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.