“And what,” inquired Kenny with a shade of sarcasm, “was the final verdict of the grill jury when all the evidence was in?”
“Remember old Dirk, Kenny? He said that the fullness of life came through—sacrifice. That all things, good and permanent and true, come only out of suffering; that men pay for their dreams with pain.” He let the full import of that drive home. “The verdict was, that if you’d forget your public and look for truth, paint with restraint and less brilliant illusory abandon, you’d be a big painter.”
“And that,” said Kenny with icy politeness, “unalterably defines my status as a painter. In this club at least.”
“You asked me—”
Kenny looked tired but he held out his hand. “Dear lad,” he said, “’twas fine brave friendship to tell me—when I asked you.”
Failure! He, Kennicott O’Neill who had been decorated by the French government! The men in the grill then talked openly of his flaws and the verdict, officious or otherwise, was failure. Flaws! He was not a big painter. He was merely a self-centered, impecunious, improvident Irishman, indifferently skillful, whose vanity and self-indulgence had driven his son off into a vague green world, God alone knew where. He was a big painter! Posterity would fling that back in the teeth of men!
It was Garry’s voice.
“Oh,” said Kenny vaguely. “Yes, of course.”
He was grateful when the door closed, though he stood for full a minute afterward tapping on the table with his fingers. Then indignantly he looked up the word failure in Brian’s dictionary and underscored it heavily.
Ah! this world of his was amazingly awry and he himself was hurt and unhappy. After all, was there any romance, any camaraderie in the Bohemia he once had loved. By Heaven, no! One had but to stare at the studio with Brian’s vision to see the thing aright. Disorder and carping tongues and loneliness! God help him, how he longed to escape somewhere, anywhere where there was peace—and faith and friendliness in human eyes.
Afterward, a painter on the floor below, swore that Kenny had tramped the floor all night and there had been occasional thuds. At daylight he had gone out hurriedly and banged the door.
Sid, entering the studio by the door Kenny had forgotten to lock, found abundant evidence of frenzied packing and carried the news to the grill.
“I knew it,” he said. “I knew it last night. By the Lord Harry, it was in his eye. Where on earth d’you suppose he’s gone?”
“God knows,” said Garry and heartily wished he’d kept the grillroom verdict to himself.
At sunset Kenny blew the horn beneath the willow.
Twilight here among the vivid leaves was softly orange. Where was the invisible lamp, Kenny wondered with his blood singing, that filled the world with golden dusk? It lay reflected in the water and in the dim and yellowed forest paths behind him. And there behind the gables of the farm, an autumn sunset focussed its softness into a brilliant blaze of color.