There was a veiled expression in Peter’s eyes that evening when he met
his mother. Passion was exhausted. He divined already that Miranda was
irrecoverable, that pursuit was useless. He now clearly understood how
and why she had suffered. His late agony in her room she had many times
endured, looking in his letters for a passion not yet illumined, eager
to find that he needed her, but finding always that she lived in a
palace of cloud. He saw now that Miranda’s love had never been the
dreaming ecstasy from which he himself had just awakened. He remembered
and understood what he had merely accepted as characteristic of her
turbulent spirit–sudden fits of petulance, occasions when without
apparent reason she had flung savagely away from him. There were other
things which thrilled him now, as when her arms tightened about his
neck, and she answered his light caress with urgent kisses.
Peter’s mother gave him a note in Miranda’s hand:
“PETER,–We are going to Canada, and I am not going to write to
you. I think, Peter, you are only a boy, and one day you will find
out whether you really loved me. I am older than you. I shall not
come back to you, because you are going to be rich, and your
friends cannot be my friends. If you had answered my last letter,
perhaps I could not have done this. But it is better.”
When Peter had finished reading he saw that his mother was watching him.
He was learning to notice things. His mother, too, he had never really
regarded except in relation to himself. Yet she had seen unfold the tale
of his passion. She, too, had been affected. He passed her the letter,
and waited as she read.
“You know, mother, what this means?” he asked, shyly moved to confide in
“Yes, Peter, I think I do,” she answered, glad of his trust.
Peter bent eagerly towards her. “Can you tell me where they have gone?”
Mrs. Paragon gently denied him:
“No one knows. They left very quickly. Mr. Smith owed some money.”
It pained her so sordidly to touch Peter’s tragedy.
“He ran away?” concluded Peter, squarely facing it.
Mrs. Paragon bent her head. Peter tried to say something. He wanted to
tell his mother how suddenly precious to him was her knowledge and
understanding. But he broke off and his mouth trembled. In a moment she
had taken him as a child.
At last she spoke to him again, wisely and bravely:
“Try to put all this away,” she pleaded. “You are too young. I want you
to be happy with your friends.”
She paused shyly, a little daunted by the thought in her mind. Then she
“I don’t want you to think yet of women.”
She continued to urge him:
“Life is so full of things. You think now only of this disappointment,
but, Peter dear, I want you to be strong and famous.”
Her words, years afterwards to be remembered, passed over Peter’s head.
He hardly knew what she said. He was conscious only of her
tenderness–his first comfort. It was the consecration of their
Uncle Henry was away from home–not expected for several days. Peter was
grateful for this. He could not have met the rosy man with the
heartiness he required. Peter spent the evening talking to his mother of
Oxford and his new friends. She quietly insisted that he should.
But, when Peter was alone once more in his room, his grief came back the
deadlier for being held away. He sat for half an hour in the dark. Then
he left the room and knocked at his mother’s door.
“Is that you, Peter?”
“I want to talk to you.”
The door was not locked and she called him in. He had a plan to discuss,
but it could have waited. He merely obeyed a blind instinct to get away
from his misery. His mother leaned from the bed on her elbow, and Peter
sat beside her. She raised her arm to his shoulder with a gesture slow
and large. Peter insensibly found comfort in her beauty. He had never
before realised his mother was beautiful. Was it the open calm of her
forehead or her deep eyes?
“Can’t you sleep, dear?” she asked.
“I want to ask you something.”
Mrs. Paragon tranquilly waited.
“I want to go away,” said Peter. “I can’t bear to be so near to
Mrs. Paragon was immediately practical.
“Where do you want to go?” she asked.
“I could spend the vacation in London,” suggested Peter.
“What will your uncle say?”
“Tell him everything.”
Mrs. Paragon smiled at herself explaining Peter’s tragedy to Uncle
“You want to go at once?”
Peter’s mother looked wistfully, with doubt in her heart. Her hand
tightened on his arm.
“I wonder,” she almost whispered. “Can I trust you to go?”
She looked at him with her calm eyes.
“Peter,” she said at last, “you still belong to me. You must come back
to me as my own. Do you understand?”
Peter saw yet deeper into his mother’s heart–the mother he had so long
neglected to know. Her question hung in the air, but he could not trust
his voice. His eyes answered her in an honourable promise. Then suddenly
he bent his head to her bosom. Her arms accepted him.
Scarcely half an hour later Peter was fast sleeping in his room. Already
the torrent of his life was breaking a fresh channel. He had dedicated