I came out of my reflection on the furniture to find that Jervaise was going, at last. He was smiling and effusive, talking quickly about nothing, apologising again for the unseemliness of our visit. Anne was pathetically complacent, accepting and discounting his excuses, and professing her willingness to help in any way she possibly could. “But I really and truly expect you’ll find Brenda safe at home when you get back,” she said, and I felt that she honestly believed that.
“I hope so; I hope so,” Jervaise responded, and then they most unnecessarily shook hands.
I thought that it was time to assert myself above the clatter of their farewells.
“We might add, Miss Banks,” I put in, “that we’ve been making a perfectly absurd fuss about nothing at all. But, no doubt, you’re used to that.”
She looked at me, then, for the first time since I had come into the house; and I saw the impulse to some tart response flicker in her face and die away unexpressed. We stood and stared at one another for a long half-second or so; and when she looked away I fancied that there was something like fear in her evasion. It seemed to me that I saw the true spirit of her in the way her glance refused me as some one with whom she did not care to sport. Her voice, too, dropped, so that I could not catch the murmur of her reply.
We had, indeed, recognised each other in that brief meeting of our eyes. Some kind of challenge had passed between us. I had dared her to drop that disguise of trickery and show herself as she was; and her response had been an admission that she acknowledged not me, but my recognition of her.
How far the fact that I had truly appraised her real worth might influence her, in time, to think gently of me, I could not guess; but I hoped, even a little vaingloriously, that she would respond to our mutual appreciation of truth. I had shown her, I believed, how greatly I admired the spirit she had been at such pains to conceal during that talk in the honest sitting-room of the Home Farm. And I felt that her failure to resent the impertinence of my “No doubt, you’re used to that,” had been due to an understanding of something she and I had in common against the whole solid, stolid, aristocratic family of Jervaise.
Moreover, she gave me what I counted as two more causes for hopefulness before we left the house. The first was her repetition, given, now, with a more vibrating sincerity, of the belief that we should find Brenda safely at home when we got back to the Hall.
“I feel sure you will, Mr. Jervaise,” she said, and the slight pucker of anxiety between her eyebrows was an earnest that even if her belief was a little tremulous, her hope, at least, was unquestionably genuine.
The second sign was the acceptance of a hackneyed commonplace; the proffer of a friendly message through the medium of a cliche which, however false in its general application, offered a short cut to the interpretation of feeling. Racquet who had maintained a well-bred silence from the first moment of his mistress’s reproof, had honoured me with his approval while we sat in the farm-house sitting-room, and sealed the agreement by a friendly thrust of his nose as we said “Goodnight.”