How absolutely incongruous, Peter was dully thinking. Urquhart and tragedy; Urquhart and death. It was that which blackened the radiant morning, not the mercifully abrupt cessation of a worn-out life. For Peter death had two sharply differentiated aspects—one of release to the tired and old, for whom the grasshopper was a burden; the other of an unthinkable blackness of tragedy—sheer sharp loss that knew no compensation. It was not with this bitter face that death had stepped into their lives on this clear morning. One could imagine that weary figure glad to end his wayfaring so; one could even imagine those steps to death deliberately taken; and one did imagine those he left behind him accepting his peace as theirs.
Peter said, “It wasn’t your fault. It was his doing—poor chap.”
The uncertain quaver in his voice brought Urquhart’s eyes for a moment upon his face, that was always pale and was now the colour of putty.
“You’re ill, aren’t you?... I met Stephen.... I was coming back anyhow; I knew you weren’t fit to walk.”
He muttered it absently, frowning down on the other greyer face in the grey dust. Again his hand unsteadily groped over the still heart, and lay there for a moment.
Abruptly then he looked up, and met Peter’s shadow-circled eyes.
“I was over-driving,” he said. “I ought to have slowed down to pass him.” He stood up, frowning down on the two in the road.
“We’ve got to think now,” he said, “what to do about it.”
To that thinking Peter offered no help and no hindrance. He sat in the road by the dead man and the bundle of wood, and looked vaguely on the remote morning that death had dimmed. Denis and death: Peter would have done a great deal to sever that incredible connection.
But it was, after all, for Denis to effect that severing, to cut himself loose from that oppressing and impossible weight.
He did so.
“I don’t see,” said Denis, “that we need ... that we can ... do anything about it.”
Above the clear mountains the sun swung up triumphant, and the wide river valley was bathed in radiant gold.
HILARY, PEGGY, AND HER BOARDERS
When Leslie and Peter went to Venice to pick up Berovieri goblets and other things, Leslie stayed at the Hotel Europa and Peter in the Palazzo Amadeo. The Palazzo Amadeo is a dilapidated palace looking onto the Rio delle Beccarie; it is let in flats to the poor; and in the sea-story suite of the great, bare, dingy, gilded rooms lived Hilary and Peggy Margerison, and three disreputable infants who insisted on bathing in the canals, and the boarders. The boarders were at the moment six in number; Peter made seven. The great difficulty with the boarders, Peggy told him, was to make them pay. They had so little money, and such a constitutional reluctance to spend that little on their board.