“Always.” He began to hate the word “always.” But it was true. In those exciting and intensely opinionated days it seemed there was never a subject that came up, whether at The Precincts or at home, but he found himself on the other side of the argument and giving intense displeasure because he was on the other side. In Mabel’s case—he did not particularly trouble himself about what Twyning and Fortune thought—but in Mabel’s case, much set on his duty to give her happiness, he came to prepare with care for the dangerous places of their intercourse. But never with success. Places whose aggravations drove her to her angriest protestations of how utterly impossible he was to get on with never looked dangerous as they were approached: he would ride in to them with her amicably or with a slack rein,—and suddenly, mysteriously, unexpectedly, he would be floundering, the relations between them yet a little more deeply foundered.
Such utterly harmless looking places:
“And those are the people, mind you,” said Mabel—not for the first time “those are the people that we have to lick stamps for Lloyd George for!”
This was because High Jinks had been seen going out for her afternoon with what Mabel described to Sabre as a trumpery, gee-gaw parasol.
The expression amused him. “Well, why in heaven’s name shouldn’t High Jinks buy a trumpery, gee-gaw parasol?”
“I do wish you wouldn’t call her High Jinks. Because she can’t afford a trumpery, gee-gaw parasol.”
He spoke bemusedly. No need for caution that he could see. “Well, I don’t know—I rather like to see them going out in a bit of finery.”
Mabel sniffed. “Well, your taste! Servants look really nice in their caps and aprons and their black, if they only knew it. In their bit of finery, as you call it, they look too awful for words.”
Signs of flying up. He roused himself to avert it. “Oh, rather. I agree. What I meant was I think it’s rather nice to see them decking themselves out when they get away from their work. Rather pathetic.”
She had flown up!
He said quickly, “No, but look here, Mabel, wait a bit. I ought to have explained. What I mean is they have a pretty rotten time, all that class. When High Jinks puts up a trumpery, gee-gaw parasol, she’s human. That’s pathetic, only being human once a week and alternate Sundays. And when you get a life that finds pleasure in a trumpery, gee-gaw parasol, well that’s more pathetic still. See?”
Real anxiety in his “See?” But the thing was done. “No. I absolutely don’t. Pathetic! You really are quite impossible to get on with. I’ve given up even trying to understand your ideas. Pathetic!” She gave her sudden laugh.
“Oh, well,” said Sabre.
And precisely the same word—pathetic—came up between them in the matter of Miss Bypass. Miss Bypass was companion to Mrs. Boom Bagshaw, the mother of Mr. Boom Bagshaw. Mabel hated Miss Bypass because Miss Bypass was, she said, the rudest creature she ever met. And “of course” Sabre took the opposite view—the ridiculous and maddening view—that her abominably rude manner was not rude but pathetic.