He looked up into his sister-in-law’s face, and met smiling eyes suddenly tear-dimmed. She smiled down at him.
“Very jolly, you beloved child.... So you’ll chuck your Mr. Leslie and your own profession and help to run the Gem? I don’t think we can let him do that, Hilary, can we?”
Hilary’s strained face had softened and relaxed.
“I confess,” he said, “that it would be in many ways a great relief to me to drop that side of the business, if I could see my way to it. But it won’t be easy now, Peter. It will mean a certain amount of going back on former statements, for one thing.”
“Oh, that’ll be all right. Papers are always doing that. We’ll manage all right and put a good face on it. And we’ll make the thing sell—make it funny and interesting and nice. Of course, if Leslie is willing for me to give part of my time to it, there’s no reason why I should leave him, as long as he stays in Venice. It will be all in his interests really, because he can get tips from the Gem. I’ve warned him off it lately because I thought you were such an awful muddler, Hilary. By the way, it’s rather a relief that you aren’t quite so wanting as I was beginning to fear; seriously, I was wondering how on earth you were going to get through this difficult world. There’s no remedy for a muddler; he can’t mend.”
But a swindler can; a swindler certainly must, that was conveyed by the appeal in Peter’s tired face. So tired it was that Peggy gently took Illuminato from his uncle’s arms and said, “And now we’ll all go to bed. My beloved little brother—you’re an angel in the house, and we’ll all do just as you say, if it’s only to make you smile again. Won’t we, Hilary?”
She leant a soft cheek against Hilary’s shoulder, smiling at Peter; but Peter waited for Hilary’s reply before he smiled back.
Hilary’s reply came after a moment.
“Of course, if Peter can contrive a way of keeping our heads above water without having recourse to these detestable methods, I shall be only too relieved. I loathe having to traffic with these dirty swindlers; it’s too insufferably wearying and degrading.... By the way, Peter, what did Stefani want to-day?”
Peter said, “Oh, bother Stefani. I’m tired of him. Really, I can’t remember—oh, yes, it was antique vases, that might deceive an expert. But let’s stop thinking about Stefani and go to bed. I’m so awfully sleepy; do let’s go upstairs and try to get a little rest, as Vyvian puts it.”
Peggy patted him softly on the cheek as he passed her, and her smile for him was curiously pitiful.
“We’ll do our best to mend, my dear; we’ll do our best,” was what she soothingly murmured; and then, to Illuminato, “There, my froglet; cuddle up and sleep,” and to Hilary, “You poor old dear, will we let the little brother have his way, because he’s a darling entirely, and quite altogether in the right?”