Suddenly feeling rather ill, Peter collapsed into a chair.
Peggy, coming and kneeling by him, half comforting, half reproaching, said, “Oh, Peter darling, you haven’t been refusing money, when you know you and Tommy and all of us need it so much?”
Hilary said, “Peter has no regard whatever for what we all need. He simply doesn’t care. I suppose now we shall never be able to afford even a new thermometer to replace the one Peter broke. Again, why should it matter to Peter? He took his own temperature all through his illness, and I suppose that is all he cares about. I wonder how much fever I have at this moment. Is my pulse very wild, Peggy?”
“It is not,” said Peggy, soothingly, without feeling it. “And I daresay Peter’s temperature is as high as yours now, if we knew; he looks like it. Well, Peter, it was stupid of you, my dear, wasn’t it, to say no to a present and hurt their feelings that way when they’d been so good as to come in the rain and all. If they offer it again—”
Peter said, “They won’t. They won’t come here again, ever. They’ve done with us, I’m glad to say, and we with them. So you needn’t write to them again; it will be no use.”
Peter was certainly cross, Peggy and Hilary looked at him in surprised disapproval. How silly. Where was the use of having friends if one treated them in this unkind, proud way?
“Peter,” said Hilary, “has obviously decided that we are not fit to have anything to do with his grand friends. No doubt he is well-advised—” he looked bitterly round the unkempt room—“and we will certainly take the hint.”
Then Peter recovered himself and said, “Oh don’t be an ass, Hilary,” and laughed dejectedly, and went up to finish putting Thomas to bed.
In the carriage that rolled through the rain from Brook Street to Park Lane, Lord Evelyn Urquhart was saying, “This is the last time; the very last time. Never again do I try to help any Margerison. First I had to listen for full five minutes to the lies of that woman; then to the insufferable remarks of that cad, that swindler, Hilary Margerison, who I firmly believe had an infectious disease which I have no doubt caught,” (he was right; he had caught it). “Then in comes Peter and insults me to my face and tells me to clear out of the house. By all means; I have done so, and it will be for good. What, Lucy? There, don’t cry, child; they an’t worth a tear between the lot of ’em.”
But Lucy cried. She, like Peter, was oddly not herself to-day, and cried and cried.
The boarding-house suddenly ceased to be. Its long illness ended in natural death. There was a growing feeling among the boarders that no self-respecting person could remain with people whose financial affairs were in the precarious condition of the Margerisons’—people who couldn’t pay the butcher, and lived on ill-founded expectations of subsidies. As two years ago the Margerisons had been thrown roughly out of the profession of artistic experts, so now the doors of the boarding-house world were shut upon them. Boarders are like that; intensely respectable.