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The Doves' Nest and Other Stories



Psychological awareness . . . perhaps it was that which explained their intimacy. One might have been tempted to say it was a case of mutual fascination. But whereas Archie's reply to the suggestion would have been a slow " Poss-ibly ! " Rupert would have flouted it at once.

" Fascination ! The word's preposterous in this connection. What on earth would there be in Cullen to fascinate me even if I was in the habit of being fascinated by my fellow-creatures ; which I certainly am not. No, page 164 I'll own I am deeply interested. I confess my belief is, I understand him better than anybody else. And if you want my honest opinion, I am certain that my—my—h'm—influence over —sympathy for—him—call it what you like, is all to the good. There is a psychological awareness... Moreover, as a companion, instinctively I find him extremely agreeable. He stimulates some part of my mind which is less active without him. But fascination—wide of the mark, my dear—wide ! "

But supposing one remained unconvinced ? Supposing one still played with the idea. Wasn't it possible to see Rupert and Archie as the python and the rabbit keeping house together ? Rupert that handsome, well-fed python with his moustaches, his glare, his habit of uncoiling before the fire and swaying against the mantelpiece, pipe and pouch in hand. And Archie, soft, hunched, timid, sitting in the lesser armchair, there and not there, flicking back into the darkness at a word but emerging again at a look—with sudden wholly unexpected starts of playfulness (instantly suppressed by the python). Of course, there was no question of anything so crude and dreadful as the rabbit being eaten by his housemate. Nevertheless, it was a strange fact,—after a typical evening the one looked immensely swelled, benign and refreshed and the other, pale, small and exhausted . . . And more often page 165 than not, Rupert's final comment was—ominous this—as he doused his whisky with soda :

" This has been very absorbing, Archie." And Archie gasped out, " Oh, very ! "