“You don’t seem to grip the elements of the situation. You haven’t the intelligence of a rabbit. How in Hades could she know I’ve written the rotten book? She thinks it’s Adrian’s. And she thinks I’ve spoiled it. She’s perfectly justified. For the little footling services I rendered her on the journey, she’s idiotically grateful—out of all proportion. As for Persia, she knows nothing about it—”
“She ought to,” said I.
“If you tell her, I’ll break your neck,” roared Jaffery.
“All right,” said I, desiring to remain whole. “So long as you’re satisfied, it doesn’t much matter to me.”
It didn’t. After all, one has one’s own life to live, and however understanding of one’s friends and sympathetically inclined towards them one may be, one cannot follow them emotionally through all their bleak despairs and furious passions. A man doing so would be dead in a week.
“It doesn’t seem to strike you,” he went on, “that the poor girl’s mental and moral balance depends on the successful carrying out of this ghastly farce.”
“I do, my dear chap.”
“You don’t. I wrote the thing as best I could—a labour of love. But it’s nothing like Tom Castleton’s work—which she thinks is Adrian’s. To keep up the deception I had to crab it and say that the faults were mine. Naturally she believes me.”
“All right,” said I, again. “And when the book is published and Adrian’s memory flattered and Doria is assured of her mental and moral balance—what then?”
“I hope she’ll be happy,” he answered. “Why the blazes do you suppose I’ve worried if it wasn’t to give her happiness?”
I could not press my point. I could not commit the gross indelicacy of saying: “My poor friend, where do you come in?” or words to that effect. Nor could I possibly lay down the proposition that a living second husband—stretching the imagination to the hypothesis of her taking one—is but an indifferent hero to the widow who spends her life in burning incense before the shrine of the demigod husband who is dead. We can’t say these things to our friends. We expect them to have common sense as we have ourselves. But we don’t, and—for the curious reason, based on the intense individualism of sexual attraction, that no man can appreciate, save intellectually, another man’s desire for a particular woman—we can’t realize the poor, fool hunger of his heart. The man who pours into our ears a torrential tale of passion moves us not to sympathy, but rather to psychological speculation, if we are kindly disposed, or to murderous inclinations if we are not. On the other hand, he who is silent moves us not at all. In any and every case, however, we entirely fail to comprehend why, if Neaera is obdurate, our swain does not go afield and find, as assuredly he can, some complaisant Amaryllis.