I began to hurry, then. It was already twenty past twelve, and lunch was at half-past one. Just what I proposed to do, or whom I expected to see, at the Home Farm, I had no idea; but I was suddenly determined to get there and back before lunch. The walk would not take me more than a quarter of an hour each way, but, for no reason that I could explain, the balance of half an hour or so that remained to me appeared far too short. I remember that as I walked through the wood, I persuaded myself that I wanted to see Arthur Banks, who, according to my neat and convincing theory, had taken up his work again and was, therefore, probably at the Hall. But, as I have said, our impulses are never guided, and seldom altered, by that form of reasoning known as logic.
* * * * *
But I never reached the farm, and I forgot all about the pretended motive of my excursion. For in two seconds I came to an entirely new judgment on the whole problem of the Jervaise-Banks intrigue, a judgment that had nothing in common with any earlier turns of sympathy from one party to the other.
Such a little thing it was that temporarily turned me into a disgusted misanthrope, nothing more than a sight of two people seen for a moment in an arresting shock of outraged amazement before I turned a disgusted back upon them and retreated moodily to the Hall. But the sight was enough to throw the affair into a new perspective, and beget in me a sense of contempt for all the actors in that midsummer comedy. “A plague on both your houses,” I muttered to myself, but I saw them no longer as the antagonists of a romantic drama. I was suddenly influenced to a mood of scorn. Jervaises and Banks alike seemed to me unworthy of any admiration. The members of those families were just a crowd of self-seeking creatures with no thought beyond their own petty interests. The Jervaises were snobs upset by the threat to their silly prestige. Brenda was a feather-headed madcap without a scrap of consideration for any one but herself. Banks was an infatuated fool, and the best I could hope for him was that he would realise the fact before it was too late. Frank, confound and confound him, was a coarse-minded sensualist. The thought of him drove me crazy with impatience....
And what on earth could have tempted Anne to let him kiss her, if she had not been a crafty, worldly-minded schemer with an eye on the glories of ruling at the Hall?
It is true that I did not actually see him kiss her. I turned away too quickly. But the grouping left me in no doubt that if he had not kissed her already, he was on the point of doing it. In any case he had had his arm round her, and she had shown no signs of resisting him.
My first impression of the curious change in demeanour shown towards me by the Jervaises and their friends at lunch was that it had no existence outside my own recently embittered mind. I thought that I was avoiding them, not that they were avoiding me. It was not until I condescended to come down from my pinnacle of conscious superiority that I realised my own disgrace.