Janet was tongue-tied. She struggled with herself for an instant, and then, “I wish you’d stay and dine,” she said desperately.
“How thoughtless of me!” Elfrida replied, jumping up. “You ought to be dressing, dear. No, I can’t; I’ve got to sup with some ladies of the Alhambra to-night—it will make such lovely copy. But I’ll go now, this very instant.”
Half-way downstairs Janet, in a passion of helpless tears, heard Elfrida’s footsteps pause and turn. She stepped swiftly into her own room and locked the door. The footsteps came tripping back into, the library, and then a tap sounded on Janet’s door. Outside Elfrida’s voice said plaintively, “I had to come back. Do you love me—are you quite sure you love me?”
“You humbug!” Janet called from within, steadying heir voice with an effort, “I’m not at all sure. I’ll tell you to-morrow!”
“But you do!” cried Elfrida, departing. “I know you do.”
July thickened down upon London. The society papers announced that with the exception of the few unfortunate gentlemen who were compelled to stay and look after their constituents’ interests, at Westminster, “everybody” had gone out of town, and filled up yawning columns with detailed information as to everybody’s destination. To an inexperienced eye, with the point of view of the top of an Uxbridge Road omnibus for instance, it might not appear that London had diminished more than the extent of a few powdered footmen on carriage boxes; but the census of the London world is after all not to be taken from the top of an Uxbridge Road omnibus. London teemed emptily, the tall houses in the narrow lanes of Mayfair slept standing, the sunlight filtered through a depressing haze and stood still in the streets for hours together. In the Park the policemen wooed the nursery-maids free from the embarrassing smiling scrutiny of people to whom this serious preoccupation is a diversion. The main thoroughfares were full of “summer sales,” St. Paul’s echoed to admiring Transatlantic criticism, and the Bloomsbury boarding-houses to voluble Transatlantic complaint.
The Halifaxes were at Brighton, Lady Halifax giving musical teas, Miss Halifax painting marine views in a little book. Miss Halifax called them “impressions,” and always distributed them at the musical teas. The Cardiffs had gone to Scotland for golf, and later on for grouse. Janet was almost as expert on the links as her father, and was on very familiar terms with a certain Highland moor and one Donald Macleod. They had laid every compulsion upon Elfrida to go with them, in vain; the girl’s sensitiveness on the point of money obligations was intense, and Janet failed to measure it accurately when she allowed herself to feel hurt that their relations did not preclude the necessity for taking any thought as to who paid. Elfrida staid, however, in her