In fact they had been climbing all day; and she had worn a blister on her heel; but she did not mean that.
“To-day,” said Ernest, twitching his nose as he bit the end off his cigar, “he chased a hare.” He paused; struck a match, and twitched again.
All round them on tables and chairs there were golden tributes, some nestling in cotton wool; others branching resplendent-candlesticks; cigar boxes; chains; each stamped with the goldsmith’s proof that it was solid gold, hall-marked, authentic
“A white hare!” Rosalind exclaimed, as if she had been expecting this. “Rather a small hare; silver grey; with big bright eyes?”
Sometimes when they wanted a gamekeeper, or a poacher or a Lord of the Manor, they amused themselves by distributing the parts among their friends
“Yes,” said Ernest, looking at her installment loans in New Hampshire as she had looked at him, “a smallish animal; with eyes popping out of her head, and two little front paws dangling.” It was exactly how she sat, with her sewing dangling in her hands; and her eyes, that were so big and bright, were certainly a little prominent.
“Yes; that’s what she’s called,” said Rosalind. “Lapinova.” And before they went to bed that night it was all settled. He was King Lappin; she was Queen Lapinova. They were the opposite of each other; he was bold and determined; she wary and undependable. He ruled over the busy world of rabbits; her world was a desolate, mysterious place, which she ranged mostly by moonlight. All the same, their territories touched; they were King and Queen.
Thus when they came back from their honeymoon they possessed a private world, inhabited, save for the one white hare, entirely by rabbits. No one guessed that there was such a place, and that of course made it all the more amusing. It made them feel, more even than most young married couples, in league together against the rest of the world. Often they looked slyly at each other when people talked about rabbits and woods and traps and shooting. Or they winked furtively across the table when Aunt Mary said that she could never bear to see a hare in a dish-it looked so like a baby: or when John, Ernest’s sporting brother, told them what price rabbits were fetching that autumn in Wiltshire, skins and all. Ernest’s mother, Mrs. Reginald Thorburn, for example, fitted the part of the Squire to perfection. But it was all secret-that was the point of it; nobody save themselves knew that such a world existed.
Without that world, how, Rosalind wondered, that winter could she have lived at all? For instance, there was the golden-wedding party, when all the Thorburns assembled at Porchester Terrace to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of that union which had been so blessed-had it not produced Ernest Thorburn? and so fruitful-had it not produced nine other sons and daughters into the bargain, many themselves married and also fruitful? She dreaded that party. But it was inevitable. As she walked upstairs she felt bitterly that she was an only child and an orphan at that; a mere drop among all those Thorburns assembled in the great drawing-room with the shiny satin wallpaper and the lustrous family portraits. The living Thorburns much resembled the painted; save that instead of painted lips they had real lips; out of which came jokes; jokes about schoolrooms, and how they had pulled the chair from under the governess; jokes about frogs and how they had put them between the virgin sheets of maiden ladies. As for herself, she had never even made an apple-pie bed. Holding her present in her hand she advanced toward her mother-in-law sumptuous in yellow satin; and toward her father-in-law decorated with a rich yellow carnation. But her present was only a little pinchbeck box pierced with holes; an old sand caster, an eighteenth-century relic, once used to sprinkle sand over wet ink. Rather a senseless present she felt-in an age of blotting paper; and as she proffered it, she saw in front of her the stubby black handwriting in which her mother-in-law when they were engaged had expressed the hope that “My son will make you happy.” No, she was not happy. Not at all happy. She looked at Ernest, straight as a ramrod with a nose like all the noses in the family portraits; a nose that never twitched at all.