door, Kenny again wiped his forehead, remembering sadly
that he had planned to wind his son around his finger and induce him to
return.  It had been the trend of all his preparation and resolve.  And
now--what?  He had choked back his inclination and begged Brian, with
impassioned sincerity, to do precisely what would please him most.

He wondered why the anticlimax brought him--peace.

When Doctor Cole arrived an hour later he found the shack in turmoil.
The truant hour of laughter and excitement, Kenny told him in a panic
of remorse, had sharpened Brian's pain.  His pulse was galloping.  With
a sigh the little doctor drugged his tossing patient into troubled
sleep.


Again through a cloud of flower-spotted purple shot now with gleams of
light as from a camp fire, Brian drifted unquietly, conscious of odd
and unrelated things, stars that turned to eyes, a moonbeam that broke
upon a pine-bough and fell in a shower of moon-silvered tears; in the
tears a face that turned perversely to a pansy.  Then something snapped
and crackled sharply and he sat beside a camp fire, conscious of an
indefinable fusing within him.  Beyond in a curling milk-white mist lay
the pansy, half a flower--half a face.  It floated toward him,
sometimes part of the smoke from his fire, sometimes but a
flower-shadow in the cloud of purple.  Brian strained to see it clearly
and could not until the inner fusing came again and Joan stood by the
fire, the sheen of moonlight on her hair.

"You did so much for him," she said, "and now--the boulder!"

Brian furrowed his forehead in painful concentration.

"I thought I did it all for Don," he said.  "For months I've thought so
but since something fused here in my heart, something linked to tears
and stars and moonlight and the crackle of a fire, I know I did it all
for you."

"For me, Brian!"

"For you!"

In the cloud of purple Joan's eyes grew round and unbelieving.

"Your face, all tears and sorrow and sweetness," said Brian stubbornly,
"etched itself on my memory the night Don ran away."

"I--I did not know you saw me."

"I know now that all I did that night I did for you.  Don swore at
you--remember?"

The flower-like face in the purple cloud saddened.  Brian distinctly
heard the crackle of the camp fire.

"I thrashed him for it!"

"You said in your letter--"

"I said I would help him, yes, but I wrote and I made Don write because
I could not bear to have you hurt and worried.  And even at the quarry,
when I was keen to be off to Whitaker, I saw your face in the mist,
urging me to stay--to stay and help Don.  And I did--for you.  I know
that all these things I did for you.  I _know_!"

But again he was staring at a pansy and the cloud of purple floated
hazily away.  Tired, ill and aeons old, Brian opened his eyes.

"I'm glad you're awake," said Joan gently.  "You were dreaming.  Drugs
frighten me."

"Nothing was clear," said Brian, touching his forehead, "but the pansy
and you.  And purple--like that."  He pointed to her ring.  "What an
odd ring it is, Joan!  Wistaria?"

Joan nodded, her color bright.

"Wistaria on a ladder.  It's the ring Kenny gave me."

Brian's startled eyes met and held her own.  "Why?" he asked.

"I'm going to marry him.  Didn't you know?"

"No," said Brian.  "I--I didn't know."



CHAPTER XXXVI

APRIL

April with its tender flame of green brought lagging days of worry.
Brian, said Kenny wistfully, was just--not Brian.  He was an irritable
convalescent in a plaster cast, too nervous to be patient.  His pain
had been intense, the shock disastrous to his self-control.  The
haggard mark of it upon his face Don read with scalding heart and
brooded.  When after a refractory week of undisciplined nerves and
temper that strained the doctor's endurance to the breaking point,
Brian went out of his head for forty-eight hours and babbled like a
madman about a face in the mist, Kenny in terror wired for Frank
Barrington.  Brian, he thought, must be frantic with pain.

Frank came, mystified and apprehensive.  He found a white and apathetic
patient who, with his delirium gone, denied abnormal pain.

"It isn't pain," Frank reported.  "Of that I'm convinced.  His head's
in excellent condition and his danger of lameness is at an end.  Though
he resented the suggestion, I think there's something on his mind.  And
whatever it is, he's much too shattered nervously to give it a normal
valuation."

"Keep that kid out of his room," advised Kenny hotly.  "I can't.  He
moons around up there like a ghost.  Brian admits that he's so sorry
for him at times that it makes him feel sick."

"Hum!" said Frank and went in search of Don.

"I suppose you think I'm too much of a kid to have an opinion," Don
told him, his face white and fierce, "but I--I did it.  And I watch him
more than anybody else--"  He choked and blinked back boyish tears of
indignation.

"Keep Mr. O'Neill out of Brian's room," he snorted.  "He'd excite
anybody!"

"I intend to keep you all out," was Frank's verdict in the end.  "All
but the nurse and Joan.  Joan's not temperamental and she has nothing
on her conscience.  She has moreover a sedative convincing type of
cheer that's a mighty good influence.  The rest of you are simply on a
sentimental spree of penance.  You, Kenny, are so anxious to square
yourself that you make him nervous and he fumes and blames himself.
And Don can't look at him without remorse in his eyes.  You're both too
flighty and penitential for Brian's good."

Frank departed and Joan compassionately set herself to sentinel the
sickroom.  There were trying hours when her voice alone had power to
soothe the querulous young savage whose tired eyes begged them all to
forgive him.

Nurses came and nurses hopelessly departed.  Brian hated and hounded
them all with savage and impartial persistence.  He was jarring even
the little doctor out of his normal weary calm.

"I've seen him flat on the back of him before," Kenny confided to Joan
in some distress, "a lamb for sense!  But now he's tiring you out."

"You mustn't blame him," urged Joan.  "He never asks me to come.  I go
always of my own accord and oftener now since Frank scolded.  He's
lonely without you and Donald and he hates the nurse--"

"He hates 'em all," said Kenny.

"No matter how nervous he is, I can read him to sleep."

"Ah, colleen!"  There was a flash of reverence in Kenny's eyes.  It
mutely thanked her.

"I can't forget what he did for Don.  Nor can I forget that Don's
impulse--"

"Don remembers too."

Joan sighed.

"He worries me, Kenny--Don, I mean.  Sometimes I think he sees in my
help the one atonement he can make: he fumes and reproaches so when
Brian is nervous or lonely.  He even dreams of the boulder."

"And the year of study, mavourneen?"

Joan's face clouded.

"Don needs me," she said.  "He would be frantic here alone.  I cannot
desert him."

"Nor I," said Kenny.  "But the year of waiting ends at Samhain."

"Yes," said Joan, coloring.  "I have given Don the money," she added.
"If now he would only study!"

"He shall!" said Kenny and set himself to the finishing of Brian's
winter task.  That sacrifice, at least, he decided, nagging Don into
hours of study that were a godsend to them both, should not become an
anticlimax.  He had paid once--in ragged money.  For Joan's sake he
would pay willingly again in time.  Brian and Joan and Don--and he
himself, with indolence for once in his life unwelcome, would be
happier for the effort.  But there were moments of clash and irritation
when Don's energy flagged and he flung his books aside in black disgust.

"No use," he said moodily.  "I can't work.  I've got too much on my
mind."

Kenny merely looked at him.

Don flushed.

"Mr. O'Neill," he barked.

"Shut up!" thundered Kenny, "I don't propose to quarrel now or at any
other time."

They glared at each other in nervous indignation.

"Brian," Kenny added with a sniff, "was sure you could swing it.  I
never was.  You need balance and a sense of responsibility."

Don gritted his teeth and worked in an inexhaustible spurt of endurance.

"Stop wandering around the room and kicking things," Kenny commanded
more than once with his own hand clenched in his hair.  "If you don't
remember, you don't remember, and that's an end of it.  Here's the
book.  Look it over while I'm smoking."

Once when the clash had a suspicious ring of familiarity, he grinned.

"What's the matter?" demanded Don huffily.  "What are you laughing at?
Me?"

"No," said Kenny.  "I was just thinking of a man I know.  Name's
Whitaker."

Thus May came with a warm wind of spice and fresh misgivings furrowed
the doctor's brow.

"Now that the windows are opened so much," he fretted, "the rumble of
that quarry is inferno.  The blasts bother him?"

"He jumps," said Joan.

"I thought so.  He must have peace and quiet.  If Mr. O'Neill is
willing, we'll move him to the farm."

By the time the orchard flung out its white prayer of blossoms to the
sun, the doctor had his patient at the farm.

And summer dreamed again upon the hills.



CHAPTER XXXVII

HONEYSUCKLE DAYS

Pine-sweet wind still blew around the cabin, the sylvan river laughed
in the sun, wistaria hung grape-like on the ladder of vine; but over it
all, to Kenny, brooded the pathos of change.

He longed wistfully for the gay vitality of that other summer when
every day had been an exquisite intaglio of laughter.  There were times
when unreasonably he even missed Adam.  How the nights in contrast had
sharpened the joy of his days!  And he hated the village boy who
ferried the punt back and forth upon the river, hated the horn with its
transforming miracles of reminiscence, for it pointed the nameless lack
of sparkle now that struck melancholy into his soul.  He had lived in
Arcady and jealously he would have hoarded each detail of its charm.

The days were long and quiet.  Life for all of them centered around the
wheel-chair on the porch.  There Joan read aloud while the nurse kept
wisely in the background, and Hannah at meal-times set the table on the
porch.

In the long afternoons of study that Kenny spent with Don, Brian
asserted his independence and banished books.  He seemed content to
talk.  Joan listened eagerly to his tales of the road, never tiring of
Don's vagabond adventures.  After the worried months of monotony and
pain, the afternoons of reminiscence were tonic for them both.  Lazy
humor crept back to Brian's eyes.  At times he whistled.  Wind and sun
were tanning his skin to the hue of health.

He had his dark hours.  Every effort then to cheer him left him tired
and quiet.  Talk of the chain of circumstances that had, oddly, brought
them all together, he avoided with a frown.  Any reference to her life
in New York, Joan found, plunged him into gloom.  Was it, she wondered,
because he knew his accident had brought her year of play and study to
an end?  She longed passionately to tell him how easy it had been for
her--how trifling, as a sacrifice, in the face of his kindness to Don;
but shyness held her back.

"Honeysuckle days!" Brian called his days of convalescence, for the
vine upon the porch hung full.

"Is it so hot in the pines?" he wondered one sultry afternoon.

"No," said Joan.  "There it's always dark and cool and quiet.  When you
can walk, Brian, you must see the cabin."

Heat quivered visibly in the valley.  A faint breeze frolicked now and
then upon the ridge, fluttering the honeysuckle and the pages of an
open book upon the table.

"I'm glad it isn't," said Brian in relief.  "Somehow I can't imagine
Kenny off there in a hot cabin striding up and down and grilling Don.
He's so--so combustible.  As a matter of fact," he added, "I can't
imagine him in any sort of cabin grilling Don.  Soft-hearted lunatic!"

"Don gets awfully on his nerves," said Joan, shaking her head.  "If it
wasn't that he's doing it for you--"

"For me, Joan!"

Joan nodded.

"What you began, he'll finish for you.  He said so.  It bothered him
that all those dreary months you spent at the quarry just to help Don
might be in vain.  Don went so dreadfully to pieces."

"Sentimental old hothead," grumbled Brian, touched and pleased.  "I
love him for it."

"I wonder if you realize how much he cares!"

"For--you?" asked Brian quietly.  "Yes."

"No, no," said Joan, coloring.  "For you.  For you he has worked
through splendidly to--to less of self.  And so has Don.  It's a
wonderful tribute, Brian.  To inspire something fine and beautiful is
fine and beautiful itself."

Brian stared uncomfortably at a red barn in the valley.

"To have something dormant inside that catches fire and burns up
splendidly into unselfishness is better," he said.  "This porch is like
a throne.  One sits up here among the honeysuckles and finds a world of
summer at his feet."

"Last summer," remembered Joan, "Kenny used to tell me over and over
again that you were all things in one.  All, Brian.  Think of it!
Almost," she finished demurely, "I came to believe it."

Brian glanced at her in droll suspicion.  Her eyes laughed at him with
the wholesome mischief of a child.

"Almost!" he countered.  "I insist upon my full meed of perfection.
When did I lose it?"

"When you hounded the nurse--"

"Plural noun," amended Brian wryly.

"Plural," agreed Joan.  "I knew then that the idol had clay feet."

Brian groaned.

"Haven't you?"

"Yes," he said.  "And a clay head.  But I was never an idol."

"Oh, yes you were!" said Joan.  "When you gave up your trip abroad to
help Don, you became to me a wonderful sort of--of selfless young
god--"

"Joan!"  He stared at her in panic.

"Truly.  And I'd rather have you human.  I always thought of you with
thankful worship--"

"I approve the attitude," said Brian mischievously.   "Please state
when and why discontinued."

"The minute I met you."

"Phew!  That I consider unnecessarily heartless candor.  Did you ever
hear of tempering the wind to the shorn lamb?"

"If I had met you in the end, alive and well," said Joan thoughtfully,
"I would have kept you up there on your pedestal out of mortal reach
but you came into my life, hurt and pitiful, and you needed help, my
sort of help, and something humanized you.  You were no longer a god.
You were something human--"

"Thank God for that!" said Brian.

"Besides," added Joan, twinkling, "you had clay feet.  Garry wrote me
that you had an Irish temper--"

"And I told you to write him!"

"I asked him _all_ about you," said Joan.  "He wrote me such a splendid
letter.  It made me like you--more.  And you can't know what it meant
when you wrote and pledged yourself to help Don."

"Garry is my press agent," said Brian with a sniff, "I pay him.  And
I'll dock him for the part about my temper."

"Brian, so often I--I've wanted to thank you!"

"Don't," he begged.  "Please don't.  What I did--you see," he
stammered, "it just--happened."

"Like the letter you wrote to me, praising someone else to guarantee
your own respectability.  Is it always someone else, Brian?  Don't you
ever think of yourself?"

"Lying here," said Brian moodily, "I've thought of little else.
There's Hannah with the tablecloth.  It can't be six o'clock."

"It is," said Joan.  "And Mr. Abbott's coming to supper."

She fled in a panic.

"Will the child never have done with chains?" Hannah demanded as the
weeks slipped by.

"When it wasn't Don, it was old Adam.  And now it's someone else.  And
Mr. O'Neill's got more patience, Hughie, than I ever thought was in
him."

"I like him better t'other way," said Hughie.  "Things is livelier.
I'd sooner be diggin' dots than dronin' along so poky."

"It's my opinion," put in Hannah tartly, "that last summer just about
spoiled your taste for anything but the life of a pirate.  If you must
have somebody throwin' a bottle at your head or dumpin' ministers into
the river or diggin' treasure, things have come to a pretty pass."

Hughie whistled.

"I ain't the only one that's restless," he defended.  "Don's as
contraptious as a mule.  And I've caught a look in young O'Neill's eye
once or twice like old Sim's black mare, mettlesome and anxious to
bolt."

"Until Joan slips into a chair with a book or some work," snapped
Hannah.  "Then he's a lamb.  If I was Mr. O'Neill I'd thrash Don into
common sense and I'd remind t'other young man, son or no son, that the
nurse ain't earnin' her keep.  Joan's earnin' it for her."

Alone, Kenny owned, one can not be gay and lunch in glens where the wee
folk hide and whisper.  And Joan and he himself had chains.  He
accepted the summer with a wry grimace, reading in its irksome demands
a chance for real requital.  He found no bitterness in the cup he had
set himself to drink.  It was the price of Brian's welfare and Brian's
peace of mind.  But he hungered for Joan and the long, gay days of
another summer.  When had she grown up so, he wondered impatiently.  He
missed the romping child with the sun shadows in her hair; he missed
her eager tears and laughter.  To his skillful touch they had been but
strings of a beautiful harp, subtly, unfailingly responsive.  Ah! she
had been a beautiful promise--that starved child of a summer ago--but
the promise fulfilled in the woman, he owned with a rush of feeling, he
loved more.  Her essential tenderness, strumming kindred chords in his
sensitive Celtic soul, aroused an unfamiliar sense of the holiness of
love.

And he was splendidly afire with dreams.

In July the little doctor found his patient strong enough for crutches
and dismissed the nurse.  And unexpectedly John Whitaker arrived,
growling his opinion of the rural trains.

"Can you walk without your crutches?" he barked, his glasses oddly
moist.

"A little," said Brian.

Whitaker sat down and blinked.

"You don't deserve a job," he grumbled, "turning me down for a dynamite
spree, but I'm going to send you to Ireland in the fall.  There's a
story there--a big one.  If," he added grimly, "you can manage to get
in."

Late August found the tension of worry at an end.  Brian at last was
walking.  And Don had fought a battle with his books and won.

Kenny's spirits soared.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

ARCADY ELUDES A SEEKER

"Come," Kenny begged one night when the dusk lay thick in the valley.
"Let's pace the Gray Man, Joan, in Garry's car.  Nobody needs you now
as much as I."

His bright dark face pleaded.

The girl smiled.

"Kenny, Kenny, Kenny," she said, "will you ever grow up?"

"Did Peter Pan?  Better get your cloak, dear.  You may need it."

He went off whistling to the barn.  Kenny had blessed the car and Garry
many times.  He blessed them again as the engine throbbed in the dusk.
Hot silence lay upon the ridge, broken only by the noise of insects.

"A long road and a straight road and Samhain at the end!" he sang as
Joan climbed in.  "And bless the Irish heart of me, dear, there's a
moon scrambling up behind the hill and peeping over.  Lordy, Lordy!" he
added under his breath, "what a moon!"

  "'On such a night
  Did Jessica steal from the wealthy Jew
  And with an unthrift love did run to Venice
  As far as--'

"Hum!  I've forgotten.  Wonder why Shakespeare looked ahead and
harpooned me with that word unthrift.  Where to, Jessica?  Where shall
the unthrift lover drive on such a night?"

Joan stared absently at the road ahead.

"To Ireland," she said.

The answer pleased him.

"I mind me," he said instantly, "of an Irish tale of Finn McCoul."

Joan did not answer.

"Tell me," she said at last.  "Finn and you are always delightful."

Kenny stared at her in marked reproach.

"Joan!" he exclaimed.

"What--what is it, Kenny?"

"That's just the sort of polite nothing you learned in New York!"

"I'm sorry, Kenny.  I'm--tired.  And just for a minute I wasn't
listening.  You know how it is.  You hear an echo in your mind a long
while after and answer in a panic."  She brushed her cheek against his
sleeve with a remorseful gesture of appeal.  His arm went round her.

"There!" he said with a sigh of relief.  "That's better.  I'm lonesome
when we're not in tune."

"And the story?"

Kenny told of a fairy face that Finn had seen in a lake among the
heather.

"Leaf-brown eyes had the nymph, I take it, and satin-cream skin with a
rose showin' through and allurin' lashes maybe dipped in the ink-pots
of the fairies."

"What," said Joan from the shelter of his arm, "is a blarney stone?"

"A substitute for lips!" said Kenny instantly and kissed her.

"And Finn?"

"Plunged into the waters of the lake, he did, as any son of Erin
would--and found the maid."

But Joan's eyes were absently fixed upon the road again and Kenny
abandoned his legend with a sigh until he bethought himself to use its
climax in reproach.

"And when Finn reappeared, he was an old, old man, as old as a man may
feel when his lady's attention wanders."

Joan colored and laughed, her eyes faintly mischievous, wholly
apologetic.

"Finn's youth," Kenny gallantly assured her, "was restored to him by
magic and surely there is magic in a woman's smile."

They motored on in a silence that Kenny found depressing.  When would
Arcady come again, he wondered rebelliously, wistful for the sparkle of
that other summer when fairies, silver-shod, had danced upon the
moonlit lake.  The strain of worry had tired them both.

The wind swept coolly toward them sweet with pine.  Wind and pine up
here were always mingling.  A night--a moon for lovers!  The clasp of
his arm tightened.

The peace of the night was insistent.  After all with worry at an end
Arcady might not lie so very far away--it was creeping into his heart,
sweet with the music of many trees.  Joan too perhaps--he stole a
glance at the girl's face, colorless in the moonlight like some soft,
exquisite flower--and drew up the emergency brake with a jerk.  Her
lashes were wet.

"Joan," he exclaimed, "you're not crying!"

She tried to smile and buried her face on his shoulder.

"I think," she said forlornly, "it--it's just because everything has
turned out so--so nicely."

He motored homeward, ill at ease, aware after a time that the girl
cradled in his arm had fallen asleep.  Her tears worried him.

"But I'm quite all right now, Kenny," she protested as they drove up
the lane.  "It's partly the heat.  Why didn't you wake me?"

He swung her lightly to the ground.

"I liked to think I was helping you rest," he said gently.  "You need
it.  Don't wait, dear.  It's late."

He climbed back in the car and glided off barnwards, waving his arm.
Joan went slowly up the stairway to her room.

Latticed moonlight lay upon a chair by the window.  She dropped into
it, weary and inert, grateful for the rushing sound of the river; it
soothed her with familiar music.  A clock downstairs chimed the hour,
then the half--and then another hour.  Below in the moonlight a man was
climbing up from the river.

"Brian," she called breathlessly, "is it you?"

"Yes."

"Dr. Cole will scold.  It's twelve o'clock."

Brian tossed his cigarette away with a sigh.

"He'll never know.  I've been sitting down there in the punt.  The
river's silver.  Come down for a while," he implored.  "All evening
I've been as lonely as a leper.  Ever since you motored off with Kenny,
Don's been a grouch.  Can't you climb down the vine?"

"I--I can't, Brian."

"Please, Joan.  I'll tell Kenny myself in the morning."

"No," said Joan.  "I--can't.  I--I wish I could."

"So do I," said Brian.  He walked away.

Shaking and sobbing, Joan flung herself upon the bed.

"Sid writes me you're home," Kenny wrote to Garry in September.  "What
about the car?  Come up for a while and drive it home.  We can do some
sketching.  Brian's full of Irish melancholy and waiting for word from
Whitaker.  He may go any time.  Joan's tired and busy with clothes.
Don's cranky and I'm rather at a loose end, hunting things to do."

Puzzled, Garry went.

"I can't make out what's wrong," he wrote to Sid, "Kenny's rational
enough, but Brian's strung to the breaking point.  I suspect it's just
as it always has been--they're miserable apart and hopeless together.
But the year has been a sobering one, and what used to flash, they
bottle up.  In my opinion the sooner Brian gets away the better.  He's
not himself."



CHAPTER XXXIX

THE TENSION SNAPS

Months back Fate had flung out a skein of broken threads to the wind of
Chance.  In mid September she chose to bring the flying ends together.

It began when Hannah dropped a dipper.  Hughie on his way to the
wood-box with an armful of kindlings jumped and dropped them with a
clatter.  And he stepped on Toby's tail and swore.  Hannah and Hughie
and Toby, startled, shared a sharp moment of resentment.

"Hughie," Hannah's impatience keyed her voice a trifle high, "'pon my
honor I don't know what gets into you.  Ever since you took to diggin'
dots you've been as nervous as a cat.  You're full of jumps.  It's my
opinion if the doctor hadn't told you that Mr. O'Neill himself buried
the money in the fireplace, you'd be diggin' dots in a lunatic asylum!"

Hughie's horrified face of warning turned her cold with foreboding.
Hannah turned and gasped.

Joan stood behind her.

"Hannah," she asked, "what did you say?"

"I--I don't know," said Hannah, scarlet with confusion.  "I'm all
unstrung and my head's queer--"

Hughie went out and slammed the door.

"You said that Mr. O'Neill--buried--the money--in Uncle's fireplace!"
repeated Joan distinctly.  She caught Hannah's arm, her dark frightened
eyes imploring.  "Hannah, did he?"

Shaking, Hannah put her apron to her eyes.  "Hannah, you must tell me.
It is important that I know.  No, don't cry.  Did Mr. O'Neill bury the
money--in Uncle's fireplace?"

"Yes," choked Hannah in a low voice.  "Oh, Hughie will never forgive
me!"

"How do you know?"

"The doctor.  Hughie went on diggin', thinking there must be more,
until he was sick with nerves.  The doctor had to tell him."

"And how did the doctor know?"

The girl's strained quiet helped Hannah to regain her self-control.

"Mr. O'Neill went to Rink's hotel to telephone," she faltered, wiping
her eyes, "and Sam Acker put his ear to the door.  He--he telephoned
for a lot of ragged money--"

Joan caught her breath.

"And then a week later," gulped Hannah, "when the doctor came to tend
his wife, Sam told it, for Mr. O'Neill had said the doctor sent him
there to telephone.  And the doctor never would have told but for
Hughie's nerves.  He said so when he pledged us both to keep it secret.
He spoke wonderful about Mr. O'Neill.  That I must say.  And he called
him somebody Donkeyhote--"

"Where is Mr. O'Neill?"

"He drove down to the village with Mr. Rittenhouse for the mail."

Joan glided away like a shadow.

Don Quixote!  And so he had done that strange, fantastic thing for
her--and she had given the money away to Don!  Joan stopped at the foot
of the stairway, her face colorless and unbelieving, her mind casting
up a vivid picture of the night of search in the sitting room.
It--could--not--be!

Ah, but it could!  For Kenny, reckless and on his mettle, was a
finished actor.  And the morning at the telephone!  His silence and
constraint had bothered her then not a little.  Later, whirling through
the blizzard in a taxi, he had begged her not to do it.  And he had
surrendered in the end with a sigh and smiled and kissed her.  His
eyes, warmly blue, irresistibly Irish in their tenderness, seemed now
to stare at her with sad reproach.  Ah, the kindness of him!  Hot
stinging tears rolled slowly down the girl's white cheeks.

"Joan!"  It was Brian's voice behind her.

Joan turned, trembling, blinked and smiled.

Something in her face drove his memory back to the moonlit wood.  Niobe
on the verge of a passion of tears!

"You look like a sad little brown thrush," he said gently.

His voice, his eyes chilled her with foreboding.  They stood in utter
silence.

Joan touched the throbbing veins in her throat and moistened her lips.

"You have heard from Mr. Whitaker--"

"Yes, Garry brought the letter up."

"When--"

"I'm sailing in a week.  I go from here--to-morrow."

"Brian!"

The terror in her eyes startled him and the tension snapped.  An
instant later she was crying wildly in his arms.  Brian crushed his
lips against her cheek, conscious only of an agonizing stab of joy,
then Joan pulled away, her eyes dark with grief and shame.

"Oh, Brian, Brian," she whispered passionately, "I--want--to die."

"I've wanted to die for weeks," said Brian.  "Almost I think I did."

Joan caught her breath with a shuddering gasp.

"Don't!" said Brian.  "I--can't bear to hear you cry.  I've always
known that I was a pretty poor sort but this--"

His honest eyes begged for understanding,

Joan's face, wet with tears, condoned.

"I--I am worse," she said unsteadily.

He caught her hands rebelliously.

"But you love me," he said wistfully.  "That, at least--"

Joan slipped into his arms again with a sob.

"I love you better than my life," she said, "and I may--never--say it
again."

[Illustration: "I love you better than my life," Joan said, "and I
may--never--say it again."]

Brian pressed his cheek against her hair.

"No," he said.  "No.  I would not have you say it again, Joan, dear as
it is to hear it."

An eternity of minutes seemed to tick away in the silence.

"Brian, you must believe I meant to be true to Kenny--"

"Don't!" he choked, paling at the sound of Kenny's name.  "Oh, Kenny,
Kenny!"

Joan buried her face in his arm.  Both were thinking with hot
remorseful hearts of that stormy penitent with the laughing, tender
Irish eyes.  Both loved him well.  And both were pledging themselves to
keep his happiness intact.

Joan's tormented memory was busy with pictures: Kenny disastrously
sculling the punt to help her, Kenny in the death-chamber shuddering
and patient and passionately resolved to stay by her to the end, Kenny
with the lantern held high above her head, Kenny digging dots and
helping Don to study and Kenny tearing bricks from the ancient
fireplace.

She slipped out of his arms in a panic, her face, Brian thought, as
white as the old-fashioned lilies in the garden.

"Brian, go--" she choked.

With the truth of the ragged money burning itself into her mind--with
Brian so near and yet so far--the touch of his arms was torment.

Hungry for the peace of the pines and the lonely cabin, Joan fled
out-of-doors.



CHAPTER XL

THE KING OF YOUTH

Ten minutes later Kenny, coming into the dark, old-fashioned library
where Adam's books were once more arrayed upon the shelves, found Don
wandering turbulently around the room.

Was this boy ever anything but turbulent, he wondered with impatience.
Must he always brood about the boulder and atonement?

Don stopped dead in his tracks, his fingers clenched in his hair, his
white face staring queerly; and Kenny, irresistibly reminded of himself
in minutes of turmoil, stared back, knowing in a flash of inspiration
why the tale of the boulder had made him think of the crash of bouillon
cups.  The desire of the moment that marked men for disaster!  The
tongue-tied youngster there with his feet rooted to the ground and his
face pale with agitation, was indeed something like himself.  Kenny had
a moment of pity.

"Mr. O'Neill," said Don with a hard, dry sob, "you know I've wanted to
make up to Brian somehow about that boulder.  If I hadn't been crazy to
drive up the ledge once and if I hadn't lied to Grogan and bullied
Tony, Brian wouldn't have spent the rest of the winter in a plaster
cast.  I--I want to do something for him, something big, and I--I've
got to do it in a queer way."  He shuddered and wiped his face.  Kenny
saw that his hands were shaking wildly, and pitied him again.  "Mr.
O'Neill," he blurted, "Brian loves my sister and she loves him."

It seemed to Kenny that lightning struck with a sinister flare of fire
at his feet and hot blinding pieces of the floor were flying all about
him.

"How do you know?" he said fiercely.  "How _do_ you know?  How can you
know such a thing as that?  You can't!  You can't possibly."

"I do," said Don.  "I heard them say it."

"Heard them!"

"I was on the porch," said Don, "and I came through the window there to
get a book.  They were in the hall."

"You listened!"

Don flushed.

"I--I wanted to," he said sullenly.  "And I did."

"Ah, yes," said Kenny, wiping his hair back and wondering vaguely why
it felt so wet, "you wanted to and you did."

"I wanted to," said Don fiercely, "because I knew Brian loved her.  And
I knew my sister wasn't happy.  She's looked sad and tired and
frightened a lot of times, Joan has, and she's cried a lot--"

"Yes," said Kenny, "she has."

Don's challenging eyes swept with stormy suspicion over Kenny's face.

"Mr. O'Neill," he flung out, "don't you blame her.  Don't you do it.
She was a kid, an awful kid when you came here first, and lonesome.
She wanted to be flattered and loved.  All girls do.  She wasn't happy.
She wanted to play and you gave her a chance.  You're famous and you've
been everywhere and you're a good looker," he gulped courageously, "and
maybe you turned her head.  I--don't know.  I think she loves you an
awful lot anyway.  But not--not that way.  You could have been her
father--"

"Yes," said Kenny wincing.  "She's younger than Brian."  Where had he
read that youth was cruel?  "Yes, I could have been her father."

"I don't mean you're old," stammered Don, flushing.  "I mean--Oh, Mr.
O'Neill--" and now Don slipped back into childhood for a second and
sobbed aloud--"I--I don't know what I mean.  You just--just mustn't
blame her.  She's my sister.  She even patched my clothes."

"I'm not blaming her, Don.  God knows I'm not.  I'm just wonderin'."

"Joan's going to marry you just the same.  She said so.  Mr. O'Neill,
you've got to do something.  You--you've got to!"  He clenched his
hands and bolted for the door.

"Yes," said Kenny, frowning, "I--I've got to do something.  I
can't--think--what.  Where's Joan?"

"I think she's gone to the cabin.  She often went there when Uncle made
her cry.  Mr. O'Neill," Don clenched one hand and struck it fiercely
against the palm of the other, "you've been good to me.  I--I'm awful
sorry--"

He fled with a sob and Kenny put his hand to his throat to still a
painful throbbing.

There was a clanking in his ears.  Or was it in his memory?  Ah, yes,
Adam had said that life was a link in a chain that clanks, and he
couldn't escape.  Well, he hadn't.

Kenny sat down, conscious of a tired irresolution in his head and a
numbness.  Nothing seemed clearly defined, save somewhere within him a
monumental sharpness as of pain.  Joan's happiness he remembered must
be the religion of his love.

After  that  things  blurred--curiously.  Superstition, ordinarily
within him but an artificial twist of fancy, reared a mocking head and
reminded him of omens.  Sailing over the river long ago he had thought
of Hy Brazil, the Isle of Delight that receded always when you
followed.  Receded!  It was very true.  Later the wind among the
blossoms had been chill and fitful and Joan had been unaware of the
romance in the white, sweet drift.  Omens!  And rain had come, the
blossom storm.  And Death had spread its sable wing over the first day
of his love.  He shuddered and closed his eyes.

Separate thoughts rose quiveringly from the blur.  He thought of a
lantern and Samhain.  Samhain, the summer-ending of the druids!
Perhaps this was the summer ending of his youth and hope.  And he had
drank in Adam's room that Samhain night to Destiny--Destiny who had
brought him--this!

Still the blur and the separate thoughts stinging into his
consciousness like poisoned arrows.  Whitaker's voice, persistent and
analytical, rang in his ears.  The King of Youth!  Kenny laughed aloud
and tears stung at his eyes.  He blinked and laughed again.  Why, he
was growing up all at once!  John would be pleased.  Thoughts of
Whitaker, Brian, his farcical penance and Joan, became a brilliant
phantasmagoria from which for an interval nothing emerged separate or
distinct.  Then sharp and clear came the dread of Brian's death and the
ride over the sleet with Frank.  The steering wheel strained in his
aching hands and the wheels slid dangerously . . .  He did not want to
be a failure . . .  He wanted passionately after all the turmoil to be
Brian's successful parent.  If in this instance there was a curious
need to wreck his own life in order that he might parent Brian with
success, he must not make a mess of it.  Once, accidentally, John said,
he had almost shipwrecked Brian's life and Brian had stepped out--just
in the nick of time.  He must not do that again.  Brian had suffered
enough from self rampant in others.

The King of Youth! . . .  The King of Youth! . . .  And Brian was
twenty-four years _old_.  He must not make him--older.  This sharp
aging all in a moment was fraught with pain.

His weary ears resented the mocking persistence of Whitaker's
voice.  Kenny's happy-go-lucky self-indulgence, it said, had often
spelled for Brian discomfort of a definite sort. . . .  Well,
it--should--not--spell--pain. . . .  And if in the past his generosity
had always been congenial, now it should hurt.  Was he about to learn
something of the psychology of sacrifice that Adam had said he ought to
know?

He swung rebelliously to his feet.  Why must the fullness of life come
through sacrifice?  Why must all things good and permanent and true
come only out of suffering?  Why must men pay for their dreams with
pain?

He moved mechanically toward the door. . . .  Yes, he cared more for
Joan's happiness than for his own.  And she was suffering.  Why, the
tired truth of it was, he loved them both enough to want to see them
happy . . .  And he would be a part of Don's erratic atonement.

He smiled wryly and realized with a start that he was already
out-of-doors, walking dazedly toward the cabin in the pines.  The
fresh, sweet wind blew through his hair and into his face, but the blur
persisted, filled with voices and memories and promptings from God
alone knew where.

The odor of pine was sharply reminiscent. . . .  And then with a shock
that stung him out of inhibition he was staring in at the cabin window.
Joan sat by the table, her head upon her arm, her shoulders heaving.

"Poor child!" he said heavily.  "Poor child!"  And savagely cursed the
summer pictures that flamed in his mind at the sight of her.  The
cabin, the wistaria ladder, the punt, the girl by the willow in the
gold brocade--

Well, he must go hurriedly toward that door or not at all.  His courage
was failing.

The sound of the door startled her.  Joan leaped to her feet and stood,
shaking violently, by the table, one hand clutching at the edge of it
in terror.

In that tongue-tied minute, if he had but known, with his fingers
clenched in his hair and his face scarlet, he was like that turbulent
boy who such a little while ago had crashed into his life with a sob.

Joan's agonized eyes, wet with tears, brought home to him the need of a
steady head . . . and responsibility.  Yes, he must keep his two feet
solidly on the ground and face a gigantic responsibility.

"Don't cry, dear, please!" he said gently.  "It's just one of the
things that can't be helped.  Don told me.  He overheard."

Her low cry hurt--viciously.  And she came flying wildly across the
room to his arms, sobbing out her grief and remorse.

"Oh, Kenny, Kenny." she sobbed.  "I--want--you--both."

His shaking arms sheltered her.  A heart-broken child!  He must
remember that.  And, as Don said, he could have been her father.

"Happiness with the least unhappiness to others, girleen," he reminded
with his cheek against her hair.  "Remember?"

"Yes," she choked.

"You must go to Brian.  Any foolish notion of sacrifice now will only
tangle the lives of all of us."

"But--I cannot forget!  Kenny, if only you would hate me!"

"I didn't mean to love you, mavourneen.  It was like the tale of
Killarney.  I left a cover off in my heart and a spring gushed out and
flooded my life."

"I am blaming myself!"

"You must not do that.  You were in love with love.  You must now know
how different it--"  But he could not say it, courageous as he felt.

"And the money!" choked Joan.  "Oh, Kenny, Kenny, the ragged money!
And I gave it away.  And you were so good--so good!"

He frowned, unable to understand at once the relevance of the ragged
money and realized that Joan was sobbing into his shoulder the tale of
an eavesdropping bartender and a doctor.  He accepted it, dazedly,
thunderstruck at the alertness of his Nemesis who missed no single
chance to shoot an arrow.

"And Don must give that money back.  I will tell him--"

"No," said Kenny.  "No, he must not."

She stared at him in wonder.

"Mavourneen," he pleaded wistfully, "may I--not do that at least for
someone who is yours?  Don needs it."

He could not know that his kindness was to her more poignant torment
than his bitterest reproach.  He thought as the color fled from her
lips and left her gray and trembling, that she was fainting.  He held
her closely in his arms.

She slipped away from him and sat down weakly in a chair.  Dusk lay
beyond the windows.  Joan covered her face with her hands.

"The Gray Man," she whispered.  "He's peeping in."

Pain flared intolerably in Kenny's throat and stabbed into his heart.
He drew the shades with a shudder and lighted the lamp.

In the supreme moment of his agony, came inspiration.  He must save
them all with a lie!  Queer that, queer and contradictory!  Yes, after
practicing the truth, he must save them all from shipwreck with a lie.

"Girleen," he said, "there is something now that I must tell you.  I
thought never to say it.  You came into my dream that day beneath the
willow in gold brocade, with afterglow behind you and an ancient boat.
I am an Irishman--and a painter.  'Twas a spot of rare enchantment and
I said to myself, I am falling in love--again."

"Again!" echoed Joan a little blankly.

"Again!" said Kenny inexorably.  "You see, Joan, dear, I was used to
falling in love.  There are men like that.  You and Brian would never
understand."

"No," said the girl, shocked.  "No."

"You made a mistake, the sort of mistake that drives half the lifeboats
on the rocks.  I mean, dear, falling in love with love.  But you're
over that.  It was--a different sort of love with me.  I knew as we
crossed the river that first day in the punt that the madness could not
last.  You see--it never had."

"Kenny!"

If Joan in that moment had remembered the Irishman tearing bricks from
the fireplace in a spasm of histrionic zeal, she might have distrusted
the steadiness of his level, kindly glance.  She might have guessed
that again he was reckless and on his mettle.  But she did not remember.

"Romance and mystery," said Kenny, lighting a cigarette and smiling at
her through a cloud of smoke, "were always the death of me.  My fancy's
wayward and romantic.  Afterward your will-of-the-wisp charm held me
oddly.  You kept yourself apart and precious.  And I was always
pursuing.  It was provocative--and unfamiliar.  And then came Samhain,
the--the summer-ending."  There was an odd note in his voice.  "I faced
a new experience.  I had gone over the usual duration of my madness and
I thought," he smiled, "I thought I was loving you for good.  But--"

Her dark eyes stared at him, wistful and yet in the moment of her hope
a shade reproachful.

"And--your love--did not last, Kenny?"  It was a forlorn little voice,
for all its unmistakable note of rejoicing.  How very young she
was--and childlike!

"It--did--not--last!" said Kenny deliberately.  "It never does with me.
I should have known it.  I love you sincerely, girleen.  I always
shall.  But I love you as I would have loved--my daughter."

"Your daughter!  Kenny, why then did you speak so of the flood of
Killarney?"

"I was testing you.  You can see for yourself.  I could not honorably
tell you this, dear, if you still cared."

"But I do care," cried Joan, flinging out her hands with a gesture of
appeal.  "I love you so much, Kenny, that it hurts."

"But not in the way you love Brian."

"No."

"And that, mavourneen, is as it should be."

He told her of the stage mother.  Let the lie go with the castle he had
built upon it.  And he would begin afresh.

"Ah," said Joan, dismissing it with shining eyes, "there, Kenny, you
meant only to be kind."

He wondered wearily why the lie with all its torment had not shocked
her.  Truth was queer.

Joan glided toward the door.  He caught in her face the look of a white
flame and dropped his eyes.  A Botticelli look.  Ah, well, it was
beautiful to be young and joyous!

"I must tell Brian," she said.

"Yes," said Kenny.  "Of course."

And she was gone.  Kenny lay back in his chair and closed his eyes; the
sound of her flying feet death in his ears.



CHAPTER XLI

WHEN THE ISLE OF DELIGHT RECEDED

Often Kenny had appreciatively dramatized for himself possible minutes of
tragedy.  They were always opportunities for Shakespearian soliloquy and
gesture.

Now he lay back in his chair much too tired for tragedy and gesture.  And
the need of soliloquy would have found him dumb.  Upper-most in his mind
was a dream in which Joan had peeped down at him from a balloon that went
ever and ever higher--like the Isle of Delight that was always--receding.
He had sensed in her to-night that aerial aloofness he had felt when he
blocked old Adam out from his dream of love.  Liebestraum!  The stabbing
pain in his heart grew hotter.

It was lonely here in the pines.  He wondered why he had never caught
before that chill pervading sense of solitude--sad solitude.  The pines
whispered.  It was not merely poetry.  They whispered plaintively. . . .
And he was very tired.

Rebellion came flaming into his apathy and Kenny caught his breath and
held it, fiercely striking his hands together again and again.  Sacrifice
and suffering!  Must it be like this?  What had he written in his
notebook anyway?  He seemed almost to have forgotten.

The book opened at a touch to the page he wanted.

"Sunsets and vanity," he read drearily and penciled the rebuke away with
a faint smile.  Like his hairbrained, unquenchable youth, bright with
folly, the sunsets and vanity lay in the past.  Vanity!  Ah, dear God! he
could not feel humbler.

Nor was he irresponsible--or a failure as a parent.  He had made good
to-night.  Surely, surely, he had made good to-night.  The one thing that
he might not mark out was his failure as a painter.

"Need to suffer and learn something of the psychology of sacrifice."
Well, he was--learning. . . .  Nay, he had learned.  Kenny fiercely drew
his pencil through the sentence and read the rest.

The truth, though he did not fully understand it, he would always try to
tell.  He had no debts.  The chairs in the studio were cleared of litter.
A plebeian regularity had made him uncomfortably provident.

So much for that part of his self-arraignment.  One by one he marked the
items out and stared with a twisted smile at the next.

"I borrow Brian's girls, his money and his clothes!"  Hum!  Once Garry
had barked at him for sending orchids to a girl or two whom Brian liked.

The money, the clothes, the paraphernalia he had pawned, were returned.
As for the girls--well, Brian had retaliated in kind and perhaps the debt
in its concentration of payment, was abundantly squared.

"Indolence."  That the record of his winter could disprove.

And finally, he read what, after Adam's telling of the truth, he had
scribbled at the end.

"Life is a battle.  I do not fight.  And life is not an individual
adventure."

It wasn't.  It was a chain that clanked.

"I do not fight," he read again and crossed it out.

"Adam, old man," he said wryly, "I think to-night I've done some
fighting.  And the fight has just begun."

He tore the page out, struck a match and burned it.  Again he dropped
back in his chair and closed his eyes.

Into the blur came Garry.

"Kenny!" he called.  "Kenny!"

Kenny opened his eyes with a start.  Garry stood by the cabin door, his
hand upon the knob.

"Don asked me to come.  Kenny, I was on the porch.  Great God! the kid
must have gone crazy."

"You heard?"

"Yes."

"He wanted to--atone."

"And now that he's cooled down enough to remember your kindness, Kenny,
he's breaking his heart over you.  A queer kid!  I almost thrashed him.
He's tramping off his brain-storm."

"And Joan?"

"With Brian."  Garry looked away.  "They have forgotten the world," he
added bitterly.

"Kenny, how did you manage?  That look in her face--"

"I lied."

"Gallant liar!" said Garry huskily.  "I knew you would.  It was the only
kind way."

"Almost," said Kenny, "I did not remember to lie in time.  Truth is a
thing I cannot understand."

The sympathy in Garry's eyes unnerved him.

"Garry," he flamed, "why did I practice the telling of truth to end now
with a lie?  Why did Joan plead for a year to learn to be my wife and
learn in it--not to be?"

"God knows!" said Garry gently.  "Why did agony come to Brian at the
hands of a boy he'd befriended?  And then--to you?"

"It is the Samhain of my life," said Kenny rising.  "And I am no longer
John Whitaker's King of Youth.  I think my youth died back there when Don
thrust it aside, not meaning, I take it, to be cruel.  But I grew up all
at once."  He frowned.  "Drowning men, they say, have a kaleidoscopic
vision of the past.  I think sitting here that came to me.  Perhaps,
Garry, if Eileen had lived I would have been different--steadier.  I
think I loved her.  I think it would have lasted.  A child is a beautiful
link.  Perhaps that fever of vanity that grew to a burning in my veins
would never have started.  Started, it was like a conflagration.  It
drove Brian to sunsets.  God knows what it didn't do.  I thought only of
myself--always.  That desire for adulation in a woman's eyes, that
curious persistent fever was, I'm sure, a sort of sex vanity.  It has
nearly ruined many another man's life.  It nearly ruined mine.  Always
when I was drifting into new madness, I couldn't work.  I dreamed.  The
Isle of Delight, always receding!  I sang and whistled.  The King of
Youth!  Only when I was drifting out again, could I bend myself to
concentration and sanity.  And then another look in a girl's soft
eyes--and more vanity and self and delirium.  But I'm tired.  I want to
look ahead to--to quiet and steadiness and work."

Garry, with the husk still in his throat, wandered off to the window.

"Garry!"

Garry wheeled and found a wistful, boyish Kenny with his fingers in his
hair.

"I'm no longer a failure as a parent?"

"No!" said Garry with decision.

"And God knows I haven't been a failure as a lover.  I'm prayin' I shan't
always be a failure as a painter.  It's the one thing left.  Somewhere in
Ireland, Garry, nine silent fairies blow beneath a caldron.  They know
the secrets of the future.  I'd like to be peepin'."

He was to know in time that the caldron held for him peace and big
achievement.

"I wish I could help!" said Garry.

"Garry, could you--would you drive me home to-night?"

"Anything!"

"You'll not be mindin'?"

"No.  It's better."

"Come," said Kenny, his color high.  "We'll be facin' it now."

They went in silence through the pines.



CHAPTER XLII

THE END OF KENNY'S SONG

A light flickered on the porch where Hannah hovered around the supper
table, puzzled and annoyed.

"I'm glad somebody's come at last," she exclaimed a trifle tartly.
"Every bug on the ridge has been staring at the supper table through
the screens.  And I promised Mis' Owen to drive over there to-night
with Hughie."

"Where's Brian?"

"He went down to the village with Joan."

"And Don?"

"Don said he'd eat his supper when he came.  It might be late."

Kenny, whistling a madcap hornpipe, glinted at the table with approval.

"Off with ye, now, Hannah, darlin'," he said.  "I'll stare the bugs
down until they come."

"They ought to be here now."  Hannah's eyes strained, frowning, toward
the lane.

"Ho, Brian!" Kenny called.

"Ho!" came a distant shout.  And then: "Coming, Kenny."

Had Kenny's call been one of reassurance?  To Garry, miserably intent
upon the ordeal ahead, the big Irishman, whistling softly in his chair,
had sent a message through the dark to ease the tension.  Already the
daredevil light danced wantonly in his eyes.

Hannah trotted off in better humor.

Dreading the supper hour, dreading the sound of steps upon the walk,
Garry smoked and gnawed his lips.  The meeting must be painful. . . .
Now they were coming along the gravel . . . and now . . .  He had
undervalued Kenny's tact.

The latch of the screen door clicked.  Kenny rummaged for cigarettes
and struck a match.  Joan had slipped to her place at the table before
he threw the match away.  Then he smiled.  His eyes were a curious
droll confessional that Brian seemed at once to understand.  They
deplored the fickle strain in his blood that doomed all madness of the
heart to end in time.  Brian had seen that look too many times to doubt
it now.

"Come, Garry."  Joan brought him into the circle at the table with a
smile.  Garry joined it with a sinking heart.  He would have had that
shining look of wonder in her eyes less unrestrained.  But the shadows
for Joan, thanks to Kenny's lie, lay already dimly in the past.

The merriment of the supper hour Garry thought of later with a pang.
He ate but little, fascinated by the reckless spontaneity of Kenny's
mood.  It put them all at ease.  The big kind Spartan will behind it
brought a catch to Garry's throat.  Daredevil glints laughed in Kenny's
eyes.  Again and again Garry found himself staring at the actor's vivid
face in a panic of unbelief.

"Garry's had a letter," said Kenny presently.  "He's driving back
to-night."

"Garry!"

"I'm sorry."  Garry rose.  "I'm afraid," he added, glancing at his
watch, "that I'll have to slip upstairs and sling some odds and ends in
my suit case.  Mind, Kenny?"

"Run along," said Kenny.  "I'll be up in a minute."  He drummed an
irresponsible tune upon the table and looked apologetic.

"If you'll not be mindin', Brian," he began, "I'll go along.  He
doesn't know the roads--"

Brian eyed him with a familiar glint of authority.

"I thought so," he said slowly.  "I saw it coming.  You're just in the
mood for what Jan calls 'rocketing' and Garry's letter, of course, was
the spark.  Luckily, old boy, I'm on the job again.  You've been
tearing around unguarded a shade too long."

"I've got to go," barked Kenny, pushing back his chair.  "I've had his
car for months.  Do you suppose I want him losing his way all night--"

He fumed off rebelliously, talking as he went.

Brian's eyes followed him through the doorway.

"Hum!" he said grimly.  "'Richard is himself again!'  You mustn't blame
him, Joan," he added.  "He was always like that.  He can't help it.  I
mean, dear, tumbling in and out of love.  I always knew the symptoms.
Falling in, he'd whistle softly and his eyes would shine.  He'd be up
in the clouds and altogether gay and charming, his work would begin to
pall and he'd put it aside until he began to run down.  I always knew
when he came to disillusion.  His conscience would begin to bother him
about work.  He'd be moody and discontented and a desperate flurry of
painting would follow until the next girl smiled."

He reached across the table and caught her hands.

"It is hard to believe it all," he said simply.  "And Ireland for a
honeymoon!"

The look of shining content in Joan's eyes deepened.

"Oh, Brian," she said.  "I shall love it, I know!"

Kenny climbed the stairway in a daze and packed his suit case.
Everywhere he felt the eyes of Adam Craig upon him--less and less
unkind.  They stared at him from the windows by the orchard.  They
stared over the creaking banister as he stumbled down the stairway with
his courage ebbing.  They stared from the library where the porch light
glimmered through the windows. . . .  Fall was in the wind to-night.
The old house creaked.  Adam's spirit swept in always with a sighing
wind.  Kenny shivered.  A bleak place--the ridge--and haunted.

With a shock he found himself upon the porch.  At the foot of the steps
Garry waited in the car, his gauntleted hands drumming nervously upon
the wheel.  If for a minute stark, incredulous terror swept through
Kenny's veins, his laughing lips belied it.  Then he kissed Joan
lightly on the cheek and went, whistling, down the steps with Brian.

"And you, Brian?" he said, halting on the lower step to light a
cigarette.  "What shall I tell John?"

"Tell him all," said Brian.  He talked hurriedly of his plans.

Kenny held out his hand.

"God speed, boy!" he said.

Garry--unsentimental Garry--blinked as the car shot down the lane.  He
clashed his gears and shuddered.

Brian stared.

"Phew!" he whistled as Joan came down the steps.  "Garry's driving like
a blacksmith."

They clung to each other in the dark and watched the headlights play
upon the trees.

From the end of the lane came Kenny's final gift of reassurance.  His
rollicking voice swept into the quiet, soft with brogue, as care-free
in song as it had been earlier in laughter:

  "'I'll love thee evermore
    Eileen a roon!
  I'll bless thee o'er and o'er
    Eileen a roon!'"

Brian laughed softly.

"Joan!  Joan!" he exclaimed in a rush of feeling.  Their lips met.

  "'Oh! for thy sake I'll tread
  Where plains of Mayo spread.'"

Brian's heart went out to the irresponsible penitent rocketing in song.

"Dear lunatic!" he said.

Fainter in the night wind came the end of Kenny's song:

  "'By hope still fondly led,
    Eileen a roon.'"





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