“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!”
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!”