Banks and Jervaise were sparring at each other all the time that Turnbull fulminated, and Brenda’s soprano came in like a flageolet obbligato—a word or two here and there ringing out with a grateful clearness above the masculine accompaniment.
I dared, in the confusion, to glance at Anne, and she looked up at me at the same moment. She was slightly withdrawn from the tumult that drew together about the counter of the sturdy oak table in the centre of the room. She was sitting in the towering old settle by the fireplace, leaning a little forward as if she awaited her opportunity to spring in and determine the tumult when something of this grotesque male violence had been exhausted.
She looked at me, I thought, with just a touch of supplication, a look that I misinterpreted as a request to use my influence in stopping this din of angry voices that was so obviously serving no useful purpose. But I felt no inclination to respond to that appeal of hers. I had an idea that she might be going to announce her engagement to Jervaise, an announcement that would critically affect the whole situation; and I had no wish to help her in solving the immediate problem by those means.
Perhaps she read in my face something of the sullen resentment I was feeling, for she leaned back quickly into the corner of the settle, with a movement that seemed to indicate a temporary resignation to the inevitable. I saw her as taking cover from this foolish masculine din about the table; but I had no doubt that she was still awaiting her opportunity.
It was Jervaise who brought back the unintelligible disputants to reasonable speech. He stopped speaking, stepped back on to the hearth-rug, and then addressed the loudly vociferous Turnbull.
“Ronnie!” Jervaise said in a tone that arrested attention, and having got his man’s ear, added, “Half a minute!”
“But look here, you know,” Turnbull protested, still on the same note of aggressive violence. “What I mean to say is that this feller seems to confoundedly well imagine...”
“Do for God’s sake shut up!” Jervaise returned with a scowl.
“I suppose you think that I haven’t any right...” Turnbull began in a rather lower voice; and Brenda at last finding a chance to make herself heard, finished him by saying quickly,—
“Certainly you haven’t; no right whatever to come here—and brawl...” She spoke breathlessly, as though she were searching in the brief interlude of an exhausting struggle for some insult that would fatally wound and offend him. She tried to show him in a sentence that he was nothing more to her than a blundering, inessential fool, interfering in important business that was no concern of his. And although the hurry of her mind did not permit her to find the deadly phrase she desired, the sharpness of her anxiety to wound him was clear enough.