(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Most of his friends thought Mark Sabre an odd sort, in spite of the normal life he led. He was married to a girl of his own class and worked in the very respectable firm of Fortune, East, and Sabre, suppliers for the best churches and schools in England. It was his attitude toward life that seemed unusual. He had no definite convictions about anything, and he could always see both sides of any controversy. He hated the restrictions that convention placed on people; but at the same time, he believed that conventions were based on sound principles. Mabel Sabre, one of the most conventional women alive, was totally unable to understand anything her husband tried to discuss with her.

The only person who understood him well was Lady Nona Tybar, with whom Sabre had once been in love. Nona’s husband, Lord Tybar, was a charming man but completely without moral principles. When he flaunted other women in Nona’s face, she turned to Sabre for comfort in his friendship, but Mabel, Sabre’s wife, could not understand their friendship any better than she could understand anything else about her husband. After five years of marriage, Mabel and Sabre were living almost as strangers under one roof. Mark Sabre’s employer, Mr. Fortune, and his business associate Mr. Twyning despised him because they did not understand him; consequently, Sabre felt that he lived only as he bicycled between his home and his office, for then he could know himself as he really was. Sabre felt that there was a mystery to life, which he could unlock if he found the right key. His life was almost dedicated to finding that key.

In addition to Nona, Sabre had three friends with whom he liked to spend his time. They were his neighbors, Mr. Fargus, old Mrs. Perch, and her son. When the war came, young Perch wanted to enlist, but he could not leave his invalid mother alone. Sabre knew that Effie Bright, daughter of an employee at his office, wanted a position as a companion, and he arranged to have her stay with Mrs. Perch after her son went to the army. Young Perch was killed, and when his mother received the news, she also died. Shortly after the old lady’s death, Sabre himself joined the army. Because Mabel did not want to stay alone, she employed Effie to stay with her; however, she treated Effie as a servant.

Lord Tybar was a hero in the war and won the Victoria Cross before he was killed. Nona went to France after her husband’s death and drove an ambulance for the rest of the war years. When Sabre came home on leave, Mabel discharged Effie. She said that the girl was impertinent and unreliable.

Late in 1917, Sabre was wounded and sent home to stay. Mabel took no more interest in him than she had before, until the day she received a...

(The entire section is 1124 words.)