As Ken neared the house, he heard the reedy voice of the organ, and, stopping beside the lighted window, looked in. Felicia was mending beside the lamp; Kirk sat at the melodeon, rapturously making music. From the somewhat vague sweetness of the melody, Ken recognized it as one of Kirk’s own compositions—without beginning, middle, or end, but with a gentle, eerie harmony all its own. The Maestro, who was thoroughly modern in his instruction, if old-school himself, was teaching composition hand in hand with the other branches of music, and he allowed himself, at times, to become rather enthusiastic. “Even if I didn’t want him to make music of his own,” he told Felicia, “I couldn’t stop him. So I supply the bricks and mortar for the foundation. He might as well build his little tunes rightly from the beginning. He will go far—yes, far. It is sheer harmony.” And the Maestro would sigh deeply, and nod his fine head.
Ken, remembering these words with some awe, studied his brother’s face, through the pane, and then came quietly in at the door. Kirk left his tune unfinished, and launched himself in the direction of Ken, who scooped him into his arms.
“Do you know, Phil,” Ken said, voicing at once the thought he had felt all the way up Winterbottom Road; “do you know, I think, after all, this is the very best thing we could have done.”
“What?” Phil asked, not being a mind-reader.
“This,” Ken said, sweeping his arm about the lamplit room. “This place. We thought it was such a horrible mistake, at first. It was a sort of venture to take.”
“A happy venture,” Felicia murmured, bending over her sewing. “But it wouldn’t have been so happy if the defender of his kindred hadn’t slaved on the high seas ‘for to maintain his brither and me,’ like Henry Martin in the ballad.”
“Oh, fiddlestick!” said Ken. “Who wants to loaf around? Speaking of loaf, I’m hungry.”
“Supper’s doing itself on the stove,” Phil said. “Look lively with the table, Kirk.”
Kirk did so,—his efficiency as a table-setter had long since been proved,—and Ken, as the weary breadwinner, stretched out in a chair.
“Did you happen to remember,” said Felicia, coming to the door, spoon in hand, “that the Kirk has a birthday this week?”
“It has?” exclaimed Ken. “I say, I’d forgotten.”
“It’s going to be nine; think of that!” said Phil. “Woof! My kettle’s boiling over!” She made a hasty exit, while Ken collared his brother and looked him over.
“Who’d ha’ thunk it!” he said. “Well, well, what’s to be done about this?”
“Lots,” said Felicia, suddenly appearing with the supper. “Lots!”
THE NINE GIFTS
Two evenings later, Ken confronted his sister at the foot of the stairs as she came down from seeing Kirk to bed.