“It is chic, isn’t it? Not so very old, you know.” Elfrida raised her eyebrows and pursed her lips a little. “It came from Persia. They still do things like that in those delightful countries. And I’ve had it tested. There’s enough to—satisfy—three people. When you are quite sure you want it I don’t mind sharing with you. If you are going out, Mr. Ticke, will you post this for me? It’s a thing about American social ideals, and I’m trying the Consul with it.”
“Delighted. But if I know the editor of the Consul, it won’t get two minutes’ consideration.”
“Being the work of a lady, no. Doesn’t matter how good it is. The thing to know about the Consul man is this. He’s very nice to ladies—can’t resist ladies; consequence is, the paper’s half full of ladies’ copy every week. I know, because a cousin of mine writes for him, and most unsympathetic stuff it is. Yet it always goes in, and she gets her three guineas a week as regularly as the day comes. But her pull is that she knows him personally, and she’s a damned pretty woman.”
Elfrida followed him with interest. “Is she as pretty as I am?” she asked, purely for information.
“Lord, no!” Mr. Ticke responded warmly. “Besides, you’ve got style, and distinction, and ideas. Any editor would appreciate your points, once you saw him. But you’ve got to see him first. My candid advice is take this to the Consul office.”
Elfrida looked at him in a way which baffled him to understand. “I don’t think I can do that,” she said slowly; and then added, “I don’t know.”
“Well,” he said, “I’ll enter my protest against the foolishness of doing it this way by refusing to post the letter.” Mr. Ticke was tremendously in earnest, and threw it dramatically upon the table. “You may be a George Eliot or a—an Elizabeth Barrett Browning, but in these days you want every advantage, Miss Bell, and women who succeed understand that.”
Elfrida’s face was still enigmatic, so enigmatic that Mr. Ticke felt reluctantly constrained to stop. “I must pursue the even tenor of my way,” he said airily, looking at his watch. “I’ve an engagement to lunch at one. Don’t ask me to post that article, Miss Bell. And by the way,” as he turned to go, “I haven’t a smoke about me. Could you give me a cigarette?”
“Oh yes,” said Elfrida, without looking at him, “as many as you like,” and she pushed an open box toward him; but she had an absent, considering air that did not imply any idea of what she was doing.
“Thanks, only one. Or perhaps two—there now, two! How good these little Hafiz fellows are! Thanks awfully. Good-bye!”
“Good-bye,” said Elfrida, with her eyes on the packet addressed to the editor of the Consul; and Mr. Golightly Ticke tripped downstairs. She had not looked at him again.