He said, “I expect you did—walk miles. Bagshaw all over it, I bet.”
She did what he called “tighten herself.” “Well, naturally, he’s pleased—enthusiastic. He’s done more than any one else to keep the idea going.”
Sabre laughed. “I should say so! Marvellous person! What’s he going to do about not wearing clerical dress when he has to wear gaiters?”
“What do you mean—gaiters?”
Signs of flying up. What on earth for? “Why, when he’s a bishop. Don’t you—”
She flew up. “I suppose that’s some sneer!”
“Sneer! Rot. I mean it. A chap like Bagshaw’s not going to be a parish priest all his life. He’s out to be a bishop and he’ll be a bishop. If he changed his mind and wanted to be a Judge or a Cabinet Minister, he’d be a Judge or a Cabinet Minister. He’s that sort.”
“I knew you were sneering.”
“Mabel, don’t be silly. I’m not sneering. Bagshaw’s a clever—”
“You say he’s ‘that sort.’ That’s a sneer.” She put her hands on the arms of her chair and raised herself to sit upright. She spoke with extraordinary intensity. “Nearly everything you say to me or to my friends is a sneer. There’s always something behind what you say. Other people notice it—”
“Yes. Other people. They say you’re sarcastic. That’s just a polite way—”
He said, “Oh, come now, Mabel. Not sarcastic. I swear no one thinks I’m sarcastic. I promise you Bagshaw doesn’t. Bagshaw thinks I’m a fool. A complete fool. Look at lunch!”
She caught him up. She was really angry. “Yes. Look at lunch. That’s just what I mean. Any one that comes to the house, any of my friends, anything they say you must always take differently, always argue about. That’s what I call sneering—”
He, flatly, “Well, that isn’t sneering. Let’s drop it.”
She had no intention of dropping it. “It is sneering. They don’t know it is. But I know it is.”
He had the feeling that his anger would arise responsive to hers, as one beast calling defiance to another, if this continued. And he did not want it to arise. He had sometimes thought of anger as a savage beast chained within a man. It had helped him to control rising ill-temper. He thought of it now: of her anger. He had a vision of it prowling, as a dark beast among caves, challenging into the night. He wished to retain the vision. His own anger, prowling also, would not respond while he retained the picture. It was prowling. It was suspicious. It would be mute while he watched it. While he watched it....
He pulled himself sharply to his feet.
“Well, well,”, he said. “It’s not meant to be sneering. Let’s call it my unfortunate manner.”
He stood before her, half-smiling, his hands in his pockets, looking down at her.