“I—I hardly know,” Elfrida faltered. “You know what I think about marriage—there is so much to consider.”
“Doubtless,” Janet returned. Her head was throbbing with the question why this girl would not go—go—go! How had she the hardihood to stay another instant! At any moment her father might come in, and then how could she support the situation? But all she added was, “I am afraid it is a matter which we cannot very well discuss.” Then a bold thought came to her, and without weighing it she put it into words. The answer might put everything definitely—so definitely—at an end.
“Mr. Kendal went to remonstrate with you, too, didn’t he? It must have been very troublesome and embarrassing—”
Janet stopped. Elfrida had turned paler, and her eyes greatened with excitement. “No,” she said, “I did not see Mr. Kendal. What do you mean? Tell me!”
“Perhaps I have no right. But he told me that he had seen you, at Cheynemouth.”
“He must have been in the audience,” Elfrida returned, in a voice that was hardly audible.
For a moment there was silence between them—a natural silence, and no dumbness. They had forgotten about themselves in the absorption of other thoughts.
“I must go,” Elfrida said, with an effort; rising. What had come to her with this thing Janet had told her? Why had she this strange fullness in the beating of her heart, this sense, part of shame, part of fright, part of happiness, that had taken possession of her? What had become of her strained feeling about Janet? For it had gone, gone utterly, and with it all her pride, all her self-control. She was conscious only of a great need of somebody’s strength, of somebody’s thought and interest —of Janet’s. Yet how could she unsay anything? She held out her hand, and Janet took it. “Good-by, then,” she said.
“Good-by; I hope you will escape the rain.” But at the door Elfrida turned and came back. Janet was mechanically stirring the coals in the grate.
“Listen!” she said. “I want to tell you something about myself.”
Janet looked up with an inward impatience. She knew these little repentant self-revealings so well.
“I know I’m a beast—I can’t help it. Ever since I heard of your success I’ve been hating it! You can laugh if you like, but I’ve been jealous—oh, I’m not deceived; very well, we are acquainted, myself and I! It’s pure jealousy—I admit it. I despise it, but there it is. You have everything; you succeed in all the things you do—you suffocate me—do you understand? Always the first place, always the attention, the consideration, wherever we go together. And your pretence—your lie —of believing my work as good as yours! I believe it —yes, I do, but you do not. Oh, I know you through and through, Janet Cardiff! And altogether,” she went on passionately, “it has been too much for me. I have not been able to govern it. I have yielded, miserable that I am. But just now I felt it going away from me, Janet—” She paused, but there was no answer. Janet was looking contemplatively into the fire.