Racquet instantly dropped his catch and slowly approached Anne with a mien of exaggerated abasement.
“If you were an out and out socialist, I shouldn’t mind,” Anne continued, “but you shouldn’t do these things if you’re ashamed of them afterwards.”
Racquet continued to supplicate her with bowed head, but he gave one surreptitious flick of his stumpy tail, that to me had the irresistible suggestion of a wink.
“Hypocrite!” Anne said, whereupon Racquet, correctly judging by her tone that his forgiveness was assured, made one splendid leap at her, returned with an altogether too patent eagerness to his rabbit, picked it up, and trotted away round the corner of the house.
“Isn’t he a humbug?” Anne asked looking at me, and continued without waiting for my confirmation of the epithet, “Why didn’t you let Arthur carry that?”
“He carried it half the way,” I said. “He and I are the out and out kind of socialist.”
She did not smile. “Father and mother are home,” she said, turning to her brother. “I can see by your face the sort of thing they’ve been saying to you at the Hall, so I suppose we’d better have the whole story on the carpet over supper. Father’s been asking already what Brenda’s here for.”
Anne showed me up to my room as soon as we entered the house, but her manner was that of the hostess to a strange guest. She was polite, formal, and, I thought, a trifle nervous. She left me hurriedly as soon as she had opened the door of the bedroom, with some apology about having to “see to the supper.” (The smell of frying bacon had pervaded the staircase and passages, and had helped me to realise that I was most uncommonly hungry. Except for a very light lunch I had eaten nothing since breakfast.)
I got my first real feeling of the strangeness of the whole affair while I was unpacking my suit-case in that rather stiff, unfriendly spare-room. Until then the sequence of events had followed a hot succession, in the current of which I had had no time to consider myself—my ordinary, daily self—in relation to them. But the associations of this familiar position and occupation, this adaptation of myself for a few hours to a strange household, evoked the habitual sensations of a hundred similar experiences. Twenty-four hours earlier I had been dressing for dinner at Jervaise Hall, and despite my earnest affirmations that in the interval my whole life and character had changed, I was very surely aware that I was precisely the same man I had always been—the man who washed, and changed his tie, and brushed his hair in just this same manner every day; who looked at himself in the glass with that same half-frowning, half-anxious expression, as if he were uncertain whether to resent or admire the familiar reflection. I was confronted by the image of the Graham Melhuish to whom I had become accustomed; the image of the rather well-groomed, rather successful young man that I had come to regard as the complete presentation of my individuality.