“Well now, you’ve got as sensitive a nature as I know, Miss Bell, and you don’t appear to be miserable over here.”
“I!” Elfrida frowned just perceptibly. This little creature who once corrected the punctuation of her essays, and gave her bad marks for spelling, was too intolerably personal. “We won’t consider my case, if you please. Perhaps I’m not a good American.”
“Mrs. Bell seems to think she would enjoy the atmosphere of the past so much in London.”
“It’s a fatal atmosphere for asthma. Please impress that upon my people, Miss Kimpsey. There would be no justification in letting my mother believe she could be comfortable here. She must come and experience the, atmosphere of the past, as you are doing, on a visit. As soon as it can be afforded I hope they will do that.”
Since the day of her engagement with the Illustrated Age Elfrida had been writing long, affectionate, and prettily worded letters to her mother by every American mail. They were models of sweet elegance, those letters; they abounded in dainty bits of description and gay comment, and they reflected as little of the real life of the girl who wrote them as it is possible to conceive. In this way they were quite remarkable, and in their charming discrimination of topics. It was as if Elfrida dictated that a certain relation should exist between herself and her parents. It should acknowledge all the traditions, but it should not be too intimate. They had no such claim upon her, no such closeness to her, as Nadie Palicsky, for instance, had.
When Miss Kimpsey went away that afternoon, trying to realize the intrinsic reward of virtue—she had been obliged to give up the National Gallery to make this visit—Elfrida remembered that the American mail went out next day, and spent a longer time than usual over her weekly letter. In its course she mentioned with some amusement the absurd idea Miss Kimpsey had managed to absorb of their coming to London to live, and touched in the lightest possible way upon the considerations that made such a project impossible. But the greater part of the letter was taken up with a pleased forecast of the time—could it possibly be next summer?—when Mr. and Mrs. Bell would cross the Atlantic on a holiday trip. “I will be quite an affluent person by then,” Elfrida wrote, “and I will be able to devote the whole of my magnificent leisure to entertaining you.”
She turned from the sealing of this to answer a, note from Lawrence Cardiff. He wrote to her, on odds and ends of matters, almost as often as Janet did now. He wrote as often, indeed, as he could, and always with an amused, uncertain expectancy of what the consciously directed little square envelopes which brought back the reply would contain. It was becoming obvious to him that they brought something a little different, in expression or feeling or suggestion, from the notes that came for Janet, which Janet often