In this order they struggled up the stairs, High Jinks and Low Jinks backwards, and the smirks enlarged into panting giggles. Halfway up came a loud crack.
“What the devil’s that?” said Sabre, sweating and gasping.
“I think it’s the back of my dress, sir,” said High Jinks.
“Good lord!” (Convulsive giggles.) “You know, Low, you’re practically sitting on the dashed thing. You’ve twisted yourself round in some extraordinary way—”
Mabel appeared in the hail beneath. “Raise
it up, Rebecca. Raise it,
Sarah. How can you expect to move, stooping like that?”
They raised it to the level of their waists, and progression became seemly.
“There you are!” said Sabre.
There was somehow a feeling at both ends of the bookcase of having been caught.
Sabre liked this room. Three latticed windows, in the same wall, looked on to the garden. In the spaces between them, and in the two spaces between the end windows and the end walls, he placed his bookshelves, a set of shelves in each space.
Mabel displayed no interest in the move nor made any reference to it at teatime. In the evening, hearing her pass the door on her way to dress for dinner, he called her in.
He was in his shirt sleeves, arranging the books. “There you are! Not bad?”
She regarded them and the room. “They look all right. All the same, I must say it seems rather funny using your bedroom for your things when you’ve got a room downstairs.”
“Oh, well, I never liked that room, you know. I hardly ever go into it.”
“I know you don’t.”
And she went off.
But the significance of the removal rested not in the definite relinquishment of the den, but in her words “using your bedroom”: the definite recognition of separate rooms.
And neither commented upon it.
After all, landmarks, in the course of a journey, are more frequently observed and noted as landmarks, when looking back along the journey, than when actually passing them. They belong generically to the past tense; one rarely says, “This is a landmark”; usually “That was a landmark.”
The bookcases were of Sabre’s own design. He was extraordinarily fond of his books and he had ideas about their arrangement. The lowest shelf was in each case three feet from the ground; he hated books being “down where you can’t see them.” Also the cases were open, without glass doors; he hated “having to fiddle to get out a book.” He liked them to be just at the right height and straight to his hand. In a way he could not quite describe (he was a bad talker, framing his ideas with difficulty) he was attached to his books, not only for what was in them, but as