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.”
“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.
“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.”