If Lucien had examined Miss Bell’s work during the week of her experiment with Anglo-Parisian journalism, he would have observed that it grew gradually worse as the days went on. The devotion of the small hours to composition does not steady one’s hand for the reproduction of the human muscles, or inform one’s eye as to the correct manipulation of flesh tints. Besides, the model suffered from Elfrida an unconscious diminution of enthusiasm. She was finding her first serious attempt at writing more absorbing than she would have believed possible, and she felt that she was doing it better than she expected. She was hardly aware of the moments that slipped by while she dabbled aimlessly in unconsidered color meditating a phrase, or leaned back and let nothing interfere with her apprehension of the atelier with the other reproductive instinct. She did not recognize the deterioration in her work, either; and at the very moment when Nadie Palicsky, observing Lucien’s neglect of her, inwardly called him a brute, Elfrida was to leave the atelier an hour earlier for the sake of the more urgent thing which she had to do. She finished it in five days, and addressed it to Frank Parke with a new and uplifting sense of accomplishment. The ever fresh miracle happened to her, too, in that the working out of one article begot the possibilities of half a dozen more, and the next day saw her well into another. In posting the first she had a premonition of success. She saw it as it would infallibly appear in a conspicuous place in Raffini’s Chronicle, and heard the people of the American Colony wondering who in the world could have written it. She conceived that it would fill about two columns and a half. On Saturday afternoon, when Kendal joined her crossing the courtyard of the atelier, she was preoccupied with the form of her rebuff to any inquiries that might be made as to whether she had written it.
They walked on together, talking casually of casual things. Kendal, glancing every now and then at the wet study Elfrida was carrying home, felt himself distinctly thankful that she did not ask his opinion of it, as she had, to his embarrassment once or twice before; though it was so very bad that he was half disposed to abuse it without permission. Miss Bell seemed persistently interested in other things, however—the theatres, the ecclesiastical bill before the Chamber of Deputies, the new ambassador, even the recent improvement of the police system. Kendal found her almost tiresome. His half-interested replies interpreted themselves to her after a while, and she turned their talk upon trivialities, with a gay exhilaration which was not her frequent mood.