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Chapter 5

"DELICIOUS my having come down to tell him of it!" Mr. Morrow
ejaculated. "My cab was at the door twenty minutes after THE
EMPIRE had been laid on my breakfast-table. Now what have you got
for me?" he continued, dropping again into his chair, from which,
however, he the next moment eagerly rose. "I was shown into the
drawing-room, but there must be more to see - his study, his
literary sanctum, the little things he has about, or other domestic
objects and features. He wouldn't be lying down on his study-
table? There's a great interest always felt in the scene of an
author's labours. Sometimes we're favoured with very delightful
peeps. Dora Forbes showed me all his table-drawers, and almost
jammed my hand into one into which I made a dash! I don't ask that
of you, but if we could talk things over right there where he sits
I feel as if I should get the keynote."

I had no wish whatever to be rude to Mr. Morrow, I was much too
initiated not to tend to more diplomacy; but I had a quick
inspiration, and I entertained an insurmountable, an almost
superstitious objection to his crossing the threshold of my
friend's little lonely shabby consecrated workshop. "No, no - we
shan't get at his life that way," I said. "The way to get at his
life is to - But wait a moment!" I broke off and went quickly into
the house, whence I in three minutes reappeared before Mr. Morrow
with the two volumes of Paraday's new book. "His life's here," I
went on, "and I'm so full of this admirable thing that I can't talk
of anything else. The artist's life's his work, and this is the
place to observe him. What he has to tell us he tells us with THIS
perfection. My dear sir, the best interviewer is the best reader."

Mr. Morrow good-humouredly protested. "Do you mean to say that no
other source of information should be open to us?"

"None other till this particular one - by far the most copious -
has been quite exhausted. Have you exhausted it, my dear sir? Had
you exhausted it when you came down here? It seems to me in our
time almost wholly neglected, and something should surely be done
to restore its ruined credit. It's the course to which the artist
himself at every step, and with such pathetic confidence, refers
us. This last book of Mr. Paraday's is full of revelations."

"Revelations?" panted Mr. Morrow, whom I had forced again into his
chair.

"The only kind that count. It tells you with a perfection that
seems to me quite final all the author thinks, for instance, about
the advent of the 'larger latitude.'"

"Where does it do that?" asked Mr. Morrow, who had picked up the
second volume and was insincerely thumbing it.

"Everywhere - in the whole treatment of his case. Extract the
opinion, disengage the answer - those are the real acts of homage."

Mr. Morrow, after a minute, tossed the book away. "Ah but you
mustn't take me for a reviewer."

"Heaven forbid I should take you for anything so dreadful! You
came down to perform a little act of sympathy, and so, I may
confide to you, did I. Let us perform our little act together.
These pages overflow with the testimony we want: let us read them
and taste them and interpret them. You'll of course have perceived
for yourself that one scarcely does read Neil Paraday till one
reads him aloud; he gives out to the ear an extraordinary full
tone, and it's only when you expose it confidently to that test
that you really get near his style. Take up your book again and
let me listen, while you pay it out, to that wonderful fifteenth
chapter. If you feel you can't do it justice, compose yourself to
attention while I produce for you - I think I can! - this scarcely
less admirable ninth."

Mr. Morrow gave me a straight look which was as hard as a blow
between the eyes; he had turned rather red, and a question had
formed itself in his mind which reached my sense as distinctly as
if he had uttered it: "What sort of a damned fool are YOU?" Then
he got up, gathering together his hat and gloves, buttoning his
coat, projecting hungrily all over the place the big transparency
of his mask. It seemed to flare over Fleet Street and somehow made
the actual spot distressingly humble: there was so little for it
to feed on unless he counted the blisters of our stucco or saw his
way to do something with the roses. Even the poor roses were
common kinds. Presently his eyes fell on the manuscript from which
Paraday had been reading to me and which still lay on the bench.
As my own followed them I saw it looked promising, looked pregnant,
as if it gently throbbed with the life the reader had given it.
Mr. Morrow indulged in a nod at it and a vague thrust of his
umbrella. "What's that?"

"Oh, it's a plan - a secret."

"A secret!" There was an instant's silence, and then Mr. Morrow
made another movement. I may have been mistaken, but it affected
me as the translated impulse of the desire to lay hands on the
manuscript, and this led me to indulge in a quick anticipatory grab
which may very well have seemed ungraceful, or even impertinent,
and which at any rate left Mr. Paraday's two admirers very erect,
glaring at each other while one of them held a bundle of papers
well behind him. An instant later Mr. Morrow quitted me abruptly,
as if he had really carried something off with him. To reassure
myself, watching his broad back recede, I only grasped my
manuscript the tighter. He went to the back door of the house, the
one he had come out from, but on trying the handle he appeared to
find it fastened. So he passed round into the front garden, and by
listening intently enough I could presently hear the outer gate
close behind him with a bang. I thought again of the thirty-seven
influential journals and wondered what would be his revenge. I
hasten to add that he was magnanimous: which was just the most
dreadful thing he could have been. THE TATLER published a charming
chatty familiar account of Mr. Paraday's "Home-life," and on the
wings of the thirty-seven influential journals it went, to use Mr.
Morrow's own expression, right round the globe.

Henry James

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