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´╗┐Title: A Daughter of To-Day
Author: Duncan, Sara Jeannette, 1862?-1922
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Daughter of To-Day" ***

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A DAUGHTER OF TO-DAY
by Sara Jeannette Duncan



CHAPTER I.

Miss Kimpsey dropped into an arm-chair in Mrs. Leslie
Bell's drawing-room and crossed her small dusty feet
before her while she waited for Mrs. Leslie Bell. Sitting
there, thinking a little of how tired she was and a great
deal of what she had come to say, Miss Kimpsey enjoyed
a sense of consideration that came through the ceiling
with the muffled sound of rapid footsteps in the chamber
above. Mrs. Bell would be "down in a minute," the maid
had said. Miss Kimpsey was inclined to forgive a greater
delay, with this evidence of hasteful preparation going
on overhead. The longer she had to ponder her mission
the better, and she sat up nervously straight pondering
it, tracing with her parasol a sage-green block in the
elderly aestheticated pattern of the carpet.

Miss Kimpsey was thirty-five, with a pale, oblong
little face, that looked younger under its softening
"bang" of fair curls across the forehead. She was a
buff-and-gray-colored creature, with a narrow square chin
and narrow square shoulders, and a flatness and straightness
about her everywhere that gave her rather the effect of
a wedge, to which the big black straw hat she wore tilted
a little on one side somehow conduced. Miss Kimpsey might
have figured anywhere as a representative of the New
England feminine surplus--there was a distinct suggestion
of character under her unimportant little features--and
her profession was proclaimed in her person, apart from
the smudge of chalk on the sleeve of her jacket. She had
been born and brought up and left over in Illinois,
however, in the town of Sparta, Illinois. She had developed
her conscience there, and no doubt, if one knew it well,
it would show peculiarities of local expansion directly
connected with hot corn-bread for breakfast, as opposed
to the accredited diet of legumes upon which consciences
arrive at such successful maturity in the East. It was,
at all events, a conscience in excellent controlling
order. It directed Miss Kimpsey, for example, to teach
three times a week in the boys' night-school through the
winter, no matter how sharply the wind blew off Lake
Michigan, in addition to her daily duties at the High
School, where for ten years she had imparted instruction
in the "English branches," translating Chaucer into the
modern dialect of Sparta, Illinois, for the benefit of
Miss Elfrida Bell, among others. It had sent her on this
occasion to see Mrs. Leslie Bell, and Miss Kimpsey could
remember circumstances under which she had obeyed her
conscience with more alacrity.

"It isn't," said Miss Kimpsey, with internal discouragement,
"as if I knew her well."

Miss Kimpsey did not know Mrs. Bell at all well. Mrs.
Bell was president of the Browning Club, and Miss Kimpsey
was a member, they met, too, in the social jumble of
fancy fairs in aid of the new church organ; they had a
bowing acquaintance--that is, Mrs. Bell, had. Miss
Kimpsey's part of it was responsive, and she always gave
a thought to her boots and her gloves when she met Mrs.
Bell. It was not that the Spartan social circle which
Mrs. Bell adorned had any vulgar prejudice against the
fact that Miss Kimpsey earned her own living--more than
one of its ornaments had done the same thing--and Miss
Kimpsey's relations were all "in grain" and obviously
respectable. It was simply that none, of the Kimpseys,
prosperous or poor, had ever been in society in Sparta,
for reasons which Sparta itself would probably be unable
to define; and this one was not likely to be thrust among
the elect because she taught school and enjoyed life upon
a scale of ethics.

Mrs. Bell's drawing-room was a slight distraction to Miss
Kimpsey's nervous thoughts. The little school-teacher
had never been in it before, and it impressed her. "It's
just what you would expect her parlor to be," she said
to herself, looking furtively round. She could not help
her sense of impropriety; she had always been taught that
it was very bad manners to observe anything hi another
person's house, but she could not help looking either.
She longed to get up and read the names of the books
behind the glass doors of the tall bookcase at the other
end of the room, for the sake of the little quiver of
respectful admiration she knew they would give her; but
she did not dare to do that. Her eyes went from the
bookcase to the photogravure of Dore's "Entry into
Jerusalem," under which three Japanese dolls were arranged
with charming effect. "The Reading Magdalen" caught them
next, a colored photograph, and then a Magdalen of more
obscure origin in much blackened oils and a very deep
frame; then still another Magdalen, more modern, in
monochrome. In fact, the room was full of Magdalens, and
on an easel in the corner stood a Mater Dolorosa, lifting
up her streaming eyes. Granting the capacity to take them
seriously, they might have depressed some people, but
they elevated Miss Kimpsey.

She was equally elevated by the imitation willow pattern
plates over the door, and the painted yellow daffodils
on the panels, and the orange-colored _Revue des Deux
Mondes_ on the corner of the table, and the absence of
all bows or draperies from the furniture. Miss Kimpsey's
own parlor was excrescent with bows and draperies. "She
is above them," thought Miss Kimpsey, with a little pang.
The room was so dark that she could not see how old the
_Revue_ was; she did not know either that it was always
there, that unexceptionable Parisian periodical, with
Dante in the original and red leather, _Academy Notes_,
and the _Nineteenth Century_, all helping to furnish Mrs.
Leslie Bell's drawing-room in a manner in accordance with
her tastes; but if she had, Miss Kimpsey would have been
equally impressed. It took intellect even to select these
things. The other books, Miss Kimpsey noticed by the
numbers labelled on their backs, were mostly from the
circulating library--"David Grieve," "Cometh up as a
Flower," "The Earthly Paradise," Ruskin's "Stones of
Venice," Marie Corelli's "Romance of Two Worlds." The
mantelpiece was arranged in geometrical disorder, but it
had a gilt clock under a glass shade precisely in the
middle. When the gilt clock indicated, in a mincing way,
that Miss Kimpsey had been kept waiting fifteen minutes,
Mrs. Bell came in. She had fastened her last button and
assumed the expression appropriate to Miss Kimpsey at
the foot of the stair. She was a tall, thin woman, with
no color and rather narrow brown eyes much wrinkled round
about, and a forehead that loomed at you, and grayish
hair twisted high into a knot behind--a knot from which
a wispy end almost invariably escaped. When she smiled
her mouth curved downward, showing a number of large even
white teeth, and made deep lines which suggested various
things, according to the nature of the smile, on either
side of her face. As a rule one might take them to mean
a rather deprecating acceptance of life as it stands--they
seemed intended for that--and then Mrs. Bell would express
an enthusiasm and contradict them. As she came through
the door under the "Entry into Jerusalem," saying that
she really must apologize, she was sure it was unpardonable
keeping Miss Kimpsey waiting like this, the lines expressed
an intention of being as agreeable as possible without
committing herself to return Miss Kimpsey's visit.

"Why, no, Mrs. Bell," Miss Kimpsey said earnestly, with
a protesting buff-and-gray smile, "I didn't mind waiting
a particle--honestly I didn't. Besides, I presume it's
early for a call; but I thought I'd drop in on my way
from school." Miss Kimpsey was determined that Mrs. Bell
should have every excuse that charity could invent for
her. She sat down again, and agreed with Mrs. Bell that
they were having lovely weather, especially when they
remembered what a disagreeable fall it had been last
year; certainly this October had been just about perfect.
The ladies used these superlatives in the tone of mild
defiance that almost any statement of fact has upon
feminine lips in America. It did not seem to matter that
their observations were entirely in union.

"I thought I'd run in--" said Miss Kimpsey, screwing
herself up by the arm of her chair.

"Yes?"

"And speak to you about a thing I've been thinking a good
deal of, Mrs. Bell, this last day or two. It's about
Elfrida."

Mrs. Bell's expression became judicial. If this was a
complaint--and she was not accustomed to complaints of
Elfrida--she would be careful how she took it.

"I hope--" she began.

"Oh, you needn't worry, Mrs. Bell. It's nothing about
her conduct, and it's nothing about her school work."

"Well, that's a relief," said Mrs. Bell, as if she had
expected it would be. "But I know she's bad at figures.
The child can't help that, though; she gets it from me.
I think I ought to ask you to be lenient with her on that
account."

"I have nothing to do with the mathematical branches,
Mrs, Bell. I teach only English to the senior classes.
But I haven't heard Mr. Jackson complain of Elfrida at
all." Feeling that she could no longer keep her errand
at arm's length, Miss Kimpsey desperately closed with
it. "I've come--I hope you won't mind--Mrs. Bell, Elfrida
has been quoting Rousseau in her compositions, and I
thought you'd like to know."

"In the original?" asked Mrs. Bell, with interest. "I
didn't think her French was advanced enough for that."

"No, from a translation," Miss Kimpsey replied. "Her
sentence ran: 'As the gifted Jean Jacques Rousseau told
the world in his "Confessions"'--I forget the rest. That
was the part that struck me most. She had evidently been
reading the works of Rousseau."

"Very likely. Elfrida has her own subscription at the
library," Mrs. Bell said speculatively. "It shows a taste
in reading beyond her years, doesn't it, Miss Kimpsey?
The child is only fifteen."

"Well, _I've_ never read Rousseau," the little teacher
stated definitely. "Isn't he--atheistical, Mrs. Bell,
and improper every way?"

Mrs. Bell raised her eyebrows and pushed out her lips at
the severity of this ignorant condemnation. "He was a
genius, Miss Kimpsey--rather I should say he _is_, for
genius cannot die. He is much thought of in France. People
there make a little shrine of the house he occupied with
Madame Warens, you know."

"Oh!" returned Miss Kimpsey, "_French_ people."

"Yes. The French are peculiarly happy in the way they
sanctify genius," said Mrs. Bell vaguely, with a feeling
that she was wasting a really valuable idea.

"Well, you'll have to excuse me, Mrs. Bell. I'd always
heard you entertained about as liberal views as there
were going on any subject, but I didn't expect they
embraced Rousseau." Miss Kimpsey spoke quite meekly. "I
know we live in an age of progress, but I guess I'm not
as progressive as some."

"Many will stay behind," interrupted Mrs. Bell impartially,
"but many more will advance."

"And I thought maybe Elfrida had been reading that author
without your knowledge or approval, and that perhaps
you'd like to know."

"I neither approve nor disapprove," said Mrs. Bell,
poising her elbow on the table, her chin upon her hand,
and her judgment, as it were, upon her chin. "I think
her mind ought to develop along the lines that nature
intended; I think nature is wiser than I am"--there was
an effect of condescending explanation here--"and I don't
feel justified in interfering. I may be wrong--"

"Oh no!" said Miss Kimpsey.

"But Elfrida's reading has always been very general. She
has a remarkable mind, if you will excuse my saying so;
it devours everything. I can't tell you _when_ she learned
to read, Miss Kimpsey--it seemed to come to her. She has
often reminded me of what you see in the biographies of
distinguished people about their youth. There are really
a great many points of similarity sometimes. I shouldn't
be surprised if Elfrida did anything. I wish _I_ had
had her opportunities!"

"She's growing very good-looking," remarked Miss Kimpsey.

"It's an interesting face," Mrs. Bell returned. "Here
is her last photograph. It's full of soul, I think. She
posed herself," Mrs. Bell added unconsciously.

It was a cabinet photograph of a girl whose eyes looked
definitely out of it, dark, large, well shaded, full of
a desire to be beautiful at once expressed and fulfilled.
The nose was a trifle heavily blocked, but the mouth had
sensitiveness and charm. There was a heaviness in the
chin, too, but the free springing curve of the neck
contradicted that, and the symmetry of the face defied
analysis. It was turned a little to one side, wistfully;
the pose and the expression suited each other perfectly.

"_Full_ of soul!" responded Miss Kimpsey. "She takes
awfully well, doesn't she! It reminds me--it reminds me
of pictures I've seen of Rachel, the actress, really it
does."

"I'm afraid Elfrida has no talent _that_ way." Mrs.
Bell's accent was quite one of regret.

"She seems completely wrapped up in her painting just
now," said Miss Kimpsey, with her eyes still on the
photograph.

"Yes; I often wonder what her career will be, and sometimes
it comes home to me that it must be art. The child can't
help it--she gets it straight from me. But there were no
art classes in my day." Mrs. Bell's tone implied a large
measure of what the world had lost in consequence. "Mr.
Bell doesn't agree with me about Elfrida's being predestined
for art," she went on, smiling; "his whole idea is that
she'll marry like other people."

"Well, if she goes on improving in looks at the rate she
has, you'll find it difficult to _prevent_, I should
think, Mrs. Bell." Miss Kimpsey began to wonder at her
own temerity in staying so long. "Should you be opposed
to it?"

"Oh, I shouldn't be _opposed_ to it exactly. I won't say
I don't expect it. I think she might do better, myself;
but I dare say matrimony will swallow her up as it does
everybody--almost everybody--else." A finer ear than Miss
Kimpsey's might have heard in this that to overcome Mrs.
Bell's objections matrimony must take a very attractive
form indeed, and that she had no doubt it would. Elfrida's
instructress did not hear it; she might have been less
overcome with the quality of these latter-day sentiments
if she had. Little Miss Kimpsey, whom matrimony had not
swallowed up, had risen to go. "Oh, I'm sure the most
gifted couldn't do _better_!" she said, hardily, in
departing, with a blush that turned her from buff-and-gray
to brick color.

Mrs. Bell picked up the _Revue_ after she had gone, and
read three lines of a paper on the climate and the soil
of Poland. Then she laid it down again at the same angle
with the corner of the table which it had described
before.

"Rousseau!" she said aloud to herself. "_C'est un peu
fort mais--_" and paused, probably for maturer reflection
upon the end of her sentence.



CHAPTER II.

"Leslie." said Mrs. Bell, making the unnecessary feminine
twist to get a view of her back hair from the mirror with
a hand-glass, "aren't you _delighted?_ Try to be candid
with yourself now, and own that she's tremendously
improved."

It would not have occurred to anybody but Mrs. Bell to
ask Mr. Leslie Bell to be candid with himself. Candor
was written in large letters all over Mr. Leslie Bell's
plain, broad countenance. So was a certain obstinacy,
not of will, but of adherence to prescribed principles,
which might very well have been the result of living for
twenty years with Mrs. Leslie Bell. Otherwise he was a
thick-set man with an intelligent bald head, a fresh-colored
complexion, and a well-trimmed gray beard. Mr. Leslie
Bell looked at life with logic, or thought he did, and
took it with ease, in a plain way. He was known to be a
good man of business, with a leaning toward generosity,
and much independence of opinion. It was not a custom
among election candidates to ask Leslie Bell for his
vote. It was pretty well understood that nothing would
influence it except his "views," and that none of the
ordinary considerations in use with refractory electors
would influence his views. He was a man of large,
undemonstrative affections, and it was a matter of private
regret with him that there should have been only one
child, and that a daughter, to bestow them upon. His
simplicity of nature was utterly beyond the understanding
of his wife, who had been building one elaborate theory
after another about him ever since they had been married,
conducting herself in mysterious accordance, but had
arrived accurately only at the fact that he preferred
two lumps of sugar in his tea.

Mr. Bell did not allow his attention to be taken from
the intricacies of his toilet by his wife's question
until she repeated it.

"Aren't you charmed with Elfrida, Leslie? Hasn't
Philadelphia improved her beyond your wildest dreams?"

Mr. Bell reflected. "You know I don't think Elfrida has
ever been as pretty as she was when she was five years
old, Maggie."

"_Do_ say Margaret," interposed Mrs. Bell plaintively.
She had been suffering from this for twenty years.

"It's of no use, my dear; I never remember unless there's
company present. I was going to say Elfrida had certainly
grown. She's got to her full size now, I should think,
and she dwarfs you, moth--Margaret."

Mrs. Bell looked at him with tragic eyes. "Do you see no
more in her than _that?_" she exclaimed.

"She looks well, I admit she looks well. She seems to
have got a kind of style in Philadelphia."

"_Style!_"

"I don't mean fashionable style--a style of her own; and
according to the professors, neither the time nor the
money has been wasted. But she's been a long year away,
Maggie. It's been considerably dull without her for you
and me. I hope she won't take it into her head to want
to leave home again."

"If it should be necessary to her plan of life--"

"It won't be necessary. She's nineteen now, and I'd like
to see her settle down here in Sparta, and the sooner
the better. Her painting will be an interest for her all
her life, and if ever she should be badly off she can
teach. That was my idea in giving her the training."

"Settle down in _Sparta!_" Mrs. Bell repeated, with a
significant curve of her superior lip. "Why, who is
there--"

"Lots of people, though it isn't for me to name them,
nor for you either, my dear. But speaking generally,
there isn't a town of its size in the Union with a finer
crop of go-ahead young men in it than Sparta."

Mrs. Bell was leaning against the inside shutter of their
bedroom window, looking out, while she waited for her
husband. As she looked, one of Sparta's go-ahead young
men, glancing up as he passed in the street below and
seeing her there behind the panes, raised his hat.

"Heavens, _no!_" said Mrs. Bell. "You don't understand,
Leslie."

"Perhaps not," Mr. Bell returned. "We must get that
packing-case opened after dinner. I'm anxious to see the
pictures." Mr. Bell put the finishing touches to his
little finger-nail and briskly pocketed his penknife.
"Shall we go downstairs now?" he suggested. "Fix your
brooch, mother; it's just on the drop."

Elfrida Bell had been a long year away--a year that seemed
longer to her than it possibly could to anybody in Sparta,
as she privately reflected when her father made this
observation for the second and the third time. Sparta
accounted for its days chiefly in ledgers, the girl
thought; there was a rising and a going down of the sun,
a little eating and drinking and speedy sleeping, a little
discussion of the newspapers. Sparta got over its days
by strides and stretches, and the strides and stretches
seemed afterward to have been made over gaps and gulfs
full of emptiness. The year divided itself and got its
painted leaves, its white silences, its rounding buds,
and its warm fragrances from the winds of heaven, and so
there were four seasons in Sparta, and people talked of
an early spring or a late fall; but Elfrida told herself
that time had no other division, and the days no other
color. Elfrida seemed to be unaware of the opening of
the new South Ward Episcopal Methodist Church. She
overlooked the municipal elections too, the plan for
overhauling the town waterworks, and the reorganization
of the public library. She even forgot the Browning Club.

Whereas--though Elfrida would never have said "whereas"
--the days in Philadelphia had been long and full. She
had often lived a week in one of them, and there had been
hours that stretched themselves over an infinity of life
and feeling, as Elfrida saw it, looking back. In reality,
her experience had been usual enough and poor enough;
but it had fed her in a way, and she enriched it with
her imagination, and thought, with keen and sincere pity,
that she had been starved till then. The question that
preoccupied her when she moved out of the Philadelphia
station in the Chicago train was that of future sustenance.
It was under the surface of her thoughts when she kissed
her father and mother and was made welcome home; it raised
a mute remonstrance against Mr. Bell's cheerful prophecy
that she would be content to stay in Sparta for a while
now, and get to know the young society; it neutralized
the pleasure of the triumphs in the packing-box. Besides,
their real delight had all been exhaled at the students'
exhibition in Philadelphia, when Philadelphia looked at
them. The opinion of Sparta, Elfrida thought, was not a
matter for anxiety. Sparta would be pleased in advance.

Elfrida allowed one extenuating point in her indictment
of Sparta: the place had produced her as she was at
eighteen, when they sent her to Philadelphia. This was
only half conscious--she was able to formulate it later
--but it influenced her sincere and vigorous disdain of
the town correctively, and we may believe that it operated
to except her father and mother from the general wreck
of her opinion to a greater extent than any more ordinary
feeling did. It was not in the least a sentiment of
affection for her birthplace; if she could have chosen
she would very much have preferred to be born somewhere
else. It was simply an important qualifying circumstance.
Her actual and her ideal self, her most mysterious and
interesting self, had originated in the air and the
opportunities of Sparta. Sparta had even done her the
service of showing her that she was unusual, by contrast,
and Elfrida felt that she ought to be thankful to somebody
or something for being as unusual as she was. She had
had a comfortable, spoiled feeling of gratitude for it
before she went to Philadelphia, which had developed in
the meantime into a shudder at the mere thought of what
it meant to be an ordinary person. "I could bear not to
be charming," said she sometimes to her Philadelphia
looking-glass, "but I could _not_ bear not to be clever."

She said "clever," but she meant more than that. Elfrida
Bell believed that something other than cleverness entered
into her personal equation. She looked sometimes into
her very soul to see what, but the writing there was in
strange characters that faded under her eyes, leaving
her uncomprehending but tranced. Meanwhile art spoke to
her from all sides, finding her responsive and more
responsive. Some books, some pictures, some music brought
her a curious exalted sense of double life. She could
not talk about it at all, but she could slip out into
the wet streets on a gusty October evening, and walk
miles exulting in it, and in the light on the puddles
and in the rain on her face, coming back, it must be
admitted, with red cheeks and an excellent appetite. It
led her into strange absent silences and ways of liking
to be alone, which gratified her mother and worried her
father. When Elfrida burned the gas of Sparta late in
her own room, it was always her father who saw the light
under the door, and who came and knocked and told her
that it was after eleven, and high time she was in bed.
Mrs. Bell usually protested. "How can the child reach
any true development," she asked, "if you interfere with
her like this?" to which Mr. Bell usually replied that
whatever she developed, he didn't want it to be headaches
and hysteria. Elfrida invariably answered, "Yes, papa,"
with complete docility; but it must be said that Mr. Bell
generally knocked in vain, and the more perfect the
submission of the daughterly reply the later the gas
would be apt to burn. Elfrida was always agreeable to
her father. So far as she thought of it she was
appreciatively fond of him, but the relation pleased her,
it was one that could be so charmingly sustained. For
already out of the other world she walked in--the world
of strange kinships and insights and recognitions, where
she saw truth afar off and worshipped, and as often met
falsehood in the way and turned raptly to follow--the
girl had drawn a vague and many-shaped idea of artistic
living which embraced the filial attitude among others
less explicable. It gave her pleasure to do certain things
in certain ways. She stood and sat and spoke, and even
thought, at times, with a subtle approval and enjoyment
of her manner of doing it. It was not actual artistic
achievement, but it was the sort of thing that entered
her imagination, as such achievement's natural corollary.
Her self-consciousness was a supreme fact of her
personality; it began earlier than any date she could
remember, and it was a channel of the most unfailing and
intense satisfaction to her from many sources. One was
her beauty, for she had developed an elusive beauty that
served her moods. When she was dull she called herself
ugly--unfairly, though her face lost tremendously in
value then--and her general dislike of dullness and
ugliness became particular and acute in connection with
herself. It is not too much to say that she took a keen
enjoying pleasure in the flush upon her own cheek and
the light in her own eyes no less than in the inward
sparkle that provoked it--an honest delight, she would
not have minded confessing it. Her height, her symmetry,
her perfect abounding health were separate joys to her;
she found absorbing and critical interest in the very
figment of her being. It was entirely preposterous that
a young woman should kneel at an attic window in a flood
of spring moonlight, with, her hair about the shoulders
of her nightgown, repeating Rossetti to the wakeful
budding garden, especially as it was for herself she did
it--nobody else saw her. She knelt there partly because
of a vague desire to taste the essence of the spring and
the garden and Rossetti at once, and partly because she
felt the romance of the foolish situation. She knew of
the shadow her hair made around her throat, and that her
eyes were glorious in the moonlight. Going back to bed,
she paused before the looking-glass and wafted a kiss,
as she blew the candle out, to the face she saw there.
It was such a pretty face, and so full of tire spirit
of. Rossetti and the moonlight, that she couldn't help
it. Then she slept, dreamlessly, comfortably, and late;
and in the morning she had never taken cold.

Philadelphia had pointed and sharpened all this. The
girl's training there had vitalized her brooding dreams
of producing what she worshipped, had given shape and
direction to her informal efforts, had concentrated them
upon charcoal and canvas. There was an enthusiasm for
work in the Institute, a canonization of names, a blazing
desire to imitate that tried hard to fan itself into
originality. Elfrida kindled at once, and felt that her
soul had lodged forever In her fingers, that art had
found for her, once for all, a sacred embodiment. She
spoke with subdued feeling of its other shapes; she was
at all points sympathetic; but she was no longer at all
points desirous. Her aim was taken. She would not write
novels or compose operas; she would paint. There was some
renunciation in it and some humility. The day she came
home, looking over a dainty sandalwood box full of early
verses, twice locked against her mother's eye, "The desire
of the moth for the star," she said to herself; but she
did not tear them up. That would have been brutal.

Elfrida wanted to put off opening the case that held her
year's work until next day. She quailed somewhat in
anticipation of her parents' criticisms as a matter of
fact; she would have preferred to postpone parrying them.
She acknowledged this to herself with a little irritation
that it should be so, but when her father insisted, chisel
in hand, she went down on her knees with charming
willingness to help him. Mrs. Bell took a seat on the
sofa and clasped her hands with the expression of one
who prepares for prayer.

One by one Mr. Leslie Bell drew out his daughter's studies
and copies, cutting their strings, clearing them of their
paper wrappings, and standing each separately against
the wall in his crisp, business-like way. They were all
mounted and framed; they stood very well against the
wall; but Mr. Bell, who began hopefully, was presently
obliged to try to hide his disappointment, the row was
so persistently black and white. Mrs. Bell, on the sofa,
had the look of postponing her devotions.

"You seem to have done a great many of these--etchings,"
said Mr. Bell.

"Oh, papa! They're not etchings, they're subjects in
charcoal--from casts and things."

"They do you credit--I've no doubt they do you credit.
They're very nicely drawn," returned her father, "but
they're a good deal alike. We wont be able to hang more
than two of them in the same room. Was _that_ what they
gave you the medal for?"

Mr. Bell indicated a drawing of Psyche. The lines were
delicate, expressive, and false; the relief was imperfect,
yet the feeling was undeniably caught. As a drawing it
was incorrect enough, but its charm lay in a subtle
spiritual something that bad worked into it from the
girl's own fingers, and made the beautiful empty classic
face modernly interesting. In view of its inaccuracy the
committee had been guilty of a most irregular proceeding
in recognizing it with a medal; but in a very young art
school this might be condoned.

"It's a perfectly lovely thing," interposed Mrs. Bell
from the sofa. "I'm sure it deserves one."

Elfrida said nothing. The study was ticketed, it had
obviously won a medal.

Mr. Bell looked at it critically. "Yes, it's certainly
well done. In spite of the frame--I wouldn't give ten
cents for the frame--the effect is fine. We most find a
good light for that. Oh, now we come to the oil-paintings.
We both presumed you would do well at the oil-paintings;
and for my part," continued Mr. Bell definitely, "I like
them best. There's more variety in them." He was holding
at arm's-length, as he spoke, an oblong scrap of filmy
blue sky and marshy green fields in a preposterously
wide, flat, dull gold frame, and looking at it in a
puzzled way. Presently he reversed it and looked again.

"No, papa," Elfrida said, "you had it right side up
before." She was biting her lip, and struggling with a
desire to pile them all back into the box and shut the
lid and stamp on it.

"That's exquisite!" murmured Mrs. Bell, when Mr. Bell
had righted it again.

"It's one of the worst," said Elfrida briefly. Mr. Bell
looked relieved. "Since that's your own opinion, Elfrida,"
he said, "I don't mind saying that I don't care much
about it either. It looks as if you'd got tired of it
before you finished it."

"Does it?" Elfrida said.

"Now this is a much better thing, in my opinion," her
father went on, standing the picture of an old woman
behind an apple-stall along the wall with the rest "I
don't pretend to be a judge, but I know what I like, and
I like that. It explains itself."

"It's a lovely bit of color," remarked Mrs. Bell.

Elfrida smiled. "Thank you, mamma," she said, and kissed
her.

When the box was exhausted, Mr. Bell walked up and down
for a few minutes in front of the row against the wall,
with his hands in his pockets, reflecting, while Mrs.
Bell discovered new beauties to the author of them.

"We'll hang this lot in the dining-room," he said at
length, "and those black-and-whites with the oak mountings
in the parlor. They'll go best with the wall-paper there."

"Yes, papa."

"And I hope you won't mind, Elfrida," he added, "but I've
promised that they shall have one of your paintings to
raffle off in the bazar for the alterations in the
Sunday-school next week."

"Oh no, papa. I shall be delighted."

Elfrida was sitting beside her mother on the sofa, and
at the dose of this proposition Mr. Bell came and sat
there too. There was a silence for a moment while they
all three confronted the line of pictures leaning against
the wall Then Elfrida began to laugh, and she went on
laughing, to the astonishment of her parents, until the
tears came into her eyes. She stopped as suddenly, kissed
her mother and father, and went upstairs. "I'm afraid
you've hurt Her feelings, Leslie," said Mrs. Bell, when
she had well gone.

But Elfrida's feelings had not been hurt, though one
might say that the evening left her sense of humor rather
sore. At that moment she was dallying with the temptation
to describe the whole scene in a letter to a valued friend
in Philadelphia, who would have appreciated it with mirth.
In the end she did not write. It would have been too
humiliating.



CHAPTER III.

"_Pas mal, parbleu!_" Lucien remarked, with pursed-out
lips, running his fingers through his shock of coarse
hair, and reflectively scratching the top of his big head
as he stepped closer to Nadie Palicsky's elbow, where
she stood at her easel in his crowded atelier. The girl
turned and looked keenly into his face, seeking his eyes,
which were on her work with a considering, interested
look. Satisfied, she sent a glance of joyous triumph at
a somewhat older woman, whose place was next, and who
was listening with the amiable effacement of countenance
that is sometimes a more or less successful disguise for
chagrin. On this occasion it seemed to fail, for
Mademoiselle Palicsky turned her attention to Lucien and
her work again with a slight raising of the eyebrows and
a slighter sigh. Her face assumed a gentle melancholy,
as if she were pained at the exhibition of a weakness of
her sex; yet it was unnecessary to be an acute observer
to read there the hope that Lucien's significant phrase
had not by any chance escaped her neighbor.

"The drawing of the neck," Lucien went on, "is excellently
brutal." Nadie wished he would speak a little louder,
but Lucien always arranged the carrying power of his
voice according to the susceptibilities of the atelier.
He thrust his hands into his pockets and still stood
beside her, looking at her study of the nude model who
posed upon a table in the midst of the students. "In you,
mademoiselle," he added in a tone yet lower, "I find the
woman and the artist divorced. That is a vast advantage--an
immense source of power. I am growing more certain of
you; you are not merely cleverly eccentric as I thought.
You have a great deal that no one can teach you. You have
finished that--I wish to take it downstairs to show the
men. It will not be jeered at, I promise you."

"_Cher maitre!_ You mean it?"

"But certainly!"

The girl handed him the study with a look of almost
doglike gratitude in her narrow gray eyes. Lucien had
never said so much to her before, though the whole atelier
had noticed how often he had been coming to her easel
lately, and had disparaged her in corners accordingly.
She looked at the tiny silver watch she wore in a leather
strap on her left wrist--he had spent nearly five minutes
with her this time, watching her work and talking to her,
in itself a triumph. It was almost four o'clock, and the
winter daylight was going; presently they would all stop
work. Partly for the pleasure of being chaffed and envied
and complimented in the anteroom in the general washing
of brushes, and partly to watch Lucien's rapid progress
among the remaining easels, Mademoiselle Palicsky
deliberately sat down, in a prematurely vacant chair,
slung one slender little limb over the other, and waited.
As she sat there a generous thought rose above her
exultation. She hoped everybody else in the atelier had
guessed what Lucien was saying to her all that while,
and had seen him carry off her day's work, but not the
little American. The little American, who was at least
thirteen inches taller than Mademoiselle Palicsky, was
sufficiently discouraged already, and it was pathetic,
in view of almost a year of failure, to see how she clung
to her ghost of a talent Besides, the little American
admired Nadie Palicsky, her friend, her comrade, quite
enough already.

Elfrida had heard, nevertheless. She listened eagerly,
tensely, as she always did when Lucien opened his lips
in her neighborhood. When she saw him take the sketch to
show in the men's atelier downstairs, to exhibit to that
horde of animals below, whose studies and sketches and
compositions were so constantly brought up for the stimulus
and instruction of Lucien's women students, she grew
suddenly so white that the girl who worked next her, a
straw-colored Swede, asked her if she were ill, and
offered her a little green bottle of salts of lavender.
"It's that beast of a calorifere," the Swede said, nodding
at the hideous black cylinder that stood near them,
"they will always make it too hot."

Elfrida waved the salts back hastily--Lucien was coming
her way. She worked seated, and as he seemed on the point
of passing with merely a casual glance and an ambiguous
"H'm!" she started up. The movement effectually arrested
him, unintentional though it seemed. He frowned slightly,
thrusting his hands deep into his coat-pockets, and looked
again.

"We must find a better place for you, mademoiselle; you
can make nothing of it here so close to the model, and
below him thus." He would have gone on, but in spite of
his intention to avert his eyes he caught the girl's
glance, and something infinitely appealing in it stayed
him again. "Mademoiselle," he said, with visible irritation,
"there is nothing to say that I have not said many times
already. Your drawing is still ladylike, your color is
still pretty, and, _sapristi!_ you have worked with me
a year! Still," he added, recollecting himself--Lucien
never lost a student by over-candor--"considering your
difficult place the shoulders are not so bad. _Continuez_,
mademoiselle."

The girl's eyes were fastened immovably upon her work as
she sat down again, painting rapidly in an ineffectual,
meaningless way, with the merest touch of color in her
brush. Her face glowed with the deepest shame that had
ever visited her. Lucien was scolding the Swede roundly;
she had disappointed him, he said. Elfrida felt heavily
how impossible it was that _she_ should disappoint him.
And they had all heard--the English girl in the South
Kensington gown, the rich New Yorker, Nadie's rival the
Roumanian, Nadie herself; and they were all, except the
last, working more vigorously for hearing. Nadie had
turned her head away, and so far as the back of a neck
and the tips of two ears could express oblivion of what
had passed, it might have been gathered from hers. But
Elfrida knew better, and she resented the pity of the
pretence more than if she had met Mademoiselle Palicsky's
long light gray eyes full of derisive laughter.

For a year she had been in it and of it, that intoxicating
life of the Quartier Latin: so much in it that she had
gladly forgotten any former one; so much of it that it
had become treason to believe existence supportable under
any other conditions. It was her pride that she had felt
everything from the beginning; her instinctive apprehension
of all that is to be apprehended in the passionate,
fantastic, vivid life on the left side of the Seine had
been a conscious joy from the day she had taken her tiny
appartement in the Rue Porte Royale, and bought her colors
and sketching-block from a dwarf-like little dealer in
the next street, who assured her proudly that he supplied
Henner and Dagnan-Bouveret, and moreover knew precisely
what she wanted from experience. "_Moi aussi, mademoiselle,
je suis artist!_" She had learned nothing, she had absorbed
everything. It seemed to her that she had entered into
her inheritance, and that in the possessions that throng
the Quartier Latin she was born to be rich. In thinking
this she had an Overpowering realization of the poverty
of Sparta, so convincing that she found it unnecessary
to tell herself that she would never go back there. That
was the unconscious pivotal supposition in everything
she thought or said or did. After the first bewildering
day or two when the exquisite thrill of Paris captured
her indefinitely, she felt the full tide of her life turn
and flow steadily in a new direction with a delight of
revelation and an ecstasy of promise that made nothing
in its sweep of every emotion that had not its birth and
growth in art, and forbade the mere consideration of
anything that might be an obstacle, as if it were a sin.
She entered her new world with proud recognition of its
unwritten laws, its unsanctified morale, its riotous
overflowing ideals; and she was instant in gathering that
to see, to comprehend these was to be thrice blessed, as
not to see, not to comprehend them was to dwell in outer
darkness with the bourgeois, and the "sandpaper" artists,
and others who are without hope. It gave her moments of
pure delight to reflect how little "the people" suspected
the reality of the existence of such a world notwithstanding
all they read and all they professed, and how absolutely
exclusive it was in the very nature of nature; how it
had its own language untranslatable, its own creed
unbelievable, its own customs unfathomable by outsiders,
and yet among the true-born how divinely simple recognition
was. Her allegiance had the loyalty of every fibre of
her being; her scorn of the world she had left was too
honest to permit any posing in that regard. The life at
Sparta assumed the colors and very much the significance
depicted on a bit of faded tapestry; when she thought of
it, it was to groan that so many of her young impressionable
years had been wasted there. She hoarded her years, now
that every day and every hour was suffused with its
individual pleasure or interest, or that keen artistic
pain which also had its value, as a sensation, in the
Quartier Latin. It distressed her to think that she was
almost twenty-one.

The interminable year that intervened between Elfrida's
return from Philadelphia and her triumph in the matter
of being allowed to go to Paris to study, she had devoted
mainly to the society of the Swiss governess in the Sparta
Seminary for young ladies--Methodist Episcopal--with the
successful object of getting a working knowledge of
French. There had been a certain amount of "young society"
too, and one or two incipient love-affairs, watched with
anxious interest by her father and with a harrowed
conscience by her mother, who knew Elfrida's capacity
for amusing herself; and unlimited opportunities had
occurred for the tacit exhibition of her superiority to
Sparta, of which she had not always taken advantage. But
the significance of the year gathered into the French
lessons; it was by virtue of these that the time had a
place in her memory. Mademoiselle Joubert supplemented
her instruction with a violent affection, a great deal
of her society, and the most entertainingly modern of
the French novels, which Brentano sent her monthly in
enticing packets, her single indulgence. So that after
the first confusion of a multitude of tongues in the
irrelevant Parisian key Elfrida found herself reasonably
fluent and fairly at ease. The illumined jargon of the
atelier staid with her naturally; she never forgot a word
or a phrase, and in two months she was babbling and
mocking with the rest.

She lived alone; she learned readily to do it on eighty
francs a month, and her appartement became charming in
three weeks. She divined what she should have there, and
she managed to get extraordinary bargains in mystery and
history out of the dealers in such things, so cracked
and so rusty, so moth-eaten and of such excellent color,
that the escape of the combined effect from _banalite_
was a marvel. She had a short, sharp struggle with her
American taste for simple elegance in dress, and overthrew
it, aiming, with some success, at originality instead.
She found it easy in Paris to invest her striking
personality in a distinctive costume, sufficiently becoming
and sufficiently odd, of which a broad soft felt hat,
which made a delightful brigand of her, and a Hungarian
cloak formed important features. The Hungarian cloak
suited her so extremely well that artistic considerations
compelled her to wear it occasionally, I fear, when other
people would have found it uncomfortably warm. In nothing
that she said or did or admired or condemned was there
any trace of the commonplace, except, perhaps, the desire
to avoid it; it had become her conviction that she owed
this to herself. She was thoroughly popular in the atelier,
her _petits soupers_ were so good, her enthusiasms so
generous, her drawing so bad. The other pupils declared
that she had a head _divinement tragique_, and for those
of them she liked she sometimes posed, filling impressive
parts in their weekly compositions. They all knew the
little appartement in the Rue Porte Royale, more or less
well according to the favor with which they were received.
Nadie Palicsky perhaps knew it best--Nadie Palicsky and
her friend Monsieur Andre Vambery, who always accompanied
her when, she came to Elfrida's in the evening, finding
it impossible to allow her to be out alone at night,
which Nadie confessed agreeable to her vanity, but a bore.

Elfrida found it difficult in the beginning to admire
the friend. He was too small for dignity, and Nadie's
inspired comparison of his long black hair to "_serpents
noirs_" left her unimpressed. Moreover she thought she
detected about him a personal odor which was neither that
of sanctity nor any other abstraction. It took time and
conversation and some acquaintance with values as they
obtain at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, and the knowledge of
what it meant to be "selling," to lift Monsieur Vambery
to his proper place in her regard. After that she blushed
that he had ever held any other. But from the first
Elfrida had been conscious of a kind of pride in her
unshrinking acceptance of the situation. She and Nadie
had exchanged a pledge of some sort, when Mademoiselle
Palicsky bethought herself of the unconfessed fact. She
gave Elfrida a narrow look, and then leaned back in her
low chair and bent an imperturbable gaze upon the slender
spiral of blue smoke that rose from the end of her
cigarette.

"It is necessary now that you should know, petite--nobody
else does, Lucien would be sure to make a fuss, but--I
have a lover, and we have decided about marriage that it
is ridiculous. It is a _brave ame_. You ought to know
him; but if it makes any difference--"

Elfrida reflected afterward with satisfaction that she
had not even changed color, though she had found the
communication electric. It seemed to her that there had
been something dignified, noble almost, in the answer
she had made, with a smile that acknowledged the fact
that the world had scruples on such accounts as these:

"_Cela m'est absolument egal!_"

So far as the life went it was perfect. The Quartier
spoke and her soul answered it, and the world had nothing
to compare with a conversation like that. But the question
of production, of achievement, was beginning to bring
her moments when she had a terrible sensation that the
temperature of her passion was chilled. She had not yet
seen despair, but she had now and then lost her hold of
herself, and she had made acquaintance with fear. There
had been no vivid realization of failure, but a problem
was beginning to form in her mind, and with it a distinct
terror of the solution, which sometimes found a shape in
her dreams. In waking, voluntary moments she would see
her problem only as an unanswerable enigma.

Yet in the beginning she had felt a splendid confidence.
Her appropriation of theory had been so brilliant and so
rapid, her instructive appreciation had helped itself
out so well with the casual formulas of the schools, she
seemed to herself to have an absolute understanding of
expression. She held her social place among the others
by her power of perception, and that, with the completeness
of her repudiation of the bourgeois, had given her Nadie
Palicsky, whom the rest found difficult, variable,
unreasonable. Elfrida was certain that if she might only
talk to Lucien she could persuade him of a great deal
about her talent that escaped him--she was sore it escaped
him--in the mere examination of her work. It chafed her
always that her personality could not touch the master;
that she must day after day be only the dumb, submissive
pupil. She felt sometimes that there were things she
might say to Lucien which would be interesting and valuable
for him to hear.

Lucien was always non-committal for the first few months.
Everybody said so, and it was natural enough. Elfrida
set her teeth against his silences, his casual looks and
ambiguous encouragements for a length of time which did
infinite credit to her determination. She felt herself
capable of an eternity of pain; she was proudly conscious
of a willingness to oppose herself to innumerable
discouragements--to back her talent, as it were, against
all odds. That was historic, dignified, to be expected!
But in the inmost privacy of her soul she had conceived
the character of the obstacles she was prepared to face,
and the list resolutely excluded any idea that it might
not be worth while. Indifference and contempt cut at the
very roots of her pledges to herself. As she sat listening
on this afternoon to the vivid terms of Lucien's disapproval
of what the Swede had done, she had a sharp consciousness
of this severance.

She had nothing to say to any one in the general babble
of the anteroom, and nobody notified her white face and
resolute eyes particularly--the Americans were always
so pale and so _exalte_. Nadie kept away from her.
Elfrida had to cross the room and bring her, with a little
touch of angry assertion upon the arm, from the middle
of the group she had drawn around her, on purpose, as
her friend knew.

"I want you to dine with me--really _dine_," she said,
and her voice was both eager and repressed. "We win go
to Babaudin's--one gets an excellent haricot there--and
you shall have that little white cheese that you love.
Come! I want you particularly. I will even make him
bring champagne--anything."

Nadie gave her a quick look and made a little theatrical
gesture of delight.

"_Quell bonheur!_" she cried for the benefit of the
others; and then in a lower tone: "But not Babaudins,
petite. Andre will not permit Babaudin's; he says it is
not _convenable_," and she threw up her eyes with mock
resignation. "Say Papaud's. They keep their feet off the
table at Papaud's--there are fewer of those _betes des
Anglais_."

"Papaud's is cheaper," Elfrida returned darkly. "The
few Englishmen who dine at Babaudin's behave perfectly
well. I will not be insulted about the cost. I'll be
answerable to Andre. You don't lie as a general thing,
and why now? I can afford it, truly. You need not be
distressed."

Mademoiselle Palicsky looked into the girl's tense face
for an instant, and laughed a gay assent. But to herself
she said, as she finished drying her brushes on an
inconceivably dirty bit of cotton: "She has found herself
out, she has come to the truth. She has discovered that
it is not in her, and she is coming to me for corroboration.
Well, I will not give it, me! It is extremely disagreeable,
and I have not the courage. _Pourquoi donc!_ I will send
her to Monsieur John Kendal; she may make him responsible.
He will break her, but he will not lie to her; they
sacrifice all to their consciences, those English! And
now, you good-natured fool, you are in for a devil of an
evening!"



CHAPTER IV.

"Three months more," Elfrida Bell said to herself next
morning, in the act of boiling an egg over a tiny kerosene
stove in the cupboard that served her as a kitchen, "and
I will put it to every test I know. Three unflinching
months! John Kendal will not have gone back to England
by that time. I shall still get his opinion. If he is
only as encouraging as Nadie was last night, dear thing!
I almost forgave her for being so much, much cleverer
than I am. Oh, letters!" as a heavy knock repeated itself
upon the door of the room outside.

There was only one; it was thrust beneath the door,
showing a white triangle to her expectancy as she ran
out to secure it, while the fourth flight creaked under
Madame Vamousin descending. She picked it up with a light
heart--she was young and she had slept. Yesterday's strain
had passed; she was ready to count yesterday's experience
among the things that must be met. Nadie had been so
sensible about it. This was a letter from home, and the
American mail was not due until next day. Inside there
would be news of a little pleasure trip to New York,
which her father and mother had been planning lately
--Elfrida constantly urged upon her parents the necessity
of amusing themselves--and a remittance. The remittance
would be more than usually welcome, for she was a little
in debt--a mere trifle, fifty or sixty francs; but Elfrida
hated being in debt. She tore the end of the envelope
across with absolute satisfaction, which was only half
chilled when she opened out each of the four closely
written sheets of foreign letter-paper in turn and saw
that the usual postal order was not there.

Having ascertained this however, she went back to her
egg; in another ten seconds it would have been hard-boiled,
a thing she detested. There was the, egg, and there was
some apricot-jam--the egg in a slender-stemmed Arabian
silver cup, the jam golden in a little round dish of
wonderful old blue. She set it forth, with the milk-bread
and the butter and the coffee, on a bit of much mended
damask with a pattern of rosebuds and a coronet in one
corner. Her breakfast gave her several sorts of pleasure.

Half an hour after it was over she was still sitting with
the letter in her lap. It is possible to imagine that
she looked ugly. Her dark eyes had a look of persistence
in spite of fear, a line or two shot up from between her
brows, her lips were pursed a little and drawn down at
the corners, her chin thrust forward. Her face and her
attitude helped each other to express the distinctest
possible negative. Her neck had an obstinate bend; she
leaned forward clasping her knees, for the moment a
creature of rigid straight lines. She had hardly moved
since she read the letter.

She was sorry to learn that her father had been unfortunate
in business, that the Illinois Indubitable Insurance
Company had failed. At his age the blow would be severe,
and the prospect, after a life of comparative luxury, of
subsisting even in Sparta on eight hundred dollars a year
could not be an inviting one for either of her parents.
When she thought of their giving up the white brick house
in Columbia Avenue and going to live in Cox Street,
Elfrida was thoroughly grieved. She felt the sincerest
gratitude, however, that the misfortune had not come
sooner, before she had learned the true significance of
living, while yet it might have placed her in a state of
blind irresolution which would probably have lasted
indefinitely. After a year in Paris she was able to make
up her mind, and this she could not congratulate herself
upon sufficiently, since a decision at the moment was of
such vital importance! For one point upon which Mrs.
Leslie's letter insisted, regretfully but strongly, was
that the next remittance, which they hoped to be able to
send in a week or two, would necessarily be the last. It
would be as large as they could make it; at all events
it would amply cover her passage and railway expenses to
Sparta, and of course she would sail as soon as it reached
her. It was an elaborate letter, written in phrases which
Mrs. Leslie thought she evolved, but probably remembered
from a long and comprehensive course of fiction as
appropriate to the occasion, and Elfrida read between
the lines with some impatience how largely their trouble
was softened to her mother by the consideration that it
would inevitably bring her back to them. "We can bear it
well if we bear it together," wrote Mrs. Bell. "You have
always been our brave daughter, and your young courage
will be invaluable to us now. Your talents will be our
flowers by the way-side. We shall take the keenest possible
delight in watching them expand, as, even under the cloud
of financial adversity, we know they will."

"Dear over-confident parent," Elfrida reflected grimly
at this point, "I must yet prove that I have any."

Along with the situation she studied elaborately the
third page of the _Sparta Sentinel_. When it had arrived,
months before, containing the best part of a long letter
describing Paris, which she had written to her mother in
the first freshness of her delighted impressions, she
had glanced over it with half-amused annoyance at the
foolish parental pride that suggested printing it. She
was already too remote from the life of Sparta to care
very much one way or another, but such feeling as she
had was of that sort. And the compliments from the
minister, from various members of the Browning Club, from
the editor himself, that filtered through her mother's
letters during the next two or three weeks, made her
shrug with their absolute irrelevance to the only praise
that could thrill her and the only purpose she held dear.
Even now, when the printed lines contained the significance
of a possible resource, she did not give so much as a
thought to the flattering opinion of Sparta as her mother
had conveyed it to her. She read them over and over,
relying desperately on her own critical sense and her
knowledge of what the Paris correspondent of the _Daily
Dial_ thought of her chances in that direction. He, Frank
Parke, had told her once that if her brush failed she
had only to try her pen, though he made use of no such
commonplace as that. He said it, too, at the end of half
an hour's talk with her, only half an hour. Elfrida,
when she wished to be exact with her vanity, told herself
that it could not have been more than twenty-five minutes.
She wished for particular reasons to be exact with it
now, and she did not fail to give proper weight to the
fact that Frank Parke had never seen her before that day.
The Paris correspondent of the _Daily Dial_ was well
enough known to be of the _monde_, and rich enough to be
as bourgeois as anybody. Therefore some of the people
who knew him thought it odd that at his age this gentleman
should prefer the indelicacies of the Quartier to those
of "tout Paris," and the bad vermouth and cheap cigars
of the Rue Luxembourg to the peculiarly excellent quality
of champagne with which the president's wife made her
social atonement to the Faubourg St. Germain. But it was
so, and its being so rendered Frank Parke's opinion that
Miss Bell could write if she chose to try, not only
supremely valuable to her, but available for the second
time if necessary, which was perhaps more important.

There would be a little more money from Sparta, perhaps
one hundred and fifty dollars. It would come in a week,
and after that there would be none. But a supply of it,
however modest, must be arranged somehow--there were the
"frais" of the atelier, to speak of nothing else. The
necessity was irritatingly absolute. Elfrida wished that
her scruples were not so acute about arranging it by
writing for the press. "If I could think for a moment
that I had any right to it as a means of expression!"
she reflected. "But I haven't. It is an art for others.
And it _is_ an art, as sacred as mine. I have no business
to degrade it to my uses." Her mental position when she
went to see Frank Parke was a cynical compromise with
her artistic conscience, of which she nevertheless
sincerely regretted the necessity.

The correspondent of the _Daily Dial_ had a club for one
side of the river and a cafe for the other. He dined
oftenest at the cafe, and Elfrida's card, with "urgent"
inscribed in pencil on it, was brought to him that evening
as he was finishing his coffee. She had no difficulty
in getting it taken in. Mr. Parke's theory was that a
newspaper man gained more than he lost by accessibility.
He came out immediately, furtively returning a toothpick
to his waistcoat pocket--a bald, stout gentleman of middle
age, dressed in loose gray clothes, with shrewd eyes, a
nose which his benevolence just saved from being hawk-like,
a bristling white mustache, and a pink double chin. It
rather pleased Frank Parke, who was born in Hammersmith,
to be so constantly taken for an American--presumably a
New Yorker.

"Monsieur--" began Elfrida a little formally. She would
not have gone on in French, but it was her way to use
this form with the men she knew in Paris, irrespective
of their nationality, just as she invariably addressed
letters which were to be delivered in Sparta, Illinois,
"a madame Leslie Bell, Avenue Columbia," of that
municipality.

"Miss Elfrida, I am delighted to see you," he interrupted
her, stretching out one hand and looking at his watch
with the other. "I am fortunate in having fifteen whole
minutes to put at your disposal At the end of that time
I have an appointment with a cabinet minister, who would
rather see the devil. So I most be punctual. Shall we
walk a bit along these dear boulevards, or shall I get
a fiacre? No? You're quite right--Paris was made for
eternal walking. Now, what is it, my dear child?"

Mr. Parke had already concluded that it was money, and
had fixed the amount he would lend. It was just half of
what Mademoiselle Knike, of Paolo Rossi's, had succeeded
in extracting from him last week. He liked having a
reputation for amiability among the ateliers, but he must
not let it cost too much.

Elfrida felt none of that benumbing shame which sometimes
seizes those who would try literature confessing to those
who have succeeded in it, and the occasion was too
important for the decorative diffidence that might have
occurred to her if it had been trivial. She had herself
well gathered together, and she would have been concise
and direct even if there had been more than fifteen
minutes.

"One afternoon last September, at Nadie Palicsky's--there
is no chance that you will remember, but I assure you it
is so--you told me that I might, if I tried--write,
monsieur."

The concentration of her purpose in her voice made itself
felt where Frank Parke kept his acuter perceptions, and
put them at her service.

"I remember perfectly," he said.

"_Je m'en felicite_. It is more than I expected. Well,
circumstances have made it so that I must either write
or scrub. Scrubbing spoils one's hands, and besides, it
isn't sufficiently remunerative. So I have come to ask
you whether you seriously thought so, or whether it was
only politeness--_blague_--or what? I know it is horrible
of me to insist like, this, but you see I must." Her big
dark eyed looked at him without a shadow of appeal, rather
as if he were destiny and she were unafraid.

"Oh, I meant it," he returned ponderingly. "You can often
tell by the way people talk that they would write well.
But there are many things to be considered, you know."

"Oh, I know--whether one has any real right to write,
anything to say that makes it worth while. I'm afraid
I can't find that I have. But there must be scullery-maid's
work in literature--in journalism, isn't there? I could
do that, I thought. After all, it's only one's own art
that one need keep sacred." She added the last sentence
a little defiantly.

Bat the correspondent of the _Daily Dial_ was not thinking
of that aspect of the matter. "It's not a thing you can
jump into," he said shortly. "Have you written anything,
anywhere, for the press before?"

"Only one or two things that have appeared in the local
paper at home. They were more or less admired by the
people there, so far as that goes."

"Were you paid for them?"

Elfrida shook her head. "I've often heard the editor say
he paid for nothing but his telegrams," she said.

"There it is, you see."

"I want to write for _Raffini's Chronicle_," Elfrida said
quickly. "You know the editor of _Raffini_, of course,
Mr. Parke. You know everybody. Will you do me the very
great favor to tell him that I will report society
functions for him at one half the price he is accustomed
to pay for such writing, and do it more entertainingly?"

Frank Parke smiled. "You are courageous indeed, Hiss
Elfrida. That is done by a woman who is invited, every
where in her proper person, and knows 'tout Paris' like
her alphabet I believe she holds stock in _Raffini_;
anyway, they would double her pay rather than lose her.
You would have more chance of ousting their leader-writer."

"I should be sorry to oust anybody," Elfrida returned
with dignity.

"How do you propose to help it, if you go in for doing
better or cheaper what somebody else has been doing
before?"

Miss Bell thought for a minute, and demonstrated her
irresponsibility with a little shrug. "Then I'm very
sorry," she said. "But, monsieur, you haven't told me
what to do."

The illuminator of European politics for the _Daily Dial_
wished heartily that it had been a matter of two or three
hundred francs.

"I'm afraid I--well, I don't see how I _can_ give you
any very definite advice. The situation doesn't admit of
it, Miss Bell. But--have you given up Lucien?"

"No. It is only that--that I must earn money to pay him."

"Oh! Home supplies stopped?"

"My people have lost all their money except barely enough
to live on. I cant expect another sou."

"That's hard lines!"

"I'm awfully sorry for them. But it isn't enough, being
sorry, you know. I must do something. I thought I might
write for _Raffini_, for--for practice, you know--the
articles they print are really very bad--and afterward
arrange to send Paris letters to some of the big American
newspapers. I know a woman who does it I assure you she
is quite stupid. And she is paid--but enormously!" Mr.
Parke repressed his inclination to smile.

"I believe that sort of thing over there is very much in
the hands of the syndicates--McClure and those fellows,"
he said, "and they won't look at you unless you're known.
I don't want to discourage you, Miss Bell, but it would
take you at least a year to form a connection. You would
have to learn Paris about five times as well as you fancy
you know it already, and then you would require a special
course of training to find out what to write about. And
then, remember, you would have to compete with people
who know every inch of the ground. Now if I can be of
any assistance to you _en camarade_, you know, in the
matter of your passage home--"

"Thanks," Elfrida interposed quickly, "I'm not going
home. If I can't write I can scrub, as I said. I must
find out." She put out her hand. "I am sure there are
not many of those fifteen minutes left," she said, smiling
and quite undismayed. "I have to thank you very sincerely
for--for sticking to the opinion you expressed when it
was only a matter of theory. As soon as I justify it in
practice I'll let you know."

The correspondent of the _Daily Dial_ hesitated, looked
at his watch and hesitated again. "There's plenty of
time," he fibbed, frowning over the problem of what might
be done.

"Oh no!" Elfrida said. "You are very kind, but there
can't be. You will be very late, and perhaps his Excellency
will have given the audience to the devil instead--or to
Monsieur de Pommitz." Her eyes expressed perfect
indifference. Frank Parke laughed outright. De Pommitz
was his rival for every political development, and shone
dangerously in the telegraphic columns of the London
_World_.

"De Pommitz isn't in it this time," he said. "I'll tell
you what I _might_ do, Miss Elfrida. How long have you
got for this--experiment?"

"Less than a week."

"Well, go home and write me an article--something locally
descriptive. Make it as bright as you can, and take a
familiar subject. Let me have it in three days, and I'll
see if I can get it into _Raffini_ for you. Of course,
you know, I can't promise that they'll look at it."

"You are very good," Elfrida returned hastily, seeing
his real anxiety to be off. "Something locally descriptive.
I've often thought the atelier would make a good subject."

"Capital, capital! Only be very careful about personalities
and so forth. _Raffini_ hates giving offence. Good-bye!
Here you, _cocher!_ Boulevard Haussmann!"



CHAPTER V.

John Kendal had only one theory that was not received
with respect by the men at Lucien's. They quoted it as
often as other things he said, but always in a spirit of
derision, while Kendal's ideas as a rule got themselves
discussed seriously, now and then furiously. This young
man had been working in the atelier for three years with
marked success almost from the beginning. The first things
he did had a character and an importance that brought
Lucien himself to admit a degree of soundness in the
young fellow's earlier training, which was equal to great
praise. Since then he had found the line in the most
interesting room in the Palais d'Industrie, the _cours_
had twice medalled him, and Albert Wolff was beginning
to talk about his _coloration delicieuse_. Also it was
known that he had condescended for none of these things.
His success in Paris added piquancy to his preposterous
notion that an Englishman should go home and paint England
and hang his work in the Academy, and made it even more
unreasonable than if he had failed.

"For me," remarked Andre Vambery, with a finely curled
lip, "I never see an English landscape without thinking
of what it would bring _par hectare_. It is _trop
arrangee_, that country, all laid out in a pattern of
hedges and clumps, for the pleasure of the milords. And
every milord has the taste of every other milord. He will
go home to perpetuate that!"

"_Si, si! Mais c'est pour sa patrie._"

Nadie defended him. Women always did.

"Bah!" returned her lover. "_Pour nous autres artists la
France est la patrie, et la France seule!_ Every day he
is in England he will lose--lose--lose. Enfin, he will
paint the portraits of the wives and daughters of Sir
Brown and Sir Smith, and he will do it as Sir Brown and
Sir Smith advise. _Avec son talent unique, distinctive!
Oh, je suis a bout de patience!_"

When Kendal's opinion materialized and it became known
that he meant to go back in February, and would send
nothing to the Salon that year, the studio tore its hair
and hugged its content. All but the master, who attempted
to dissuade his pupil with literal tears, of which he
did not seem in the least ashamed and which annoyed Kendal
very much. In fact, it was a dramatic splash of Lucien's
which happened to fall upon his coat-sleeve that decided
Kendal finally about the impossibility of living always
in Paris. He could not take life seriously where the
emotions lent themselves so easily. And Kendal thought
that he ought to take life seriously, because his natural
tendency was otherwise. Kendal was an Englishman with a
temperament which multiplied his individuality. If his
father, who was once in the Indian Staff Corps, had lived,
Kendal would probably have gone into the Indian Staff
Corps too. And if his mother, who was of clerical stock,
had not died about the same time, it is more than likely
that she would have persuaded him to the bar. With his
parents the obligation to be anything in particular seemed
to Kendal to have been removed, however, and he followed
his inclination in the matter instead, which made him an
artist. He would have found life too interesting to
confine his observation of it within the scope of any
profession, but of course he could have chosen none which
presents it with greater fascination. To speak quite
baldly about him, his intelligence and his sympathies
had a wider range than is represented by any one power
of expression, even the catholic brush. He had the
analytical turn of the age, though it had been denied
him to demonstrate what he saw except through an art
which is synthetic. With a more comprehensive conception
of modern tendencies and a subtler descriptive vocabulary,
Kendal might have divided his allegiance between Lucien
and the magazines, and ended a light-handed fiction-maker
of the more refined order of realists. As it was, he made
his studies for his own pleasure, and if the people he
met ministered to him further than they knew, nothing
came of it more than that. What he liked best to achieve
was an intimate knowledge of his fellow-beings from an
outside point of view. Where intimate knowledge came of
intimate association he found that it usually compromised
his independence of criticism, which in the Quartier
Latin was a serious matter. So he rather cold-bloodedly
aimed at keeping his own personality independent of his
observation of other people's, and as a rule he succeeded.

That Paris had neither made Kendal nor marred him may be
gathered for the first part from his contentment to go
back to paint in his native land, for the second from
the fact that he had a relation with Elfrida Bell which
at no point verged toward the sentimental. He would have
found it difficult to explain in which direction it did
verge--in fact, he would have been very much surprised
to know that he sustained any relation at all toward Miss
Bell important enough to repay examination. The red-armed,
white-capped proprietress of a _cremerie_ had effected
their introduction by regretting to them jointly that
she had only one helping of _compote de cerises_ left,
and leaving them to arrange its consumption between them.
And it is safer than it would be in most similar cases
to say that neither Elfrida's heavy-lidded beauty nor
the smile that gave its instant attraction to Kendal's
delicately eager face had much to do with the establishment
of their acquaintance, such as it was. Kendal, though
his virtue was not of the heroic order, would have turned
a contemptuous heel upon any imputation of the sort, and
Elfrida would have stared it calmly out of countenance.

To Elfrida it soon became a definite and agreeable fact
that she and the flower of Lucien's had things to say to
each other--things of the rare temperamental sort that
say themselves seldom. Within a fortnight she had made
a niche for him in that private place where she kept the
images of those toward whom she sustained this peculiarly
sacred obligation, and to meet him had become one of
those pleasures which were in Sparta so notably
unattainable. I cannot say that considerations which from
the temperamental point of view might be described as
ulterior had never suggested themselves to Miss Bell.
She had thought of them, with a little smile, as a possible
development on Kendal's part that might be amusing. And
then she had invariably checked the smile, and told
herself that she would be sorry, very sorry. Instinctively
she separated the artist and the man. For the artist she
had an admiration none the less sincere for its
exaggerations, and a sympathy which she thought the best
of herself; for the man, nothing, except the
half-contemptuous reflection that he was probably as
other men.

If Elfrida stamped herself less importantly upon the
surface of Kendal's mind than he did upon hers, it may
be easily enough accounted for by the multiplicity of
images there before her. I do not mean to imply that all
or many of these were feminine, but, as I have indicated,
Kendal was more occupied with impressions of all sorts
than is the habit of his fellow-countrymen, and at twenty
eight he had managed to receive quite enough to make a
certain seriousness necessary in a fresh one. There was
no seriousness in his impression of Elfrida. If he had
gone so far as to trace its lines he would have found
them to indicate a more than slightly fantastic young
woman with an appreciation of certain artistic verities
out of all proportion to her power to attain them. But
he had not gone so far. His encounters with her were
among his casual amusements; and if the result was an
occasional dinner together or first night at the Folies
Dramatiques, his only reflection was that a girl who
could do such things and not feel compromised was rather
pleasant to know, especially so clever a girl as Elfrida
Bell. He did not recognize in his own mind the mingled
beginnings of approval and disapproval which end in a
personal theory. He was quite unaware, for instance, that
he liked the contemptuous way in which she held at arm's
length the moral laxities of the Quartier, and disliked
the cool cynicism with which she flashed upon them there
the sort of _jeu de mot_ that did not make him uncomfortable
on the lips of a Frenchwoman. He understood that she had
nursed Nadie Palicsky through three weeks of diphtheria,
during which time Monsieur Vambery took up his residence
fourteen blocks away, without any special throb of
enthusiasm; and he heard her quote Voltaire on the
miracles--some of her ironies were a little old-fashioned
--without conscious disgust He was willing enough to meet
her on the special plane she constituted for herself--not
as a woman, but as an artist and a Bohemian. But there
were others who made the same claim with whom it was an
affectation or a pretence, and Kendal granted it to
Elfrida without any special conviction that she was more
sincere than the rest. Besides, it is possible to grow
indifferent, even to the unconventionalities, and Kendal
had been three years in the Quartier Latin.



CHAPTER VI

If Lucien had examined Miss Bell's work during the week
of her experiment with Anglo-Parisian journalism, he
would have observed that it grew gradually worse as the
days went on. The devotion of the small hours to composition
does not steady one's hand for the reproduction of the
human muscles, or inform one's eye as to the correct
manipulation of flesh tints. Besides, the model suffered
from Elfrida an unconscious diminution of enthusiasm.
She was finding her first serious attempt at writing more
absorbing than she would have believed possible, and she
felt that she was doing it better than she expected. She
was hardly aware of the moments that slipped by while
she dabbled aimlessly in unconsidered color meditating
a phrase, or leaned back and let nothing interfere with
her apprehension of the atelier with the other reproductive
instinct. She did not recognize the deterioration in her
work, either; and at the very moment when Nadie Palicsky,
observing Lucien's neglect of her, inwardly called him
a brute, Elfrida was to leave the atelier an hour earlier
for the sake of the more urgent thing which she had to
do. She finished it in five days, and addressed it to
Frank Parke with a new and uplifting sense of
accomplishment. The ever fresh miracle happened to her,
too, in that the working out of one article begot the
possibilities of half a dozen more, and the next day saw
her well into another. In posting the first she had a
premonition of success. She saw it as it would infallibly
appear in a conspicuous place in _Raffini's Chronicle_,
and heard the people of the American Colony wondering
who in the world could have written it. She conceived
that it would fill about two columns and a half. On
Saturday afternoon, when Kendal joined her crossing the
courtyard of the atelier, she was preoccupied with the
form of her rebuff to any inquiries that might be made
as to whether she had written it.

They walked on together, talking casually of casual
things. Kendal, glancing every now and then at the wet
study Elfrida was carrying home, felt himself distinctly
thankful that she did not ask his opinion of it, as she
had, to his embarrassment once or twice before; though
it was so very bad that he was half disposed to abuse it
without permission. Miss Bell seemed persistently
interested in other things, however--the theatres, the
ecclesiastical bill before the Chamber of Deputies, the
new ambassador, even the recent improvement of the police
system. Kendal found her almost tiresome. His
half-interested replies interpreted themselves to her
after a while, and she turned their talk upon trivialities,
with a gay exhilaration which was not her frequent mood.

She asked him to come up when they arrived, with a frank
cordiality which he probably thought of as the American
way. He went up, at all events, and for the twentieth
time admired the dainty chic of the little apartment,
telling himself, also for the twentieth time, that it
was extraordinary how agreeable it was to be there
--agreeable with a distinctly local agreeableness whether
its owner happened to be also there or not. In this he
was altogether sincere, and only properly discriminating.
He spent fifteen minutes wondering at her whimsical
interest, and when she suddenly asked him if he really
thought the race _had_ outgrown its physical conditions,
he got up to go, declaring it was too bad, she must have
been working up back numbers of the _Nineteenth Century_.
At which she consented to turn their talk into its usual
personal channel, and he sat down again content.

"Doesn't the Princess Bobaloff write a charming hand!"
Elfrida said presently, tossing him a square white
envelope.

"It isn't hers if it's an invitation. She has a wretched
relation of a Frenchwoman living with her who does all
that. May I light a cigarette?"

"You know you may. It is an invitation, but I didn't
accept."

"Her soiree last night? If I'd known you had been asked
I should have missed you."

"I ought to tell you," Elfrida went on, coloring a little,
"that I was invited through Leila Van Camp--that
ridiculously rich girl, you know, they say Lucien is in
love with. The Van Camp has been affecting me a good deal
lately. She says my manners are so pleasing, and besides,
Lucien once told her she painted better than I did. The
princess is a great friend of hers."

"Why didn't you go?" Kendal asked, without any appreciable
show of curiosity. If he had been looking closely enough
he would have seen that she was waiting for his question.

"Oh, it lies somehow, that sort of thing, outside my idea
of life. I have nothing to say to it, and it has nothing
to say to me."

Kendal smiled introspectively. He saw why he had been
shown the letter. "And yet," he said, "I venture to hope
that if we had met there we might have had some little
conversation."

Elfrida leaned back in her chair and threw up her head,
locking her slender fingers over her knee. "Of coarse,"
she said indifferently. "I understand why you should go.
You must. You have arrived at a point where the public
claims a share of your personality. That's different."

Kendal's face straightened out. He was too much of an
Englishman to understand that a personally agreeable
truth might not be flattery, and Elfrida never knew how
far he resented her candor when it took the liberty of
being gracious.

"I went in the humble hope of getting a good supper and
seeing some interesting people," he told her. "Loti was
there, and Madame Rives-Chanler, and Sargent."

"And the supper?" Miss Bell inquired, with a touch of
sarcasm.

"Disappointing," he returned seriously. "I should say
bad--as bad as possible." She gave him an impatient
glance.

"But those people--Loti and the rest--it is only a
serio-comic game to them to go the Princess Bobaloffs.
They wouldn't if they could help it They don't live their
real lives in such places--among such people!"

Kendal took the cigarette from his mouth and laughed.
"Your Bohemianism is quite Arcadian in its quality
--deliriously fresh," he declared. "I think they do.
Genius clings to respectability after a time. A most
worthy and amiable lady, the Princess."

Elfrida raised the arch of her eyebrows. "Much too worthy
and amiable," she ventured, and talked of something else,
leaving Kendal rasped, as she sometimes did, without
being in any degree aware of it.

"How preposterous it is," he said, moved by his irritation
to find something preposterous, "that girls like Miss
Van Camp should come here to work."

"They can't help being rich. It shows at least the germ
of a desire to work out their own salvation. I think I
like it."

"It shows the germ of an affectation in rather an advanced
stage of development. I give her three months more to
tire of snubbing Lucien and distributing caramels to the
less fortunate young ladies of the studio. Then she will
pack up those pitiful attempts of hers and take them home
to New York, and spend a whole season in glorious apology
for them."

Elfrida looked at him steadily for an instant. Then she
laughed lightly. "Thanks," she said. "I see you had not
forgotten my telling you that Lucien said she painted
better than I did."

Kendal wondered whether he had really meant to go so far. "I
am sorry," he said, "but I am afraid I had not forgotten it."

"Well, you would not say it out of ill-nature. You must
have wanted me to know--what you thought."

"I think," he said seriously, "that I did--at least that
I do--want you to know. It seems a pity that you should
work on here--mistakenly--when there are other things
that you could do well."

"'Other things' have been mentioned to me before," she
returned, with a strain in her voice that she tried to
banish. "May I ask what particular thing occurs to you?"

He was already remorseful. After all, what business of
his was it to interfere, especially when he knew that
she attached such absurd importance to his opinion? "I
hardly know," he said, "but there must be something; I
am convinced that there is something."

Elfrida put her elbows on a tittle table, and shadowed
her face with her hands.

"I wish I could understand," she said, "why I should be
so willing to--to go on at any sacrifice, if there is no
hope in the end."

Kendal's mood of grim frankness overcame him again. "I
believe I know," he said, watching her. Her hands dropped
from her face, and she turned it toward him mutely.

"It is not achievement you want, but success. That is
why," said he.

There was silence for a moment, broken by light footsteps
on the stair and a knock. "My good friends," cried
Mademoiselle Palicsky from the doorway, "have you been
quarrelling?" She made a little dramatic gesture to match
her words, which brought out every line of a black velvet
and white corduroy dress, which would have been a horror
upon an Englishwoman. Upon Mademoiselle Palicsky it was
simply an admiration-point of the kind never seen out of
Paris, and its effect was instantaneous. Kendal
acknowledged it with a bow of exaggerated deference.
"_C'est parfait!_" he said with humility, and lifted a
pile of studies off the nearest chair for her.

Nadie stood still, pouting. "Monsieur is amused," she
said. "Monsieur is always amused. But I have that to tell
which monsieur will graciously take _au grand servieux_."

"What is it, Nadie?" Elfrida asked, with something like
dread in her voice. Nadie's air was so important, so
rejoiceful.

"_Ecoutez donc!_ I am to send two pictures to the Salon
this year. Carolos Duran has already seen my sketch for
one, and he says there is not a doubt--_not a doubt_--that
it will be considered. Your congratulations, both of you,
or your hearts' blood! For on my word of honor I did
not expect it this year."

"A thousand and one!" cried Kendal, trying not to see
Elfrida's face. "But if you did not expect it this year,
mademoiselle, you were the only one who had so little
knowledge of affairs," he added gaily.

"And now," Nadie went on, as if he had interrupted her,
"I am going to drive in the Bois to see what it will be
like when the people in the best carriages turn and say,
'That is Mademoiselle Nadie Palicsky, whose picture has
just been bought for the Luxembourg.'"

She paused and looked for a curious instant at Elfrida,
and then slipped quickly behind her chair. "_Embrasse
moi, cherie!_" she said, bringing her face with a bird-like
motion close to the other girl's.

Kendal saw an instinctive momentary aversion in the
backward start of Elfrida's head, and from the bottom of
his heart he was sorry for her. She pushed her friend
away almost violently.

"No!" she said. "No! I am sorry, but it is too childish.
We never kiss each other, you and I. And listen, Nadie:
I am delighted for you, but I have a sick headache--_la
migraine_, you understand. And you must go away, both of
you--both of you!" Her voice raised itself in the last
few words to an almost hysterical imperativeness. As they
went down the stairs together Mademoiselle Palicsky
remarked to Mr. John Kendal, repentant of the good that
he had done:

"So she has consulted her oracle and it has barked out
the truth. Let us hope she will not throw herself into
the Seine!"

"Oh no!" Kendal replied. "She's horribly hurt but I am
glad to believe that she hasn't the capacity for tragedy.
Somebody," he added gloomily, "ought to have told her
long ago."

Half an hour later the postman brought Elfrida a letter
from Mr. Frank Parke, and a packet containing her
manuscript. It was a long letter, very kind, and
appreciative of the article, which Mr. Parke called
bright and gossipy, and, if anything, too cleverly
unconventional in tone. He did not take the trouble to
criticise it seriously, and left Elfrida under the
impression that, from his point of view at least, it had
no faults. Mr. Parke had offered the article to _Raffini_,
but while they might have printed it upon his
recommendation, it appeared that even his recommendation
could not induce them to promise to pay for it. And it
was a theory with him that what was worth printing was
invariably worth paying for, so he returned the manuscript
to its author in the sincere hope that it might yet meet
its deserts. He had been thinking over the talk they had
had together, and he saw more plainly than ever the
hopelessness of her getting a journalistic start in Paris,
however, and he would distinctly advise her to try London
instead. There were a number of ladies' papers published
in London--he regretted that he did not know the editors
of any of them--and amongst them, with her freshness of
style, she would be sure to find an opening. Mr. Parke
added the address of a lodging-house off Fleet Street,
where Elfrida would be in the thick of it, and the fact
that he was leaving Paris for three months or so, and
hoped she would write to him when he came back. It was
a letter precisely calculated to draw an unsophisticated
amateur mind away from any other mortification, to pour
balm upon any unrelated wound. Elfrida felt herself armed
by it to face a sea of troubles. Not absolutely, but
almost, she convinced herself on the spot that her solemn
choice of an art had been immature, and to some extent
groundless and unwarrantable; and she washed all her
brushes with a mechanical and melancholy sense that it
was for the last time. It was easier than she would have
dreamed for her to decide to take Frank Parke's advice
and go to London. The life of the Quartier had already
vaguely lost in charm since she knew that she must be
irredeemably a failure in the atelier, though she told
herself, with a hot tear or two, that no one loved it
better, more comprehendingly, than she did. Her impulse
was to begin packing at once; but she put that off until
the next day, and wrote two or three letters instead.
One was to John Kendal. This is the whole of it:

   "Please believe me very grateful for your frankness
   this afternoon. I have been most curiously blind. But
   I agree with you that there is something else, and I
   am going away to find it out and to do it. When I
   succeed I will let you know, but you shall not tell
   me that I have failed again.

   "ELFRIDA BELL."

The other was addressed to her mother, and when it reached
Mr. and Mrs. Bell in Sparta they said it was certainly
sympathetic and very well written. This was to disarm
one another's mind of the suspicion that its last page
was doubtfully daughterly.

   "In view of what are now your very limited resources,
   I am sure dear mother, you will understand my
   unwillingness to make any additional drain upon them,
   as I should do if I followed your wishes and came
   home. I am convinced of my ability to support myself,
   and I am not coming home. To avoid giving you the pain
   of repeating your request, and the possibility of your
   sending me money which you cannot afford to spare, I
   have decided not to let you know my whereabouts until
   I can write to you that I am in an independent position.
   I will only say that I am leaving Paris, and that no
   letters sent to this address will be forwarded. I
   sincerely hope you will not allow yourself to be in
   any way anxious about me, for I assure you that there
   is not the slightest need. With much love to papa and
   yourself,

   "Always your affectionate daughter,

   "ELFRIDA.

   "P.S.--I hope your asthma has again succumbed
   to Dr. Paley."



CHAPTER VII.

There was a scraping and a stumbling sound in the second
floor front bedroom of Mrs. Jordan's lodgings in a by-way
of Fleet Street, at two o'clock in the morning. It came
up to Elfrida mixed with the rattle of a departing cab
over the paving-stones below, outside where the fog was
lifting and showing one street-lamp to another. Elfrida
in her attic had been sitting above the fog all night;
her single candle had not been obscured by it. The cab
had been paid and the andirons were being disturbed by
Mr. Golightly Ticke, returned from the Criterion Restaurant,
where he had been supping with the leading lady of the
Sparkle Company, at the leading, lady's expense. She
could afford it better than he could, she told him, and
that was extremely true, for Mr. Ticke had his capacities
for light comedy still largely to prove, while Mademoiselle
Phyllis Fane had almost disestablished herself upon the
stage, so long and so prosperously had she pirouetted
there. Mr. Golightly Ticke's case excited a degree of
the large compassion which Mademoiselle Phyllis had for
incipient genius of the interesting sex, and which served
her instead of virtue of the more ordinary sort. He had
a doable claim upon it, because, in addition to being
tall and fair and misunderstood by most people, with a
thin nose that went beautifully with a medieval costume,
he was such a gentleman. Phyllis loosened her purse-strings
instinctively, with genuine gratification, whenever this
young man approached. She believed in him; he had ideas,
she said, and she gave him more; in the end he would be
sure to "catch on." Through the invariable period of
obscurity which comes before the appearance of any star,
she was in the habit of stating that he would have no
truer friend than Filly Fane. She "spoke to" the manager,
she pointed out Mr. Ticke's little parts to the more
intimate of her friends of the press. She sent him delicate
little presents of expensive cigars, scents, and soaps;
she told him often that he would infallibly "get there."
The fact of his having paid his own cab-fare from the
Criterion on this particular morning gave him, as he
found his way upstairs, almost an injured feeling of
independence.

As the sounds defined themselves move distinctly, troublous
and uncertain, Elfrida laid down her pen and listened.

"What an absurd boy it is!" she said. "He's trying to go
to bed in the fireplace."

As a matter of fact, Mr. Ticke's stage of intoxication
was not nearly so advanced as that; but Elfrida's mood
was borrowed from her article, and she felt the necessity
of putting it graphically. Besides, a picturesque form
of stating his condition was almost due to Mr. Ticke.
Mr. Ticke lived the unfettered life; he was of the elect;
Elfrida reflected, as Mr. Ticke went impulsively to bed,
how easy it was to discover the elect. A glance would do
it, a word, the turning of an eyelid; she knew it of
Golightly Ticke days before he came up in an old velvet
coat, and without a shirt collar, to borrow a sheet of
note paper and an envelope from her. On that occasion
Mr. Ticke had half apologized for his appearance, saying,
"I'm afraid I'm rather a Bohemian," in his sympathetic
voice. To which Elfrida had responded, hanging him the
note paper, "Afraid!" and the understanding was established
at once. Elfrida did not consider Mr. Ticke's other
qualifications or disqualifications; that would have been
a bourgeois thing to do. He was a _belle dame_, that was
sufficient. He might find life difficult, it was natural
and probable. She, Elfrida Bell, found it difficult. He
had not succeeded yet; neither had she; therefore they
had a comradeship--they and a few others--of revolt
against the dull conventional British public that barred
the way to success. Yesterday she had met him at the
street-door, and he had stopped to remark that along the
Embankment nature was making a bad copy of one of
Vereschagin's pictures. When people could say things like
that, nothing else mattered much. It is impossible to
tell whether Miss Bell would have found room in this
philosophy for the godmotherly benevolence of Mademoiselle
Fane, if she had known of it, or not.

It was a long, low-roofed room in which Elfrida Bell
meditated, biting the end of her pen, upon the difference
it made when a fellow-being was not a Philistine; and it
was not in the least like any other apartment Mrs. Jordan
had to let. It was the atelier of the Rue Porte Royale
transported. Elfrida had brought all her possessions with
her, and took a nameless comfort in arranging them as
she liked them best. "Try to feel at home," she said
whimsically to her Indian zither as she hung it up. "We
shall miss Paris, you and I, but one day we shall go back
together." A Japanese screen wandered across the room
and made a bedroom of the end. Elfrida had to buy that,
and spent a day in finding a cheap one which did not
offend her. The floor was bare except for a little Afghan
prayer-carpet, Mrs. Jordan having removed, in suspicions
astonishment, an almost new tapestry of as nice a pattern
as she ever set eyes on, at her lodger's request. A
samovar stood on a little square table in the corner,
and beside it a tin box of biscuits. The dormer-windows
were hung with Eastern stuffs, a Roman lamp stood on the
mantel, a Koran-holder held Omar Khayyam second-hand,
and Meredith's last novel, and "Anna Karenina," and
"Salammbo," and two or three recent numbers of the
_Figaro_. Here and there on the wall a Salon photograph
was fastened. A study of a girl's head that Nadie had
given her was stuck with a Spanish dagger over the
fireplace. A sketch of Vambety's and one of Kendal's,
sacredly framed, hung where she could always see them.
There was a vague suggestion of roses about the room,
and a mingled fragrance of joss-sticks and cigarettes.
The candle shone principally upon a little bronze Buddha,
who sat lotus-shrined on the writing-table among Elfrida's
papers, with an ineffable, inscrutable smile. On the top
shelf of a closet in the wall a small pile of canvases
gathered dust, face downward. Not a brush-mark of her
own was visible. She told herself that she had done with
that.

The girl sat with her long cloak about her and a blanket
over her knees. Her fingers were almost nerveless with
cold; as she laid down her manuscript she tried to wring
warmth into them. Her face was white, her eyes were
intensely wide open and wide awake; they had black dashes
underneath, an emphasis they did not need. She lay back
in her chair and gave the manuscript a little push toward
Buddha smiling in the middle of the table. "Well?" she
said, regarding him with defiant inquiry, cleverly mocked.

Buddha smiled on. The candle spattered, and his shadow
danced on three or four long thick envelopes lying behind
him. Elrida's eyes followed it.

"Oh!" said she, "you refer me to those, do you? _Ce n'est
pas poli_, Buddha dear, but you are always honest, aren't
you?" She picked op the envelopes and held them fanwise
before her. "Tell me, Buddha, why have they all been sent
back? I myself read them with interest, I who wrote them,
and surely that proves something!" She pulled a page or
two out of one of them, covered with her clear, conscious,
handwriting, a handwriting with a dainty pose in it
suggestive of inscrutable things behind the word. Elfrida
looked at it affectionately, her eyes caressed the lines
as she read them. "I find here true things and clever
things," she went on; "Yes, and original, _quite_ original
things. That about Balzac has never been said before--I
assure you, Buddha, it has never been said before! Yet
the editor of the _Athenian_ returns it to me in two days
with a printed form of thanks--exactly the same printed
form of thanks with which he would return a poem by
Arabella Jones! Is the editor of the _Athenian_ a dolt,
Buddha? The _Decade_ typewrites his regrets--that's
better--but the _Bystander_ says nothing at all but
'Declined with thanks' inside the flap of the envelope."
The girl stared absently into the candle. She was not in
reality greatly discouraged by these refusals: she knew
that they were to be expected: indeed, they formed part
of the picturesqueness of the situation in which she saw
herself, alone in London, making her own fight for life
as she found it worth living, by herself, for herself,
in herself. It had gone on for six weeks; she thought
she knew all its bitterness, and she saw nowhere the
faintest gleam of coming success; yet the idea of giving
it up did not even occur to her. At this moment she was
reflecting that after all it was something that her
articles had been returned--the editors had evidently
thought them worth that much trouble--she would send them
an off again in the morning, trying; the _Athenian_
article with the _Decade_, and the rejected of the _Decade_
with the _Bystander_: they would see that she did not
cringe before one failure or many. Gathering up the loose
pages of one article to put them back, her eyes ran
mechanically again over its opening sentences. Suddenly
something magnetized them, a new interest flashed into
them; with a little nervous movement she brought the page
closer to the candle and looked at it carefully. As she
looked she blushed crimson, and dropping the paper,
covered her face with her hands.

"Oh, _Buddha!_" she cried softly, struggling with her
mortification, "no wonder they rejected it! There's a
mistake in the very second line--a mistake in _spelling!_"
She felt her face grow hotter as she said it, and
instinctively she lowered her voice. Her vanity was
pricked as with a sword; for a moment she suffered keenly.
Her fabric of hope underwent a horrible collapse; the
blow was at its very foundation. While the minute hand
of her mother's old-fashioned gold watch travelled to
its next point, or for nearly as long as that, Elfrida
was under the impression that a person who spelled
"artificially" with one _L_ could never succeed in
literature. She believed she had counted the possibilities
of failure. She had thought of style, she had thought of
sense--she had never thought of spelling! She began with
a penknife to make the word right, and almost fearfully
let herself read the first few fines. "There are no more!"
she said to herself, with a sigh of relief. Turning the
page, she read on, and the irritation began to fade out
of her face. She turned the next page and the next, and
her eyes grew interested, absorbed, enthusiastic. There
were some more, one or two, but she did not see them.
Her house of hope built itself again. "A mere slip," she
said, reassured; and then, as her eye fell on a little
fat dictionary that held down a pile of papers, "But I'll
go over them all in the morning, to make sore, with
_that_."

Then she turned with new pleasure to the finished work
of the night, settled the sheets together, put them in
an envelope, and addressed it:

   _The Editor,_
      _The Consul,_
          _6 Tibby's Lane,_
             _Fleet Street, E. C._

She hesitated before she wrote. Should she write "The
Editor" only, or "George Alfred Curtis, Esq.," first,
which would attract his attention, perhaps, as coming
from somebody who knew his name. She had a right to know
his name, she told herself; she had met him once in the
happy Paris days. Kendal bad introduced him to her, in
a brief encounter at the Salon, and she remembered the
appreciativeness of the glance that accompanied the stout
middle-aged English gentleman's bow. Kendal had told
her then that Mr. Curtis was the editor of the _Consul_.
Yes, she had a right to know his name. And it might make
the faintest shadow of a difference--but no, "The Editor"
was more dignified, more impersonal; her article should
go in upon its own merits, absolutely upon its own merits;
and so she wrote.

It was nearly three o'clock, and cold, shivering cold.
Mr. Golightly Ticke had wholly subsided. The fog had
climbed up to her, and the candle showed it clinging to
the corners of the room. The water in the samovar was
hissing. Elfrida warmed her hands upon the cylinder and
made herself some tea. With it she disposed of a great
many sweet biscuits from the biscuit box, and thereafter
lighted a cigarette. As she smoked she re-read an old
letter, a long letter in a flowing foreign hand, written
from among the haymakers at Barbizon, that exhaled a
delicate perfume. Elfrida had read it thrice for comfort
in the afternoon; now she tasted it, sipping here and
there with long enjoyment of its deliciousness. She kissed
it as she folded it up, with the silent thought that this
was the breath of her life, and soon--oh, passably
soon--she could bear the genius in Nadie's eyes again.

Then she went to bed. "You little brute," she said to
Buddha, who still smiled as she blew out the candle,
"can't you forget it?"



CHAPTER VIII.

Miss Bell arose late the next morning, which was not
unusual. Mrs. Jordan had knocked three times vainly, and
then left the young lady's chop and coffee outside the
door on the landing. If she _would_ 'ave it cold, Mrs.
Jordan reasoned, she would, and more warnin' than knockin'
three times no livin' bean could expect Mrs. Jordan went
downstairs uneasy in her mind, however. The matter of
Miss Bell's breakfast generally left her uneasy in her
mind. It was not in reason, Mrs. Jordan thought, that a
young littery lady should keep that close, for Elfrida's
custom of having her breakfast deposited outside her door
was as invariable as it was perplexing. Miss Bell was as
charming to her land-lady as she was to everybody else,
but Mrs. Jordan found a polite pleasantness that permitted
no opportunity for expansion whatever more stimulating
to the curiosity and irritating to the mind generally
than the worst of bad manners would have been. That was
the reason she knocked three times when she brought up
Miss Bell's breakfast. At Mr. Ticke's door she wrapped
once, and cursorily at that. Mr. Ticke was as conversational
as you please on all occasions, and besides, Mr. Ticke's
door was usually half open. The shroud of mystery in
which Mrs. Jordan wrapped her "third floor front" grew
more impenetrable as the days went by. Her original
theory, which established Elfrida as the heroine of the
latest notorious divorce case, was admirably ingenious,
but collapsed in a fortnight with its own weight. "Besides,"
Mrs. Jordan reasoned, "if it 'ad been that person, ware
is the corrispondent all this time? There's been nothin'
in the shape of a corrispondent hangin' round _this_
house, for I've kep' my eye open for one. I give 'er up,"
said Mrs. Jordan darkly, "that's wot I do, an' I only
'ope I won't find 'er suicided on charcoal some mornin'
like that pore young poetiss in yesterday's paper."

Another knock, half an hour later, found Elfrida finishing
her coffee. Out-of-doors the world was gray, the little
square windows were beaten with rain. Inside the dreariness
was redeemed to the extent of a breath, a suggestion. An
essence came out of the pictures and the trappings, and
blended itself with the lingering fragrance of the
joss-sticks and the roses and the cigarettes in a delightful
manner. The room was almost warm with it. It seemed to
centre in Elfrida; as she sat beside the writing-table,
whose tumultuous papers had been pushed away to make room
for the breakfast dishes, she was instinct with it.

Miss Bell glanced hurriedly around the room. It was
unimpeachable--not so much as a strayed collar interfered
with its character as an apartment where a young lady
might receive. "Come in," she said. She knew the knock.

The door opened slowly to a hesitating push, and disclosed
Mr. Golightly Ticke by degrees. Mr. Ticke was accustomed
to boudoirs less rigid in their exclusiveness, and always
handled Miss Bell's door with a certain amount of
embarrassment. If she wanted a chance to whisk anything
out of the way he would give her that chance. Fully in
view of the lady and the coffee-pot Mr. Ticke made a
stage bow. "Here is my apology," he said, holding out a
letter; "I found it in the box as I came in."

It was another long thick envelope, and in its upper left
hand corner was printed, in early English lettering, _The
St. George's Gazette_. Elfrida took it with the faintest
perceptible change of countenance. It was another
discomfiture, but it did not prevent her from opening
her dark eyes with a remote effect of pathos entirely
disconnected with its reception. "And you climbed all
these flights to give it to me!" she said, with gravely
smiling plaintiveness. "Thank you. Why should you have
been so good? Please, please sit down."

Mr. Ticke looked at her expressively. "I don't know, Miss
Bell, really. I don't usually take much trouble for
people. I say it without shame. Most people are not worth
it. You don't mind my saying that you're an exception,
though. Besides, I'm afraid I had my eye on my reward."

"You're reward!" Elfrida repeated. Her smiling comprehension
insisted that it did not understand.

"The pleasure of saying good-morning to you. But that
is an inanity, Miss Bell, and unworthy of me. I should
have left you to divine it."

"How could I divine an inanity in connection with you?"
she answered, and her eyes underlined her words. When he
returned, "Oh, you always parry!" she felt a little thrill
of pleasure with herself. "How did it go--last night?"
she asked.

"Altogether lovely. Standing room only, and the boxes
taken for a week. I find myself quite adorable in my
little part now. I _feel_ it, you know. I am James Jones,
a solicitor's clerk, to my fingers' ends. My nature
changes, my environment changes, the instant I go on.
But a little thing upsets me. Last night I had to smoke
a cigar--the swell of the piece gives me a cigar--and he
gave me a poor one. It wasn't in tone--the unities
required that he should give me a good cigar. See? I felt
quite confused for the moment."

Elfrida's eyes had strayed to the corner of her letter.
"If you want to read that," continued Mr. Ticke, "I know
you won't mind me."

"Thanks," said Elfrida calmly. "I've read it already.
It's a rejected article."

"My play came back again yesterday for the thirteenth
time. The fellow didn't even look at it. I know, because
I stuck the second and third pages together as if by
accident, and when it came back they were still stuck.
And yet these men pretend to be on the lookout for original
work! It's a thrice beastly world, Miss Bell."

Elfrida widened her eyes again and smiled with a vague
impersonal winningness. "I suppose one ought not to care,"
said she, "but there is the vulgar necessity of living."

"Yes," agreed Mr. Ticke; and then sardonically: "Waterloo
Bridge at ebb tide is such a nasty alternative. I could
never get over the idea of the drainage."

"Oh, I know a better way than that." She chose her words
deliberately. "A much better way. I keep it here," holding
up the bent little finger of her left hand. It had a
clumsy silver ring on it, square and thick in the middle,
bearing deep-cut Sanskrit letters. "It is a dear little
alternative," she went on, "like a bit of brown sugar.
Rather a nice taste, I believe,--and no pain. When I am
quite tired of it all I shall use this, I think. My idea is
that it's weak to wait until you can't help it. Besides, I
could never bear to become--less attractive than I am now."

"Poison!" said Mr. Golightly Ticke, with an involuntarily
horrified face. Elfrida's hand was hanging over the edge
of the table, and he made as if he would examine the ring
without the formality of asking leave.

She drew her fingers away instantly. "In the vernacular,"
she answered coolly. "You may not touch it."

"I beg your pardon. But how awfully chic!"

"It _is_ chic, isn't it? Not so very old, you know."
Elfrida raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips a little.
"It came from Persia. They still do things like that in
those delightful countries. And I've had it tested.
There's enough to--satisfy--three people. When you are
quite sure you want it I don't mind sharing with you. If
you are going out, Mr. Ticke, will you post this for me?
It's a thing about American social ideals, and I'm trying
the _Consul_ with it."

"Delighted. But if I know the editor of the _Consul_, it
won't get two minutes' consideration."

"No?"

"Being the work of a lady, no. Doesn't matter how good
it is. The thing to know about the _Consul_ man is this.
He's very nice to ladies--can't resist ladies; consequence
is, the paper's half full of ladies' copy every week. I
know, because a cousin of mine writes for him, and most
unsympathetic stuff it is. Yet it always goes in, and
she gets her three guineas a week as regularly as the
day comes. But her pull is that she knows him personally,
and she's a damned pretty woman."

Elfrida followed him with interest. "Is she as pretty as
I am?" she asked, purely for information.

"Lord, no!" Mr. Ticke responded warmly. "Besides, you've
got style, and distinction, and ideas. Any editor would
appreciate your points, once you saw him. But you've got
to see him first. My candid advice is _take_ this to the
_Consul_ office."

Elfrida looked at him in a way which baffled him to
understand. "I don't think I can do that," she said
slowly; and then added, "I don't know."

"Well," he said, "I'll enter my protest against the
foolishness of doing it this way by refusing to post the
letter." Mr. Ticke was tremendously in earnest, and threw
it dramatically upon the table. "You may be a George
Eliot or a--an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but in these
days you want every advantage, Miss Bell, and women who
succeed understand that."

Elfrida's face was still enigmatic, so enigmatic that
Mr. Ticke felt reluctantly constrained to stop. "I must
pursue the even tenor of my way," he said airily, looking
at his watch. "I've an engagement to lunch at one. _Don't_
ask me to post that article, Miss Bell. And by the way,"
as he turned to go, "I haven't a smoke about me. Could
you give me a cigarette?"

"Oh yes," said Elfrida, without looking at him, "as many
as you like," and she pushed an open box toward him; but
she had an absent, considering air that did not imply
any idea of what she was doing.

"Thanks, only one. Or perhaps two--there now, two! How
good these little Hafiz fellows are! Thanks awfully.
Good-bye!"

"Good-bye," said Elfrida, with her eyes on the packet
addressed to the editor of the _Consul_; and Mr. Golightly
Ticke tripped downstairs. She had not looked at him again.

She sat thinking, thinking. She applied herself first to
stimulate the revolt that rose within her against Golightly
Ticke's advice--his intolerably, no, his forgetfully
presumptuous advice. She would be just to him: he talked
so often to women with whom such words would carry weight,
for an instant he might fail to recognize that she was
not one of those. It was absurd to be angry, and not at
all in accordance with any theory of life that operated
in Paris. Instinctively, at the thought of a moral
indignation upon such slender grounds in Paris she gave
herself the benefit of a thoroughly expressive Parisian
shrug. And how they understood, success in Paris! Beasts!

And yet it was all in the game. It was a matter of skill,
of superiority, of puppet-playing. One need not soil
one's hands--in private one could always laugh. She
remembered how Nadie had laughed when three bunches of
roses from three different art critics had come in
together--how inextinguishably Nadie had laughed. It was
in itself a, success of a kind. Nadie had no scruples,
except about her work. She went straight to her end,
believing it to be an end worth arriving at by any means.
And now Nadie would presently be _tres en vue--tres en
vue!_ After all, it was a much finer thing to be scrupulous
about one's work--that was the real morality, the real
life. Elfrida closed her eyes and felt a little shudder
of consciousness of how real it was. When she opened
them again she was putting down her protest with a strong
hand, crushing her rebellious instincts unmercifully.
She did not allow herself a moment's self-deception. She
did not insult her intelligence by the argument that it
was a perfectly harmless and proper thing to offer a
piece of work to an editor in person--that everybody did
it--that she might thereby obtain some idea of what
would suit his paper if her article did not. She was
perfectly straightforward in confronting Golightly Ticke's
idea, and she even disrobed it, to her own consciousness,
of any garment of custom and conventionality it might
have had to his. Another woman might have taken it up
and followed it without an instant's hesitation, as a
matter concerning which there could be no doubt, a matter
of ordinary expediency--of course a man would be nicer
to a woman than to another man; they always were; it was
natural. But Elfrida, with her merciless insight, had to
harden her heart and ply her self-respect with assurances
that it was all in the game, and it was a superb thing
to be playing the game. Deliberately she chose the things
she looked best in, and went out.



CHAPTER IX.

The weather had cleared to a compromise. The dome of St.
Paul's swelled dimly out of the fog as Elfrida turned
into Fleet Street, and the railway bridge that hangs over
the heads of the people at the bottom of Ludgate Hill
seemed a curiously solid structure connecting space with
space. Fleet Street, wet and brown, and standing in all
unremembered fashions, lifted its antiquated head and
waited for more rain; the pavements glistened briefly,
till the tracking heels of the crowd gave them back their
squalor; and there was everywhere that newness of turmoil
that seems to burst even in the turbulent streets of the
City when it stops raining. The girl made her way toward
Charing Cross with the westward-going crowd. It went with
a steady, respectable jog-trot, very careful of its skirts
and umbrellas and the bottoms of its trousers; she took
pleasure in hastening past it with her light gait. She
would walk to the _Consul_ office, which was in the
vicinity of the Haymarket; indeed, she must, for the sake
of economy. "I ought really to be _very_ careful," thought
Elfrida. "I've only eight sovereigns left, and I can't
--oh, I _can't_ ask them for any more at home." So she
went swiftly on, pausing once before a picture-dealer's
in the Strand to make a mocking mouth at the particularly
British quality of the art which formed the day's exhibit,
and once to glance at a news-stand where two women of
the street, one still young and pretty, the other old
and foul, were buying the _Police Gazette_ from a
stolid-faced boy. "What a subject for Nadie," she said
to herself, smiling, and hurried on. Twenty yards further
a carter's horse lay dying with its head upon the pavement.
She made an impulsive detour of nearly half a mile to
avoid passing the place, and her thoughts recurred
painfully to the animal half a dozen times. The rain
came down again before she reached the _Consul_ office;
a policeman misinformed her, she had a difficulty in
finding it. She arrived at last, with damp skirts and
muddy boots. It had been a long walk, and the article
upon American social ideals was limp and spotted. A door
confronted her, flush with the street. She opened it.
and found herself at the bottom of a flight of stairs,
steep, dark, and silent. She hesitated a moment, and then
went up. At the top another closed door met her, with
_The Consul_ painted in black letters on the part of it
that consisted of ground glass somewhat the worse for
pencil-points and finger-nails. Elfrida lifted her hand
to knock, then changed her mind and opened the door.

It was a small room lined on two sides with deal
compartments bulging with dusty papers. There were two
or three shelves of uninteresting-looking books, and a
desk which extended into a counter. The upper panes of
the window were ragged with cobwebs, and the air of the
place was redolent of stale publications. A thick-set
little man in spectacles sat at the desk. It was not Mr.
Curtis.

The thick-set man rose as Elfrida entered, and came
forward a dubious step or two. His expression was not
encouraging.

"I have called to see the editor, Mr. Curtis," said she.

"The editor is not here."

"Oh, isn't he? I'm sorry for that. When is he likely to
be in? I want to see him particularly."

"He only comes here once a week, for about an hour,"
replied the little man, reluctant even to say so much.
"But I could see that he got a letter."

"Thanks," returned Elfrida. "At what time and on what
day does he usually come?"

"That I'm not at liberty to say," the occupant of the
desk replied briefly, and sat down again.

"Where _is_ Mr. Curtis?" Elfrida asked. She had not
counted upon this. To the physical depression of her walk
there added itself a strong disgust with the unsuccessful
situation. She persisted, knowing what she would have to
suffer from herself if she failed.

"Mr. Curtis is in the country. I cannot possibly give
you his address. You can write to him here, and the letter
will be forwarded. But he only sees people by
appointment--especially ladies," the little man added,
with a half-smile which had more significance in it than
Elfrida could bear. Her face set itself against the anger
that burned up in her, and she walked quickly from the
door to the desk, her wet skirts swishing with her steps.
She looked straight at the man, and began to speak in a
voice of constraint and authority.

"You will be kind enough to get up," she said, "and listen
to what I have to say." The man got up instantly.

"I came here," she went on, "to offer your editor an
article--this article;" she drew out the manuscript and
laid it before him. "I thought from the character of the
contributions to last week's number of the _Consul_ that
he might very well be glad of it."

Her tone reduced the man to silence. Mechanically he
picked up the manuscript and fingered the leaves.

"Read the first few sentences, please," said Elfrida.

"I've nothing to do with that department, miss--"

"I have no intention whatever of leaving it with you.
But I shall be obliged if you will read the first few
sentences." He read them, the girl standing watching him.

"Now," said she, "do you understand?" She took the pages
from his hand and returned them to the envelope.

"Yes, miss--it's certainly interesting, but--"

"Be quite sure you understand," said Elfrida, as the
ground-glass door closed behind her.

Before she reached the foot of the staircase she was in
a passion of tears. She leaned, against the wall in the
half darkness of the passage, shaking with sobs, raging
with anger and pity, struggling against her own contempt.
Gradually she gained a hold upon herself, and as she
dried her eyes finally she lost all feeling but a heavy
sense of failure. She sat down faintly on the lowest
step, remembering that she had eaten nothing since
breakfast, and fanned her flushed face with the sheets
of her manuscript. She preferred that even the unregarding
London streets should not see the traces of her distress.
She was still sitting there, ten minutes later, when the
door opened and threw the gray light from outside over
her. She had found her feet before Mr. Curtis had fairly
seen her. He paused, astonished, with his gloved hand
upon the knob. The girl seemed to have started out of
the shadows, and the emotion of her face dramatized its
beauty. She made a step toward the door.

"Can I do anything for you?" asked the editor of the
_Consul_, taking off his, hat.

"Nothing, thank you," Elfrida replied, looking beyond
him. "Unless you will kindly allow me to pass."

It was still raining doggedly, as it does in the the late
afternoon. Elfrida thought with a superlative pang of
discomfort of the three or four blocks that lay between
her and the nearest bake-shop. She put up her umbrella,
gathered her skirts up behind, and started wearily for
the Haymarket. She had never in her life felt so tired.
Suddenly a thrill of consciousness went up from her left
hand--the hand that held her skirts--such a thrill as
is known only to the sex that wills to have its pocket
there. She made one or two convulsive confirmatory clutches
at it from the outside, then, with a throe of actual
despair, she thrust her hand into her pocket. It was a
crushing fact, her purse was gone--her purse that held
the possibilities of her journalistic future molten and
stamped in eight golden sovereigns--her purse!

Elfrida cast one hopeless look at the pavement behind
her before she allowed herself to realize the situation.
Then she faced it, addressing a dainty French oath to
the necessity. "Come," she said to herself, "now it
begins to be really amusing--_la vraie comedie_." She
saw herself in the part--it was an artistic pleasure--alone,
in a city of melodrama, without a penny, only her brains.
Besides, the sense of extremity pushed and concentrated
her; she walked on with new energy and purpose. As she
turned into the Haymarket a cab drew up almost in front
of her. Through its rain-beaten glass front she recognized
a face--Kendal's. His head was thrown back to speak to
the driver through the roof. In the instant of her glance
Elfrida saw that he wore a bunch of violets in his
button-hole, and that he was looking splendidly well.
Then, with a smile that recognized the dramatic value of
his appearance at the moment, she lowered her umbrella
and passed on, unseen.

Almost gaily she walked into a pawnbroker's shop, and
obtained with perfect nonchalance five pounds upon her
mother's watch. She had no idea that she ought to dispute
the dictum of the bald young man with the fishy eyes and
the high collar. It did not occur to her that she was
paid too little. What she realized was that she had wanted
to pawn something all her life--it was a deliciously
effective extremity. She reserved her rings with the
distinct purpose of having the experience again. Then
she made a substantial lunch at a rather expensive
restaurant. "It isn't time yet," she thought, "for crusts
and dripping," and tipped the waiter a shilling, telling
him to get her a cab. As she turned into the Strand she
told the cabman to drive slowly, and made him stop at
the first newspaper office she saw. As she alighted a
sense of her extravagance dawned upon her, and she paid
the man off. Then she made a resolutely charming ascent
to the editorial rooms of the _Illustrated Age_.

Twenty minutes later she came down again, and the door
was opened for her by Mr. Arthur Rattray, one of the
sub-editors, a young man who had already distinguished
himself on the staff of the _Age_ by his intelligent
perception of paying matter, and his enterprise in securing
it. Elfrida continued to carry her opinions upon the
social ideals of her native democracy in their much
stained envelope, but there was a light in her eyes which
seemed to be the reflection of success.

"It's still raining," said the young man cheerfully.

"So it is," Elfrida responded. "And--oh, how atrocious
of me!--I've left my umbrella in the cab!"

"Hard luck!" exclaimed Mr. Rattray; "an umbrella is an
organic part of one in London. Shall I stop this 'bus?"

"Thanks, no. I'll walk, I think. It's only a little way.
I shan't get wet. Good-afternoon!" Elfrida nodded to him
brightly and hurried off; but it could not have occasioned
her surprise to find Mr. Rattray beside her a moment
later with a careful and attentive umbrella, and the
intention of being allowed to accompany her that little
way. By the time they arrived Mr. Rattray had pledged
himself to visit Scotland Yard next day in search of a
dark brown silk _en tout cas_ with a handle in the
similitude of an ivory mummy.

"Are these your diggings?" he asked, as they reached the
house. "Why, Ticke lives here too--the gentle Golightly--do
you know him?" Elfrida acknowledged her acquaintance with
Mr. Ticke, and Mr. Rattray hastened to deprecate her
thanks for his escort. "Remember," he said, "no theories,
no fine writing, no compositions. Describe what you've
seen and know, and give it a tang, an individuality.
And so far as we are concerned, I think we could use that
thing you proposed about the Latin Quarter, with plenty
of anecdote, very well. But you must make it short."



CHAPTER X.

Kendal mounted to Elfrida's _appartement_ in the Rue
Porte Royale to verify the intimation of her departure,
or happily to forestall its execution the morning after
her note reached him. He found it bare and dusty. A
workman was mending the stove; the concierge stood looking
on, with her arms folded above the most striking feature
of her personality. Every vestige of Elfrida was gone,
and the tall windows were open, letting the raw February
air blow through. Outside the sunlight lay in squares
and triangles on the roofs, and gave the place its
finishing touch of characterlessness. Yes, truly,
mademoiselle had gone, the evening before. Was monsieur
then not aware? The concierge was of opinion that
mademoiselle had had bad news, but her tone implied that
no news could be quite bad enough to justify the throwing
up of such desirable apartments upon such short notice.
Mademoiselle had left in such haste that she had forgotten
both to say where she was going and to leave an address
for letters; and it would not be easy to surpass the
consciousness of injury with which the concierge demanded
what she was to say to the _facteur_ on the day of the
post from America, when there were always four or five
letters for mademoiselle. Monsieur would be _bien amiable_,
if he would allow that they should be directed to him.
Upon reflection monsieur declined this responsibility.
With the faintest ripple of resentment at being left out
of Elfrida's confidence, he stated to himself that it
would be intrusive. He advised the concierge to keep them
for a week or two, during which Miss Bell would be sure
to remember to send for them, and turned to go.

"_Mademoiselle est allee a la Gare du Nord_," added the
concierge, entirely aware that she was contributing a
fact to Kendal's mental speculation, and wishing it had
a greater intrinsic value. But Kendal merely raised his
eyebrows in polite acknowledgment of unimportant
information. "En effet!" he said, and went away.
Nevertheless he could not help reflecting that _Gare du
Nord_ probably meant Calais, and Calais doubtless meant
England, probably London. As he thought of it he assured
himself that it was London, and his irritation vanished
at the thought of the futility of Elfrida in London. It
gave him a half curious, half solicitous amusement instead.
He pictured her with her Hungarian peasant's cloak and
any one of her fantastic hats in the conventional highways
he knew so well, and smiled. "She will have to take
herself differently there," he reflected, without pausing
to consider exactly what he meant by it, "and she'll find
that a bore." As yet he himself had never taken her
differently so far as he was aware, and in spite of the
obvious provocation of her behavior it did not occur to
him to do it now. He reflected with a shade of satisfaction
that she knew his London address. When she saw quite fit
she would doubtless inform him as to what she was doing
and where she might be found. He smiled again at the
thought of the considerations which Elfrida would put
into the balance against the pleasure of seeing him. They
were not humiliating; he was content to swing high on
the other side indefinitely; but he admitted to himself
that she had taken a pleasure out of Paris for him, and
went back to his studio missing it. He went on missing
it for quite two days, at the end of which he received
an impetuous visit--excessively impetuous considering
the delay--from Nadie Palicsky. In its course Mademoiselle
Palicsky declared herself robbed and wronged by "_cette
incomprise d'Americaine_," whom she loved--but _loved_,
did he understand? No, it was not probable that he
understood--what did a man know of love? As much perhaps
as that flame--Kendal permitted himself the luxury of an
open fire. Nadie stared into it for a moment with cynical
eyes. Under the indirect influence of Kendal's regard
they softened.

"She always understood. It was a joy to show her anything.
She interpreted Bastien Lepage better than I--indeed that
is true--but only with her soul, she had no hands. Yes,
I loved her, and she was good for me. I drew three breaths
in her presence for one in her absence. And she has taken
herself away; even in her letter--I had a line too--she
was as remote as a star! I hope," continued Nadie, with
innocent candor, as she swung her little feet on the
corner of Kendal's table, "that you do not love her too.
I say prayers to _le bon Dieu_, about it. I burn candles."

"And why?" Kendal asked, with a vigorous twist of his
palette knife.

"Because you are such a beast," she responded calmly,
watching his work with her round cleft chin in the shell
of her hand. "That's not bad, you know. That nearest girl
sitting on the grass is almost felt. But if you show it
to the English they will be so shocked that they will
use lorgnettes to hide their confusion. Ah!" she said,
jumping down, "here am I wasting myself upon you, with
a carriage _a l'heure!_ You are not worth it," and she
went. After that it seemed to Kendal that he did not miss
Elfrida so much. Certainly it never occurred to him to
hasten his departure by a day on her account, and there
came a morning when he drove through Bloomsbury and
realized that he had not thought about her for a fortnight.
The British Museum suggested her to him there--the British
Museum, and the certainty that within its massive walls
a number of unimaginative young women in collarless
sage-green gowns were copying casts of antique sculptures
at that moment. But he did not allow himself to suppose
that she could possibly be among them.

He sniffed London all day with a home-returning satisfaction
in her solidity and her ugliness and her low-toned fogs
and her great throbbing unostentatious importance, which
the more flippant capital seemed to have intensified in
him. He ordered the most British luncheon he could think
of, and reflected upon the superiority of the beer. He
read the leaders in the _Standard_ through to the bitter
end, and congratulated himself and the newspaper that
there was no rag of an absurd _feuilleton_ to distract
his attention from the importance of the news of the day.
He remembered all sorts of acquaintances that Paris had
foamed over for months; his heart warmed to a certain
whimsical old couple who lived in Park Street and went
out to walk every morning after breakfast with their
poodle. He felt disposed to make a formal call upon them
and inquire after the poodle. It was--perhaps with an
unconscious desire to make rather more of the idyl of
his homecoming that he went to see the Cardiffs instead,
who were his very old friends, and lived in Kensington
Square.

As he turned out of Kensington High Street into a shoppy
little thoroughfare, and through it to this quiet,
neglected high-nosed old locality, he realized with an
added satisfaction that he had come back to Thackeray's
London. One was apt, he reflected, with a charity which
he would not have allowed himself always, to undervalue
Thackeray in these days. After all, he once expressed
London so well that now London expressed him, and that
was something.

Kendal found the Cardiffs--there were only two, Janet
and her father--at tea, and the Halifaxes there, four
people he could always count on to be glad to see him.
It was written candidly in Janet's face--she was a natural
creature--as she asked him how he dared to be so unexpected.
Lady Halifax cried out robustly from the sofa to know
how many pictures he had brought back; and Miss Halifax,
full of the timid enthusiasm of the well-brought-up
elderly English girl, gave him a sallow but agreeable
regard from under her ineffective black lace hat, and
said what a surprise it was. When they had all finished,
Lawrence Cardiff took his elbow off the mantelpiece,
changed his cup into his other hand to shake hands, and
said, with his quiet, clean-shaven smile, "So you're
back!"

"Daddy has been hoping you would be here soon," said Miss
Cardiff. "He wants the support of your presence. He's
been daring to enumerate 'Our Minor Artists' in the _Brown
Quarterly_, and his position is perfectly terrible.
Already he's had forty-one letters from friends, relatives,
and picture-dealers suggesting names he has 'doubtless
forgotten.' Poor daddy says he never knew them."

"Has he mentioned me?" asked Kendal, sitting down squarely
with his cup of tea.

"He has not."

"Then it's in the character of the uncomplaining left-over
that I'm wanted, the modest person who waits until he's
better. I refuse to act. I'll go over to the howling
majority."

"_You_ will never be a minor artist, Mr. Kendal," ventured
Miss Halifax.

"Certainly not. You will rise to greatness at a bound,"
said Lady Halifax, with substantial conviction and an
illustrative wave of a fat well-gloved hand with a
doubled-up fragment of bread and butter between the thumb
and forefinger, "or we shall be much disappointed in
you."

"It's rapidly becoming a delicate compliment to have been
left out," Mr. Cardiff remarked, with melancholy.

"Some of those you've honored with your recognition are
the maddest of all, aren't they, daddy, as we say in
America! Dear old thing, you _are_ in a perilous case,
and who is to take you round at the Private Views this
year--that's the question of the hour! You needn't depend
upon me. There won't be a soul on the line that you
haven't either put in or left out!"

"It was a fearful thing to write about," Kendal responded
comfortably. "He deserves all the consequences. Let him
go round alone." Under the surface of his thoughts was
a pleased recognition of how little a fresh-colored
English girl changes in three years. Looking at Miss
Halifax's hat, it occurred to him that it was an agreeable
thing not to be eternally "struck" by the apparel of
women--so forcibly that he almost said it. "What have
you been doing?" he asked Janet.

"Wonders," Lady Halifax responded for her. "I can't
think where she gets the energy or the brains--"

"Can't you?" her father interrupted. "Upon my word!" Mr.
Cardiff had the serious facial muscles of a comedian,
and the rigid discipline he was compelled to give them
as a professor of Oriental tongues of London University
intensified their effect when it was absurd. The rest
laughed, and his cousin went on to say that she wished
_she_ had the gift. Her daughter echoed her, looking at
Janet in a way that meant she would say it, whatever the
consequences might be.

"I must see something," said Kendal, "immediately."

"_See_ something!" exclaimed Lady Halifax. "Well, look
in the last number of the _London Magazine_. But you'll
please show something first."

"Yes, indeed!" Miss Halifax echoed.

"When will you be ready for inspection?" Mr. Cardiff
asked.

"Come on Thursday, all of you. I'll show you what there
is."

"Will you give us our tea?" Miss Halifax inquired, with
a nervous smile.

"Of course. And there will be buns. You will do me the
invaluable service of representing the opinion of the
British public in advance. Will Thursday suit?"

"Perfectly," Lady Halifax replied. "The old rooms in
Bryanston Street, I suppose?"

"Thursday won't suit us," Janet put in decisively. "No,
papa; I've got people coming here to tea. Besides, Lady
Halifax is quite equal to representing the whole British
public by herself, aren't you, dear?" That excellent
woman nodded with a pretence of loftily consenting, and
her daughter gave Janet rather a suspicious glance. "Daddy
and I will come another day," Janet went on in reassuring
tones; "but we shall expect buns too, remember."

Then they talked of the crocuses in Kensington Gardens;
and of young Skeene's new play at the Princess's--they
all knew young Skeene, and wished him well; and of
Framley's forthcoming novel--Framley, who had made his
noble reputation by portrait-painting--good old Framley
--how would it go?

"He knows character," Kendal said.

"That's nothing now," retorted Lawrence Cardiff. "Does
he know where it comes from and where it's going to? And
can he choose? And has he the touch? And hasn't he been
too long a Royal Academician and a member of the Church
of England, and a believer in himself? Oh no! Framley
hasn't anything to tell this generation that he couldn't
say best on canvas."

"Well," said Lady Halifax disconcertingly, "I suppose
the carriage is at the door, Lawrence, but you might just
send to inquire. The horses stand so badly, I told Peters
he might take them round and round the square."

Cardiff looked at her with amused reproach, and rang the
bell; and Janet begged somebody or anybody to have another
cup of tea. The Halifaxes always tried Janet.

They went at last, entreating Cardiff, to his annoyance,
not to come down the narrow winding stair with them to
their carriage. To him no amount of familiar coming and
going could excuse the most trivial of such negligences.
He very often put Janet into her cab, always if it rained.

The moment they left the room a new atmosphere created
itself there for the two that remained. They sought each
other's eyes with the pleasantest sense of being together
in reality for the first time, and though Janet marked
it by nothing more significant than a suggestion that
Kendal should poke the fire, there was an appreciable
admission in her tone that they were alone and free to
talk, which he recognized with great good-will. He poked
the fire, and she on her low chair, clasping her knee
with both hands, looked almost pretty in the blaze. There
had always been between them a distinct understanding,
the understanding of good-fellowship and ideas of work,
and Kendal saw with pleasure that it was going to be
renewed.

"I am dying to tell you about it," he said.

"Paris?" she asked, looking up at him. "I am dying to
hear. The people, especially the people. Lucien, what
was he like? One hears so much of Lucien--they make him
a priest and a king together. And did you go to Barbizon?"

Another in her place might have added, "And why did you
write so seldom?" There was something that closed Janet's
lips to this. It was the same thing that would not permit
her to call Kendal "Jack," as several other people did,
though her Christian name had been allowed to him for a
long time. It made an awkwardness sometimes, for she
would not say "Mr. Kendal" either--that would be a rebuke
or a suggestion of inferiority, or what not--but she
bridged it over as best she could with a jocose appellative
like "signor," "monsieur," or "Mr. John Kendal," in full.
"Jack" was impossible, "John" was worse. Yes, with a
little nervous shudder, _much_ worse.

He told her about Paris to her fascination; she had never
seen it: about the boulevards and the cafes and the men's
ateliers, and the vagrant pathos of student life there--he
had seen some clean bits of it--and to all of this old
story he gave such life as a word or a phrase can give.
Even his repressions were full of meaning, and the
best--she felt it was the best--he had to offer her he
offered in fewest words, letting her imagination riot
with them. He described Lucien and the American Colony.
He made her laugh abundantly over the American amateur
as Lucien managed him. They had no end of fun over these
interesting, ingenious, and prodigal people in their
relation to Parisian professional circles. He touched on
Nadie Palicsky lightly, and perhaps it was because Janet
insisted upon an accentuation of the lines--he had sent
her a photograph of one of Nadie's best things--that he
refrained from mentioning Elfrida altogether. Elfrida,
he thought, he would keep till another time. She would
need so much explanation; she was too interesting to lug
in now, it was getting late. Besides, Elfrida was an
exhausting subject, and he was rather done.



CHAPTER XI.

Individually a large number of Royal Academicians
pronounced John Kendal's work impertinent, if not
insulting, meaningless, affected, or flippant.
Collectively, with a corporate opinion that might be
discussed but could not be identified, they received it
and hung it, smothering a distressful doubt, where it
would be least likely to excite either the censure of
the right-minded or the admiration of the unorthodox.
The Grosvenor gave him a discreet appreciation, and the
New received him with joy and thanksgiving. If he had
gone to any of the Private Views, which temptation he
firmly resisted, he would have heard the British public
--for after all the British public is always well
represented at a Private View--say discontentedly how
much better it would like his pictures if they were only
a little more finished. He might even have had the cruel
luck to hear one patron of the arts, who began by designing
the pictorial advertisements for his own furniture-polish,
state that he would buy that twilight effect with the
empty fields, if only the trees in the foreground weren't
so blurred. Other things, too, he might have heard that
would have amused him more as being less commonplace,
but pleased him no better, said by people who cast furtive
glances over their shoulders to see if anybody that might
be the artist was within reach of their discriminating
admiration; and here and there, if he had listened well,
a vigorous word that meant recognition and reward. It
was not that he did not long for the tritest word of
comment from the oracle before which he had chosen to
lay the fruit of his labors; indeed, he was so conscious
of his desire to know this opinion, not over clever as
he believed it, that he ran away on the evening of
varnishing-day. If he staid he felt that he would inevitably
compromise his dignity, so he hid himself with some
amiable people in Hampshire, who could be relied upon
not to worry him, for a week. He did not deny himself
the papers, however. They reached him in stacks, with
the damp chill of the afternoon post upon them; and in
their solid paragraphs he read the verdict of the British
public written out in words of proper length and much
the same phrases that had done duty for Eastlake and Sir
Martin Shee. Fortunately, the amiable people included
some very young people, so young that they could properly
compel Kendal to go into the fields with them and make
cowslip balls, and some robust girls of eighteen and
twenty, who mutely demanded the pleasure of beating him
at tennis every afternoon. He was able in this way to
work off the depression that visited him daily with the
damp odor of London art, criticism, quite independently
of its bias toward himself. He told himself that he had
been let off fairly easily, though he winced considerably
under the adulation of the _Daily Mercury_, and found
himself breathing most freely when least was said about
him. The day of his triumph in the _Mercury_ he made
monstrous cowslip balls, and thought that the world had
never been sufficiently congratulated upon possessing
the ideal simplicity of children.

Thereafter for two days nothing came, and he began to
grow restless. Then the _Decade_ made its weekly slovenly
appearance, without a wrapper. He opened it with the
accumulated interest of forty-eight hours, turned to
"Fine Arts," and girded himself to receive the _Decade's_
ideas. He read the first sentence twice--the article
opened curiously, for the _Decade_. He looked at the
cover to see whether he had not been mistaken. Then he
sat down beside the open window, where a fine rain came
in and smote upon the page, and read it through, straining
his eyes in the gathering darkness over the last paragraph.
After that he walked up and down the room among the
shadows for half an hour, not ringing for lights, because
the scented darkness of the garden, where the rain was
dripping, and the half outlines of the things in the room
were so much more grateful to his imagination as the
_Decade's_ critic had stimulated it with the young,
mocking, brilliant voice that spoke in the department of
"Fine Arts." It stirred him all through. In the pleasure
it gave him he refused to reflect how often it dismissed
with contempt where it should have considered with respect,
how it was sometimes inconsistent, sometimes exaggerated
and obscure. He was rapt in the delicacy and truth with
which the critic translated into words the recognizable
souls of a certain few pictures--it could not displease
him that they were very few, since three of his were
among them. When it spoke of these the voice was strong
and gentle, with an uplifted tenderness, and all the
suppressed suggestion that good pictures themselves have.
It made their quality felt in the lines, and it spoke
with a personal joy.

"A new note!" Kendal thought aloud. "A voice crying in
the wilderness, by Jove! Wolff might have done it if it
had been in French, but Wolff would have been fairer and
more technical and less sympathetic."

A fine energy crept all through him and burned at his
finger-ends. The desire to work seized him deliciously
with the thrill of being understood, a longing to accomplish
to the utmost of his limitations--he must reasonably
suppose his limitations. Sometimes they were close and
real; at this moment they were far off and vague, and
almost dissolved by the force of his joyous intention.
He threw himself mentally upon half-finished canvas that
stood against the wall in Bryanston Street, and spent
ten exalted minutes in finishing it. When it was done he
found it ravishing, and raged because he could not decently
leave for town before four o'clock next day. He worked
off the time before dinner by putting his things together,
and the amiable people had never found him so delightful
as he was that evening. After amusing one of the robust
young ladies for half an hour at prodigious cost, he
found himself comparing their conversation with the talk
he might have had in the time with Elfrida Bell, and a
fresh sense of injury visited him at having been
high-handedly debarred from that pleasure for so many
weeks. It staid with him and pricked him all the way to
town next day. He was a fool, he thought, to have missed
the chance of meeting her upon the opening days of the
London exhibitions; she was sure to have gone, if it were
only to scoff, and her scoffing would have been so amusing
to listen to. He thought gloomily of the impossibility
of finding her in London if she didn't wish to be found,
and he concluded that he really wanted to see her, that
he must see her soon--to show her that article.

The desire had not passed from him three days later, when
the boy from below-stairs brought him up a card. Kendal
was in his shirt-sleeves, and had just established a
relation of great intimacy with an entirely new subject.
Before the boy reached him he recognized with annoyance
that it was a lady's card, and he took it between his
thumb and his palette with the most brutal impatience.
"You are to say--" he began, and stopped. "Show the lady
up," he said in substitution, while his face cleared with
a puzzled amusement, and he looked at the card again. It
read "Miss Elfrida Bell," but the odd thing was down in
one corner, where ran the statement, in small square
type, "_The Illustrated Age_."

There was a sweet glory of May sunlight in the streets
outside, and she seemed to bring some of it in with her,
as well as the actual perfume of the bunch of violets
which she wore in her belt. Her eyes, under the queerest
of hats, were bright and soft, there was a faint color
in her cheeks. Her shapely hands were in gray gloves with
long gauntlets, and in one of them she carried a
business-like little black notebook.

She came in with a shy hesitation that became her very
well, and as she approached, their old understanding
immediately arranged itself between them. "I should be
perfectly justified in sulking," he declared gaily,
disencumbering a chair of a battered tin box of empty
twisted tubes for her, "and asking you to what I might
attribute the honor of this visit." He put up his eye-glass
and stared through it with an absurd affectation of
dignified astonishment. "But I'll magnanimously admit
that I'm delighted to see you. I'll even lay aside my
wounded sensibilities enough to ask you where you've
been."

"I!" faltered Elfrida softly, with her wide-eyed smile.
"Oh! as if that were of any consequence!" She stepped
back a pace or two to look at an unpacked canvas, and
her expression changed. "Ah!" she said gravely, "how good
it is to see that! I wish I could remember by myself so
much, half so much, of the sunlight of that country. In
three days of these fogs I had forgotten it. I mean the
reality of it Only a pale theory staid with me. Now it
comes back."

"Then you _have_ been in London?" he probed, while she
looked wistfully at the fringe of a wood in Brittany that
stood upon his canvas. Her eyes left the picture and
wandered around the room.

"I!" she said again. "In London? Yes, I have been in
London. How _splendidly_ different you are!" she said,
looking straight at him as if she stated a falling of
the thermometer or a quotation from the Stock Exchange.
"But are you sure, _perfectly_ sure," she went on, with
dainty emphasis, "that you can stay different? Aren't
you the least bit afraid that in the end your work may
become--pardon me--commercial, like the rest? Is there
no danger?"

"I wish you would sit down," Kendal said ruefully. "I
shouldn't feel it so much, perhaps, if you sat down. And
pending my acknowledgment of a Londoner's sin in painting
in London, it seems to me that you have put yourself
under pretty much the same condemnation."

"I have not come to paint," Elfrida answered quickly. "I
have put away the insanity of thinking I ever could. I
told you that, I think, in a letter. But there are--other
things. You may remember that you thought there were."

She spoke with so much repressed feeling that Kendal
reproached himself with not having thought carefully
enough about it to take her at her letter's word. He took
up the card that announced her, and looked again at the
lower left-hand corner. "I do remember, but I don't
understand. Is this one of them?" he asked.

Something, something absolutely unintentional and of the
slightest quality, in his voice operated to lower her
estimate of the announcement on the card, and she flushed
a little.

"It's--it's a way," she said. "But it was stupid
--bourgeois--of me to send up a card--such a card. With
most of these people it is necessary; with you, of course,
it was hideous! Give it to me, please," and she proceeded
to tear it slowly into little bits. "You must pardon
me," she went on, "but I thought, you know--we are not
in Paris now--and there might be people here. And then,
after all, it explains me."

"Then I should like another," Kendal interrupted.

"I'm going to do a descriptive article for the _Age_;
the editor wants to call it 'Through the Studios,' or
something of that sort--about the artists over here and
their ways of working, and their places, and their ideas,
and all that, and I thought, if you didn't mind, I should
like to begin with you. Though it's rather like taking
an advantage."

"But are you going in for this sort of thing seriously?
Have you ever done anything of the sort before? Isn't it
an uncommon grind?" Kendal asked, with hearty interest.
"What made you think of it? Of course you may say any
mortal thing you want to about me--though I call it
treachery, your going over to the critics. And I'm afraid
you won't find anything very picturesque here. As you
say, we're not in Paris."

"Oh yes, I shall," she replied sweetly, ignoring his
questions. "I like pipes and cobwebs and old coats hanging
on a nail, and plenty of litter and dust and confusion.
It's much better for work than tapestries and old armour
and wood-carvings."

Miss Bell did not open her little black notebook to record
these things, however. Instead, she picked up a number
of the _London Magazine_ and looked at the title of an
article pencil-marked on the pale green cover. It was
Janet Cardiff's article, and Lady Halifax had marked it.
Elfrida had read it before. It was a fanciful recreation
of the conditions of verse-making when Herrick wrote,
very pleasurably ironical in its bearing upon more modern
poetry-making. It had quite deserved the praise she gave
it in the corner which the _Age_ reserved for magazines.
"I want you to understand," she said slowly, "that it is
only a way. I shall not be content to stick at
this--ordinary--kind of journalistic work. I shall aim
at something better--something perhaps even as good as
that," she held up the marked article. "I wonder if she
realizes how fortunate she is--to appear between the same
covers as Swinburne!"

"It is not fortune altogether," Kendal answered; "she
works hard."

"Do you know her? Do you see her often? Will you tell
her that there is somebody who takes a special delight
in every word she writes?" asked Elfrida impulsively.
"But no, of course not! Why should she care--she must
hear such things so often. Tell me, though, what is she
like, and particularly how old is she?"

Kendal had begun to paint again; it was a compliment he
was able to pay only to a very few people. "I shall
certainly repeat it to her," he said. "She can't hear
such things often enough--nobody can. How shall I tell
you what she is like! She is tall, about as tall as you
are, and rather thin. She has a good color, and nice hair
and eyes."

"What colored eyes?"

"Brown, I think. No--I don't know, but not blue. And good
eyebrows. Particularly good eyebrows."

"She must be plain," Elfrida thought, "if he has to dwell
upon her eyebrows. And how old?" she asked again. "Much
over thirty?"

"Oh dear, no! Not thirty. Twenty-four, I should say."

Elfrida's face fell perceptibly. "Twenty-four!" she
exclaimed. "And I am already twenty! I shall never catch
up to her in four years. Oh, you have made me so unhappy!
I thought she must be _quite_ old--forty perhaps. I was
prepared to venerate her. But twenty-four and good
eyebrows! It is too much."

Kendal laughed. "Oh, I say!" he exclaimed, jumping up
and bringing a journal from the other side of the room,
"if you're going in for art criticism, here's something!
Do you see the _Decade?_ The _Decade's_ article on the
pictures in last week's number fairly brought me back to
town." He held his brush between his teeth and found the
place for her. "There! I don't know who did it, and it
was the first thing Miss Cardiff asked me when I put in
my appearance there yesterday, so she doesn't either,
though she writes a good deal for the _Decade_."

Kendal had gone back to work, and did not see that Elfrida
was making an effort of self-control, with a curious
exaltation in her eyes. "I--I have seen this," she said
presently.

"Capital, isn't it!"

"Miss Cardiff asked you who wrote it?" she repeated
hungrily.

"Yes; she commissioned me to find out, and if he was
respectable to bring him there. Her father said I was to
bring him anyway. So I don't propose to find out. The
Cardiffs have burned their fingers once or twice already
handling obscure genius, and I won't take the
responsibility. But it's adorably savage, isn't it?"

"Do you really like it!" she asked. It was her first
taste of success, and the savor was very sweet. But she
was in an agony of desire to tell him, to tell him
immediately, but gracefully, delicately, that she wrote
it. How could she say it, and yet seem uneager, indifferent?
But the occasion must not slip. It was a miserable
moment.

"Immensely," he replied.

"Then," she said, with just a little more significance
in her voice than she intended, "you would rather not
find out?"

He turned and met her shining eyes. She smiled, and he
had an instant of conviction. "You," he exclaimed--"you
did it! Really?"

She nodded, and he swiftly reflected upon what he had
said. "Now criticise!" she begged impatiently.

"I can only advise you to follow your own example," he
said gravely. "It's rather exuberantly cruel in places."

"Adorably savage, you _said!_"

"I wasn't criticising then. And I suppose," he went on,
with a shade of awkwardness, "I ought to thank you for
all the charming things you put in about me."

"Ah!" she returned, with a contemptuous pout and shrug,
"don't say that--it's like the others. But," she clinched
it notwithstanding, and rather quickly, "will you take
me to see Miss Cardiff? I mean," she added, noting his
look of consternation, "will you ask her if I may come?
I forget--we are in London."

At this moment the boy from below-stairs knocked with
tea and cakes, little Italian cakes in iced jackets and
paper boats. "Yes, certainly--yes, I will," said Kendal,
staring at the tray, and trying to remember when he had
ordered it; "but it's your plain duty to make us both
some tea, and to eat as many of these pink-and-white
things as you possibly can. They seem to have come down
from heaven for you."

They ate and drank and talked and were merry for quite
twenty minutes. Elfrida opened her notebook and threatened
absurdities of detail for publication in the _Age_; he
defied her, tilted his chair back, put his feet on a
packing-box, and smoked a cigarette. He placed all the
studies he had made after she left Paris before her, and
as she finished the last but one of the Italian cakes,
they discussed these in the few words from which they
both drew such large and satisfying meanings as do not
lie at all in the vocabulary of outsiders. Elfrida felt
the keenest pleasure of her whole life in the knowledge
that Kendal was talking to her more seriously, more
carefully, because of that piece of work in the _Decade_;
the consciousness of it was like wine to her, freeing
her thoughts and her lips. Kendal felt, too, that the
plane of their relations was somehow altered. He was not
sure that he liked the alteration. Already she had grown
less amusing, and the real _camaraderie_ which she
constantly suggested her desire for he could not, at the
bottom of his heart, truly tolerate with a woman. He was
an artist, but he was also an Englishman, and he told
himself that he must not let her get into the way of
coming there. He felt an obscure inward irritation, which
he did not analyze, that she should talk so well and be
so charming personally at the same time.

Elfrida, still in the flush of her elation, was putting
on her gloves to go, when the room resounded to a masterful
double rap. The door almost simultaneously opened far
enough to disclose a substantial gloved hand upon the
outer handle, and in the tones of confident aggression
which habit has given to many middle-aged ladies, a
feminine voice said, "May we come in?"

It is not probable that Lady Halifax had ever been so
silently, surely, and swiftly damned before. In the
fraction of an instant that followed Kendal glanced at
the dismantled tray and felt that the situation was
atrocious. He had just time to put his foot upon his
half-smoked cigarette, and to force a pretence of unconcern
into his "Come in! Come in!" when the lady and her daughter
entered with something of unceremoniousness.

"Those are appalling stairs--" Lady Halifax observed
Elfrida, and came to an instant's astonished halt--"of
yours, Mr. Kendal, appalling!" Then as Kendal shook hands
with Miss Halifax she faced round upon him in a manner
which said definitely, "Explain!" and behind her sharp
good-natured little eyes Kendal read, "If it is possible!"
He looked at Elfrida in the silent hope that she would
go, but she appeared to have no such intention. He was
pushed to a momentary wish that she had got into the
cupboard, which he dismissed, turning a deeper brick
color as it came and went. Elfrida was looking up with
calm inquiry, buttoning a last glove-button.

"Lady Halifax," he said, seeing nothing else for it,
"this is Miss Bell, from America, a fellow-student in
Paris. Miss Bell has deserted art for literature, though,"
he went on bravely, noting an immediate change in his
visitor's expression, and the fact that her acknowledgment
was quite as polite as was necessary. "She has done me
the honor to look me up this afternoon in the formidable
character of a representative of the press."

Lady Halifax looked as if the explanation was quite
acceptable, though she reserved the right of criticism.

Elfrida took the first word, smiling prettily straight
into Lady Halifax's face.

"Mr. Kendal pretends to be very much frightened," she
said, with pleasant, modest coolness, and looked at
Kendal.

"From America," Lady Halifax repeated, as if for the
comfort of the assurance. "I am sure it is a great
advantage nowadays to have been brought up in America."
This was quite as delicately as Lady Halifax could possibly
manage to inform Kendal that she understood the situation.
Miss Halifax was looking absorbedly at Elfrida. "Are you
really a journalist?" Miss Halifax asked. "How nice! I
didn't know there were any ladies on the London press,
except, of course, the fashion-papers, but that isn't
quite the same, is it?"

When Miss Halifax said "How nice!" it indicated a strong
degree of interest. The threads of Miss Halifax's
imagination were perpetually twisting themselves about
incidents that had the least unusualness, and here was
a most unusual incident, with beauty and genius thrown
in! Whether she could approve it or not in connection
with Kendal, Miss Halifax would decide afterward. She
told herself that she ought to be sufficiently devoted
to Kendal to be magnanimous about his friends. Her six
years of seniority gave her the candor to confess that
she was devoted to Kendal--to his artistic personality,
that is, and to his pictures. While Kendal turned a still
uncomfortable back upon them, showing Lady Halifax what
he had done since she had been there last--she was always
pitiless in her demands for results--Elfrida talked a
little about "the press" to Miss Halifax. Very lightly
and gracefully she talked about it, so lightly and
gracefully that Miss Halifax obtained an impression which
she has never lost, that journalism for a woman had ideal
attractions, and privately resolved if ever she were
thrown upon the bleak world to take it up. As the others
turned toward them again Elfrida noticed the
conscience-stricken glance which Kendal gave to the
tea-tray.

"Oh," she said, with a slight enhancement of her pretty
Parisian gurgle, "I am very guilty--you must allow me to
say that I am very guilty indeed! Mr. Kendal did not
expect to see me to-day, and in his surprise he permitted
me to eat up all the cakes! I am so sorry! Are there no
more--anywhere?" she asked Kendal, with such a gay
pretence of tragic grief that they all laughed together.
She went away then, and while they waited for a fresh
supply of tea, Kendal did his best to satisfy the curiosity
of the Halifaxes about her. He was so more than thankful
she had convinced them that she was a person about whom
it was proper to be curious.



CHAPTER XII.

It was Arthur Rattray who generally did the art criticism
for the _Decade_, and when a temporary indisposition
interfered between Mr. Rattray and this duty early in
May, he had acquired so much respect for Elfrida's opinion
in artistic matters, and so much good-will toward her
personally, that he wrote and asked her to undertake it
for him with considerable pleasure. This respect and
regard had dawned upon him gradually, from various sources,
in spite of the fact that the Latin Quarter article had
not been a particular success. That, to do Miss Bell
justice, as Mr. Rattray said in mentioning the matter to
the editor-in-chief, was not so much the fault of the
article as the fault of their public. Miss Bell wrote
the graphic naked truth about the Latin Quarter. Even
after Rattray had sent her copy back to be amended for
the third time, she did not seem able to realize that
their public wouldn't stand _unions libres_ when not
served up with a moral purpose--that no artistic apology
for them would do. In the end, therefore, Rattray was
obliged to mutilate the article himself, and to neutralize
it here and there. He was justified in taking the trouble,
for it was matter they wanted, on account of some expensive
drawings of the locality that had been in hand a long
time. Even then the editor-in-chief had grumbled at its
"tone," though the wrath of the editor-in-chief was
nothing to Miss Bell's. Mr. Rattray could not remember
ever having had before a conversation with a contributor
which approached in liveliness or interest the one he
sustained with Miss Bell the day after her copy appeared.
If he imparted some ideas of expediency, he received some
of obligation to artistic truth, which he henceforth
associated with Elfrida's expressive eyes and what he
called her foreign accent. On the whole, therefore, the
conversation was agreeable, and it left him with the
impression that Miss Bell, under proper guidance, could
very possibly do some fresh unconventional work for the
_Age_. Freshness and unconventionality for the _Age_ was
what Mr. Rattray sought as they seek the jewel in the
serpent's head in the far East. He talked to the
editor-in-chief about it, mentioning the increasing lot
of things concerning women that had to be touched, which
only a woman could treat "from the inside," and the
editor-in-chief agreed sulkily, because experience told
him it was best to agree with Mr. Rattray, that Miss Bell
should be taken on the staff on trial, at two pounds a
week. "But the paper doesn't want a female Zola," he
growled; "you can tell her that." Rattray did not tell
her precisely that, but he explained the situation so
that she quite understood it, the next afternoon when he
called to talk the matter over with her. He could not
ask her to come to the office to discuss it, he said,
they were so full up, they had really no place to receive
a lady. And he apologized for his hat, which was not a
silk one, in the uncertain way of a man who has heard of
the proprieties in these things. She made him tea with
her samovar, and she talked to him about Parisian journalism
and the Parisian stage in a way that made her a further
discovery to him; and his mind, hitherto wholly devoted
to the service of the _Illustrated Age_, received an
impetus in a new direction. When he had gone Elfrida
laughed a little, silently, thinking first of this, for
it was quite plain to her. Then, contrasting what the
_Age_ wanted her to write with her ideal of journalistic
literature, she stated to Buddha that it was "worse than
_panade_." "But it means two pounds a week, Buddha," she
said; "fifty francs! Do you understand that? It means
that we shall be able to stay here, in the world--that
I shall not be obliged to take you to Sparta. You don't
know, Buddha, how you would _loathe_ Sparta! But understand,
it is at _that_ price that we are going to despise
ourselves for a while--not for the two pounds!"

And next day she was sent to report a distribution of
diplomas to graduating nurses by the Princess of Wales.

Buddha was not an adequate confidant. Elfrida found him
capable of absorbing her emotions indefinitely, but his
still smile was not always responsive enough, so she made
a little feast, and asked Golightly Ticke to tea, the
Sunday after the Saturday that made her a salaried member
of the London press. Golightly's felicitations were
sincere and spasmodically sympathetic, but he found it
impossible to conceal the fact that of late the world
had not smiled equally upon him. In spite of the dramatic
fervor with which the part of James Jones, a solicitor's
clerk, had been rendered every evening, the piece at the
Princess's had to come to an unprofitable close, the
theatre had been leased to an American company, Phyllis
had gone to the provinces, and Mr. Ticke's abilities were
at the service of chance. By the time he had reached
his second cigarette he was so sunk in cynicism that
Elfrida applied herself delicately to discover these
facts. Golightly made an elaborate effort to put her off.
He threw his head back in his chair and watched the faint
rings of his cigarette curling into indistinguishability
against the ceiling, and said he was only the dust that
blew about the narrow streets of the world, and why should
she care to know which way the wind took him! Lighting
his third, he said, as bitterly as that engrossment would
permit him, that the sooner--puff--it was over--puff--the
sooner--puff--to sleep; and when the lighting was quite
satisfactorily accomplished he laughed harshly. "I shall
think," said Elfrida earnestly, "if you do not tell me
how things are with you, since they are bad, that you
are not a true Bohemian--that you have scruples."

"You know better--at least I hope you do--than to charge
me with that," Golightly returned, with an inflection
full of reproachful meaning. "I--I drank myself to sleep
last night, Miss Bell. When the candle flickered out I
thought that it was all over--curious sensation. This
morning," he added, looking through his half-closed
eyelashes with sardonic stage effect, "I wished it had
been."

"Tell me," Elfrida insisted gently; and looking attentively
at his long, thin fingers Mr. Ticke then told her. He
told her tersely, it did not take long; and in the end
he doubled up his hand and pulled a crumpled cuff down
over it. "To me," he said, "a thing like that represents
the worst of it. When I look at that I feel capable of
crime. I don't know whether you'll understand, but the
consideration of what my finer self suffers through
sordidness of this sort sometimes makes me think that to
rob a bank would be an act of virtue."

"I understand," said Elfrida.

"Washerwomen as a class are callous. I suppose the alkalies
they use finally penetrate to their souls. I said to
mine last Thursday, 'But I must be clean, Mrs. Binkley!'
and the creature replied, 'I don't see at all, Mr. Ticks'
--she has an odious habit of calling me Mr. Ticks--'why
you shouldn't go dirty occasional.' She seemed to think
she had made a joke!"

"They live to be paid," Elfrida said, with hard philosophy,
and then she questioned him delicately about his play.
Could she induce him to show it to her, some day? Her
opinion was worth nothing really--oh no, absolutely
nothing--but it would be a pleasure if Golightly were
_sure_ he didn't mind.

Golightly found a difficulty in selecting phrases repressive
enough to be artistic, in which to tell her that he would
be delighted.

When Mr. Ticke came in that evening he found upon his
dressing-table a thick square envelope addressed to him
in Elfrida's suggestive hand. With his fingers and thumb
he immediately detected a round hardness in one corner,
and he took some pains to open the letter so that nothing
should fall out. He postponed the pleasure of reading it
until he had carefully extracted the two ten-shilling
pieces, divested them of their bits of tissue-paper, and
put them in his waistcoat pocket. Then he held the letter
nearer to the candle and read: "I have thought about this
for a whole hour. You must believe, please, that it is
no vulgar impulse. I acknowledge it to be a very serious
liberty, and in taking it I rely upon not having
misinterpreted the scope of the freedom which exists
between us. In Bohemia--our country--one may share one's
luck with a friend, _n'est ce pas?_ I will not ask to be
forgiven."

"Nice girl," said Mr. Golightly Ticke, taking off his
boots. He went to bed rather resentfully conscious of
the difference there was in the benefactions of Miss
Phyllis Fane.

Shortly after this Mr. Ticke's own luck mended, and on
two different occasions Elfrida found a bunch of daffodils
outside her door in the morning, that made a mute and
graceful acknowledgment of the financial bond Mr. Ticke
did not dream of offering to materialize in any other
way. He felt his gratitude finely; it suggested to him
a number of little directions in which he could make
himself useful to Miss Bell, putting aside entirely the
question of repayment. One of these resolved itself into
an invitation from the Arcadia Club, of which Mr. Ticke
was a member in impressive arrears, to their monthly
_soiree_ in the Landscapists' rooms in Bond Street. The
Arcadia Club had the most liberal scope of any in London,
he told Elfrida, and included the most interesting people.
Painters belonged to it, and sculptors, actors, novelists,
musicians, journalists, perhaps above all, journalists.
A great many ladies were members, Elfrida would see, and
they were always glad to welcome a new personality. The
club recognized how the world had run to types, and how
scarce and valuable personalities were in consequence.
It was not a particularly conventional club, but he would
arrange that, if Elfrida would accept his escort. Mrs.
Tommy Morrow should meet her in the dressing-room, as a
concession to the prejudices of society.

"Mrs. Tommy is a brilliant woman in her way," Mr. Ticke
added; "she edits the _Boudoir_--I might say she created
the _Boudoir_. They call her the Queen of Arcadia. She
has a great deal of manner."

"What does Mr. Tommy Morrow do?" Elfrida asked. But
Golightly could not inform her as to Mr. Tommy Morrow's
occupation.

The rooms were half full when they arrived, and as the
man in livery announced them, "Mrs. Morrow, Miss Bell,
and Mr. Golightly Ticke," it seemed to Elfrida that
everybody turned simultaneously to look. There was nobody
to receive them; the man in livery published them, as it
were, to the company, which she felt to be a more effective
mode of entering society, when it was the society of the
arts. She could not possibly help being aware that a
great many people were looking in her direction over Mrs.
Tommy Morrow's shoulder. Presently it became obvious that
Mrs. Tommy Morrow was also aware of it. The shoulder was
a very feminine shoulder, with long lines curving forward
into the sulphur-colored gown that met them not too
prematurely. Mrs. Tommy Morrow insisted upon her shoulder,
and upon her neck, which was short behind but long in
front in effect, and curved up to a chin which was somewhat
too persistently thrust forward. Mrs. Tommy had a pretty
face with an imperious expression. "Just the face," as
Golightly murmured to Elfrida, "to run the _Boudoir_."
She seemed to know everybody, bowed right and left with
varying degrees of cordiality, and said sharply, "No shop
to-night!" to a thin young woman in a high black silk,
who came up to her exclaiming, "Oh, Mrs. Morrow, that
function at Sandringham has been postponed." Presently
Mrs. Morrow's royal progress was interrupted by a gentleman
who wished to present Signer Georgiadi, "the star of the
evening," Golightly said hurriedly to Elfrida. Mrs. Morrow
was very gracious, but the little fat Italian with the
long hair and the drooping eyelids was atrociously
embarrassed to respond to her compliments in English. He
struggled so violently that Mrs. Morrow began to smile
with a compassionate patronage which turned him a
distressing terra-cotta. Elfrida looked on for a few
minutes, and then, as one of the group, she said quietly
in French, "And Italian opera in England, how do you find
it, Signor?"

The Italian thanked her with every feature of his expressive
countenance, and burst with polite enthusiasm into his
opinion of the Albert Hall concerts. When he discovered
Elfrida to be an American, and therefore not specially
susceptible to praise of English classical interpretations,
he allowed himself to become critical, and their talk
increased in liveliness and amiability.

Mrs. Morrow listened with an appreciative air for a few
minutes, playing with her fan; then she turned to Mr.
Ticke.

"Golightly," she said acidly, "I am dying of thirst You
shall take me to the refreshment table."

So the star of the evening was abandoned to Elfrida, and
finding in her a refuge from the dreadful English tongue,
he clung to her. She was so occupied with him in this
character that almost all the other distinguished people
who attended the _soiree_ of the Arcadia Club escaped
her. Golightly asked her reproachfully afterward how he
could possibly have pointed them out to her, absorbed as
she was--and some of them would have been so pleased to
be introduced to her! She met a few notwithstanding;
they were chiefly rather elderly unmarried ladies, who
immediately mentioned to her the paper they were connected
with, and one or two of them, learning that she was a
newcomer, kindly gave her their cards, and asked her to
come and see them any second Tuesday. They had indefinite
and primitive ideas of doing their hair, and they were
certainly _mal tournee_; but Elfrida saw that she made
an impression on them--that they would remember her and
talk of her; and seeing that, other things became less
noteworthy. She felt that these ladies were more or less
emancipated, on easy terms with the facts of life, free
from the prejudices that tied the souls of people she
saw shopping at the Stores, for instance. That, and a
familiarity with the exigencies of copy at short notice,
was discernible in the way they talked and looked about
them, and the readiness with which they produced a pencil
to write the second Tuesday on their cards. Almost every
lady suggested that she might have decorated the staff
of her journal an appreciable number of years, if that
supposition had not been forbidden by the fact that the
feminine element in journalism is of comparatively recent
introduction. Elfrida wondered what they occupied themselves
with before. It did not detract from her sense of the
success of the evening--Golightly Ticke went about telling
everybody that she was the new American writer on the
_Age_--to feel herself altogether the youngest person
present, and manifestly the most effectively dressed, in
her cloudy black net and daffodils. Her spirits rose with
a keen instinct that assured her she would win, if it
were only a matter of a race with _them_. She had never
had the feeling, in any security, before; it lifted her
and carried her on in a wave of exhilaration. Golightly
Ticke, taking her in turn to the buffet for lemonade and
a sandwich, told her that he knew she would enjoy it--she
must be enjoying it, she looked in such capital form. It
was the first time she had been near the buffet; so she
had not had the opportunity of observing how important
a feature the lemonade and sandwiches formed in the
entertainment of the evening--how persistently the
representatives of the arts, with varying numbers of
buttons off their gloves, returned to this light
refreshment.

Elfrida thanked Mrs. Tommy Morrow very sweetly for her
chaperonage in the cloak-room when the hour of departure
came. "Well," said Mrs. Morrow, "you can say you have
seen a characteristic London literary gathering."

"Yes, thanks!" said Elfrida; and then, looking about her
for a commonplace, "How much taller the women seem to be
than the men," she remarked.

"Yes," returned Mrs. Tommy Morrow, "Du Maurier drew
attention to that in _Punch_, some time ago."



CHAPTER XIII.

Janet Cardiff, running downstairs to the drawing-room
from the top story of the house in Kensington Square with
the knowledge that a new American girl, who wrote very
clever things about pictures, awaited her there, tried
to remember just what sort of description John Kendal
had given of her visitor. Her recollection was vague as
to detail; she could not anticipate a single point with
certainty, perhaps because she had not paid particular
attention at the time. She had been given a distinct
impression that she might expect to be interested, however,
which accounted for her running downstairs. Nothing
hastened Janet Cardiff's footsteps more than the prospect
of anybody interesting. She and her father declared that
it was their great misfortune to be thoroughly respectable,
it cut them off from so much. It was in particular the
girl's complaint against their life that humanity as they
knew it was rather a neutral-tinted, carefully woven
fabric too largely "machine-made," as she told herself,
with a discontent that the various Fellows of the Royal
Society and members of the Athenaeum Club, with whom the
Cardiffs were in the habit of dining, could hardly have
thought themselves capable of inspiring. It seemed to
Janet that nobody crossed their path until his or her
reputation was made, and that by the time people had made
their reputations they succumbed to them, and became
uninteresting.

She told herself at once that nothing Kendal could have
said would have prepared her for this American, and that
certainly nothing she had seen or read of other Americans
did. Elfrida was standing beside the open window looking
out. As Janet came in a breeze wavered through and lifted
the fluffy hair about her visitor's forehead, and the
scent of the growing things in the little square came
with it into the room. She turned slowly, with grave wide
eyes and a plaintive indrawing of her pretty underlip,
and held out three full-blown gracious Marechal Neil
roses on long slender stems. "I have brought you these,"
she said, with a charming effect of simplicity, "to make
me welcome. There was no reason, none whatever, why I
should be welcome, so I made one. You will not be
angry--perhaps?"

Janet banished her conventional "Very glad to see you"
instantly. She took the roses with a quick thrill of
pleasure. Afterward she told herself that she was not
touched, not in the least, she did not quite know why;
but she freely acknowledged that she was more than amused.

"How charming of you!" she said. "But I have to thank
you for coming as well. Now let us shake hands, or we
shan't feel properly acquainted." Janet detected a
half-tone of patronage in her voice, and fell into a rage
with herself because of it. She looked at Elfrida sharply
to note a possible resentment, but there was none. If
she had looked a trifle more sharply she might have
observed a subtler patronage in the little smile her
visitor received this commonplace with; but, like the
other, she was too much occupied in considering her
personal effect. She had become suddenly desirous that
it should be a good one.

Elfrida went on in the personal key. "I suppose you are
very tired of hearing such things," she said, "but I owe
you so much."

This was not quite justifiable, for Miss Cardiff was only
a successful writer in the magazines, whose name was very
familiar to other people who wrote in them, and had a
pleasant association for the reading public. It was by
no means fame; she would have been the first to laugh at
the magniloquence of the word in any personal connection.
For her father she would accept a measure of it, and only
deplored that the lack of public interest in Persian made
the measure small. She had never confessed to a soul how
largely she herself was unacquainted with his books, and
how considerably her knowledge of her father's specialty
was covered by the opinion that Persian was a very
decorative character. She could not let Elfrida suppose
that she thought this anything but a politeness.

"Oh, thanks--impossible!" she cried gaily. "Indeed, I
assure you it is months since I heard anything so
agreeable," which was also a departure from the strictest
verity.

"But truly! I'm afraid I am very clumsy," Elfrida added,
with a pretty dignity, "but I should like to assure you
of that."

"If you have allowed me to amuse you now and then for
half an hour it has been very good of you," Janet returned,
looking at Miss Bell with rather more curious interest
than she thought it polite to show. It began to seem to
her, however, that the conventional side of the occasion
was not obvious from any point of view. "You are an
American, aren't you?" she asked. "Mr. Kendal told me
so. I suppose one oughtn't to say that one would like
to be an American. But you have such a pull! I know I
should like living there."

Elfrida gave herself the effect of considering the matter
earnestly. It flitted, really, over the surface of her
mind, which was engaged in absorbing Janet and the room,
and the situation.

"Perhaps it is better to be born in America than in--most
places," she said, with a half glance at the prim square
outside. "It gives you a point of view that is--splendid."
In hesitating this way before her adjectives, she always
made her listeners doubly attentive to what she had to
say. "And having been deprived of so much that you have
over here, we like it better, of course, when we get it,
than you do. But nobody would live in constant deprivation.
No, you wouldn't like living there. Except in New York,
and, oh, I should say Santa Barbara, and New Orleans
perhaps, the life over there is--infernal."

"You are like a shower-bath," said Janet to herself; but
the shower-bath had no palpable effect upon her. "What
have we that is so important that you haven't got?" she
asked.

"Quantities of things." Elfrida hesitated, not absolutely
sure of the wisdom of her example. Then she ventured it.
"The picturesqueness of society--your duchesses and your
women in the green-grocers' shops." It was not wise, she
saw instantly.

"Really? It is so difficult to understand that duchesses
are interesting--out of novels; and the green-grocers'
wives are a good deal alike, too, aren't they?"

"It's the contrast; you see our duchesses were
green-grocers' wives the day before yesterday, and our
green-grocers' wives subscribe to the magazines. It's
all mixed up, and there are no high lights anywhere. You
move before us in a sort of panoramic pageant," Elfrida
went on, determined to redeem her point, "with your Queen
and Empress of India--she ought to be riding on an
elephant, oughtn't she?--in front, and all your princes
and nobles with their swords drawn to protect her. Then
your Upper Classes and your Upper Middle Classes walking
stiffly two and two; and then your Lower Middle Classes
with large families, dropping their h's; and then your
hideous people from the slums. And besides," she added,
with prettily repressed enthusiasm, "there is the shadowy
procession of all the people that have gone before, and
we can see that you are a good deal like them, though
they are more interesting still. It is very pictorial."
She stopped suddenly and consciously, as if she had said
too much, and Janet felt that she was suggestively
apologized to.

"Doesn't the phenomenal squash make up for all that?"
she asked. "It would to me. I'm dying to see the phenomenal
squash, and the prodigious water-melon, and--"

"And the falls of Niagara?" Elfrida put in, with the
faintest turning down of the corners of her mouth. "I'm
afraid our wonders are chiefly natural, and largely
vegetable, as you say."

"But they are wonders. Everything here has been measured
so many times. Besides, haven't you got the elevated
railway, and a statue of Liberty, and the 'Jeanne d'Arc,'
and W. D. Howells! To say nothing of a whole string of
poets--good gray poets that wear beards and laurels, and
fanciful young ones that dance in garlands on the back
pages of the _Century_. Oh, I know them all, the dear
things! And I'm quite sure their ideas are indigenous to
the soil."

Elfrida let her eyes tell her appreciation, and also the
fact that she would take courage now, she was gaining
confidence. "I'm glad you like them," she said. "Howells
would do if he would stop writing about virtuous
sewing-girls, and give us some real _romans psychologiques_.
But he is too much afraid of soiling his hands, that
monsieur; his _betes humaines_ are always conventionalized,
and generally come out at the end wearing the halo of
the redeemed. He always reminds me of Cruikshank's picture
of the ghost being put out by the extinguisher in the
'Christmas Carol.' His genius is the ghost, and
conventionality is the extinguisher. But it _is_ genius,
so it's a pity."

"It seems to me that Howells deals honestly with his
materials," Janet said, instinctively stilling the jar
of Elfrida's regardless note. She was so pretty, this
new creature, and she had such original ways. Janet must
let her talk about _romans psychologiques_, or worse
things, if she wanted to. "To me he has a tremendous
appearance of sincerity, psychological and other. But do
you know, I don't think the English or American people
are exactly calculated to reward the sort of vivisection
you mean. The _bete_ is too conscious of his moral fibre
when he's respectable, and when he isn't respectable he
doesn't commit picturesque crimes, he steals and boozes.
I dare say he's bestial enough, but pure unrelieved filth
can't be transmuted into literature, and as a people
we're perfectly devoid of that extraordinary artistic
nature that it makes such a foil for in the Latins. That
is really the only excuse the naturalists have."

"Excuse!" Elfrida repeated, with a bewildered look. "You
had Wainwright," she added hastily.

"_Nous nous en felicitons!_ We've got him still--in Madame
Tussaud's," cried Janet "He poisoned for money in cold
blood--not exactly an artistic vice! Oh, _he_ won't
do!"--she laughed triumphantly--"if he did write charming
things about the Renaissance! Besides, he illustrates my
case; among us he was a phenomenon, like the elephant-headed
man. Phenomena are for the scientists. You don't mean
to tell me that any literature that pretends to call
itself artistic has a right to touch them."

By this time they had absolutely forgotten that up to
twenty minutes ago they had never seen each other before.
Already they had mutely and unconsciously begun to rejoice
that they had come together; already each of them promised
herself the exploration of the other's nature, with the
preliminary idea that it would be a satisfying, at least
an interesting process. The impulse made Elfrida almost
natural, and Janet perceived this with quick
self-congratulation. Already she had made up her mind
that this manner was a pretty mask which it would be her
business to remove.

"But--but you're not in it!" Elfrida returned. "Pardon
me, but you're not _there_, you know. Art has no ideal
but truth, and to conventionalize truth is to damn it In
the most commonplace material there is always truth, but
here they conventionalize it out of all--"

"Oh," cried Janet, "we're a conventional people, I assure
you, Miss Bell, and so are you, for how could you change
your spots in a hundred years? The material here is
conventional. Daudet couldn't have written of us. Our
wicked women are too inglorious. Now Sapho--"

Miss Cardiff stopped at the ringing of the door-bell.
"Oh," she said, "here is my father. You will let me give
you a cup of tea now, won't you?" The maid was bringing
in the tray. "I should like you to meet my father."

Lawrence Cardiff's grasp was on the door-handle almost
as she spoke. Seeing Elfrida, he involuntarily put up
his hand to settle the back of his coat collar--these
little middle-aged ways were growing upon him--and shook
hands with her as Janet introduced them, with that courtly
impenetrable agreeableness that always provoked curiosity
about him in strangers, and often led to his being taken
for somebody more important than he was, usually somebody
in politics. Elfrida saw that he was quite different from
her conception of a university professor with a reputation
in Persian and a clever daughter of twenty-four. He was
straight and slender for one thing; he had gay inquiring
eyes, and fair hair just beginning to show gray where
the ends were brushed back; and Elfrida immediately became
aware that his features were as modern and as mobile as
possible. She had a moment of indecision and surprise
--indecision as to the most effective way of presenting
herself, and surprise that it should be necessary to
decide upon a way. It had never occurred to her that a
gentleman who had won scientific celebrity by digging
about Arabic roots, and who had contributed a daughter
like Janet to the popular magazines, could claim anything
of her beyond a highly respectful consideration. In
moments when she hoped to know the Cardiffs well she had
pictured herself doing little graceful acts of politeness
toward this paternal person--acts connected with his
spectacles, his _Athenian_, his foot-stool But apparently
she had to meet a knight and not a pawn.

She was hardly aware of taking counsel with herself; and
the way she abandoned her hesitations, and what Janet
was inwardly calling her Burne-Jonesisms, had all the
effect of an access of unconsciousness. Janet Cardiff
watched it with delight. "But why," she asked herself in
wonder, "should she have been so affected--if it was
affectation--with _me?_" She would decide whether it was
or was not afterward, she thought. Meanwhile she was glad
her father had thought of saying something nice about the
art criticism in the _Decade_; he was putting it so much
better than she could, and it would do for both of them.

"You paint yourself, I fancy?" Mr. Cardiff was saying
lightly. There was no answer for an instant, or perhaps
three. Elfrida was looking down. Presently she raised
her eyes, and they were larger than ever, and wet.

"No," she said, a little tensely. "I have tried"
--"trr-hied," she pronounced it--"but--but I cannot."

Lawrence Cardiff looked at his teaspoon in a considering
way, and Janet reflected, not without indignation, that
this was the manner in which people who cared for them
might be expected to speak of the dead. But Elfrida cut
short the reflection by turning to her brightly. "When
Mr. Cardiff came in," she said, "you were telling me why
a Daudet could not write about the English. It was
something about Sapho--"

Mr. Cardiff looked up curiously, and Janet, glancing in
her father's direction, reddened. Did this strange young
woman not realize that it was impossible to discuss beings
like "Sapho" with one's father in the room? Apparently
not, for she went on: "It seems to me it is the exception
in that class, as in all classes, that rewards interest--"

That rewards interest? What might she not say next!

"Yes," interrupted Janet desperately, "but then my father
came in and changed the subject of our conversation.
Where are you living, Miss Bell?"

"Near Fleet Street," said Elfrida, rising. "I find the
locality most interesting, when I can see it. I can
patronize the Roman baths, and lunch at Dr. Johnson's
pet tavern, and attend service in the church of the real
Templars if I like. It is delightful. I did go to the
Temple Church a fortnight ago," she added, "and I saw
such a horrible thing that I am not sure that I will go
again. There is a beautiful old Crusader lying there in
stone, and on his feet a man who sat near had hung his
silk hat. And nobody interfered. Why do you laugh?"

When she had fairly gone Lawrence and Janet Cardiff looked
at each other and smiled. "Well!" cried Janet, "it's a
find, isn't it, daddy?"

Her father shrugged his shoulders. His manner said that
he was not pleased, but Janet found a tone in his voice
that told her the impression of Elfrida had not been
altogether distasteful.

"_Fin de siecle_," he said.

"Perhaps," Janet answered, looking out of the window, "a
little _fin de siecle_."

"Did you notice," asked Lawrence Cardiff, "that she didn't
tell you where she was living?"

"Didn't she? Neither she did. But we can easily find out
from John Kendal."



CHAPTER XIV.

Kendal hardly admitted to himself that his acquaintance
with Elfrida had gone beyond the point of impartial
observation. The proof of its impartiality, if he had
thought of seeking it, would have appeared to him to lie
in the fact that he found her, in her personality, her
ideas, and her effects, to be damaged by London. The
conventionality--Kendal's careless generalization
preferred a broad term--of the place made her extreme
in every way, and it had recently come to be a conclusion
with him that English conventionality, in moderation,
was not wholly to be smiled at. Returning to it, its
protectiveness had impressed him strongly, and he had a
comforting sense of the responsibility it imposed upon
society. Paris and the Quartier stood out against it in
his mind like something full of light and color and
transient passion on the stage--something to be remembered
with recurrent thrills of keen satisfaction and to be
seen again. It had been more than this, he acknowledged,
for he had brought out of it an element that lightened
his life and vitalized his work, and gave an element of
joyousness to his imagination--it was certain that he
would go back there. And Miss Bell had been in it and
of it--so much in it and of it that he felt impatient
with her for permitting herself to be herself in any
other environment. He asked himself why she could not
see that she was crudely at variance with all color and
atmosphere and law in her present one, and he speculated
as to the propriety of telling her so, of advising her
outright as to the expediency in her own interest, of
being other than herself in London. That was what it
came to, he reflected in deciding that he could not--if
the girl's convictions and motives and aims were real;
and he was beginning to think they were real. And although
he had found himself at liberty to say to her things that
were harder to hear, he felt a curious repugnance to
giving her any inkling of what he thought about this.
It would be a hideous thing to do, he concluded, an
unforgivable thing, and an actual hurt. Kendal had for
women the readiest consideration, and though one of the
odd things he found in Elfrida was the slight degree to
which she evoked it in him, he recoiled instinctively
from any reasoned action which would distress her. But
his sense of her inconsistency with British institutions
--at least he fancied it was that--led him to discourage
somewhat, in the lightest way, Miss Halifax's interested
inquiries about her. The inquiries suggested dimly that
eccentricity and obscurity might be overlooked in any
one whose personality really had a value for Mr. Kendal,
and made an attempt, which was heroic considering the
delicacy of Miss Halifax's scruples, to measure his
appreciation of Miss Bell as a writer--to Miss Halifax
the word wore a halo--and as an individual. If she did
not succeed it was partly because he had not himself
quite decided whether Elfrida, in London, was delightful
or intolerable, and partly because he had no desire to
be complicated in social relations which, he told himself,
must be either ludicrous or insincere. The Halifaxes were
not in any sense literary; their proper pretensions to
that sort of society were buried with Sir William, who
had been editor of the _Brown Quarterly_ in his day, and
many other things. They had inherited his friends as they
had inherited his manuscripts; and in spite of a grievous
inability to edit either of them, they held to one legacy
as fast as to the other. Kendal thought with a somewhat
repelled amusement of any attempt of theirs to assimilate
Elfrida. It was different with the Cardiffs; but even
under their enthusiastic encouragement he was disinclined
to be anything but discreet and cautions about Elfrida.
In one way and another she was, at all events, a young
lady of potentialities, he reflected, and with a view to
their effect among one's friends it might be as well to
understand them. He went so far as to say to himself
that Janet was such a thoroughly nice girl as she was;
and then he smiled inwardly at the thought of how angry
she would be at the idea of his putting any prudish
considerations on her account into the balance against
an interesting acquaintance. He had, nevertheless, a
distinct satisfaction in the fact that it was really
circumstances, in the shape of the _Decade_ article, that
had brought them together, and that he could hardly charge
himself with being more than an irresponsible agent in
the matter.

Under the influence of such considerations Kendal did
not write to Elfrida at the _Age_ office asking her
address, as he had immediately resolved to do when he
discovered that she had gone away without telling him
where he might find her. It seemed to him that he could
not very well see her at her lodgings. And the pleasure
of coming upon her suddenly as she closed the door of
the _Age_ behind her and stepped out into Fleet Street
a fortnight later overcame him too quickly to permit him
to reflect that he was yielding to an opposite impulse
in asking her to dine with him at Baliero's, as they
might have done in Paris. It was an unlooked-for
opportunity, and it roused a desire which he had not
lately been calculating upon--a desire to talk with her
about all sorts of things, to feel the exhilaration of
her artistic single-mindedness, to find out more about
her, to guess at the meanings behind her eyes. If any
privileged cynic had taken the chance to ask him whether
he found her eyes expressive of purely abstract
significance, Kendal would have answered affirmatively
in all honesty. And he would have added a confession of
his curiosity to discover what she was capable of, if
she was capable of anything--which he considered legitimate
enough. At the moment, however, he had no time to think
of anything but an inducement, and he dashed through
whole pickets of scruples to find one. "They give one
such capital strawberry ices at Baliero's," he begged
her to believe. His resolutions did not even reassert
themselves when she refused. He was conscious only that
it was a bore that she should refuse, and very inconsistent;
hadn't she often dined with him at the Cafe Florian? His
gratification was considerable when she added, "They
smoke there, you know," and, it became obvious, by whatever
curious process of reasoning she arrived at it, that it
was Baliero's restaurant she objected to, and not his
society.

"Well," he urged, "there are plenty of places where they
don't smoke, though it didn't occur to me that--"

"Oh," she laughed; "but you must allow it to occur to
you," and she put her finger on her lip. Considering
their solitariness in the crowd, he thought, there was
no reason why he should not say that he was under the
impression she liked the smell of tobacco.

"There are other places," she went on. "There is a sweet
little green-and-white place like a dairy in Oxford
Street, that calls itself the 'Hyacinth,' which is sacred
to ladies and to gentlemen properly chaperoned. If you
would invite me to dine with you there I should like it
very much."

"Anywhere," he said. He accepted her proposal to dine at
the "Hyacinth" with the same unquestioning pleasure which
he would have had in accepting her proposal to dine at
the top of the Monument that evening; but he felt an
under perplexity at its terms, which was vaguely disturbing.
How could it possibly matter? Did she suppose that she
advanced palpably nearer to the proprieties in dining
with him in one place rather than the other? There was
an unreasonableness about that which irritated him.

He felt it more distinctly when she proposed taking an
omnibus instead of the cab he had signalled. "Oh, of
course, if you prefer it," he said; and there was almost
a trace of injured feeling in his voice. It was so much
easier to talk in a cab.

He lost his apprehensions presently, for it became obvious
to him that this was only a mood, coming, as he said to
himself devoutly, from the Lord knew what combination of
circumstances--he would think that out afterward--but
making Elfrida none the less agreeable while it lasted.
Under its influence she kept away from all the matters
she was fondest of discussing with that extraordinary
candor and startling equity of hers, and talked to him
with a pretty cleverness, about commonplaces of sorts
arising out of the day's news, the shops, the weather.
She treated them all with a gaiety that made her face a
fascinating study while she talked, and pointed them, as
it were, with all the little poises and expressions and
reserves which are commonly a feminine result of
considerable social training. Kendal, entering into her
whim, inwardly compared her with an acknowledged successful
girl of the season with whom he had sat out two dances
the night before in Eaton Square, to the successful girl's
disadvantage. Finding something lacking in that, he came
upon a better analogy in a young married lady of the
diplomatic circle, who had lately been dipping the third
finger of her left hand into politics with the effect of
considerably increasing her note. This struck him as
satisfactory, and he enjoyed finding completion for his
parallel wherever her words and gestures offered it. He
took her at the wish she implied, and eddied with her
around the pool which some counter-current of her nature
had made for the hour in its stream, pleasantly enough.
He made one attempt, as Elfrida unbuttoned her gloves at
their little table at the "Hyacinth," to get her to talk
about her work for the _Age_.

"Please, _please_ don't mention that," she said. "It is
too revolting. You don't know how it makes me suffer."

A moment later she returned to it of her own accord,
however. "It is absurd to try to exact pledges from
people," she said, "but I should really be happier
--_much_ happier--if you would promise me something."

"'By Heaven, I will promise _any_ thing!'" Kendal quoted,
laughing, from a poet much in vogue.

"Only this--I hope I am not selfish--" she hesitated;
"but I think--yes, I think I must be selfish here. It is
that you will never read the _Age_."

"I never do," leapt to his lips, but he stopped it in
time. "And why!" he asked instead.

"Ah, you know why! It is because you might recognize my
work in it--by accident you might--and that would be so
painful to me. It is _not_ my best--please believe it is
not my best!"

"On one condition I promise," he said: "that when you do
your best you will tell me where to find it"

She looked at him gravely and considered. As she did so
it seemed to Kendal that she was regarding his whole
moral, mental, and material nature. He could almost see
it reflected in the glass of her great dark eyes.
"Certainly, yes. That is fair--if you really and truly
care to see it. And I don't know," she added, looking up
at him from her soup, "that it matters whether you do or
not, so long as you carefully and accurately pretend that
you do. When my best, my real best, sees the light of
common--"

"Type," he suggested.

"Type," she repeated unsmilingly, "I shall be so insatiate
for criticism--I ought to say praise--that I shall even
go so far as to send you a marked copy, very plainly
marked, with blue pencil. Already," she smiled with a
charming effect of assertiveness, "I have bought the blue
pencil."

"Will it come soon?" Kendal asked seriously.

"_Cher ami_," Elfrida said, drawing her handsome brows
together a little, "it will come sooner than you expect
That is what I want," she went on deliberately, "more
than anything else in the whole world, to do things
--_good_ things, you understand--and to have them
appreciated and paid for in the admiration of people who
feel and see and know. For me life has nothing else,
except the things that other people do, better and worse
than mine."

"Better and worse than yours," Kendal repeated. "Can't
you think of them apart?"

"No, I can't," Elfrida interrupted; "I've tried, and I
can _not_. I know it's a weakness--at least I'm half
persuaded that it is--but I must have the personal standard
in everything."

"But you are a hero-worshipper; often I have seen you
at it."

"Yes," she said cynically, while the white-capped maid
who handed Kendal asparagus stared at her with a curiosity
few of the Hyacinth's lady diners inspired, "and when I
look into that I find it is because of a secret
consciousness that tells me that I, in the hero's place,
should have done just the same thing. Or else it is
because of the gratification my vanity finds in my sympathy
with his work, whatever it is. Oh, it is no special
virtue, my kind of hero-worship." The girl looked across
at Kendal and laughed a bright, frank laugh, in which
was no discontent with what she had been telling him.

"You are candid," Kendal said.

"Oh yes, I'm candid. I don't mind lying for a noble end,
but it isn't a noble end to deceive one's self."

"'Oh, purblind race of miserable men--'" Kendal began
lightly, but she stopped him.

"Don't!" she cried. "Nothing spoils conversation like
quotations. Besides, that's such a trite one; I learned
it at school."

But Kendal's offence was clearly in his manner. It seemed
to Elfrida that he would never sincerely consider what
she had to say about herself. She went on softly, holding
him with her eyes: "You may find me a simple creature--"

"_A propos_," laughed Kendal easily, "what is this
particular noble end?"

"Bah!" she said, "you are right It was a lie, and it had
no end at all. I am complex enough, I dare say. But this
is true, that my egotism is like a little flame within
me. All the best things feed it, and it is so clear that
I see everything in its light. To me it is most dear
and valuable, it simplifies things so. I assure you I
wouldn't be one of the sloppy, unselfish people the world
is full of for anything."

"As a source of gratification isn't it rather limited?"
Kendal asked. He was thinking of the extra drop of nervous
fluid in Americans that he had been reading about in the
afternoon, and wondering if it often had this development.

"I don't quite know what you mean," Elfrida returned.
"It isn't a source of gratification, it's a channel. And
it intensifies everything so that I don't care how little
comes that way. If there's anything of me left when I
die it will be that little fierce flame. And when I do
the tiniest thing, write the shortest sentence that rings
_true_, see a beauty or a joy which the common herd pass
by, I have my whole life in the flame, and it becomes my
soul--I'm sure I have no other!

"When you say that there is no real pleasure in the world
that does not come through art," Elfrida went on again,
widening her eyes seriously, "don't you feel as if you
were uttering something religious--part of a creed--as
the Mussulman feels when he says there is no God but one
God, and Mohammed is his prophet? I do."

"I never say it," Kendal returned, with a smile. "Does
that make me out a Philistine, or a Hindu, or what?"

"_You_ a Philistine!" Elfrida cried, as they rose from
the little table. "You are saying a thing that is absolutely
wicked."

Her quasi-conventional mood had vanished completely, and
as they drove together in a hansom through the mysterious
movement of the lamp-lit London streets, toward her
lodgings, she plunged enjoyingly into certain theories
of her religion, which embraced Arnold and Aristotle and
did not exclude Mr. Whistler, and made wide, ineffectual,
and presumptuous grasps to include all beauty and all
faith. She threw handfuls of the foam of these things at
Kendal, who watched them vanish into the air with pleasure,
and asked if he might smoke. At which she reflected,
deciding that for the present he might not, but when they
reached her lodgings she would permit him to renew his
acquaintance with Buddha, and give him a cigarette.

During the hour they smoked and talked together Elfrida
was wholly delightful, and only one thing occurred to
mar the enjoyment of the evening as Kendal remembered
it. That was Mr. Golightly Ticke, who came up and smoked
too, and seemed to have an extraordinary familiarity,
for such an utterly impossible person, with Miss Bell's
literary engagements. On his way home Kendal reflected
that it was doubtless a question of time; she would take
to the customs of civilization by degrees, and the sooner
the better.



CHAPTER XV.

Shortly afterward Elfrida read Mr. Pater's "Marius," with
what she herself called, somewhat extravagantly, a "hungry
and hopeless" delight. I cannot say that this Oxonian's
tender classical recreation had any critical effect upon
her; she probably found it much too limpid and untroubled
to move her in the least. I mention it by way of saying
that Lawrence Cardiff lent it to her, with a smile of
half-indulgent, half-contemptuous assent to some of her
ideas, which was altered, when she returned the volumes,
by the active necessity of defending his own. Elfrida
had been accepted at the Cardiffs, with the ready tolerance
which they had for types that were remarkable to them,
and not entirely disagreeable; though Janet was always
telling her father that it was impossible that Elfrida
should be a type--she was an exception of the most
exceptionable sort. "I'll admit her to be abnormal, if
you like," Cardiff would return, "but only from an insular
point of view. I dare say they grow that way in Illinois."
But that was in the early stages of their acquaintance
with Miss Bell, which ripened with unprecedented rapidity
for an acquaintance in Kensington Square. It was before
Janet had taken to walking across the gardens with Elfrida
in the half-hour between tea-time and dressing for dinner,
when the two young women, sometimes under dripping
umbrellas, would let the right omnibus follow the wrong
one toward Fleet Street twice and thrice in their
disinclination to postpone what they had to say to each
other. It was also before Elfrida's invasion of the
library and fee-simple of the books, and before she had
said there many things that were original, some that were
impertinent, and a few that were true. The Cardiffs
discussed her less freely as the weeks went on--a sure
sign that she was becoming better liked, accepted less
as a phenomenon, and more as a friend. There grew up in
Janet the beginnings of the strong affection which she
felt for a very few people, an affection which invariably
mingled itself with a lively desire to bestir herself on
their account, to be fully informed as to their
circumstances, and above all to possess relations of
absolute directness with them. She had an imperious
successful strain which insisted upon all this. She was
a capable creature of much perception for twenty-four,
and she had a sense of injury when for any reason she
was not allowed to use her faculties for the benefit of
any one she liked in a way which excited the desire to
do it. Janet had to reproach herself, when she thought
of it, that this sort of liking seldom came by entirely
approved channels, and hardly ever found an object in
her visiting-list. Its first and almost its only essential,
to speak boldly, was an artistic susceptibility with some
sort of relation to her own, which her visiting-list did
not often supply, though it might have been said to
overflow with more widely recognized virtues. For that
Miss Cardiff was known to be willing to sacrifice the
Thirty-nine Articles, respectable antecedents, the
possession of a dress-coat. Her willingness was the more
widely known because in the circle which fate had drawn
around her--ironically, she sometimes thought--it was
not usual to sacrifice these things. As for Janet's own
artistic susceptibility, it was a very private atmosphere
of her soul. She breathed it, one might say, only
occasionally, and with a kind of delicious shame. She
was incapable of sharing her caught-up felicity there
with any one, but it was indispensable that she should
see it sometimes in the eyes of others less contained,
less conscious, whose sense of humor might be more slender
perhaps. Her own nature was practical and managing in
its ordinary aspect, and she had a degree of tact that
was always interfering with her love of honesty. Having
established a friendship by the arbitrary law of sympathy,
it must be admitted that she had an instinctive way of
trying to strengthen it by voluntary benefits, for
affection was a great need with her.

It was only about this time and very gradually that she
began to realize how much more she cared for John Kendal
than for other people. Since it seemed to be obvious
that Kendal gave her only a share of the affectionate
interest he had for humanity at large, the realization
was not wholly agreeable, and Janet doubtless found
Elfrida, on this account, even a more valuable distraction
than she otherwise would. One of the matters Miss Bell
was in the habit of discussing with some vivacity was
the sexlessness of artistic sympathy. Upon this subject
Janet found her quite inspired. She made a valiant effort
to illumine her thoughts of Kendal by the light Elfrida
threw upon such matters, and although she had to confess
that the future was still hid in embarrassed darkness,
she did manage to construct a theory by which it was
possible to grope along for the present. She also cherished
a hope that this trouble would leave her, as a fever
abates in the night, that she would awake some morning,
if she only had patience, strong and well. In other things
Miss Cardiff, was sometimes jarred rather than shocked
by the American girl's mental attitudes, which, she began
to find, were not so posed as her physical ones. Elfrida
often left her repelled and dissenting. The dissent she
showed vigorously; the repulsion she concealed, sore with
herself because of the concealment. But she could not
lose Elfrida, she told herself; and besides, it was only
a matter of a little tolerance--time and life would change
her, tone her inner self down into the something altogether
exquisite and perfect that she was, to look at, now.

Elfrida called the Cardiffs' house the oasis of Kensington,
and valued her privileges there more than she valued
anything else in the circumstances about her, except,
perhaps, the privilege she had enjoyed in making the
single contribution, to the _Decade_ of which we know.
That was an event lustrous in her memory, the more lustrous
because it remained solitary and when the editor's check
made its tardy appearance she longed to keep it as a
glorious archive--glorious that is to say, in suggestion,
if not particularly impressive intrinsically. In the end
she fought the temptation of giving herself a dinner a
day for a fortnight out of it, and bought a slender gold
bangle with the money, which she slipped upon her wrist
with a resolution to keep it there always. It must be
believed that her personal decoration did not enter
materially into this design; the bangle was an emblem of
one success and an earnest of others. She wore it as she
might have worn a medal, except that a medal was a public
voice, and the little gold hoop spoke only to her.

After the triumph that the bangle signified Elfrida felt
most satisfaction in what was constantly present to her
mind as her conquest of the Cardiffs. She measured its
importance by their value. Her admiration for Janet's
work in the beginning had been as sincere as her emulation
of its degree of excellence had been passionate, and
neither feeling had diminished with their intimacy. In
Lawrence Cardiff she felt vaguely the qualities that made
him a marked man among his fellows, his intellectual
breadth and keenness, his poise of brain, if one might
call it so, and the _habilete_ with which, without
permitting it to be part of his character, he sometimes
allowed himself to charm even people of whom he disapproved.
These things were indeterminately present to her, and
led her often to speculate as to how it was that Mr.
Cardiff's work expressed him so little. It seemed to her
that the one purpose of a personality like his was its
expression--otherwise one might as well be of the ruck.
"You write with your intellectual faculties," she said to
him once; "your soul is curiously dumb." But that was later.

The plane of Elfrida's relations with Janet altered
gradually, one might say, from the inclined, with Elfrida
on her knees at the lower end, to the horizontal. It
changed insensibly enough, through the freemasonry of
confessed and unconfessed ideals, through growing
attraction, through the feeling they shared, though only
Janet voiced it, that there was nothing but the
opportunities and the experience of four years between
them, that in the end Elfrida would do better, stronger,
more original work than she. Elfrida was so much more
original a person, Janet declared to herself, so--and
when she hesitated for this word she usually said
"enigmatical." The answer to the enigma, Janet was sure,
would be written large in publishers' advertisements one
day. In the meantime, it was a vast satisfaction to Janet
to be, as it were, behind the enigma, to consider it with
the privileges of intimacy. These young women felt their
friendship deeply, in their several ways. It held for
them all sacredness and honor and obligation. For Elfrida
it had an intrinsic beauty and interest, like a curio
--she had half a dozen such curios in the museum of her
friends--and for Janet it added something to existence
that was not there before, more delightful and important
than a mere opportunity of expansion. The time came
speedily when it would have been a positive pain to either
of them to hear the other discussed, however favorably.



CHAPTER XVI.

Lady Halifax and her daughter had met Miss Bell several
times at the Cardiffs', in a casual way, before it occurred
to either of them to take any sort of advantage of the
acquaintance. The younger lady had a shivering and
frightened delight in occasionally wading ankle-deep in
unconventionality, but she had-lively recollections, in
connection with the Cardiffs, of having been very nearly
taken off her feet. They had since decided that it was
more discreet to ignore Janet's enthusiasms, which were
sometimes quite impossible in their verdict, and always
improbable. The literary ladies and gentlemen whom the
ghost of the departed Sir William brought more or less
unwillingly to Lady Halifax's drawing-rooms were all of
unexceptionable _cachet_; the Halifaxes were constantly
seeing paragraphs about them in the "Literary Gossip"
department of the _Athenian_, mentioning their state of
health, their retirement from scientific appointments,
or the fact that their most recent work of fiction had
reached its fourth edition. Lady Halifax always read the
_Athenian_, even the publishers' announcements; she liked
to keep "in touch," she said, with the literary activities
of the day, and it gave her a special gratification to
notice the prosperity of her writing friends indicated
in tall figures. Miss Halifax read it too, but she liked
the "Art Notes" best; it was a matter of complaint with
her that the house was not more open to artists--new,
original artists like John Kendal. In answer to this
Lady Halifax had a habit of stating that she did not see
what more they could possibly want than the president of
the Royal Academy and the one or two others that came
already. As for John Kendal, he was certainly new and
original, but he was respectable notwithstanding; they
could be certain that he was not putting his originality
on--with a hearth-brush, for the sake of advertisement.
Lady Halifax was not so sure of Elfrida's originality,
of which she had been given a glimpse or two at first,
and which the girl's intimacy with the Cardiffs would
have presupposed in any case. But presently, and somewhat
to Lady Halifax's perplexity, Miss Bell's originality
disappeared. It seemed to melt into the azure of perfect
good-breeding, flecked by little clouds of gay sayings
and politenesses, whenever chance brought her under Lady
Halifax's observation. A not unreasonable solution of
the problem might have been found in Elfrida's instinctive
objection to casting her pearls where they are proverbially
unappreciated, and the necessity in her nature of pleasing
herself by one form of agreeable behavior if not by
another. Lady Halifax, however, ascribed it to the
improving influence of insular institutions, and finally
concluded that it ought to be followed up.

Elfrida wore amber and white the evening on which Lady
Halifax followed it up--a Parisian modification of a
design carried, out originally by the Sparta dressmaker,
with a degree of hysteria, under Miss Bell's direction.
She wore it with a touch of unusual color in her cheeks
and, an added light in her dark eyes that gave a winsomeness
to her beauty which it had not always. A cunningly bound
spray of yellow-stamened lilies followed the curving line
of her low-necked dress, ending in a cluster in her bosom;
the glossy little leaves of the smilax the florist had
wreathed in with them stood sharply against the whiteness
of her neck. Her hair was massed at the back of her head
simply and girlishly enough, and its fluffiness about
her forehead made a sweet shadow above her eyes. She had
a little fever of expectation, Janet had talked so much
about this reception. Janet had told her that the real
thing, the real English literary thing in numberless
volumes, would be on view at Lady Halifax's. Miss Cardiff
had mentioned this in their discussion of the Arcadia
Club, at which institution she had scoffed so unbearably
that Elfrida, while she cherished the memory of Georgiadi,
had not mentioned it since. Perhaps, after all, she
reflected, Janet was just a trifle blind where people
were not hall-marked. It did not occur to her to consider
how far she herself illustrated this theory.

But as she went down Mrs. Jordan's narrow flights of
stairs covered with worn oil-cloth, she kissed her own
soft arm for pure pleasure.

"You are ravishing to-night," she told herself.

Golightly Ticke's door was open, and he was standing in
it, picturesquely smoking a cigarette with the candle
burning behind him--"Just to see you pass," he said.

Elfrida paused and threw back her cloak. "How is it?"
she asked, posing for him with its folds gathered in
either hand.

Ticke scanned her with leisurely appreciation. "It is
exquisite," he articulated.

Elfrida gave him a look that might have intoxicated nerves
less accustomed to dramatic effects.

"Then whistle me a cab," she said.

Mr. Ticke whistled her a cab and put her into it. There
was the least pressure of his long fingers as he took
her hand, and Elfrida forbade herself to resent it. She
felt her own beauty so much that night that she could
not complain of an enthusiasm for it in such a _belle
ame_ as Golightly.

They went up to tie drawing-room together, if Elfrida
and the Cardiffs, and Lady Halifax immediately introduced
to Miss Bell a hollow-cheeked gentleman with a long gray
beard and bushy eyebrows as a fellow-countryman. "You
can compare your impressions of Hyde Park and St. Paul's,"
said Lady Halifax, "but _don't_ call us 'Britishers.' It
really isn't pretty of you."

Elfrida discovered that the bearded gentleman was principal
of a college in Florida, and corresponded regularly at
one time with the late Sir William. "It is to that," said
he ornately, "that I owe the honor of joining this
brilliant company to-night." He went on to state that he
was over there principally on account of his health--acute
dyspepsia he had, it seemed he'd got out of running order
generally, regularly off the track. "But I've just about
concluded," he continued, with a pathetic twinkle under
his bushy brows, "that I might have a worse reason for
going back. What do you think of the meals in Victoria's
country, Miss Bell? It seems to me sometimes that I'd
give the whole British Museum for a piece of Johnny-cake."

Elfrida reflected that this was not precisely what she
expected to experience, and presently the hollow-cheeked
Floridian was again at Lady Halifax's elbow for disposal,
while the young lady whose appearance and nationality
had given him so much room for hope smilingly drifted
away from him. The Cardiffs were talking to a rosy and
smooth-faced round-waistcoated gentleman just returned
from Siberia about the unfortunate combination of accidents
by which he lost the mail-train twice in three days, and
Janet had just shaken hands with a short and
cheerful-looking lady astrologist.

"Behind that large person in the heliotrope brocade--she's
the wife of the _Daily Mercury_--there's a small sofa,"
Janet said in an undertone. "I don't think she'll, occupy
it, the-brocade looks so much, better standing--no, there
she goes! Let us sit down." As they crossed the room
Janet added: "In another minute we should have been shut
up in a Russian prison. Daddy's incarcerated already.
And the man told all he knew about them in the public
prints a month ago." They sat down luxuriously together,
and made ready, in their palm-shaded corner, to wreak
the whole of their irresponsible youth upon Lady Halifax's
often venerable and always considerable guests. The warm
atmosphere of the room had the perceptible charge of
personalities. People in almost every part of it were
trying to look unconscious as they pointed out other
people.

"Tell me about everybody--everybody," said Elfrida.

"H'm! I don't see anybody, that _is_ anybody, at this
moment. Oh, there's Sir Bradford Barker. Regard him
well, for a brave soul is Sir Bradford, Frida mine."

"A soldier? At this end of the century one can't feel an
enthusiasm for killing."

"Not in the least. A member of Parliament who writes
verses and won't be intimidated by Punch into not publishing
them. And the man he is talking to has just done a history
of the Semitic nations. He took me down to dinner last
night, and we talked in the most intelligent manner about
the various ways of preparing crabs. He liked them in
five styles; I wouldn't subscribe to more than three.
That little man with the orchid that daddy has just seized
is the author of the last of the 'Rulers of India'
series--Sir Somebody Something, K.C.S.I. My unconscionable
humbug of a parent probably wants to get something
approaching a fact out of him. Daddy's writing a thing
for one of the reviews on the elective principle for
India this week. He says he's the only writer on Indian
subjects who isn't disqualified by ever having been there,
and is consequently quite free of prejudice."

"Ah!" said Elfrida, "how _banal!_ I thought you said
there would be something real here--somebody in whose
garment's hem there would be virtue."

"And I suggest the dress-coat of the historian of the
Semitic nations!" Janet laughed. "Well, if nearly all
our poets are dead and our novelists in the colonies, I
can't help it, can I! Here is Mr. Kendal, at all events."

Kendal came up, with his perfect manners, and immediately
it seemed to Elfrida that their little group became
distinct from the rest, more important, more worthy of
observation. Kendal never added anything to the unities
of their conversation when he joined these two; he seemed
rather to break up what they had to say to each other
and attract it to himself. He always gave an accent to
the life and energy of their talk; but he made them both
self-conscious and watchful--seemed to put them, as it
were, upon their guard against one another, in a way
which Janet found vaguely distressing. It was invariably
as if Kendal turned their intercourse into a joust by
his mere presence as spectator; as if--Janet put it
plainly to herself, reddening--they mutely asked him to
bestow the wreath on one of them. She almost made up her
mind to ask Elfrida where their understanding went to
when John Kendal came up, but she had not found it possible
yet. There was an embarrassing chance that Elfrida did
not feel their change of attitude, which would entail
nameless surmises.

"You ought to be at work," Janet said severely to Kendal,
"back at Barbizon or in the fields somewhere. It won't
be always June."

"Ah, would you banish him!" Elfrida exclaimed daintily.
"Surely Hyde Park is rustic enough--in June."

Kendal smiled into her face. "It combines all the charm
of the country," he began.

"And the chic of the town," Elfrida finished for him
gaily. "I know--I've seen the Boot Show."

"Extremely frivolous," Janet commented.

"Ah, now we are condemned!" Elfrida answered, and for an
instant it almost seemed as if it were so.

"Daddy wants you to go and paint straggling gray stone
villages in Scotland now--straggling, climbing gray stone
villages with only a bit of blue at the end of the 'Dead
Wynd' where it turns into the churchyard gate."

"How charming!" Elfrida exclaimed.

"I suppose he has been saturating himself with Barrie,"
Kendal said. "If I could reproduce Barrie on canvas, I'd
go, like a shot. By the way, Miss Bell, there's somebody
you are, interested in--do you see a middle-aged man,
rather bald, thick-set, coming this way?--George Jasper."

"Really!" Elfrida exclaimed, jumping to her feet "Oh,
_thank_ you! The most consummate artist in human nature
that the time has given!" she added, with intensity.
"There can be no question. Oh, I am so happy to have seen
him!"

"I'm not altogether sure," Kendal began, and then he
stopped, looking at Janet in astonished question. Elfrida
had taken half a dozen steps into the middle of the room,
steps so instinct with effect that already as many heads
were turned to look at her. Her eyes were large with
excitement, her cheeks flushed, and she bent her head a
little, almost as if to see nothing that might dissuade
her from her purpose. The author of "The Alien," "A
Moral Catastrophe," "Her Disciple," and a number of other
volumes which cause envy and heart-burnings among
publishers, in the course of his somewhat short-sighted
progress across the room, paused with a confused effort
to remember who this pretty girl might be who wanted to
speak to him.

Elfrida said, "Pardon me!" and Mr. Jasper instantly
perceived that there could be no question of that, with
her face. She was holding out her hand, and he took it
with absolute mystification. Elfrida had turned very
pale, and a dozen people were listening. "Give me the
right to say I have done this!" she said, looking at him
with shy bravery in her beautiful eyes. She half sank on
one knee and lifted the hand that wrote "A Moral
Catastrophe" to her lips.

Mr. Jasper repossessed himself of it rather too hastily
for dignity, and inwardly he expressed his, feelings by
a puzzled oath. Outwardly he looked somewhat ashamed of
having inspired this unknown young lady's enthusiasm,
but he did his confused best, on the spur of the moment,
to carry off the situation as one of the contingencies
'to which the semi-public life of a popular novelist is
always subject.

"Really, you are--much too good. I can't imagine--if
the case had been reversed--"

Mr. Jasper found himself, accustomed as he was to the
exigencies of London drawing-rooms, horribly in want of
words. And in the bow with which he further defined his
discomfort he added to it by dropping the bit of stephanotis
which he wore in his buttonhole.

Elfrida sprang to pick it up. "Oh," she cried, "broken at
the stem; see, you cannot wear it anymore. May I keep it?"

A deadly silence had been widening around them, and now
the daughter of the historian of the Semitic races broke
it by twittering into a laugh behind her fan. Janet met
Kendal's eyes instinctively; he was burning red, and his
manner was eloquent of his helplessness. Angry with
herself for having waited, so long, Janet joined Elfrida
just as the twitter made itself heard, and Mr. Jasper's
face began to stiffen with indignation.

"Ah, Miss Cardiff," he said with relief, "how do you do!
The rooms are rather warm, don't you think?"

"I want to introduce you to my Am--my very great friend,
Miss Bell, Mr. Jasper," Janet said quickly, as the buzz
of conversation began again about them.

Elfrida turned to her reproachfully. "If I had known it
was at all possible that you would do _that_," she said,
"I might have--waited. But I did not know."

People were still looking at them with curious
attentiveness; they were awkwardly solitary. Kendal in
his corner was asking himself how she could have struck
such a false note--and of all people Jasper, whose polished
work held no trace of his personality, whose pleasure it
was to have no public entity whatever. As Jasper moved
off almost immediately, Kendal saw his tacit discomfort
in the set of his shoulders, and so sure was he of
Elfrida's embarrassment that he himself slipped away to
avoid adding to it.

"It was all wrong and ridiculous, and she was mad to do
it," thought Janet as she drove home with her father;
"but why need John Kendal have blushed for her?"



CHAPTER XVII.

"I am sure you are enjoying it," said Elfrida.

"Yes," Miss Kimpsey returned. "It's a great treat--it's
a _very_ great treat. Everything surpasses my expectations,
everything is older and blacker and more interesting than
I looked for. And I must say we're getting over a great
deal in the time. Yesterday afternoon we did the entire
Tower. It _did_ give one an idea. But of course you know
every stone in it by now!"

"I'm afraid I've not seen it," Elfrida confessed gravely.
"I know it's shocking of me."

"You haven't visited the Tower! Doesn't that show how
benumbing opportunity is to the energies! Now I dare say
that I," Miss Kimpsey went on with gratification, "coming
over with a party of tourists from our State, all bound
to get London and the cathedral towns and the lakes and
Scotland and Paris and Switzerland into the summer
vacation--I presume I may have seen more of the London
sights than you have, Miss Bell." As Miss Kimpsey spoke
she realized that she had had no intention of calling
Elfrida "Miss Bell" when she saw her again, and wondered
why she did it. "But you ought to be fond of sight-seeing,
too," she added, "with your artistic nature."

Elfrida seemed to restrain a smile. "I don't know that
I am," she said. "I'm sorry that you didn't leave my
mother so well as she ought to be. She hasn't mentioned
it in her letters." In the course of time Miss Bell's
correspondence with her parents had duly re-established
itself.

"She _wouldn't_, Elf--Miss Bell. She was afraid of
suggesting the obligation to come home to you. She said
with your artistic conscience you couldn't come, and it
would only be inflicting unnecessary pain upon you. But
her bronchitis was no light matter last February. She
was real sick."

"My mother is always so considerate," Elfrida answered,
reddening, with composed lips. "She is better now, I
think you said."

"Oh yes, she's some better. I heard from her last week,
and she says she doesn't know how to wait to see me back.
That's on your account, of course. Well, I can tell her
you appear comfortable," Miss Kimpsey looked around, "if
I _can't_ tell her exactly when you'll be home."

"That is so doubtful, just now--"

"They're introducing drawing from casts in the High
School," Miss Kimpsey went on, with a note of urgency in
her little twanging voice, "and Mrs. Bell told me I
might just mention it to you. She thinks you could easily
get taken on to teach it. I just dropped round to one or
two of the principal trustees the day before I left, and
they said you had only to apply. It's seven hundred
dollars a year."

Elfrida's eyebrows contracted. "Thanks very much! It was
extremely kind--to go to so much trouble. But I have
decided that I am not meant to be an artist, Miss Kimpsey,"
she said with a self-contained smile. "I think my mother
knows that. I--I don't much like talking about it. Do
you find London confusing? I was dreadfully puzzled at
first."

"I _would_ if I were alone. I'd engage a special
policeman--the policemen _are_ polite, aren't they? But
we keep the party together, you see, to economize time,
so none of us get lost. We all went down Cheapside this
morning and bought umbrellas--two and three apiece. This
is the most reasonable place for umbrellas. But isn't it
ridiculous to pay for apples by the _pound?_ And then
they're not worth eating. This room does smell of tobacco.
I suppose the gentleman in the apartment below smokes a
great deal."

"I think he does. I'm so sorry. Let me open another
window."

"Oh, don't mind _me_! I don't object to tobacco, except
on board, ship. But it must be bad to sleep in."

"Perhaps," said Elfrida sweetly. "And have you no more
news from home for me, Miss Kimpsey?"

"I don't know as I have. You've heard of the Rev. Mr.
Snider's second marriage to Mrs. Abraham Peeley, of
course. There's a great deal of feeling about it in
Sparta--the first Mrs. Snider was so popular, you know
--and it isn't a full year. People say it isn't the
_marriage_ they object to under such circumstances,
it's--all that goes before," said Miss Kimpsey, with
decorous repression, and Elfrida burst into a peal of
laughter. "Really," she sobbed, "it's too delicious. Poor
Mr. and Mrs. Snider! Do you think people woo with improper
warmth--at that age, Miss Kimpsey?"

"I don't know anything about it," Miss Kimpsey declared,
with literal truth. "I suppose such things justify
themselves somehow, especially when it's a clergyman.
And of course you know about your mother's idea of coming
over here to settle?"

"No!" said Elfrida, arrested. "She hasn't mentioned it.
Do they talk of it seriously?"

"I don't know about _seriously_. Mr. Bell doesn't seem
as if he could make up his mind. He's so fond of Sparta
you know. But Mrs. Bell is just wild to come. She thinks,
of course, of having you to live with them again; and
then she says that on their present income--you will
excuse my referring to your parents' reduced circumstances,
Miss Bell?"

"Please go on."

"Your mother considers that Mr. Bell's means would go
further in England than in America. She asked me to make
inquiries; and I must say, judging from the price of
umbrellas and woollen goods, I think they would."

Elfrida was silent for a moment, looking steadfastly at
the possibility Miss Kimpsey had developed. "What a
complication!" she said, half to herself; and then,
observing Miss Kimpsey's look of astonishment: "I had no
idea of that," she repeated; "I wonder that they have
not mentioned it."

"Well then!" said Miss Kimpsey, with sudden compunction,
"I presume they wanted to surprise you. And I've gone
and spoiled it!"

"To surprise me!" Elfrida repeated in her absorption.
"Oh yes; very likely!" Inwardly she saw her garret, the
garret that so exhaled her, where she had tasted success
and knew a happiness that never altogether failed, vanish
into a snug cottage in Hampstead or Surbiton. She saw
the rain of her independence, of her delicious solitariness,
of the life that began and ended in her sense of the
strange, and the beautiful and the grotesque in a world
of curious slaveries, of which it suited her to be an
alien spectator, amused and free. She foresaw long
conflicts and discussions, pryings which she could, not
resent, justifications which would be forced upon her,
obligations which she must not refuse. More intolerable
still, she saw herself in the role of a family idol, the
household happiness hinging on her moods, the question
of her health, her work, her pleasure being eternally
the chief one. Miss Kimpsey talked on about other things
--Windsor Castle, the Abbey, the Queen's stables; and
Elfrida made occasional replies, politely vague. She was
mechanically twisting the little gold hoop on her wrist,
and thinking of the artistic sufferings of a family idol.
Obviously the only thing was to destroy the prospective
shrine.

"We don't find board as cheap as we expected," Miss
Kimpsey was saying.

"Living, that is food, is very expensive," Elfrida replied
quickly; "a good beefsteak, for instance, costs three
Francs--I mean two and fivepence, a pound."

"I _can't_ think in shillings!" Miss Kimpsey interposed
plaintively.

"And about this idea my people have of coming over
here--I've been living in London four months now, and I
can't quite see your grounds for thinking it cheaper than
Sparta, Miss Kimpsey."

"Of course you have had time to judge of it."

"Yes. On the whole I think they would find it more
expensive and much less satisfactory. They would miss
their friends, and their place in the little world over
there. My mother, I know, attaches a good deal of importance
to that. They would have to live very modestly in a
suburb, and all the nice suburbs have their social
relations in town. They wouldn't take the slightest
interest in English institutions; my father is too good
a citizen to make a good subject, and they would find a
great many English ideas very--trying. The only Americans
who are happy in England are the millionaires," Elfrida
answered. "I mean the millionaires who are not too
sensitive."

"Well now, you've got as sensitive a nature as I know,
Miss Bell, and you don't appear to be miserable over
here."

"I!" Elfrida frowned just perceptibly. This little creature
who once corrected the punctuation of her essays, and
gave her bad marks for spelling, was too intolerably
personal. "We won't consider my case, if you please.
Perhaps I'm not a good American."

"Mrs. Bell seems to think she would enjoy the atmosphere
of the past so much in London."

"It's a fatal atmosphere for asthma. Please impress that
upon my people, Miss Kimpsey. There would be no
justification in letting my mother believe she could be
comfortable here. She must come and experience the,
atmosphere of the past, as you are doing, on a visit. As
soon as it can be afforded I hope they will do that."

Since the day of her engagement with the _Illustrated
Age_ Elfrida had been writing long, affectionate, and
prettily worded letters to her mother by every American
mail. They were models of sweet elegance, those letters;
they abounded in dainty bits of description and gay
comment, and they reflected as little of the real life
of the girl who wrote them as it is possible to conceive.
In this way they were quite remarkable, and in their
charming discrimination of topics. It was as if Elfrida
dictated that a certain relation should exist between
herself and her parents. It should acknowledge all the
traditions, but it should not be too intimate. They had
no such claim upon her, no such closeness to her, as
Nadie Palicsky, for instance, had.

When Miss Kimpsey went away that afternoon, trying to
realize the intrinsic reward of virtue--she had been
obliged to give up the National Gallery to make this
visit--Elfrida remembered that the American mail went
out next day, and spent a longer time than usual over
her weekly letter. In its course she mentioned with some
amusement the absurd idea Miss Kimpsey had managed to
absorb of their coming to London to live, and touched in
the lightest possible way upon the considerations that
made such a project impossible. But the greater part of
the letter was taken up with a pleased forecast of the
time--could it possibly be next summer?--when Mr. and
Mrs. Bell would cross the Atlantic on a holiday trip. "I
will be quite an affluent person by then," Elfrida wrote,
"and I will be able to devote the whole of my magnificent
leisure to entertaining you."

She turned from the sealing of this to answer a, note
from Lawrence Cardiff. He wrote to her, on odds and ends
of matters, almost as often as Janet did now. He wrote
as often, indeed, as he could, and always with an amused,
uncertain expectancy of what the consciously directed
little square envelopes which brought back the reply
would contain. It was becoming obvious to him that they
brought something a little different, in expression or
feeling or suggestion, from the notes that came for Janet,
which Janet often read out for their common benefit. He
was unable to define the difference, but he was aware
that it gave him pleasure, especially as he could not
find that it was in any way connected with the respectful
consideration that Elfrida might have thought due to his
forty-seven years. If Mr. Cardiff had gone so far as to
soliloquize upon the subject he would have said to himself,
"In my trade a man gets too much of that." I do not know
that he did, but the subtle gratification this difference
gave him was quite strong enough, at all events, to lead
to the reflection. The perception of it was growing so
vivid that he instinctively read his notes in silence,
paraphrasing them for Janet if she happened to be there.
They had, as it were, a bloom and a freshness, a mere
perfume of personality that would infallibly vanish in
the communicating, but that left him, as often as not,
when he slipped the note back into the envelope with a
half smile on his lips.

Janet was conscious of the smile and of the paraphrasing.
In reprisal--though she would not have admitted it was
that--she kept her own missives from Elfrida to herself
whenever it occurred to her to check the generous impulse
of sharing the pleasure they gave her, which was not
often, after all. It was the seldomer because she could
not help feeling that her father was thoroughly aware of
her action, and fancying that he speculated upon the
reason of it. It was unendurable that daddy should
speculate about the reason of anything she did in connection
with Frida, or with any other young lady. Her conduct
was perfectly simple; there was no reason whatever why
it should not be perfectly simple.

When Miss Kimpsey arrived at Euston Station next day,
with all her company, to take the train For Scotland;
she found Elfrida waiting for her, a picturesque figure
in the hurrying crowd with her hair blown about her face
with the gusts of wind and rain, and her wide dark eyes
looking quietly about her. She had a bunch of azaleas in
her hand, and as Miss Kimpsey was saying with gratification
that Elfrida's coming down to see her off was a thing
she did _not_ expect, Miss Bell offered her these.

"They will be pleasant in the train perhaps," said she.
"And do you think you could find room for this in one of
your boxes? It isn't very bulky--a trifle I should like
so much to send to my mother, Miss Kimpsey. It might go
by post, I know, but the pleasure will be much greater
to her if you could take it."

In due course Mrs. Bell received the packet. It contained
a delicate lace head-dress, which cost Elfrida the full
pay and emoluments of a fortnight. Mrs. Bell wore it at
all social gatherings of any importance in Sparta the
following winter, and often reflected with considerable
pleasure upon the taste and unselfishness that so obviously
accompanied the gift.



CHAPTER XVIII.

If John Kendal had been an on-looker at the little episode
of Lady Halifax's drawing-room in Paris six months earlier
it would have filled him with the purest, amusement. He
would have added the circumstance to his conception of
the type of young woman who enacted it, and turned away
without stopping to consider whether it flattered her or
not. His comprehension of human nature was too catholic
very readily to permit him impressions either of wonder
or contempt--it would have been a matter of registration
and a smile. Realizing this, Kendal was the more at a
loss to explain to himself the feeling of irritation
which the recollection of the scene persistently aroused
in him, in spite of a pronounced disposition, of which
he could not help being aware, not to register it but to
ignore it. His memory refused to be a party to his
intention, and the tableau recurred to him with a
persistence which he found distinctly disagreeable. Upon
every social occasion which brought young ladies of beauty
and middle-aged gentlemen of impressive eminence into
conversational contact he saw the thing in imagination
done again. In the end it suggested itself to him as
paintable--the astonished drawing-room, the graceful
half-kneeling girl with the bent head, the other dismayed
and uncomprehending figure yielding a doubtful hand, his
discomfort indicated in the very lines of his waistcoat.
"_A Fin de Siecle Tribute_," Kendal named it. He dismissed
the idea as absurd, and then reconsidered it as a means
of disposing of the incident finally. He knew it could
be very effectually put away in canvas. He assured himself
again that he could not entertain the idea of painting
it seriously, and that this was because of the inevitable
tendency which the subject would have toward caricature.
Kendal had an indignant contempt for such a tendency,
and the liberty which men who used it took with their
art. He had never descended to the flouting of his own
aims which it implied. He threw himself into his pictures
without reserve; it was the best of him that he painted,
the strongest he could do, and all he could do; he was
sincere enough to take it always seriously. The possibility
of caricature seemed to him to account admirably for his
reluctance to paint "_A Fin de Siecle Tribute_,"--it
was a matter of conscience. He found that the desire to
paint it would not go, however; it took daily more complete
possession of him, and fought his scruples with a strong
hand. It was a fortnight after, and he had not seen
Elfrida in the meantime, when they were finally defeated
by the argument that a sketch would show whether caricature
were necessarily inherent or not. He would make a sketch
purely for his own satisfaction. Under the circumstances
Kendal realized perfectly that it could never be for
exhibition, and indeed he felt a singular shrinking from
the idea that any one should see it. Finally, he gave a
whole day to the thing, and made an admirable sketch.

After that Kendal felt free to make the most of his
opportunities of seeing Elfrida--his irritation with her
subsided, her blunder had been settled to his satisfaction.
He had an obscure idea of having inflicted discipline
upon her in giving the incident form and color upon
canvas, in arresting its grotesqueness and sounding its
true _motif_ with a pictorial tongue. It was his conception
of the girl that he punished, and he let his fascinated
speculation go out to her afterward at a redoubled rate.
She brought him sometimes to the verge of approval, to
the edge of liking; arid when he found that he could not
take the further step he told himself impatiently that
it was not a case for anything so ordinary as approval,
or anything so personal as liking; it was a matter of
observation, enjoyment, stimulus. He availed himself of
these abstractions with a candor that was the more open
for not being complicated with any less hardy motive. He
had long ago decided that relations of sentiment with
Elfrida would require a temperament quite different from
that of any man he knew. It was entirely otherwise with
Janet Cardiff, and Kendal smiled as he thought of the
feminine variation the two girls illustrated. He had a
distinct recollection of one crisp October afternoon
before he went to Paris, as they walked home together
under the brown curling leaves and passed the Serpentine,
when he had found that the old charm of Janet's gray eyes
was changing to a new one. He remembered the pleasure he
had felt in dallying with the thought of making them
lustrous, one day, with tenderness for himself. It had
paled since then, there had been so many other things;
but still they were dear, honest eyes--and Kendal never
brought his reverie to a conclusion under any circumstances
whatever.



CHAPTER XIX.

I have mentioned that Miss Bell had looked considerations
of sentiment very full in the face at an age when she
might have been expected to be blushing and quivering
before them, with downcast countenance. She had arrived
at conclusions about them--conclusions of philosophic
contumely, indifference, and some contempt. She had since
frequently talked about them to Janet Cardiff with curious
disregard of time, and circumstance, mentioning her
opinion in a Strand omnibus, for instance, that the only
dignity attaching to love as between a man and a woman
was that of an artistic idea. Janet had found Elfrida
possessed of so savage a literalism in this regard that
it was only in the most hardily adventurous of the moods
of investigation her friend inspired that she cared to
combat her here. It was not, Janet told herself, that
she was afraid to face the truth in any degree of nakedness;
but she rose in hot inward rebellion against Elfrida's
borrowed psychological cynicisms--they were not the truth,
Tolstoi had not all the facts, perhaps from pure Muscovite
inability to comprehend them all The spirituality of love
might be a western product--she was half inclined to
think it was; but at all events it existed, and it was
wanton to leave out of consideration a thing that made
all the difference. Moreover, if these things ought to
be probed--and Janet was not of serious opinion that they
ought to be--for her part she preferred to obtain advices
thereon from between admissible and respectable book-covers.
It hurt her to hear them drop from Elfrida's lips--lips
so plainly meant for all tenderness. Janet had an instinct
of helpless anger when she heard them; the woman in her
rose in protest, less on behalf of her sex than on behalf
of Elfrida herself, who seemed so blind, so willing to
revile, so anxious to reject. "Do you really hope you
will marry?" Elfrida had asked her once; and Janet had
answered candidly, "Of course I do, and I want to die a
grandmother too." "_Vraiment!_" exclaimed Miss Bell
ironically, with a little shudder of disgust, "I hope
you may!"

That was in the very beginning of their friendship,
however, and so vital a subject could not remain, outside
the relations which established themselves more and more
intimately between them as the days went on. Janet began
to find herself constantly in the presence of a temptation
to bring the matter home to Elfrida personally in one
way or another, as young women commonly do with other
young women who are obstinately unorthodox in these
things--to say to her in effect, "Your turn will come
when _he_ comes! These pseudo-philosophies will vanish
when _he_ looks at them, like snow in spring. You will
succumb--you will succumb!" But she never did. Something
in Elfrida's attitude forbade it. Her opinions were not
vagaries, and she held them, so far as they had a personal
application, haughtily. Janet felt and disliked the tacit
limitation, and preferred to avoid the clash of their
opinions when she could. Besides, her own ideas upon the
subject had latterly retired irretrievably from the light
of discussion. She had one day found it necessary to lock
the door of her soul upon them; in the new knowledge that
had taken sweet possession of her she recognized that
they were no longer theoretical, that they must be put
away. She challenged herself to sit in a jury upon Love,
and found herself disqualified.

The discovery had no remarkable effect upon Janet. She
sometimes wasted an hour, pen in hand, in inconsequent
reverie, and worked till midnight to make up; and she
took a great liking for impersonal conversations with
Miss Halifax about Kendal's pictures, methods and meanings.
She found dining in Royal Geographical circles less of
a bore than usual, and deliberately laid herself out to
talk well. She looked in the glass sometimes at a little
vertical line that seemed to be coming at the corners of
her mouth, and wondered whether at twenty-four one might
expect the first indication of approaching old-maidenhood.
When she was paler than usual she reflected that the
season was taking a good deal out of her. She was bravely
and rigidly commonplace with Kendal, who told her that
she ought to drop it and go out of town--she was not
looking well. She drew closer to her father, and at the
same time armed her secret against him at all points.
Janet would have had any one know rather than he. She
felt that it implied almost a breach of faith, of
comradeship, to say nothing of the complication of her
dignity, which she wanted upheld in his eyes before all
others. In reality she made him more the sovereign of
her affections and the censor of her relations than nature
designed Lawrence Cardiff to be in the parental connection.
It gave him great pleasure that he could make his daughter
a friend, and accord her the independence of a friend;
it was a satisfaction to him that she was not obtrusively
filial. Her feeling for Kendal, under the circumstances,
would have hurt him if he bad known of it, but only
through his sympathy and his affection--he was unacquainted
with the jealousy of a father. But in Janet's eyes they
made their little world together, indispensable to each
other as its imaginary hemispheres. She had a quiet pain,
in the infrequent moments when she allowed herself the
full realization of her love for Kendal, in the knowledge
that she, of her own motion, had disturbed its unities
and its ascendancies.

Since that evening at Lady Halifax's, when Janet saw John
Kendal reddening so unaccountably, she had felt singularly
more tolerant of Elfrida's theories. She combated them
as vigorously as ever, but she lost her dislike to
discussing them. As it became more and more obvious that
Kendal found in Elfrida a reward for the considerable
amount of time he spent in her society, so Janet arrived
at the point of encouraging her heresies, especially with
their personal application. She took secret comfort in
them; she hoped they would not change, and she was too
honest to disguise to herself the reason. If Elfrida
cared for him, Janet assured herself, the case would be
entirely different--she would stamp out her own feeling
without mercy, to the tiniest spark. She would be glad,
in time, to have crushed it for Elfrida, though it did
seem that it would be more easily done for a stranger,
somebody she wouldn't have to know afterward. But if
Elfrida didn't care, as a matter of principle Janet was
unable to see the least harm in making her say so as
often as possible. They were talking together in Mr.
Cardiff's library late one June afternoon, when it seemed
to Janet that the crisis came, that she could never again
speak of such matters to Elfrida without betraying herself.
Things were growing dim about the room, the trees stood
in dusky groups in the square outside. There was the
white glimmer of the tea-things between them, and just
light enough to define the shadows round the other girl's
face, and write upon it the difference it bore, in Janet's
eyes, to every other face.

"Oh!" Elfrida was saying, "it does make life more
interesting, I admit--up to a certain point. And I
suppose it's to be condoned from the point of view of
the species. Whoever started us, and wants us to go on,
excuses marriage, I suppose. And of course the men are
not affected by it. But for women, it is degrading
--horrible. Especially for women like you and me, to whom
life may mean something else. Fancy being the author of
babies when one could be the author of books! _Don't_
tell me you'd rather!"

"I!" said Janet "Oh, I'm out of it. But I approve the
principle."

"Besides, the commonplaceness, the eternal routine, the
being tied together, the--the domestic virtues! It must
be death, absolute death, to any fineness of nature. No,"
Elfrida went on decisively, "people with anything in them
that is worth saving may love as much as they feel
disposed, but they ought to keep their freedom. And some
of them do nowadays."

"Do you mean," said Janet slowly, "that they dispense
with the ceremony?"

"They dispense with the condition. They--they don't go
so far."

"I thought you didn't believe in Platonics," Janet
answered, with wilful misunderstanding.

"You know I don't believe in them. Any more," Elfrida
added lightly, "than I believe in this exaltation you
impute to the race of a passion it shares with--with the
mollusks. It's pure self-flattery."

There was a moment's silence. Elfrida clasped her hands
behind her head and turned her face toward the window so
that all the light that came through softly gathered in
it. Janet felt the girl's beauty as if it were a burden,
pressing with literal physical weight upon her heart She
made a futile effort to lift it with words. "Frida," she
said, "you are beautiful to--to hurt to-night Why has
nobody ever painted a creature like you?"

It was as if she touched an inner spring of the girl's
nature, touched it electrically. Elfrida leaned forward
consciously with shining eyes. "Truly am I, Janetta?
Ah--to-night! Well, yes, perhaps to-night, I am. It is
an effect of chiaroscuro. But what about always--what
about generally, Janetta? I have such horrid doubts. If
it weren't for my nose I should be satisfied--yes, I
think I should be satisfied. But I _can't_ deceive myself
about my nose, Janetta; it's thick!"

"It isn't a particularly spiritually-minded nose," Janet
laughed. "But console yourself, it's thoughtful."

Elfrida put her elbows on her knees and framed her face
with the palms of her hands. "If I am beautiful to-night
you ought to love me. Do you love me, Janetta? Really
_love_ me? Could you imagine," she went on, with a
whimsical spoiled shake of her head, "any one else doing
it?"

Janet's fingers closed tightly on the arm of her chair.
Was it coming already, then?

"Yes," she said slowly, "I could imagine it well."

"More than one?" Elfrida insisted prettily. "More than
two or three? A dozen, perhaps?"

"Quite a dozen," Janet smiled. "Is that to be the limit
of your heartless proceedings?"

"I don't know how soon one would grow tired of it. Maybe
in three or four years. But for now--it is very amusing."

"Playing with fire?"

"Bah!" Elfrida returned, going back to her other mood.
"I'm not inflammable. But-to that extent, if you like,
I value what you and the poets are pleased to call love.
It's part of the game; one might as well play it all.
It's splendid to win--anything. It's a kind of success."

"Oh, I know," she went on after an instant. "I have done
it before--I shall do it again, often! It is worth
doing--to sit within three feet of a human being who
would give all he possesses just to touch your hand--and
to tacitly dare him to do it."

"Stop, Elfrida!"

"Shan't stop, my dear. Not only to be able to check any
such demonstration yourself, with a movement, a glance,
a turn of your head, but without even a sign, to make
your would-be adorer check it himself! And to feel as
still and calm and superior to it all! Is that nothing
to you?"

"It's less than nothing. It's hideous!"

"I consider it a compensation vested in the few for the
wrongs of the many," Elfrida replied gaily. "And I mean
to store up all the compensation in my proper person that
I can."

"I believe you have had more than your share already,"
Janet cried.

"Oh no! a little, only a little. Hardly anything
here--people fall in love in England in such a mathematical
way. But there is a callow artist on the _Age_, and
Golightly Ticke has become quite mad lately, and Solomon
--I mean Mr. Rattray--will propose next week--he thinks
I won't dare to refuse the sub-editor. How I shall laugh
at him! Afterward, if he gives me any trouble, I shall
threaten to write up the interview for the _Pictorial
News_. On the whole though, I dare say I'd better not
suggest such a thing; he would want it for the _Age_.
He is equal to any personal sacrifice for the _Age_."

"Is, that all?" asked Janet, turning away her head.

"You are thinking of John Kendal! Ah, there it becomes
exciting. From what you see, Janetta _mia_, what should
you _think?_ Myself, I don't quite know. Don't you find
him rather--a good deal--interested?"

Janet had an impulse of thankfulness for the growing
darkness. "I--I see him so seldom!" she said. Oh, it was
the last time, the very last time that she would ever
let Elfrida talk like this.

"Well, I think so," Elfrida went on coolly. "He fancies
he finds me curious, original, a type--just now. I dare
say he thinks he takes an anthropological pleasure in my
society! But in the beginning it is all the same thing,
my dear, and in the end it will be all the same thing.
This delicious Loti," and she picked up "Aziade"--"what
an anthropologist he is--with a feminine bias!"

Janet was tongue-tied. She struggled with herself for an
instant, and then, "I _wish_ you'd stay and dine," she
said desperately.

"How thoughtless of me!" Elfrida replied, jumping up.
"You ought to be dressing, dear. No, I can't; I've got to
sup with some ladies of the Alhambra to-night--it will make
such lovely copy. But I'll go now, this very instant."

Half-way downstairs Janet, in a passion of helpless tears,
heard Elfrida's footsteps pause and turn. She stepped
swiftly into her own room and locked the door. The
footsteps came tripping back into, the library, and then
a tap sounded on Janet's door. Outside Elfrida's voice
said plaintively, "I had to come back. Do you love me--are
you quite sure you love me?"

"You humbug!" Janet called from within, steadying heir
voice with an effort, "I'm not at all sure. I'll tell
you to-morrow!"

"But you do!" cried Elfrida, departing. "I know you do."



CHAPTER XX.

July thickened down upon London. The society papers
announced that with the exception of the few unfortunate
gentlemen who were compelled to stay and look after their
constituents' interests, at Westminster, "everybody" had
gone out of town, and filled up yawning columns with
detailed information as to everybody's destination. To
an inexperienced eye, with the point of view of the top
of an Uxbridge Road omnibus for instance, it might not
appear that London had diminished more than the extent
of a few powdered footmen on carriage boxes; but the
census of the London world is after all not to be taken
from the top of an Uxbridge Road omnibus. London teemed
emptily, the tall houses in the narrow lanes of Mayfair
slept standing, the sunlight filtered through a depressing
haze and stood still in the streets for hours together.
In the Park the policemen wooed the nursery-maids free
from the embarrassing smiling scrutiny of people to whom
this serious preoccupation is a diversion. The main
thoroughfares were full of "summer sales," St. Paul's
echoed to admiring Transatlantic criticism, and the
Bloomsbury boarding-houses to voluble Transatlantic
complaint.

The Halifaxes were at Brighton, Lady Halifax giving
musical teas, Miss Halifax painting marine views in a
little book. Miss Halifax called them "impressions," and
always distributed them at the musical teas. The Cardiffs
had gone to Scotland for golf, and later on for grouse.
Janet was almost as expert on the links as her father,
and was on very familiar terms with a certain Highland
moor and one Donald Macleod. They had laid every compulsion
upon Elfrida to go with them, in vain; the girl's
sensitiveness on the point of money obligations was
intense, and Janet failed to measure it accurately when
she allowed herself to feel hurt that their relations
did not preclude the necessity for taking any thought as
to who paid. Elfrida staid, however, in her by-way of
Fleet Street, and did a little bit of excellent work for
the _Illustrated Age_ every day. If it had not been for
the editor-in-chief, Rattray would have extended her
scope on the paper; but the editor-in-chief said no, Miss
Bell was dangerous, there was no telling what she might
be up to if they gave her the reins. She went very well,
but she was all the better for the severest kind of a
bit. So Miss Bell wrote about colonial exhibitions and
popular spectacles, and country outings for babies of
the slums, and longed for a fairer field. As midsummer
came on there arrived a dearth in these objects of orthodox
interest, and Rattray told her she might submit "anything
on the nail" that occurred to her, in addition to such
work as the office could give her to do. Then, in spite
of the vigilance of the editor-in-chief, an odd
unconventional bit of writing crept now and then into
the _Age_--an interview with some eccentric notability
with the piquancy of a page from Gyp, a bit of pathos
picked out of the common, streets, a fragment of
character-drawing which smiled visibly and talked audibly.
Elfrida in her garret drew a joy from these things. She
cut them out and read them over and over again, and put
them sacredly away, with Nadie's letters and a manuscript
poem of a certain Bruynotin's, and a scrawl from one
Hakkoff, with a vigorous sketch of herself, from memory,
in pen and ink in the corner of the page, in the little
eastern-smelling wooden box which seemed to her to
represent the core of her existence. They quickened her
pulse, they gave her a curious uplifted happiness that
took absolutely no account of any other circumstance.

There were days when Mrs. Jordan had real twinges of
conscience about the quality of Miss Bell's steak. "But
there," Mrs. Jordan would soothe herself, "I might bring
her the best sulline, and she wouldn't know no difference."
In other practical respects the girl was equally
indifferent. Her clothes were shabby, and she did not
seem to think of replacing them; Mrs. Jordan made
preposterous charges for candles, and she paid them
without question. She tipped people who did little services
for her with a kind of royal delicacy; the girl who
scrubbed the landings worshipped her, and the boy who
came every day for her copy once brought her a resplendent
"button-hole" consisting of two pink rosebuds and a
scarlet geranium, tendering it with a shy lie to the
effect that he had found it in the street. She went alone
now and again to the opera, taking an obscure place, and
she lived a good deal among the foreign art exhibitions
of Bond Street. Once she bought an etching and brought
it home under her arm. That kept her poor for a month,
though she would have been less aware of it if she had
not, before the month was out, wanted to buy another. A
great Parisian actress had made her yearly visit to London
in June, and Elfrida conjuring with the name of the
_Illustrated Age_, won an appointment from her. The
artiste staid only a fortnight--she declared that one
half of an English audience came to see her because it
was proper and the other because it was sinful, and she
found it insupportable--and in that time she asked Elfrida
three times to pay her morning visits, when she appeared
in her dressing-gown, little unconventional visits "_pour
bavarder_." When Miss Bell lacked entertainment during the
weeks that followed she thought of these visits, and little
smiles chased each other round the corners of her mouth.

She wrote to Janet when she was in the mood--delicious
scraps of letters, broad-margined, fantastic, each, so
far as charm went, a little literary gem disguised in
wilfulness, in a picture, in a diamond-cut cynicism that
shone sharper and clearer for the "dainty affectation of
its setting." When she was not in the mood she did not
write at all. With an instinctive recognition of the
demands of any relation such as she felt her friendship
with Janet Cardiff to be, she simply refrained, from
imposing upon her anything that savored of dullness or
commonplaceness. So that sometimes she wrote three or
four times in a week and sometimes not at all for a
fortnight, sometimes covered pages and sometimes sent
three lines and a row of asterisks. There was a fancifulness
in the hour as well, that usually made itself felt all
through the letter--it was rainy twilight in her garret,
or a gray wideness was creeping up behind St Paul's,
which meant that it was morning. To what she herself was
actually doing, or to any material fact about her, they
made the very slightest reference. Janet, in Scotland,
perceived half of this, and felt aggrieved on the score
of the other half. She wished, more often than she said
she did, that Elfrida were a little more human, that she
had a more appreciative understanding of the warm value
of common every-day matters between people who were
interested in one another. The subtle imprisoned soul in
Elfrida's letters always spoke to hers, but Janet never
received so artistic a missive of three lines that she
did not wish it were longer, and she had no fund of
confidence to draw on to meet her friend's incomprehensible
spaces of silence. To cover her real soreness she scolded,
chaffed brusquely, affected lofty sarcasms.

"Twelve days ago," she wrote, "you mentioned casually
that you were threatened with pneumonia; your communication
of to-day you devote to proving that Hector Malot is a
carpenter. I agree with you with reservations, but the
sequence worries me. In the meantime have you had the
pneumonia?"

Her own letters were long and gossiping, full of the
scent of the heather and the eccentricities of Donald
Macleod; and she wrote them, regularly twice a week,
using rainy afternoons for the purpose and every inch of
the paper at her disposal. Elfrida put a very few of
them into the wooden box, just as she would have embalmed,
if she could, a very few of the half-hours they had spent
together.



CHAPTER XXI.

John Kendal had turned the key upon his dusty work-room
in Bryanston Street among the first of those who, according
to the papers, depopulated London in July. He had an old
engagement to keep, which took him, with Carew of the
_Dial_ and Limley of the Civil Service, to explore and
fish in the Norwegian fjords. The project matured suddenly,
and he left town without seeing anybody--a necessity
which disturbed him a number of times on the voyage. He
wrote a hasty line to Janet, returning a borrowed book,
and sent a trivial message to Elfrida, whom he knew to
be spending a few days in Kensington Square at the time.
Janet delivered it with an intensity of quiet pleasure
which she showed extraordinary skill in concealing. "May
I ask you to say to Miss Bell--" seemed to her to be
eloquent of many things. She looked at Elfrida with
inquiry, in spite of herself, when she gave the message,
but Elfrida received it with a nod and a smile of perfect
indifference. "It is because she does not care--does not
care _an iota_," Janet told herself; and all that day it
seemed to her that Elfrida's personality was inexhaustibly
delightful.

Afterward, however, one or two letters found their way
into the sandal-wood box, bearing the Norwegian postmark.
They came seldomer than Elfrida expected. "_Enfin!_" she
said when the first arrived, and she felt her pulse beat
a little faster as she opened it. She read it eagerly,
with serious lips, thinking how fine he was, and with
what exquisite force he brought himself to her as he
wrote. "I must be a very exceptional person," she said
in her reverie afterward, "to have such things written
to me. I must--I _must!_" Then as she put the letter away
she reflected that she couldn't amuse herself with Kendal
without treachery to their artistic relationship; there
would be somehow an outrage in it. And she would not
amuse herself with him; she would sacrifice that, and be
quite frank and simple always. So that when it came to
pass--here Elfrida retired into a lower depth of
consciousness--there would be only a little pity and a
little pain, and no reproach or regret. There was a delay
in the arrival of the next letter which Elfrida felt to
be unaccountable, a delay of nearly three weeks. She took
it with an odd rush of feeling from the hand of the
housemaid who brought it up, and locked herself in alone
with it.

A few days later, driving through Bryanston Street in a
hansom, Elfrida saw the windows of Kendal's studio wide
open. She leaned forward to realize it with a little
tumult of excitement at the possibility it indicated,
half turned to bid the cabman stop, and rolled on undecided.
Presently she spoke to him.

"Please go back to number sixty-three," she said, "I want
to get out there," and in a moment or two she was tripping
lightly up the stairs.

Kendal, in his shirt-sleeves, with his back to the door,
was bending over a palette that clung obstinately to the
hardened round dabs of color he had left upon it six
weeks before. He threw it down at Elfrida's step, and
turned with a sudden light of pleasure in his face to
see her framed in the doorway, looking at him with an
odd shyness and silence. "You spirit!" he cried, "how
did you know I had come back?" and he held her hand for
just an appreciable instant, regarding her with simple
delight. Her tinge of embarrassment became her sweetly,
and the pleasure in his eyes made her almost instantly
aware of this.

"I didn't know," she said, with a smile that shared his
feeling. "I saw the windows open, and I thought the woman
downstairs might be messing about here. They can do such
incalculable damage when they really set their minds to
it, these _concierge_ people. So I--I came up to interfere.
But it is you!" She looked at him with wide, happy eyes
which sent the satisfaction she found in saying that to
his inmost consciousness.

"That was extremely good of you," he said, and in spite
of himself a certain emphasis crept into the commonplace.
"I hardly realize myself that I am here. It might very
well be the Skaagerak outside."

"Does the sea in Norway sound like that?" Elfrida asked,
as the roar of London came across muffled from Piccadilly.
She made a tittle theatrical movement of her head to
listen, and Kendal's appreciation of it was so evident
that she failed to notice exactly what he answered. "You
have come back sooner than you intended?"

"By a month."

"Why!" she asked. Her eye made a soft bravado, but that
was lost. He did not guess for a moment that she believed
she knew why he had come.

"It was necessary," he answered, with remembered gravity,
"in connection with the death of--of a relative, a granduncle
of mine. The old fellow went off suddenly last week, and
they telegraphed for me. I believe he wanted to see me,
poor old chap, but of course it was too late."

"Oh!" said Elfrida gently, "that is very sad. Was it a
granduncle you were--fond of?"

Kendal could not restrain a smile at her earnestness.

"I was, in a way. He was a good old fellow, and he lived
to a great age--over ninety. He has left me all the duties
and responsibilities of his estate," Kendal went on, with
sudden gloom. "The Lord only knows what I'll do with
them."

"That makes it sadder," said the girl.

"I should think it did," Kendal replied; and then their
eyes met, and they laughed the healthy instinctive laugh
of youth when it is asked to mourn fatuously, which is
always a little cruel.

"I hope," said Elfrida quickly, "that he has not saddled
you with a title. An estate is bad enough, but with a
title added it would ruin you. You would never do any
more good work, I am sure--sure. People would get at
you--you would take to rearing farm creatures from a
sense of duty--you might go into Parliament. Tell me
there is no title!"

"How do you know all that?" Kendal exclaimed, laughing.
"But there is no title--never has been."

Elfrida drew a long sigh of relief, and held him with
her eyes as if he had just been snatched away from, some
impending danger. "So now you are--what do you say in
this country?--a landed proprietor. You belong to the
country gentry. In America I used to read about the
country gentry in _London Society_--all the contributors
and all the subscribers to _London Society_ used to be
country gentry, I believe, from what I remember. They
were always riding to hounds, and having big Christmas
parties, and telling ghost stories about the family,
diamonds."

"All very proper," Kendal protested against the irony of
her tone.

"Oh, if one would be quite _sure_ that it will not make
any difference," Elfrida went on, clasping her knee with
her shapely gloved hands. "I should like--I should like
to beg you to make me a promise that you will never give
up your work--your splendid work!" She hesitated, and
looked at him almost with supplication. "But then why
should you make such a promise to _me!_"

They were sitting opposite one another in the dusty
confusion of the room, and when she said this Kendal got
up and walked over to her, without knowing exactly why.

"If I made such a promise," he said, looking down at her,
"it would be more binding given to you than to anybody
else--more binding and more sacred."

If she had exacted it he would have promised then and
there, and he had some vague notion of sealing the vow
with his lips upon her hand, and of arranging--this was
more indefinite still--that she should always insist, in
her sweet personal way, upon its fulfilment. But Elfrida
felt the intensity in his voice with a kind of fear, not
of the situation--she had a nervous delight in the
situation--but of herself. She had a sudden terror in
his coming so close to her, in his changed voice, and
its sharpness lay in her recognition of it. Why should
she be frightened? She jumped up gaily with the question
still throbbing in her throat.

"No," she cried, "you shall not promise me. I'll form a
solemn, committee of your friends--your real friends--and
we'll come some day and exact an oath from you, individually
and collectively. That will be much more impressive. I
must go now," she went on reproachfully, "and you have
shown me nothing that you've brought back with you. Is
there anything here?" In her anxiety to put space between
them she bad walked to the furthest and untidiest corner
of the room, where half a dozen canvases leaned with
their faces to the wall.

Kendal watched her, tilt them forward one after another
with a kind or sick impotence.

"Absolutely nothing!" he cried.

But it was too late--she had paused in her running
commentary on the pictures, she was standing looking,
absolutely silent, at the last but one. She had come upon
it--she had found it--his sketch of the scene in Lady
Halifax's drawing-room.

"Oh yes, there is something!" she said at last, carefully
drawing it out and holding it at arm's length. "Something
that is quite new to me. Do you mind if I put it in a
better light?" Her voice had wonderfully changed; it
expressed a curious interest and self-control. In effect
that was all she felt for the moment; she had a dull
consciousness of a blow, but did not yet quite understand
being struck. She was gathering herself together as she
looked, growing conscious of her hurt and of her resentment.
Kendal was silent, cursing himself inwardly for not having
destroyed the thing the day after he had let himself do it.

"Yes," she said, placing it on an easel at an oblique
angle with the north window of the room, "it is better so."

She stepped back a few paces to look at it, and stood
immovable, searching every detail. "It does you credit,"
she said slowly; "immense credit. Oh, it is very clever!"

"Forgive me," Kendal said, taking a step toward her. "I
am afraid it doesn't But I never intended you to see it."

"Is it an order?" she asked calmly. "Ah, but that would
not have been fair--not to show it to me first!"

Kendal crimsoned. "I beg," he said earnestly, "that you
will not think such a thing possible. I intended to
destroy it--I don't know why I have not destroyed it!"

"But why? It is so good, so charming, so--so _true!_ You
did it for your own amusement, then! But that was very
selfish."

For answer Kendal caught up a tube of Indian red, squeezed
it on the crusted palette, loaded a brush with it, and
dashed it across the sketch. It was a feeble piece of
bravado, and he felt it, but he must convince her in some
way that the thing was worthless to him.

"Ah," she said, "that is a pity!" and she walked to
the door. She must get away, quite away, and quickly, to
realize this, thing, and find out exactly what it meant
to her. And yet, three steps down the stairs she turned
and came back again. John Kendal stood where, she had
left him, staring at the sketch on the easel.

"I have come back to thank you," Elfrida said quickly,
"for showing me what a fool I made of myself," and she
was gone.

An hour later Kendal had not ceased to belabor himself;
but the contemplation of the sketch--he had not looked
at it for two months--brought him to the conclusion that
perhaps, after all, it might have some salutary effect.
He found himself so curiously sore about it though, so
thoroughly inclined, to brand himself a traitor and a
person without obligation, that he went back to Norway
the following week--a course which left a number of worthy
people in the neighborhood of Bigton, Devonshire, very
indignant indeed.



CHAPTER XXII.

"Daddy," Janet said to her father a few days after their
return to town; "I've been thinking that we might--that
you might--be of use in helping Frida to place something
somewhere else than in that eternal picture paper."

"For instance?"

"Oh, in _Peterson's_, or the _London Magazine_, or
_Piccadilly_."

It was in the library after dinner, and Lawrence Cardiff
was smoking. He took the slender stem of his pipe from
his lips and pressed down the tobacco in the bowl with
a, caressing thumb, looking appreciatively, as he did
it, at the mocking buffoon's face that was carved on it.

"It seems to me that you are the influential person in
those quarters," he said, with the smile that Janet
privately thought the most delightfully sympathetic she
knew.

"Oh, I'm not really!" the girl answered quickly; "and
besides--" she hesitated, to pick words that would hurt
her as little as possible--"besides, Frida wouldn't care
about my doing it."

"Why?"

"I don't know quite why. But she wouldn't--it's of no
use. I don't think she likes having things done for her
by people anything like her own age, and--and standing."

Cardiff smiled inwardly at this small insincerity.
Janet's relation with Elfrida was a growing pleasure to
him. He found himself doing little things to enhance it,
and fancying himself in some way connected with its
initiation.

"But I'm almost certain she would let you do it," his
daughter urged.

"_In loco parentis_," Cardiff smiled, and immediately
found that the words left an unpleasant taste in his
mouth. "But I'm not at all sure that she could do anything
they would take."

"My dear daddy!" cried Janet resentfully. "Wait till she
tries! You said yourself that some of those scraps she
sent us in Scotland were delicious."

"So they were. She has a curious, prismatic kind of
mind--"

"Soul, daddy."

"Soul, if you like. It reflects quite wonderfully, the
angles at which it finds itself with the world are so
unusual. But I doubt her power, you know, of construction
or cohesion, or anything of that kind."

"I don't," Janet returned confidently. "But talk to her
about it, daddy; get her to show you what she's done--I
never see a line till it's in print. And--I don't know
anything about it, you know. Above all things, don't
let her guess that I suggested it."

"I'll see what can be done," Mr. Cardiff returned, "though
I profess myself faithless. Elfrida wasn't designed to
please the public of the magazines--in England."

When Janet reflected afterward upon what had struck her
as being odd about this remark of her father's, she found
it was Elfrida's name. It seemed to have escaped him; he
had never referred to her in that way before--which was
a wonder, Janet assured herself, considering how constantly
he heard it from her lips.

"How does the novel come on?" Mr. Cardiff asked before
she went to bed that night. "When am I to be allowed to
see the proofs?"

"I finished the nineteenth chapter yesterday," Janet
answered, flushing. "It will only run to about twenty-three.
It's a very little one, daddy."

"Still nobody in the secret but Lash and Black?"

"Not a soul I hope they're the right people," Janet said
anxiously. "I haven't even told Elfrida," she added. "I
want to surprise her with an early copy. She'll like it,
I think. I like it pretty well myself. It has an effective
leading idea."

Her father laughed, and threw her a line of Horace which
she did not understand. "Don't let it take too much time
from your other work," he warned her. "It's sure, you
know, to be an arrant imitation of somebody, while in
your other things you have never been anybody but yourself."
He looked at her in a way that disarmed his words, and
went back to his _Revue Bleue_.

"Dear old thing! You want to prepare me for anything,
don't you? I wonder whom I've imitated! Hardy, I think,
most of all--but then it's such a ludicrously far-away
imitation! If there's nothing in the thing but _that_,
it deserves to fall as flat as flat. But there is,
daddy!"

Cardiff laid down his journal again at the appealing
note.

"No!" she cried, "I won't bore you with it now; wait till
the proofs come. Good-night!" She kissed him lightly on
the cheek. "About Elfrida," she added, still bending
over him. "You'll be very careful, won't you, daddy
dear--not to hurt her feelings in any way, I mean?"

After she had gone, Lawrence Cardiff laid down the _Revue_
again and smoked meditatively for half an hour. During
that time he revolved at least five subjects which he
thought Elfrida, with proper supervision, might treat
effectively. But the supervision would be very necessary.

A fortnight later Mr. Cardiff sat in the same chair,
smoking the same pipe, and alternately frowned and smiled
upon the result of that evening's meditation. It had
reached him by post in the afternoon without an accompanying
word; the exquisite self-conscious manuscript seemed to
breathe a subdued defiance at him, with the merest ghost
of a perfume that Cardiff liked better. Once or twice he
held the pages closer to his face to catch it more
perfectly.

Janet had not mentioned the matter to him again; indeed,
she had hardly thought of it. Her whole nature was absorbed
in her fight with herself, in the struggle for self-control,
which had ceased to come to the surface of her life at
intervals, and had now become constant and supreme with
her. Kendal had made it harder for her lately by continually
talking of Elfrida. He brought his interest in her to
Janet to discuss as he naturally brought everything that
touched him to her, and Janet, believing it to be a
lover's pleasure, could not forbid him. When he criticised
Elfrida, Janet fancied it was to hear her warm defence,
which grew oddly reckless in her anxiety to hide the
bitterness that tinged it.

"Otherwise," she permitted herself to reflect, "he is
curiously just in his analysis of her--for a man," and
hated the thought for its touch of disloyalty.

Knowing Elfrida as she thought she knew her, Kendal's
talk wounded her once for herself and twice for him. He
was going on blindly, confidently, trusting, Janet thought
bitterly, to his own sweetness of nature, to his comeliness
and the fineness of his sympathies--who had ever refused
him anything yet? And only to his hurt, to his repulse--from
the point of view of sentiment, to his ruin. For it did
not seem possible to Janet that a hopeless passion for
a being like Elfrida Bell could result in anything but
collapse. Whenever he came to Kensington Square, and he
came often, she went down to meet him with a quaking
heart, and sought his face nervously for the haggard,
broken look which should mean that he had asked Elfrida
to marry him and been artistically refused. Always she
looked in vain; indeed, Kendal's spirits were so uniformly
like a schoolboy's that once or twice she asked herself,
with sudden terror, whether Elfrida had deceived
her--whether it might not be otherwise between them,
recognizing then, with infinite humiliation, how much
worse that would be. She took to working extravagantly
hard, and Elfrida noticed with distinct pleasure how much
warmer her manner had grown, and in how many pretty ways
she showed her enthusiasm. Janet was such a conquest!
Once when Kendal seemed to Janet on the point of asking
her what she thought of his chances, she went to a
florist's in the High, and sent Elfrida a pot of snowy
chrysanthemums, after which she allowed herself to refrain
from seeing her for a week. Her talk with her father
about helping Elfrida to place her work with the magazines
had been one of the constant impulses by which she tried
to compensate her friend, as it were, for the amount of
suffering that young woman was inflicting upon her--she
would have found a difficulty in explaining it more
intelligibly than that.

As he settled together the pages of Miss Bell's article
on "The Nemesis of Romanticism" and laid them on the
table, Lawrence Cardiff thought, of it with sincere
regret.

"It is hopeless--hopeless," he said to himself. "It must
be rewritten from end to end. I suppose she must do it
herself," he added, with a smile that he drew from some
memory of her, and he pulled writing materials toward
him to tell her so. Re-reading his brief note, he frowned,
hesitated, and tore it up. The next followed it into the
waste-paper basket. The third gave Elfrida gently to
understand that in Mr. Cardiff's opinion the article was
a little unbalanced--she would remember her demand that
he should be absolutely frank. She had made some delightful
points, but there was a lack of plan and symmetry. If
she would give him the opportunity he would be very happy
to go over it with her, and possibly she would make a
few changes. More than this Cardiff could not induce
himself to say. And he would await her answer before
sending the article back to her.

It came next day, and in response to it Mr. Cardiff
found himself walking, with singular lightness of step,
toward Fleet Street in the afternoon with Elfrida's
manuscript in his pocket. Buddha smiled more inscrutably
than ever as they went over it together, while the water
hissed in the samovar in the corner, and little blue
flames chased themselves in and out of the anthracite in
the grate, and the queer Orientalism of the little room
made its picturesque appeal to Cardiff's senses. He had
never been there before.

From beginning to end they went over the manuscript, he
criticising and suggesting, she gravely listening, and
insatiately spurring him on.

"You may say anything," she declared. "The sharper it is
the better, you know, for me. Please don't be polite--be
savage!" and he did his best to comply.

She would not always be convinced; he had to leave some
points unvanquished; but in the main she agreed and was
grateful. She would remodel the article, she told him,
and she would remember all that he had said. Cardiff
found her recognition of the trouble he had taken
delightful; it was nothing, he declared; he hoped very
particularly that she would let him be of use, if possible,
often again. He felt an inexplicable jar when she suddenly
said, "Did you ever do anything--of this sort--for Janet?"
and he was obliged to reply that he never did--her look
of disappointment was so keen. "She thought," he reflected,
"that I hoisted Janet into literature, and could be
utilized again perhaps," in which he did her injustice.
But he lingered over his tea, and when he took her hand
to bid her good-by he looked down at her and said, "Was
I very brutal?" in a way which amused Her for quite half
an hour after he had gone.

Cardiff sent the amended article to the _London Magazine_
with qualms. It was so unsuitable even then, that he
hardly expected his name to do much for it, and the
half-hour he devoted to persuading his literary conscience
to let him send it was very uncomfortable indeed. Privately
he thought any journalist would be rather an ass to print
it, yet he sincerely hoped the editor of the _London
Magazine_ would prove himself such an ass. He selected
the _London Magazine_ because it seemed to him that the
quality of its matter had lately been slightly
deteriorating. A few days later, when he dropped in at
the office, impatient at the delay, to ask the fate of
the article, he was distinctly, disappointed to find that
the editor had failed to approach it in the character he
had mentally assigned to him. That gentleman took the
manuscript out of the left-hand drawer of his writing-table,
and fingered, the pages over with a kind of disparaging
consideration before handing it back,

"I'm very sorry, Cardiff, but we can't do anything with
this, I'm afraid. We have--we have one or two things
covering the same ground already in hand."

And he looked at his visitor with some curiosity. It
was a queer article to have come through Lawrence Cardiff.

Cardiff resented the look more than the rejection. "It's
of no consequence, thanks," he said drily. "Very good
of you to look at it. But you print a great deal worse
stuff, you know."

His private reflection was different, however, and led
him to devote the following evening to making certain
additions to the sense and alterations in the style of
Elfrida's views on "The Nemesis of Romanticism," which
enabled him to say, at about one o'clock in the morning,
"_Enfin!_ It is passable!" He took it to Elfrida on his
way from his lecture next day. She met him at the door
of her attic with expectant eyes; she was certain of
success.

"Have they taken it?" she cried. "Tell me quick, quick!"

When he said no--the editor of the _London Magazine_ had
shown himself an idiot--he was very sorry, but they would
try again, he thought she was going to cry. But her face
changed as he went on, telling her frankly what he thought,
and showing her what he had done.

"I've' only improved it for the benefit of the Philistines,"
he said apathetically. "I hope you will forgive me."

"And now," she said at last, with a little hard air,
"what do you propose?"

"I propose that if you approve these trifling alterations,
we send the article to the _British Review_. And they
are certain to take it."

Elfrida held out her hand for the manuscript, and he gave
it to her. She looked at every page again. It was at
least half re-written in Cardiff's small, cramped hand.

"Thank-you," she said slowly. "Thank-you very much. I
have learned a great deal, I think, from what you have
been kind enough to tell me, and to write here. But this,
of course, so far as I am concerned in it, is a failure."

"Oh no!" he protested.

"An utter failure," she went on unnoticingly, "and it
has served its purpose. There!" she cried with sudden
passion, and in an instant the manuscript was flaming in
the grate.

"Please--please go away," she sobbed, leaning the mantel
in a sudden betrayal of tears; Cardiff, resisting the
temptation to take her in his arms and bid her be comforted,
went.



CHAPTER XXIII.

Mr. Rattray's proposal occurred as soon after the close
of the season as he was able to find time to devote the
amount of attention to it which he felt it required. He
put it off deliberately till then, fearing that it might
entail a degree of mental agitation on his part that
would have an undesirable reflex action upon the paper.
Mr. Rattray had never been really attracted toward
matrimony before, although he had taken, in a discussion
in the columns of the _Age_ upon the careworn query, "Is
Marriage a Failure?" a vigorous negative side under
various pen-names which argued not only inclination, but
experience. He felt, therefore, that he could not possibly
predicate anything of himself under the circumstances,
and that it would be distinctly the part of wisdom to
wait until there was less going on. Mr. Rattray had an
indefinite idea that in case of a rejection he might find
it necessary to go out of town for some weeks to pull
himself together again--it was the traditional course--and
if such an exigency occurred before July the office would
go to pieces under the pressure of events. So he waited,
becoming every day more enthusiastically aware of the
great advantage of having Miss Bell permanently connected
with the paper under supervision which would be even more
highly authorized than an editor's, and growing at the
same time more thoroughly impressed with the unusual
character of her personal charm. Elfrida was a "find" to
Mr. Arthur Rattray from a newspaper point of view--a
find he gave himself credit for sagaciously recognizing,
and one which it would be expedient to obtain complete
possession of before its market value should become known.
And it was hardly possible for Mr. Rattray to divest
himself of the newspaper point of view in the consideration
of anything which concerned him personally. It struck
him as uniquely fortunate that his own advantage and that
of the _Age_ should tally, as it undoubtedly might in
this instance; and that, for Arthur Rattray, was putting
the matter in a rather high, almost disinterested
connection.

It is doubtful whether to this day Mr. Rattray fully
understands his rejection, it was done so deftly, so
frankly, yet with such a delicate consideration for his
feelings. He took it, he assured himself afterward,
without winking; but it is unlikely that he felt
sufficiently indebted to the manner of its administration,
in congratulating himself upon this point. It may be,
too, that he left Miss Bell with the impression that her
intention never to marry was not an immovable one, given
indefinite time and indefinite abstention, on his part,
from alluding to the subject. Certainly he found himself
surprisingly little cast down by the event, and more
resolved than ever to make the editor-in-chief admit that
Elfrida's contributions were "the brightest things in
the paper," and act accordingly. He realized, in the
course of time, that he had never been very confident of
any other answer; but nothing is more certain than that
it acted as a curious stimulus to his interest in Elfrida's
work. He found a co-enthusiast in Golightly Ticke, and
on more than one occasion they agreed that something,
must be done to bring Miss Bell before the public, to
put within her reach the opportunity of the success she
deserved, which was of the order Mr. Rattray described
as "screaming."

"So far as the booming is concerned," said Mr. Rattray
to Mr. Ticke, "I will attend to that; but there must be
something to boom. We can't sound the loud tocsin on a
lot of our own paras. She must do something that will go
between two covers."

The men were talking in Golightly's room over easeful
Sunday afternoon cigars; and as Rattray spoke they heard
a light step mount the stairs. "There she is now,"
replied Ticke. "Suppose we go up and propose it to her?"

"I wish I knew what to suggest," Rattray returned; "but
we might talk it over with her--when she's had time to
take off her bonnet."

Ten minutes later Elfrida was laughing at their ambitions.
"A success?" she exclaimed. "Oh yes! I mean to have a
success--one day! But not yet--oh no! First I must learn
to write a line decently, then a paragraph, then a page.
I must wait, oh, a very long time--ten years perhaps.
Five, anyway."

"Oh, if you do that," protested Golightly Ticke, "it will
be like decanted champagne. A success at nineteen--"

"Twenty-one," corrected Elfrida.

"Twenty-one if you like--is a sparkling success. A
success at thirty-one is--well, it lacks the accompaniments."

"You are a great deal too exacting, Miss Bell," Rattray
put in; "those things you do for us are charming, you
know they are."

"You are very good to say so. I'm afraid they're only
frivolous scraps."

"My opinion is this," Rattray went on sturdily. "You
only want material. Nobody can make bricks without
straw--to sell--and very few people can evolve books out
of the air that any publisher will look at it. You get
material for your scraps, and you treat it unconventionally,
so the scraps supply a demand. It's a demand that's
increasing every day--for fresh, unconventional matter.
Your ability to treat the scraps proves your ability to
do more sustained work if you could find it. Get the
material for a book, and I'll guarantee you'll do it
well."

Elfrida looked from one to the other with bright eyes.
"What do you suggest?" she said, with a nervous little
laugh. She had forgotten that she meant to wait ten years.

"That's precisely the difficulty," said Golightly, running
his fingers through his hair.

"We must get hold of something," said Rattray. "You've
never thought of doing a novel?"

Elfrida shook her head decidedly. "Not now," she said.
"I would not dare. I haven't looked at life long
enough--I've had hardly any experience at all. I couldn't
conceive a single character with any force or completeness.
And then for a novel one wants a leading idea--the plot,
of course, is of no particular consequence. Rather I
should say plots have merged into leading ideas; and I
have none."

"Oh, distinctly!" observed Mr. Ticke finely. "A plot is
as vulgar at this end of the century as a--as a dress
improver, to take a feminine simile."

Rattray looked seriously uncomprehending, and slowly
scratched the back of his hand. "Couldn't you find a
leading idea in some of the modern movements," he asked
--"in the higher education of women, for instance, or
the suffrage agitation?"

"Or University Extension, or Bimetallism, or Eight Hours'
Labor, or Disestablishment!" Elfrida laughed. "No, Mr.
Rattray, I don't think I could.

"I might do some essays," she suggested.

Rattray, tilting his chair back, with his forefingers in
the arm-holes of his waistcoat, pursed his lips "We
couldn't get them read," he said. "It takes a
well-established reputation to carry essays. People will
stand them from a Lang or a Stevenson or that 'Obiter
Dicta' fellow--not from an unknown young lady."

Elfrida bit her lip. "Of course I am not any of those."

"Miss Bell has done some idyllic verse," volunteered
Golightly.

The girl looked at him with serious reprobation. "I did
not give you permission to say that," she said gravely.

"No--forgive me!--but it's true, Rattray." He searched
in his breast pocket and brought out a diminutive
pocket-book. "May I show those two little things I copied?"
he begged, selecting a folded sheet of letter-paper from
its contents. "This is serious, you know, really. We must
go into all the chances."

Elfrida had a pang of physical distress.

"Oh," she said hastily, "Mr. Rattray will not care to
see those. They weren't written for the _Age_, you know,"
she added, forcing a smile.

But Rattray declared that he should like it above all
things, and looked the scraps gloomily over. One Elfrida
had called "A Street Minstrel." Seeing him unresponsive,
Golightly read it gracefully aloud.

   "One late November afternoon
   I sudden heard a gentle rune.

   "I could not see whence came the song,
   But, tranced, stopped and listened long;

   "And that drear month gave place to May,
   And all the city slipped away.

   "The coal-carts ceased their din,--instead
   I heard a bluebird overhead;

   "The pavements, black with dismal rain,
   Grew greenly to a country lane.

   "Plainly as I see you, my friend,
   I saw the lilacs sway and bend,

   "A blossoming apple-orchard where
   The chimneys, fret the foggy air,

   "And wide mown fields of clover sweet
   Sent up their fragrance at my feet,

   "And once again dear Phyllis sat
   The thorn beneath, and trimmed her hat.

      * * * * * * * *

   "Long looked I for my wizard bard--
   I found him on the boulevard.

   "And now my urban hearth he cheers,
   Singing all day of sylvan years,

   "Right thankful for the warmer spot--
   A cricket, by July forgot!"

Ticke looked inquiringly at Rattray when he had finished.
Elfrida turned away her head, and tapped the floor
impatiently with her foot.

"Isn't that dainty?" demanded Golightly.

"Dainty enough," Rattray responded, with a bored air.
"But you can't read it to the public, you know. Poetry
is out of the question. Poetry takes genius."

Golightly and Elfrida looked at each other sympathetically.
Mr. Ticke's eyes said, "How hideously we are making you
suffer," and Elfrida's conveyed a tacit reproach.

"Travels would do better," Rattray went on. "There's no
end of a market for anything new in travels. Go on a
walking tour through Spain, by yourself, disguised as a
nun or something, and write about what you see."

Elfrida flushed with pleasure at the reckless idea. A
score of situations rose before her thrilling, dangerous,
picturesque, with a beautiful nun in the foreground. "I
should like it above all things," she said, "but I have
no money."

"I'm afraid it would take a good deal," Rattray returned.

"That's a pity."

"It disposes of the question of travelling, though, for
the present," and Elfrida sighed with real regret.

"It's your turn, Ticke. Suggest something," Rattray went
on. "It must be unusual and it must be interesting. Miss
Bell must do something that no young lady has done before.
That much she must concede to the trade. Granting that,
the more artistically she does it the better."

"I should agree to that compromise," said Elfrida eagerly.
"Anything to be left with a free hand."

"The book should be copiously illustrated," continued
Rattray, "and the illustrations should draw their interest
from you personally."

"I don't think I should mind that."

Her imagination was busy at a bound with press criticisms,
pirated American editions, newspaper paragraphs describing
the color of her hair, letters from great magazines asking
for contributions. It leaped with a fierce joy at the
picture of Janet reading these paragraphs, and knowing,
whether she gave or withheld her own approval, that the
world had pronounced in favor of Elfrida Bell. She wrote
the simple note with which she would send a copy to
Kendal, and somewhere in the book there would be things
which he would feel so exquisitely that--The cover should
have a French design and be the palest yellow. There was
a moment's silence while she thought of these things,
her knee clasped in her hands, her eyes blindly searching
the dull red squares of the Llassa prayer-carpet.

"Rattray," said Golightly, with a suddenness that made
both the others look up expectantly, "could Miss Bell do
her present work for the _Age_ anywhere?"

"Just now I think it's mostly book reviews--isn't it?--and
comments on odds and ends in the papers of interest to
ladies. Yes--not quite so well out of London; but I dare
say it could be done pretty much anywhere, reasonably
near."

"Then," replied Golightly Ticke, with a repressed and
guarded air, "I think I've got it."



CHAPTER XXIV.

Three days later a note from Miss Cardiff in Kensington
Square to Miss Bell in Essex Court, Fleet Street, came
back unopened. A slanting line in very violet ink along
the top read "_Out of town for the pressent. M. Jordan._"
Janet examined the line carefully, but could extract
nothing further from it except that it had been written
with extreme care, by a person of limited education and
a taste for color. It occurred to her, in addition, that
the person's name was probably Mary.

Elfrida's actions had come to have a curious importance
to Janet; she realized how great an importance with the
access of irritated surprise which came to her with, this
unopened note. In the beginning she had found Elfrida's
passionate admiration so novel and so sweet that her
heart was half won before they came, together in completer
intimacy, and she gave her new original friend a meed of
affection which seemed to strengthen as it instinctively
felt itself unreturned--at least in kind. Elfrida
retracted none of her admiration, and she added to it,
when she ceded her sympathy, the freedom of a fortified
city; but Janet hungered for more. Inwardly she cried
out for the something warm and human that was lacking to
Elfrida's feeling for her, and sometimes she asked herself
with grieved cynicism how her friend found it worth while
to pretend to care so cleverly. More than once she had
written to Elfrida with the deliberate purpose of soothing
herself by provoking some tenderness in reply, and
invariably the key she had struck had been that of homage,
more or less whimsically unwilling. "_Don't_ write such
delicious things to me, _ma mie_," would come the answer.
"You make me curl up with envy. What shall I do if malice
and all uncharitableness follow? I admire you so
horribly--there!" Janet told herself sorely that she was
sick of Elfrida's admiration--it was not the stuff
friendships were made of. And a keener pang supervened
when she noticed that whatever savored most of an admiration
on her own part had obviously the highest value for her
friend. The thought of Kendal only heightened her feeling
about Elfrida. She would be so much the stronger, she
thought, to resist any--any strain--if she could be
quite certain how much Elfrida cared--cared about her
personally. Besides, the indictment that she, Janet, had
against her seemed to make the girl's affection absolutely
indispensable. And now Elfrida had apparently left London
without a word. She had dined in Kensington Square the
night before, and this was eleven o'clock in the morning.
It looked very much as if she had deliberately intended
to leave them in the dark as to her movements. People
didn't go out of town indefinitely "for the present," on
an hour's notice. The thought brought sudden tears to
Janet's eyes, which she winked back angrily. "I am getting
to be a perfect old maid!" she reflected. "Why shouldn't
Frida go to Kamschatka, if she wants to, without giving
us notice? It's only her eccentric way of doing things."
And she frowned upon, her sudden resolution to rush off
to Fleet Street in a cab and inquire of Mrs. Jordan. It
would be espionage. She would wait, quit calmly and
indefinitely, till Frida chose to write, and then she
would treat the escapade, whatever it was, with the
perfect understanding of good-fellowship. Or perhaps not
indefinitely--for two or three days--it was just possible
that Frida might have had bad news and started suddenly
for America by the early tram to Liverpool, in which case
she might easily not have had time to write. But in that
case would not Mrs. Jordan have written "Gone to America"?
Her heart stood still with another thought--could she
have gone with Kendal? Granting that she had made up her
mind to marry him, it would be just Elfrida's strange,
sensational way. Janet walked the floor in a restless
agony, mechanically tearing the note into little, strips.
She must know--she must find out. She would write and
ask him for something--for what? A book, a paper--the
_New Monthly_, and she must have some particular reason.
She sat down to write, and pressed her fingers upon her
throbbing eyes in the effort to summon a particular
reason. It was as far from her as ever when the maid
knocked and came in with a note from Kendal asking them
to go to see Miss Rehan in "As You Like It" that evening
--a note fragrant of tobacco, not an hour old.

"You needn't wait, Jessie," she said. "I'll send an answer
later;" and the maid had hardly left the room before
Janet was sobbing silently and helplessly with her head
on the table. As the day passed however, Elfrida's conduct
seemed less unforgivable, and by dinner-time she was able
to talk of it with simple wonder, which became more
tolerant still in the course of the evening, when she
discovered that Kendal was as ignorant and as astonished
as they themselves.

"She will write," Janet said hopefully; but a week passed
and Elfrida did not write. A settled disquietude began
to make itself felt between the Cardiffs. Accepting each
other's silence for the statement that Elfrida had sent
no word, they ceased to talk of her--as a topic her
departure had become painful to both of them. Janet's
anxiety finally conquered her scruples, and she betook
herself to Essex Court to inquire of Mrs. Jordan. That
lady was provokingly mysterious, and made the difficulty
of ascertaining that she knew nothing whatever about Miss
Bell's movements as great as possible. Janet saw an
acquaintance with some collateral circumstance in her
eyes, however, and was just turning away irritated by
her vain attempts to obtain it, when Mrs. Jordan, decided
that the pleasure of the revelation would be, after all,
greater than the pleasure of shielding the facts.

"Wether it 'as anything to do with Miss Bell or not, of
course I can't say," Mrs. Jordan remarked, with
conscientious hypocrisy, "but Mr. Ticke, _he_ left town
that same mornin'." She looked disappointed when Miss
Cardiff received this important detail indifferently.

"Oh, nothing whatever," Janet replied, with additional
annoyance that Elfrida should have subjected herself to
such an insinuation. Janet had a thoroughgoing dislike
to Golightly Ticke. On her way back in the omnibus she
reflected on the coincidence, however, and in the end
she did not mention it to her father.

The next day Lawrence Cardiff went to the _Age_ office
and had the good fortune to see Mr. Rattray, who was
flattered to answer questions regarding Miss Bell's
whereabouts, put by any one he knew to be a friend. Mr.
Rattray undertook to apologize for their not hearing of
the scheme, it had matured so suddenly. Miss Bell couldn't
really have had time to do more than pack and start; in
fact, there had been only three days in which to make
all the arrangements. And of course the facts were
confidential, but there was no reason why Miss Bell's
friends should not be in the secret. Then Mr. Rattray
imparted the facts, with a certain conscious gratification.
There had been difficulties, but the difficulties had
been surmounted, and he had heard from Miss Bell that
morning that everything was going perfectly, and she was
getting hold of magnificent copy. He was only sorry it
wouldn't be quite suitable for serial publication in the
_Age_; but, as Professor Cardiff was doubtless aware,
the British public were kittle cattle to shoe behind,
and he hardly thought the _Age_ could handle it.

"Oh yes," Mr. Cardiff replied absently. "Cheynemouth,
I think you said--for the next five days. Thanks.
Successful? I dare say. The idea is certainly a novel
one. Good-morning!" and he left the sub-editor of the
_Illustrated Age_ in a state of some uncertainty as to
the wisdom of having disclosed so much. Half an hour
later, when Kendal, who knew Rattray fairly well, called
and asked him for Miss Bell's present address, he got it
with some reluctance and fewer details.

Cardiff drove to his club, and wrote a note to Janet,
asking her to send his portmanteau to the 3.45 train at
Euston, as he intended to run down to Cheynemouth and
might stay over night He fastened up the envelope, then
after a moment's hesitation tore it open and added, "Miss
Bell is attempting a preposterous thing. I am going to
see if it cannot be prevented." He fancied Janet would
understand his not caring to go into particulars in the
meantime. It was because of his aversion to going into
particulars that he sent the note and lunched at the
club, instead of driving home as he had abundance of time
to do. Janet would have to be content with that; it would
be bad enough to have to explain Rattray's intolerable
"scheme" to her when it had been frustrated. After luncheon
he went into the smoking-room and read through three
leading articles with an occasional inkling of their
meaning. At the end of the third he became convinced of
the absurdity of trying to fix his attention upon anything,
and smoked his next Havana with his eyes upon the toe of
his boot, in profound meditation. An observant person
might have noticed that he passed his hand once or twice
lightly, mechanically, over the top of his head; but even
an observant person would hardly have connected the action
with Mr. Cardiff's latent idea that although his hair
might be tinged in a damaging way there was still a good
deal of it. Three o'clock found him standing at the club
window with his hands in his pockets, and the firm-set
lips of a man who has made up his mind, looking unseeingly
into the street. At a quarter past he was driving to the
station in a hansom, smiling at the rosette on the horse's
head, which happened to be a white one.

"There's Cardiff," said a man who saw him taking his
ticket. "More than ever the _joli garcon!_"

An hour and a half later one of the somewhat unprepossessing
set of domestics attached to the Mansion Hotel, Cheynemouth,
undertook to deliver Mr. Lawrence Cardiff's card to Miss
Bell. She didn't remember no such name among the young
ladies of the Peach Blossom Company, but she would
h'inquire. They was a ladies' drawin'-room upstairs, if
he would like to sit down. She conducted him to the
ladies' drawing-room, which boasted two pairs of torn
lace curtains, a set of dirty furniture with plush
trimmings, several lithographs of mellow Oriental scenes
somewhat undecidedly poised upon the wall, and a
marble-topped centre-table around which were disposed at
careful intervals three or four copies of last year's
illustrated papers. "You can w'yt'ere, sir," she said,
installing him as it were. "I'll let you know directly."

At the end of the corridor the girl met Elfrida herself,
who took the card with that quickening of her pulse, that
sudden commotion which had come to represent to her, in
connection with any critical personal situation, one of
the keenest possible sensations of pleasure. "You may tell
the gentleman," she said quietly, "that I will come in
a moment." Then she went back into her own room, closed
the door, and sat down on the side of the bed with a pale
face and eyes that comprehended, laughed, and were withal
a little frightened. That was what she must get rid of,
that feeling of fear, that scent of adverse criticism.
She would sit still 'till she was perfectly calm, perfectly
accustomed to the idea that Lawrence Cardiff had come to
remonstrate with her, and had come because--because what
she had been gradually becoming convinced of all these
months was true. He was so clever, so distinguished, he
had his eyes and his voice and his whole self so perfectly
under control, that she never could be quite, _quite_
sure--but now! And in spite of herself her heart beat
faster at the anticipation of what he might be waiting
to say to her not twenty steps away. She hid her face in
the pillow to laugh at the thought of how deliciously
the interference of an elderly lover would lend itself
to the piece of work, which she saw in fascinating
development under her hand, and she had an instantaneous
flash of regret that she couldn't use it--no, she couldn't
possibly. With fingers that trembled a little she twisted
her hair into a knot that became her better, and gave an
adjusting pat to the fluffy ends around her forehead.
"Nous en ferons une comedie adorable!" she nodded at the
girl in the glass; and then, with the face and manner of
a child detected in some mischief who yet expects to be
forgiven, she went into the drawing-room.

At the sight of her all that Cardiff was ready to say
vanished from the surface of his mind. The room was
already gray in the twilight. He drew her by both hands
to the nearest window, and looked at her mutely,
searchingly. It seemed to him that she, who was so quick
of apprehension, ought to know why he had come without
words, and her submission deepened his feeling of a
complete understanding between them.

"I've washed it all off!" said she naively, lifting her
face to his scrutiny. "It's not an improvement by daylight,
you know."

He smiled a little, but he did not release her hands.
"Elfrida, you must come home."

"Let us sit down," she said, drawing them away. He had
a trifle too much advantage, standing so close to her,
tall and firm in the dusk, knowing what he wanted, and
with that tenderness in his voice. Not that she had the
most far-away intention of yielding, but she did not want
their little farce to be spoiled by any complications
that might mar her pleasure in looking back upon it. "I
think," said she, "you will find that a comfortable
chair," and she showed him one which stood where all the
daylight that came through the torn curtains concentrated
itself. From her own seat she could draw her face into
the deepest shadow in the room. She made the arrangement
almost instinctively, and the lines of intensity the last
week had drawn upon Cardiffs face were her first reward.

"I have come to ask you to give up this thing," he said.

Elfrida leaned forward a little in her favorite attitude,
clasping her knee. Her eyes were widely serious. "You
ask me to give it up?" she repeated slowly. "But why do
you ask me?"

"Because I cannot associate it with you--to me it is
impossible that you should do it."

Elfrida lifted her eyebrows a little. "Do you know why
I am doing it?" she asked.

"I think so."

"It is not a mere escapade, you understand. And these
people do not pay me anything. That is quite just, because
I have never learned to act and I haven't much voice. I
can take no part, only just--appear."

"_Appear!_" Cardiff exclaimed. "Have you appeared!"

"Seven times," Elfrida said simply, but she felt that
she was blushing.

Cardiff's anger rose up hotly within him, and strove with
his love, and out of it there came a sickening sense of
impotency which assailed his very soul. All his life he
had had tangibilities to deal with. This was something
in the air, and already he felt the apprehension of being
baffled here, where he wrought for his heart and his
future.

"So that is a part of it," he said, with tightened lips.
"I did not know."

"Oh, I insisted upon that," Elfrida replied softly. "I
am quite one of them--one of the young ladies of the
Peach Blossom Company. I am learning all their sensations,
their little frailties, their vocabulary, their ways of
looking at things. I know how the novice feels when she
makes her first appearance in the chorus of a
spectacle--I've noted every vibration of her nerves. I'm
learning all the little jealousies and intrigues among
them, and all their histories and their ambitions. They
are more moral than you may think, but it is not the
moral one who is the most interesting. Her virtue is
generally a very threadbare, common sort of thing.
The--others--have more color in the fabric of their lives,
and you can't think how picturesque their passions are.
One of the chorus girls has two children. I feel a brute
sometimes at the way she--" Elfrida broke off, and looked
out of the window for an instant. "She brings their little
clothes into my bedroom to make--though there is no need,
they are in an asylum. She is divorced from their father,"
she went on coolly, "and he is married to the leading
lady. Candidly," she added, looking at him with a courageous
smile, "prejudice apart, is it not magnificent material?"

A storm of words trembled upon the verge of his lips,
but his diplomacy instinctively sealed them up. "You
can never use it," he said instead.

"Perfectly! I am not quite sure about the form--whether
I shall write as one of them, or as myself, telling the
story of my experience. But I never dreamed of having
such an opportunity. If I didn't mean to write a word I
should be glad of it--a look into another world, with
its own customs and language and ethics and pleasures
and pains. _Quelle chance!_

"And then," she went on, as if to herself, "to be of the
life, the strange, unreal, painted, lime-lighted life
that goes on behind the curtain! That is something--to
act one's part in it, to know that one's own secret role
is a thousand times more difficult than any in the
_repertoire_. Can't you understand?" she appealed. "You
are horribly unresponsive. We won't talk of it any longer."
she added, with a little offended air. "How is Janet?"

"We must talk of it, Elfrida," Cardiff answered. "Let
me tell you one thing," he added steadily. "Such a book
as you propose writing would be classed as the lowest
sensationalism. People would compare it with the literature
of the police court."

Elfrida sprang to her feet, with her head thrown back
and-her beautiful eyes alight. "_Touche!_" Cardiff thought
exultingly.

"You may go too far!" she exclaimed passionately. "There
are some things that may not be said!"

Cardiff went over to her quickly and took her hand.
"Forgive me," he said. "Forgive me--I am very much in
earnest."

She turned away from him. "You had no right to say it.
You know my work, and you know that the ideal of it is
everything in the world to me--my religion. How dared you
suggest a comparison between, it and--_cette ordure la!_"

Her voice broke, and Cardiff fancied she was on the brink
of tears. "Elfrida," he cried miserably, "let us have an
end of this! I have no right to intrude my opinions--if
you like, my prejudices--between you and what you are
doing. But I have come to beg you to give me the right."
He came a step closer and laid his free hand lightly on
her shoulder. "Elfrida," he said unhesitatingly, "I want
you to be my wife."

"And Janet's stepmother!" thought the girl swiftly. But
she hoped he would not mention Janet; it would burlesque
the situation.

"Your going away made me quite sure," he added simply.
"I can never do without you altogether again. Instead I
want to possess you altogether." He bent his fine face
to the level of hers, and took both her hands in his.
Elfrida thought that by that light he looked strangely
young.

She slipped her hands away, but did not move, He was
still very close to her--she could feel his breath upon
her hair.

"Oh no!" she said. "Marriage is so absurd!" and immediately
it occurred to her that she might have put this more
effectively. "Cela n'est pas bien dit!" she thought.

"Let us sit down together and talk about it," he answered
gently, and drew her toward the little sofa in the corner.

"But--I am afraid--there is nothing more to say. And in
a quarter of an hour I must go."

Cardiff smiled masterfully. "I could marry you, little
one, in a quarter of an hour," he said.

But at the end of that time Lawrence Cardiff found himself
very far indeed from the altar, and more enlightened
perhaps than he had ever been before about the radicalism
of certain modern sentiments concerning it. She would
change, he averred; might he be allowed to hope that she
would change, and to wait--months, years? She would never
change, Elfrida avowed, it was useless--quite useless--to
think of that. The principle had too deep a root in her
being--to tear it up would be to destroy her whole joy
in life, she said, leaving Cardiff to wonder vaguely what
she meant.

"I will wait," he said, as she rose to go; "but you will
come back with me now, and we will write a book--some
other book--together."

The girl laughed gaily. "All alone by myself I must do
it," she answered. "And I must do _this_ book. You will
approve it when it is done. I am not afraid."

He had her hands again. "Elfrida," he threatened, "if
you go on the stage to-night in the costume I see so
graphically advertised--an Austrian hussar, isn't it?--I
will attend. I will take a box," he added, wondering at
his own brutality. But by any means he must prevail.

Elfrida turned a shade paler. "You will not do that,"
she said gravely. "Good-by. Thank you for having come to
persuade me to give this up. And I wish I could do what
you would like. But it is quite, quite impossible." She
bent over him and touched his forehead lightly with her
lips. "Good-by," she said again, and was gone.

An hour later he was on his way back to town. As the
mail train whizzed by another, side-tracked to await its
passing, Mr. Cardiff might have seen Kendal, if there
had been time to look, puffing luxuriously in a smoking
compartment, and unfolding a copy of the _Illustrated Age_.



CHAPTER XXV.

Before he had been back in Norway a week Kendal felt his
perturbation with regard to Elfrida remarkably quieted
and soothed. It seemed to him, in the long hours while
he fished and painted, that in the progress of the little
drama, from its opening act at Lady Halifax's to its
final scene at the studio, he had arrived at something
solid and tangible as the basis of his relation toward
the girl. It had precipitated in him a power of
comprehending her and of criticising her which he had
possessed before only, as it were, in solution. Whatever
once held him from stating to himself the results of his
study of her had vanished, leaving him no name by which
to call it. He found that he could smile at her
whimsicalities, and reflect upon her odd development,
and regret her devouring egotism, without the vision of
her making dumb his voluble thought; and he no longer
regretted the incident that gave him his freedom. He
realized her as he painted her, and the realization
visited him less often, much less often, than before.
Even the fact that she knew what he thought gradually
became an agreeable one. There would be room for no
hypocrisies between them. He wished that Janet Cardiff
could have some such experience. It was provoking that
she should be still so loyally _avengle_; that he would
not be able to discuss Elfrida with her, when he went
back to London, from an impersonal point of view. He had
a strong desire to say precisely what he thought of her
friend to Janet, in which there was an obscure recognition
of a duty of reparation--obscure because he had no overt
disloyalty to Janet to charge himself with, but none the
less present. He saw the intimacy between the two girls
from a new point of view; he comprehended the change the
months had made, and he had a feeling of some displeasure
that Janet Cardiff should have allowed herself to be so
subdued, so seconded in it.

Kendal came back a day or two before Elfrida's
disappearance, and saw her only once in the meantime.
That was on the evening--which struck him later as one
of purposeless duplicity--before the Peach-Blossom Company
had left for the provinces, when he and Elfrida both
dined at the Cardiffs'. With him that night she had the
air of a chidden child; she was silent and embarrassed,
and now and then he caught a glance which told him in so
many words that she was very sorry, she hadn't meant to,
she would never do it again. He did not for a moment
suspect that it referred to the scene at Lady Halifax's,
and was more than half real. It was not easy to know that
even genuine feeling, with Elfrida, required a cloak of
artifice. He put it down as a pretty pose, and found it
as objectionable as the one he had painted. He was more
curious, perhaps, but less disturbed than either of the
Cardiffs as the days went by and Elfrida made no sign.
He felt, however, that his curiosity was too irreligious
to obtrude upon Janet; besides, his knowledge of her hurt
anxiety kept him within the bounds of the simplest inquiry,
while she, noting his silence, believed him to be eating
his heart out. In the end it was the desire to relieve
and to satisfy Janet that took him to the _Age_ office.
It might be impossible for her to make such inquiries,
he told himself, but no obligation could possibly attach
to him, except--and his heart throbbed affirmatively at
this--the obligation of making Janet happier about it.
He could have laughed, aloud when he heard the scheme
from Rattray's lips--it so perfectly filled out his
picture, his future projection of Elfrida; he almost
assured himself that he had imagined and expected it.
But his desire to relieve Janet was suddenly lost in an
upstarting brood of impulses that took him to the railway
station with the smile still upon his lips. Here was a
fresh development; his interest was keenly awake again,
he would go and verify the facts. When his earlier
intention reoccurred to him in the train, he dismissed
it with the thought that what he had seen would be more
effective, more disillusionizing, than what he had merely
heard. He triumphed in advance over Janet's disillusion,
but he thought more eagerly of the pleasure of proving,
with his own eyes, another step in the working out of
the problem which he believed he had solved in Elfrida.

"Big house to-night, sir. All the stalls taken," said
the young man with the high collar in the box office when
Kendal appeared before the window.

"Pit," replied Kendal, and the young man stared.

"Pit did you say, sir? Well, you'll 'ave to look slippy
or you won't get a seat there either."

Kendal was glad it was a full house. He began to realize
how very much he would prefer that Elfrida should not
see him there. From his point of view it was perfectly
warrantable--he had no sense of any obligation which
would prevent his adding to his critical observation of
her--but from Miss Bell's? He found himself lacking the
assurance that no importance was to be attached to Miss
Bell's point of view, and he turned up his coat collar
and pulled his hat over his eyes, and seated himself as
obscurely as possible, with a satisfactory sense that
nobody could take him for a gentleman, mingled with a
less agreeable suspicion that it was doubtful whether,
under the circumstances, he had a complete right to the
title. The overture strung him up more pleasureably than
usual, however. He wondered if he should recognize her
at once, and what part she would have. He did not know
the piece, but of course it would be a small one. He
wondered--for, so far as he knew, she had had no experience
of the stage--how she could have been got ready in the
time to take even a small one. Inevitably it would be a
part with three words to say and nothing to sing--probably
a maid-servant's. He smiled as he thought how sincerely
Elfrida would detest such a personation. When the curtain
rose at last Mr. John Kendal searched the stage more
eagerly than the presence there of any mistress of her
art had ever induced him to do before. The first act was
full of gaiety, and the music was very tolerable; but
Kendal, scanning one insistent figure and painted face
after another, heard nothing, in effect, of what was said
or sung--he was conscious only of a strong disappointment
when it was over and Elfrida had not appeared.

The curtain went up again to a quick-step, to clinking
steel, and the sound of light marching feet. An instant
after forty young women were rhythmically advancing and
retreating before the footlights, picturesquely habited
in a military costume comprising powdered wigs,
three-cornered hats, gold-embroidered blue coats,
flesh-colored tights, and kid top-boots, which dated
uncertainly from the middle ages. They sang, as they
crossed their varyingly shapely legs, stamped their feet,
and formed into figures no drill-book ever saw, a chorus
of which the refrain was

   "Oh, it never matters, matters,
   Though his coat be tatters, tatters,
   His good sword rust-incrusted and his songs all sung,
   The maids will flatter, flatter,
   And foes will scatter, scatter,
   For a soldier is soldier while his heart is young,"

the last line accompanied by a smiling flirt of their
eyes over their shoulders and a kick to the rear as they
wheeled, which evoked the unstinted appreciation of the
house. The girls had the unvarying pink-and-white surfaces
of their profession, but under it they obviously differed
much, and the age and emaciation and ugliness among them
had its common emphasis in the contrast of their smart
masculine attire with the distressingly feminine outlines
of their figures. "I should have thought it impossible
to make a woman absolutely hideous by a dress that revealed
her form," said Kendal to himself, as the jingling and
the dancing and the music went on in the glare before
him, "but, upon my word--" He paused suddenly. She wasn't
absolutely hideous, that tall girl with the plume and
the sword, who maneuvered always in front of the
company--the lieutenant in charge. Indeed, she was comely
every way, slight and graceful, and there was a singular
strong beauty in her face, which was enhanced by the
rouge and the powder, and culminated in the laugh in her
eyes and upon her lips--a laugh which meant enjoyment,
excitement, exhilaration.

It grew upon Kendal that none of the chorus girls approached
Elfrida in the abandon with which they threw themselves
into the representation--that all the others were more
conscious than she of the wide-hipped incongruity of
their role. To the man who beheld her there in an
absolutely new world of light and color and course jest
it seemed that she was perfectly oblivious of any other,
and that her personality was the most aggressive, the
most ferociously determined to be made the most of, on
the stage. As the chorus ceased a half-grown youth remarked
to his companion in front, "But the orficer's the one,
Dave! Ain't she fly!" and the words coming out distinctly
in the moment of after-silence when the applause was
over, set the pit laughing for two or three yards around.
Whereat Kendal, with an assortment of feelings which he
took small pleasure in analyzing later, got up and went
out. People looked up angrily at him as he stumbled over
their too numerous feet in doing so--he was spoiling a
solo of some pathos by Mr. Golightly Ticke in the character
of a princely refugee, a fur-trimmed mantle, and shoes
with buckles.

Kendal informed himself with some severity that no possible
motive could induce him to make any comment upon Miss
Bell to Janet, and found it necessary to go down into
Devonshire next day, where his responsibilities had begun
to make a direct and persistent attack upon him. It was
the first time he had yielded, and he could not help
being amused by the remembrance, in the train, of Elfrida's
solemn warning about the danger of his growing typical
and going into Parliament. A middle-aged country gentleman
with broad shoulders and a very red neck occupied the
compartment with him, and handled the _Times_ as if the
privilege of reading it were one of the few the democratic
spirit of the age had left to his class. Kendal scanned
him with interest and admiration and pleasure. It was an
excellent thing that England's backbone should be composed
of men like that, he thought and he half wished he were
not so consciously undeserving of national vertebral
honors himself--that Elfrida's warnings had a little more
basis of probability. Not that he wanted to drop his
work, but a man owed something to his country, especially
when he had what they called a stake in it--to establish
a home perhaps, to marry, to have children growing up
about him. A man had to think of his old age. He told
himself that he must be the lightest product of a flippant
time, since these things did not occur to him more
seriously; and he threw himself into all that had to be
done upon "the place," when he arrived at it, with an
energy that disposed its real administrators to believe
that his ultimate salvation as a landlord was still
possible.

He was talking to Janet Cardiff at one of Lady Halifax's
afternoon teas a fortnight later, when their hostess
advanced toward them interrogatively. "While I think of
it, Janet," said she laying a mittened hand on Miss
Cardiff's arm, "what has become of your eccentric little
American friend? I sent her a card a month ago, and we've
neither heard nor seen anything of her."

"Elfrida Bell--oh, she's out of town, Lady Halifax, and
I am rather desolate without her--we see so much of her,
you know. But she will be back soon--I dare say I will
be able to bring her next Thursday. How delicious this
coffee is! I shall have another cup, if it keeps me awake
for a week. Oh, you got my note about the concert, dear
lady?"

Kendal noticed the adroitness of her chatter with amusement.
Before she had half finished Lady Halifax had taken an
initial step toward moving off, and Janet's last words
received only a nod and a smile for reply.

"You know, then?" said he, when that excellent woman was
safely out of earshot.

"Yes, I know," Janet answered, twisting the hanging end
of her long-haired boa about her wrist. "I feel as if
I oughtn't to, but daddy told me. Daddy went, you know,
to try to persuade her to give it up. I _was_ so angry
with him for doing it. He might have known Elfrida
better. And it was such a--Such a criticism!"

"I wish you would tell me-what you really think," said
Kendal audaciously.

Janet sipped her coffee nervously. "I--I have no right
to think," she returned. "I am not in Frida's confidence
in the matter. But of course she is perfectly right,
from, her point of view."

"Ah!" Kendal said, "her point of view."

Janet looked up at him with a sudden perception of the
coldness of his tone. In spite of herself it gave her
keen happiness, until the reflection came that probably
he resented her qualification, and turned her heart to
lead. She searched her soul for words.

"If she wants to do this thing, she has taken, of course,
the only way to do it well. She does not need any
justification--none at all. I wish she were back," Janet
went on desperately, "but only for my own sake--I don't
like being out of it with her; not for any reason connected
with what she is doing."

There was an appreciable pause between them. "Let me
put down your cup," suggested Kendal.

Turning to her again, he said gravely, "I saw Miss Bell
at Cheynemouth, too." Janet's hands trembled as she
fastened the fur at her throat. "And I also wish she
were back. But my reason is not, I am afraid, so simple
as yours."

"Here is daddy," Janet answered, "and I know he wants to
go. I don't think my father is looking quite as well as
he ought to. He doesn't complain, but I suspect him of
concealed neuralgia. Please give him a lecture upon
over-doing--it's the predominant vice of his character!"



CHAPTER XXVI.

Elfrida spent five weeks with the Peach Blossom Company
on their provincial tour, and in the end the manager was
sorry to lose her. He was under the impression that she
had joined them as an aspiring novice, presumably able
to gratify that or any other whim. He had guessed that
she was clever, and could see that she was extremely
good-looking. Before the month was out he was congratulating
himself upon his perception much as Rattray had a habit
of doing, and was quite ready to give Elfrida every
encouragement she wanted to embrace the burlesque stage
seriously--it was a thundering pity she hadn't voice
enough for comic opera. He had nothing to complain of;
the arrangement had been for a few weeks only, and had
cost him the merest trifle of travelling expenses; but
the day Elfrida went back to town he was inclined to
parley with her, to discuss the situation, and to make
suggestions for her future plan of action. His attitude
of visible regret added another thrill to the joy the
girl had in the thought of her undertaking; it marked a
point of her success, she thought, at least so far as
preliminaries went. Already, as she shrank fastidiously
into the corner of a third-class travelling-carriage,
her project seemed to have reached its original and
notable materialization. Chapters passed before her eyes
as they do sometimes in dreams, full of charm and beauty;
the book went through every phase of comedy and pathos,
always ringing true. Little half-formed sentences of
admirable art rose before her mind, and she hastily barred
them out, feeling that she was not ready yet, and it
would be mad misery to want them and to have forgotten
them. The thought of what she meant to do possessed her
wholly, though, and she resigned herself to dreams of
the most effective arrangement of her material, the
selection of her publisher, the long midnight hours alone
with Buddha, in which she should give herself up to the
enthralment of speaking with that voice which she could
summon, that elusive voice which she lived only, only to
be the medium for--that precious voice which would be
heard one day, yes, and listened-to.

She was so freshly impressed with the new life-lights,
curious, tawdry, fascinating, revolting, above all sharp
and undisguised, of the world she had left, that she saw
them already projected with a verisimilitude which, if
she had possessed the art of it, would have made her
indeed famous. Her own power of realization, assured her
on this point--nobody could see, not divine but _see_,
as she did, without being able to reproduce; the one
implied the other. She fingered feverishly the strap of
the little hand-bag in her lap, and satisfied herself by
unlocking it with a key that hung on a String inside her
jacket. It had two or three photographs of the women she
knew among the company, another of herself in her stage
uniform, a bill of the play, her powder-puff and rouge-box,
a scrap of gold lace, a young Jew's letter full of blots
and devotion, a rather vulgar sapphire bracelet, some
artificial flowers, and a quantity of slips of paper of
all sizes covered with her own enigmatically rounded
handwriting. She put her hand in carefully and
searched--everything was there; and up from the bag came
a scent that made her shut her eyes and laugh with its
power to bring her experiences back to her. She locked
it; carefully again with a quivering sigh--after all she
would not have many hours to wait. Presently an idea came
to her that she thought worth keeping, and she thrust
her hand into her pocket for paper and pencil. She drew
out a crumpled oblong scrap and wrote on the back of it,
then unlocked the little bag again and put it carefully
in. Before it had been only the check of the _Illustrated
Age_ for a fortnight's work; now it was the record of
something valuable.

The train rolled into a black and echoing station as the
light in the carriage began to turn from the uncertain
grayness that came in at the window to the uncertain
yellowness that descended from the roof. Boys ran up and
down the length of the platform in the foggy gaslit
darkness shouting Banbury cakes and newspapers. Elfrida
hated Banbury cakes, but she had a consuming hunger and
bought some. She also hated English newspapers, but lately
some queer new notable Australian things had been appearing
in the _St. George's Gazette_--Cardiff had sent them to
her--and she selected this journal from the damp lot that
hung, over the newsboy's arm, on the chance of a fresh
one. The doors were locked and the train hurried on.
Elfrida ate two of her Banbury cakes with the malediction
that only this British confection can inspire, and bestowed
the rest upon a small boy who eyed her enviously over
the back of an adjoining seat She and the small boy and
his mother had the carriage to themselves.

There was nothing from the unusual Australian contributor
in this number of the _St. George's_, and Elfrida turned
its pages with the bored feeling of knowing what else
she might expect. "Parliamentary Debates," of course,
and the news of London, five lines from America announcing
the burning of a New York hotel with hideous loss of
life, an article on the situation in Persia, and one on
the cultivation of artichokes, "Money," "The Seer of
Hawarden," the foreign markets--book reviews. Elfrida
thought also that she knew what she might expect here,
and that it would be nothing very absorbing. Still, with
a sense of tasting criticism in advance, she let her eye
travel over the column or two the paper devoted to three
or four books of the week. A moment later Janet Cardiff's
name in the second paragraph had sprung at her throat,
it seemed to Elfrida, and choked her.

She could not see--she could not see! The print was so
bad, the light was infernal, the carriage jolted so. She
got up and held the paper nearer to the lamp in the roof,
staying herself against the end of a seat. As she read
she grew paler, and the paper shook in her hand. "One of
the valuable books of the year," "showing grasp of
character and keen dramatic instinct," "a distinctly
original vein," "too slender a plot for perfect symmetry,
but a treatment of situation at once nervous and strong,"
were some of the commonplaces that said themselves over
and again in her mind as she sank back into her place by
the window with the paper lying across her lap.

Her heart beat furiously, her head was in a whirl; she
stared hard, for calmness, into the swift-passing night
outside. Presently she recognized herself to be angry
with an intense still jealous anger that seemed to rise
and consume her in every part of her being. A success--of
course it would be a success if Janet wrote it--she was
not artistic enough to fail. Ah, should Janet's friend
go so far as to say that? She didn't know--she would
think afterward; but Janet was of those who succeed, and
there were more ways than one of deserving success. Janet
was a compromise; she belonged really to the British
public and the class of Academy studies from the nude
which were always draped, just a little. Elfrida found
a bitter satisfaction in this simile, and elaborated it.
The book would be one to be commended for _jeunes filles_,
and her lips turned down mockingly in the shadow. She
fancied some well-meaning critic saying, "It should be
on every drawing-room table," and she almost laughed
outright. She thought of a number of other little things
that might be said, of the same nature and equally amusing.
Her anger flamed up again at the thought of how Janet
had concealed this ambition from her, had made her, in
a way, the victim of it. It was not fair--not fair! She
could have prepared herself against it; she might have
got _her_ book ready sooner, and its triumphant editions
might at least have come out side by side with Janet's.
She was just beginning to feel that they were neck and
neck, in a way, and now Janet had shot so far ahead, in
a night, in a paragraph. She could never, never catch
up! And from under her closed eyelids two hot tears
started and ran over her cold cheeks. It came upon her
suddenly that she was sick with jealousy, not envy, but
pure anger at being distanced, and she tried to attack
herself about it. With a strong effort she heaped opprobrium
and shame upon herself, denounced herself, tried to hate
herself. But she felt that it was all a kind of dumb-show,
and that under it nothing could change the person she
was or the real feeling she had about this--nothing except
being first. Ah! then she could be generous and loyal
and disinterested; then she could be really a nice person
to know, she derided herself. And as her foot touched
the little hand-bag on the floor she took a kind of sullen
courage, which deserted her when she folded the paper on
her lap and was struck again in the face with Lash and
Black's advertisement on the outside page announcing
Janet's novel in letters that looked half a foot long.
Then she resigned herself to her wretchedness till the
train sped into the glory of Paddington.

"I hope you're not bad, miss," remarked the small boy's
mother as they pushed toward the door together; "them
Banburys don't agree with everybody."

The effect upon Elfrida was hysterical. She controlled
herself just long enough to answer with decent gravity,
and escaped upon the platform to burst into a silent
quivering paroxysm of laughter that brought her overcharged
feeling delicious relief, and produced an answering smile
on the face of a large, good-looking policeman. Her laugh
rested her, calmed her, and restored something of her
moral tone. She was at least able to resist the temptation
of asking the boy at the book-stall where she bought
"John Camberwell" whether the volume was selling rapidly
or not. Buddha looked on askance while she read it, all
night long and well into the morning. She reached the
last page and flung down the book in pure physical
exhaustion, with the framework of half a dozen reviews
in her mind. When she awoke, at two in the afternoon,
she decided that she must have another day or two of
solitude; she would not let the Cardiffs know she had
returned quite yet.

Three days afterward the _Illustrated Age_ published a
review of "John Camberwell" which brought an agreeable
perplexity to Messrs. Lash and Black. It was too good to
compress, and their usual advertising space would not
contain it all. It was almost passionately appreciative;
here and there the effect of criticism was obviously
marred by the desire of the writer to let no point of
beauty or of value escape divination. Quotations from
the book were culled like flowers, with a delicate hand;
and there was conspicuous care in the avoidance of any
phrase that was hackneyed, any line of criticism that
custom had impoverished. It seemed that the writer
fashioned a tribute, and strove to make it perfect in
every way. And so perfect it was, so cunningly devised
and gracefully expressed, with such a self-conscious
beauty of word and thought, that its extravagance went
unsuspected, and the interest it provoked was its own.

Janet read the review in glow of remorseful affection.
She was appealed to less by the exquisite manipulation
with which the phrases strove to say the most and the
best, than by the loyal haste to praise she saw behind,
them, and she forgave their lack of blame in the happy
belief that Elfrida had not the heart for it. She was
not in the least angry that her friend should have done
her the injustice of what would have been, less adroitly
managed, indiscriminate praise; in fact, she hardly
thought of the value of the critique at all, so absorbed
was she in the sweet sense of the impulse that made
Elfrida write it. To Janet's quick forgiveness it made
up for everything; indeed, she found in it a scourge for
her anger, for her resentment. Elfrida might do what she
pleased, Janet would never cavil again; she was sure now
of some real possession in her friend. But she longed to
see Elfrida, to assure herself of the warm verity of
this. Besides, she wanted to feel her work in her friend's
presence, to extract the censure that was due, to take
the essence of praise from her eyes and voice and hand.
But she would wait. She had still no right to know that
Elfrida had returned, and an odd sensitiveness prevented
her from driving instantly to Essex Court to ask.

The next day passed, and the next. Lawrence Cardiff found
no reason to share his daughter's scruples, and went
twice, to meet Mrs. Jordan on the threshold with the
implacable statement that Miss Bell had returned but was
not at home. He found it impossible to mention Elfrida
to Janet now.

John Kendal had gone back to Devonshire to look after
the thinning of a bit of his woodlands--one thing after
another claimed his attention there. Janet had a gay
note from him now and then, always _en camarade_, in
which he deplored himself in the character of an intelligent
land-owner, but in which she detected also a growing
interest and satisfaction in all that he was finding to
do. Janet saw it always with a throb of pleasure; his
art was much to her, but the sympathy that bound him to
the practical side of his world was more, though she
would not have confessed it. She was unconsciously
comforted by the sense that it was on the warm, bright,
comprehensible side of his interest in life that she
touched him--and that Elfrida did not touch him. The idea
of the country house in Devonshire excluded Elfrida, and
it was an exclusion Janet could be happy in conscientiously,
since Elfrida did not care.



CHAPTER XXVII.

Even in view of her popular magazine articles and her
literary name Janet's novel was a surprising success.
There is no reason why we should follow the example of
all the London critics except Elfrida Bell, and go into
the detail of its slender story, and its fairly original,
broadly human qualities of treatment, to explain this;
the fact will, perhaps, be accepted without demonstration.
It was a common phrase among the reviewers--though Messrs.
Lash and Black carefully cut it out of their selections
for advertisement--that the book with all its merits was
in no way remarkable; and the publishers were as much
astonished as anybody else when the first edition was
exhausted in three weeks. Yet the agreeable fact remained
that the reviewers gave it the amount of space usually
assigned to books allowed to be remarkable, and that the
_Athenian_ announced the second edition to be had "at
all book-sellers'" on a certain Monday. "When they say
it is not remarkable," wrote Kendal to Janet, "they mean
that it is not heroic, and that it is published in one
volume, at six shillings. To be remarkable--to the
trade--it should have dealt with epic passion, in three
volumes, at thirty."

To him the book had a charm quite apart from its literary
value, in the revelation it made of its author. It was
the first piece of work Janet had done from a seriously
artistic point of view, into which she had thrown herself
without fence or guard, and it was to him as if she had
stepped from behind a mask. He wrote to her about it
with the confidence of the new relation it established
between them; he looked forward with warm pleasure to
the closer intimacy which it would bring. To Janet, living
in this new sweetness of their better understanding, only
one thing was lacking--Elfrida made no sign. If Janet
could have known, it was impossible. In her review Elfrida
had done all she could. She had forced herself to write
it before she touched a line of her own work, and now,
persistently remote in her attic, she strove every night
over the pile of notes which represented the ambition
that sent its roots daily deeper into the fibre of her
being. Twice she made up her mind to go to Kensington
Square, and found she could not--the last time being the
day the _Decade_ said that a new and larger edition of
"John Camberwell" was in preparation.

Ten days after her return the maid at Kensington Square,
with a curious look, brought up Elfrida's card to Janet.
Miss Bell was in the drawing-room, she said. Yes, she
had told Miss Bell Miss Cardiff was up in the library,
but Miss Bell said she would wait in the drawing-room.

Janet looked at the card in astonishment, debating with
herself what it might mean--such a formality was absurd
between them. Why had not Elfrida come up at once to this
third-story den of theirs she knew so well? What new
preposterous caprice was this? She went down gravely,
chilled; but before she reached the drawing-room door
she resolved to take it another way, as a whim, as matter
for scolding. After all, she was glad Elfrida had come
back to her on any terms. She went in radiant, with a
quick step, holding the card at arm's length.

"To what," she demanded mockingly, "am I to attribute
the honor of this visit?" but she seized Elfrida lightly
and kissed her on both cheeks before it was possible for
her to reply.

The girl disengaged herself gently. "Oh I have come, like
the rest, to lay my homage at your feet," she said, with
a little smile that put spaces between them. "You did
not expect me to deny myself that pleasure?"

"Don't be absurd, Frida. When did you come back to town?"

"When did I come back?" Elfrida repeated slowly, watching
for the effect of her words. "On the first, I think it was."

"And this is the tenth!" Janet exclaimed; adding helplessly,
"You _are_ an enigma! Why didn't you let me know?"

"How could I suppose that you would care to know anything
just now--except what the papers tell you."

Janet regarded her silently, saying nothing. Under her
look Elfrida's expression changed a little, grew
uncomfortable. The elder girl felt the chill, the
seriousness with which she received the card upstairs,
return upon her suddenly, and she became aware that she
could not, with self-respect, fight it any longer.

"If you thought that," she said gravely, "it was a curious
thing to think. But I believe I am indebted to you for
one of the pleasantest things the papers have been telling
me," she went on, with constraint. "It was very kind--much
too kind. Thank you very much."

Elfrida looked up, half frightened at the revulsion of
her tone. "But--but your book is delightful. I was no
more charmed than everybody must be. And it has made a
tremendous hit, hasn't it?"

"Thanks, I believe it is doing a fair amount of credit
to its publishers. They are very pushing people."

"How delicious it must feel!" Elfrida said. Her words
were more like those of their ordinary relation, but her
tone and manner had the aloofness of the merest
acquaintance. Janet felt a slow anger grow up in her. It
was intolerable, this dictation of their relation. Elfrida
desired a change--she should have it, but not at her
caprice. Janet's innate dominance rose up and asserted
a superior right to make the terms between them, and all
the hidden jar, the unacknowledged contempt, the irritation,
the hurt and the stress of the year that had passed rushed
in from banishment and gained possession of her. She took
just an appreciable instant to steady herself, and then
her gray eyes regarded Elfrida with a calm remoteness in
them which gave the other girl a quick impression of
having done more than she meant to do, gone too far to
return. Their glances met, and Elfrida's eyes, unquiet
and undecided, dropped before Janet's. Already she had
a vibrant regret.

"You enjoyed being out of town, of course," Janet said.
"It is always pleasant to leave London for a while, I
think."

There was a cool masterfulness in the tone of this that
arrested Elfrida's feeling of half-penitence, and armed
her instantly. Whatever desire she had felt to assert
and indulge her individuality at any expense, in her own
attitude there had been the consciousness of what they
owed one another. She had defied it, perhaps, but it had
been there. In this it was ignored; Janet had gone a step
further--her tone expressed the blankest indifference.
Elfrida drew herself up.

"Thanks, it was delightful. An escape from London always
is, as you say. Unfortunately, one is obliged to come
back."

Janet laughed lightly. "Oh, I don't know that I go so
far as that. I rather like coming back too. And you have
missed one or two things, you know, by being away."

"The Lord Mayor's Show?" asked Elfrida, angry that she
could not restrain the curl of her lip.

"Oh dear, no! That comes off in November--don't you
remember? Things at the theatres chiefly. Oh, Jessie,
Jessie!" she went on, shaking her head at the maid who
had come in with the tray, "you're a quarter of an hour
late with tea! Make it for us now, where you are, and
remember that Miss Bell doesn't like cream."

The maid blushed and smiled under the easy reproof, and
did as she was told. Janet chatted on pleasantly about
the one or two first nights she had seen, and Elfrida
felt for a moment that the situation was hopelessly
changed. She had an intense, unreasonable indignation.
The maid had scarcely left the room when her blind search
for means of retaliation succeeded.

"But one is not necessarily wholly Without diversions in
the provinces. I had, for instance, the pleasure of a
visit from Mr. Cardiff."

"Oh yes, I heard of that," Janet returned, smiling. "My
father thought that we were being improperly robbed of
your society, and went to try to persuade you to return,
didn't he? I told him I thought it a shocking liberty;
but you ought to forgive him--on the ground of his
disappointment."

The cup Elfrida held shook in its saucer, and she put it
down to silence it. Janet did not know, did not suspect,
then. Well, she should; her indifference was too maddening.

"Under the circumstances it was not a liberty at all.
Mr. Cardiff wanted me to come back to marry him."

There! It was done, and as brutally as possible. Her
vanity was avenged--she could have her triumphs too. And
instant with its gratification came the cold recoil of
herself upon herself, a sense of shame, a longing to
undo.

Janet took the announcement with the very slightest
lifting of her eyebrows. She bent her head and stirred
her teacup meditatively, then looked up gravely at Elfrida.

"Really?" she said. "And may I ask--whether you _have_
come back for that?"

"I--I hardly know," Elfrida faltered. "You know what I
think about marriage--there is so much to consider."

"Doubtless," Janet returned. Her head was throbbing with
the question why this girl would not go--go--_go!_ How
had she the hardihood to stay another instant! At any
moment her father might come in, and then how could she
support the situation? But all she added was, "I am afraid
it is a matter which we cannot very well discuss." Then
a bold thought came to her, and without weighing it she
put it into words. The answer might put everything
definitely--so definitely--at an end.

"Mr. Kendal went to remonstrate with you, too, didn't
he? It must have been very troublesome and embarrassing--"

Janet stopped. Elfrida had turned paler, and her eyes
greatened with excitement. "_No,_" she said, "I did not
see Mr. Kendal. What do you mean? Tell me!"

"Perhaps I have no right. But he told me that he had seen
you, at Cheynemouth."

"He must have been in the audience," Elfrida returned,
in a voice that was hardly audible.

"Perhaps."

For a moment there was silence between them--a natural
silence, and no dumbness. They had forgotten about
themselves in the absorption of other thoughts.

"I must go," Elfrida said, with an effort; rising. What
had come to her with this thing Janet had told her? Why
had she this strange fullness in the beating of her heart,
this sense, part of shame, part of fright, part of
happiness, that had taken possession of her? What had
become of her strained feeling about Janet? For it had
gone, gone utterly, and with it all her pride, all her
self-control. She was conscious only of a great need of
somebody's strength, of somebody's thought and interest
--of Janet's. Yet how could she unsay anything? She held
out her hand, and Janet took it. "Good-by, then," she
said.

"Good-by; I hope you will escape the rain." But at the
door Elfrida turned and came back. Janet was mechanically
stirring the coals in the grate.

"Listen!" she said. "I want to tell you something about
myself."

Janet looked up with an inward impatience. She knew these
little repentant self-revealings so well.

"I know I'm a beast--I can't help it. Ever since I heard
of your success I've been hating it! You can laugh if
you like, but I've been _jealous_--oh, I'm not deceived;
very well, we are acquainted, myself and I! It's pure
jealousy--I admit it. I despise it, but there it is. You
have everything; you succeed in _all_ the things you
do--you suffocate me--do you understand? _Always_ the
first place, always the attention, the consideration,
wherever we go together. And your pretence--your _lie_
--of believing my work as good as yours! I believe it
--yes, I do, but you _do not_. Oh, I know you through
and through, Janet Cardiff! And altogether," she went on
passionately, "it has been too much for me. I have not
been able to govern it. I have yielded, _miserable_ that
I am. But just now I felt it going away from me, Janet--"
She paused, but there was no answer. Janet was looking
contemplatively into the fire.

"And I made up my mind to say it straight out. It is
better so, don't you think?"

"Oh yes, it is better so."

"I hate you sometimes--when you suffocate me with your
cleverness--but I admire you _tremendously_ always. So
I suppose we can go on, can't we?"

"Ah!" Elfrida cried, noting Janet's hesitation with a
kind of wonder--how should it be exacted of her to be
anything more than frank? "I will go a step further to
come back to you, my Janet. I will tell you a secret--the
first one I ever had. Don't be afraid that I shall become
your stepmother and hate me in advance. That is too
absurd!" and the girl laughed ringingly. "Because--I
believe I am in love with John Kendal!"

For answer Janet turned to her with the look of one
pressed to the last extremity. "Is it true that you are
going to write your own experiences in the _corps de
ballet?_" she asked ironically.

"Quite true. I have done three chapters already. What
do you think of it? Isn't it a good idea?"

"Do you really want to know?"

"Of course!"

"I think," said Janet slowly, looking into the fire,
"that the scheme is a contemptible one, and that you are
doing a very poor sort of thing in carrying it out."

"Thanks," Elfrida returned. "We are all pretty much alike,
we women, aren't we, after all! Only some of us say so
and some of us don't. But I shouldn't have thought you
would have objected to my small rivalry _before the
fact!_"

Janet sighed wearily, and looked out of the window. "Let
me lend you an umbrella," she said; "the rain has come."

"It won't be necessary, thanks," Elfrida returned. "I
hear Mr. Cardiff coming upstairs. I shall ask him to take
care of me as far as the omnibuses. Good-by!"



CHAPTER XXVIII.

"Oh but--but," cried Elfrida, tragic-eyed, "you don't
understand, my friend. And these pretences of mine are
unendurable--I won't make another. This is the real
reason why I can't go to your house: Janet knows
--everything there is to know. I told her--I myself--in
a fit of rage ten days ago, and then she said things and
I said things, and--and there is nothing now between us
any more!"

Lawrence Cardiff looked grave. "I am sorry for that," he
said.

A middle-aged gentleman in apparently hopeless love does
not confide in his grown-up daughter, and Janet's father
had hardly thought of her seriously in connection with
this new relation, which was to him so precarious and so
sweet. Its realization had never been close enough for
practical considerations; it was an image, something in
the clouds; and if he still hoped and longed for its
materialization there were times when he feared even to
regard it too closely lest it should vanish. His first
thought at this announcement of Elfrida's was of what it
might signify of change, what bearing it had upon her
feeling, upon her intention. Then he thought of its
immediate results, which seemed to be unfortunate. But
in the instant he had for reflection he did not consider
Janet at all.

"Ah, yes! It was contemptible--but _contemptible!_ I did
it partly to hurt her, and partly, I think, to gratify
my vanity. You would not have thought anything so bad of
me perhaps?" She looked up at him childishly. They were
strolling about the quiet spaces of the Temple Courts.
It was a pleasant afternoon in February, the new grass
was pushing up. They could be quite occupied with one
another--they had the place almost to themselves.
Elfrida's well-fitting shabby little jacket hung unbuttoned,
and she swung Cardiff's light walking-stick as they
sauntered. He, with his eyes on her delicately flushed
face and his hands unprofessorially in his pockets, was
counting the minutes that were left them.

"You wouldn't have, would you?" she insisted.

"I would think any womanly fault you like of you," he
laughed, "but one--the fear to confess it."

Elfrida shut her lips with a little proud smile. "Do
you know," she said confidingly, "when you say things
like that to me I like you very much--but _very much!_"

"But not enough," he answered her quickly, "never enough,
Frida?"

The girl's expression changed. "You are not to call me
'Frida,'" she said, frowning a little. "It has an
association that will always be painful to me. When
people--disappoint me, I try to forget them in every way
I can." She paused, and Cardiff saw that her eyes were
full of tears. He had an instant of intense resentment
against his daughter. What brutality had she been guilty
of toward Elfrida in that moment of unreasonable jealousy
that surged up between them? He would fiercely like to
know. But Elfrida was smiling again, looking up at him
in wilful disregard of her wet eyes.

"Say 'Elfrida' please--all of it."

They had reached the Inner Temple Hall. "Let us go in
there and sit down," he suggested. "You must be tired--dear
child."

She hesitated and submitted. "Yes, I am," she said.
Presently they were sitting on one of the long dark
polished wooden benches in the quiet and the rich light
the ages have left in this place, keeping a mutual moment
of silence. "How splendid it is!" Elfrida said restlessly,
looking at the great carved wooden screen they had come
through.

"The man who did that had a joy in his life, hadn't he?
To-day is very cheap and common, don't you think?"

He had hardly words to answer her vague question, so
absorbed was he in the beauty and the grace and the
interest with which she had suddenly invested the
high-backed corner she sat in. He felt no desire to
analyze her charm. He did not ask himself whether it was
the poetry of her eyes and lips, or her sincerity about
herself, or the joy in art that was the key to her soul,
or all of these, or something that was none of them. He
simply allowed himself to be possessed by it and Elfrida
saw his pleasure in his eager look and in every line of
his delicate features. It was delicious to be able to
give such pleasure, she thought. She felt like a thrice
spiritualized Hebe, lifting the cup, not to Jove, but to
a very superior mortal. She wished in effect, as she
looked at him, that he were of her essence--she might be
cup-bearer to him always then. It was a graceful and
unexacting occupation. But he was not absolutely, and
the question was how long--She started as he seemed to
voice her thought.

"This can't go on, Elfrida!"

Cardiff had somehow possessed himself of her hand as it
lay along the polished edge of the wooden seat. It was
a privilege, she permitted him sometimes, with the tacit
understanding that he was not to abuse it.

"And why not--for a little while? It is pleasant, I
think."

"If you were in love you would know why. You are not, I
know--you needn't say so. But it will come, Elfrida--only
give it the chance. I would stake my soul on the certainty
of being able to make you love me." His confidence in
the power of his own passion was as strong as a boy's of
twenty.

"If I were in love!" Elfrida repeated slowly, with an
absent smile. "And you think it would come afterward.
That is an exploded idea, my friend. I should feel as
if I were acting out an old-fashioned novel--an
old-fashioned _second-rate_ novel."

She looked at him with eyes that invited him to share
their laughter, but the smile he gave her was pitiful,
if she could have known it. The strain she had bee putting
upon him, and promised indefinitely to put upon him, was
growing greater than he could bear.

"I am afraid I most ask you to decide," he said. "You
have been telling me two things, dear. One thing with
your lips and another thing with your eyes--and ways of
doing. You tell me that I, must go, but you make it
possible for me to stay. For God's sake let it be one or
the other."

"I am so sorry. We could be friends of a sort, I think,
but I can't marry you."

"You have never told me why."

"Shall I tell you truly, literally--brutally?"

"Of course!"

"Then it is not only because I don't love you--that there
is not for me the common temptation to enter a form of
bondage which, as I see it, is hateful. That is enough,
but it is not all; it is not even the principal thing.
It is"--she hesitated--"it is that--that we are different,
you and I. It would-be preposterous," she went on hastily,
"not to admit that you are infinitely superior--of
course--and cleverer and wiser and more important in the
world. And that will make me absurd in your eyes when I
tell you that my whole life is wrapped up in a sense
which I cannot see or feel that you have at all. You have
much--oh, a great deal--outside of it, and I have nothing.
My life is swayed in obedience to laws that you do not
even know of. You can hardly be my friend, completely.
As your wife I should suffer and you would suffer, in a
false position which could never be altered."

She paused and looked at him seriously, and he felt that
she believed what she had said. She had, at all events,
given him full permission to go. And he was as far from
being able to avail of himself of it as he had been
before--further, for every moment those slender fingers
rested in his made it more impossible to relinquish them,
for always. So, he persisted, with a bitter sense of
failure that would not wholly, honestly recognize itself.

"Is Golightly Ticke your friend--completely?"

"More--pardon me--than you could ever be," she answered
him, undaunted by the contempt in his tone.

There was silence for a moment between them. Elfrida's
wide-eyed gaze wandered appreciatively over the dusky
interior, which for the man beside her barely existed.

"What a lot of English character there is here," she said
softly. "How dignified it is, and conscientious, and
restrained!"

It was as if she had not spoken. Cardiff stared with knit
brows into the insoluble problem she had presented to
him a moment longer. "_How_ are we so different, Elfrida?"
he broke out passionately. "You are a woman and I am a
man; the world has dealt with us, educated us, differently,
and I am older than I dare say I ought to be to hope for
your love. But these are not differences that count,
whatever their results may be. It seems to me trivial to
speak of such things in this connection, but we like very
much the same books, the same people. I grant you I don't
know anything about pictures; but surely," he pleaded,
"these are not the things that cut a man off from the
happiness of a lifetime!"

"I'm afraid--" she began, and then she broke off suddenly.
"I _am_ sorry--sorrier than I have ever been before, I
think. I should have liked so well to keep your friendship;
it is the most chivalrous I know. But if you feel like--like
this about it I suppose I must not. Shall we say good-by
here and now? Truly I am sorry."

She had risen, and he could find no words to stay her.
It seemed that the battle to possess her was over, and
that he, had lost. Her desire for his friendship had all
the mockery of freedom in it to him--in the agony of the
moment it insulted him. With an effort he controlled
himself--there should be no more of the futility of words.
He must see the last of her some time--let it be now,
then. He bent his head over the slender hand he held,
brought his lips to it, and then, with sudden passion,
kissed it hotly again and again, seeking the warm,
uncovered little spot above the fastening. Elfrida snatched
it away with a little shiver at the contact, a little
angry shiver of surprised nerves. He looked at her
piteously, struggling for a word, for any word to send
away her repulsion, to bring her back to the mood of the
moment before. But he could not find it; he seemed to
have drifted hopelessly from her, to have lost all his
reckonings.

"Well?" she said. She was held there partly by her sense
of pity and partly by her desire to see the last, the
very last of it.

"Go!" he returned, with a shrinking of pain at the word,
"I cannot."

"_Pauvre ami!_" she said softly, and then she turned,
and her light steps sounded back to him through the length
of the hall.

She walked more slowly when she reached the pavement
outside, and one who met her might have thought she
indulged in a fairly pleasant reverie. A little smile
curved about the corners of her mouth, half compassionate,
half amused and triumphant. She had barely time to banish
it when she heard Cardiff's step beside her, and his
voice.

"I had to come after you," he said; "I've let you carry
off my stick."

She looked at him in mischievous challenge of his
subterfuge, and he added frankly, with a voice that shook
a little notwithstanding--

"It's of no use--I find I must accept your compromise.
It is very good of you to be willing to make one. And I
can't let you go altogether, Elfrida."

She gave him a happy smile. "And now," she said, "shall
we talk of something else?"



CHAPTER XXIX.

March brought John Kendal back to town with a few Devonshire
studies and a kindling discontent with the three subjects
he had in hand for the May exhibitions. It spread over
everything he had done for the last six months when he
found himself alone with his canvases and whole-hearted
toward them. He recognized that he had been dividing
his interest, that his ambition had suffered, that his
hand did not leap as it had before at the suggestion of
some lyric or dramatic possibility of color. He even
fancied that his drawing, which was his vulnerable point,
had worsened. He worked strenuously for days without
satisfying himself that he had recovered ground appreciably,
and then came desperately to the conclusion that he wanted
the stimulus of a new idea, a subject altogether
disassociated with anything he had done. It was only, he
felt, when his spirit was wholly in bondage to the charm
of his work that he could do it well, and he needed to
be bound afresh. Literally, he told himself, the only
thing he had painted in months that pleased him was that
mere sketch, from memory, of the Halifax drawing-room
episode. He dragged it out and looked at it, under its
damaging red stripes, with enthusiasm. Whatever she did
with herself, he thought, Elfrida Bell was curiously
satisfying from an artistic point of view. He fell into
a train of meditation, which quickened presently into a
practical idea that set him striding up and down the room.

"I believe she would be delighted!" he said aloud, coming
to a sudden standstill; "and, by Jove, it would be a kind
of reparation!"

He delved into an abysmal cupboard for a crusted pen and
a cobwebby bottle of ink, and was presently sitting among
the fragments of three notes addressed, one after the
other, to "Dear Miss Bell." In the end he wrote a single
line without any formality whatever, and when Elfrida
opened it an hour later she read:

  "Will you let me paint your portrait for the Academy?

  "JOHN-KENDAL.

  "P.S.--Or any other exhibition you may prefer."

The last line was a stroke of policy. "She abhors Burlington
House," he had reflected.

The answer came next day, and he tore it open with rapid
fingers. "I can't think why--but if you wish it, yes.
But why not for the Academy, since you are disposed to
do me that honor?"

"Characteristic," thought Kendal grimly, as he tore up
the note. "She can't think why. But I'm glad the Academy
doesn't stick in her pretty throat--I was afraid it
would. It's the potent influence of the Private View."

He wrote immediately in joyful gratitude to make an
appointment for the next day, went to work vigorously
about his preparations, and when he had finished smoked
a series of pipes to calm the turbulence of his
anticipations. As a neighboring clock struck five he put
on his coat. Janet must know about this new idea of his;
he longed to tell her, to talk about it over the
old-fashioned Spode cup of tea she would give him--Janet
was a connoisseur in tea. He realized as he went downstairs
how much of the pleasure of his life was centering in
these occasional afternoon gossips with her, in the
mingled delight of her interest and the fragrance and
the comfort of that half-hour over the Spode tea-cup.
The association brought him a reminiscence that sent him
smiling to the nearest confectioner's shop, where he
ordered a supply of Italian cakes against the next day
that would make an ample provision for the advent of half
a dozen unexpected visitors to the studio. He would have
to do his best with afternoon sittings, Elfrida was not
available in the morning; and he thought compassionately
that his sitter must not be starved. "I will feed her
first," he thought ironically, remembering her keen
childish enjoyment of sugared things. "She will pose all
the better for some tea." And he walked on to Kensington
Square.



CHAPTER XXX.

"Janet," said Lawrence Cardiff a week later at breakfast,
"the Halifaxes have decided upon their American tour. I
saw Lady Halifax last night and she tells me they sail
on the twenty-first. They want you to go with them. Do
you feel disposed to do it?"

Mr. Cardiff looked at his daughter with eyes from which
the hardness that entered them weeks before in the Temple
Courts had never quite disappeared. His face was worn
and thin, its delicacy had sharpened, and he carried
about with him an habitual abstraction. Janet, regarding
him day after day in the light of her secret knowledge,
gave herself up to an inward storm of anger and grief
and anxiety. Elfrida's name had been tacitly dropped
between them, but to Janet's sensitiveness she was
constantly and painfully to be reckoned with in their
common life. Lawrence Cardiff's moods were accountable
to his daughter obviously by Elfrida's influence. She
noted bitterly that his old evenness of temper, the gay
placidity that made so delightful a basis for their joint
happiness, had absolutely disappeared. Instead, she found
her father either irritable or despondent, or inspired
by a gaiety which she had no hand in producing, and which
took no account of her. That was the real pain. Janet
was keenly distressed at the little drama of suffering
that unfolded itself daily before her, but her disapproval
of its cause very much blunted her sense of its seriousness.
She had, besides, a grown-up daughter's repulsion and
impatience for a parental love-affair, and it is doubtful
whether she would have brought her father's to a happy
conclusion without a very severe struggle if she had
possessed the power to do it. But this exclusion gave
her a keener pang; she had shared so much with him before,
had been so important to him always. And now he could
propose, with perfect equanimity that she should go to
America with the Halifaxes.

"But you could not get away by the twenty-first," she
returned, trying to take it for granted that the idea
included him.

"Oh, I don't propose going," Mr. Cardiff returned from
behind his newspaper.

"But, daddy, they intend to be away for a year."

"About that. Lady Halifax has arranged a capital itinerary.
They mean to come back by India."

"And pray what would become of you all by yourself for
a year, sir?" asked Janet brightly. "Besides, we were
always going to do that trip together." She had a stubborn
inward determination not to recognize this difference
that had sprung up between them. It was only a phase,
she told herself, of her father's miserable feeling just
now; it would last another week, another fortnight, and
then things would be as they had been before. She would
not let herself believe in it, hurt as it might.

Mr. Cardiff lowered his paper. "Don't think of that," he
said over the top of it. "There is really no occasion.
I shall get on very well. There is always the club, you
know. And this is an opportunity you ought not to miss."

Janet said nothing, and Lawrence Cardiff went back to
his newspaper. She tried to go on with her breakfast,
but scalding tears stood in her eyes, and she could not
swallow. She was unable to command herself far enough to
ask to be excused, and she rose abruptly and left the
room with her face turned carefully away.

Cardiff followed her with his eyes and gave an
uncomprehending shrug. He looked at his watch; there was
still half an hour before he need leave the house. It
brought him an uncomfortable thought that he might go
and comfort Janet--it was evident that something he had
said had hurt her--she was growing absurdly hypersensitive.
He dismissed the idea--Heaven only knew into what
complications it might lead them. He spent the time
instead in a restless walk up and down the room, revolving
whether Elfrida Bell would or would not be brought to
reconsider her refusal to let him take her to "Faust"
that night--he never could depend upon her.

Janet had not seen John Kendal since the afternoon he
came to her radiant with his intention of putting all of
Elfrida's elusive charm upon canvas, full of its intrinsic
difficulties, eager for her sympathy, depending on her
enthusiastic interest. She had disappointed him--she did
her best, but the sympathy and enthusiasm and interest
would not come. She could not tell him why--her broken
friendship was still sacred to her for what it had been.
Besides, explanations were impossible. So she listened
and approved with a strained smile, and led him, with a
persistence he did not understand, to talk of other
things. He went away chilled and baffled, and he had not
come again. She knew that he was painting with every
nerve tense and eager, in oblivion to all but his work
and the face that inspired it. Elfrida, he told her, was
to give him three sittings a week, of an hour each, and
he complained of the scantiness of the dole. She could
conjure up those hours, all too short for his delight in
his model and his work. Surely it would not be long now!
Elfrida cared, by her own confession--Janet felt, dully,
there could now be no doubt of that--and since Elfrida
cared, what could be more certain than the natural issue?
She fought with herself to accept it; she spent hours in
seeking for the indifference that might come of accustoming
herself to the fact. And when she thought of her father
she hoped that it might be soon.

There came a day when Lawrence Cardiff gave, his daughter
the happiness of being almost his other self again. He
had come downstairs with a headache and a touch of fever,
and all day long he let her take care of him submissively,
with the old pleasant gratitude that seemed to re-establish
their comradeship. She had a joyful secret wonder at the
change, it was so sadden and so complete; but their
sympathetic relation reasserted itself naturally and at
once, and she would not let herself question it. In the
evening he sent her to her room for a book of his, and
when she brought it to him where he lay upon the lounge
in the library he detained her a moment.

"You mustn't attempt to read without a lamp now, daddy,"
she said, touching his forehead lightly with her lips.
"You will damage your poor old eyes."

"Don't be impertinent about my poor old eyes, miss," he
returned, smiling. "Janet, there is something I think
you ought to know."

"Yes, daddy." The girl felt herself turning rigid.

"I want you to make friends with Elfrida again. I have
every reason to believe--at all events some reason to
believe--that she will become my wife." Her knowing
already made it simpler to say.

"Has--has she promised, daddy?"

"Not exactly. But I think she will, Janet." His tone was
very confident. "And of course you must forgive each
other any little heart-burnings there may have been
between you."

Any little heart-burnings! Janet had a quivering moment
of indecision. "Oh, daddy! she won't! she won't!" she
cried tumultuously, and hurried out of the room. Cardiff
lay still, smiling pityingly. What odd ideas women managed
to get into their heads about one another! Janet thought
Elfrida would refuse her overtures if she made them.
How little she knew Elfrida--his just, candid, generous
Elfrida!

Janet flung herself upon her bed and faced the situation,
dry-eyed, with burning cheeks. She could always face a
situation when it admitted the possibility of anything
being done, when there was a chance for resolution and
action. Practical difficulties nerved her; it was only
before the blankness of a problem of pure abstractness
that she quailed--such a problem as the complication of
her relation to John Kendal and to Elfrida Bell. She had
shrunk from that for months, had put it away habitually
in the furthest corner of her consciousness, and had done
her best to make it stay there. She discovered how sore
its fret had been only with the relief she felt when she
simplified it at a stroke that afternoon on which everything
came to an end between her and Elfrida. Since the burden
of obligation their relation imposed had been removed
Janet had analyzed her friendship, and had found it
wanting in many ways to which she had been wilfully blind
before. The criticism she had always silenced came forward
and spoke boldly; and she recognized the impossibility
of a whole-hearted intimacy where a need for enforced
dumbness existed. All the girl's charm she acknowledged
with a heart wrung by the thought that it was no longer
for her. She dwelt separately and long upon Elfrida's
keen sense of justice, her impulsive generosity, her
refined consideration for other people, the delicacy of
some of her personal instincts, her absolute sincerity
toward herself and the world, her passionate exaltation
of what was to her the ideal in art. Janet exacted from
herself the last jot of justice toward Elfrida in all
these things; and then she listened, as she had not done
before, to the voice that spoke to her from the very
depths of her being, it seemed, and said, "Nevertheless,
_no!_" She only half comprehended, and the words brought
her a sadness that would be long, she knew, in leaving
her; but she listened and agreed.

And now it seemed to her that she must ignore it again,
that the wise, the necessary, the expedient thing to do
was to go to Elfrida and re-establish, if she could, the
old relation, cost what it might. She must take up her
burden of obligation again in order that it might be
mutual. Then she would have the right to beg Elfrida to
stop playing fast and loose with her father, to act
decisively. If Elfrida only knew, only realized, the
difference it made, and how little right she had to
control, at her whim, the happiness of any human being
--and Janet brought a strong hand to bear upon her
indignation, for she had resolved to go; and to go that
night.

Lawrence-Cardiff bade his daughter an early, good-night
after their unusually pleasant dinner. "Do you think
you can do it?" he asked her before he went Janet started
at the question, for they had not mentioned Elfrida again,
even remotely.

"I think I can, daddy," she answered him gravely, and
they separated. She looked at her watch; by half-past
nine she could be in Essex Court.

Yes, Miss Bell was in, Miss Cardiff could go straight
up, Mrs. Jordan informed her, and she mounted the last
flight of stairs with a beating heart. Her mission was
important--oh, so important! She had compromised with
her conscience in planning it, and now if it should fail!
Her hand trembled as she knocked. In answer to Elfrida's
"Come in!" she pushed the door slowly open. "It is I,
Janet," she said; "may I?"

"But of course!"

Elfrida rose from a confusion of sheets of manuscript
upon the table and came forward, holding out her hand
with an odd gleam in her eyes, and an amused, slightly
excited smile about her lips.

"How do you, do?" she said, with rather ostentatiously
suppressed wonder. "Please sit down, but not in that
chair. It is not quite reliable. This one, I think is
better. How are--how are _you?_"

The slight emphasis she placed on the last word was airy
and regardless. Janet would have preferred to have been
met by one of the old affectations; she would have felt
herself taken more seriously.

"It's very late to come, and I interrupt you," she said
awkwardly, glancing at the manuscript.

"Not at all. I am very happy--"

"But of course I had a special reason for coming. It is
serious enough, I think, to justify me."

"What can it be!"

"_Don't_, Elfrida," Janet cried passionately. "Listen
to me. I have come to try to make things right again
between us--to ask you to forgive me for speaking as
I--as I did about your writing that day. I am sorry--I
am, indeed."

"I don't quite understand. You ask me to _forgive_
you--but what question is there of forgiveness? You had
a perfect right to your opinion, and I was glad to have
it at last from you, frankly."

"But it offended you, Elfrida. It is what is accountable
for the--the rupture between us."

"Perhaps. But not because it hurt my feelings," Elfrida
returned scornfully, "in the ordinary sense. It offended
me truly; but in quite another way. In what you said you
put me on a different plane from yourself in the matter
of artistic execution. Very well. I am content to stay
there--in your opinion. But why this talk of forgiveness?
Neither of us can alter anything. Only," Elfrida breathed
quickly, "be sure that I will not be accepted by you upon
those terms."

"That, wasn't what I meant in the least."

"What else could you have meant? And more than that,"
Elfrida went on rapidly--her phrases had the patness of
formed conclusions--"what you said betrayed a totally
different conception of art, as it expresses itself in
the nudity of things, from the one I supposed you to
hold. And, if you will pardon me for saying so, a much
lower one. It seems to me that we cannot hold together
there--that our aims and creeds are different, and that
we have been comrades under false pretences. Perhaps we
are both to blame for that; but we cannot change it, or
the fact that we have found it out."

Janet bit her lip. The "nudity of things" brought her an
instant's impulse toward hysteria--it was so characteristic
a touch of candid exaggeration. But her need for reflection
helped her to control it. Elfrida had taken a different
ground from the one she expected--it was less simple,
and a mere apology, however sincere, would not meet it.
But there was one thing more which she could say, and
with an effort she said it.

"Elfrida, suppose that, even as an expression of
opinion--putting it aside as an expression of feeling
toward you--what I said that day was not quite sincere.
Suppose that I was not quite mistress of myself--I would
rather not tell you why--"

"Is that true?" asked Elfrida directly.

"Yes, it is true. For the moment I wanted more than
anything else in the world to break with you. I took
the surest means."

The other girl regarded Janet steadfastly. "But if it is
only a question of the _degree_ of your sincerity," she
persisted, "I cannot see that the situation alters much."

"I was not altogether responsible, believe me, Elfrida.
I don't remember now what I said, but--but I am afraid
it must have taken all its color from my feeling."

"Of course." Elfrida hesitated, and her tone showed her
touched. "I can understand that what I told you about
--about Mr. Cardiff must have been a shock. For the moment
I became an animal, and turned upon you--upon you who
had been to me the very soul of kindness. I have hated
myself for it--you may be sure of that."

Janet Cardiff had a moment's inward struggle, and yielded.
She would let Elfrida believe it had been that. After
all it was partly true, and her lips refused absolutely
to say the rest.

"Yes, it must have hurt you--more, perhaps, than I can
guess." Elfrida's eyes grew wet and her voice shook. "But
I can't understand your retaliating that way, if you
didn't believe what you said. And if you believed it,
what more is there to say?"

Janet felt herself possessed by an intense sensation of
playing for stakes, unusual, exciting, and of some personal
importance. She did not pause to regard her attitude from
any other point of view; she succumbed at once, not
without enjoyment, to the necessity for diplomacy. Under
its rush of suggestions her conscience was only vaguely
restive. To-morrow it would assert itself; unconsciously
she put off paying attention to it until then. Elfrida
must come back to her. For the moment the need was to
choose her plea.

"It seems to me," she said slowly, "that there is something
between us which is indestructible, Frida. We didn't
make it, and we can't unmake it. For my part, I think it
is worth our preserving, but I don't believe we could
lose it if we tried. You may put me away from you for
any reason that seems good to you, as far as you like,
but so long as we both live there will be that something,
recognized or unrecognized. All we can do arbitrarily is
to make it a joy or a pain of it. Haven't you felt that?"

The other girl looked at her uncertainly. "I have felt
it sometimes," she said, "but now it seems to me that I
can never be sure that there is not some qualification
in it--some hidden flaw."

"Don't you think it's worth making the best of? Can't we
make up our minds to have a little charity for the flaws?"

Elfrida shook her head. "I don't think I'm capable of a
friendship that demands charity," she said.

"And yet, whether we close each other's lips or not, we
will always have things to say, the one to the other, in
this world. Is it to be dumbness between us?"

There was a moment's silence in the room--a crucial
moment, it seemed to both of them. Elfrida sat against
the table with her elbows among its litter of paged
manuscript, her face hidden in her hands. Janet rose and
took a step or two toward her. Then she paused, and looked
at the little bronze image on the table instead. Elfrida
was suddenly shaken by deep, indrawn, silent sobs.

"It is finished, then," Janet said softly; "we are to
separate for always, Buddha, she and I. She will not know
any more of me nor I of her--it will be, so far as we
can make it, like the grave. You must belong to a strange
world, Buddha, always to smile!" She spoke evenly quietly,
with, restraint, and still she did not look at the
convulsively silent figure in the chair. "But I am glad
you will always keep that face for her, Buddha. I hope
the world will, too, our world that is sometimes more
bitter than you can understand. And I say good-by to you,
for to her I cannot say it." And she turned to go.

Elfrida stumbled to her feet and hurried to the door.
"No!" she said, holding it fast. "No! You must not go
that way--I owe you too much, after all. We will--we will
make the best of it."

"Not on that ground," Janet answered gravely. "Neither
your friendship nor mine is purchasable, I hope."

"No, no! That was bad. On any ground you like. Only stay
a little--let us find ourselves again!"

Elfrida forced a smile into what she said, and Janet let
herself be drawn back to a chair.

It was nearly midnight when she found herself again in
her cab, driving through the empty lamplit Strand toward
Kensington. She had prevailed, and now she had to scrutinize
her methods. That necessity urged itself beyond her power
to turn away from it, and left her sick at heart. She
had prevailed--Elfrida, she believed, was hers again.
They had talked as candidly as might be of her father.
Elfrida had promised nothing, but she would, bring matters
to an end, Janet knew she would, in a day or two, when
she had had time to think how intolerable the situation
would be if she didn't. Janet remembered with wonder,
however, how little Elfrida seemed to realize that it
need make any difference between them compared with other
things, and what a trivial concession she thought it
beside the restoration of the privileges of her friendship.
The girl asked herself drearily how it would be possible
that she should ever forget the frank cynical surprise
with which Elfrida had received her entreaty, based on
the fact of her father's unrest and the wretchedness of
his false hopes--"You have your success; does it really
matter--so very much?"



CHAPTER XXXI.

"To-day, remember. You promised that I should see it
to-day," Elfrida reminded Kendal, dropping instantly into
the pose they had jointly decided on. "I know I'm late,
but you will not punish me by another postponement, will
you?"

Kendal looked sternly at his watch. "A good twenty minutes,
mademoiselle," he returned aggrievedly. "It would be only
justice--poetic justice--to say no. But I think you may,
if we get on to-day."

He was already at work, turning from the texture of the
rounded throat which occupied him before she came in, to
the more serious problem of the nuances of expression in
the face. It was a whim of his, based partly upon a
cautiousness, of which he was hardly aware, that she
should not see the portrait in its earlier stages, and
she had made a great concession of this. As it grew before
him, out of his consciousness, under his hand, he became
more and more aware that he would prefer to postpone her
seeing it, for reasons which he would not pause to define.
Certainly they were not connected with any sense of having
failed to do justice to his subject. Kendal felt an
exulting mastery over it which was the most intoxicating
sensation his work had ever brought him. He had, as he
painted, a silent, brooding triumph in his manipulation,
in his control. He gave himself up to the delight of his
insight, the power of his reproduction, and to the intense
satisfaction of knowing that out of the two there grew
something of more than usually keen intrinsic interest
within the wide creed of his art. He worked with every
nerve tense upon his conception of what he saw, which so
excluded other considerations that now and then, in answer
to some word of hers that distracted him, he spoke to
her almost roughly. At which Elfrida, with a little smile
of forgiving comprehension, obediently kept silence.
She saw the artist in him dominant, and she exulted for
his sake. It was to her delicious to be the medium of
his inspiration, delicious and fit and sweetly acceptable.
And they had agreed upon a charming pose.

Presently Kendal lowered his brush impatiently. "Talk
to me a little," he said resentfully, ignoring his usual
preference that she should not talk because what she said
had always power to weaken the concentration of his
energy. "There is a little muteness about the lips. Am
I very unreasonable? But you don't know what a difficult
creature you are."

She threw up her chin in one of her bewitching ways and
laughed. "I wouldn't be too simple," she returned. She
looked at him with the light of her laughter still in
her eyes, and went on: "I know I must be difficult
--tremendously difficult; because I, whom you see as an
individual, am so many people. Phases of character have
an attraction for me--I wear one to-day and another
to-morrow. It is very flippant, but you see I am honest
about it. And it must make me difficult to paint, for it
can be only by accident that I am the same person twice."

Without answering Kendal made two or three rapid strokes.
"That's better," he said, as if to himself. "Go on talking,
please. What did you say?"

"It doesn't seem to matter much," she answered, with a
little pout. "I said 'Baa, baa, black sheep, have you
any wool?'"

"No, you didn't," returned Kendal as they laughed together.
"You said something about being like Cleopatra, a creature
of infinite variety, didn't you? About having a great
many disguises--" absently. "But--"

Kendal fell into the absorbed silence of his work again,
leaving the sentence unfinished. He looked up at her with
a long, close, almost intimate scrutiny, under which and
his careless words she blushed hotly.

"Then I hope you have chosen my most becoming disguise,"
she cried imperiously, jumping up. "Now, if you please,
I will see."

She stood beside the canvas with her eyes upon his face,
waiting for a sign from him. He, feeling, without knowing
definitely why, that a critical moment had come between
them, rose and stepped back a pace or two, involuntarily
pulling himself together to meet what she might say.
"Yes, you may look," he said, seeing that she would not
turn her head without his word; and waited.

Elfrida took three or four steps beyond the easel and
faced it. In the first instant of her gaze her face grew
radiant. "Ah," she said softly, "how unconscionably you
must hare flattered me! I can't be so pretty as that."

A look of relief shot across Kendal's face. "I'm glad
you like it," he said briefly. "It's a capital pose."

The first thing that could possibly be observed, about
the portrait was its almost dramatic loveliness. The head
was turned a little, and the eyes regarded something
distant, with a half wishful, half deprecating dreaminess.
The lips were plaintively courageous, and the line of
the lifted chin and throat helped the pathetic eyes and
annihilated the heaviness of the other features. It was
as if the face made an expressive effort to subdue a
vitality which might otherwise have been aggressive; but
while the full value of this effect of spiritual pose
was caught and rendered, Kendal had done his work in a
vibrant significant chord of color that strove for the
personal force beneath it and brought it out.

Elfrida dropped into the nearest chair, clasped her knees
in her hands, and bending forward, earnestly regarded
the canvas with a silence that presently became perceptible.
It seemed to Kendal at first, as he stood talking to her
of its technicalities, that she tested the worth of every
stroke; then he became aware that she was otherwise
occupied, and that she did not hear him. He paused and
stepped over to where, standing behind her chair, he
shared her point of view. Even the exaltation of his
success did not prevent his impatient wonder why his
relation with this girl must always be so uncomfortable.

Then as he stood in silence looking with her, it seemed
that he saw with her, and the thing that he had done
revealed itself to him for the first time fully,
convincingly, with no appeal. He looked at it with curious,
painful interest, but without remorse, even in the
knowledge that she saw it too, and suffered. He realized
exultingly that he had done better work than he thought
--he might repent later, but for the moment he could feel
nothing but that. As to the girl before him, she was
simply the source and the reason of it--he was particularly
glad he had happened to come across her.

He had echoed her talk of disguises, and his words embodied
the unconscious perception under which he worked. He had
selected a disguise, and, as she wished, a becoming one.
But he had not used it fairly, seriously. He had thrown
it over her face like a veil, if anything could be a veil
which rather revealed than hid, rather emphasized than
softened, the human secret of the face underneath. He
realized now that he had been guided by a broader
perception, by deeper instincts, in painting that. It
was the real Elfrida.

There was still a moment before she spoke. He wondered
vaguely how she would take it, and he was conscious of
an anxiety to get it over. At last she rose and faced
him, with one hand, that trembled, resting on the back
of the chair. Her face wore a look that was almost
profound, and there was an acknowledgment in it, a degree
of submission, which startled him.

"So that is how you have read me," she said, looking
again at the portrait "Oh, I do not find fault; I would
like to, but I dare not. I am not sure enough that you
are wrong--no, I am too sure that you are right. I am,
indeed, very much preoccupied with myself. I have always
been--I shall always be. Don't think I shall reform after
this moral shock as people do in books. I am what I am.
But I acknowledge that an egotist doesn't make an agreeable
picture, however charmingly you apologize for her. It is
a personality of stone, isn't it?--implacable, unchangeable.
I've often felt that."

Kendal was incapable of denying a word of what she said.
"If it is any comfort to you to know it," he ventured,
"hardly any one will see in it what you--and I--see."

"Yes," she said, with a smile, "that's true. I shan't
mind its going to the Academy."

She sat down again and looked fixedly at the picture,
her chin propped in her hand. "Don't you feel," she said,
looking up at him with a little childish gesture of
confidence, "as if you had stolen something from me?"

"Yes," Kendal declared honestly, "I do. I've taken
something you didn't intend me to have."

"Well, I give it you--it is yours quite freely and
ungrudgingly. Don't feel that way any more. You have a
right to your divination," she Added bravely.

"I would not withhold it if I could. Only--I hope you
find _something_ good in it. I think, myself, there is
something."

Her look was a direct interrogation, and Kendal flinched
before it. "Dear creature," he murmured, "you are very
true to yourself."

"And to you," she pleaded, "always to you too. Has there
ever been anything but the clearest honesty between us?
Ah, my friend, that is valuable--there are so few people
who inspire it."

She had risen again, and he found himself shame-facedly
holding her hand. His conscience roused itself and smote
him mightily. Had there always been this absolute
single-mindedness between them?

"You make it necessary for me to tell you," he said
slowly, "that there is one thing between us you do not
know. I saw you at Cheynemouth on the stage."

"I know you did," she smiled at him. "Janet Cardiff let
it out, by accident I suppose you came, like Mr. Cardiff,
because you--disapproved. Then why didn't you remonstrate
with me? I've often wondered." Elfrida spoke softly,
dreamily. Her happiness seemed very near. Her self-surrender
was so perfect and his understanding, as it always had
been, so sweet, that the illusion of the moment was
cruelly perfect She raised her eyes to Kendal's with an
abandonment of tenderness in them that quickened his
heart-beats, man that he was.

"Tell me, do _you_ want me to give it up--my book--last
night I finished it--my ambition?"

She was ready with her sacrifice or for the instant; she
believed herself to be, and it was not wholly without an
effort that he put it away. On the pretence of picking
up his palette knife he relinquished her hand.

"It is not a matter upon which I have permitted myself
a definite opinion," he said, more coldly than he intended,
"but for your own sake I should advise it."

For her own sake! The room seemed full of the echo of
his words. A blank look crossed the girl's face; she
turned instinctively away from him and picked up her hat.
She put it on and buttoned her gloves without the faintest
knowledge of what she was doing; her senses were wholly
occupied with the comprehension of the collapse that had
taken place within her. It was the single moment of her
life when she differed, in any important way, from the
girl Kendal had painted. Her self-consciousness was a
wreck, she no longer controlled it; it tossed at the
mercy of her emotion. Her face was very white and painfully
empty, her eyes wandered uncertainly around the room,
unwilling above all things to meet Kendal's again. She
had forgotten about the portrait.

"I will go, then," she said simply, without looking at
him, and this time, with a flash, Kendal comprehended
again. He held the door open for her mutely, with the
keenest pang his pleasant life had ever brought him, and
she passed out and down the dingy stairs.

On the first landing she paused and turned. "I will never
be different," she said aloud, as if he were still beside
her, "I will never be different!" She unbuttoned one of
her gloves and fingered the curious silver ring that
gleamed uncertainly on her hand in the shabby light of
the staircase. The alternative within it, the alternative
like a bit of brown sugar, offered itself very suggestively
at the moment. She looked around her at the dingy place
she stood in, and in imagination threw herself across
the lowest step. Even at that miserable moment she was
aware of the strong, the artistic, the effective thing
to do. "And when he came down he might tread on me," she
said to herself, with a little shudder. "I wish I had
the courage. But no--it might hurt, after all. I am a
coward, too."

She had an overwhelming realization of impotence in every
direction. It came upon her like a burden; under it she
grew sick and faint. At the door she stumbled, and she
was hardly sure of her steps to her cab, which was drawn
up by the curbstone, and in which she presently went
blindly home.

By ten o'clock that night she had herself, in a manner,
in hand again. Her eyes were still wide and bitter, and
the baffled, uncomprehending look had not quite gone out
of them, but a line or two of cynical acceptance had
drawn themselves round her lips. She had sat so long and
so quietly regarding the situation that she became
conscious of the physical discomfort of stiffened limbs.
She leaned back in her chair and put her feet on another,
and lighted a cigarette.

"No, Buddha," she said, as if to a confessor, "don't
think it of me. It was a lie, a pose to tempt him on. I
would never have given it up--never! It is more to me
--I am _almost_ sure--than he is. It is part of my soul,
Buddha, and my love for him--oh, I cannot tell!"

She threw the cigarette away from her and stared at the
smiling image with heavy eyes in silence. Then she went
on:

"But I always tell you everything, little bronze god,
and I won't keep back even this. There was a moment when
I would have let him take me in his arms and hold me
close, close to him. And I wish he had--I should have
had it to remember. Bah! why is my face hot! I might as
well be ashamed of wanting my dinner!"

Again she dropped into silence, and when next she spoke
her whole face had hardened.

"But no! He thinks that he has read me finally, that he
has done with me, that I no longer count! He will marry
some red-and-white cow of an Englishwoman who will accept
herself in the light of a reproductive agent and do her
duty by him accordingly. As I would not--no! Good heavens,
no! So perhaps it is as well, for I will go on loving
him, of course, and some day he will come back to me, in
his shackles, and together, whatever we do, we will make
no vulgar mess of it. In the meantime, Buddha, I will
smile, like you.

"And there is always this, which is the best of me. You
agree, don't you, that it is the best of me?" She fingered
the manuscript in her lap. "All my power, all my joy,
the quintessence of my life! I think I shall be angry if
it has a common success, if the people like it too well.
I only want recognition for it--recognition and
acknowledgment and admission. I want George Meredith to
ask to be introduced to me!" She made rather a pitiful
effort to smile. "And that, Buddha, is what will happen."

Mechanically she lighted another cigarette and turned
over her first rough pages--a copy had gone to
Rattray--looking for passages she had wrought most to
her satisfaction. They left her cold as she read them,
but she was not unaware that the reason of this lay
elsewhere; and when she went to bed she put the packet
under her pillow and slept a little better for the comfort
of it.



CHAPTER XXXII.

In the week that followed Janet Cardiff's visit to
Elfrida's attic, these two young women went through a
curious reapproachment. At every step it was tentative,
but at every step it was also enjoyable. They made
sacrifices to meet on most days; they took long walks
together, and arranged lunches at out-of-the-way
restaurants; they canvassed eagerly such matters of
interest in the world that supremely attracted them as
had been lying undiscussed between them until now. The
intrinsic pleasure that was in each for the other had
been enhanced by deprivation, and they tasted it again
with a keenness of savor which was a surprise to both of
them. Their mutual understanding of most things, their
common point of view, reasserted itself more strongly
than ever as a mutual possession; they could not help
perceiving its value. Janet made a fairly successful
attempt to drown her sense of insincerity in the
recognition. She, Janet, was conscious of a deliberate
effort to widen and deepen the sympathy between them. An
obscure desire to make reparation, she hardly knew for
what, combined itself with a great longing to see their
friendship the altogether beautiful and perfect thing
its mirage was, and pushed her on to seize every opportunity
to fortify the place, she had retaken. Elfrida had never
found her so considerate, so appreciative, so amusing,
so prodigal of her gay ideas, or so much inclined to go
upon her knees at shrines before which she sometimes
stood and mocked. She had a special happiness in availing
herself of an opportunity which resulted in Elfrida's
receiving a letter from the editor of the _St. George's_
asking her for two or three articles on the American
Colony in Paris, and only very occasionally she recognized,
with a subtle thrill of disgust, that she was employing
diplomacy in every action, every word, almost every look
which concerned her friend. She asked herself then
despairingly how it could last and what good could come
of it, whereupon fifty considerations, armed with whips,
drove her on.

Perhaps the most potent of these was the consciousness
that in spite of it all she was not wholly successful,
that as between Elfrida and herself things were not
entirely as they had been. They were cordial, they were
mutually appreciative, they had moments of expansive
intercourse; but Janet could not disguise to herself the
fact that there was a difference, the difference between
fit and fusion. The impression was not a strong one,
but she half suspected her friend now and then of intently
watching her, and she could not help observing how reticent
the girl had become upon certain subjects that touched
her personally. The actress in Elfrida was nevertheless
constantly supreme, and interfered with the trustworthiness
of any single impression. She could not resist the
pardoning role; she played it intermittently, with a
pretty impulsiveness that would have amused Miss Cardiff
more if it had irritated her less. For the certainty that
Elfrida would be her former self for three days together
Janet would have dispensed gladly with the little Bohemian
dinner in Essex Court in honor of her book, or the violets
that sometimes dropped out of Elfrida's notes, or even
the sudden but premeditated occasional offer of Elfrida's
lips.

Meanwhile the Halifaxes were urging their western trip
upon her, Lady Halifax declaring roundly that she was
looking wretchedly, Miss Halifax suggesting playfully
the possibility of an American heroine for, her next
novel. Janet, repelling both publicly, admitted both
privately. She felt worn out physically, and when she
thought of producing another book her brain responded
with a helpless negative. She had been turning lately
with dogged conviction to her work as the only solace
life was likely to offer her, and anything that hinted
at loss of power filled her with blank dismay. She was
desperately weary and she wanted to forget, desiring,
besides, some sort of stimulus as a flagging swimmer
desires a rope.

One more reason came and took possession of her common
sense. Between her father and Elfrida she felt herself
a complication. If she could bring herself to consent to
her own removal, the situation, she could not help seeing,
would be considerably simplified. She read plainly in
her father that the finality Elfrida promised had not
yet been given--doubtless an opportunity had not yet
occurred; and Janet was willing to concede that the
circumstances might require a rather special opportunity.
When it should occur she recognized that delicacy, decency
almost, demanded that she should be out of the way. She
shrank miserably from the prospect of being a daily
familiar looker-on at the spectacle of Lawrence Cardiff's
pain, and she had a knowledge that there would be somehow
an aggravation of it in her person. In a year everything
would mend itself more or less, she believed dully and
tried to feel. Her father would be the same again, with
his old good-humor and criticism of her enthusiasms, his
old interest in things and people, his old comradeship
for her. John Kendal would have married Elfrida Bell--
what an idyll they would make of life together!--and she,
Janet, would have accepted the situation. Her interest
in the prospective pleasures on which Lady Halifax
expatiated was slight; she was obliged to speculate upon
its rising, which she did with all the confidence she
could command. She declined absolutely to read Bryce's
"American Commonwealth," or Miss Bird's account of the
Rocky Mountains, or anybody's travels in the Orient, upon
all of which Miss Halifax had painstakingly fixed her
attention; but one afternoon she ordered a blue serge
travelling-dress and refused one or two literary,
engagements for the present, and the next day wrote to
Lady Halifax that she had decided to go. Her father
received her decision with more relief than he meant to
show, and Janet had a bitter half-hour over it. Then
she plunged with energy into her arrangements, and
Lawrence, Cardiff made her inconsistently happy again
with the interest he took in them, supplemented by an
extremely dainty little travelling-clock. He became
suddenly so solicitous for her that she sometimes quivered
before the idea that he guessed all the reasons that were
putting her to flight, which gave her a wholly unnecessary
pang, for nothing would have astonished Lawrence Cardiff
more than to be confronted, at the moment, with any
passion that was not his own.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

Kendal, as the door closed behind Elfrida on the afternoon
of her last sitting, shutting him in with himself and
the portrait on the easel, and the revelation she had
made, did his best to feel contrition, and wondered that
he was so little successful. He assured himself that he
had been a brute; yet in an uncompromising review of all
that he had ever said or done in connection with Elfrida
he failed to satisfy his own indignation with himself by
discovering any occasion upon which his brutality had
been particularly obvious. He remembered with involuntary
self-justification how distinctly she had insisted upon
_camaraderie_ between them, how she had spurned everything
that savored of another standard of manners on his, part,
how she had once actually had the curious taste to want
him to call her "old chap," and how it had grated. He
remembered her only half-veiled invitation, her challenge
to him to see as much as he cared, and to make what he
could of her. He was to blame for accepting, but he would
have been a conceited ass if he had thought of the danger
of a result like this. In the midst of his reflections
an idea came to him about the portrait, and he observed,
with irritation, after giving it a few touches, that the
light was irretrievably gone for the day.

Next morning he worked for three hours at it without a
pang, and in the afternoon with relaxed nerves and a high
heart, he took his hat and turned his face toward Kensington
Square. The distance was considerable, but he walked
lightly, rapidly, with a conscious enjoyment of that form
of relief to his wrought nerves, his very limbs drawing
energy from the knowledge of his finished work. Never
before had he felt so completely the divine sense of
success, and though he had worked at the portrait with
passionate concentration from the beginning, this
realization had come to him only the day before, when,
stepping back to look with Elfrida, he saw what he had
done. Troubled as the revelation was, in it he saw himself
a master. He had for once escaped, and he felt that the
escape was a notable one, from the tyranny of his
brilliant-technique. He had subjected it to his idea,
which had grown upon the canvas obscure to him under his
own brush until that final moment, and he recognized with
astonishment how relative and incidental the truth of
the treatment seemed in comparison with the truth of the
idea.

With the modern scornful word for the literary value of
paintings on his lips, Kendal was forced to admit that
in this his consummate picture, as he very truly thought
it, the chief significance lay elsewhere than in the
brushing and the color--they were only its dramatic
exponents--and the knowledge of this brought him a new
and glorious sense of control. It had already carried
him further in power, this portrait, it would carry him
further in place, than anything he had yet done; and the
thought gave a sparkle to the delicious ineffable content
that bathed his soul. He felt that the direction of his
walk intensified his eager physical joy in it. He was
going to Janet with his success, as he had always gone
to her. As soon as the absorbing vision of his work had
admitted another perception, it was Janet's sympathy,
Janet's applause, that had mingled itself with his certain
reward. He could not say that it had inspired him in
the least, but it formed a very essential part of his
triumph. He could wish her more exacting, but this time
he had done something that should make her less easy to
satisfy in the future. Unconsciously he hastened his
steps through the gardens, switching off a daisy head
now and then with his stick as he went, and pausing only
once, when he found himself, to his utter astonishment,
asking a purely incidental errand boy if he wanted
sixpence.

Janet, in the drawing-room, received him with hardly a
quickening of pulse. It was so nearly over now; she seemed
to have packed up a good part of her tiresome heart-ache
with the warm things Lady Halifax had dictated for the
Atlantic. She had a vague expectation that it would
reappear, but not until she unlocked the box, in mid-ocean,
where it wouldn't matter so much. She knew that it was
only reasonable and probable that she should see him
again before they left for Liverpool She had been expecting
this visit, and she meant to be unflinching with herself
when she exchanged farewells with him. She meant to make
herself believe that the occasion was quite an ordinary
one--also until afterward, when her feeling about it
would be of less consequence.

"Well," she asked directly, with a failing heart as she
saw his face, "what is your good news?"

Kendal laughed aloud; it was delightful to be anticipated.
"So I am unconsciously advertising it," he said. "Guess!"

His tone bad the vaunting glory of a lover's--a lover
new to his lordship, with his privileges still sweet upon
his lips. Janet felt a little cold contraction about her
heart, and sank quickly into the nearest arm-chair. "How
can I guess," she said, looking beyond him at the wall,
which she did not see, "without anything to go upon? Give
me a hint."

Kendal laughed again. "It's very simple, and you know
something about it already."

Then she was not mistaken--there was no chance of it.
She tried to look at him with smiling, sympathetic
intelligence, while her whole being quivered in anticipation
of the blow that was coming. "Does it--does it concern
another person?" she faltered.

Kendal looked grave, and suffered an instant's compunction.
"It does--it does indeed," he assured her. "It concerns
Miss Elfrida Bell very much, in a way. Ah!" he went on
impatiently, as she still sat silent, "why are you so
unnaturally dull, Janet? I've finished that young woman's
portrait, and it is more--satisfactory--than I ever in
my life dared hope that any picture of mine would be."

"Is that all?"

The words escaped her in a quick, breath of relief. Her
face was crimson, and the room seemed to swim.

"_All!_" she heard Kendal say reproachfully. "Wait until
you see it!" He experienced a shade of dejection, and
there was an instant's silence between them, during which
it seemed to Janet that the world was made over again.
"That young woman!" She disloyally extracted the last
suggestion of indifference out of the phrase, and found
it the sweetest she had heard for months. But her brain
whirled with the effort to decide what it could possibly
mean.

"I hope you have made it as beautiful as Elfrida is,"
she cried, with sharp self-reproof. "It must have been
difficult to do that."

"I have made it--what she is, I think," he answered,
again with that sudden gravity. "It is so like my conception
of her which I have never felt permitted to explain to
you, that I feel as if I had stolen a march upon her.
You must see it. When will you come? It goes in the day
after to-morrow, but I can't wait for your opinion till
it's hung."

"I like your calm reliance upon the Committee," Janet
laughed. "Suppose--"

"I won't. It will go on the line," Kendal returned
confidently. "I did nothing last year that I will permit
to be compared with it. Will you come to-morrow?"

"Impossible; I haven't two consecutive minutes to-morrow.
We sail, you know, on Thursday."

Kendal looked at her blankly. "You _sail?_ On Thursday?"

"I am going to America, Lady Halifax and I. And Elizabeth,
of course. We are to be away a year. Lady Halifax is
buying tickets, I am collecting light literature, and
Elizabeth is in pursuit of facts. Oh, we are deep in
preparation. I thought you knew."

"How could I possibly know?"

"Elfrida didn't tell you, then?"

"Did she know?"

"Oh yes, ten days ago."

"Odd that she didn't mention it."

Janet told herself that it was odd, but found with some
surprise that it was not more than odd. There had been
a time when the discovery that she and her affairs were
of so little consequence to her friend would have given
her a wondering pang; but that time seemed to have passed.
She talked lightly on about her journey; her voice and
her thoughts, had suddenly been freed. She dilated upon
the pleasures she anticipated as if they had been real,
skimming over the long spaces of his silence, and gathering
gaiety as he grew more and more sombre. When he rose to
go their moods had changed: the brightness and the flush
were hers, and, his face spoke only of a puzzled dejection,
an anxious uncertainty.

"So it is good-by," he said, as she gave him her hand,
"for a year!"

Something in his voice made her look up suddenly, with
such an unconscious tenderness in her eyes as he had
never seen in any other woman's. She dropped them before
he could be quite certain he recognized it, though his
heart was beating in a way which told him there had been
no mistake.

"Lady Halifax means it to be a year," she answered--and
surely, since it was to be a year, he might keep her hand
an instant longer.

The full knowledge of what this woman was to him seemed
to descend upon John Kendal then, and he stood silent
under it, pale and grave-eyed, baring his heart to the
rush of the first serious emotion life had brought him,
filled with a single conscious desire--that she should
show him that sweetness in her eyes again. But she looked
wilfully down, and he could only come closer to her, with
a sudden muteness upon his ready lips, and a strange
new-born fear wrestling for possession of him. For in
that moment Janet, hitherto so simple, so approachable,
as it were so available, had become remote, difficult,
incomprehensible. Kendal invested her with the change in
himself, and quivered in uncertainty as to what it might
do with her. He seemed to have nothing to trust to but
that one glance for knowledge of the girl his love had
newly exalted; and still she stood before him looking
down. He took two or three vague steps into the middle
of the room, drawing her with him. In their nearness to
each other the silence between them held them
intoxicatingly, and he had her in his arms before he
found occasion to say, between his lingering kisses upon
her hair, "You can't go, Janet. You must stay--and marry
me."

      * * * * * * * *

"I don't know," wrote Lawrence Cardiff in a postscript
to a note to Miss Bell that evening, "that Janet will
thank me for forestalling her with such all-important
news, but I can't resist the pleasure of telling you that
she and Kendal got themselves engaged, without so much
as a 'by your leave' to me, this afternoon. The young
man shamelessly stayed to dinner, and I am informed that
they mean to be married in June. Kendal is full of your
portrait; we are to see it to-morrow. I hope he has
arranged that we shall have the advantage of comparing
it with the original."



CHAPTER XXXIV.

"Miss Cardiff's in the lib'ry, sir," said the housemaid,
opening, the door for Kendal next morning with a smile
which he did not find too broadly sympathetic. He went
up the stairs two steps at a time, whistling like a
schoolboy.

"Lady Halifax says," he announced, taking immediate
possession of Janet where she stood, and drawing her to
a seat beside him on the lounge, "that the least we can
do by way of reparation is to arrange our wedding-trip
in their society. She declares she will wait any reasonable
time; but I assured her delicately that her idea of
compensation was a little exaggerated."

Janet looked at him with an, absent smile. "Yes, I think
so," she said, but her eyes were preoccupied, and the
lover in him resented it.

"What is it?" he asked. "What has happened, dear?"

She looked down at an open letter in her hand, and for
a moment said nothing. "I don't know whether I ought to
tell you; but it would be a relief."

"Can there be anything you ought not to tell me?" he
insisted tenderly.

"Perhaps, on the other hand, I ought," she said
reflectively. "It may help you to a proper definition of
my character, and then--you may think less of me. Yes,
I think I ought."

"Darling, for Heaven's sake don't talk nonsense!"

"I had a letter--this letter--a little while ago, from
Elfrida Bell." She held it out to him. "Read it."

Kendal hesitated and scanned her face. She was smiling
now; she had the look of half-amused dismay that might
greet an ineffectual blow. He took the letter.

"If it is from Miss Bell," he said at a suggestion from
his conscience, "I fancy, for some reason, it is not
pleasant."

"No," she replied, "it is not pleasant."

He unfolded the letter, recognizing the characteristic
broad margins and the repressed rounded perpendicular
hand with its supreme effort after significance, and his
thought reflected a tinge of his old amused curiosity.
It was only a reflection, and yet it distinctly embodied
the idea that he might be on the brink of a further
discovery. He glanced at Janet again: her hands were
clasped in her lap, and she was looking straight before
her with smilingly grave lips and lowered lids, which
nevertheless gave him a glimpse of retrospection. He
felt the beginnings of indignation, yet he looked back
at the letter acquisitively; its interest was intrinsic.

"I feel that I can no longer hold myself in honor," he
read, "if I refrain further from defining the personal
situation between us as it appears to me. That I have
let nearly three weeks go by without doing it you may
put down to my weakness and selfishness, to your own
charm, to what you will; but I shall be glad if you will
not withhold the blame that is due me in the matter, for
I have wronged you, as well as myself, in keeping silence.

"Look, it is all here in a nutshell. _Nothing is changed_.
I have tried to believe otherwise, but the truth is
stronger than my will. My opinion of you is a naked,
uncompromising fact I cannot drape it or adorn it, or
even throw around it a mist of charity. It is unalterably
there, and in any future intercourse with you, such
intercourse as we have had in the past, I should only
dash myself forever against it. I do not clearly see upon
what level you accepted me in the beginning, but I am
absolutely firm in my belief that it was not such as I
would have tolerated if I had known. To-day at all events
I am confronted with the proof that I have not had your
confidence--that you have not thought it worth while to
be single-minded in your relation to me. From a personal
point of view there is more that I might say, but perhaps
that is damning enough, and I have no desire to be abusive.
It is on my conscience to add, moreover, that I find you
a sophist, and your sophistry a little vulgar. I find
you compromising with your ambitions, which in themselves
are not above reproach from any point of view. I find
you adulterating what ought to be the pure stream of
ideality with muddy considerations of what the people
are pleased to call the moralities, and with the feebler
contamination of the conventionalities--"

"I _couldn't_ smoke with her," commented Janet, reading
over his shoulder. "It wasn't that I objected in the
least, but it made me so very--uncomfortable, that I
would never try a second time."

Kendal's smile deepened, and he read on without answering,
except by pressing her finger-tips against his lips.

"I should be sorry to deny your great cleverness and your
pretensions to a certain sort of artistic interpretation.
But to me the _artist bourgeois_ is an outsider, who must
remain outside. He has nothing to gain by fellowship with
me, and I--pardon me--have much to lose.

"So, if you please, we will go our separate ways, and
doubtless will represent, each to the other, an experiment
that has failed. You will believe me when I say that I
am intensely sorry. And perhaps you will accept, as
sincerely as I offer it, my wish that the future may
bring you success even more brilliant than you have
already attained." Here a line had been carefully scratched
out. "What I have written I have written under compulsion.
I am sure you will understand that.

"Believe me,

"Yours sincerely,

"ELFRIDA BELL.

"P.S.--I had a dream once of what I fancied our friendship
might be. It is a long time ago, and the days between
have faded all the color and sweetness out of my
dream--still, I remember that it was beautiful. For the
sake of that vain imagining, and because it was beautiful,
I will send you, if you will allow me, a photograph of
a painting which I like, which represents art as I have
learned to kneel to it."

Kendal read this communication through with a look of
keen amusement until he came to the postscript. Then he
threw back his head and laughed outright. Janet's face
had changed; she tried to smile in concert, but the effort
was rather piteous. "Oh, Jack," she said, "please take
it seriously." But he laughed on, irrepressibly.

She tried to cover his lips. "_Don't_ shout so!" she
begged, as if there were illness in the house or a funeral
next door, and he saw something in her face which stopped
him.

"My darling, it can't hurt--it doesn't, does it?"

"I'd like to say no, but it does, a little. Not so much
as it would have done a while ago."

"Are you going to accept Miss Bell's souvenir of her
shattered ideal? That's the best thing in the letter
--that's really supreme!" and Kendal, still broadly
mirthful, stretched out his hand to take it again; but
Janet drew it back.

"No," she said, "of course not; that was silly of her.
But a good deal of the rest is true, I'm afraid, Jack."

"It's damnably impudent," he cried, with, sudden anger.
"I suppose she believes it herself, and that's the measure
of its truth. How dare she dogmatize to you about the
art of your work! _She_ to _you_!"

"Oh, it isn't that I care about. It doesn't matter to
me, how little she thinks of my aims and my methods. I'm
quite content to do my work with what artistic conception
I've got without analyzing its quality--I'm thankful
enough to have any. Besides, I'm not sure about the
finality of her opinion--"

"You needn't be!" Kendal interrupted, with scorn.

"But what hurts--like a knife--is that part about my
insincerity. I _haven't_ been honest with her--I haven't!
From the very beginning I've criticised her privately.
I've felt all sorts of reserves and qualifications about
her, and concealed them--for the sake of--of I don't know
what--the pleasure I had in knowing her, I suppose."

"It seems to me pretty clear, from this precious
communication, that she was quietly reciprocating," Kendal
said bluntly.

"That doesn't clear me in the least. Besides, when she
had made up her mind she had the courage to tell me what
she thought; there was some principle in that. I--I admire
her for doing it, but I couldn't, myself."

"Thank the Lord, no. And I wouldn't be too sure, if I
were you, darling, about the unmixed heroism that dictates
her letter. I dare say she fancied it was that, but--"

Janet's head leaped up from his shoulder. "Now you are
unjust to her," she cried. "You don't know Elfrida, Jack.
If you think her capable of assuming a motive--"

"Well, do you know what I think?" said Kendal, with an
irrelevant smile, glancing at the letter in her hand. "I
think she has kept a copy."

Janet looked at him with reproachful eyes, which
nevertheless had the relief of amusement in them. "Don't
you?" he insisted.

"I--dare say."

"And she thoroughly enjoyed writing as she did. The
phrases read as if she had rolled them under her tongue.
It was a _coup_, don't you see?--and the making of a
_coup_, of any kind, at any expense, is the most refined
joy which life affords that young woman."

"There's sincerity in every line."

"Oh, she means what she says. But she found an exquisite
gratification in saying it which you cannot comprehend,
dear. This letter is a flower of her egotism, as it
were--she regards it with natural ecstasy, as an
achievement."

Janet shook her head. "Oh no, no" she cried miserably.
"You can't realize the--the sort of thing there was
between us, dear, and how it should have been sacred to
me beyond all tampering and cavilling, or it should not
have been at all. It isn't that I didn't know all the
time that I was disloyal to her, while she thought I was
sincerely her friend. I did! And now she has found me
out, and it serves me perfectly right--perfectly."

Kendal reflected for a moment, and then he brought comfort
to her from his last resource.

"Of course the intimacy between two girls is a wholly
different thing, and I don't know whether the relation
between Miss Bell and myself affords any parallel to
it--"

"Oh, Jack! And I thought--"

"What did you think, dearest?"

"I thought," said Janet, in a voice considerably muffled
by contact with his tweed coat collar, "that you were
perfectly _madly_ in love with her."

"Heavens!" Kendal cried, as if the contingency had been
physically impossible. "It is a man's privilege to fall
in love with a woman, darling--not with an incarnate
idea."

"It's a very beautiful idea."

"I'm not sure of that--it looks well from the outside.
But it is quite incapable of any growth or much, change,"
Kendal went on musingly, "and in the end--Lord, how a
man would be bored!"

"You are incapable of being fair to her," came from the
coat collar.

"Perhaps. I have something else to think of--since
yesterday. Janet, look up!"

She looked up, and for a little space Elfrida Bell found
oblivion as complete as she could have desired between
them. Then--

"You were telling me--" Janet said.

"Yes. Your Elfrida and I had a sort of friendship too--it
began, as you know, in Paris. And I was quite aware that
one does not have an ordinary friendship with her--it
accedes and it exacts more than the common relation. And
I've sometimes made myself uncomfortable with the idea
that she gave me credit for a more faultless conception
of her than I possessed; for the honest, brutal truth
is, I'm afraid, that I've only been working her out.
When the portrait was finished I found that somehow I
had succeeded. She saw it, too, and so I fancy my false
position has righted itself. So I haven't been sincere
to her either, Janet. But my conscience seems fairly
callous about it. I can't help reflecting that we are to
other people pretty much what they deserve that we shall
be. We can't control our own respect."

"I've lost hers," Janet repeated, with depression, and
Kendal gave an impatient groan.

"I don't think you'll miss it," he said.

"And, Jack, haven't you any--compunctions about exhibiting
that portrait?"

"Absolutely none." He looked at her with candid eyes.
"Of course if she wished me to I would destroy it. I
respect her property in it so far as that. But so long
as she accepts it as the significant truth it is, I am
entirely incapable of regretting it. I have painted her,
with her permission, as I saw her, as she is. If I had
given her a, squint or a dimple, I could accuse myself;
but I have not wronged her or gratified myself by one
touch of misrepresentation."

"I am to see it this afternoon," said Janet. Unconsciously
she was looking forward to finding some measure of
justification for herself in the portrait; why, it would
be difficult to say.

"Yes; I put it into its frame with my own hands yesterday.
I don't know when anything has given me so much pleasure.
And so far as Miss Bell is concerned," he went on, "it
is an unpleasant thing to say, but one's acquaintance
with her seems more and more to resolve itself into an
opportunity for observation, and to be without significance
other than that. I tell you frankly I began to see that
when I found I shared what she called her friendship with
Golightly Ticke. And I think, dear, with people like you
and me, any more serious feeling toward her is impossible."

"Doesn't it distress you to think that she believes you
incapable of speaking of her like this?"

"I think," said Kendal slowly, "that she knows how I
would be likely to speak of her."

"Well," Janet returned, "I'm glad you haven't reason to
suffer about her as I do. And I don't know at all how to
answer her letter."

"I'll tell you," Kendal replied. He jumped up and brought
her a pen and a sheet of paper and a blotting pad, and
sat down again beside her, holding the ink bottle. "Write
'My dear Miss Bell.'"

"But she began her letter, without any formality."

"Never mind; that's a cheapness that you needn't imitate,
even for the sake of politeness. Write 'My dear Miss Bell.'"

Janet wrote it.

"'I am sorry to find,'" Kendal dictated slowly, a few
words at a time, "'that the flaws in my regard for you
are sufficiently considerable--to attract your attention
as strongly as your letter indicates. The right of judgment
in so personal a matter--is indisputably yours, however--and
I write to acknowledge, not to question it.'"

"Dear, that isn't as I feel."

"It's as you will feel," Kendal replied ruthlessly. "Now
add: 'I have to acknowledge the very candid expression
of your opinion of myself--which does not lose in
interest--by the somewhat exaggerated idea of its value
which appears to have dictated it,--and to thank you,
for your extremely kind offer to send me a picture. I am
afraid, however--even in view of the idyllic considerations
you mention--I cannot allow myself to take advantage of
that--"

"On the whole I wouldn't allude to the shattered ideal--"

"Oh-no, dear. Go on."

"Or the fact that you probably wouldn't be able to hang
it up," he added grimly. "Now write 'You may be glad to
know that the episode in my life--which your letter
terminates--appears to me to be of less importance than
you perhaps imagine it--notwithstanding a certain soreness
over its close.'"

"It doesn't, Jack."

"It will. I wouldn't say anything more, if I were you;
just 'yours very truly, Janet Cardiff.'"

She wrote as he dictated, and then read the letter slowly
over from the beginning. "It sounds very hard, dear,"
she said, lifting eyes to his which he saw were full of
tears, "and as if I didn't care."

"My darling," he said, taking her into his arms, "I hope
you don't--I hope you won't care, after to-morrow. And
now, don't you think we've had enough of Miss Elfrida
Bell for the present?"



CHAPTER XXXV.

At three o'clock, an hour before he expected the Cardiffs,
John Kendal ran up the stairs to his studio. The door
stood ajar, and with a jealous sense of his possession
within, he reproached himself for his carelessness in
leaving it so. He had placed the portrait the day before
where all the light in the room fell upon it, and his
first hasty impression of the place assured him that it
stood there still. When he looked directly at it he
instinctively shut the door, made a step or two forward,
closed his eyes and so stood for a moment, with his hands
before them. Then, with a groan, "Damnation!" he opened
them again and faced the fact. The portrait was literally
in rags: They hung from the top of the frame and swung
over the bottom of it Hardly enough of the canvas remained
unriddled to show that it had represented anything human.
Its destruction was absolute--fiendish, it seemed to
Kendal.

He dropped into a chair and stared with his knee locked
in his hands.

"Damnation!" he repeated, with a white face. "I'll never
approach it again;" and then he added grimly, still
speaking aloud, "Janet will say I deserved it."

He had not an instant's doubt of the author of the
destruction, and he remembered with a flash in connection
with it the little silver-handled Algerian dagger that
pinned one of Nadie Palicsky's studies against the wall
of Elfrida's room. It was not till a quarter of an hour
afterward that he thought it worth while to pick up the
note that lay on the table addressed to him, and then he
opened it with a nauseated sense of her unnecessary
insistence.

"I have come here this morning," Elfrida had written,
"determined to either kill myself or IT. It is impossible,
I find, notwithstanding all that I said, that both should
continue to exist. I cannot explain further, you must
not ask it of me. You may not believe me when I tell you
that I struggled hard to let it be myself. I had such a
hideous doubt as to which had the best right to live.
But I failed there--death is too ghastly. So I did what
you see. In doing it I think I committed the unforgivable
sin--not against you, but against art. It may be some
satisfaction to you to know that I shall never wholly
respect myself again in consequence." A word or two
scratched out, and then: "Understand that I bear no malice
toward you, have no blame for you, only honor. You acted
under the very highest obligation--you could not have
done otherwise. * * * * * And I am glad to think that I
do not destroy with your work the joy you had in it.
* * *"

Kendal noted the consideration of this final statement
with a cynical laugh, and counted the asterisks. Why
the devil hadn't he locked the door? His confidence in
her had been too ludicrous. He read the note half through
once again, and then with uncontrollable impatience tore
it into shreds. To have done it at all was hideous, but
to try and impress herself in doing it was disgusting.
He reflected, with a smile of incredulous contempt, upon
what she had said about killing herself, and wondered,
in his anger, how she could be so blind to her own
disingenuousness. Five asterisks--she had made them
carefully--and then the preposterousness about what she
had destroyed and what she hadn't destroyed; and then
more asterisks. What had she thought they could possibly
signify--what could anything she might say possibly
signify?

In a savage rudimentary way he went over the ethical
aspect of the affair, coming to no very clear conclusion.
He would have destroyed the thing himself if she had
asked him, but she should have asked him. And even in
his engrossing indignation he could experience a kind of
spiritual blush as he recognized how safe his concession
was behind the improbability of its condition. Finally
he wrote a line to Janet, informing her that the portrait
had sustained an injury, and postponing her and her
father's visit to the studio. He would come, in the
morning to tell her about it, he added, and despatched
the missive by the boy downstairs, post-haste, in a cab.
It would be to-morrow, he reflected, before he could
screw himself up to talking about it, even to Janet. For
that day he must be alone with his discomfiture.

* * * * *

In the days of his youth and adversity, long before he
and the public were upon speaking terms, Mr. George
Jasper had found encouragement of a substantial sort with
Messrs. Pittman, Pitt & Sanderson, of Ludgate Hill, which
was a well-known explanation of the fact that this
brilliant author clung, in the main, to a rather
old-fashioned firm of publishers when the dimensions of
his reputation gave him a proportionate choice. It
explained also the circumstance that Mr. Jasper's notable
critical acumen was very often at the service of his
friend Mr. Pitt--Mr. Pittman was dead, as at least one
member of a London publishing firm is apt to be--in cases
where manuscripts of any curiously distinctive character,
from unknown authors, puzzled his perception of the truly
expedient thing to do. Mr. Arthur Rattray, of the
_Illustrated Age_, had personal access to Mr. Pitt, and
had succeeded in confusing him very much indeed as to
the probable success of a book by an impressionistic
young lady friend of his, which he called "An Adventure
in Stage-Land," and which Mr. Rattray declared to have
every element of unconventional interest. Mr. Pitt
distrusted unconventional interest, distrusted
impressionistic literature, and especially distrusted
books by young lady friends. Rattray, nevertheless showed
a suspicious indifference to its being accepted, and an
irritating readiness to take it somewhere else, and Mr.
Pitt knew Rattray for a sagacious man. And so it happened
that, returning late from a dinner where he had taken
refuge from being bored entirely-to extinction in two or
three extremely indigestible, dishes, Mr. George Jasper
found Elfrida's manuscript in a neat, thick, oblong paper
parcel, waiting for him on his dressing-table. He felt
himself particularly wide awake, and he had a consciousness
that the evening had made a very small inroad upon his
capacity for saying clever things. So he went over "An
Adventure in Stage-Land" at once, and in writing his
opinion of it to Mr. Pitt, which he did with some
elaboration, a couple of hours later, he had all the
relief of a revenge upon a well-meaning hostess, without
the reproach of having done her the slightest harm. It
is probable that if Mr. Jasper had known that the opinion
of the firm's "reader" was to find its way to the author,
he would have expressed himself in terms of more guarded
commonplace, for we cannot believe that he still cherished
a sufficiently lively resentment at having his hand
publicly kissed by a pretty girl to do otherwise; but
Mr. Pitt had not thought it necessary to tell him of this
condition, which Rattray, at Elfrida's express desire,
had exacted. As it happened, nobody can ever know precisely
what he wrote, except Mr. Pitt, who has forgotten, and
Mr. Arthur Rattray, who tries to forget; for the letter,
the morning after it had been received, which was the
morning after the portrait met its fate, lay in a little
charred heap in the fireplace of Elfrida's room, when
Janet Cardiff pushed the screen aside at last and went in.

Kendal had come as he promised, and told her everything.
He had not received quite the measure of indignant sympathy
he had expected, and Janet had not laughed at the asterisks.
On the other hand, she had sent him away, with unnatural
gravity-of demeanor, rather earlier than he meant to go,
and without telling him why. She thought, as she directed
the cabman to Essex Court, Fleet Street, that she would
tell him why afterward; and all the way there she thought
of the most explicit terms in which to inform Elfrida
that her letter had been the product of hardness of heart,
that she really felt quite differently, and had come to
tell her, purely for honesty's sake, how she did feel.

After a moment of ineffectual calling on the other side
of the screen, her voice failed her, and in dumb terror
that would not be reasoned away it seemed that she saw
the outlines of the long, still, slender figure under
the bed draperies, while she still looked helplessly at
a flock of wild geese flying over Fugi Yama. Buddha smiled
at her from the table with a kind of horrid expectancy,
and the litter, of papers round him, in Elfrida's
handwriting, mixed their familiarity with his mockery.
She had only to drag her trembling limbs a little further
to know that the room was pregnant with the presence of
death. Some white tuberoses in a vase seemed to make it
palpable with their fragrance. She ran wildly to the
window and drew back the curtain; the pale sunlight
flooding in gave a little white nimbus to a silver ring
upon the floor.

The fact may not be without interest that six months
afterward "An Adventure in Stage-Land" was published by
Messrs. Lash and Black, and met with a very considerable
success. Mr. Arthur Rattray undertook its disposal, with
the consent of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Bell, who insisted,
without much difficulty, that he should receive a percentage
of the profits for his trouble. Mr. Rattray was also of
assistance to them when, as soon as the expense could be
managed, these two middle-aged Americans, whose grief
was not less impressive because of its twang, arrived in
London to arrange that their daughter's final resting-place
should be changed to her native land. Mr. Bell told him
in confidence that while he hoped he was entirely devoid
of what you may call race prejudice against the English
people, it didn't, seem as if he could let anybody
belonging to him lie under the British flag for all time,
and found it a comfort that Rattray understood. Sparta
is divided in its opinion whether the imposing red granite
monument they erected in the cemetery, with plenty of
space left for the final earthly record of Leslie and
Margaret Bell, is not too expensive considering the Bells'
means, and too conspicuous considering the circumstances.
It has hitherto occurred to nobody, however, to doubt
the appropriateness of the texts inscribed upon it, in
connection with three little French words which Elfrida,
in the charmingly apologetic letter which she left for
her parents, commanded to be put there--"_Pas
femme-artiste_." Janet, who once paid a visit to the
place, hopes in all seriousness that the sleeper underneath
is not aware of the combination.

Miss Kimpsey boards with the Bells now, and her relation
to them has become almost daughterly. The three are
swayed, to the extent of their several capacities, by
what one might call a cult of Elfrida--her death has
long ago been explained by the fact that a grandaunt of
Mrs. Bell's suffered from melancholia.

Mr. and Mrs, John Kendal's delightful circle of friends
say that they live an idyllic life in Devonshire. But
even in the height of some domestic joy a silence sometimes
falls between them still. Then, I fancy, he is thinking
of an art that has slipped away from him, and she of a
loyalty she could not hold. The only person whose equanimity
is entirely undisturbed is Buddha. In his place among
the mournful Magdalens of Mrs. Bell's drawing-room in
Sparta, Buddha still smiles.

THE END





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