Joan, lovelier to Kenny’s eye than any blossom, seemed unaware of the romance in the orchard. She was intent upon a man coming down the orchard hill. Kenny sighed as he turned his eyes from her.
“It’s Hughie,” she said. “He’s watched for you too since the letter came. We all have. Hughie! Hughie!”
Hughie came toward them, sturdy, middle-aged and unpoetic for all his head was under blossoms.
“Hughie!” called Joan. “It’s Mr. O’Neill. He must have some supper. Tell Hannah. And I’ll go speak to Uncle Adam.”
Romance flitted off through the twilight with her. Hungry, Kenny embarked upon a reactive interval of common sense and followed Hughie, who seemed inclined to talk of rain, to the kitchen door. It was past the supper hour. Beyond in a huge, old-fashioned kitchen, yellow with lamp light, Hughie’s daughter, a ruddy-cheeked girl plump and wholesome as an apple, was washing dishes. Kenny liked her. He liked the shining kitchen. The wood was dark and old. He liked too the tiny bird-like wife who trotted to the door at Hughie’s call. Her hair was white and scant, her skin ruddy, her eyes as small and black as berries.
Kenny made her his slave. He begged to eat in the kitchen.
Joan found him there a little later with everything in the pantry spread before him. His voice, gay and charming, sounded as if he had liked Hannah for a very long time. And Hannah’s best lamp was on the table. There was a pleasant undercurrent of excitement in the kitchen. Joan found her guest’s engaging air of adaptability bewildering. He seemed all ease and sparkle.
At the rustle of her gown in the doorway, he sprang to his feet.
“Please sit down,” she said, coloring at the unaccustomed deference. “I’ve a message from Uncle Adam. He understands about your son. He said you may wait here as long as you choose. In any room.”
Trotting flurried paths to the pantry and the stove, Hannah at this point must needs halt midway between the two with the teapot in her hand to tell the tale of Kenny’s considerate plea for supper in the kitchen. Though it had been largely a matter of old wood and lamp-yellow shadows, Kenny wished that a number of people who had never troubled to be just and call him considerate could hear what she said. Thank Heaven his self-respect was returning. These simple people were splendidly intuitional. They understood. An agreeable wave of confidence in his own judgment filled him with benevolence. He was to lose that confidence strangely in a little while. It came to him sitting there that he felt much as he had felt in the old care-free past before Brian had deserted, plunging him into abysmal despair.
“Perhaps to-night,” Joan said, “you’d better sleep wherever Hannah says. And then tomorrow you can pick a room for yourself.”
She slipped away with the grace of an elf. Spurred to pictures by the old brocade, Kenny wished he had some velvet knickerbockers and a satin coat. The thought of his knapsack wardrobe filled him with discontent. Hum! To-morrow he must prevail upon someone to conduct him to the nearest village in wire communication with the outside world.