Frank Jervaise did not respond at once to the gage that had been offered. He appeared to be moodily weighing the probabilities before he decided his policy. And Brenda impatiently prompted him by saying,—
“Well, I don’t see what possible objection you can have to that.”
“Only want to save the pater any worry I can,” Jervaise said. “He has been more cut up than any one over this business.”
“The pater has?” queried Brenda on a note of amazement. “I shouldn’t have expected him to be half as bad as the mater and Olive.”
“Well, he is. He’s worse—much worse,” Jervaise asserted.
I was listening to the others, but I was watching Banks, and I saw him sneer when that assertion was made. The expression seemed to have been forced out of him against his will; just a quick jerk downwards of the corners of his mouth that portrayed a supreme contempt for old Jervaise’s distress. But that sneer revealed Banks’s opinion to me better than anything he had said or done. I knew then that he was aware of something concerning the master of the Hall that was probably unknown either to Brenda or Frank, something that Banks had loyally hidden even from his sister. He covered his sneer so quickly that I believe no one else noticed it.
“But, surely, it would be better for the pater to see Arthur and have done with it,” Brenda was saying.
“Oh! I dare say,” Jervaise agreed with his usual air of grudging the least concession. “Are you ready to go now?” he asked, addressing Banks.
Banks nodded. “I’ll pick up the car on the way,” he said.
“I’ll come with you—as far as the car,” Brenda said, and the pair of them went out together.
Jervaise stretched himself with a self-conscious air. “It will take him the best part of an hour getting the car into the garage and all that,” he remarked, looking at me.
I could see, of course, that he wanted me to go; his hint had been, indeed, almost indecently pointed; and I had no wish to intrude myself upon them, if Anne’s desire coincided with his. I got to my feet and stood like an awkward dummy trying to frame some excuse for leaving the room. I could think of nothing that was not absurdly obvious. I was on the point of trying to save the last remnant of my dignity by walking out, when Anne relieved my embarrassment. I knew that she had been watching me, but I was afraid to look at her. I cannot say why, exactly, but I felt that if I looked at her just then I should give myself away before Jervaise.
“I must go and see about Mr. Melhuish’s room,” she said.
She was half-way to the door when Jervaise stopped her.
“I should rather like to speak to you for a minute first,” he remarked, and scowled again at me.
“There’s nothing more to be said until Arthur has seen Mr. Jervaise,” Anne replied, as though any subject other than the affair Brenda, could not conceivably be of interest to her.