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Title: The Death of the Lion
Author: James, Henry, 1843-1916
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1915 Martin Secker edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org



                                THE DEATH
                               OF THE LION


                              BY HENRY JAMES

                       [Picture: Decorative symbol]

                                * * * * *

                          LONDON: MARTIN SECKER
                     NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI

                                * * * * *

                    This edition first published 1915

                       The text follows that of the
                            Definitive Edition



CHAPTER I.


I had simply, I suppose, a change of heart, and it must have begun when I
received my manuscript back from Mr. Pinhorn.  Mr. Pinhorn was my
“chief,” as he was called in the office: he had the high mission of
bringing the paper up.  This was a weekly periodical, which had been
supposed to be almost past redemption when he took hold of it.  It was
Mr. Deedy who had let the thing down so dreadfully: he was never
mentioned in the office now save in connexion with that misdemeanour.
Young as I was I had been in a manner taken over from Mr. Deedy, who had
been owner as well as editor; forming part of a promiscuous lot, mainly
plant and office-furniture, which poor Mrs. Deedy, in her bereavement and
depression, parted with at a rough valuation.  I could account for my
continuity but on the supposition that I had been cheap.  I rather
resented the practice of fathering all flatness on my late protector, who
was in his unhonoured grave; but as I had my way to make I found matter
enough for complacency in being on a “staff.”  At the same time I was
aware of my exposure to suspicion as a product of the old lowering
system.  This made me feel I was doubly bound to have ideas, and had
doubtless been at the bottom of my proposing to Mr. Pinhorn that I should
lay my lean hands on Neil Paraday.  I remember how he looked at me—quite,
to begin with, as if he had never heard of this celebrity, who indeed at
that moment was by no means in the centre of the heavens; and even when I
had knowingly explained he expressed but little confidence in the demand
for any such stuff.  When I had reminded him that the great principle on
which we were supposed to work was just to create the demand we required,
he considered a moment and then returned: “I see—you want to write him
up.”

“Call it that if you like.”

“And what’s your inducement?”

“Bless my soul—my admiration!”

Mr. Pinhorn pursed up his mouth.  “Is there much to be done with him?”

“Whatever there is we should have it all to ourselves, for he hasn’t been
touched.”

This argument was effective and Mr. Pinhorn responded.  “Very well, touch
him.”  Then he added: “But where can you do it?”

“Under the fifth rib!”

Mr. Pinhorn stared.  “Where’s that?”

“You want me to go down and see him?” I asked when I had enjoyed his
visible search for the obscure suburb I seemed to have named.

“I don’t ‘want’ anything—the proposal’s your own.  But you must remember
that that’s the way we do things _now_,” said Mr. Pinhorn with another
dig Mr. Deedy.

Unregenerate as I was I could read the queer implications of this speech.
The present owner’s superior virtue as well as his deeper craft spoke in
his reference to the late editor as one of that baser sort who deal in
false representations.  Mr. Deedy would as soon have sent me to call on
Neil Paraday as he would have published a “holiday-number”; but such
scruples presented themselves as mere ignoble thrift to his successor,
whose own sincerity took the form of ringing door-bells and whose
definition of genius was the art of finding people at home.  It was as if
Mr. Deedy had published reports without his young men’s having, as
Pinhorn would have said, really been there.  I was unregenerate, as I
have hinted, and couldn’t be concerned to straighten out the journalistic
morals of my chief, feeling them indeed to be an abyss over the edge of
which it was better not to peer.  Really to be there this time moreover
was a vision that made the idea of writing something subtle about Neil
Paraday only the more inspiring.  I would be as considerate as even Mr.
Deedy could have wished, and yet I should be as present as only Mr.
Pinhorn could conceive.  My allusion to the sequestered manner in which
Mr. Paraday lived—it had formed part of my explanation, though I knew of
it only by hearsay—was, I could divine, very much what had made Mr.
Pinhorn nibble.  It struck him as inconsistent with the success of his
paper that any one should be so sequestered as that.  And then wasn’t an
immediate exposure of everything just what the public wanted?  Mr.
Pinhorn effectually called me to order by reminding me of the promptness
with which I had met Miss Braby at Liverpool on her return from her
fiasco in the States.  Hadn’t we published, while its freshness and
flavour were unimpaired, Miss Braby’s own version of that great
international episode?  I felt somewhat uneasy at this lumping of the
actress and the author, and I confess that after having enlisted Mr.
Pinhorn’s sympathies I procrastinated a little.  I had succeeded better
than I wished, and I had, as it happened, work nearer at hand.  A few
days later I called on Lord Crouchley and carried off in triumph the most
unintelligible statement that had yet appeared of his lordship’s reasons
for his change of front.  I thus set in motion in the daily papers
columns of virtuous verbiage.  The following week I ran down to Brighton
for a chat, as Mr. Pinhorn called it, with Mrs. Bounder, who gave me, on
the subject of her divorce, many curious particulars that had not been
articulated in court.  If ever an article flowed from the primal fount it
was that article on Mrs. Bounder.  By this time, however, I became aware
that Neil Paraday’s new book was on the point of appearing and that its
approach had been the ground of my original appeal to Mr. Pinhorn, who
was now annoyed with me for having lost so many days.  He bundled me
off—we would at least not lose another.  I’ve always thought his sudden
alertness a remarkable example of the journalistic instinct.  Nothing had
occurred, since I first spoke to him, to create a visible urgency, and no
enlightenment could possibly have reached him.  It was a pure case of
profession flair—he had smelt the coming glory as an animal smells its
distant prey.



CHAPTER II.


I may as well say at once that this little record pretends in no degree
to be a picture either of my introduction to Mr. Paraday or of certain
proximate steps and stages.  The scheme of my narrative allows no space
for these things, and in any case a prohibitory sentiment would hang
about my recollection of so rare an hour.  These meagre notes are
essentially private, so that if they see the light the insidious forces
that, as my story itself shows, make at present for publicity will simply
have overmastered my precautions.  The curtain fell lately enough on the
lamentable drama.  My memory of the day I alighted at Mr. Paraday’s door
is a fresh memory of kindness, hospitality, compassion, and of the
wonderful illuminating talk in which the welcome was conveyed.  Some
voice of the air had taught me the right moment, the moment of his life
at which an act of unexpected young allegiance might most come home to
him.  He had recently recovered from a long, grave illness.  I had gone
to the neighbouring inn for the night, but I spent the evening in his
company, and he insisted the next day on my sleeping under his roof.  I
hadn’t an indefinite leave: Mr. Pinhorn supposed us to put our victims
through on the gallop.  It was later, in the office, that the rude
motions of the jig were set to music.  I fortified myself, however, as my
training had taught me to do, by the conviction that nothing could be
more advantageous for my article than to be written in the very
atmosphere.  I said nothing to Mr. Paraday about it, but in the morning,
after my remove from the inn, while he was occupied in his study, as he
had notified me he should need to be, I committed to paper the main heads
of my impression.  Then thinking to commend myself to Mr. Pinhorn by my
celerity, I walked out and posted my little packet before luncheon.  Once
my paper was written I was free to stay on, and if it was calculated to
divert attention from my levity in so doing I could reflect with
satisfaction that I had never been so clever.  I don’t mean to deny of
course that I was aware it was much too good for Mr. Pinhorn; but I was
equally conscious that Mr. Pinhorn had the supreme shrewdness of
recognising from time to time the cases in which an article was not too
bad only because it was too good.  There was nothing he loved so much as
to print on the right occasion a thing he hated.  I had begun my visit to
the great man on a Monday, and on the Wednesday his book came out.  A
copy of it arrived by the first post, and he let me go out into the
garden with it immediately after breakfast, I read it from beginning to
end that day, and in the evening he asked me to remain with him the rest
of the week and over the Sunday.

That night my manuscript came back from Mr. Pinhorn, accompanied with a
letter the gist of which was the desire to know what I meant by trying to
fob off on him such stuff.  That was the meaning of the question, if not
exactly its form, and it made my mistake immense to me.  Such as this
mistake was I could now only look it in the face and accept it.  I knew
where I had failed, but it was exactly where I couldn’t have succeeded.
I had been sent down to be personal and then in point of fact hadn’t been
personal at all: what I had dispatched to London was just a little
finicking feverish study of my author’s talent.  Anything less relevant
to Mr. Pinhorn’s purpose couldn’t well be imagined, and he was visibly
angry at my having (at his expense, with a second-class ticket)
approached the subject of our enterprise only to stand off so helplessly.
For myself, I knew but too well what had happened, and how a miracle—as
pretty as some old miracle of legend—had been wrought on the spot to save
me.  There had been a big brush of wings, the flash of an opaline robe,
and then, with a great cool stir of the air, the sense of an angel’s
having swooped down and caught me to his bosom.  He held me only till the
danger was over, and it all took place in a minute.  With my manuscript
back on my hands I understood the phenomenon better, and the reflexions I
made on it are what I meant, at the beginning of this anecdote, by my
change of heart.  Mr. Pinhorn’s note was not only a rebuke decidedly
stern, but an invitation immediately to send him—it was the case to say
so—the genuine article, the revealing and reverberating sketch to the
promise of which, and of which alone, I owed my squandered privilege.  A
week or two later I recast my peccant paper and, giving it a particular
application to Mr. Paraday’s new book, obtained for it the hospitality of
another journal, where, I must admit, Mr. Pinhorn was so far vindicated
as that it attracted not the least attention.



CHAPTER III.


I was frankly, at the end of three days, a very prejudiced critic, so
that one morning when, in the garden, my great man had offered to read me
something I quite held my breath as I listened.  It was the written
scheme of another book—something put aside long ago, before his illness,
but that he had lately taken out again to reconsider.  He had been
turning it round when I came down on him, and it had grown magnificently
under this second hand.  Loose liberal confident, it might have passed
for a great gossiping eloquent letter—the overflow into talk of an
artist’s amorous plan.  The theme I thought singularly rich, quite the
strongest he had yet treated; and this familiar statement of it, full too
of fine maturities, was really, in summarised splendour, a mine of gold,
a precious independent work.  I remember rather profanely wondering
whether the ultimate production could possibly keep at the pitch.  His
reading of the fond epistle, at any rate, made me feel as if I were, for
the advantage of posterity, in close correspondence with him—were the
distinguished person to whom it had been affectionately addressed.  It
was a high distinction simply to be told such things.  The idea he now
communicated had all the freshness, the flushed fairness, of the
conception untouched and untried: it was Venus rising from the sea and
before the airs had blown upon her.  I had never been so throbbingly
present at such an unveiling.  But when he had tossed the last bright
word after the others, as I had seen cashiers in banks, weighing mounds
of coin, drop a final sovereign into the tray, I knew a sudden prudent
alarm.

“My dear master, how, after all, are you going to do it?  It’s infinitely
noble, but what time it will take, what patience and independence, what
assured, what perfect conditions!  Oh for a lone isle in a tepid sea!”

“Isn’t this practically a lone isle, and aren’t you, as an encircling
medium, tepid enough?” he asked, alluding with a laugh to the wonder of
my young admiration and the narrow limits of his little provincial home.
“Time isn’t what I’ve lacked hitherto: the question hasn’t been to find
it, but to use it.  Of course my illness made, while it lasted, a great
hole—but I dare say there would have been a hole at any rate.  The earth
we tread has more pockets than a billiard-table.  The great thing is now
to keep on my feet.”

“That’s exactly what I mean.”

Neil Paraday looked at me with eyes—such pleasant eyes as he had—in
which, as I now recall their expression, I seem to have seen a dim
imagination of his fate.  He was fifty years old, and his illness had
been cruel, his convalescence slow.  “It isn’t as if I weren’t all
right.”

“Oh if you weren’t all right I wouldn’t look at you!” I tenderly said.

We had both got up, quickened as by this clearer air, and he had lighted
a cigarette.  I had taken a fresh one, which with an intenser smile, by
way of answer to my exclamation, he applied to the flame of his match.
“If I weren’t better I shouldn’t have thought of _that_!”  He flourished
his script in his hand.

“I don’t want to be discouraging, but that’s not true,” I returned.  “I’m
sure that during the months you lay here in pain you had visitations
sublime.  You thought of a thousand things.  You think of more and more
all the while.  That’s what makes you, if you’ll pardon my familiarity,
so respectable.  At a time when so many people are spent you come into
your second wind.  But, thank God, all the same, you’re better!  Thank
God, too, you’re not, as you were telling me yesterday, ‘successful.’  If
_you_ weren’t a failure what would be the use of trying?  That’s my one
reserve on the subject of your recovery—that it makes you ‘score,’ as the
newspapers say.  It looks well in the newspapers, and almost anything
that does that’s horrible.  ‘We are happy to announce that Mr. Paraday,
the celebrated author, is again in the enjoyment of excellent health.’
Somehow I shouldn’t like to see it.”

“You won’t see it; I’m not in the least celebrated—my obscurity protects
me.  But couldn’t you bear even to see I was dying or dead?” my host
enquired.

“Dead—passe encore; there’s nothing so safe.  One never knows what a
living artist may do—one has mourned so many.  However, one must make the
worst of it.  You must be as dead as you can.”

“Don’t I meet that condition in having just published a book?”

“Adequately, let us hope; for the book’s verily a masterpiece.”

At this moment the parlour-maid appeared in the door that opened from the
garden: Paraday lived at no great cost, and the frisk of petticoats, with
a timorous “Sherry, sir?” was about his modest mahogany.  He allowed half
his income to his wife, from whom he had succeeded in separating without
redundancy of legend.  I had a general faith in his having behaved well,
and I had once, in London, taken Mrs. Paraday down to dinner.  He now
turned to speak to the maid, who offered him, on a tray, some card or
note, while, agitated, excited, I wandered to the end of the precinct.
The idea of his security became supremely dear to me, and I asked myself
if I were the same young man who had come down a few days before to
scatter him to the four winds.  When I retraced my steps he had gone into
the house, and the woman—the second London post had come in—had placed my
letters and a newspaper on a bench.  I sat down there to the letters,
which were a brief business, and then, without heeding the address, took
the paper from its envelope.  It was the journal of highest renown, _The
Empire_ of that morning.  It regularly came to Paraday, but I remembered
that neither of us had yet looked at the copy already delivered.  This
one had a great mark on the “editorial” page, and, uncrumpling the
wrapper, I saw it to be directed to my host and stamped with the name of
his publishers.  I instantly divined that _The Empire_ had spoken of him,
and I’ve not forgotten the odd little shock of the circumstance.  It
checked all eagerness and made me drop the paper a moment.  As I sat
there conscious of a palpitation I think I had a vision of what was to
be.  I had also a vision of the letter I would presently address to Mr.
Pinhorn, breaking, as it were, with Mr. Pinhorn.  Of course, however, the
next minute the voice of _The Empire_ was in my ears.

The article wasn’t, I thanked heaven, a review; it was a “leader,” the
last of three, presenting Neil Paraday to the human race.  His new book,
the fifth from his hand, had been but a day or two out, and _The Empire_,
already aware of it, fired, as if on the birth of a prince, a salute of a
whole column.  The guns had been booming these three hours in the house
without our suspecting them.  The big blundering newspaper had discovered
him, and now he was proclaimed and anointed and crowned.  His place was
assigned him as publicly as if a fat usher with a wand had pointed to the
topmost chair; he was to pass up and still up, higher and higher, between
the watching faces and the envious sounds—away up to the dais and the
throne.  The article was “epoch-making,” a landmark in his life; he had
taken rank at a bound, waked up a national glory.  A national glory was
needed, and it was an immense convenience he was there.  What all this
meant rolled over me, and I fear I grew a little faint—it meant so much
more than I could say “yea” to on the spot.  In a flash, somehow, all was
different; the tremendous wave I speak of had swept something away.  It
had knocked down, I suppose, my little customary altar, my twinkling
tapers and my flowers, and had reared itself into the likeness of a
temple vast and bare.  When Neil Paraday should come out of the house he
would come out a contemporary.  That was what had happened: the poor man
was to be squeezed into his horrible age.  I felt as if he had been
overtaken on the crest of the hill and brought back to the city.  A
little more and he would have dipped down the short cut to posterity and
escaped.



CHAPTER IV.


When he came out it was exactly as if he had been in custody, for beside
him walked a stout man with a big black beard, who, save that he wore
spectacles, might have been a policeman, and in whom at a second glance I
recognised the highest contemporary enterprise.

“This is Mr. Morrow,” said Paraday, looking, I thought, rather white: “he
wants to publish heaven knows what about me.”

I winced as I remembered that this was exactly what I myself had wanted.
“Already?” I cried with a sort of sense that my friend had fled to me for
protection.

Mr. Morrow glared, agreeably, through his glasses: they suggested the
electric headlights of some monstrous modern ship, and I felt as if
Paraday and I were tossing terrified under his bows.  I saw his momentum
was irresistible.  “I was confident that I should be the first in the
field.  A great interest is naturally felt in Mr. Paraday’s
surroundings,” he heavily observed.

“I hadn’t the least idea of it,” said Paraday, as if he had been told he
had been snoring.

“I find he hasn’t read the article in _The Empire_,” Mr. Morrow remarked
to me.  “That’s so very interesting—it’s something to start with,” he
smiled.  He had begun to pull off his gloves, which were violently new,
and to look encouragingly round the little garden.  As a “surrounding” I
felt how I myself had already been taken in; I was a little fish in the
stomach of a bigger one.  “I represent,” our visitor continued, “a
syndicate of influential journals, no less than thirty-seven, whose
public—whose publics, I may say—are in peculiar sympathy with Mr.
Paraday’s line of thought.  They would greatly appreciate any expression
of his views on the subject of the art he so nobly exemplifies.  In
addition to my connexion with the syndicate just mentioned I hold a
particular commission from _The Tatler_, whose most prominent department,
‘Smatter and Chatter’—I dare say you’ve often enjoyed it—attracts such
attention.  I was honoured only last week, as a representative of _The
Tatler_, with the confidence of Guy Walsingham, the brilliant author of
‘Obsessions.’  She pronounced herself thoroughly pleased with my sketch
of her method; she went so far as to say that I had made her genius more
comprehensible even to herself.”

Neil Paraday had dropped on the garden-bench and sat there at once
detached and confounded; he looked hard at a bare spot in the lawn, as if
with an anxiety that had suddenly made him grave.  His movement had been
interpreted by his visitor as an invitation to sink sympathetically into
a wicker chair that stood hard by, and while Mr. Morrow so settled
himself I felt he had taken official possession and that there was no
undoing it.  One had heard of unfortunate people’s having “a man in the
house,” and this was just what we had.  There was a silence of a moment,
during which we seemed to acknowledge in the only way that was possible
the presence of universal fate; the sunny stillness took no pity, and my
thought, as I was sure Paraday’s was doing, performed within the minute a
great distant revolution.  I saw just how emphatic I should make my
rejoinder to Mr. Pinhorn, and that having come, like Mr. Morrow, to
betray, I must remain as long as possible to save.  Not because I had
brought my mind back, but because our visitors last words were in my ear,
I presently enquired with gloomy irrelevance if Guy Walsingham were a
woman.

“Oh yes, a mere pseudonym—rather pretty, isn’t it?—and convenient, you
know, for a lady who goes in for the larger latitude.  ‘Obsessions, by
Miss So-and-so,’ would look a little odd, but men are more naturally
indelicate.  Have you peeped into ‘Obsessions’?” Mr. Morrow continued
sociably to our companion.

Paraday, still absent, remote, made no answer, as if he hadn’t heard the
question: a form of intercourse that appeared to suit the cheerful Mr.
Morrow as well as any other.  Imperturbably bland, he was a man of
resources—he only needed to be on the spot.  He had pocketed the whole
poor place while Paraday and I were wool-gathering, and I could imagine
that he had already got his “heads.”  His system, at any rate, was
justified by the inevitability with which I replied, to save my friend
the trouble: “Dear no—he hasn’t read it.  He doesn’t read such things!” I
unwarily added.

“Things that are _too_ far over the fence, eh?”  I was indeed a godsend
to Mr. Morrow.  It was the psychological moment; it determined the
appearance of his note-book, which, however, he at first kept slightly
behind him, even as the dentist approaching his victim keeps the horrible
forceps.  “Mr. Paraday holds with the good old proprieties—I see!”  And
thinking of the thirty-seven influential journals, I found myself, as I
found poor Paraday, helplessly assisting at the promulgation of this
ineptitude.  “There’s no point on which distinguished views are so
acceptable as on this question—raised perhaps more strikingly than ever
by Guy Walsingham—of the permissibility of the larger latitude.  I’ve an
appointment, precisely in connexion with it, next week, with Dora Forbes,
author of ‘The Other Way Round,’ which everybody’s talking about.  Has
Mr. Paraday glanced at ‘The Other Way Round’?”  Mr. Morrow now frankly
appealed to me.  I took on myself to repudiate the supposition, while our
companion, still silent, got up nervously and walked away.  His visitor
paid no heed to his withdrawal; but opened out the note-book with a more
fatherly pat.  “Dora Forbes, I gather, takes the ground, the same as Guy
Walsingham’s, that the larger latitude has simply got to come.  He holds
that it has got to be squarely faced.  Of course his sex makes him a less
prejudiced witness.  But an authoritative word from Mr. Paraday—from the
point of view of _his_ sex, you know—would go right round the globe.  He
takes the line that we _haven’t_ got to face it?”

I was bewildered: it sounded somehow as if there were three sexes.  My
interlocutor’s pencil was poised, my private responsibility great.  I
simply sat staring, none the less, and only found presence of mind to
say: “Is this Miss Forbes a gentleman?”

Mr. Morrow had a subtle smile.  “It wouldn’t be ‘Miss’—there’s a wife!”

“I mean is she a man?”

“The wife?”—Mr. Morrow was for a moment as confused as myself.  But when
I explained that I alluded to Dora Forbes in person he informed me, with
visible amusement at my being so out of it, that this was the “pen-name”
of an indubitable male—he had a big red moustache.  “He goes in for the
slight mystification because the ladies are such popular favourites.  A
great deal of interest is felt in his acting on that idea—which _is_
clever, isn’t it?—and there’s every prospect of its being widely
imitated.”  Our host at this moment joined us again, and Mr. Morrow
remarked invitingly that he should be happy to make a note of any
observation the movement in question, the bid for success under a lady’s
name, might suggest to Mr. Paraday.  But the poor man, without catching
the allusion, excused himself, pleading that, though greatly honoured by
his visitor’s interest, he suddenly felt unwell and should have to take
leave of him—have to go and lie down and keep quiet.  His young friend
might be trusted to answer for him, but he hoped Mr. Morrow didn’t expect
great things even of his young friend.  His young friend, at this moment,
looked at Neil Paraday with an anxious eye, greatly wondering if he were
doomed to be ill again; but Paraday’s own kind face met his question
reassuringly, seemed to say in a glance intelligible enough: “Oh I’m not
ill, but I’m scared: get him out of the house as quietly as possible.”
Getting newspaper-men out of the house was odd business for an emissary
of Mr. Pinhorn, and I was so exhilarated by the idea of it that I called
after him as he left us: “Read the article in _The Empire_ and you’ll
soon be all right!”



CHAPTER V.


“Delicious my having come down to tell him of it!” Mr. Morrow ejaculated.
“My cab was at the door twenty minutes after _The Empire_ had been laid
on my breakfast-table.  Now what have you got for me?” he continued,
dropping again into his chair, from which, however, he the next moment
eagerly rose.  “I was shown into the drawing-room, but there must be more
to see—his study, his literary sanctum, the little things he has about,
or other domestic objects and features.  He wouldn’t be lying down on his
study-table?  There’s a great interest always felt in the scene of an
author’s labours.  Sometimes we’re favoured with very delightful peeps.
Dora Forbes showed me all his table-drawers, and almost jammed my hand
into one into which I made a dash!  I don’t ask that of you, but if we
could talk things over right there where he sits I feel as if I should
get the keynote.”

I had no wish whatever to be rude to Mr. Morrow, I was much too initiated
not to tend to more diplomacy; but I had a quick inspiration, and I
entertained an insurmountable, an almost superstitious objection to his
crossing the threshold of my friend’s little lonely shabby consecrated
workshop.  “No, no—we shan’t get at his life that way,” I said.  “The way
to get at his life is to—But wait a moment!”  I broke off and went
quickly into the house, whence I in three minutes reappeared before Mr.
Morrow with the two volumes of Paraday’s new book.  “His life’s here,” I
went on, “and I’m so full of this admirable thing that I can’t talk of
anything else.  The artist’s life’s his work, and this is the place to
observe him.  What he has to tell us he tells us with _this_ perfection.
My dear sir, the best interviewer is the best reader.”

Mr. Morrow good-humouredly protested.  “Do you mean to say that no other
source of information should be open to us?”

“None other till this particular one—by far the most copious—has been
quite exhausted.  Have you exhausted it, my dear sir?  Had you exhausted
it when you came down here?  It seems to me in our time almost wholly
neglected, and something should surely be done to restore its ruined
credit.  It’s the course to which the artist himself at every step, and
with such pathetic confidence, refers us.  This last book of Mr.
Paraday’s is full of revelations.”

“Revelations?” panted Mr. Morrow, whom I had forced again into his chair.

“The only kind that count.  It tells you with a perfection that seems to
me quite final all the author thinks, for instance, about the advent of
the ‘larger latitude.’”

“Where does it do that?” asked Mr. Morrow, who had picked up the second
volume and was insincerely thumbing it.

“Everywhere—in the whole treatment of his case.  Extract the opinion,
disengage the answer—those are the real acts of homage.”

Mr. Morrow, after a minute, tossed the book away.  “Ah but you mustn’t
take me for a reviewer.”

“Heaven forbid I should take you for anything so dreadful!  You came down
to perform a little act of sympathy, and so, I may confide to you, did I.
Let us perform our little act together.  These pages overflow with the
testimony we want: let us read them and taste them and interpret them.
You’ll of course have perceived for yourself that one scarcely does read
Neil Paraday till one reads him aloud; he gives out to the ear an
extraordinary full tone, and it’s only when you expose it confidently to
that test that you really get near his style.  Take up your book again
and let me listen, while you pay it out, to that wonderful fifteenth
chapter.  If you feel you can’t do it justice, compose yourself to
attention while I produce for you—I think I can!—this scarcely less
admirable ninth.”

Mr. Morrow gave me a straight look which was as hard as a blow between
the eyes; he had turned rather red, and a question had formed itself in
his mind which reached my sense as distinctly as if he had uttered it:
“What sort of a damned fool are _you_?”  Then he got up, gathering
together his hat and gloves, buttoning his coat, projecting hungrily all
over the place the big transparency of his mask.  It seemed to flare over
Fleet Street and somehow made the actual spot distressingly humble: there
was so little for it to feed on unless he counted the blisters of our
stucco or saw his way to do something with the roses.  Even the poor
roses were common kinds.  Presently his eyes fell on the manuscript from
which Paraday had been reading to me and which still lay on the bench.
As my own followed them I saw it looked promising, looked pregnant, as if
it gently throbbed with the life the reader had given it.  Mr. Morrow
indulged in a nod at it and a vague thrust of his umbrella.  “What’s
that?”

“Oh, it’s a plan—a secret.”

“A secret!”  There was an instant’s silence, and then Mr. Morrow made
another movement.  I may have been mistaken, but it affected me as the
translated impulse of the desire to lay hands on the manuscript, and this
led me to indulge in a quick anticipatory grab which may very well have
seemed ungraceful, or even impertinent, and which at any rate left Mr.
Paraday’s two admirers very erect, glaring at each other while one of
them held a bundle of papers well behind him.  An instant later Mr.
Morrow quitted me abruptly, as if he had really carried something off
with him.  To reassure myself, watching his broad back recede, I only
grasped my manuscript the tighter.  He went to the back door of the
house, the one he had come out from, but on trying the handle he appeared
to find it fastened.  So he passed round into the front garden, and by
listening intently enough I could presently hear the outer gate close
behind him with a bang.  I thought again of the thirty-seven influential
journals and wondered what would be his revenge.  I hasten to add that he
was magnanimous: which was just the most dreadful thing he could have
been.  _The Tatler_ published a charming chatty familiar account of Mr.
Paraday’s “Home-life,” and on the wings of the thirty-seven influential
journals it went, to use Mr. Morrow’s own expression, right round the
globe.



CHAPTER VI.


A week later, early in May, my glorified friend came up to town, where,
it may be veraciously recorded he was the king of the beasts of the year.
No advancement was ever more rapid, no exaltation more complete, no
bewilderment more teachable.  His book sold but moderately, though the
article in _The Empire_ had done unwonted wonders for it; but he
circulated in person to a measure that the libraries might well have
envied.  His formula had been found—he was a “revelation.”  His momentary
terror had been real, just as mine had been—the overclouding of his
passionate desire to be left to finish his work.  He was far from
unsociable, but he had the finest conception of being let alone that I’ve
ever met.  For the time, none the less, he took his profit where it
seemed most to crowd on him, having in his pocket the portable
sophistries about the nature of the artist’s task.  Observation too was a
kind of work and experience a kind of success; London dinners were all
material and London ladies were fruitful toil.  “No one has the faintest
conception of what I’m trying for,” he said to me, “and not many have
read three pages that I’ve written; but I must dine with them
first—they’ll find out why when they’ve time.”  It was rather rude
justice perhaps; but the fatigue had the merit of being a new sort, while
the phantasmagoric town was probably after all less of a battlefield than
the haunted study.  He once told me that he had had no personal life to
speak of since his fortieth year, but had had more than was good for him
before.  London closed the parenthesis and exhibited him in relations;
one of the most inevitable of these being that in which he found himself
to Mrs. Weeks Wimbush, wife of the boundless brewer and proprietress of
the universal menagerie.  In this establishment, as everybody knows, on
occasions when the crush is great, the animals rub shoulders freely with
the spectators and the lions sit down for whole evenings with the lambs.

It had been ominously clear to me from the first that in Neil Paraday
this lady, who, as all the world agreed, was tremendous fun, considered
that she had secured a prime attraction, a creature of almost heraldic
oddity.  Nothing could exceed her enthusiasm over her capture, and
nothing could exceed the confused apprehensions it excited in me.  I had
an instinctive fear of her which I tried without effect to conceal from
her victim, but which I let her notice with perfect impunity.  Paraday
heeded it, but she never did, for her conscience was that of a romping
child.  She was a blind violent force to which I could attach no more
idea of responsibility than to the creaking of a sign in the wind.  It
was difficult to say what she conduced to but circulation.  She was
constructed of steel and leather, and all I asked of her for our
tractable friend was not to do him to death.  He had consented for a time
to be of india-rubber, but my thoughts were fixed on the day he should
resume his shape or at least get back into his box.  It was evidently all
right, but I should be glad when it was well over.  I had a special
fear—the impression was ineffaceable of the hour when, after Mr. Morrow’s
departure, I had found him on the sofa in his study.  That pretext of
indisposition had not in the least been meant as a snub to the envoy of
_The Tatler_—he had gone to lie down in very truth.  He had felt a pang
of his old pain, the result of the agitation wrought in him by this
forcing open of a new period.  His old programme, his old ideal even had
to be changed.  Say what one would, success was a complication and
recognition had to be reciprocal.  The monastic life, the pious
illumination of the missal in the convent cell were things of the
gathered past.  It didn’t engender despair, but at least it required
adjustment.  Before I left him on that occasion we had passed a bargain,
my part of which was that I should make it my business to take care of
him.  Let whoever would represent the interest in his presence (I must
have had a mystical prevision of Mrs. Weeks Wimbush) I should represent
the interest in his work—or otherwise expressed in his absence.  These
two interests were in their essence opposed; and I doubt, as youth is
fleeting, if I shall ever again know the intensity of joy with which I
felt that in so good a cause I was willing to make myself odious.

One day in Sloane Street I found myself questioning Paraday’s landlord,
who had come to the door in answer to my knock.  Two vehicles, a barouche
and a smart hansom, were drawn up before the house.

“In the drawing-room, sir?  Mrs. Weeks Wimbush.”

“And in the dining-room?”

“A young lady, sir—waiting: I think a foreigner.”

It was three o’clock, and on days when Paraday didn’t lunch out he
attached a value to these appropriated hours.  On which days, however,
didn’t the dear man lunch out?  Mrs. Wimbush, at such a crisis, would
have rushed round immediately after her own repast.  I went into the
dining-room first, postponing the pleasure of seeing how, upstairs, the
lady of the barouche would, on my arrival, point the moral of my sweet
solicitude.  No one took such an interest as herself in his doing only
what was good for him, and she was always on the spot to see that he did
it.  She made appointments with him to discuss the best means of
economising his time and protecting his privacy.  She further made his
health her special business, and had so much sympathy with my own zeal
for it that she was the author of pleasing fictions on the subject of
what my devotion had led me to give up.  I gave up nothing (I don’t count
Mr. Pinhorn) because I had nothing, and all I had as yet achieved was to
find myself also in the menagerie.  I had dashed in to save my friend,
but I had only got domesticated and wedged; so that I could do little
more for him than exchange with him over people’s heads looks of intense
but futile intelligence.



CHAPTER VII.


The young lady in the dining-room had a brave face, black hair, blue
eyes, and in her lap a big volume.  “I’ve come for his autograph,” she
said when I had explained to her that I was under bonds to see people for
him when he was occupied.  “I’ve been waiting half an hour, but I’m
prepared to wait all day.”  I don’t know whether it was this that told me
she was American, for the propensity to wait all day is not in general
characteristic of her race.  I was enlightened probably not so much by
the spirit of the utterance as by some quality of its sound.  At any rate
I saw she had an individual patience and a lovely frock, together with an
expression that played among her pretty features like a breeze among
flowers.  Putting her book on the table she showed me a massive album,
showily bound and full of autographs of price.  The collection of faded
notes, of still more faded “thoughts,” of quotations, platitudes,
signatures, represented a formidable purpose.

I could only disclose my dread of it.  “Most people apply to Mr. Paraday
by letter, you know.”

“Yes, but he doesn’t answer.  I’ve written three times.”

“Very true,” I reflected; “the sort of letter you mean goes straight into
the fire.”

“How do you know the sort I mean?”  My interlocutress had blushed and
smiled, and in a moment she added: “I don’t believe he gets many like
them!”

“I’m sure they’re beautiful, but he burns without reading.”  I didn’t add
that I had convinced him he ought to.

“Isn’t he then in danger of burning things of importance?”

“He would perhaps be so if distinguished men hadn’t an infallible nose
for nonsense.”

She looked at me a moment—her face was sweet and gay.  “Do _you_ burn
without reading too?”—in answer to which I assured her that if she’d
trust me with her repository I’d see that Mr. Paraday should write his
name in it.

She considered a little.  “That’s very well, but it wouldn’t make me see
him.”

“Do you want very much to see him?”  It seemed ungracious to catechise so
charming a creature, but somehow I had never yet taken my duty to the
great author so seriously.

“Enough to have come from America for the purpose.”

I stared.  “All alone?”

“I don’t see that that’s exactly your business, but if it will make me
more seductive I’ll confess that I’m quite by myself.  I had to come
alone or not come at all.”

She was interesting; I could imagine she had lost parents, natural
protectors—could conceive even she had inherited money.  I was at a pass
of my own fortunes when keeping hansoms at doors seemed to me pure
swagger.  As a trick of this bold and sensitive girl, however, it became
romantic—a part of the general romance of her freedom, her errand, her
innocence.  The confidence of young Americans was notorious, and I
speedily arrived at a conviction that no impulse could have been more
generous than the impulse that had operated here.  I foresaw at that
moment that it would make her my peculiar charge, just as circumstances
had made Neil Paraday.  She would be another person to look after, so
that one’s honour would be concerned in guiding her straight.  These
things became clearer to me later on; at the instant I had scepticism
enough to observe to her, as I turned the pages of her volume, that her
net had all the same caught many a big fish.  She appeared to have had
fruitful access to the great ones of the earth; there were people
moreover whose signatures she had presumably secured without a personal
interview.  She couldn’t have worried George Washington and Friedrich
Schiller and Hannah More.  She met this argument, to my surprise, by
throwing up the album without a pang.  It wasn’t even her own; she was
responsible for none of its treasures.  It belonged to a girl-friend in
America, a young lady in a western city.  This young lady had insisted on
her bringing it, to pick up more autographs: she thought they might like
to see, in Europe, in what company they would be.  The “girl-friend,” the
western city, the immortal names, the curious errand, the idyllic faith,
all made a story as strange to me, and as beguiling, as some tale in the
Arabian Nights.  Thus it was that my informant had encumbered herself
with the ponderous tome; but she hastened to assure me that this was the
first time she had brought it out.  For her visit to Mr. Paraday it had
simply been a pretext.  She didn’t really care a straw that he should
write his name; what she did want was to look straight into his face.

I demurred a little.  “And why do you require to do that?”

“Because I just love him!”  Before I could recover from the agitating
effect of this crystal ring my companion had continued: “Hasn’t there
ever been any face that you’ve wanted to look into?”

How could I tell her so soon how much I appreciated the opportunity of
looking into hers?  I could only assent in general to the proposition
that there were certainly for every one such yearnings, and even such
faces; and I felt the crisis demand all my lucidity, all my wisdom.  “Oh
yes, I’m a student of physiognomy.  Do you mean,” I pursued, “that you’ve
a passion for Mr. Paraday’s books?”

“They’ve been everything to me and a little more beside—I know them by
heart.  They’ve completely taken hold of me.  There’s no author about
whom I’m in such a state as I’m in about Neil Paraday.”

“Permit me to remark then,” I presently returned, “that you’re one of the
right sort.”

“One of the enthusiasts?  Of course I am!”

“Oh there are enthusiasts who are quite of the wrong.  I mean you’re one
of those to whom an appeal can be made.”

“An appeal?”  Her face lighted as if with the chance of some great
sacrifice.

If she was ready for one it was only waiting for her, and in a moment I
mentioned it.  “Give up this crude purpose of seeing him!  Go away
without it.  That will be far better.”

She looked mystified, then turned visibly pale.  “Why, hasn’t he any
personal charm?”  The girl was terrible and laughable in her bright
directness.

“Ah that dreadful word ‘personally’!” I wailed; “we’re dying of it, for
you women bring it out with murderous effect.  When you meet with a
genius as fine as this idol of ours let him off the dreary duty of being
a personality as well.  Know him only by what’s best in him and spare him
for the same sweet sake.”

My young lady continued to look at me in confusion and mistrust, and the
result of her reflexion on what I had just said was to make her suddenly
break out: “Look here, sir—what’s the matter with him?”

“The matter with him is that if he doesn’t look out people will eat a
great hole in his life.”

She turned it over.  “He hasn’t any disfigurement?”

“Nothing to speak of!”

“Do you mean that social engagements interfere with his occupations?”

“That but feebly expresses it.”

“So that he can’t give himself up to his beautiful imagination?”

“He’s beset, badgered, bothered—he’s pulled to pieces on the pretext of
being applauded.  People expect him to give them his time, his golden
time, who wouldn’t themselves give five shillings for one of his books.”

“Five?  I’d give five thousand!”

“Give your sympathy—give your forbearance.  Two-thirds of those who
approach him only do it to advertise themselves.”

“Why it’s too bad!” the girl exclaimed with the face of an angel.  “It’s
the first time I was ever called crude!” she laughed.

I followed up my advantage.  “There’s a lady with him now who’s a
terrible complication, and who yet hasn’t read, I’m sure, ten pages he
ever wrote.”

My visitor’s wide eyes grew tenderer.  “Then how does she talk—?”

“Without ceasing.  I only mention her as a single case.  Do you want to
know how to show a superlative consideration?  Simply avoid him.”

“Avoid him?” she despairingly breathed.

“Don’t force him to have to take account of you; admire him in silence,
cultivate him at a distance and secretly appropriate his message.  Do you
want to know,” I continued, warming to my idea, “how to perform an act of
homage really sublime?”  Then as she hung on my words: “Succeed in never
seeing him at all!”

“Never at all?”—she suppressed a shriek for it.

“The more you get into his writings the less you’ll want to, and you’ll
be immensely sustained by the thought of the good you’re doing him.”

She looked at me without resentment or spite, and at the truth I had put
before her with candour, credulity, pity.  I was afterwards happy to
remember that she must have gathered from my face the liveliness of my
interest in herself.  “I think I see what you mean.”

“Oh I express it badly, but I should be delighted if you’d let me come to
see you—to explain it better.”

She made no response to this, and her thoughtful eyes fell on the big
album, on which she presently laid her hands as if to take it away.  “I
did use to say out West that they might write a little less for
autographs—to all the great poets, you know—and study the thoughts and
style a little more.”

“What do they care for the thoughts and style?  They didn’t even
understand you.  I’m not sure,” I added, “that I do myself, and I dare
say that you by no means make me out.”

She had got up to go, and though I wanted her to succeed in not seeing
Neil Paraday I wanted her also, inconsequently, to remain in the house.
I was at any rate far from desiring to hustle her off.  As Mrs. Weeks
Wimbush, upstairs, was still saving our friend in her own way, I asked my
young lady to let me briefly relate, in illustration of my point, the
little incident of my having gone down into the country for a profane
purpose and been converted on the spot to holiness.  Sinking again into
her chair to listen she showed a deep interest in the anecdote.  Then
thinking it over gravely she returned with her odd intonation: “Yes, but
you do see him!” I had to admit that this was the case; and I wasn’t so
prepared with an effective attenuation as I could have wished.  She eased
the situation off, however, by the charming quaintness with which she
finally said: “Well, I wouldn’t want him to be lonely!”  This time she
rose in earnest, but I persuaded her to let me keep the album to show Mr.
Paraday.  I assured her I’d bring it back to her myself.  “Well, you’ll
find my address somewhere in it on a paper!” she sighed all resignedly at
the door.



CHAPTER VIII.


I blush to confess it, but I invited Mr. Paraday that very day to
transcribe into the album one of his most characteristic passages.  I
told him how I had got rid of the strange girl who had brought it—her
ominous name was Miss Hurter and she lived at an hotel; quite agreeing
with him moreover as to the wisdom of getting rid with equal promptitude
of the book itself.  This was why I carried it to Albemarle Street no
later than on the morrow.  I failed to find her at home, but she wrote to
me and I went again; she wanted so much to hear more about Neil Paraday.
I returned repeatedly, I may briefly declare, to supply her with this
information.  She had been immensely taken, the more she thought of it,
with that idea of mine about the act of homage: it had ended by filling
her with a generous rapture.  She positively desired to do something
sublime for him, though indeed I could see that, as this particular
flight was difficult, she appreciated the fact that my visits kept her
up.  I had it on my conscience to keep her up: I neglected nothing that
would contribute to it, and her conception of our cherished author’s
independence became at last as fine as his very own.  “Read him, read
him—_that_ will be an education in decency,” I constantly repeated;
while, seeking him in his works even as God in nature, she represented
herself as convinced that, according to my assurance, this was the system
that had, as she expressed it, weaned her.  We read him together when I
could find time, and the generous creature’s sacrifice was fed by our
communion.  There were twenty selfish women about whom I told her and who
stirred her to a beautiful rage.  Immediately after my first visit her
sister, Mrs. Milsom, came over from Paris, and the two ladies began to
present, as they called it, their letters.  I thanked our stars that none
had been presented to Mr. Paraday.  They received invitations and dined
out, and some of these occasions enabled Fanny Hurter to perform, for
consistency’s sake, touching feats of submission.  Nothing indeed would
now have induced her even to look at the object of her admiration.  Once,
hearing his name announced at a party, she instantly left the room by
another door and then straightway quitted the house.  At another time
when I was at the opera with them—Mrs. Milsom had invited me to their
box—I attempted to point Mr. Paraday out to her in the stalls.  On this
she asked her sister to change places with her and, while that lady
devoured the great man through a powerful glass, presented, all the rest
of the evening, her inspired back to the house.  To torment her tenderly
I pressed the glass upon her, telling her how wonderfully near it brought
our friend’s handsome head.  By way of answer she simply looked at me in
charged silence, letting me see that tears had gathered in her eyes.
These tears, I may remark, produced an effect on me of which the end is
not yet.  There was a moment when I felt it my duty to mention them to
Neil Paraday, but I was deterred by the reflexion that there were
questions more relevant to his happiness.

These question indeed, by the end of the season, were reduced to a single
one—the question of reconstituting so far as might be possible the
conditions under which he had produced his best work.  Such conditions
could never all come back, for there was a new one that took up too much
place; but some perhaps were not beyond recall.  I wanted above all
things to see him sit down to the subject he had, on my making his
acquaintance, read me that admirable sketch of.  Something told me there
was no security but in his doing so before the new factor, as we used to
say at Mr. Pinhorn’s, should render the problem incalculable.  It only
half-reassured me that the sketch itself was so copious and so eloquent
that even at the worst there would be the making of a small but complete
book, a tiny volume which, for the faithful, might well become an object
of adoration.  There would even not be wanting critics to declare, I
foresaw, that the plan was a thing to be more thankful for than the
structure to have been reared on it.  My impatience for the structure,
none the less, grew and grew with the interruptions.  He had on coming up
to town begun to sit for his portrait to a young painter, Mr. Rumble,
whose little game, as we also used to say at Mr. Pinhorn’s, was to be the
first to perch on the shoulders of renown.  Mr. Rumble’s studio was a
circus in which the man of the hour, and still more the woman, leaped
through the hoops of his showy frames almost as electrically as they
burst into telegrams and “specials.”  He pranced into the exhibitions on
their back; he was the reporter on canvas, the Vandyke up to date, and
there was one roaring year in which Mrs. Bounder and Miss Braby, Guy
Walsingham and Dora Forbes proclaimed in chorus from the same pictured
walls that no one had yet got ahead of him.

Paraday had been promptly caught and saddled, accepting with
characteristic good-humour his confidential hint that to figure in his
show was not so much a consequence as a cause of immortality.  From Mrs.
Wimbush to the last “representative” who called to ascertain his twelve
favourite dishes, it was the same ingenuous assumption that he would
rejoice in the repercussion.  There were moments when I fancied I might
have had more patience with them if they hadn’t been so fatally
benevolent.  I hated at all events Mr. Rumble’s picture, and had my
bottled resentment ready when, later on, I found my distracted friend had
been stuffed by Mrs. Wimbush into the mouth of another cannon.  A young
artist in whom she was intensely interested, and who had no connexion
with Mr. Rumble, was to show how far he could make him go.  Poor Paraday,
in return, was naturally to write something somewhere about the young
artist.  She played her victims against each other with admirable
ingenuity, and her establishment was a huge machine in which the tiniest
and the biggest wheels went round to the same treadle.  I had a scene
with her in which I tried to express that the function of such a man was
to exercise his genius—not to serve as a hoarding for pictorial posters.
The people I was perhaps angriest with were the editors of magazines who
had introduced what they called new features, so aware were they that the
newest feature of all would be to make him grind their axes by
contributing his views on vital topics and taking part in the periodical
prattle about the future of fiction.  I made sure that before I should
have done with him there would scarcely be a current form of words left
me to be sick of; but meanwhile I could make surer still of my animosity
to bustling ladies for whom he drew the water that irrigated their social
flower-beds.

I had a battle with Mrs. Wimbush over the artist she protected, and
another over the question of a certain week, at the end of July, that Mr.
Paraday appeared to have contracted to spend with her in the country.  I
protested against this visit; I intimated that he was too unwell for
hospitality without a nuance, for caresses without imagination; I begged
he might rather take the time in some restorative way.  A sultry air of
promises, of ponderous parties, hung over his August, and he would
greatly profit by the interval of rest.  He hadn’t told me he was ill
again that he had had a warning; but I hadn’t needed this, for I found
his reticence his worst symptom.  The only thing he said to me was that
he believed a comfortable attack of something or other would set him up:
it would put out of the question everything but the exemptions he prized.
I’m afraid I shall have presented him as a martyr in a very small cause
if I fail to explain that he surrendered himself much more liberally than
I surrendered him.  He filled his lungs, for the most part; with the
comedy of his queer fate: the tragedy was in the spectacles through which
I chose to look.  He was conscious of inconvenience, and above all of a
great renouncement; but how could he have heard a mere dirge in the bells
of his accession?  The sagacity and the jealousy were mine, and his the
impressions and the harvest.  Of course, as regards Mrs. Wimbush, I was
worsted in my encounters, for wasn’t the state of his health the very
reason for his coming to her at Prestidge?  Wasn’t it precisely at
Prestidge that he was to be coddled, and wasn’t the dear Princess coming
to help her to coddle him?  The dear Princess, now on a visit to England,
was of a famous foreign house, and, in her gilded cage, with her retinue
of keepers and feeders, was the most expensive specimen in the good
lady’s collection.  I don’t think her august presence had had to do with
Paraday’s consenting to go, but it’s not impossible he had operated as a
bait to the illustrious stranger.  The party had been made up for him,
Mrs. Wimbush averred, and every one was counting on it, the dear Princess
most of all.  If he was well enough he was to read them something
absolutely fresh, and it was on that particular prospect the Princess had
set her heart.  She was so fond of genius in _any_ walk of life, and was
so used to it and understood it so well: she was the greatest of Mr.
Paraday’s admirers, she devoured everything he wrote.  And then he read
like an angel.  Mrs. Wimbush reminded me that he had again and again
given her, Mrs. Wimbush, the privilege of listening to him.

I looked at her a moment.  “What has he read to you?” I crudely enquired.

For a moment too she met my eyes, and for the fraction of a moment she
hesitated and coloured.  “Oh all sorts of things!”

I wondered if this were an imperfect recollection or only a perfect fib,
and she quite understood my unuttered comment on her measure of such
things.  But if she could forget Neil Paraday’s beauties she could of
course forget my rudeness, and three days later she invited me, by
telegraph, to join the party at Prestidge.  This time she might indeed
have had a story about what I had given up to be near the master.  I
addressed from that fine residence several communications to a young lady
in London, a young lady whom, I confess, I quitted with reluctance and
whom the reminder of what she herself could give up was required to make
me quit at all.  It adds to the gratitude I owe her on other grounds that
she kindly allows me to transcribe from my letters a few of the passages
in which that hateful sojourn is candidly commemorated.



CHAPTER IX.


“I suppose I ought to enjoy the joke of what’s going on here,” I wrote,
“but somehow it doesn’t amuse me.  Pessimism on the contrary possesses me
and cynicism deeply engages.  I positively feel my own flesh sore from
the brass nails in Neil Paraday’s social harness.  The house is full of
people who like him, as they mention, awfully, and with whom his talent
for talking nonsense has prodigious success.  I delight in his nonsense
myself; why is it therefore that I grudge these happy folk their artless
satisfaction?  Mystery of the human heart—abyss of the critical spirit!
Mrs. Wimbush thinks she can answer that question, and as my want of
gaiety has at last worn out her patience she has given me a glimpse of
her shrewd guess.  I’m made restless by the selfishness of the insincere
friend—I want to monopolise Paraday in order that he may push me on.  To
be intimate with him is a feather in my cap; it gives me an importance
that I couldn’t naturally pretend to, and I seek to deprive him of social
refreshment because I fear that meeting more disinterested people may
enlighten him as to my real motive.  All the disinterested people here
are his particular admirers and have been carefully selected as such.
There’s supposed to be a copy of his last book in the house, and in the
hall I come upon ladies, in attitudes, bending gracefully over the first
volume.  I discreetly avert my eyes, and when I next look round the
precarious joy has been superseded by the book of life.  There’s a
sociable circle or a confidential couple, and the relinquished volume
lies open on its face and as dropped under extreme coercion.  Somebody
else presently finds it and transfers it, with its air of momentary
desolation, to another piece of furniture.  Every one’s asking every one
about it all day, and every one’s telling every one where they put it
last.  I’m sure it’s rather smudgy about the twentieth page.  I’ve a
strong impression, too, that the second volume is lost—has been packed in
the bag of some departing guest; and yet everybody has the impression
that somebody else has read to the end.  You see therefore that the
beautiful book plays a great part in our existence.  Why should I take
the occasion of such distinguished honours to say that I begin to see
deeper into Gustave Flaubert’s doleful refrain about the hatred of
literature?  I refer you again to the perverse constitution of man.

“The Princess is a massive lady with the organisation of an athlete and
the confusion of tongues of a valet de place.  She contrives to commit
herself extraordinarily little in a great many languages, and is
entertained and conversed with in detachments and relays, like an
institution which goes on from generation to generation or a big building
contracted for under a forfeit.  She can’t have a personal taste any more
than, when her husband succeeds, she can have a personal crown, and her
opinion on any matter is rusty and heavy and plain—made, in the night of
ages, to last and be transmitted.  I feel as if I ought to ‘tip’ some
custode for my glimpse of it.  She has been told everything in the world
and has never perceived anything, and the echoes of her education respond
awfully to the rash footfall—I mean the casual remark—in the cold
Valhalla of her memory.  Mrs. Wimbush delights in her wit and says
there’s nothing so charming as to hear Mr. Paraday draw it out.  He’s
perpetually detailed for this job, and he tells me it has a peculiarly
exhausting effect.  Every one’s beginning—at the end of two days—to sidle
obsequiously away from her, and Mrs. Wimbush pushes him again and again
into the breach.  None of the uses I have yet seen him put to infuriate
me quite so much.  He looks very fagged and has at last confessed to me
that his condition makes him uneasy—has even promised me he’ll go
straight home instead of returning to his final engagements in town.
Last night I had some talk with him about going to-day, cutting his visit
short; so sure am I that he’ll be better as soon as he’s shut up in his
lighthouse.  He told me that this is what he would like to do; reminding
me, however, that the first lesson of his greatness has been precisely
that he can’t do what he likes.  Mrs. Wimbush would never forgive him if
he should leave her before the Princess has received the last hand.  When
I hint that a violent rupture with our hostess would be the best thing in
the world for him he gives me to understand that if his reason assents to
the proposition his courage hangs woefully back.  He makes no secret of
being mortally afraid of her, and when I ask what harm she can do him
that she hasn’t already done he simply repeats: ‘I’m afraid, I’m afraid!
Don’t enquire too closely,’ he said last night; ‘only believe that I feel
a sort of terror.  It’s strange, when she’s so kind!  At any rate, I’d as
soon overturn that piece of priceless Sèvres as tell her I must go before
my date.’  It sounds dreadfully weak, but he has some reason, and he pays
for his imagination, which puts him (I should hate it) in the place of
others and makes him feel, even against himself, their feelings, their
appetites, their motives.  It’s indeed inveterately against himself that
he makes his imagination act.  What a pity he has such a lot of it!  He’s
too beastly intelligent.  Besides, the famous reading’s still to come
off, and it has been postponed a day to allow Guy Walsingham to arrive.
It appears this eminent lady’s staying at a house a few miles off, which
means of course that Mrs. Wimbush has forcibly annexed her.  She’s to
come over in a day or two—Mrs. Wimbush wants her to hear Mr. Paraday.

“To-day’s wet and cold, and several of the company, at the invitation of
the Duke, have driven over to luncheon at Bigwood.  I saw poor Paraday
wedge himself, by command, into the little supplementary seat of a
brougham in which the Princess and our hostess were already ensconced.
If the front glass isn’t open on his dear old back perhaps he’ll survive.
Bigwood, I believe, is very grand and frigid, all marble and precedence,
and I wish him well out of the adventure.  I can’t tell you how much more
and more your attitude to him, in the midst of all this, shines out by
contrast.  I never willingly talk to these people about him, but see what
a comfort I find it to scribble to you!  I appreciate it—it keeps me
warm; there are no fires in the house.  Mrs. Wimbush goes by the
calendar, the temperature goes by the weather, the weather goes by God
knows what, and the Princess is easily heated.  I’ve nothing but my
acrimony to warm me, and have been out under an umbrella to restore my
circulation.  Coming in an hour ago I found Lady Augusta Minch rummaging
about the hall.  When I asked her what she was looking for she said she
had mislaid something that Mr. Paraday had lent her.  I ascertained in a
moment that the article in question is a manuscript, and I’ve a
foreboding that it’s the noble morsel he read me six weeks ago.  When I
expressed my surprise that he should have bandied about anything so
precious (I happen to know it’s his only copy—in the most beautiful hand
in all the world) Lady Augusta confessed to me that she hadn’t had it
from himself, but from Mrs. Wimbush, who had wished to give her a glimpse
of it as a salve for her not being able to stay and hear it read.

“‘Is that the piece he’s to read,’ I asked, ‘when Guy Walsingham
arrives?’

“‘It’s not for Guy Walsingham they’re waiting now, it’s for Dora Forbes,’
Lady Augusta said.  ‘She’s coming, I believe, early to-morrow.  Meanwhile
Mrs. Wimbush has found out about him, and is actively wiring to him.  She
says he also must hear him.’

“‘You bewilder me a little,’ I replied; ‘in the age we live in one gets
lost among the genders and the pronouns.  The clear thing is that Mrs.
Wimbush doesn’t guard such a treasure so jealously as she might.’

“‘Poor dear, she has the Princess to guard!  Mr. Paraday lent her the
manuscript to look over.’

“‘She spoke, you mean, as if it were the morning paper?’

“Lady Augusta stared—my irony was lost on her.  ‘She didn’t have time, so
she gave me a chance first; because unfortunately I go to-morrow to
Bigwood.’

“‘And your chance has only proved a chance to lose it?’

“‘I haven’t lost it.  I remember now—it was very stupid of me to have
forgotten.  I told my maid to give it to Lord Dorimont—or at least to his
man.’

“‘And Lord Dorimont went away directly after luncheon.’

“‘Of course he gave it back to my maid—or else his man did,’ said Lady
Augusta.  ‘I dare say it’s all right.’

“The conscience of these people is like a summer sea.  They haven’t time
to look over a priceless composition; they’ve only time to kick it about
the house.  I suggested that the ‘man,’ fired with a noble emulation, had
perhaps kept the work for his own perusal; and her ladyship wanted to
know whether, if the thing shouldn’t reappear for the grand occasion
appointed by our hostess, the author wouldn’t have something else to read
that would do just as well.  Their questions are too delightful!  I
declared to Lady Augusta briefly that nothing in the world can ever do so
well as the thing that does best; and at this she looked a little
disconcerted.  But I added that if the manuscript had gone astray our
little circle would have the less of an effort of attention to make.  The
piece in question was very long—it would keep them three hours.

“‘Three hours!  Oh the Princess will get up!’ said Lady Augusta.

“‘I thought she was Mr. Paraday’s greatest admirer.’

“‘I dare say she is—she’s so awfully clever.  But what’s the use of being
a Princess—’

“‘If you can’t dissemble your love?’ I asked as Lady Augusta was vague.
She said at any rate she’d question her maid; and I’m hoping that when I
go down to dinner I shall find the manuscript has been recovered.”



CHAPTER X.


“It has _not_ been recovered,” I wrote early the next day, “and I’m
moreover much troubled about our friend.  He came back from Bigwood with
a chill and, being allowed to have a fire in his room, lay down a while
before dinner.  I tried to send him to bed and indeed thought I had put
him in the way of it; but after I had gone to dress Mrs. Wimbush came up
to see him, with the inevitable result that when I returned I found him
under arms and flushed and feverish, though decorated with the rare
flower she had brought him for his button-hole.  He came down to dinner,
but Lady Augusta Minch was very shy of him.  To-day he’s in great pain,
and the advent of ces dames—I mean of Guy Walsingham and Dora
Forbes—doesn’t at all console me.  It does Mrs. Wimbush, however, for she
has consented to his remaining in bed so that he may be all right
to-morrow for the listening circle.  Guy Walsingham’s already on the
scene, and the Doctor for Paraday also arrived early.  I haven’t yet seen
the author of ‘Obsessions,’ but of course I’ve had a moment by myself
with the Doctor.  I tried to get him to say that our invalid must go
straight home—I mean to-morrow or next day; but he quite refuses to talk
about the future.  Absolute quiet and warmth and the regular
administration of an important remedy are the points he mainly insists
on.  He returns this afternoon, and I’m to go back to see the patient at
one o’clock, when he next takes his medicine.  It consoles me a little
that he certainly won’t be able to read—an exertion he was already more
than unfit for.  Lady Augusta went off after breakfast, assuring me her
first care would be to follow up the lost manuscript.  I can see she
thinks me a shocking busybody and doesn’t understand my alarm, but she’ll
do what she can, for she’s a good-natured woman.  ‘So are they all
honourable men.’  That was precisely what made her give the thing to Lord
Dorimont and made Lord Dorimont bag it.  What use _he_ has for it God
only knows.  I’ve the worst forebodings, but somehow I’m strangely
without passion—desperately calm.  As I consider the unconscious, the
well-meaning ravages of our appreciative circle I bow my head in
submission to some great natural, some universal accident; I’m rendered
almost indifferent, in fact quite gay (ha-ha!) by the sense of
immitigable fate.  Lady Augusta promises me to trace the precious object
and let me have it through the post by the time Paraday’s well enough to
play his part with it.  The last evidence is that her maid did give it to
his lordship’s valet.  One would suppose it some thrilling number of _The
Family Budget_.  Mrs. Wimbush, who’s aware of the accident, is much less
agitated by it than she would doubtless be were she not for the hour
inevitably engrossed with Guy Walsingham.”

Later in the day I informed my correspondent, for whom indeed I kept a
loose diary of the situation, that I had made the acquaintance of this
celebrity and that she was a pretty little girl who wore her hair in what
used to be called a crop.  She looked so juvenile and so innocent that
if, as Mr. Morrow had announced, she was resigned to the larger latitude,
her superiority to prejudice must have come to her early.  I spent most
of the day hovering about Neil Paraday’s room, but it was communicated to
me from below that Guy Walsingham, at Prestidge, was a success.  Toward
evening I became conscious somehow that her superiority was contagious,
and by the time the company separated for the night I was sure the larger
latitude had been generally accepted.  I thought of Dora Forbes and felt
that he had no time to lose.  Before dinner I received a telegram from
Lady Augusta Minch.  “Lord Dorimont thinks he must have left bundle in
train—enquire.”  How could I enquire—if I was to take the word as a
command?  I was too worried and now too alarmed about Neil Paraday.  The
Doctor came back, and it was an immense satisfaction to me to be sure he
was wise and interested.  He was proud of being called to so
distinguished a patient, but he admitted to me that night that my friend
was gravely ill.  It was really a relapse, a recrudescence of his old
malady.  There could be no question of moving him: we must at any rate
see first, on the spot, what turn his condition would take.  Meanwhile,
on the morrow, he was to have a nurse.  On the morrow the dear man was
easier, and my spirits rose to such cheerfulness that I could almost
laugh over Lady Augusta’s second telegram: “Lord Dorimont’s servant been
to station—nothing found.  Push enquiries.”  I did laugh, I’m sure, as I
remembered this to be the mystic scroll I had scarcely allowed poor Mr.
Morrow to point his umbrella at.  Fool that I had been: the thirty-seven
influential journals wouldn’t have destroyed it, they’d only have printed
it.  Of course I said nothing to Paraday.

When the nurse arrived she turned me out of the room, on which I went
downstairs.  I should premise that at breakfast the news that our
brilliant friend was doing well excited universal complacency, and the
Princess graciously remarked that he was only to be commiserated for
missing the society of Miss Collop.  Mrs. Wimbush, whose social gift
never shone brighter than in the dry decorum with which she accepted this
fizzle in her fireworks, mentioned to me that Guy Walsingham had made a
very favourable impression on her Imperial Highness.  Indeed I think
every one did so, and that, like the money-market or the national honour,
her Imperial Highness was constitutionally sensitive.  There was a
certain gladness, a perceptible bustle in the air, however, which I
thought slightly anomalous in a house where a great author lay critically
ill.  “Le roy est mort—vive le roy”: I was reminded that another great
author had already stepped into his shoes.  When I came down again after
the nurse had taken possession I found a strange gentleman hanging about
the hall and pacing to and fro by the closed door of the drawing-room.
This personage was florid and bald; he had a big red moustache and wore
showy knickerbockers—characteristics all that fitted to my conception of
the identity of Dora Forbes.  In a moment I saw what had happened: the
author of “The Other Way Round” had just alighted at the portals of
Prestidge, but had suffered a scruple to restrain him from penetrating
further.  I recognised his scruple when, pausing to listen at his gesture
of caution, I heard a shrill voice lifted in a sort of rhythmic uncanny
chant.  The famous reading had begun, only it was the author of
“Obsessions” who now furnished the sacrifice.  The new visitor whispered
to me that he judged something was going on he oughtn’t to interrupt.

“Miss Collop arrived last night,” I smiled, “and the Princess has a
thirst for the inédit.”

Dora Forbes lifted his bushy brows.  “Miss Collop?”

“Guy Walsingham, your distinguished confrère—or shall I say your
formidable rival?”

“Oh!” growled Dora Forbes.  Then he added: “Shall I spoil it if I go in?”

“I should think nothing could spoil it!” I ambiguously laughed.

Dora Forbes evidently felt the dilemma; he gave an irritated crook to his
moustache.  “_Shall_ I go in?” he presently asked.

We looked at each other hard a moment; then I expressed something bitter
that was in me, expressed it in an infernal “Do!”  After this I got out
into the air, but not so fast as not to hear, when the door of the
drawing-room opened, the disconcerted drop of Miss Collop’s public
manner: she must have been in the midst of the larger latitude.
Producing with extreme rapidity, Guy Walsingham has just published a work
in which amiable people who are not initiated have been pained to see the
genius of a sister-novelist held up to unmistakeable ridicule; so fresh
an exhibition does it seem to them of the dreadful way men have always
treated women.  Dora Forbes, it’s true, at the present hour, is immensely
pushed by Mrs. Wimbush and has sat for his portrait to the young artists
she protects, sat for it not only in oils but in monumental alabaster.

What happened at Prestidge later in the day is of course contemporary
history.  If the interruption I had whimsically sanctioned was almost a
scandal, what is to be said of that general scatter of the company which,
under the Doctor’s rule, began to take place in the evening?  His rule
was soothing to behold, small comfort as I was to have at the end.  He
decreed in the interest of his patient an absolutely soundless house and
a consequent break-up of the party.  Little country practitioner as he
was, he literally packed off the Princess.  She departed as promptly as
if a revolution had broken out, and Guy Walsingham emigrated with her.  I
was kindly permitted to remain, and this was not denied even to Mrs.
Wimbush.  The privilege was withheld indeed from Dora Forbes; so Mrs.
Wimbush kept her latest capture temporarily concealed.  This was so
little, however, her usual way of dealing with her eminent friends that a
couple of days of it exhausted her patience, and she went up to town with
him in great publicity.  The sudden turn for the worse her afflicted
guest had, after a brief improvement, taken on the third night raised an
obstacle to her seeing him before her retreat; a fortunate circumstance
doubtless, for she was fundamentally disappointed in him.  This was not
the kind of performance for which she had invited him to Prestidge, let
alone invited the Princess.  I must add that none of the generous acts
marking her patronage of intellectual and other merit have done so much
for her reputation as her lending Neil Paraday the most beautiful of her
numerous homes to die in.  He took advantage to the utmost of the
singular favour.  Day by day I saw him sink, and I roamed alone about the
empty terraces and gardens.  His wife never came near him, but I scarcely
noticed it: as I paced there with rage in my heart I was too full of
another wrong.  In the event of his death it would fall to me perhaps to
bring out in some charming form, with notes, with the tenderest editorial
care, that precious heritage of his written project.  But where was that
precious heritage and were both the author and the book to have been
snatched from us?  Lady Augusta wrote me that she had done all she could
and that poor Lord Dorimont, who had really been worried to death, was
extremely sorry.  I couldn’t have the matter out with Mrs. Wimbush, for I
didn’t want to be taunted by her with desiring to aggrandise myself by a
public connexion with Mr. Paraday’s sweepings.  She had signified her
willingness to meet the expense of all advertising, as indeed she was
always ready to do.  The last night of the horrible series, the night
before he died, I put my ear closer to his pillow.

“That thing I read you that morning, you know.”

“In your garden that dreadful day?  Yes!”

“Won’t it do as it is?”

“It would have been a glorious book.”

“It _is_ a glorious book,” Neil Paraday murmured.  “Print it as it
stands—beautifully.”

“Beautifully!” I passionately promised.

It may be imagined whether, now that he’s gone, the promise seems to me
less sacred.  I’m convinced that if such pages had appeared in his
lifetime the Abbey would hold him to-day.  I’ve kept the advertising in
my own hands, but the manuscript has not been recovered.  It’s
impossible, and at any rate intolerable, to suppose it can have been
wantonly destroyed.  Perhaps some hazard of a blind hand, some brutal
fatal ignorance has lighted kitchen-fires with it.  Every stupid and
hideous accident haunts my meditations.  My undiscourageable search for
the lost treasure would make a long chapter.  Fortunately I’ve a devoted
associate in the person of a young lady who has every day a fresh
indignation and a fresh idea, and who maintains with intensity that the
prize will still turn up.  Sometimes I believe her, but I’ve quite ceased
to believe myself.  The only thing for us at all events is to go on
seeking and hoping together; and we should be closely united by this firm
tie even were we not at present by another.





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