It seemed that Adam too could add his two and two. In his quieter hours of pain, when every warmer instinct of his guest was uppermost, he was as curious as a woman. His questions, put with the sad, querulous courtesy of an invalid claiming privileges by reason of his pain, were sometimes difficult to answer.
“Paul Pry!” murmured Kenny to himself one night.
Adam’s sharp eyes snapped.
“Paul Pry, eh?” he quivered. “You impudent devil!”
“A minute ago,” reminded Kenny coldly, “when I told you you were drinking too much brandy, you said you were deaf to-night.”
“It’s an intermittent affliction,” purred Adam with a chuckle. “You struck me in a minute of vacation.”
But the careless sobriquet of Kenny’s rankled in the old man’s mind and bore a startling aftermath of fruit.
Kenny was Irish and conversational. He had as usual talked too much, unaware that Adam, with fiendish insight, was reading steadily between the lines, ready to pounce.
“Paul Pry!” repeated the old man at intervals. “Paul Pry! You are a selfish, hair-brained Irishman,” he blazed suddenly, leaning forward, baleful and intense. “Some men feel and some men act. But you act only when you have to. Life’s a battle. Do you fight? No! You glide along and watch the others. That’s the way you’ve kept your youth. You never linger on the things that prove unpleasant. You think life an individual adventure to be lived the way you choose. It isn’t. It’s a link in a chain that clanks. You can’t escape. You won’t escape. You’re a play-actor with a gift for staging yourself and you’re as hungry for the limelight as a circus girl in spangles. What you need is the hurt of sacrifice. You need to suffer and forget yourself. Damn you and your brogue and your folk lore. You’re the most amazing liar I’ve ever met.”
But Kenny heard no more. He stumbled out of the sitting room and slammed the door.
There was a lamp burning in his bedroom. Kenny walked the floor in anger and humiliation, his fingers clenched as usual in his hair. Back there in the studio with Whitaker’s arraignment ringing in his ears, he had been conscious of a terror he refused to face, a curious inner crash of something vital to his peace of mind. And he had fought it back for days, plunging into the relief of penance with a gasp of hot content.
Now Adam, sitting in separate judgment, had reached out into the void and linked himself to Whitaker—to Brian, to Garry—and his barbs stung. That terror of misgiving, lulled into quietude here in the peace and charm of his life with Joan, stirred within him hydra-headed and drove the color from his face. Then he blazed into rebellion.
Failure! Vanity! Self! And Adam to-night had fused the verdict of the other three.