“Is that all?”
The words escaped her in a quick, breath of relief. Her face was crimson, and the room seemed to swim.
“All!” she heard Kendal say reproachfully. “Wait until you see it!” He experienced a shade of dejection, and there was an instant’s silence between them, during which it seemed to Janet that the world was made over again. “That young woman!” She disloyally extracted the last suggestion of indifference out of the phrase, and found it the sweetest she had heard for months. But her brain whirled with the effort to decide what it could possibly mean.
“I hope you have made it as beautiful as Elfrida is,” she cried, with sharp self-reproof. “It must have been difficult to do that.”
“I have made it—what she is, I think,” he answered, again with that sudden gravity. “It is so like my conception of her which I have never felt permitted to explain to you, that I feel as if I had stolen a march upon her. You must see it. When will you come? It goes in the day after to-morrow, but I can’t wait for your opinion till it’s hung.”
“I like your calm reliance upon the Committee,” Janet laughed. “Suppose—”
“I won’t. It will go on the line,” Kendal returned confidently. “I did nothing last year that I will permit to be compared with it. Will you come to-morrow?”
“Impossible; I haven’t two consecutive minutes to-morrow. We sail, you know, on Thursday.”
Kendal looked at her blankly. “You sail? On Thursday?”
“I am going to America, Lady Halifax and I. And Elizabeth, of course. We are to be away a year. Lady Halifax is buying tickets, I am collecting light literature, and Elizabeth is in pursuit of facts. Oh, we are deep in preparation. I thought you knew.”
“How could I possibly know?”
“Elfrida didn’t tell you, then?”
“Did she know?”
“Oh yes, ten days ago.”
“Odd that she didn’t mention it.”
Janet told herself that it was odd, but found with some surprise that it was not more than odd. There had been a time when the discovery that she and her affairs were of so little consequence to her friend would have given her a wondering pang; but that time seemed to have passed. She talked lightly on about her journey; her voice and her thoughts, had suddenly been freed. She dilated upon the pleasures she anticipated as if they had been real, skimming over the long spaces of his silence, and gathering gaiety as he grew more and more sombre. When he rose to go their moods had changed: the brightness and the flush were hers, and, his face spoke only of a puzzled dejection, an anxious uncertainty.
“So it is good-by,” he said, as she gave him her hand, “for a year!”
Something in his voice made her look up suddenly, with such an unconscious tenderness in her eyes as he had never seen in any other woman’s. She dropped them before he could be quite certain he recognized it, though his heart was beating in a way which told him there had been no mistake.