Now the door opened, and in came — for a single second she could not remember what he was called! so surprised she was to see him, so glad, so shy, so utterly taken aback to have Peter Walsh come to her unexpectedly in the morning!
Now of course, thought Clarissa, he’s enchanting! perfectly enchanting! Now I remember how impossible it was ever to make up my mind — and why did I make up my mind — not to marry him? she wondered, that awful summer?
“I often wish I’d got on better with your father,” he said.
“But he never liked any one who — our friends,” said Clarissa; and could have bitten her tongue for thus reminding Peter that he had wanted to marry her.
Of course I did, thought Peter; it almost broke my heart too, he thought; and was overcome with his own grief, which rose like a moon looked at from a terrace, ghastly beautiful with light from the sunken day. I was more unhappy than I’ve ever been since, he thought.
“In love,” he repeated, now speaking rather dryly to Clarissa Dalloway; “in love with a girl in India.”
— and then to his utter surprise, suddenly thrown by those uncontrollable forces thrown through the air, he burst into tears; wept; wept without the least shame, sitting on the sofa, the tears running down his cheeks.
…all in a clap it came over her, If I had married him, this gaiety would have been mine all day!
Excerpted passages from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway corresponding to this scene in which Peter Walsh returns from India and visits the woman who broke his heart three decades earlier.
“Peter Walsh is one of the most self-aware failures in world literature.” – observer.com