“And I made up my mind to say it straight out. It is better so, don’t you think?”
“Oh yes, it is better so.”
“I hate you sometimes—when you suffocate me with your cleverness—but I admire you tremendously always. So I suppose we can go on, can’t we?”
“Ah!” Elfrida cried, noting Janet’s hesitation with a kind of wonder—how should it be exacted of her to be anything more than frank? “I will go a step further to come back to you, my Janet. I will tell you a secret—the first one I ever had. Don’t be afraid that I shall become your stepmother and hate me in advance. That is too absurd!” and the girl laughed ringingly. “Because—I believe I am in love with John Kendal!”
For answer Janet turned to her with the look of one pressed to the last extremity. “Is it true that you are going to write your own experiences in the corps de ballet?” she asked ironically.
“Quite true. I have done three chapters already. What do you think of it? Isn’t it a good idea?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“I think,” said Janet slowly, looking into the fire, “that the scheme is a contemptible one, and that you are doing a very poor sort of thing in carrying it out.”
“Thanks,” Elfrida returned. “We are all pretty much alike, we women, aren’t we, after all! Only some of us say so and some of us don’t. But I shouldn’t have thought you would have objected to my small rivalry before the fact!”
Janet sighed wearily, and looked out of the window. “Let me lend you an umbrella,” she said; “the rain has come.”
“It won’t be necessary, thanks,” Elfrida returned. “I hear Mr. Cardiff coming upstairs. I shall ask him to take care of me as far as the omnibuses. Good-by!”
“Oh but—but,” cried Elfrida, tragic-eyed, “you don’t understand, my friend. And these pretences of mine are unendurable—I won’t make another. This is the real reason why I can’t go to your house: Janet knows —everything there is to know. I told her—I myself—in a fit of rage ten days ago, and then she said things and I said things, and—and there is nothing now between us any more!”
Lawrence Cardiff looked grave. “I am sorry for that,” he said.
A middle-aged gentleman in apparently hopeless love does not confide in his grown-up daughter, and Janet’s father had hardly thought of her seriously in connection with this new relation, which was to him so precarious and so sweet. Its realization had never been close enough for practical considerations; it was an image, something in the clouds; and if he still hoped and longed for its materialization there were times when he feared even to regard it too closely lest it should vanish. His first thought at this announcement of Elfrida’s was of what it might signify of change, what bearing it had upon her feeling, upon her intention. Then he thought of its immediate results, which seemed to be unfortunate. But in the instant he had for reflection he did not consider Janet at all.