On our first visit, they triumphantly showed us round the establishment. We came last to the study.
“No really fine imaginative work,” said Adrian, with a wave of the hand indicating the ascetic table and chair, the iron safe, the bookcase and the bare walls—“no really fine imaginative work can be done among luxurious surroundings. Pictures distract one’s attention, arm-chairs and sofas invite to sloth. This is my ideal of a novelist’s workshop.”
“It’s more like a workhouse,” said Barbara, with a shiver. “Or a condemned cell. But even a condemned cell would have a plank bed in it.”
“You don’t understand a bit,” said Doria, with a touch of resentment at adverse criticism of her paragon’s idiosyncrasies, “although Adrian has tried to explain it to you. It’s specially arranged for concentration of mind. If it weren’t for the necessity of having something to sit upon and something to write at and a few necessary reference books and a lock-up place, we should have had nothing in the room at all. When Adrian wants to relax and live his ordinary human life, he only has to walk out of the door and there he is in the midst of beautiful things.”
“Oh, I quite see, dear,” said Barbara, with a familiar little flash in her blue eyes. “But do you think a leather seat for that hard wooden chair—what the French call a rond-de-cuir—would very greatly impair the poor fellow’s imagination?”
“It might be economical, too,” said I, “in the way of saving shininess!—”
Adrian laughed. “It does look a bit hard, darling,” said he.
“We’ll get a leather seat to-day,” replied Doria.
But she did not smile. Evidently to her the spot on which Adrian sat was sacrosanct. The room was the Holy of Holies where mortal man put on immortality. Flippant comment sounded like blasphemy in her ears. She even grew somewhat impatient at our lingering in the august precincts, although they had not yet been consecrated by inspired labour. Their unblessed condition was obvious. On the large library table were a couple of brass candlesticks with fresh candles (Adrian could not work by electric light), a couple of reams of scribbling paper, an inkpot, an immaculate blotting pad, three virgin quill pens (it was one of Adrian’s whimsies to write always with quills), lying in a brass dish, and an office stationery case closed and aggressively new. The sight of this last monstrosity, I thought, would play the deuce with my imagination and send it on a devastating tour round the Tottenham Court Road, but not having the artistic temperament and catching a glance of challenge from Doria, I forebore to make ignorant criticism.
In the bedroom while Barbara was putting on her veil and powdering her nose (this may be what grammarians call a hysteron proteron—but with women one never can tell)—Doria broke into confidences not meet for masculine ears.
* * * * *