“And the knight and the maid?” Joan had forgotten their game of pretense. She was eager for the end of the story.
Kenny feathered his oars in silver spray and wondered impatiently why all love stories ended in an anticlimax. He had finished the story artistically and well. Luckily Joan had forgotten the stage and the actors.
“I suppose,” he said gloomily, “that the knight married the maid and took her to dwell in a castle she must have hated. And they lived unhappily ever after.”
Joan laughed. She saw in his words merely a perverse dislike for familiar endings and forgot it at once. The moonlit lake had aroused in her a yearning tenderness for the brother off somewhere in what, Kenny said, Brian called his Tavern of Stars.
“Oh, Kenny,” she sighed, “I wish Donald would write!”
The wish jarred. Kenny frowned. How could he wish it too! And yet, not wishing was disloyal, disloyal to Brian. Upset, he turned, hurt and sulky. And presently as Joan, busy with thoughts of the truant brother, continued unaware of the melancholy in his mood that never failed to make its appeal to her tenderness, he began to hum.
Joan looked up.
“What a queer, wild tune!” she exclaimed. “What is it, Kenny? I’ve never heard you sing it before.”
“I never felt the need,” said Kenny. “It’s called the ’Twisting of the Rope.’ Long, long ago, girleen, a harper’s gallantry to a pretty maid angered her mother and she asked him to help her twist a straw rope. And he did. And twisting he had to back away and over the threshold and the mother slammed the door in his face. Faith, ’twas all to get rid of him!”
It was impossible to miss the point. Joan’s face went scarlet.
“Oh, Kenny!” she said. “You knew—surely you knew I couldn’t mean that.”
It was a new delight to hear her say it.
“When Donald writes,” reminded Kenny, “then I must go.” And watching the girl’s troubled face, he wondered with a thrill of triumph if at last the madness of the summer was upon her. Well, thank Heaven, he was honest and honorable. He would stay until the madness waned. Always he was fated to climb down out of the clouds first.
Ah! But what if Joan slipped back into sense and sanity first? The possibility filled him with panic. What on earth would he do?
IN WHICH CALIBAN SCORES
It was a prospect doomed to haunt him more and more as the summer which had bade fail to be so full of peace, took on an indescribable atmosphere of complication. Where could he go, he wondered despairingly, that life would not instantly pour around him a distracting whirlpool of commotion? Was he fated to rush through life with his fingers clenched in his hair and his teeth set? Was he doomed, as Garry had once said, to run forever in circles of excitement?