“I’m sorry he’s not here,” said I, somewhat tartly, “because he might have prevailed upon you to listen to common sense.”
A little while after this, another firm of publishers announced an edition de luxe of the works of a brilliant novelist cut off like Adrian in the flower of his age. It was printed on special paper and illustrated by a famous artist, and limited to a certain number of copies. This set Doria aflare. From Scotland, where she was paying one of her restless visits, she sent me the newspaper cutting. If the commercial organism, she said, that passed with Wittekind for a soul would not permit him to advertise Adrian’s spring book in his autumn list, why couldn’t he do like Mackenzie & Co., and advertise an edition de luxe of Adrian’s two novels? And if Mackenzie & Co. thought it worth while to bring out such an edition of an entirely second-rate author, surely it would be to Wittekind’s advantage to treat Adrian equally sumptuously. I advised her to write to Wittekind. She did. Accompanied by a fury of ink, she sent me his most courteous and sensible answer. Both books were doing splendidly. There was every prospect of a golden aftermath of cheap editions. The time was not ripe for an edition de luxe. It would come, a pleasurable thing to look forward to, when other sales showed signs of exhaustion.
“He talks about exhaustion,” she wrote. “I suppose he means when he sends the volumes to be pulped, ’remainder or waste’—there’s a foolish woman here who evidently has written a foolish book, and has shown me her silly contract with a publisher. ‘Remainder or waste.’ That’s what he’s thinking of. It’s intolerable. I’ve no one, dear Hilary, to turn to but you. Do advise me.”
I sent her a telegram. For one thing, it saved the trouble of concocting a letter, and, for another, it was more likely to impress the recipient. It ran:
* * * * *
“I advise you strongly to go to Wittekind yourself and bite him.”
I was rather pleased at the humour—may I venture to qualify it as mordant?—of the suggestion. Even Barbara smiled. Of course, I was right. Let her fight it out herself with Wittekind.
But I have regretted that telegram ever since.
Luckily, I have kept most of Jaffery’s letters written to me from all quarters of the globe. Excepting those concerned with the voyage of the S.S. Vesta, they were rare phenomena. Ordinarily, if I heard from him thrice a year I had to consider that he was indulging in an orgy of correspondence. But what with Doria and Adrian and Liosha, and what with Barbara and myself being so intimately mixed up in the matters which preoccupied his mind, the voyage of the Vesta covered a period of abnormal epistolary activity. Instead of a wife, our amateur sailor found a post office at every port. He