[Illustration: There is war going on in the Balkans. Jaffery is there as war correspondent. Liosha is there, too.]
That is how I explain—and I have puzzled my head into aching over any other possible explanation—the attitude of Jaffery towards Liosha on the Vesta voyage. Well, my conjectures are of not much value. I have done my best to put the facts, as I know them, before you; and if you are interested in the matter you can go on conjecturing to your heart’s content. “Look here, my friend,” said I, as soon as I could attune my mind to new conditions, “what about your new novel?”
He frowned portentously. “It can go to blazes!” “Aren’t you going to finish it?”
“But you must. Don’t you realise that you’re a born novelist?”
“Don’t you realise,” he growled, “that you’re a born fool?”
“I don’t,” said I.
He walked about the library in his space—occupying way.
“I’m going to tear the damned thing up! I’m never going to write a novel again. I cut it out altogether. It’s the least I can do for her.”
“Isn’t that rather quixotic?” I asked.
“Suppose it is. What have you to say against it?”
“Nothing,” said I.
“Well, keep on saying it,” replied Jaffery, with the steel flash in his eyes.
* * * * *
They were married. Our vicar performed the ceremony. I gave the bride away. Liosha revealed the feminine kink in her otherwise splendid character by insisting on the bridal panoply of white satin, veil and orange blossoms. I confess she looked superb. She looked like a Valkyr. A leather-visaged war correspondent, named Burchester, whom I had never seen before, and have not seen since, acted as best man. Susan, tense with the responsibilities of office, was the only bridesmaid. Mrs. Jupp (late Considine) and her General were our only guests. Doria excused herself from attendance, but sent the bride a travelling-case fitted with a myriad dazzling gold-stoppered bottles and a phantasmagoria of gold-mounted toilette implements.
And then they went on their honeymoon. And where do you think they went? They signed again on the steamship Vesta. And Captain Maturin gave them his cabin, which is more than I would have done, and slept, I presume, in the dog-hole. And they were as happy as the ship was abominable.
Now, as I write, there is a war going on in the Balkans. Jaffery is there as the correspondent of The Daily Gazette. Liosha is there, too, as the inseparable and peculiarly invaluable companion of Jaffery Chayne. They live impossible lives. But what has that got to do with you or me? They like it. They adore it. A more radiantly mated pair the earth cannot produce. Their two-year-old son is learning the practice of the heroic virtues at Cettinje, while his parents loaf about battlefields in full eruption.