To Elfrida it soon became a definite and agreeable fact that she and the flower of Lucien’s had things to say to each other—things of the rare temperamental sort that say themselves seldom. Within a fortnight she had made a niche for him in that private place where she kept the images of those toward whom she sustained this peculiarly sacred obligation, and to meet him had become one of those pleasures which were in Sparta so notably unattainable. I cannot say that considerations which from the temperamental point of view might be described as ulterior had never suggested themselves to Miss Bell. She had thought of them, with a little smile, as a possible development on Kendal’s part that might be amusing. And then she had invariably checked the smile, and told herself that she would be sorry, very sorry. Instinctively she separated the artist and the man. For the artist she had an admiration none the less sincere for its exaggerations, and a sympathy which she thought the best of herself; for the man, nothing, except the half-contemptuous reflection that he was probably as other men.
If Elfrida stamped herself less importantly upon the surface of Kendal’s mind than he did upon hers, it may be easily enough accounted for by the multiplicity of images there before her. I do not mean to imply that all or many of these were feminine, but, as I have indicated, Kendal was more occupied with impressions of all sorts than is the habit of his fellow-countrymen, and at twenty eight he had managed to receive quite enough to make a certain seriousness necessary in a fresh one. There was no seriousness in his impression of Elfrida. If he had gone so far as to trace its lines he would have found them to indicate a more than slightly fantastic young woman with an appreciation of certain artistic verities out of all proportion to her power to attain them. But he had not gone so far. His encounters with her were among his casual amusements; and if the result was an occasional dinner together or first night at the Folies Dramatiques, his only reflection was that a girl who could do such things and not feel compromised was rather pleasant to know, especially so clever a girl as Elfrida Bell. He did not recognize in his own mind the mingled beginnings of approval and disapproval which end in a personal theory. He was quite unaware, for instance, that he liked the contemptuous way in which she held at arm’s length the moral laxities of the Quartier, and disliked the cool cynicism with which she flashed upon them there the sort of jeu de mot that did not make him uncomfortable on the lips of a Frenchwoman. He understood that she had nursed Nadie Palicsky through three weeks of diphtheria, during which time Monsieur Vambery took up his residence fourteen blocks away, without any special throb of enthusiasm; and he heard her quote Voltaire on the miracles—some of her ironies were a little old-fashioned —without conscious disgust He was willing enough to meet her on the special plane she constituted for herself—not as a woman, but as an artist and a Bohemian. But there were others who made the same claim with whom it was an affectation or a pretence, and Kendal granted it to Elfrida without any special conviction that she was more sincere than the rest. Besides, it is possible to grow indifferent, even to the unconventionalities, and Kendal had been three years in the Quartier Latin.