The book that created all this commotion, I frankly admit, held me spellbound. It deserved the highest encomiums by the most enthusiastic reviewers. It was one of the most irresistible books I had ever read. It was a modern high romance of love and pity, of tears iridescent with laughter, of strong and beautiful though erring souls; it was at once poignant and tender; it vibrated with drama; it was instinct with calm and kindly wisdom. In my humility, I found I had not known my Adrian one little bit. As the shepherd of old who had a sort of patronizing affection for the irresponsible, dancing, flute-playing, goat-footed creature of the woodland was stricken with panic when he recognised the god, so was I convulsed when I recognised the genius of my friend Adrian. And the fellow still went on dancing and flute-playing and I stared at him open-mouthed.
Mr. Jornicroft, who was a widower, gave a great dinner party at his house in Park Crescent, in honour of the engagement. My wife and I attended, fishes somewhat out of water amid this brilliant but solid assembly of what it pleased Barbara to call “merchantates.” She expressed a desire to shrink out of the glare of the diamonds; but she wore her grandmother’s pearls, and, being by far the youngest and prettiest matron present, held her own with the best of them. There were stout women, thin women, white-haired women, women who ought to have been white-haired, but were not; sprightly and fashionable women; but besides Barbara, the only other young woman was Doria herself.
She took us aside, as soon as we were released from the formal welcome of Mr. Jornicroft, a thickset man with a very bald head and heavy black moustache.
“The sight of you two is like a breath of fresh air. Did you ever meet with anything so stuffy?”
Now, considering that all these prosperous folks had come to do her homage I thought the remark rather ungracious.
“It’s apt to be stuffy in July in London,” I said.
She laid her hand on Barbara’s wrist and pointed at me with her fan.
“He thinks he’s rebuking me. But I don’t care. I’m glad to see him all the same. These people mean nothing but money and music-halls and bridge and restaurants—I’m so sick of it. You two mean something else.”
“Don’t speak sacrilegiously of restaurants, even though you are going to marry a genius,” said I. “There is one in Paris to which Adrian will take you straight—like a homing bird.”