Before she reached the foot of the staircase she was in a passion of tears. She leaned, against the wall in the half darkness of the passage, shaking with sobs, raging with anger and pity, struggling against her own contempt. Gradually she gained a hold upon herself, and as she dried her eyes finally she lost all feeling but a heavy sense of failure. She sat down faintly on the lowest step, remembering that she had eaten nothing since breakfast, and fanned her flushed face with the sheets of her manuscript. She preferred that even the unregarding London streets should not see the traces of her distress. She was still sitting there, ten minutes later, when the door opened and threw the gray light from outside over her. She had found her feet before Mr. Curtis had fairly seen her. He paused, astonished, with his gloved hand upon the knob. The girl seemed to have started out of the shadows, and the emotion of her face dramatized its beauty. She made a step toward the door.
“Can I do anything for you?” asked the editor of the Consul, taking off his, hat.
“Nothing, thank you,” Elfrida replied, looking beyond him. “Unless you will kindly allow me to pass.”
It was still raining doggedly, as it does in the the late afternoon. Elfrida thought with a superlative pang of discomfort of the three or four blocks that lay between her and the nearest bake-shop. She put up her umbrella, gathered her skirts up behind, and started wearily for the Haymarket. She had never in her life felt so tired. Suddenly a thrill of consciousness went up from her left hand—the hand that held her skirts—such a thrill as is known only to the sex that wills to have its pocket there. She made one or two convulsive confirmatory clutches at it from the outside, then, with a throe of actual despair, she thrust her hand into her pocket. It was a crushing fact, her purse was gone—her purse that held the possibilities of her journalistic future molten and stamped in eight golden sovereigns—her purse!
Elfrida cast one hopeless look at the pavement behind her before she allowed herself to realize the situation. Then she faced it, addressing a dainty French oath to the necessity. “Come,” she said to herself, “now it begins to be really amusing—la vraie comedie.” She saw herself in the part—it was an artistic pleasure—alone, in a city of melodrama, without a penny, only her brains. Besides, the sense of extremity pushed and concentrated her; she walked on with new energy and purpose. As she turned into the Haymarket a cab drew up almost in front of her. Through its rain-beaten glass front she recognized a face—Kendal’s. His head was thrown back to speak to the driver through the roof. In the instant of her glance Elfrida saw that he wore a bunch of violets in his button-hole, and that he was looking splendidly well. Then, with a smile that recognized the dramatic value of his appearance at the moment, she lowered her umbrella and passed on, unseen.