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