Even in view of her popular magazine articles and her literary name Janet’s novel was a surprising success. There is no reason why we should follow the example of all the London critics except Elfrida Bell, and go into the detail of its slender story, and its fairly original, broadly human qualities of treatment, to explain this; the fact will, perhaps, be accepted without demonstration. It was a common phrase among the reviewers—though Messrs. Lash and Black carefully cut it out of their selections for advertisement—that the book with all its merits was in no way remarkable; and the publishers were as much astonished as anybody else when the first edition was exhausted in three weeks. Yet the agreeable fact remained that the reviewers gave it the amount of space usually assigned to books allowed to be remarkable, and that the Athenian announced the second edition to be had “at all book-sellers’” on a certain Monday. “When they say it is not remarkable,” wrote Kendal to Janet, “they mean that it is not heroic, and that it is published in one volume, at six shillings. To be remarkable—to the trade—it should have dealt with epic passion, in three volumes, at thirty.”
To him the book had a charm quite apart from its literary value, in the revelation it made of its author. It was the first piece of work Janet had done from a seriously artistic point of view, into which she had thrown herself without fence or guard, and it was to him as if she had stepped from behind a mask. He wrote to her about it with the confidence of the new relation it established between them; he looked forward with warm pleasure to the closer intimacy which it would bring. To Janet, living in this new sweetness of their better understanding, only one thing was lacking—Elfrida made no sign. If Janet could have known, it was impossible. In her review Elfrida had done all she could. She had forced herself to write it before she touched a line of her own work, and now, persistently remote in her attic, she strove every night over the pile of notes which represented the ambition that sent its roots daily deeper into the fibre of her being. Twice she made up her mind to go to Kensington Square, and found she could not—the last time being the day the Decade said that a new and larger edition of “John Camberwell” was in preparation.
Ten days after her return the maid at Kensington Square, with a curious look, brought up Elfrida’s card to Janet. Miss Bell was in the drawing-room, she said. Yes, she had told Miss Bell Miss Cardiff was up in the library, but Miss Bell said she would wait in the drawing-room.