Elfrida called the Cardiffs’ house the oasis of Kensington, and valued her privileges there more than she valued anything else in the circumstances about her, except, perhaps, the privilege she had enjoyed in making the single contribution, to the Decade of which we know. That was an event lustrous in her memory, the more lustrous because it remained solitary and when the editor’s check made its tardy appearance she longed to keep it as a glorious archive—glorious that is to say, in suggestion, if not particularly impressive intrinsically. In the end she fought the temptation of giving herself a dinner a day for a fortnight out of it, and bought a slender gold bangle with the money, which she slipped upon her wrist with a resolution to keep it there always. It must be believed that her personal decoration did not enter materially into this design; the bangle was an emblem of one success and an earnest of others. She wore it as she might have worn a medal, except that a medal was a public voice, and the little gold hoop spoke only to her.
After the triumph that the bangle signified Elfrida felt most satisfaction in what was constantly present to her mind as her conquest of the Cardiffs. She measured its importance by their value. Her admiration for Janet’s work in the beginning had been as sincere as her emulation of its degree of excellence had been passionate, and neither feeling had diminished with their intimacy. In Lawrence Cardiff she felt vaguely the qualities that made him a marked man among his fellows, his intellectual breadth and keenness, his poise of brain, if one might call it so, and the habilete with which, without permitting it to be part of his character, he sometimes allowed himself to charm even people of whom he disapproved. These things were indeterminately present to her, and led her often to speculate as to how it was that Mr. Cardiff’s work expressed him so little. It seemed to her that the one purpose of a personality like his was its expression—otherwise one might as well be of the ruck. “You write with your intellectual faculties,” she said to him once; “your soul is curiously dumb.” But that was later.
The plane of Elfrida’s relations with Janet altered gradually, one might say, from the inclined, with Elfrida on her knees at the lower end, to the horizontal. It changed insensibly enough, through the freemasonry of confessed and unconfessed ideals, through growing attraction, through the feeling they shared, though only Janet voiced it, that there was nothing but the opportunities and the experience of four years between them, that in the end Elfrida would do better, stronger, more original work than she. Elfrida was so much more original a person, Janet declared to herself, so—and when she hesitated for this word she usually said “enigmatical.” The answer to the enigma, Janet was sure, would be written large in publishers’ advertisements one day. In the meantime, it was a vast satisfaction