A Daughter of To-day - Cover

A Daughter of To-day

Copyright© 2011 by Sara Jeannette Duncan

Chapter 28

"Oh but—but," cried Elfrida, tragic-eyed, "you don't understand, my friend. And these pretences of mine are unendurable—I won't make another. This is the real reason why I can't go to your house: Janet knows —everything there is to know. I told her—I myself—in a fit of rage ten days ago, and then she said things and I said things, and—and there is nothing now between us any more!"

Lawrence Cardiff looked grave. "I am sorry for that," he said.

A middle-aged gentleman in apparently hopeless love does not confide in his grown-up daughter, and Janet's father had hardly thought of her seriously in connection with this new relation, which was to him so precarious and so sweet. Its realization had never been close enough for practical considerations; it was an image, something in the clouds; and if he still hoped and longed for its materialization there were times when he feared even to regard it too closely lest it should vanish. His first thought at this announcement of Elfrida's was of what it might signify of change, what bearing it had upon her feeling, upon her intention. Then he thought of its immediate results, which seemed to be unfortunate. But in the instant he had for reflection he did not consider Janet at all.

"Ah, yes! It was contemptible—but contemptible! I did it partly to hurt her, and partly, I think, to gratify my vanity. You would not have thought anything so bad of me perhaps?" She looked up at him childishly. They were strolling about the quiet spaces of the Temple Courts. It was a pleasant afternoon in February, the new grass was pushing up. They could be quite occupied with one another—they had the place almost to themselves. Elfrida's well-fitting shabby little jacket hung unbuttoned, and she swung Cardiff's light walking-stick as they sauntered. He, with his eyes on her delicately flushed face and his hands unprofessorially in his pockets, was counting the minutes that were left them.

"You wouldn't have, would you?" she insisted.

"I would think any womanly fault you like of you," he laughed, "but one—the fear to confess it."

Elfrida shut her lips with a little proud smile. "Do you know," she said confidingly, "when you say things like that to me I like you very much—but very much!"

"But not enough," he answered her quickly, "never enough,


The girl's expression changed. "You are not to call me 'Frida, '" she said, frowning a little. "It has an association that will always be painful to me. When people—disappoint me, I try to forget them in every way I can." She paused, and Cardiff saw that her eyes were full of tears. He had an instant of intense resentment against his daughter. What brutality had she been guilty of toward Elfrida in that moment of unreasonable jealousy that surged up between them? He would fiercely like to know. But Elfrida was smiling again, looking up at him in wilful disregard of her wet eyes.

"Say 'Elfrida' please—all of it."

They had reached the Inner Temple Hall. "Let us go in there and sit down," he suggested. "You must be tired—dear child."

She hesitated and submitted. "Yes, I am," she said. Presently they were sitting on one of the long dark polished wooden benches in the quiet and the rich light the ages have left in this place, keeping a mutual moment of silence. "How splendid it is!" Elfrida said restlessly, looking at the great carved wooden screen they had come through.

"The man who did that had a joy in his life, hadn't he?

To-day is very cheap and common, don't you think?"

He had hardly words to answer her vague question, so absorbed was he in the beauty and the grace and the interest with which she had suddenly invested the high-backed corner she sat in. He felt no desire to analyze her charm. He did not ask himself whether it was the poetry of her eyes and lips, or her sincerity about herself, or the joy in art that was the key to her soul, or all of these, or something that was none of them. He simply allowed himself to be possessed by it and Elfrida saw his pleasure in his eager look and in every line of his delicate features. It was delicious to be able to give such pleasure, she thought. She felt like a thrice spiritualized Hebe, lifting the cup, not to Jove, but to a very superior mortal. She wished in effect, as she looked at him, that he were of her essence—she might be cup-bearer to him always then. It was a graceful and unexacting occupation. But he was not absolutely, and the question was how long—She started as he seemed to voice her thought.

"This can't go on, Elfrida!"

Cardiff had somehow possessed himself of her hand as it lay along the polished edge of the wooden seat. It was a privilege, she permitted him sometimes, with the tacit understanding that he was not to abuse it.

"And why not—for a little while? It is pleasant, I think."

"If you were in love you would know why. You are not, I know—you needn't say so. But it will come, Elfrida—only give it the chance. I would stake my soul on the certainty of being able to make you love me." His confidence in the power of his own passion was as strong as a boy's of twenty.

"If I were in love!" Elfrida repeated slowly, with an absent smile. "And you think it would come afterward. That is an exploded idea, my friend. I should feel as if I were acting out an old-fashioned novel—an old-fashioned second-rate novel."

She looked at him with eyes that invited him to share their laughter, but the smile he gave her was pitiful, if she could have known it. The strain she had bee putting upon him, and promised indefinitely to put upon him, was growing greater than he could bear.

The source of this story is Finestories

To read the complete story you need to be logged in:
Log In or
Register for a Free account (Why register?)

Get No-Registration Temporary Access*

* Allows you 3 stories to read in 24 hours.