I was strangely confused by the fact of our being alone together. I had an entirely unwarranted feeling that we were about to make up a quarrel. And I wanted to do my utmost to produce the best possible impression upon her.
“I hope I may call myself your brother’s friend,” I began lamely. “All my sympathies are with him.”
“You don’t know the Jervaises particularly well?” she inquired. For one moment she glanced down at her poised hands, but almost instantly returned to her rather absent-minded gazing through the open window.
“Except for Frank and his brother, I never met one of them until last night,” I explained. “I was at school and Cambridge with Frank.”
“But they are your sort, your class,” she said. “Don’t you agree with them that it’s a dreadful thing for Arthur, their chauffeur—and he was in the stables once, years ago—to try to run away with their daughter?”
“All my sympathies are with Arthur,” I repeated.
“Not because the Jervaises were so rude to you?” she asked.
“I liked him before that; when we met on the hill, very early this morning,” I said. “But, perhaps, he didn’t tell you.”
“Yes, he told me,” she said. “And was that the beginning of all the trouble between you and the Jervaises?”
“In a way, it was,” I agreed. “But it’s an involved story and very silly. I admit that they had grounds for suspecting that I had interfered.”
“Mrs. Jervaise and Olive are always suspecting people,” she volunteered. “I’ve often wondered why?”
“Like that, by nature,” I suggested.
“Perhaps,” she said carelessly as if she did not care to pursue that speculation. “You know that my mother was governess to Olive and Frank before she married my father?” she continued, still with that same air of discussing some remote, detached topic.
“I heard that she had been a governess. I didn’t know that she had ever been with the Jervaises,” I said.
“She was there for over two years,” pursued Anne. “She is French, you know, though you’d probably never guess it, now, except for an occasional word here and there. She left years before Brenda was born. Brenda is so much younger than the others. There’s eight years between her and Robert, the next one. Olive’s the eldest, of course, and then Frank.”
I made some conventional acknowledgment for this information. I was wondering if she were merely talking to save the embarrassment of silence. We had drifted, apparently, a long way from any matter of personal interest and I was hesitating as to whether I should not attempt a new opening, when she began again with the least little frown of determination.
“I’m talking about them, because if you are to be Arthur’s friend you ought to know more or less how things are between us and the Jervaises, and I might just as well say right out at once that we don’t like them; we’ve never liked them. Mother, more particularly. She has got something against them that she has never told us, but it isn’t that.” Her frown was more pronounced as she went on, “They aren’t nice people, any of them, except Brenda, and she’s so absolutely different from the rest of them, and doesn’t like them either—in a way.”