There was a moment’s silence in the room—a crucial moment, it seemed to both of them. Elfrida sat against the table with her elbows among its litter of paged manuscript, her face hidden in her hands. Janet rose and took a step or two toward her. Then she paused, and looked at the little bronze image on the table instead. Elfrida was suddenly shaken by deep, indrawn, silent sobs.
“It is finished, then,” Janet said softly; “we are to separate for always, Buddha, she and I. She will not know any more of me nor I of her—it will be, so far as we can make it, like the grave. You must belong to a strange world, Buddha, always to smile!” She spoke evenly quietly, with, restraint, and still she did not look at the convulsively silent figure in the chair. “But I am glad you will always keep that face for her, Buddha. I hope the world will, too, our world that is sometimes more bitter than you can understand. And I say good-by to you, for to her I cannot say it.” And she turned to go.
Elfrida stumbled to her feet and hurried to the door. “No!” she said, holding it fast. “No! You must not go that way—I owe you too much, after all. We will—we will make the best of it.”
“Not on that ground,” Janet answered gravely. “Neither your friendship nor mine is purchasable, I hope.”
“No, no! That was bad. On any ground you like. Only stay a little—let us find ourselves again!”
Elfrida forced a smile into what she said, and Janet let herself be drawn back to a chair.
It was nearly midnight when she found herself again in her cab, driving through the empty lamplit Strand toward Kensington. She had prevailed, and now she had to scrutinize her methods. That necessity urged itself beyond her power to turn away from it, and left her sick at heart. She had prevailed—Elfrida, she believed, was hers again. They had talked as candidly as might be of her father. Elfrida had promised nothing, but she would, bring matters to an end, Janet knew she would, in a day or two, when she had had time to think how intolerable the situation would be if she didn’t. Janet remembered with wonder, however, how little Elfrida seemed to realize that it need make any difference between them compared with other things, and what a trivial concession she thought it beside the restoration of the privileges of her friendship. The girl asked herself drearily how it would be possible that she should ever forget the frank cynical surprise with which Elfrida had received her entreaty, based on the fact of her father’s unrest and the wretchedness of his false hopes—“You have your success; does it really matter—so very much?”
“To-day, remember. You promised that I should see it to-day,” Elfrida reminded Kendal, dropping instantly into the pose they had jointly decided on. “I know I’m late, but you will not punish me by another postponement, will you?”