“Then,” said Kenny, his lips white, “I shall stay here with you.”
The night closed in with gusty showers of rain. There was no sound from the high old-fashioned bed where Adam Craig lay, gray and still. The silence, the gloom of dark wood, the grotesque shadows from a lamp burning dimly on the bureau and the loud licking of the clock drove Kenny with a shudder to the window. Death to him who so passionately loved life’s gayety and its music was more a thing of horror than of grief. He found no solace in the wind and rain of the autumn night. They plunged him instead into a mood of morbid imagery. The weird music of the wind became Ireland’s cry of lament for her dead. The tossing boughs beyond the window, rain-spattered and somber, took on eerily the outline of dark-cloaked women keeners rocking and chanting the music of death. The rain was tears.
Ochone! Ochone! The wind of sorrow rose and fell, rose and fell, with unearthly cadence. Kenny thought of the horrible Dullahaun who roves about the country with his head under his arm and a death-warning basin of blood in his hand ready to dash in the face of the unlucky wight who answers his knock.
He shuddered and choked. Then Joan slipped into the shelter of his arm, terrified at the thought of death, cried and watched the rain with him.
Adam Craig died at dawn with the rain he hated beating at the window. And peace came wanly to his wrinkled face.
IN THE CABIN
They were hard days for Kenny, who hated gloom save when it was picturesque and transient. And they were harder for the pity and misgiving in his heart. He himself perhaps had hastened the old man’s death with a careless story. Why had it bothered him? Why had it goaded his wasted legs to horrible effort?
Ordinarily Kenny knew he would have resented the intrusion of alien sorrow into his life. He hated sorrow. Now for Joan’s sake he made himself a part of it. If Joan must endure it, so could he. But he sickened at the need.
He was doomed to a tragic, unforgettable hour in the churchyard when the voice of the old minister, conventional in its sadness, droned wearily into his very soul:
“Ashes to ashes . . . dust to dust.” . . . The clock turned back and he stood in a church by an Irish hill. White and terrified, Kenny remembered what in its vivid agony of detail he would fain have forgotten. Why, now, when Joan was slipping into his life, a lonely waif of a girl in a black gown he hated, why must he think years back to that soft-eyed Irish girl and Brian? Had he broken his pledge to her, driving her son away with a passion of self no less definite for its careless gayety? Eileen’s son! Eileen’s son! Sadness tore at Kenny’s heart and twitched at his dry, white lips. Ah! why must he live again that agonizing day when Eileen had gone out of his life forever?