Half an hour later the postman brought Elfrida a letter from Mr. Frank Parke, and a packet containing her manuscript. It was a long letter, very kind, and appreciative of the article, which Mr. Parke called bright and gossipy, and, if anything, too cleverly unconventional in tone. He did not take the trouble to criticise it seriously, and left Elfrida under the impression that, from his point of view at least, it had no faults. Mr. Parke had offered the article to Raffini, but while they might have printed it upon his recommendation, it appeared that even his recommendation could not induce them to promise to pay for it. And it was a theory with him that what was worth printing was invariably worth paying for, so he returned the manuscript to its author in the sincere hope that it might yet meet its deserts. He had been thinking over the talk they had had together, and he saw more plainly than ever the hopelessness of her getting a journalistic start in Paris, however, and he would distinctly advise her to try London instead. There were a number of ladies’ papers published in London—he regretted that he did not know the editors of any of them—and amongst them, with her freshness of style, she would be sure to find an opening. Mr. Parke added the address of a lodging-house off Fleet Street, where Elfrida would be in the thick of it, and the fact that he was leaving Paris for three months or so, and hoped she would write to him when he came back. It was a letter precisely calculated to draw an unsophisticated amateur mind away from any other mortification, to pour balm upon any unrelated wound. Elfrida felt herself armed by it to face a sea of troubles. Not absolutely, but almost, she convinced herself on the spot that her solemn choice of an art had been immature, and to some extent groundless and unwarrantable; and she washed all her brushes with a mechanical and melancholy sense that it was for the last time. It was easier than she would have dreamed for her to decide to take Frank Parke’s advice and go to London. The life of the Quartier had already vaguely lost in charm since she knew that she must be irredeemably a failure in the atelier, though she told herself, with a hot tear or two, that no one loved it better, more comprehendingly, than she did. Her impulse was to begin packing at once; but she put that off until the next day, and wrote two or three letters instead. One was to John Kendal. This is the whole of it:
“Please believe me very grateful for your frankness this afternoon. I have been most curiously blind. But I agree with you that there is something else, and I am going away to find it out and to do it. When I succeed I will let you know, but you shall not tell me that I have failed again.
The other was addressed to her mother, and when it reached Mr. and Mrs. Bell in Sparta they said it was certainly sympathetic and very well written. This was to disarm one another’s mind of the suspicion that its last page was doubtfully daughterly.