And marriage? That uncomfortable essential, legalists said, to civilization and the transmission of property? To Kenny marriage had always seemed a little like the Land of the Ever-Young. Mortals imprisoned there soon tired of exile and longed for freedom and distraction. His own marriage was but a memory he refused to face, dim and distant, an inexplicable flurry of sentimentality that had ended tragically with Brian in his arms. The brief year of it had been poignant and at the end he had gone forth upon the hills, praying for death. That girl of long ago with the black-lashed eyes of Irish blue like Brian’s, he had loved with all the passionate tumult of boyhood; and in the end he had lived for Brian, coming to believe as life carelessly unfolded for him its book of heart-things that in time he must have tired. Lived for Brian! Had he? Or had he lived for himself?
The memory he had crushed out of his heart in a panic long ago, now left him with a terrified sense of obligation. Why in this dreadful moment of crisis when he had to think must even his memories accuse him? Brian! Brian! Always Brian!
The pang was spasmodic. The immensity of his love for Joan swept everything before it and filled him with terror and amazement. To stay! Any other thought was a profanation. And he must face another problem. If Joan’s madness was the kind that waned, if for her there was no madness, if the summer had left her tranquil and indifferent. . . . The uncertainty maddened him.
He struck a match and glanced at his watch. It was supper time. In an hour now Joan likely would be coming to the cabin. So, alas! would Mr. Abbott. Kenny struck off hurriedly toward the south.
The cabin was dark and silent. He waited near it, endlessly it seemed, smoking and wondering if his heart would ever stop its nervous thumping. If only she would come! His head had begun to ache. His hand was shaking. Where the blood pounded in his wrists there was a flurried sense of pain. And somehow the heavy odor of the pines and the chill silence was depressing.
It was his fate to see Mr. Abbott come first. Unaware of the Irishman who drew back at his approach, his hot heart sick with disappointment, he opened the door of the cabin and went in, the inevitable book under his arm. A second later the cabin window with its shade drawn, sprang out of the shadow, a yellow checkerpane of light. Kenny stalked off, chafing intolerantly at the anticlimacteric tenor of his summer.
He saw her coming a long way off, her lantern bobbing along like a firefly, and walked faster. Impatience brought a cold sweat out upon his forehead and then he needs must call her name before she could hear.
“Joan!” he called a little later. The tenderness in his heart hurt.
The light faltered and became a fixed point in the darkness ahead.
“It is I, Kenny!” he called again.