Later when life was kind and peace was in his heart, Kenny was to paint that picture with exquisite truth and restraint and call it “Afterglow.”
At the flutter of a cloak on the cliff-path he slipped behind the willow.
For an eternity it seemed he traced the forward sweep of the punt until it grated on the shore. And the surprise perversely came to him.
“Kenny!” called Joan.
There was mischief and laughter in her voice—and welcome. And Kenny, oblivious of the detail of his going, knew only that he stood beside her in the golden dusk and that her eyes were curiously like shining, leaf-brown stars.
“Ah!” he reproached, catching both her hands. “You are a witch. You’re burning an invisible lamp of incense off somewhere in that yellow wood and out of it comes the twilight and the secrets of the world. How did you know?”
“The horn was so excited!”
“I know them all,” she said. “Mr. Abbott blows an apology for disturbing me. Mrs. Lawler is stout and when she’s delivering butter and eggs, her wind doesn’t last and she gets no further than a toot, and the blacksmith’s wind is amazing—”
“Enough!” said Kenny sternly. “You’ve too much wisdom. But—”
“Of course,” said Joan, “I didn’t know you would ride to the village yonder but I thought you might. Uncle said you wouldn’t come.”
Kenny laughed. Joan never knew that he had not meant to come again.
He found home in the farm kitchen and joyously pumping homely hands, stepped at once on the tail of Hannah’s cat. Toby, after a vocal minute of terror, fixed a hard eye upon his heel and withdrew at once to a sheltered spot behind the stove. He had learned before that Mr. O’Neill with his head in the clouds was frequently unaware of feet things.
Kenny went of his own accord to Adam’s sitting room.
Almost he surprised a glint of welcome in the old man’s piercing eye.
“Well, Adam,” he said happily, “I’m back!”
“Humph!” said Adam ungraciously. “I knew you would be.”
By the end of the week Kenny forgot that he had been away.
BRIAN SOLVES A PROBLEM
To Brian had come a problem of his own. His vagabond days were nearly over. Now with the wind cool at twilight and the dawns sharp, the two wayfarers, lean and brown as gypsies, were tramping back over the trail of the summer, finding old fires and the delight of reminiscence.
“Don,” said Brian one twilight as they swung along in the dust of a country road, “if I’m not mistaken back yonder is the field where you barked for a summer show. Man alive,” he added with a laugh, “how you did bark! Now with a summerful of health in your system and your voice full of fresh air, I could understand it, but then! Honestly, old top, I didn’t know it was in you!”