And then in the extraordinary way in which discussions between them were suddenly lifted by Mabel on to unsuspected grievances against him, Sabre suddenly found himself confronted with, “You know how she hurt her knee, I suppose?”
He knew the tone. “No. My fault, was it?”
“Yes. As it happens, it was your fault—to do with you.”
“Good lord! However did I manage to hurt Low Jinks’s knee?”
“She did it bringing in your bicycle.”
He thought, “Now what on earth is this leading up to?” During the weeks of his separation from Mabel, thinking often of Nona, he had caused himself to think from her to Mabel. His reasoning and reasonable habit of mind had made him, finding extraordinary rest in thought of Nona, accuse himself for finding none in thought of Mabel. She was his wife; he never could get away from the poignancy of that phrase. His wife—his responsibility towards her—the old thought, eight years old, of all she had given up in exchanging her own life for his life—and what was she getting? He set himself, on their reunion, always to remember the advantage he had over her: that he could reason out her attitude towards things; that she could not,—neither his attitude nor, what was more, her own.
Now. What was this leading up to? “She did it bringing in your bicycle.” Puzzling sometimes over passages with Mabel that with mysterious and surprising suddenness had plunged into scenes, he had whimsically envisaged how he had been, as it were, led blindfolded to the edge of a precipice, and then, whizz! sent flying over on to the angry crags below.
Bantering protest sometimes averted the disaster. “Well, come now, Mabel, that’s not my fault. That was your idea, making Low Jinks come out and meet me every evening as if the old bike was a foam-flecked steed. Wasn’t it now?”
“Yes, but not in the dark.”
Mysterious manoeuvring! But he felt he was approaching the edge. “In the dark?”
“Yes, not in the dark. What I mean is, I really cannot imagine why you must keep up your riding all through the winter. It was different when there was no other way. Now the railway is running I simply cannot imagine why you don’t use it.”
“Well, that’s easy—because I like the ride.”
“You can’t possibly like riding back on these pitch dark nights, cold and often wet. That’s absurd.”
“Well, I like it a jolly sight better than fugging up in those carriages with all that gassing crowd of Garden Home fussers.”
And immediately, whizz! he went over the edge.
“That’s just it!” Mabel said. And he thought, “Ah!”
“That’s just it. And of course you laugh. Why you can’t be friendly with people like other men, I never can imagine. There’re heaps of the nicest people up at the Garden Home, but from the first you’ve set yourself against them. Why you never like to make friends like other people!”