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.
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.”