He telephoned the doctor’s farm and found him ready to start his weary ambulant day; hamlet to hamlet, farm to farm, until dusk and often after. The bare thought of it filled Kenny with sympathetic gloom. Then his brain began again to burn in speculation. Frowning, he turned back homewards up the hill and through the wood, where the road lay, rough and lonely.
With his mind upon it he evolved Nellie from her harness and led her into the stall. When he had done with her halter he found that Joan had slipped into the barn and stood a little way off, her soft eyes intent upon him.
“Joan!” he exclaimed radiantly. The sight of her was like a lilac wind in fog. The fog fled and you found the world clear and fragrant.
She came to him instantly, her face like a colorless flower, a faint shadow in her eyes.
“Colleen!” said Kenny. He kissed her gently. Again he was conscious with a flurried feeling of impatience that the force of his tenderness would not rise to his lips. He whose words of love had been so fluent and poetic!
“Hannah sent me,” said Joan. “She was afraid you wouldn’t know how to get Nellie out of the shafts. Oh, Kenny!” There was quick compassion in her eyes.
“Let’s not think of sorrowful things, dear!” said Kenny swiftly. “I dreamed of a lantern.”
“And I,” said Joan, the rich rose tints he loved flaming in her face, “I dreamed of you.”
Kenny choked back the tender untruth he would have liked to utter. For an instant he hated the little old fairy in the green cloak who had come forth from the hill in his dream. How easy for the dream-god to have made her—Joan!
“Joan,” he said wistfully, “you’re sure you love me!”
“Yes,” said Joan. “There is no one in my life I love so well.”
“And it will last?”
Disturbed she glanced at him, her eyes dark with rebuke.
“Until the judgment day!” persisted Kenny.
“Kenny,” she said, “why do you speak so strangely. Love is love, isn’t it? And if you who have known all things love me, how much more must I who have lived so much alone, love and cling to you?”
He kissed her hair and pressed his cheek against it where the shadows were soft and golden.
“I want you, heart of mine,” he said steadily, “to love me in this wonderful way that I love you. There are ways and ways of loving.”
That, in her girlhood dream of love, she could not see. And Kenny was passionately glad that his words were a riddle.
Then the horn came, clear and mellow, through the cold November air and Joan drew the hood of her cloak about her head.
Kenny sighed. He clung to her hand as she started away.
“Girleen,” he said soberly, “the wind’s cold. Must you ferry the river in winter, too?”
“Save when there’s ice,” said Joan. “The bridge is three long miles away.”