“Yes. Let us be serious. In the first place you oughtn’t to allude to Doria’s father as ‘old man Jornicroft.’ It isn’t respectful.”
“But I don’t respect him. Who could? He is bursting with money, but won’t give Doria a farthing, won’t hear of our marriage, and practically forbids me the house. What possible feeling can one have for an old insect like that?”
“I’ve never seen any reason,” said Barbara, who is a brave little woman, “why Doria shouldn’t run away and marry you.”
“She would like a shot,” cried Adrian; “but I won’t let her. How can I allow her to rush to the martyrdom of married misery on four hundred a year, which I don’t even earn?”
I looked at my watch. “It’s time, my friends,” said I, “to dress for dinner. Afterwards we can continue the discussion. In the meanwhile I’ll order up some of the ’89 Pol Roger so that we can drink to the success of the book.”
“The ’89 Pol Roger?” cried Adrian. “A man with ’89 Pol Roger in his cellar is the noblest work of God!”
“I was thinking,” Barbara remarked drily, “of asking Doria to spend a few days here next week.”
“All I can say is,” he retorted, with his quick turn and smile, “that you are the Divinity Itself.”
So, a short time afterwards, a very happy Adrian sat down to dinner and brought a cultivated taste to the appreciation of a now, alas! historical wine, under whose influence he expanded and told us of the genesis and the making of “The Diamond Gate.”
Now it is a very odd coincidence, one however which had little, if anything, to do with the curious entanglement of my friend’s affairs into which I was afterwards drawn, but an odd coincidence all the same, that on passing from the dining room with Adrian to join Barbara in the drawing room, I found among the last post letters lying on the hall table one which, with a thrill of pleasure, I held up before Adrian’s eyes.
“Do you recognise the handwriting?”
“Good Lord!” cried he. “It’s from Jaffery Chayne. And”—he scanned the stamp and postmark—“from Cettinje. What the deuce is he doing there?”
“Let us see!” said I.
I opened the letter and scanned it through; then I read it aloud.
“A line to let
you know that I’m coming back soon. I haven’t
finished my job—”
“What was his job?”
I replied. “The last time I heard from him
cruising about the Sargasso Sea.”
I resumed my reading.
“—for the usual reason, a woman. If it wasn’t for women what a thundering amount of work a man could get through. Anyhow—I’m coming back, with an encumbrance. A wife. Not my wife, thank Olympus, but another man’s wife—”
“Poor old devil!”
cried Adrian. “I knew he would come a mucker
of these days!”