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Chapter 10

"IT has NOT been recovered," I wrote early the next day, "and I'm
moreover much troubled about our friend. He came back from Bigwood
with a chill and, being allowed to have a fire in his room, lay
down a while before dinner. I tried to send him to bed and indeed
thought I had put him in the way of it; but after I had gone to
dress Mrs. Wimbush came up to see him, with the inevitable result
that when I returned I found him under arms and flushed and
feverish, though decorated with the rare flower she had brought him
for his button-hole. He came down to dinner, but Lady Augusta
Minch was very shy of him. To-day he's in great pain, and the
advent of ces dames - I mean of Guy Walsingham and Dora Forbes -
doesn't at all console me. It does Mrs. Wimbush, however, for she
has consented to his remaining in bed so that he may be all right
to-morrow for the listening circle. Guy Walsingham's already on
the scene, and the Doctor for Paraday also arrived early. I
haven't yet seen the author of 'Obsessions,' but of course I've had
a moment by myself with the Doctor. I tried to get him to say that
our invalid must go straight home - I mean to-morrow or next day;
but he quite refuses to talk about the future. Absolute quiet and
warmth and the regular administration of an important remedy are
the points he mainly insists on. He returns this afternoon, and
I'm to go back to see the patient at one o'clock, when he next
takes his medicine. It consoles me a little that he certainly
won't be able to read - an exertion he was already more than unfit
for. Lady Augusta went off after breakfast, assuring me her first
care would be to follow up the lost manuscript. I can see she
thinks me a shocking busybody and doesn't understand my alarm, but
she'll do what she can, for she's a good-natured woman. 'So are
they all honourable men.' That was precisely what made her give
the thing to Lord Dorimont and made Lord Dorimont bag it. What use
HE has for it God only knows. I've the worst forebodings, but
somehow I'm strangely without passion - desperately calm. As I
consider the unconscious, the well-meaning ravages of our
appreciative circle I bow my head in submission to some great
natural, some universal accident; I'm rendered almost indifferent,
in fact quite gay (ha-ha!) by the sense of immitigable fate. Lady
Augusta promises me to trace the precious object and let me have it
through the post by the time Paraday's well enough to play his part
with it. The last evidence is that her maid did give it to his
lordship's valet. One would suppose it some thrilling number of
THE FAMILY BUDGET. Mrs. Wimbush, who's aware of the accident, is
much less agitated by it than she would doubtless be were she not
for the hour inevitably engrossed with Guy Walsingham."

Later in the day I informed my correspondent, for whom indeed I
kept a loose diary of the situation, that I had made the
acquaintance of this celebrity and that she was a pretty little
girl who wore her hair in what used to be called a crop. She
looked so juvenile and so innocent that if, as Mr. Morrow had
announced, she was resigned to the larger latitude, her superiority
to prejudice must have come to her early. I spent most of the day
hovering about Neil Paraday's room, but it was communicated to me
from below that Guy Walsingham, at Prestidge, was a success.
Toward evening I became conscious somehow that her superiority was
contagious, and by the time the company separated for the night I
was sure the larger latitude had been generally accepted. I
thought of Dora Forbes and felt that he had no time to lose.
Before dinner I received a telegram from Lady Augusta Minch. "Lord
Dorimont thinks he must have left bundle in train - enquire." How
could I enquire - if I was to take the word as a command? I was
too worried and now too alarmed about Neil Paraday. The Doctor
came back, and it was an immense satisfaction to me to be sure he
was wise and interested. He was proud of being called to so
distinguished a patient, but he admitted to me that night that my
friend was gravely ill. It was really a relapse, a recrudescence
of his old malady. There could be no question of moving him: we
must at any rate see first, on the spot, what turn his condition
would take. Meanwhile, on the morrow, he was to have a nurse. On
the morrow the dear man was easier, and my spirits rose to such
cheerfulness that I could almost laugh over Lady Augusta's second
telegram: "Lord Dorimont's servant been to station - nothing
found. Push enquiries." I did laugh, I'm sure, as I remembered
this to be the mystic scroll I had scarcely allowed poor Mr. Morrow
to point his umbrella at. Fool that I had been: the thirty-seven
influential journals wouldn't have destroyed it, they'd only have
printed it. Of course I said nothing to Paraday.

When the nurse arrived she turned me out of the room, on which I
went downstairs. I should premise that at breakfast the news that
our brilliant friend was doing well excited universal complacency,
and the Princess graciously remarked that he was only to be
commiserated for missing the society of Miss Collop. Mrs. Wimbush,
whose social gift never shone brighter than in the dry decorum with
which she accepted this fizzle in her fireworks, mentioned to me
that Guy Walsingham had made a very favourable impression on her
Imperial Highness. Indeed I think every one did so, and that, like
the money-market or the national honour, her Imperial Highness was
constitutionally sensitive. There was a certain gladness, a
perceptible bustle in the air, however, which I thought slightly
anomalous in a house where a great author lay critically ill. "Le
roy est mort - vive le roy": I was reminded that another great
author had already stepped into his shoes. When I came down again
after the nurse had taken possession I found a strange gentleman
hanging about the hall and pacing to and fro by the closed door of
the drawing-room. This personage was florid and bald; he had a big
red moustache and wore showy knickerbockers - characteristics all
that fitted to my conception of the identity of Dora Forbes. In a
moment I saw what had happened: the author of "The Other Way
Round" had just alighted at the portals of Prestidge, but had
suffered a scruple to restrain him from penetrating further. I
recognised his scruple when, pausing to listen at his gesture of
caution, I heard a shrill voice lifted in a sort of rhythmic
uncanny chant. The famous reading had begun, only it was the
author of "Obsessions" who now furnished the sacrifice. The new
visitor whispered to me that he judged something was going on he
oughtn't to interrupt.

"Miss Collop arrived last night," I smiled, "and the Princess has a
thirst for the inedit."

Dora Forbes lifted his bushy brows. "Miss Collop?"

"Guy Walsingham, your distinguished confrere - or shall I say your
formidable rival?"

"Oh!" growled Dora Forbes. Then he added: "Shall I spoil it if I
go in?"

"I should think nothing could spoil it!" I ambiguously laughed.

Dora Forbes evidently felt the dilemma; he gave an irritated crook
to his moustache. "SHALL I go in?" he presently asked.

We looked at each other hard a moment; then I expressed something
bitter that was in me, expressed it in an infernal "Do!" After
this I got out into the air, but not so fast as not to hear, when
the door of the drawing-room opened, the disconcerted drop of Miss
Collop's public manner: she must have been in the midst of the
larger latitude. Producing with extreme rapidity, Guy Walsingham
has just published a work in which amiable people who are not
initiated have been pained to see the genius of a sister-novelist
held up to unmistakeable ridicule; so fresh an exhibition does it
seem to them of the dreadful way men have always treated women.
Dora Forbes, it's true, at the present hour, is immensely pushed by
Mrs. Wimbush and has sat for his portrait to the young artists she
protects, sat for it not only in oils but in monumental alabaster.

What happened at Prestidge later in the day is of course
contemporary history. If the interruption I had whimsically
sanctioned was almost a scandal, what is to be said of that general
scatter of the company which, under the Doctor's rule, began to
take place in the evening? His rule was soothing to behold, small
comfort as I was to have at the end. He decreed in the interest of
his patient an absolutely soundless house and a consequent break-up
of the party. Little country practitioner as he was, he literally
packed off the Princess. She departed as promptly as if a
revolution had broken out, and Guy Walsingham emigrated with her.
I was kindly permitted to remain, and this was not denied even to
Mrs. Wimbush. The privilege was withheld indeed from Dora Forbes;
so Mrs. Wimbush kept her latest capture temporarily concealed.
This was so little, however, her usual way of dealing with her
eminent friends that a couple of days of it exhausted her patience,
and she went up to town with him in great publicity. The sudden
turn for the worse her afflicted guest had, after a brief
improvement, taken on the third night raised an obstacle to her
seeing him before her retreat; a fortunate circumstance doubtless,
for she was fundamentally disappointed in him. This was not the
kind of performance for which she had invited him to Prestidge, let
alone invited the Princess. I must add that none of the generous
acts marking her patronage of intellectual and other merit have
done so much for her reputation as her lending Neil Paraday the
most beautiful of her numerous homes to die in. He took advantage
to the utmost of the singular favour. Day by day I saw him sink,
and I roamed alone about the empty terraces and gardens. His wife
never came near him, but I scarcely noticed it: as I paced there
with rage in my heart I was too full of another wrong. In the
event of his death it would fall to me perhaps to bring out in some
charming form, with notes, with the tenderest editorial care, that
precious heritage of his written project. But where was that
precious heritage and were both the author and the book to have
been snatched from us? Lady Augusta wrote me that she had done all
she could and that poor Lord Dorimont, who had really been worried
to death, was extremely sorry. I couldn't have the matter out with
Mrs. Wimbush, for I didn't want to be taunted by her with desiring
to aggrandise myself by a public connexion with Mr. Paraday's
sweepings. She had signified her willingness to meet the expense
of all advertising, as indeed she was always ready to do. The last
night of the horrible series, the night before he died, I put my
ear closer to his pillow.

"That thing I read you that morning, you know."

"In your garden that dreadful day? Yes!"

"Won't it do as it is?"

"It would have been a glorious book."

"It IS a glorious book," Neil Paraday murmured. "Print it as it
stands - beautifully."

"Beautifully!" I passionately promised.

It may be imagined whether, now that he's gone, the promise seems
to me less sacred. I'm convinced that if such pages had appeared
in his lifetime the Abbey would hold him to-day. I've kept the
advertising in my own hands, but the manuscript has not been
recovered. It's impossible, and at any rate intolerable, to
suppose it can have been wantonly destroyed. Perhaps some hazard
of a blind hand, some brutal fatal ignorance has lighted kitchen-
fires with it. Every stupid and hideous accident haunts my
meditations. My undiscourageable search for the lost treasure
would make a long chapter. Fortunately I've a devoted associate in
the person of a young lady who has every day a fresh indignation
and a fresh idea, and who maintains with intensity that the prize
will still turn up. Sometimes I believe her, but I've quite ceased
to believe myself. The only thing for us at all events is to go on
seeking and hoping together; and we should be closely united by
this firm tie even were we not at present by another.

Henry James

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