Janet, in the drawing-room, received him with hardly a quickening of pulse. It was so nearly over now; she seemed to have packed up a good part of her tiresome heart-ache with the warm things Lady Halifax had dictated for the Atlantic. She had a vague expectation that it would reappear, but not until she unlocked the box, in mid-ocean, where it wouldn’t matter so much. She knew that it was only reasonable and probable that she should see him again before they left for Liverpool She had been expecting this visit, and she meant to be unflinching with herself when she exchanged farewells with him. She meant to make herself believe that the occasion was quite an ordinary one—also until afterward, when her feeling about it would be of less consequence.
“Well,” she asked directly, with a failing heart as she saw his face, “what is your good news?”
Kendal laughed aloud; it was delightful to be anticipated. “So I am unconsciously advertising it,” he said. “Guess!”
His tone bad the vaunting glory of a lover’s—a lover new to his lordship, with his privileges still sweet upon his lips. Janet felt a little cold contraction about her heart, and sank quickly into the nearest arm-chair. “How can I guess,” she said, looking beyond him at the wall, which she did not see, “without anything to go upon? Give me a hint.”
Kendal laughed again. “It’s very simple, and you know something about it already.”
Then she was not mistaken—there was no chance of it. She tried to look at him with smiling, sympathetic intelligence, while her whole being quivered in anticipation of the blow that was coming. “Does it—does it concern another person?” she faltered.
Kendal looked grave, and suffered an instant’s compunction. “It does—it does indeed,” he assured her. “It concerns Miss Elfrida Bell very much, in a way. Ah!” he went on impatiently, as she still sat silent, “why are you so unnaturally dull, Janet? I’ve finished that young woman’s portrait, and it is more—satisfactory—than I ever in my life dared hope that any picture of mine would be.”