“What does Doria think of the new idea?”
Thousands who knew him not were looking forward to Adrian Boldero’s new book. We, who loved him, were peculiarly interested. Somehow or other we had not touched before so intimately on the subject. To my surprise he frowned and snapped impatient fingers.
“I haven’t told Doria anything about it. It isn’t my way. My work’s too personal a thing, even for Doria. She understands. I know some fellows tell their plots to any and everybody—and others, if they don’t do that, lay bare their artistic souls to those near and dear to them. Well, I can’t. A word, no matter how loving, of adverse criticism, a glance even that was not sympathetic would paralyse me, it would shatter my faith in the whole structure I had built up. I can’t help it. It’s my nature. As I told you two or three months ago, it has always been my instinct to work in the dark. I instanced my First at Cambridge. How much more powerful is the instinct when it’s a question of a vital created thing like a novel? My dear Hilary, you’re the man I’m fondest of in the world. You know that. But don’t worry me about my work. I can’t stand it. It upsets me. Doria, heart of my heart and soul of my soul, has promised not to worry me. She sees I must be free from outside influences—no matter how closely near—but still outside. And you must promise too.”
“My dear old boy,” said I, somewhat confused by this impassioned exposition of the artistic temperament, “you’ve only got to express the wish—”
“I know,” said he. “Forgive me.” He laughed and lit another cigarette. “But Wittekind and the editor of Fowler’s in America—I’ve sold him the serial rights—are shrieking out for a synopsis. I’m damned if I’m going to give ’em a synopsis. They get on my nerves. And—we’re intimate enough friends, you and I, for me to confess it—so do our dearest Barbara and old Jaff, and you yourself, when you want to know how I’m getting on. Look, dear old Hilary”—he laughed again and threw himself into an armchair—“giving birth to a book isn’t very much unlike giving birth to a baby. It’s analogical in all sorts of ways. Well, some women, as soon as the thing is started, can talk quite freely—sweetly and delicately—I haven’t a word to say against them—to all their women friends about it. Others shrink. There’s something about it too near their innermost souls for them to give their confidence to anyone. Well, dear old Hilary—that’s how I feel about the novel.”
He spoke from his heart. I understood—like Doria.
“Elizabeth Barrett Browning calls it ‘the sorrowful, great gift,’” said I. “We who haven’t got it can only bow to those who have.”
Adrian rose and took a few strides about the library.
“I’m afraid I’ve been talking a lot of inflated nonsense. It must sound awfully like swelled head. But you know it isn’t, don’t you?”
“Don’t he an idiot,” said I. “Let us talk of something else.”