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!”