As I followed him, it came into my mind to wonder whether Frank Jervaise had taken me with him as a protection the night before? Had he been afraid of meeting Banks? I had hitherto failed to find any convincing reason for Jervaise’s queer mark of confidence in me.
THE HOME FARM
I must own that I was distinctly uncomfortable as I followed Banks into the same room in which I had sat on my previous visit to the Home Farm. The influence of tradition and habit would not let me alone. I cared nothing for the Jervaises’ opinion, but I resented the unfairness of it and had all the innocent man’s longing to prove his innocence—a feat that was now become for ever impossible. By accepting Banks’s invitation, I had confirmed the worst suspicions the Jervaises could possibly have harboured against me.
Indeed, it seems probable that I was now revealing more shameful depths of duplicity than their most depraved imaginings had been able to picture. As I entered the room, I looked first at Frank, and his dominant emotion, just then, appeared to be surprise. For a moment I had a sense of reprieve. I guessed that he had not been truly convinced of the truth of his own accusations against me. But any relief I may have felt was dissipated at once. I saw Jervaise’s look of surprise give place to a kind of perplexed anger, an expression that I could only read as conveying his amazement that any gentleman (I am sure his thought was playing about that word) could be such a blackguard as I was now proving myself to be.
Ronnie Turnbull, also, evidently shared that opinion. The boyish and rather theatrical movement with which he turned his back upon me, showed at once that he had been coached in the suspicions that were now so finally clinched.
“This fellow simply isn’t worth speaking to,” was the inarticulate message of his gesture.
And certainly I gave neither of them any occasion to speak to me. Banks’s opening plunged us into one of those chaotic dialogues which are only made more confused by any additional contribution.
“What have you come up here for?” Banks asked, displaying his immediate determination to treat the invaders without respect of class on this common ground of his father’s home.
“That’s our affair,” Frank snapped. He looked nervously vicious, I thought, like a timid-minded dog turned desperate.
“What the devil do you mean?” Turnbull asked at the same moment, and Brenda got up from her chair and tried to address some explanation to her lover through the ominous preparatory snarlings of the melee.
I heard her say, “Arthur! They’ve been trying to...” but lost the rest in the general shindy.
Turnbull, by virtue of his lung-power, was the most audible of the four.
“You’ve jolly well got to understand, my good man,” he was saying, “that the sooner you get out of this the better”; and went on with more foolishness about Banks having stolen the motor—all painfully tactless stuff, if he still had the least intention of influencing Brenda, but he was young and arrogant and not at all clever.