“I honestly, honestly can’t, Bess,” I said as I took her hand stretched down from her seat behind the wheel to me, and put my cheek against it. “I’ve got this whole farm to feed between now and night. Both incubators must have their supper of oil or you know what’ll happen. Mrs. Ewe and family must be fed, or rather she must be fed so as to pass it along at about breakfast time, I should say, not being wise in biology or natural history; the entire Bird family are invited to supper with me, and I even have to carry a repast of corn over the meadows to my pet abhorrences, Rufus’ swine, because he has retired to the hay-loft with a flannel rag around his head, which means I have offended him or that father has given him an extra absent-minded drink from the decanter that Matthew brought him. Peckerwood Pup is at this moment, you see, chewing the strings out of my shoes as an appetizer for her supper. How could I eat sweetbreads and truffle, which I know Owen has already ordered, when I knew that more than a hundred small children were at home crying for bread?”
“Ann, what is it that makes you so perfectly radiantly beautiful in that faded linen smock and old corduroy skirt? Of course, you always were beautiful, but now you look like—like—well, I don’t know whether it is a song I have heard or a picture I have seen.” Bess leaned down and laid her cheek against mine for a second.
“I’m going to tell you some day before long,” I whispered as I kissed the corner of her lips. “Now do take the twin fathers for a little spin up the road and make them walk back from the gate. They have been suffering with the Trojan warriors all day, and I know they must have exercise. Uncle Cradd walks down for the mail each day, but father remains stationary. Your method with them is perfect. Go take them while I supper and bed down the farm.”
“I know now the picture is by Tintoretto, and it’s some place in Rome,” Bess called back over her shoulder as she drove her car slowly around to the front door to begin her conquest and deportation of my precious ancients.
“Not painted by Tintoretto, but by the pagan Pan,” I said to myself as I turned into the barn door.
When I came out with a bucket of the new wheat in my hand, I heard Bess and her car departing, with Uncle Cradd’s sonorous speech mingling with the puff of the engine.
“We are all alone, Mr. G. Bird, and we love it, because then we can talk comfortably about our Mr. Adam,” I said to the Golden Bird as he followed me around the side of the barn where a door had been cut by Pan himself to make an entry into my improvised chicken-house.