THE SPLENDID MORNING
“Listen,” said Peter again; and some far off thing was faintly jarring the soft silence, on a crescendo note.
Rodney listened, and murmured, “Brute.” He hated them more than Peter did. He was less wide-minded and less sweet-tempered. Peter had a gentle and not intolerant aesthetic aversion, Rodney a fervid moral indignation.
It came storming over the rims of twilight out of an unborn dawn, and the soft dust surged behind. Its eyes flamed, and lit the pale world. It was running to the city in the dim west; it was in a hurry; it would be there for breakfast. As it ran it played the opening bars of something of Tchaichowsky’s.
Rodney and Peter leant over the low white wall and gazed into grey shivering gardens. So could they show aloof contempt; so could they elude the rioting dust.
The storming took a diminuendo note; it slackened to a throbbing murmur. The brute had stopped, and close to them. The brute was investigating itself.
“Perhaps,” Rodney hoped, but not sanguinely, “they’ll have to push it all the way to Florence.” Still contempt withheld a glance.
Then a pleasant, soft voice broke the hushed dusk with half a laugh, and Peter wheeled sharply about. The man who had laughed was climbing again into his seat, saying, “It’s quite all right.” That remark was extremely characteristic; it would have been a suitable motto for his whole career.
The next thing he said, in his gentle, unsurprised voice, was to the bare-headed figure that smiled up at him from the road.
“You, Margery?... What a game. But what have you done with the Hebrew? Oh, that’s Stephen, isn’t it. That accounts for it: but how did he get you? I say, you can’t have slept anywhere; there’s been nowhere, for miles. And have you left Leslie to roam alone among the Objects of Beauty with his own unsophisticated taste for guide? I suppose he’s chucked you at last; very decent-spirited of him, I think, don’t you, Stephen?”
“I chucked him,” Peter explained, “because he bought a sham Carlo Dolci. I drew the line at that. Though if one must have a Carlo Dolci, I suppose it had better be a sham one, on the whole. Anyhow, I came away and took to the road. We sleep in ditches, and we like it very much, and I make tea every morning in my little kettle. I’m going to Florence to help Leslie to buy bronze things for his grates—dogs, you know, and shovels and things. Leslie will have been there for three days now; I do wonder what he’s bought.”
“You’d better come on in the car,” Urquhart said. “Both of you. Why is Stephen looking so proud? I shall be at Florence for breakfast. You won’t, though. Bad luck. Come along; there’s loads of room.”
Rodney stood by the wall. He was unlike Peter in this, that his resentment towards a person who motored across Tuscany between dusk and dawn was in no way lessened by the discovery of who it was.