Elfrida thanked Mrs. Tommy Morrow very sweetly for her chaperonage in the cloak-room when the hour of departure came. “Well,” said Mrs. Morrow, “you can say you have seen a characteristic London literary gathering.”
“Yes, thanks!” said Elfrida; and then, looking about her for a commonplace, “How much taller the women seem to be than the men,” she remarked.
“Yes,” returned Mrs. Tommy Morrow, “Du Maurier drew attention to that in Punch, some time ago.”
Janet Cardiff, running downstairs to the drawing-room from the top story of the house in Kensington Square with the knowledge that a new American girl, who wrote very clever things about pictures, awaited her there, tried to remember just what sort of description John Kendal had given of her visitor. Her recollection was vague as to detail; she could not anticipate a single point with certainty, perhaps because she had not paid particular attention at the time. She had been given a distinct impression that she might expect to be interested, however, which accounted for her running downstairs. Nothing hastened Janet Cardiff’s footsteps more than the prospect of anybody interesting. She and her father declared that it was their great misfortune to be thoroughly respectable, it cut them off from so much. It was in particular the girl’s complaint against their life that humanity as they knew it was rather a neutral-tinted, carefully woven fabric too largely “machine-made,” as she told herself, with a discontent that the various Fellows of the Royal Society and members of the Athenaeum Club, with whom the Cardiffs were in the habit of dining, could hardly have thought themselves capable of inspiring. It seemed to Janet that nobody crossed their path until his or her reputation was made, and that by the time people had made their reputations they succumbed to them, and became uninteresting.
She told herself at once that nothing Kendal could have said would have prepared her for this American, and that certainly nothing she had seen or read of other Americans did. Elfrida was standing beside the open window looking out. As Janet came in a breeze wavered through and lifted the fluffy hair about her visitor’s forehead, and the scent of the growing things in the little square came with it into the room. She turned slowly, with grave wide eyes and a plaintive indrawing of her pretty underlip, and held out three full-blown gracious Marechal Neil roses on long slender stems. “I have brought you these,” she said, with a charming effect of simplicity, “to make me welcome. There was no reason, none whatever, why I should be welcome, so I made one. You will not be angry—perhaps?”