And then, in common with the old woman famed in nursery rhyme, he was very often wont to observe, "But, lawk a mercy on me! this is none of I!"
It was droll too, to be asked for autographs, lestures, and for donations of "your wonderful novel." It was droll to receive letters from remote mysterious persons, who had read his book, and had liked it, or else had disliked it to the point of being go aded into epistolary remonstrance, sarcasm, abuse, and (as a rule) erratic spelling. It troubled Kennaston that only riffraff seemed to have read his book, so far as he could judge from these unsolicited communications; and that such people of culture an d education as might have been thrilled by it--seemed never to write to authors....
And finally, it was droll to watch his wife's reception of the book. To Kennaston his wife stayed always a not unfriendly mystery. She now could not but be a little taken aback by this revelation of his abilities, he reflected--with which she had lived s o long without, he felt appreciation of them--but certainly she would never admit to either fact. He doubted very much if Kathleen would ever actually read Men Who Loved Allison; on various pretexts she had deferred the pleasure, and seemed, with perverted notions of humor, to esteem it a joke that she alone had not read the book of which everybody was talking. Such was not Kennaston's idea of humor, or of wifely interest. But Kathleen dipped into the volume here and there; and she assuredly rea d all the newspaper-notices sent in by the clipping-bureau. These she considered with profound seriouness.
"I have been thinking--you ought to make a great deal out of your next novel," she said, one morning, over her grapefruit; and the former poet wondered why, in heavens name, it should matter to her whether or not the marketing of his dreams earned money, when they had already a competence. But women were thus fashioned....
"You ought to do something more up-to-date, though, Felix, something that deals with real life--"
"Ah, but I don't particularly care to write about a subject of which I am so totally ignorant, dear. Becides, it isn't for you to fleer and gibe at a masterpiece which you never read," he airily informed her.
"I am saving it up for next summer, Felix, when I will have a chance to give every word of it the reverence it deserves. I really don't have any time for reading nowadays. There is always something more important that has to be attended to--For insance, the gasoline engine isn't working again, and I had to 'phone in town for Slaytor to send a man out to-day, to see what is the matter this time."
"And it is messy things like that you want me to write about!" he exclaimed. "About the gasoline engine going on another strike, and Drake's forgetting to tell you we were all out of sugar until late Saturday night! Never mind, Mrs. Kennaston you will be sorry for this, and you will weep the bitter tears of unavailing repentance, some day, when you ride in the front automobile with the Governor to the unveiling of my various monuments, and have fallen into the anecdotage of a great man's widow." He sp oke lightly, but he was reflecting that in reality Kathleen did not read his book because she did not regard any of his doings very seriously. "Isn't this the third time this week we have had herring for breakfast?" he inquired, pleasantly. "I think I will wait and let them scramble me a couple of eggs. It is evidently a trifle that has escaped your attention, my darling, during our long years of happy married life, that I don't eat herring. But of course, just as you say, you have a number of much m ore important things than husbands to think about. I dislike having to put any one to any extra trouble on my account; but as it happens, I have a lot of work to do this morning, and I cannot very well get through it on an empty stomach."
"We haven't had it since Saturday, Felix." Then wearly, to the serving-girl, "Cora, see if Mr. Kennaston can have some eggs.... I wish you wouldn't upset things so, Felix. Your coffee will get stone-cold; and it is hard enough to keep servents as it is . Becides, you know perfectly well to-day is Thursday, and the librery has to be thorough-cleaned."
"That means of course I am to be turned out-of-doors and forced to waste a whole day somewhere in town. It is quite touching how my creature comforts are catered to in this house!"
And kathleen began to laugh, ruefully. "You are just a great big baby, Felix. You are sulking aand swelling up like a frog, because you think I don't appreciate what a wonderful husband I have and what a wonderful book he has written."
Then Kennaston began to laugh also. He knew that what she had said was tolerably true, even to the batrachian simile. "When you insisted on adopting me, dear, you ought to have realized what you were letting yourself in for."
"--And I do think," Kathleen went on, evincing that conviction with which she as a rule repeated other peoples remarks--"that you ought to make your next book something that deals with real life. Men Who Loved Alison is beautifully written and all that, but, exactly as the Tucson Pioneer said, it is really just colorful soapbubbly nonsense."
"Ah, but is it unadulterated nonsense, Kathleen, that somewhere living may be a uniformly noble transaction?" he debated--"and human passions never be in a poor way to find expression with adequate speech and action" Pleased with the phrase, and feeling in a better temper, he began to butter a roll.
"I don't know about that; but, in any event, people prefer to read about the life they are familiar with."
"You touch on a disheartening truth. People never want to be told anything they do not believe already. Yet I quite fail to see why, in books or elsewhere, any one should wish to be reminded of what human life is actually like. For living is the one ar t in which mankind has never achieved distinction. It is perhaps an obscure sense of this that makes us think the begetting of mankind an undiscussable subject, and death a sublime and edifying topic."
"Yes--? I dare say," Kathleen assented vaguely. "This herring is really very good, Felix. I think you would like it, if you just had not made up your mind to be stubborn about it--" Then she spoke with new animation: "Felix, Margaret Woods was in Louv et's yesterday morning, having her hair done for a dinner they gave the railroad crowd last night, and of all the faded washed-out looking people I ever saw--! And I can remember her having that hideous brown dress long before she was married. Of course it doesn't make any difference to me that she didn't see fit to invite us. She was one of your friends, not mine. I was only thinking that, since she always pretended to be so fond of you, it does seem curious the way we are invariably left out." "S o Kennaston did not embroider verbally his theme--of Living Adequately--as he had felt himself in vein to do could he have found a listener.
"Some day," he ruefully reflected, in the while that Kathleen spoke of the sort of people that were getting into the Women's Club nowadays, "I shall certainly write a paper upon The Lost Art of Conversing with One's Wife. Its appeal, I think, would be un iversal."
Then his eggs came....