Meanwhile the Halifaxes were urging their western trip upon her, Lady Halifax declaring roundly that she was looking wretchedly, Miss Halifax suggesting playfully the possibility of an American heroine for, her next novel. Janet, repelling both publicly, admitted both privately. She felt worn out physically, and when she thought of producing another book her brain responded with a helpless negative. She had been turning lately with dogged conviction to her work as the only solace life was likely to offer her, and anything that hinted at loss of power filled her with blank dismay. She was desperately weary and she wanted to forget, desiring, besides, some sort of stimulus as a flagging swimmer desires a rope.
One more reason came and took possession of her common sense. Between her father and Elfrida she felt herself a complication. If she could bring herself to consent to her own removal, the situation, she could not help seeing, would be considerably simplified. She read plainly in her father that the finality Elfrida promised had not yet been given—doubtless an opportunity had not yet occurred; and Janet was willing to concede that the circumstances might require a rather special opportunity. When it should occur she recognized that delicacy, decency almost, demanded that she should be out of the way. She shrank miserably from the prospect of being a daily familiar looker-on at the spectacle of Lawrence Cardiff’s pain, and she had a knowledge that there would be somehow an aggravation of it in her person. In a year everything would mend itself more or less, she believed dully and tried to feel. Her father would be the same again, with his old good-humor and criticism of her enthusiasms, his old interest in things and people, his old comradeship for her. John Kendal would have married Elfrida Bell— what an idyll they would make of life together!—and she, Janet, would have accepted the situation. Her interest in the prospective pleasures on which Lady Halifax expatiated was slight; she was obliged to speculate upon its rising, which she did with all the confidence she could command. She declined absolutely to read Bryce’s “American Commonwealth,” or Miss Bird’s account of the Rocky Mountains, or anybody’s travels in the Orient, upon all of which Miss Halifax had painstakingly fixed her attention; but one afternoon she ordered a blue serge travelling-dress and refused one or two literary, engagements for the present, and the next day wrote to Lady Halifax that she had decided to go. Her father received her decision with more relief than he meant to show, and Janet had a bitter half-hour over it. Then she plunged with energy into her arrangements, and Lawrence, Cardiff made her inconsistently happy again with the interest he took in them, supplemented by an extremely dainty little travelling-clock. He became suddenly so solicitous for her that she sometimes quivered before the idea that he guessed all the reasons that were putting her to flight, which gave her a wholly unnecessary pang, for nothing would have astonished Lawrence Cardiff more than to be confronted, at the moment, with any passion that was not his own.