“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.”
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.