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   Chapter 22 No.22

Jaffery By William John Locke Characters: 24223

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


It was not until the end of October that Doria completed her round of country-house visits and returned to the flat in St. John's Wood. The morning after her arrival in town she took my satirical counsel and called at Wittekind's office, and, I am afraid, tried to bite that very pleasant, well-intentioned gentleman. She went out to do battle, arraying herself in subtle panoply of war. This I gather from Barbara's account of the matter. She informs me that when a woman goes to see her solicitor, her banker, her husband's uncle, a woman she hates, or a man who really understands her, she wears in each case an entirely different kind of hat. Judging from a warehouse of tissue-paper-covered millinery at the top of my residence, which I once accidentally discovered when tracking down a smell of fire, I know that this must be true. Costumes also, Barbara implies, must correspond emotionally with the hats. I recognised this, too, as philosophic truth; for it explained many puzzling and apparently unnecessary transformations in my wee wife's personal appearance. And yet, the other morning when I was going up to town to see after some investments, and I asked her which was the more psychological tie, a green or a violet, in which to visit my stockbroker, she lost as much of her temper as she allows herself to lose and bade me not he silly. . . . But this has nothing to do with Doria.

Doria, I say, with beaver cocked and plumes ruffled, intent on striking terror into the heart of Wittekind, presented herself in the outer office and sent in her card. At the name of Mrs. Adrian Boldero, doors flew open, and Doria marched straight away into Wittekind's comfortably furnished private room. Wittekind himself, tall, loose-limbed, courteous, the least tradesman-like person you can imagine, rose to receive her. For some reason or the other, or more likely against reason, she had pictured a rather soapy, smug little man hiding crafty eyes behind spectacles; but here he was, obviously a man of good breeding, who smiled at her most charmingly and gave her to understand that she was the one person in the world whom he had been longing to meet. And the office was not a sort of human charcuterie hung round with brains of authors for sale, but a quiet, restful place to which valuable prints on the walls and a few bits of real Chippendale gave an air of distinction. Doria admits to being disconcerted. She had come to bite and she remained to smile. He seated her in a nice old armchair with a beautiful back-she was sensitive to such things-and spoke of Adrian as of his own blood brother. She had not anticipated such warmth of genuine feeling, or so fine an appreciation of her Adrian's work.

"Believe me, my dear Mrs. Boldero," said he, "I am second only to you in my admiration and grief, and there's nothing I wouldn't do to keep your husband's memory green. But it is green, thank goodness. How do I know? By two signs. One that people wherever the English language is spoken are eagerly reading his books-I say reading, because you deprecate the purely commercial side of things; but you must forgive me if I say that the only proof of all their reading is the record of all their buying. And when people buy and read an author to this prodigious extent, they also discuss him. Adrian Boldero's name is a household word. You want advertisement and an édition de luxe. But it is only the little man that needs the big drum."

"But still, Mr. Wittekind," Doria urged, "an édition de luxe would be such a beautiful monument to him. I don't care a bit about the money," she went on with a splendid disregard of her rights that would have sent a shiver down the incorporated back of the Incorporated Society of Authors, "I'm only too willing to contribute towards the expense. Please understand me. It's a tribute and a monument."

"You only put up monuments to those who are dead," said Wittekind.

"But my husband-"

"-isn't dead," said he.

"Oh!" said Doria. "Then-"

"The time for your édition de luxe is not yet."

"Yet? But-you don't think Adrian's work is going to die?"

She looked at him tragically. He reassured her.

"Certainly not. Our future sumptuous edition will be a sign that he is among the immortals. But an édition de luxe now would be a wanton Hic jacet."

All of this may have been a bit sophistical, but it was sound business from the publisher's point of view, and conveyed through the medium of Wittekind's unaffected urbanity it convinced Doria. I listened to her account of it with a new moon of a smile across my soul-or across whatever part of oneself one smiles with when one's face is constrained to immobility.

"I'm so glad I plucked up courage to come and see you, Mr. Wittekind," she said. "I feel much happier. I'm quite content to leave Adrian's reputation in your hands. I wish, indeed, I had come to see you before." "I wish you had," said he.

"Mr. Chayne has been most kind; but-"

"Jaffery Chayne isn't you," he laughed. "But all the same, he's a splendid fellow and an admirable man of business."

"In what way?" she asked, rather coldly.

"Well-so prompt."

"That's the very last word I should apply to him. He took an unconscionable time," said Doria.

"He had a very difficult and delicate work of revision to do. Your husband's work was a first draft. The novel had to be pulled together. He did it admirably. That sort of thing takes time, although it was a labour of love."

"It merely meant writing in bits of scenes. Oh, Mr. Wittekind," she cried, reverting to an old grievance, "I do wish I could see exactly what he wrote and what Adrian wrote. I've been so worried! Why do your printers destroy authors' manuscripts?"

"They don't," said Wittekind. "They don't get them nowadays. They print from a typed copy."

"'The Greater Glory' was printed from my husband's original manuscript."

Wittekind smiled and shook his head. "No, my dear Mrs. Boldero. From two typed copies-one in England and one in America."

"Mr. Chayne told me that in order to save time he sent you Adrian's original manuscript with his revisions."

"I'm sure you must have misunderstood him," said Wittekind. "I read the typescript myself. I've never seen a line of your husband's manuscript."

"But 'The Diamond Gate' was printed from Adrian's manuscript."

"No, no, no. That, too, I read in type."

Doria rose and the colour fled from her cheeks and her great dark eyes grew bigger, and she brought down her little gloved hand on the writing desk by which the publisher, cross-kneed, was sitting. He rose, too.

"Mr. Chayne has definitely told me that both Adrian's original manuscripts went to the printers and were destroyed by the printers."

"It's impossible," said Wittekind, in much perplexity. "You're making some extraordinary mistake."

"I'm not. Mr. Chayne would not tell me a lie."

Wittekind drew himself up. "Neither would I, Mrs. Boldero. Allow me."

He took up his "house" telephone. "Ask Mr. Forest to come to me at once." He turned to Doria. "Let us get to the bottom of this. Mr. Forest is my literary adviser-everything goes through his hands."

They waited in silence until Mr. Forest appeared. "You remember the Boldero manuscripts?"

"Of course."

"What were they, manuscript or typescript?"

"Typescript."

"Have you even seen any of Mr. Boldero's original manuscript?"

"No."

"Do you think any of it has ever come into the office?"

"I'm sure it hasn't."

"Thank you, Mr. Forest."

The reader retired.

"You see," said Wittekind.

"Then where are the original manuscripts of 'The Diamond Gate' and 'The Greater Glory'?"

"I'm very sorry, dear Mrs. Boldero, but I have no means of knowing."

"Mr. Chayne said they were sent here, and used by the printers and destroyed by the printers."

"I'm sure," said Wittekind, "there's some muddling misunderstanding. Jaffery Chayne, in his own line, is a distinguished man-and a man of unblemished honour. A word or two will clear up everything."

"He's in Madagascar."

"Then wait till he comes back."

Doria insisted-and who in the world can blame her for insisting?

"You may think me a silly woman, Mr. Wittekind; but I'm not-not to the extent of an hysterical invention. Mr. Chayne has told me definitely that those two manuscripts came to your office, that the books were printed from them and that they were destroyed by the printers."

"And I," said Wittekind, "give you my word of honour-and I have also given you independent testimony-that no manuscript of your husband's has ever entered this office."

"Suppose they had come in his handwriting, would they have been destroyed?"

"Certainly not. Every sheet would have been returned with the proofs. Typed copy may or may not be returned."

"But autograph copy is valuable?"

"Naturally."

"The manuscripts of Adrian's novels might be worth a lot of money?"

"Quite a lot of money."

"So you don't think Mr. Chayne destroyed them?"

"It's an act of folly of which a literary man like Mr. Chayne would be incapable."

"And you've never seen any of it?"

"I've given you my word of honour."

"Then it's very extraordinary," said Doria.

"It is," said Wittekind, stiffly.

She thrust out her hand and flashed a generous glance.

"Forgive me for being bewildered. But it's so upsetting. You have nothing whatever to do with it. It's all Jaffery Chayne." She looked up at the loosely built, kindly man. "It's for him to give explanations. In the meanwhile, I leave my dear, dear husband's memory in your hands-to keep green, as you say"-tears came into her eyes-"and you will, won't you?"

The pathos of her attitude dissolved all resentment. He bent over her, still holding her hand.

"You may be quite sure of that," said he. "Even we publishers have our ideals-and our purest is to distribute through the world the works of a man of genius."

So Doria having telephoned for permission to come and see us on urgent business, arrived at Northlands late in the afternoon, full of the virtues of Wittekind and the vices of Jaffery. She gave us a full account of her interview and appealed to me for explanations of Jaffery's extraordinary conduct. I upbraided myself bitterly for having counselled her to bite Wittekind. I ought, instead, to have thrown every possible obstacle in the way of her meeting him. I ought to have foreseen this question of the manuscripts, the one weak spot in our web of deception. Now I may be a liar when driven by necessity from the paths of truth, but I am not an accomplished liar. It is not my fault. Mere providence has guided my life through such gentle pastures that I have had no practice worth speaking of. Barbara, too, is an amateur in mendacity. Both of us were sorely put to it under Doria's indignant and suspicious cross-examination.

"You saw the original manuscript of 'The Greater Glory'?"

"Yes," I lied.

"Did you see the original manuscript of 'The Diamond Gate'?"

"No," I lied again.

"Was it among Adrian's papers?"

"Not to my knowledge. Probably if Adrian didn't send it to the printers, he destroyed it."

"I don't believe he destroyed it. Jaffery has got it, and he has also got the manuscript of 'The Greater Glory.' What does he want them for?"

"That's a leading question, my dear, which I can't answer, because I don't know whether he has them or not. In fact, I know nothing whatever about them."

"It sounds horrid and ungracious, Hilary, after all you've done for me," said Doria, "but I really think you ought to know something."

From her point of view, and from any outside person's point of view, she was perfectly right. My bland ignorance was disgraceful. If she had brought an action against us for recovery of these wretched manuscripts and we managed to keep the essential secret, both counsel and judge would have flayed me alive. . . . Put yourself in her place for a minute-God knows I tried to do so hard enough-and you will see the logic of her position, all through. She was not a woman of broad human sym

pathies and generous outlook; she was intense and narrow. Her whole being had been concentrated on Adrian during their brief married life; it was concentrated now on his memory. To her, as to all the world, he flamed a dazzling meteor. Her faults, which were many and hard to bear with, all sprang from the bigotry of love. Nothing had happened to cloud her faith. She had come up against many incomprehensible things: the delay in publication of Adrian's book; the change of title; the burning of Adrian's last written words on the blotting pad; the vivid pictures that were obviously not Adrian's; the consignment to a printer's Limbo of the original manuscripts; my own placid disassociation from the literary side of the executorship. She had accepted them-not without protest; but she had in fact accepted them. Now she struck a reef of things more incomprehensible still. Jaffery had lied to her outrageously. I, for one, hold her justified in her indignation.

But what on earth could I do? What on earth could my poor Barbara do? We sat, both of us, racking our brains for some fantastic invention, while Doria, like a diminutive tragedy queen, walked about my library, inveighing against Jaffery and crying for her manuscripts. And I dared not know anything at all about them. She had every reason to reproach me.

Barbara, feeling very uncomfortable, said: "You mustn't blame Hilary. When Adrian died each of the executors took charge of a special department. Jaffery Chayne did not interfere with Hilary's management of financial affairs, and Hilary left Jaffery free with the literary side of things. It has worked very well. This silly muddle about the manuscripts doesn't matter a little bit."

"But it does matter," cried Doria.

And it did. Now that she knew that those sacred manuscripts written by the dear, dead hand had not been destroyed by printers, every fibre of her passionate self craved their possession. We argued futilely, as people must, who haven't the ghost of a case.

"But why has Jaffery lied?"

"The manuscript of 'The Diamond Gate,'" I declared, again perjuring myself, "has nothing whatever to do with Jaffery and me. As I've told you it was not among Adrian's papers which we went through together. We're narrowed down to 'The Greater Glory.' Possibly," said I, with a despairing flash, "Jaffery had to pull it about so much and deface it with his own great scrawl, that he thought it might pain you to see it, and so he told you that it had disappeared at the printer's. Now that I remember, he did say something of the kind."

"Yes, he did," said Barbara.

Doria brushed away the hypothesis. "You poor things! You're merely saying that to shield him. A blind imbecile could see through you"-I have already apologised to you for our being the unconvincing liars that we were-"you know nothing more about it than I do. You ought to, as I've already said. But you don't. In fact, you know considerably less. Shall I tell you where the manuscripts are at the present moment?"

"No, my dear," said Barbara, in the plaintive voice of one who has come to the end of a profitless talk; for you cannot imagine how utterly wearied we were with the whole of the miserable business. "Let us wait till Jaffery comes home. It won't be so very long."

"Yes, Doria," said I, soothingly. "Barbara's right. You can't condemn a man without a hearing?"

Doria laughed scornfully. "Can't I? I'm a woman, my dear friend. And when a woman condemns a man unheard she's much more merciful than when she condemns him after listening to his pleadings. Then she gets really angry, and perhaps does the man injustice."

I gasped at the monstrous proposition; but Barbara did not seem to detect anything particularly wrong about it.

"At any rate," said I, "whether you condemn him or not, we can't do anything until he comes home. So we had better leave it at that."

"Very well," said Doria. "Let us leave it for the present. I don't want to be more of a worry to you dear people than I can help. But that's where Adrian's manuscripts are, both of them"-and she pointed to the key of Jaffery's flat hanging with its staring label against my library wall.

Of course it was rather mean to throw the entire onus on to Jaffery. But again, what could we do? Doria put her pistol at our heads and demanded Adrian's original manuscripts. She had every reason to believe in their existence. Wittekind had never seen them. Vandal and Goth and every kind of Barbarian that she considered Jaffery to be, it was inconceivable that he had deliberately destroyed them. It was equally inconceivable that he had sold the precious things for vulgar money. They remained therefore in his possession. Why did he lie? We could supply no satisfactory answer; and the more solutions we offered the more did we confirm in her mind the suspicion of dark and nefarious dealings. If it were only to gain time in order to think and consult, we had to refer her to the absent Jaffery.

"My dear," said I to Barbara, when we were alone, "we're in a deuce of a mess."

"I'm afraid we are."

"Henceforward," said I, "we're going to live like selfish pigs, with no thought about anybody but ourselves and our own little pig and about anything outside our nice comfortable sty."

"We'll do nothing of the kind," said Barbara.

"You'll see," said I. "I'm a lion of egotism when I'm roused."

We dined and had a pleasant evening. Doria did not raise the disastrous topic, but talked of Marienbad and her visits, and discussed the modern tendencies of the drama. She prided herself on being in the forefront of progress, and found no dramatic salvation outside the most advanced productions of the Incorporated Stage Society. I pleaded for beauty, which she called wedding-cake. She pleaded for courage and truth in the presentation of actual life, which I called dull and stupid photography which any dismal fool could do. We had quite an exciting and entirely profitless argument.

"I'm not going to listen any longer," she cried at last, "to your silly old early Victorian platitudes!"

"And I," I retorted, "am not going to be browbeaten in my own home by one-foot-nothing of crankiness and chiffon."

So, laughingly, we parted for the night, the best of friends. If only, I thought, she could sweep her head clear of Adrian, what a fascinating little person she might be. And I understood how it had come to pass that our hulking old ogre had fallen in love with her so desperately.

The next morning I was in the garden, superintending the planting of some roses in a new, bed, when Doria, in hat and furs, came through my library window, and sang out a good-bye. I hurried to her.

"Surely not going already? I thought you were at least staying to lunch."

No; she had to get back to town. The car, ordered by Barbara, was waiting to take her to the station.

"I'll see you into the train," said I.

"Oh, please don't trouble."

"I will trouble," I laughed, and I accompanied her down the slope to the front door where stood Barbara by the car and Franklin with the luggage. Doria and I drove to the station. For the few minutes before the train came in we walked up and down the platform. She was in high spirits, full of jest and laughter. An unwonted flush in her cheeks and a brightness in her deep eyes rendered her perfectly captivating.

"I haven't seen you looking so well and so pretty for ever such a long time," I said.

The flush deepened. "You and Barbara have done me all the good in the world. You always do. Northlands is a sort of Fontaine de Jouvence for weary people."

That was as graceful as could be. And when she shook hands with me a short while afterwards through the carriage window, she thanked me for our long-sufferance with more spontaneous cordiality than she had ever before exhibited. I returned to my roses, feeling that, after all, we had done something to help the poor little lady on her way. If I had been a cat, I should have purred. After an hour or so, Barbara summoned me from my contemplative occupation.

"Yes, dear?" said I, at the library window.

"Have you written to Rogers?"

Rogers was a plumber.

"He's a degraded wretch," said I, "and unworthy of receiving a letter from a clean-minded man."

"Meanwhile," said Barbara, "the servants' bathroom continues to be unusable."

"Good God!" said I, "does Rogers hold the cleanliness of this household in his awful hands?"

"He does."

"Then I will sink my pride and write to him."

"Write now," said Barbara, leading me to my chair. "You ought to have done it three days ago."

So with three days' bathlessness of my domestic staff upon my conscience, and with Barbara at my elbow, I wrote my summons. I turned in my chair, holding it up in my hand.

"Is this sufficiently dignified and imperious?"

I began to declaim it. "Sir, it has been brought to my notice that the pipes-". I broke off short. "Hullo!" said I, my eyes on the wall, "what has become of the key of Jaffery's flat?"

There was the brass-headed nail on which I had hung it, impertinently and nakedly bright. The labelled key had vanished.

"You've got it in your pocket, as usual," said Barbara.

I may say that I have a habit of losing things and setting the household from the butler to the lower myrmidons of the kitchen in frantic search, and calling in gardeners and chauffeurs and nurses and wives and children to help, only to discover that I have had the wretched object in my pocket all the time. So accustomed is Barbara to this wolf-cry that if I came up to her without my head and informed her that I had lost it, she would be profoundly sceptical.

But this time I was blameless. "I haven't touched it," I declared, "and I saw it this morning."

"I don't know about this morning," said Barbara. "But I grant you it was there yesterday evening, because Doria drew our attention to it."

"Doria!" I cried, and I rose, with mouth agape, and our eyes met in a sudden stare.

"Good Heavens! do you think she has taken it?"

"Who else?" said I. "She came out from here to say good-bye to me in the garden. She had the opportunity. She was preternaturally animated and demonstrative at the station-your sex's little guileful way ever since the world began. She had the stolen key about her. She's going straight to Jaffery's flat to hunt for those manuscripts."

"Well, let her," said Barbara. "We know she can't find them, because they don't exist."

"But, my darling Barbara," I cried, "everything else does. And everything else is there. And there's not a blessed thing locked up in the place!"

"Do you mean-?" she cried aghast.

"Yes, I do. I must get up to town at once and stop her."

"I'll come with you," said Barbara.

So once more, on altruistic errand, I motored post-haste to London. We alighted at St. Quentin's Mansions. My friend the porter came out to receive us.

"Has a lady been here with a key of Mr. Chayne's flat?"

"No, sir, not to my knowledge."

We drew breaths of relief. Our journey had been something of a strain.

"Thank goodness!" said Barbara.

"Should a lady come, don't allow her to enter the flat," said I.

And there, in a wilderness of ransacked drawers and strewn

papers, . . . lay a tiny, black, moaning heap of a woman.

"I shouldn't give a strange lady entrance in any case," said the porter.

"Good!" said I, and I was about to go. But Barbara, with her ready common-sense, took me aside and whispered:

"Why not take all these compromising manuscripts home with us?"

In my letter case I had the half-forgotten power of attorney that Jaffery had given me at Havre. I shewed it to the porter.

"I want to get some things out of Mr. Chayne's flat."

"Certainly, sir," said the porter. "I'll take you up."

We ascended in the lift. The porter opened Jaffery's door. We entered the sitting-room. And there, in a wilderness of ransacked drawers and strewn papers, with her head against the cannon-ball on the hearthrug, lay a tiny, black, moaning heap of a woman.

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