Peter recovered splendidly from his accident, and his injuries healed with no lasting ill effects. However, Lord and Lady Bertram had decided that rather than sending him to prep school for a final year or to start at Harrow, Peter would not attend a school at all, but remain at home under tutelage for a year as punishment for his mischief. Peter protested this decision vigorously, first with a passionate fit, then with pious pleading and vows, and at the end with tears, but Lady Bertram would not be moved.
A few moments later a little red motor whirred away from the manor, but the music continued, sometimes executed properly, and at other times played with fierce speed that the occupants of the nursery doubted Peter’s teacher would have favored.
“Hurry, Woger, it’s time to read wif mummy.” Winnie cried, beckoning to her brother.
Walter paused before replying. “I hope that nothing will come of it.” he said, after a moment’s reflection. “But if I am wrong—well, we must trust that God’s hand guides the affairs of men.”
Peter absently plucked out the bars of a pizzicato passage in Bruch’s concerto on the strings of his violin. Then whipped out his bow with a flourish and made the instrument sing.
“I wonder why dad went to London.” Peter mused as they arranged their dinner on the cheerful cloth. “Mum seemed a bit ruffled.”
Roger fished a currant from his Chelsea bun and put it in his mouth. “So, what is it you do in this club?”
“Peter,” Anthea sighed. “What is arbitrary?”
“Isn’t that what people write about dead people in newspapers?” offered Patsy.
At the house, Lady Bertram was finishing a little luncheon of her own when the footman entered with a telegram. She unfolded it leisurely, but her face paled with fright as she read it. The capital letters screamed so outrageously that she wondered if the servants hadn’t heard them as well.
’CATHERINE, DON’T LET THE CHILDREN OUT OF YOUR SIGHT. ROGER.’
“It is a dog.” Peter laid it on the grass. “Or, it was a dog.” The others crowded around.
“Oh, I am glad that you are back!” she cried, joyfully throwing herself into her husband’s comforting embrace, forgetting that Peter was present. “You had me so frightened!”
“I’m sorry. The folly of telegrams is their terse nature.”
Lady Bertram turned from the fireplace resolutely, fists clenched, and seated herself once more at the table. Lord Bertram remained like a statue. The children kicked each other under the table, and the footmen and the butler exchanged glances. Peter frowned. Lord Bertram sank down heavily and took Lady Bertram’s hand. He pressed it tightly, then turned to the paper he had been reading earlier and shook his head, bemused.
As he took a second bow, The Earl took opportunity to lean over to Lady Bertram and whisper:
“That was very impressive, if I do says do myself.”
The violinist’s mother beamed proudly. “Peter has poured tremendous effort into studying music this year, and I am pleased with his progress. He has improved immensely. Sir Edward says that he could easily be a concert violinist if he maintained the degree of effort he has kept.”
The Earl’s countenance became a veritable thundercloud as his daughter-in-law spoke.
“You—you would allow him to entertain the idea of becoming a professional musician?” he stuttered indignantly, as the guests rose and dispersed from the drawing room to the reception.
Lady Bertram rose to reply, and spoke firmly and deliberately, rather regretting that she had metioned the matter at all. “Sir Edward mentioned it to me confidentially, in a private conversation. I highly doubt that he would propose such a thing to Peter without my approval. Peter knows that he is heir to the business, and understands what is required of him.”
Lord Hathaway was mollified by Lady Bertram’s gracious answer, but she fretted the incident, and arranged for Peter’s lessons to continue when he departed for Harrow. Peter took full advantage of his mother’s aid and immersed himself in his music, spending hours every day studying and playing, until Lord and Lady Bertram began to worry that he was absolutely obsessed with it. But at length, the family grew accustomed to his music, and missed it when he went to Harrow in the fall.