All that we required for the simple settlement of his affairs had been found in the cabinet. On the list of assets for probate we had placed the manuscript of the new book, its value estimated on the sales of “The Diamond Gate.” We had not as yet examined the safe in the study, knowing that it held nothing but the manuscript, and indeed we had not entered the forbidding room in which our poor friend had died. We kept it locked, out of half foolish and half affectionate deference to his unspoken wishes. Besides, Barbara, most exquisitely balanced of women, who went in and out of the death-chamber without any morbid repulsion, hated the door of the study to be left ajar, and, when it was closed, professed relief from an inexplicable maccabre obsession, and being an inmate of the flat its deputy lady in charge of nurses and servants and household things, she had a right to spare herself unnecessary nervous strain. But, all else having been done for the dead and for the living, the time now came for us to take the manuscript from the safe and hand it over to the publisher.
So, one dark morning, Jaffery and I unlocked the study-door and entered the gloom-filled, barren room. The curtains were drawn apart, and the blinds drawn up, and the windows framed squares of unilluminating yellow. It was bitterly cold. The fire had not been laid since the morning of the tragedy and the grate was littered with dim grey ash. The stale smell of the week’s fog hung about the place. I turned on the electric light. With its white distempered, pictureless walls, and its scanty office furniture, the room looked inexpressibly dreary. We went to the library table. A quill pen lay on the blotting pad, its point in the midst of a couple of square inches of idle arabesques. On three different parts of the pad marked by singularly little blotted matter the quill had scrawled “God. A Novel. By Adrian Boldero.” On a brass ash-tray I noticed three cigarettes, of each of which only about an eighth of an inch had been smoked. Jaffery, who had the key that used to hang at the end of Adrian’s watch-chain, unlocked the iron safe. Its heavy door swung back and revealed its contents: Three shelves crammed from bottom to top with a chaos of loose sheets of paper. Nowhere a sign of the trim block of well-ordered manuscript.
“Pretty kind of hay,” growled Jaffery, surveying it with a perplexed look. “We’ll have our work cut out.”
“It’ll be all right,” said I. “Lift out the top shelf as carefully as you can. You may be sure Adrian had some sort of method.”
Onto the cleared library table Jaffery deposited three loose, ragged piles. We looked through them in utter bewilderment. Some of the sheets unnumbered, unconnected one with the other, were pages of definite manuscript; these we put aside; others contained jottings, notes, fragments of dialogue, a confused multitude of names, incomprehensible memoranda of incidents. Of the latter one has stuck in my memory. “Lancelot Sinlow seduces Guinevere the false ‘Immaculata’ and Jehovah steps in.” Other sheets were covered with meaningless phrases, the crude drawings that the writing man makes mechanically while he is thinking over his work, and arabesques such as we found on the blotting pad.