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.