“I—I’m afraid he’s drunk,” he whispered with a sense of guilt when Hughie came. “Perhaps I shouldn’t have given him the bottle.”
Hughie glanced at his watch.
“It’s nine o’clock,” he said. “He’s late.”
“Every night,” said Hughie. “The doctor gave up fightin’ long ago.”
Kenny went to his room filled with pity and disgust.
Gusts of wind and rain battered at the orchard blossoms the next day and the next. Kenny found a tuning outfit in a closet and spent his days with Joan tuning the Craig piano. He was grateful in the gloom of dark wood and dust for the fantastic thing of lavender she wore. It was like a bit of iris in a bog, he told her, and was sorry when he saw her glance with troubled eyes at the dust and cobwebs.
The river ran high and brown. The horn beneath the willow was silent. Each night Adam Craig sent for his guest. The rain, he said, made him lonesome. Each night in a hopeless conflict of pity and dislike Kenny went, rain and wind and Adam Craig getting horribly upon his nerves.
He was glad when the sun came and filled the valley, panoramic from the farmhouse ridge, with a glory of light. Milk-white clouds capped the western hills. Nearer, dotted peacefully with farms, red barns and dark, straggling clumps of evergreen, the rolling valley stretched unevenly among intersecting lines of trees. At the foot of a hill rose the spire of the village church. To the south a crystal blaze of sun showed water.
A world of lilac and dogwood and a few late apple blossoms clinging bravely through the storm to sunshine. And the world held Joan with shadows of the sun in her hair and eyes and shadows of the past in her gowns.
Ah, truly, it was good to be alive!
Thus, warm and fragrant, the summer came with Kenny in the house of Adam Craig, drifting pleasantly he knew and cared not where; with Brian on the road with Donald West.
And Joan? To her summer came with a new incomprehensible delight. Out of the void a bright spirit had roved into her world, sweeping her, eager and unresistant, into youth and life and laughter. He came from an immensity of romantic experience, holding out his hands to her, with tender eyes and a look of youth and charm and understanding in his vivid face.
She had fought through drab and solitude to dreams and formless craving, this girl of the hills. What things of vigor her life had known were cruel: a passionate shrinking from her uncle, a fear for the brother who had hotly rebelled at the meager life around him, a loneliness aloof from her kind and a vague hunger for some fuller, sweeter life beyond the hills. And with a blast of a horn the drab had vanished.