“Well, what’s the alternative?” I replied.
“We might wait,” he said. “She’ll be of age in thirteen months’ time.”
I had no fear but that Banks would wait thirteen months, or thirteen years, for Brenda. I was less certain about her. Just now she was head over ears in romance, and I believed that if she married him his sterling qualities would hold her. But I mistrusted the possible effect upon her of thirteen months’ absence. The Jervaises would know very well how to use their advantage. They would take her away from the Hall and its associations, and plunge her into the distractions of a society that could not yet have lost its glamour for her. I could picture Brenda looking back with wonder at the foolishness of the girl who had imagined herself to be in love with her father’s chauffeur. And even an hour earlier, so recent had been my true conversion, I should have questioned the advisability of a hasty, secret marriage between these two temporarily infatuated people. Now I was hot with the evangelising passion of a young disciple. I wanted to deliver Brenda from the thrall of society at any price. It seemed to me that the greatest tragedy for her would be a marriage with some one in her own class—young Turnbull, for instance.
“I shouldn’t wait,” I said decidedly.
“Why not?” he asked with a touch of resentment, as if he had guessed something of my mistrust of Brenda.
“All very well, in a way, for you,” I explained. “But think what an awful time she’d have, with all of them trying to nag her into a marriage with young Turnbull, or somebody of that kind.”
“He isn’t so bad as some of ’em,” Banks said, evading the main issue. “She’d never marry him though. She knows him too well, for one thing. He’s been scouring the county in a dog-cart all the morning—went to Hurley to make inquiries before breakfast, and all over the place afterwards. John’s been telling me. He heard ’em talking when young Turnbull turned up at tea-time. He’s got guts all right, that fellow. I believe he’d play the game fair enough if they tried to make her marry him. Besides, as I said, she’d never do it.”
“I don’t suppose she would,” I said, humouring him—it was no part of my plan to disturb his perfect faith in Brenda—“I only said that she’d have a rotten bad time during those thirteen months.”
“Well, we’ve got to leave that to her, haven’t we?” Banks returned.
I thought not, but I judged it more tactful to keep my opinion to myself.
“We shall be quite safe in doing that,” I said as we turned into the back premises of the Home Farm.
Banks had forgotten about my suit-case, and I bore the burden of it, flauntingly, up the hill. Racquet followed us with an air of conscious humility.
And it was Racquet that Anne first addressed when she met us at the door of the house.
“Whose rabbit is that?” she asked sternly.