“Never!” cried Ronald, on his feet again, and walking up and down the room. “I must be steeped in the wonderful African atmosphere, before I can sub-consciously work it into my book. No account of other men’s travels could do this for me. Besides, one might get all the main things correct, yet make a slip in some little unimportant detail. Then, by-and-by, some Johnny would come along, who could no more have written a page of your book than he could fly, but who happens to be intimately acquainted with the locality. He ignores the plot, the character-study, all the careful work on the essentials; but he spots your trivial error concerning some completely unimportant detail. So off he writes to the papers, triumphantly airing his little tit-bit of superior information; other mediocre people take it up—and you never hear the end of it.”
Helen laughed, tender amusement in her eyes.
“Ronnie dear, I admit that not many Johnnies could write your books. But most Johnnies can fly, now-a-days! You must be more up-to-date in your similes, old boy; or you will have your wife writing to the papers, remarking that you are behind the times! But, seriously, Ronnie, you should be grateful to anybody who takes the trouble to point out an error, however small, in one of your books. You are keen that your work should be perfect; and if a mistake is mentioned, it can be set right. Why, surely you remember, when you read me the scene in the manuscript you wrote just after our marriage, in which a good lady could not sit down upon a small chair, owing to her toupet, I—your admiring and awestruck wife—ventured to point out that a toupet was not a crinoline; and you were quite grateful, Ronnie. You did not consider me an unappreciative Johnny, nor even a mediocre person! Who has, unknown to me, been trampling on your susceptibilities?”
“Nobody, thank goodness! I have never written a scene yet, of which I had not carefully verified every detail of the setting. But it has happened lots of times to people I know. Unimportant slips never seem to me to matter in another fellow’s work, but they would matter desperately, horribly, appallingly in one’s own. Therefore, nothing will ever induce me to place the plot of a novel of mine, in surroundings with which I am not completely familiar. Helen—I must go to Central Africa.”
THE SOB OF THE WOMAN
Helen took off her riding-hat, and passed her fingers through the abundant waves of her hair.
“How long would it take you, Ronnie?” “Well—including the journey out, and the journey back, I ought to have a clear seven months. If we could get off in a fortnight, we might be back early in November; anyway, in plenty of time for Christmas.”
“Why do you say ‘we,’ darling?”
“Why not say ‘we’? We always do, don’t we?”
“Yes, dear. For three happy years it has always been ‘we,’ in everything. We have not been parted for longer than twelve hours at a time, Ronnie. But I fear Central Africa cannot be ‘we.’ I do not feel that I could go out there with you.”