THE DEATH OF THE LION
THE DEATH OF THE LION
I had simply I suppose a change of heart and it must have begun
when I received my manuscript back from Mr. Pinhorn. Mr. Pinhorn
was my "chief" as he was called in the office: he had the high
mission of bringing the paper up. This was a weekly periodical
which had been supposed to be almost past redemption when he took
hold of it. It was Mr. Deedy who had let the thing down so
dreadfully: he was never mentioned in the office now save in
connexion with that misdemeanour. Young as I was I had been in a
manner taken over from Mr. Deedy who had been owner as well as
editor; forming part of a promiscuous lot mainly plant and office-
furniture which poor Mrs. Deedy in her bereavement and
depression parted with at a rough valuation. I could account for
my continuity but on the supposition that I had been cheap. I
rather resented the practice of fathering all flatness on my late
protector who was in his unhonoured grave; but as I had my way to
make I found matter enough for complacency in being on a "staff."
At the same time I was aware of my exposure to suspicion as a
product of the old lowering system. This made me feel I was doubly
bound to have ideas and had doubtless been at the bottom of my
proposing to Mr. Pinhorn that I should lay my lean hands on Neil
Paraday. I remember how he looked at me--quite to begin with as
if he had never heard of this celebrity who indeed at that moment
was by no means in the centre of the heavens; and even when I had
knowingly explained he expressed but little confidence in the
demand for any such stuff. When I had reminded him that the great
principle on which we were supposed to work was just to create the
demand we required he considered a moment and then returned: "I
see--you want to write him up."
"Call it that if you like."
"And what's your inducement?"
"Bless my soul--my admiration!"
Mr. Pinhorn pursed up his mouth. "Is there much to be done with
"Whatever there is we should have it all to ourselves for he
hasn't been touched."
This argument was effective and Mr. Pinhorn responded. "Very well
touch him." Then he added: "But where can you do it?"
"Under the fifth rib!"
Mr. Pinhorn stared. "Where's that?"
"You want me to go down and see him?" I asked when I had enjoyed
his visible search for the obscure suburb I seemed to have named.
"I don't 'want' anything--the proposal's your own. But you must
remember that that's the way we do things NOW" said Mr. Pinhorn
with another dig Mr. Deedy.
Unregenerate as I was I could read the queer implications of this
speech. The present owner's superior virtue as well as his deeper
craft spoke in his reference to the late editor as one of that
baser sort who deal in false representations. Mr. Deedy would as
soon have sent me to call on Neil Paraday as he would have
published a "holiday-number"; but such scruples presented
themselves as mere ignoble thrift to his successor whose own
sincerity took the form of ringing door-bells and whose definition
of genius was the art of finding people at home. It was as if Mr.
Deedy had published reports without his young men's having as
Pinhorn would have said really been there. I was unregenerate as
I have hinted and couldn't be concerned to straighten out the
journalistic morals of my chief feeling them indeed to be an abyss
over the edge of which it was better not to peer. Really to be
there this time moreover was a vision that made the idea of writing
something subtle about Neil Paraday only the more inspiring. I
would be as considerate as even Mr. Deedy could have wished and
yet I should be as present as only Mr. Pinhorn could conceive. My
allusion to the sequestered manner in which Mr. Paraday lived--it
had formed part of my explanation though I knew of it only by
hearsay--was I could divine very much what had made Mr. Pinhorn
nibble. It struck him as inconsistent with the success of his
paper that any one should be so sequestered as that. And then
wasn't an immediate exposure of everything just what the public
wanted? Mr. Pinhorn effectually called me to order by reminding me
of the promptness with which I had met Miss Braby at Liverpool on
her return from her fiasco in the States. Hadn't we published
while its freshness and flavour were unimpaired Miss Braby's own
version of that great international episode? I felt somewhat
uneasy at this lumping of the actress and the author and I confess
that after having enlisted Mr. Pinhorn's sympathies I
procrastinated a little. I had succeeded better than I wished and
I had as it happened work nearer at hand. A few days later I
called on Lord Crouchley and carried off in triumph the most
unintelligible statement that had yet appeared of his lordship's
reasons for his change of front. I thus set in motion in the daily
papers columns of virtuous verbiage. The following week I ran down
to Brighton for a chat as Mr. Pinhorn called it with Mrs.
Bounder who gave me on the subject of her divorce many curious
particulars that had not been articulated in court. If ever an
article flowed from the primal fount it was that article on Mrs.
Bounder. By this time however I became aware that Neil Paraday's
new book was on the point of appearing and that its approach had
been the ground of my original appeal to Mr. Pinhorn who was now
annoyed with me for having lost so many days. He bundled me off--
we would at least not lose another. I've always thought his sudden
alertness a remarkable example of the journalistic instinct.
Nothing had occurred since I first spoke to him to create a
visible urgency and no enlightenment could possibly have reached
him. It was a pure case of profession flair--he had smelt the
coming glory as an animal smells its distant prey.
I may as well say at once that this little record pretends in no
degree to be a picture either of my introduction to Mr. Paraday or
of certain proximate steps and stages. The scheme of my narrative
allows no space for these things and in any case a prohibitory
sentiment would hang about my recollection of so rare an hour.
These meagre notes are essentially private so that if they see the
light the insidious forces that as my story itself shows make at
present for publicity will simply have overmastered my precautions.
The curtain fell lately enough on the lamentable drama. My memory
of the day I alighted at Mr. Paraday's door is a fresh memory of
kindness hospitality compassion and of the wonderful
illuminating talk in which the welcome was conveyed. Some voice of
the air had taught me the right moment the moment of his life at
which an act of unexpected young allegiance might most come home to
him. He had recently recovered from a long grave illness. I had
gone to the neighbouring inn for the night but I spent the evening
in his company and he insisted the next day on my sleeping under
his roof. I hadn't an indefinite leave: Mr. Pinhorn supposed us
to put our victims through on the gallop. It was later in the
office that the rude motions of the jig were set to music. I
fortified myself however as my training had taught me to do by
the conviction that nothing could be more advantageous for my
article than to be written in the very atmosphere. I said nothing
to Mr. Paraday about it but in the morning after my remove from
the inn while he was occupied in his study as he had notified me
he should need to be I committed to paper the main heads of my
impression. Then thinking to commend myself to Mr. Pinhorn by my
celerity I walked out and posted my little packet before luncheon.
Once my paper was written I was free to stay on and if it was
calculated to divert attention from my levity in so doing I could
reflect with satisfaction that I had never been so clever. I don't
mean to deny of course that I was aware it was much too good for
Mr. Pinhorn; but I was equally conscious that Mr. Pinhorn had the
supreme shrewdness of recognising from time to time the cases in
which an article was not too bad only because it was too good.
There was nothing he loved so much as to print on the right
occasion a thing he hated. I had begun my visit to the great man
on a Monday and on the Wednesday his book came out. A copy of it
arrived by the first post and he let me go out into the garden
with it immediately after breakfast I read it from beginning to
end that day and in the evening he asked me to remain with him the
rest of the week and over the Sunday.
That night my manuscript came back from Mr. Pinhorn accompanied
with a letter the gist of which was the desire to know what I meant
by trying to fob off on him such stuff. That was the meaning of
the question if not exactly its form and it made my mistake
immense to me. Such as this mistake was I could now only look it
in the face and accept it. I knew where I had failed but it was
exactly where I couldn't have succeeded. I had been sent down to
be personal and then in point of fact hadn't been personal at all:
what I had dispatched to London was just a little finicking
feverish study of my author's talent. Anything less relevant to
Mr. Pinhorn's purpose couldn't well be imagined and he was visibly
angry at my having (at his expense with a second-class ticket)
approached the subject of our enterprise only to stand off so
helplessly. For myself I knew but too well what had happened and
how a miracle--as pretty as some old miracle of legend--had been
wrought on the spot to save me. There had been a big brush of
wings the flash of an opaline robe and then with a great cool
stir of the air the sense of an angel's having swooped down and
caught me to his bosom. He held me only till the danger was over
and it all took place in a minute. With my manuscript back on my
hands I understood the phenomenon better and the reflexions I made
on it are what I meant at the beginning of this anecdote by my
change of heart. Mr. Pinhorn's note was not only a rebuke
decidedly stern but an invitation immediately to send him--it was
the case to say so--the genuine article the revealing and
reverberating sketch to the promise of which and of which alone I
owed my squandered privilege. A week or two later I recast my
peccant paper and giving it a particular application to Mr.
Paraday's new book obtained for it the hospitality of another
journal where I must admit Mr. Pinhorn was so far vindicated as
that it attracted not the least attention.
I was frankly at the end of three days a very prejudiced critic
so that one morning when in the garden my great man had offered
to read me something I quite held my breath as I listened. It was
the written scheme of another book--something put aside long ago
before his illness but that he had lately taken out again to
reconsider. He had been turning it round when I came down on him
and it had grown magnificently under this second hand. Loose
liberal confident it might have passed for a great gossiping
eloquent letter--the overflow into talk of an artist's amorous
plan. The theme I thought singularly rich quite the strongest he
had yet treated; and this familiar statement of it full too of
fine maturities was really in summarised splendour a mine of
gold a precious independent work. I remember rather profanely
wondering whether the ultimate production could possibly keep at
the pitch. His reading of the fond epistle at any rate made me
feel as if I were for the advantage of posterity in close
correspondence with him--were the distinguished person to whom it
had been affectionately addressed. It was a high distinction
simply to be told such things. The idea he now communicated had
all the freshness the flushed fairness of the conception
untouched and untried: it was Venus rising from the sea and before
the airs had blown upon her. I had never been so throbbingly
present at such an unveiling. But when he had tossed the last
bright word after the others as I had seen cashiers in banks
weighing mounds of coin drop a final sovereign into the tray I
knew a sudden prudent alarm.
"My dear master how after all are you going to do it? It's
infinitely noble but what time it will take what patience and
independence what assured what perfect conditions! Oh for a lone
isle in a tepid sea!"
"Isn't this practically a lone isle and aren't you as an
encircling medium tepid enough?" he asked alluding with a laugh
to the wonder of my young admiration and the narrow limits of his
little provincial home. "Time isn't what I've lacked hitherto:
the question hasn't been to find it but to use it. Of course my
illness made while it lasted a great hole--but I dare say there
would have been a hole at any rate. The earth we tread has more
pockets than a billiard-table. The great thing is now to keep on
"That's exactly what I mean."
Neil Paraday looked at me with eyes--such pleasant eyes as he had--
in which as I now recall their expression I seem to have seen a
dim imagination of his fate. He was fifty years old and his
illness had been cruel his convalescence slow. "It isn't as if I
weren't all right."
"Oh if you weren't all right I wouldn't look at you!" I tenderly
We had both got up quickened as by this clearer air and he had
lighted a cigarette. I had taken a fresh one which with an
intenser smile by way of answer to my exclamation he applied to
the flame of his match. "If I weren't better I shouldn't have
thought of THAT!" He flourished his script in his hand.
"I don't want to be discouraging but that's not true" I returned.
"I'm sure that during the months you lay here in pain you had
visitations sublime. You thought of a thousand things. You think
of more and more all the while. That's what makes you if you'll
pardon my familiarity so respectable. At a time when so many
people are spent you come into your second wind. But thank God
all the same you're better! Thank God too you're not as you
were telling me yesterday 'successful.' If YOU weren't a failure
what would be the use of trying? That's my one reserve on the
subject of your recovery--that it makes you 'score' as the
newspapers say. It looks well in the newspapers and almost
anything that does that's horrible. 'We are happy to announce that
Mr. Paraday the celebrated author is again in the enjoyment of
excellent health.' Somehow I shouldn't like to see it."
"You won't see it; I'm not in the least celebrated--my obscurity
protects me. But couldn't you bear even to see I was dying or
dead?" my host enquired.
"Dead--passe encore; there's nothing so safe. One never knows what
a living artist may do--one has mourned so many. However one must
make the worst of it. You must be as dead as you can."
"Don't I meet that condition in having just published a book?"
"Adequately let us hope; for the book's verily a masterpiece."
At this moment the parlour-maid appeared in the door that opened
from the garden: Paraday lived at no great cost and the frisk of
petticoats with a timorous "Sherry sir?" was about his modest
mahogany. He allowed half his income to his wife from whom he had
succeeded in separating without redundancy of legend. I had a
general faith in his having behaved well and I had once in
London taken Mrs. Paraday down to dinner. He now turned to speak
to the maid who offered him on a tray some card or note while
agitated excited I wandered to the end of the precinct. The idea
of his security became supremely dear to me and I asked myself if
I were the same young man who had come down a few days before to
scatter him to the four winds. When I retraced my steps he had
gone into the house and the woman--the second London post had come
in--had placed my letters and a newspaper on a bench. I sat down
there to the letters which were a brief business and then
without heeding the address took the paper from its envelope. It
was the journal of highest renown The Empire of that morning. It
regularly came to Paraday but I remembered that neither of us had
yet looked at the copy already delivered. This one had a great
mark on the "editorial" page and uncrumpling the wrapper I saw
it to be directed to my host and stamped with the name of his
publishers. I instantly divined that The Empire had spoken of him
and I've not forgotten the odd little shock of the circumstance.
It checked all eagerness and made me drop the paper a moment. As I
sat there conscious of a palpitation I think I had a vision of what
was to be. I had also a vision of the letter I would presently
address to Mr. Pinhorn breaking as it were with Mr. Pinhorn. Of
course however the next minute the voice of The Empire was in my
The article wasn't I thanked heaven a review; it was a "leader"
the last of three presenting Neil Paraday to the human race. His
new book the fifth from his hand had been but a day or two out
and The Empire already aware of it fired as if on the birth of a
prince a salute of a whole column. The guns had been booming
these three hours in the house without our suspecting them. The
big blundering newspaper had discovered him and now he was
proclaimed and anointed and crowned. His place was assigned him as
publicly as if a fat usher with a wand had pointed to the topmost
chair; he was to pass up and still up higher and higher between
the watching faces and the envious sounds--away up to the dais and
the throne. The article was "epoch-making" a landmark in his
life; he had taken rank at a bound waked up a national glory. A
national glory was needed and it was an immense convenience he was
there. What all this meant rolled over me and I fear I grew a
little faint--it meant so much more than I could say "yea" to on
the spot. In a flash somehow all was different; the tremendous
wave I speak of had swept something away. It had knocked down I
suppose my little customary altar my twinkling tapers and my
flowers and had reared itself into the likeness of a temple vast
and bare. When Neil Paraday should come out of the house he would
come out a contemporary. That was what had happened: the poor man
was to be squeezed into his horrible age. I felt as if he had been
overtaken on the crest of the hill and brought back to the city. A
little more and he would have dipped down the short cut to
posterity and escaped.
When he came out it was exactly as if he had been in custody for
beside him walked a stout man with a big black beard who save
that he wore spectacles might have been a policeman and in whom
at a second glance I recognised the highest contemporary
"This is Mr. Morrow" said Paraday looking I thought rather
white: "he wants to publish heaven knows what about me."
I winced as I remembered that this was exactly what I myself had
wanted. "Already?" I cried with a sort of sense that my friend had
fled to me for protection.
Mr. Morrow glared agreeably through his glasses: they suggested
the electric headlights of some monstrous modem ship and I felt as
if Paraday and I were tossing terrified under his bows. I saw his
momentum was irresistible. "I was confident that I should be the
first in the field. A great interest is naturally felt in Mr.
Paraday's surroundings" he heavily observed.
"I hadn't the least idea of it" said Paraday as if he had been
told he had been snoring.
"I find he hasn't read the article in The Empire" Mr. Morrow
remarked to me. "That's so very interesting--it's something to
start with" he smiled. He had begun to pull off his gloves which
were violently new and to look encouragingly round the little
garden. As a "surrounding" I felt how I myself had already been
taken in; I was a little fish in the stomach of a bigger one. "I
represent" our visitor continued "a syndicate of influential
journals no less than thirty-seven whose public--whose publics I
may say--are in peculiar sympathy with Mr. Paraday's line of
thought. They would greatly appreciate any expression of his views
on the subject of the art he so nobly exemplifies. In addition to
my connexion with the syndicate just mentioned I hold a particular
commission from The Tatler whose most prominent department
'Smatter and Chatter'--I dare say you've often enjoyed it--attracts
such attention. I was honoured only last week as a representative
of The Tatler with the confidence of Guy Walsingham the brilliant
author of 'Obsessions.' She pronounced herself thoroughly pleased
with my sketch of her method; she went so far as to say that I had
made her genius more comprehensible even to herself."
Neil Paraday had dropped on the garden-bench and sat there at once
detached and confounded; he looked hard at a bare spot in the lawn
as if with an anxiety that had suddenly made him grave. His
movement had been interpreted by his visitor as an invitation to
sink sympathetically into a wicker chair that stood hard by and
while Mr. Morrow so settled himself I felt he had taken official
possession and that there was no undoing it. One had heard of
unfortunate people's having "a man in the house" and this was just
what we had. There was a silence of a moment during which we
seemed to acknowledge in the only way that was possible the
presence of universal fate; the sunny stillness took no pity and
my thought as I was sure Paraday's was doing performed within the
minute a great distant revolution. I saw just how emphatic I
should make my rejoinder to Mr. Pinhorn and that having come like
Mr. Morrow to betray I must remain as long as possible to save.
Not because I had brought my mind back but because our visitors
last words were in my ear I presently enquired with gloomy
irrelevance if Guy Walsingham were a woman.
"Oh yes a mere pseudonym--rather pretty isn't it?--and
convenient you know for a lady who goes in for the larger
latitude. 'Obsessions by Miss So-and-so' would look a little
odd but men are more naturally indelicate. Have you peeped into
'Obsessions'?" Mr. Morrow continued sociably to our companion.
Paraday still absent remote made no answer as if he hadn't
heard the question: a form of intercourse that appeared to suit
the cheerful Mr. Morrow as well as any other. Imperturbably bland
he was a man of resources--he only needed to be on the spot. He
had pocketed the whole poor place while Paraday and I were wool-
gathering and I could imagine that he had already got his "heads."
His system at any rate was justified by the inevitability with
which I replied to save my friend the trouble: "Dear no--he
hasn't read it. He doesn't read such things!" I unwarily added.
"Things that are TOO far over the fence eh?" I was indeed a
godsend to Mr. Morrow. It was the psychological moment; it
determined the appearance of his note-book which however he at
first kept slightly behind him even as the dentist approaching his
victim keeps the horrible forceps. "Mr. Paraday holds with the
good old proprieties--I see!" And thinking of the thirty-seven
influential journals I found myself as I found poor Paraday
helplessly assisting at the promulgation of this ineptitude.
"There's no point on which distinguished views are so acceptable as
on this question--raised perhaps more strikingly than ever by Guy
Walsingham--of the permissibility of the larger latitude. I've an
appointment precisely in connexion with it next week with Dora
Forbes author of 'The Other Way Round' which everybody's talking
about. Has Mr. Paraday glanced at 'The Other Way Round'?" Mr.
Morrow now frankly appealed to me. I took on myself to repudiate
the supposition while our companion still silent got up
nervously and walked away. His visitor paid no heed to his
withdrawal; but opened out the note-book with a more fatherly pat.
"Dora Forbes I gather takes the ground the same as Guy