“Your friends are very charming, my dear, and of course I’ve nothing to say against them; but I was under the impression that every educated person in the English-speaking world knew my husband’s name, and I consider the way he was ignored last night by those people was disgraceful.”
“But, my dear Doria,” cried Barbara, aghast, “we thought that Adrian was having quite a good time.”
“You may think so, but he wasn’t. Adrian’s a gentleman and plays the game; but you must see it was very galling to him—and to me—to be treated like any stockbroker—or architect—or idle man about town.”
“You are unfortunate in your examples,” said I, intervening judicially. “Pray reflect that there are architects alive whose artistic genius is not far inferior to Adrian’s.”
“You know very well what I mean,” she snapped.
“No, we don’t, dear,” said Barbara dangerously. “We think you’re a little idiot and ought to be ashamed of yourself. We took the trouble to tell every one of those people that Adrian hated any reference to his work, and like decent folk they didn’t refer to it. There—now round upon us.”
The pallor deepened a shade in Doria’s ivory cheek.
“You have put me in the wrong, I admit it. But I think it would have been better to let us know.”
What could one do with such people? I was inclined to let them work out their salvation in their own eccentric fashion; but Barbara decided otherwise. When one’s friends reached such a degree of lunacy as warranted confinement in an asylum, it was one’s plain duty to look after them. So we continued to look after our genius and his worshipper, and we did it so successfully that before he left us he recovered his sleep in some measure, and lost the squinting look of strain in his eyes.
On the morning of their departure I mildly counselled him to temper his fine frenzy with common-sense.
“Knock off the night work,” said I.
He frowned, fidgeted with his feet.
“I wish to God I hadn’t to work at all,” said he. “I hate it! I’d sooner be a coal-heaver.”
“Bosh!” said I. “I know that you’re an essentially idle beggar; but you’re as proud as Punch of your fame and success and all that it means to you.”
“What does it mean after all?”
“If you talk in that pessimistic way,” I said, “you’ll make me cry. Don’t. It means every blessed thing in the world to you. At any rate it has meant Doria.”
“I suppose that’s true,” he grunted. “And I suppose I am essentially idle. But I wish the damned thing would get written of its own accord. It’s having to sit down at that infernal desk that gets on my nerves. I have the same horrible apprehension of it—always have—as one has before a visit to the dentist, when you know he’s going to drill hell into you.”
“Why do you work in such a depressing room?” I asked. “If I were shut up alone in it, I would stick my nose in the air and howl like a dog.”