Janet banished her conventional “Very glad to see you” instantly. She took the roses with a quick thrill of pleasure. Afterward she told herself that she was not touched, not in the least, she did not quite know why; but she freely acknowledged that she was more than amused.
“How charming of you!” she said. “But I have to thank you for coming as well. Now let us shake hands, or we shan’t feel properly acquainted.” Janet detected a half-tone of patronage in her voice, and fell into a rage with herself because of it. She looked at Elfrida sharply to note a possible resentment, but there was none. If she had looked a trifle more sharply she might have observed a subtler patronage in the little smile her visitor received this commonplace with; but, like the other, she was too much occupied in considering her personal effect. She had become suddenly desirous that it should be a good one.
Elfrida went on in the personal key. “I suppose you are very tired of hearing such things,” she said, “but I owe you so much.”
This was not quite justifiable, for Miss Cardiff was only a successful writer in the magazines, whose name was very familiar to other people who wrote in them, and had a pleasant association for the reading public. It was by no means fame; she would have been the first to laugh at the magniloquence of the word in any personal connection. For her father she would accept a measure of it, and only deplored that the lack of public interest in Persian made the measure small. She had never confessed to a soul how largely she herself was unacquainted with his books, and how considerably her knowledge of her father’s specialty was covered by the opinion that Persian was a very decorative character. She could not let Elfrida suppose that she thought this anything but a politeness.
“Oh, thanks—impossible!” she cried gaily. “Indeed, I assure you it is months since I heard anything so agreeable,” which was also a departure from the strictest verity.
“But truly! I’m afraid I am very clumsy,” Elfrida added, with a pretty dignity, “but I should like to assure you of that.”
“If you have allowed me to amuse you now and then for half an hour it has been very good of you,” Janet returned, looking at Miss Bell with rather more curious interest than she thought it polite to show. It began to seem to her, however, that the conventional side of the occasion was not obvious from any point of view. “You are an American, aren’t you?” she asked. “Mr. Kendal told me so. I suppose one oughtn’t to say that one would like to be an American. But you have such a pull! I know I should like living there.”
Elfrida gave herself the effect of considering the matter earnestly. It flitted, really, over the surface of her mind, which was engaged in absorbing Janet and the room, and the situation.