Then they talked of the crocuses in Kensington Gardens; and of young Skeene’s new play at the Princess’s—they all knew young Skeene, and wished him well; and of Framley’s forthcoming novel—Framley, who had made his noble reputation by portrait-painting—good old Framley —how would it go?
“He knows character,” Kendal said.
“That’s nothing now,” retorted Lawrence Cardiff. “Does he know where it comes from and where it’s going to? And can he choose? And has he the touch? And hasn’t he been too long a Royal Academician and a member of the Church of England, and a believer in himself? Oh no! Framley hasn’t anything to tell this generation that he couldn’t say best on canvas.”
“Well,” said Lady Halifax disconcertingly, “I suppose the carriage is at the door, Lawrence, but you might just send to inquire. The horses stand so badly, I told Peters he might take them round and round the square.”
Cardiff looked at her with amused reproach, and rang the bell; and Janet begged somebody or anybody to have another cup of tea. The Halifaxes always tried Janet.
They went at last, entreating Cardiff, to his annoyance, not to come down the narrow winding stair with them to their carriage. To him no amount of familiar coming and going could excuse the most trivial of such negligences. He very often put Janet into her cab, always if it rained.
The moment they left the room a new atmosphere created itself there for the two that remained. They sought each other’s eyes with the pleasantest sense of being together in reality for the first time, and though Janet marked it by nothing more significant than a suggestion that Kendal should poke the fire, there was an appreciable admission in her tone that they were alone and free to talk, which he recognized with great good-will. He poked the fire, and she on her low chair, clasping her knee with both hands, looked almost pretty in the blaze. There had always been between them a distinct understanding, the understanding of good-fellowship and ideas of work, and Kendal saw with pleasure that it was going to be renewed.
“I am dying to tell you about it,” he said.
“Paris?” she asked, looking up at him. “I am dying to hear. The people, especially the people. Lucien, what was he like? One hears so much of Lucien—they make him a priest and a king together. And did you go to Barbizon?”
Another in her place might have added, “And why did you write so seldom?” There was something that closed Janet’s lips to this. It was the same thing that would not permit her to call Kendal “Jack,” as several other people did, though her Christian name had been allowed to him for a long time. It made an awkwardness sometimes, for she would not say “Mr. Kendal” either—that would be a rebuke or a suggestion of inferiority, or what not—but she bridged it over as best she could with a jocose appellative like “signor,” “monsieur,” or “Mr. John Kendal,” in full. “Jack” was impossible, “John” was worse. Yes, with a little nervous shudder, much worse.