“Oh yes, there is something!” she said at last, carefully drawing it out and holding it at arm’s length. “Something that is quite new to me. Do you mind if I put it in a better light?” Her voice had wonderfully changed; it expressed a curious interest and self-control. In effect that was all she felt for the moment; she had a dull consciousness of a blow, but did not yet quite understand being struck. She was gathering herself together as she looked, growing conscious of her hurt and of her resentment. Kendal was silent, cursing himself inwardly for not having destroyed the thing the day after he had let himself do it.
“Yes,” she said, placing it on an easel at an oblique angle with the north window of the room, “it is better so.”
She stepped back a few paces to look at it, and stood immovable, searching every detail. “It does you credit,” she said slowly; “immense credit. Oh, it is very clever!”
“Forgive me,” Kendal said, taking a step toward her. “I am afraid it doesn’t But I never intended you to see it.”
“Is it an order?” she asked calmly. “Ah, but that would not have been fair—not to show it to me first!”
Kendal crimsoned. “I beg,” he said earnestly, “that you will not think such a thing possible. I intended to destroy it—I don’t know why I have not destroyed it!”
“But why? It is so good, so charming, so—so true! You did it for your own amusement, then! But that was very selfish.”
For answer Kendal caught up a tube of Indian red, squeezed it on the crusted palette, loaded a brush with it, and dashed it across the sketch. It was a feeble piece of bravado, and he felt it, but he must convince her in some way that the thing was worthless to him.
“Ah,” she said, “that is a pity!” and she walked to the door. She must get away, quite away, and quickly, to realize this, thing, and find out exactly what it meant to her. And yet, three steps down the stairs she turned and came back again. John Kendal stood where, she had left him, staring at the sketch on the easel.
“I have come back to thank you,” Elfrida said quickly, “for showing me what a fool I made of myself,” and she was gone.
An hour later Kendal had not ceased to belabor himself; but the contemplation of the sketch—he had not looked at it for two months—brought him to the conclusion that perhaps, after all, it might have some salutary effect. He found himself so curiously sore about it though, so thoroughly inclined, to brand himself a traitor and a person without obligation, that he went back to Norway the following week—a course which left a number of worthy people in the neighborhood of Bigton, Devonshire, very indignant indeed.
“Daddy,” Janet said to her father a few days after their return to town; “I’ve been thinking that we might—that you might—be of use in helping Frida to place something somewhere else than in that eternal picture paper.”