He was mentally examining the possibilities of a makeshift racket court against a corner of the stable and barn. “Eh, what in the kitchen, dear?”
“That about High Jinks and Low Jinks.”
“Mabel, I swear we could fix up a topping sort of squash rackets in that corner. Those cobbles are worn absolutely smooth—”
“I wish you’d listen to me, Mark.”
He caught his arm around her and gave her a playful squeeze. “Sorry, old girl, what was it? About High Jinks and Low Jinks? Ha! Dashed funny that, don’t you think?”
“No, I don’t. I don’t think it’s a bit funny.”
Her tone was such that, relaxing his arm, he turned and gazed at her. “Don’t you? Don’t you really?”
“No, I don’t. Far from funny.”
Some instinct told him he ought not to laugh, but he could not help it. The idea appealed to him as distinctly and clearly comic. “Well, but it is funny. Don’t you see? High Jinks alone is such a funny expression—sort of—well, you know what I mean. Apart altogether from Low Jinks,” and he laughed again.
Mabel compressed her lips. “I simply don’t. Rebecca is not a bit like High Jinks.”
He burst out laughing. “No, I’m dashed if she is. That’s just it!”
“I really do not see it.”
“Oh, go on, Mabel! Of course you do. You make it funnier. High Jinks and Low Jinks! I shall call them that.”
“Mark.” She spoke the word severely and paused severely. “Mark. I do most earnestly hope you’ll do nothing of the kind.”
He stared, puzzled. He had tried to explain the absurd thing, and she simply could not see it. “I simply don’t.”
And again that vague and transient discomfort shot through him.
Sabre awoke in the course of that night and lay awake. The absurd incident came immediately into his mind and remained in his mind. High Jinks and Low Jinks was comic. No getting over it. Incontestably comic. Stupid, of course, but just the kind of stupid thing that tickled him irresistibly. And she couldn’t see it. Absolutely could not see it. But if she were never going to see any of these stupid little things that appealed to him—? And then he wrinkled his brows. “You remember how he used to wrinkle up his old nut,” as the garrulous Hapgood had said.
A night-light, her wish, dimly illumined the room. He raised himself and looked at her fondly, sleeping beside him. He thought, “Dash it, the thing’s been just the same from her point of view. That den business. She likes den, and I can’t stick den. Just the same for her as for me that High Jinks and Low Jinks tickles me and doesn’t tickle her.”
He very gently moved with his finger a tress of her hair that had fallen upon her face.... Mabel!... His wife!... How gently beneath her filmy bedgown her bosom rose and fell!... How utterly calm her face was. How at peace, how secure, she lay there. He thought, “Three weeks ago she was sleeping in the terrific privacy of her own room, and here she is come to me in mine. Cut off from everything and everybody and come here to me.”