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.
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.