As the sounds defined themselves move distinctly, troublous and uncertain, Elfrida laid down her pen and listened.
“What an absurd boy it is!” she said. “He’s trying to go to bed in the fireplace.”
As a matter of fact, Mr. Ticke’s stage of intoxication was not nearly so advanced as that; but Elfrida’s mood was borrowed from her article, and she felt the necessity of putting it graphically. Besides, a picturesque form of stating his condition was almost due to Mr. Ticke. Mr. Ticke lived the unfettered life; he was of the elect; Elfrida reflected, as Mr. Ticke went impulsively to bed, how easy it was to discover the elect. A glance would do it, a word, the turning of an eyelid; she knew it of Golightly Ticke days before he came up in an old velvet coat, and without a shirt collar, to borrow a sheet of note paper and an envelope from her. On that occasion Mr. Ticke had half apologized for his appearance, saying, “I’m afraid I’m rather a Bohemian,” in his sympathetic voice. To which Elfrida had responded, hanging him the note paper, “Afraid!” and the understanding was established at once. Elfrida did not consider Mr. Ticke’s other qualifications or disqualifications; that would have been a bourgeois thing to do. He was a belle dame, that was sufficient. He might find life difficult, it was natural and probable. She, Elfrida Bell, found it difficult. He had not succeeded yet; neither had she; therefore they had a comradeship—they and a few others—of revolt against the dull conventional British public that barred the way to success. Yesterday she had met him at the street-door, and he had stopped to remark that along the Embankment nature was making a bad copy of one of Vereschagin’s pictures. When people could say things like that, nothing else mattered much. It is impossible to tell whether Miss Bell would have found room in this philosophy for the godmotherly benevolence of Mademoiselle Fane, if she had known of it, or not.
It was a long, low-roofed room in which Elfrida Bell meditated, biting the end of her pen, upon the difference it made when a fellow-being was not a Philistine; and it was not in the least like any other apartment Mrs. Jordan had to let. It was the atelier of the Rue Porte Royale transported. Elfrida had brought all her possessions with her, and took a nameless comfort in arranging them as she liked them best. “Try to feel at home,” she said whimsically to her Indian zither as she hung it up. “We shall miss Paris, you and I, but one day we shall go back together.” A Japanese screen wandered across the room and made a bedroom of the end. Elfrida had to buy that, and spent a day in finding a cheap one which did not offend her. The floor was bare except for a little Afghan prayer-carpet, Mrs. Jordan having removed, in suspicions astonishment, an almost new tapestry of as nice a pattern as she ever set eyes on, at her lodger’s request. A samovar stood on a little square table in the corner,