Kenny shivered and refused to dwell upon a phase of life that was like autumn and sere and drifting leaves. It bothered him that the thought of Hannah and Hughie had driven him to think it out. He liked best in heart things to think back, not too far, and never forward.
“Kenny!” It was Joan’s voice in the dusk.
Kenny forgot the sadness of his wisdom and foreboding. He forgot the future. The thing to do always was to live in the present and now Joan’s voice, joyous and young, filled him with tenderness.
“The Gray Man of the Twilight’s here. See, he’s climbed up from the valley and he’s coming down the walk.”
From the Gray Man’s misty robes came the fragrance of syringa.
Joan, Kenny called his torment of delight in days that were exquisite intaglios. Adam Craig was a torment of another caliber. He claimed the evenings of his guest.
Kenny knew too well for his own peace of mind the pitiful diversions of the old man’s day. It sapped his powers of resistance. In the morning there was the doctor, a weary little man, untemperamental and mercifully impervious to insult, who chugged up the lane in a car that needed but one twist of the crank to release a great many clattering things. All of them Kenny felt should be anchored more securely. There was an occasional hour in the open. At nightfall he sent for Kenny and by nine he was drunk.
Again and again, wrought to a high pitch of resentment by the traps the invalid baited with an air of courtesy, Kenny cursed his own weak-kneed spasms of pity and surrender and resolved to break away. Always when Hughie rapped at his bedroom door he remembered the melancholy drip of the blossom storm at Adam’s windows, the invalid’s hunger for news of the outside world and the Spartan way he bore his pain. Whatever the nature of the disease that had wasted his body and etched shadows of pain upon his subtle face, he never spoke of it. Nor did he speak of Donald or Joan, whom Kenny felt despairingly he hated and taunted into secret tears. If he resented the runaway’s rebellion, he kept it to himself.
One evening when he seemed to be quiet and in pain, and was taking, Kenny noticed, the medicine that marked vague periods of crisis, Adam said pensively that he had not meant to impugn the Gaelic folk lore. He liked it. It reflected the warm, poetic soul of a people. Brandy, alas, always made him quarrelsome and undependable of mood. When the rain came again and he had to have a fire, they would have more tales of the Dark Rose Kenny loved. Ireland, the Dark Rose! The name was like her history. Yes, folk lore went with the crackle of a log and the mournful music of rain upon a roof. He could have his brandy later.
The rain came with its lonely patter and Kenny told him tales of Ireland, delighted at the sympathetic quiet of his mood. Unbrandied, the evenings, after all, might become endurable.