THE LOSS OF AN IDEA
Peter’s room was the smallest and highest in the boarding-house. It was extremely small and high, and just above the bed was a ceiling that got hot through and through like a warming-pan, so that the room in summer was like a little oven below. What air there was came in came through a small skylight above the wash-stand; through this also came the rain when it rained; the dirtiest rain Peter had ever seen.
It was not raining this morning, when Peter, after passing a very warm night, heard the bells beginning. A great many bells begin on Sunday mornings in this part of London, no doubt in any part of London, but here they seem particularly loud. The boarding-house was in a small street close to a large English church and a small Roman church; and the English church had its first Mass at seven, and the Roman church at six, and each had another an hour later, and bells rang for all. So Peter lay and listened.
Sometimes he went with Hilary and Peggy to the Roman Mass. That pleased Peggy, who had hopes of some day converting him. And occasionally he went alone to the English Mass, and he liked that better, on the whole, because the little Roman church was rather ugly. Peter didn’t think he would ever join the Roman church, even to please Peggy. It certainly seemed to him in some ways the most finely expressive of the churches; but equally certainly it often expressed the wrong things, and (like all other churches) left whole worlds unexpressed. And so much of its expression had a crudity.... It kept saying too little and too much, and jarring.
Anyhow, this morning Peter, who had a headache after his warm night, lay and heard the bells and thought what a nice day Sunday was, with no office to go to. Instead, he would take Rhoda on the river in the morning, and go and see Lucy in the afternoon, and probably have tea there. When Peter went to see Lucy he always had a faint hope that Urquhart would perhaps walk in, and that they would all be friendly and happy together in the old way, for one afternoon. It hadn’t happened yet. Peter hadn’t seen Urquhart since they had left Venice, two months ago. Sunday was his day for going to see Lucy, and it wasn’t Urquhart’s day, perhaps because Urquhart was so often away for week-ends; though last Sunday, indeed, he had just left the Hopes’ house when Peter arrived.
Lucy, when Peter had told her his tale of dishonour two months ago, had said, half laughing at him, “How stupid of all of you!” She hadn’t realised quite how much it mattered. Lucy judged everything by a queer, withdrawn standard of her own.
Peter had agreed that it had been exceedingly stupid of all of them. Once, since then, when he heard that Urquhart had returned and had seen Lucy, he had asked her, “Does he dislike us all very much? Is he quite too disgusted to want to see me again?”