“Sleep where you like,” said Peter. “There’s the bed. I don’t want it.”
But Rodney stretched himself instead on the horse-hair sofa. He said no more, knowing that the time for words was past. He lay tired and quiet, with closed eyes, knowing how Peter and the other disreputable forsaken outcast sat together huddled on the floor through the dim night, till the dawn looked palely in and showed them both fallen asleep, Peter’s head resting on Francesco’s yellow back.
It was Rodney who got up stiffly from his hard resting-place in the dark unlovely morning, and made tea over Peter’s spirit-lamp for both of them. Peter woke later, and drank it mechanically. Then he looked at Rodney and said, “I’m horribly stiff. Why did neither of us go to bed?” He was pale and heavy-eyed, and violent no more, but very quiet and tired, as if, accepting, he was sinking deep in grey and cold seas, that numbed resistance and drowned words.
The milk came in, and Peter gave Thomas to drink; and on the heels of the milk came the post, and a letter for Peter.
“I suppose,” said Peter dully, as he opened it, “she too has found out that it can’t be done.”
The letter said: “Peter, we can’t do it. I am horribly, horribly sorry, but I know it now for certain. Perhaps you know it too, by now. Because the reason is in you, not in me. It is that you love Denis too much. So you couldn’t be happy. I want you to be happy, more than I want anything in the world, but it can’t be this way. Please, dear Peter, be happy sometime; please, please be happy. I love you always—if that helps at all.—Lucy.”
Peter let the note fall on the floor, and stood with bent head by the side of Thomas’s crib, while Thomas guggled his milk.
“Two minds with but a single thought,” he remarked, in that new, dreary voice of his. “As always.... Well, it saves trouble. And we’re utterly safe now, you see; doubly safe. You can go home in peace.”
Then Rodney, knowing that he could be no more use, left the three derelicts together.
ON THE SHORE
There is a shore along which the world flowers, one long sweet garden strip, between the olive-grey hills and the very blue sea. Like nosegays in the garden the towns are set, blooming in their many colours, linked by the white road running above blue water. For vagabonds in April the poppies riot scarlet by the white road’s edge, and the last of the hawthorn lingers like melting snow, and over the garden walls the purple veils of the wistaria drift like twilight mist. Over the garden walls, too, the sweetness of the orange and lemon blossom floats into the road, and the frangipani sends delicate wafts down, and the red and white roses toss and hang as if they had brimmed over from sheer exuberance. If a door in one of the walls chance to stand ajar, vagabonds on the road may look in and see an Eden, unimaginably sweet, aflame with oleanders and pomegranate blossom, and white like snow with tall lilies.