And so forth, just as it came out in “Progress” once a month. Peter didn’t read “Progress,” because he wasn’t interested in the future, being essentially a child of to-day. Besides, he too hated conflagrations, thinking the precious chattels they would burn up much too precious for that. Peter was no lover either of destruction or construction; perhaps he too was an obstructionist; though not without imagination. His uncle knew he had a regrettable tendency to put things in the foreground and keep ideas very much in the background, and called him therefore a phenomenalist. Lucy shared this tendency, being a good deal of an artist and nothing at all of a philosopher.
THE COMPLETE SHOPPER
Six months later Peter called at the Hopes’ to say good-bye before he went to Italy. He found Lucy in, and Urquhart was there too, talking to her in a room full of leaping fire-shadows. Peter sat down on the coal-scuttle (it was one of those coal-scuttles you can sit on comfortably) and said, “Leslie’s taking me to Italy on Sunday. Isn’t it nice for me. I wish he was taking you too.”
Lucy, clasping small hands, said, “Oh, Peter, I wish he was!”
Urquhart, looking at her said, “Do you want to go?” and she nodded, with her mouth tight shut as if to keep back floods of eloquence on that subject. “So do I,” said Urquhart, and added, in his casual way, “Will you and your father come with me?”
“You paying?” said Lucy, in her frank, unabashed way like a child’s; and he smiled down at her.
“Yes. Me paying.”
“’Twould be nice,” she breathed, her grey eyes wide with wistful pleasure. “I would love it. But—but father wouldn’t, you know. He wouldn’t want to go, and if he did he’d want to pay for it himself, and do it his own way, and travel third-class and be dreadfully uncomfortable. Wouldn’t he, Peter?”
Peter feared that he would.
“Thank you tremendously, all the same,” said Lucy, prettily polite.
“I shall have to go by myself, then,” said Urquhart. “What a bore. I really am going, you know, sometime this spring, to stay with my uncle in Venice. I expect I shall come across you, Margery, with any luck. I shan’t start yet, though; I shall wait for better motoring weather. No, I can’t stop for tea, thanks; I’m going off for the week-end. Good-bye. Good-bye, Margery. See you next in Venice, probably.”
He was gone. Lucy sat still in her characteristic attitude, hands clasped on her knees, solemn grey eyes on the fire.
“He’s going away for the week-end,” she said, realising it for herself and Peter. “But it’s more amusing when he’s here. When he’s in town, I mean, and comes in. That’s nice and funny, isn’t it.”
“Yes,” said Peter.
“But one can go out into the streets and see the people go by—and that’s nice and funny too. And there are the Chinese paintings in the British Museum ... and concerts ... and the Zoo ... and I’m going to a theatre to-night. It’s all nice and funny, isn’t it.”