“The insufferable vulgarity of this class of person on this subject is really the limit,” Hilary remarked plaintively, as if it had jarred him beyond endurance.
“They’re awfully kind, aren’t they,” said Peter, who looked tired. Then he laughed to himself. Hilary looked at him enquiringly.
“I suppose you know your own business, Peter. But I must confess I am surprised. I had literally no idea you had such a step in mind.”
“I hadn’t any idea either,” Peter admitted frankly. “I thought of it quite suddenly. But I think it is a good plan, you know. Of course,” he added, wording what he read in Hilary’s face, “I know my life will cost me more. But I think it is worth while.”
“It’s quite entirely your own business,” Hilary said again, throwing responsibility from him with a gesture of the hands. Then he leant back and shut his eyes.
Peter looked at him as he lay in the arm-chair and smoked; his eyes rested on the jaded, still beautiful face, the dark lock of hair falling a little over the tired forehead, the brown velvet smoking coat and large red silk tie. He knew that he had hurt and puzzled Hilary. And he knew that Hilary wouldn’t understand if he were to explain what he couldn’t ever explain. At the most he would say, “It is Peter all over,” and shrug his shoulders at Peter and Peter’s vagaries.
A great desire to smooth Hilary’s difficult road, as far as might be, caught and held Peter. Poor old Hilary! He was so frightfully tired of life and its struggles; tired of being a Have-Not.
To help the other Have-Nots, to put pleasant things into their hands as far as might be, seemed to Peter at this moment the thing for which one existed. It is obviously the business of the Have-Nots to do that for one another; for the Haves do not know or understand. It is the Have-Nots who must give and give and give, with emptying hands; for from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
Peter went upstairs to the drawing-room to play animal grab.
PETER, RHODA, AND LUCY
When Mr. Vyvian called at 51 Brook Street one evening and was informed by the assembled company that Miss Johnson had got engaged to Mr. Peter Margerison, he sneered a little and wished them both joy, and said good-night rather markedly early.
“He won’t come back,” said Rhoda in Peter’s ear when he had gone. “He’s gone for good.” She sat very still, realising it, and shivered a little. Then, casting off that old chain of the past, she turned on Peter eyes full of tears and affection.
“Now I’m going to forget all about him and be happy,” she whispered. “He’s not going to be part of my life any more at all. How queer that seems!”
If in her heart she wished a little that Peter had had Guy Vyvian’s handsome face and person (Peter had no presence: one might overlook him; the only vivid note about him, except when he smiled, was the blue of his eyes), she stifled the wish with firm pressure. What were looks, after all? And that bold, handsome stare of Guy’s had burnt and hurt; in the blue of Peter’s she found healing and coolness, as one finds it in a summer sea.