Then Bagshaw, rising sulkily, “Well, you’d better come up and have a look round.”
And Mabel, animatedly, “I’d like to”; and to Sabre, “You won’t care to come, Mark.”
Sabre said, “No, I won’t.”
Throughout dinner—Mabel returned only just in time to get ready for dinner—Sabre examined with dispassionate interest the exercise of trying to say certain words and being unable to say them. They conversed desultorily; in their usual habit. He told himself that he was speaking several hundred “other” words; but the intractable words that he desired to utter would not be framed. He counted them on his fingers under the table. Only seven: “Well, how was the Garden Home looking?” Only seven. He could not say them. The incident they brought up rankled. He had come home to take a day off with her. She knew he was there at the luncheon table to take a day off with her. It had interested her so little, she had been so entirely indifferent to it, that she had not even expressed a wish he should so much as attend her on the inspection with Bagshaw. The more he thought of it the worse it rankled. She knew he was at home to be with her and she had deliberately walked off and left him.... “Well, how was the Garden Home looking?” No. Not much. He couldn’t. He visualised the impossible seven written on the tablecloth. He saw them in script; he saw them in print; he imagined them written by a finger on the wall. Say them—no.
Mabel left him sitting at the table with a cigarette. There came suddenly to his assistance in the fight with the stubborn seven, abreast of the thoughts in the office that had brought him home, a realisation of her situation such as he had had that first night together in the house, eight years before; there she was in the morning room, alone. She had given up her father’s home for his home—and there she was: a happy afternoon behind her and no one to discuss it with. Just because he could not say, “Well, how was the Garden Home looking?”
He thought, “I’m hateful.” He got up vigorously and strode into the morning room: “Well, how was the Garden Home looking?” His voice was bright and interested.
She was reading a magazine. She did not raise her eyes front the page. “Eh? Oh, very nice. Delightful.”
“Tell us about it.”
“What? Oh ... yes.” Her mind was in the magazine. She read on a moment. Then she laid the magazine on her lap and looked up. “The Garden Home? Yes—oh, yes. It was charming. It’s simply springing up. You ought to have come.”
He stretched himself in a big chair opposite her. He laughed. “Well, dash it, I like that. You didn’t exactly implore me to.”
She yawned. “Oh, well. I knew you wouldn’t care about it.” She yawned again, “Oh dear. I’m tired. We must have walked miles, to and fro.” She put down her hands to take up her magazine again. She clearly was not interested by his interest. But he thought, “Well, of course she’s not. For her it’s like eating something after it’s got cold. Dinner was the time.”