Part 2 out of 7
When a girl first sits opposite the man she has married, of what
does she think? Not of the issues and emotions that lie in wait.
They are too overwhelming; she would avoid them while she can. Gyp
thought of her frock, a mushroom-coloured velvet cord. Not many
girls of her class are married without "fal-lals," as Winton had
called them. Not many girls sit in the corner of their reserved
first-class compartments without the excitement of having been
supreme centre of the world for some flattering hours to buoy them
up on that train journey, with no memories of friends' behaviour,
speech, appearance, to chat of with her husband, so as to keep
thought away. For Gyp, her dress, first worn that day, Betty's
breakdown, the faces, blank as hats, of the registrar and clerk,
were about all she had to distract her. She stole a look at her
husband, clothed in blue serge, just opposite. Her husband! Mrs.
Gustav Fiorsen! No! People might call her that; to herself, she
was Ghita Winton. Ghita Fiorsen would never seem right. And, not
confessing that she was afraid to meet his eyes, but afraid all the
same, she looked out of the window. A dull, bleak, dismal day; no
warmth, no sun, no music in it--the Thames as grey as lead, the
willows on its banks forlorn.
Suddenly she felt his hand on hers. She had not seen his face like
that before--yes; once or twice when he was playing--a spirit
shining though. She felt suddenly secure. If it stayed like that,
then!--His hand rested on her knee; his face changed just a little;
the spirit seemed to waver, to be fading; his lips grew fuller. He
crossed over and sat beside her. Instantly she began to talk about
their house, where they were going to put certain things--presents
and all that. He, too, talked of the house; but every now and then
he glanced at the corridor, and muttered. It was pleasant to feel
that the thought of her possessed him through and through, but she
was tremulously glad of that corridor. Life is mercifully made up
of little things! And Gyp was always able to live in the moment.
In the hours they had spent together, up to now, he had been like a
starved man snatching hasty meals; now that he had her to himself
for good, he was another creature altogether--like a boy out of
school, and kept her laughing nearly all the time.
Presently he got down his practise violin, and putting on the mute,
played, looking at her over his shoulder with a droll smile. She
felt happy, much warmer at heart, now. And when his face was
turned away, she looked at him. He was so much better looking now
than when he had those little whiskers. One day she had touched
one of them and said: "Ah! if only these wings could fly!" Next
morning they had flown. His face was not one to be easily got used
to; she was not used to it yet, any more than she was used to his
touch. When it grew dark, and he wanted to draw down the blinds,
she caught him by the sleeve, and said:
"No, no; they'll know we're honeymooners!"
"Well, my Gyp, and are we not?"
But he obeyed; only, as the hours went on, his eyes seemed never to
let her alone.
At Torquay, the sky was clear and starry; the wind brought whiffs
of sea-scent into their cab; lights winked far out on a headland;
and in the little harbour, all bluish dark, many little boats
floated like tame birds. He had put his arm round her, and she
could feel his hand resting on her heart. She was grateful that he
kept so still. When the cab stopped and they entered the hall of
the hotel, she whispered:
"Don't let's let them see!"
Still, mercifully, little things! Inspecting the three rooms,
getting the luggage divided between dressing-room and bedroom,
unpacking, wondering which dress to put on for dinner, stopping to
look out over the dark rocks and the sea, where the moon was coming
up, wondering if she dared lock the door while she was dressing,
deciding that it would be silly; dressing so quickly, fluttering
when she found him suddenly there close behind her, beginning to do
up her hooks. Those fingers were too skilful! It was the first
time she had thought of his past with a sort of hurt pride and
fastidiousness. When he had finished, he twisted her round, held
her away, looked at her from head to foot, and said below his
Her heart beat fast then; but suddenly he laughed, slipped his arm
about her, and danced her twice round the room. He let her go
demurely down the stairs in front of him, saying:
"They shan't see--my Gyp. Oh, they shan't see! We are old married
people, tired of each other--very!"
At dinner it amused him at first--her too, a little--to keep up
this farce of indifference. But every now and then he turned and
stared at some inoffensive visitor who was taking interest in them,
with such fierce and genuine contempt that Gyp took alarm; whereon
he laughed. When she had drunk a little wine and he had drunk a
good deal, the farce of indifference came to its end. He talked at
a great rate now, slying nicknaming the waiters and mimicking the
people around--happy thrusts that made her smile but shiver a
little, lest they should be heard or seen. Their heads were close
together across the little table. They went out into the lounge.
Coffee came, and he wanted her to smoke with him. She had never
smoked in a public room. But it seemed stiff and "missish" to
refuse--she must do now as his world did. And it was another
little thing; she wanted little things, all the time wanted them.
She drew back a window-curtain, and they stood there side by side.
The sea was deep blue beneath bright stars, and the moon shone
through a ragged pine-tree on a little headland. Though she stood
five feet six in her shoes, she was only up to his mouth. He
sighed and said: "Beautiful night, my Gyp!" And suddenly it struck
her that she knew nothing of what was in him, and yet he was her
husband! "Husband"--funny word, not pretty! She felt as a child
opening the door of a dark room, and, clutching his arm, said:
"Look! There's a sailing-boat. What's it doing out there at
night?" Another little thing! Any little thing!
Presently he said:
"Come up-stairs! I'll play to you."
Up in their sitting-room was a piano, but--not possible; to-morrow
they would have to get another. To-morrow! The fire was hot, and
he took off his coat to play. In one of his shirt-sleeves there
was a rent. She thought, with a sort of triumph: 'I shall mend
that!' It was something definite, actual--a little thing. There
were lilies in the room that gave a strong, sweet scent. He
brought them up to her to sniff, and, while she was sniffing,
stooped suddenly and kissed her neck. She shut her eyes with a
shiver. He took the flowers away at once, and when she opened her
eyes again, his violin was at his shoulder. For a whole hour he
played, and Gyp, in her cream-coloured frock, lay back, listening.
She was tired, not sleepy. It would have been nice to have been
sleepy. Her mouth had its little sad tuck or dimple at the corner;
her eyes were deep and dark--a cloudy child. His gaze never left
her face; he played and played, and his own fitful face grew
clouded. At last he put away the violin, and said:
"Go to bed, Gyp; you're tired."
Obediently she got up and went into the bedroom. With a sick
feeling in her heart, and as near the fire as she could get, she
undressed with desperate haste, and got to bed. An age--it seemed--
she lay there shivering in her flimsy lawn against the cold
sheets, her eyes not quite closed, watching the flicker of the
firelight. She did not think--could not--just lay stiller than the
dead. The door creaked. She shut her eyes. Had she a heart at
all? It did not seem to beat. She lay thus, with eyes shut, till
she could bear it no longer. By the firelight she saw him
crouching at the foot of the bed; could just see his face--like a
face--a face--where seen? Ah yes!--a picture--of a wild man
crouching at the feet of Iphigenia--so humble, so hungry--so lost
in gazing. She gave a little smothered sob and held out her hand.
Gyp was too proud to give by halves. And in those early days she
gave Fiorsen everything except--her heart. She earnestly desired
to give that too; but hearts only give themselves. Perhaps if the
wild man in him, maddened by beauty in its power, had not so ousted
the spirit man, her heart might have gone with her lips and the
rest of her. He knew he was not getting her heart, and it made
him, in the wildness of his nature and the perversity of a man, go
just the wrong way to work, trying to conquer her by the senses,
not the soul.
Yet she was not unhappy--it cannot be said she was unhappy, except
for a sort of lost feeling sometimes, as if she were trying to
grasp something that kept slipping, slipping away. She was glad to
give him pleasure. She felt no repulsion--this was man's nature.
Only there was always that feeling that she was not close. When he
was playing, with the spirit-look on his face, she would feel:
'Now, now, surely I shall get close to him!' But the look would
go; how to keep it there she did not know, and when it went, her
feeling went too.
Their little suite of rooms was at the very end of the hotel, so
that he might play as much as he wished. While he practised in the
mornings she would go into the garden, which sloped in rock-
terraces down to the sea. Wrapped in fur, she would sit there with
a book. She soon knew each evergreen, or flower that was coming
out--aubretia, and laurustinus, a little white flower whose name
was uncertain, and one star-periwinkle. The air was often soft;
the birds sang already and were busy with their weddings, and
twice, at least, spring came in her heart--that wonderful feeling
when first the whole being scents new life preparing in the earth
and the wind--the feeling that only comes when spring is not yet,
and one aches and rejoices all at once. Seagulls often came over
her, craning down their greedy bills and uttering cries like a
Out here she had feelings, that she did not get with him, of being
at one with everything. She did not realize how tremendously she
had grown up in these few days, how the ground bass had already
come into the light music of her life. Living with Fiorsen was
opening her eyes to much beside mere knowledge of "man's nature";
with her perhaps fatal receptivity, she was already soaking up the
atmosphere of his philosophy. He was always in revolt against
accepting things because he was expected to; but, like most
executant artists, he was no reasoner, just a mere instinctive
kicker against the pricks. He would lose himself in delight with a
sunset, a scent, a tune, a new caress, in a rush of pity for a
beggar or a blind man, a rush of aversion from a man with large
feet or a long nose, of hatred for a woman with a flat chest or an
expression of sanctimony. He would swing along when he was
walking, or dawdle, dawdle; he would sing and laugh, and make her
laugh too till she ached, and half an hour later would sit staring
into some pit of darkness in a sort of powerful brooding of his
whole being. Insensibly she shared in this deep drinking of
sensation, but always gracefully, fastidiously, never losing sense
of other people's feelings.
In his love-raptures, he just avoided setting her nerves on edge,
because he never failed to make her feel his enjoyment of her
beauty; that perpetual consciousness, too, of not belonging to the
proper and respectable, which she had tried to explain to her
father, made her set her teeth against feeling shocked. But in
other ways he did shock her. She could not get used to his utter
oblivion of people's feelings, to the ferocious contempt with which
he would look at those who got on his nerves, and make half-audible
comments, just as he had commented on her own father when he and
Count Rosek passed them, by the Schiller statue. She would visibly
shrink at those remarks, though they were sometimes so
excruciatingly funny that she had to laugh, and feel dreadful
immediately after. She saw that he resented her shrinking; it
seemed to excite him to run amuck the more. But she could not help
it. Once she got up and walked away. He followed her, sat on the
floor beside her knees, and thrust his head, like a great cat,
under her hand.
"Forgive me, my Gyp; but they are such brutes. Who could help it?
Now tell me--who could, except my Gyp?" And she had to forgive
him. But, one evening, when he had been really outrageous during
dinner, she answered:
"No; I can't. It's you that are the brute. You WERE a brute to
He leaped up with a face of furious gloom and went out of the room.
It was the first time he had given way to anger with her. Gyp sat
by the fire, very disturbed; chiefly because she was not really
upset at having hurt him. Surely she ought to be feeling miserable
But when, at ten o'clock, he had not come back, she began to
flutter in earnest. She had said a dreadful thing! And yet, in
her heart, she did not take back her judgment. He really HAD been
a brute. She would have liked to soothe herself by playing, but it
was too late to disturb people, and going to the window, she looked
out over the sea, feeling beaten and confused. This was the first
time she had given free rein to her feeling against what Winton
would have called his "bounderism." If he had been English, she
would never have been attracted by one who could trample so on
other people's feelings. What, then, had attracted her? His
strangeness, wildness, the mesmeric pull of his passion for her,
his music! Nothing could spoil that in him. The sweep, the surge,
and sigh in his playing was like the sea out there, dark, and surf-
edged, beating on the rocks; or the sea deep-coloured in daylight,
with white gulls over it; or the sea with those sinuous paths made
by the wandering currents, the subtle, smiling, silent sea, holding
in suspense its unfathomable restlessness, waiting to surge and
spring again. That was what she wanted from him--not his embraces,
not even his adoration, his wit, or his queer, lithe comeliness
touched with felinity; no, only that in his soul which escaped
through his fingers into the air and dragged at her soul. If, when
he came in, she were to run to him, throw her arms round his neck,
make herself feel close, lose herself in him! Why not? It was her
duty; why not her delight, too? But she shivered. Some instinct
too deep for analysis, something in the very heart of her nerves
made her recoil, as if she were afraid, literally scared of letting
herself go, of loving--the subtlest instinct of self-preservation
against something fatal; against being led on beyond--yes, it was
like that curious, instinctive sinking which some feel at the mere
sight of a precipice, a dread of going near, lest they should be
drawn on and over by resistless attraction.
She passed into their bedroom and began slowly to undress. To go
to bed without knowing where he was, what doing, thinking, seemed
already a little odd; and she sat brushing her hair slowly with the
silver-backed brushes, staring at her own pale face, whose eyes
looked so very large and dark. At last there came to her the
feeling: "I can't help it! I don't care!" And, getting into bed,
she turned out the light. It seemed queer and lonely; there was no
fire. And then, without more ado, she slept.
She had a dream of being between Fiorsen and her father in a
railway-carriage out at sea, with the water rising higher and
higher, swishing and sighing. Awakening always, like a dog, to
perfect presence of mind, she knew that he was playing in the
sitting-room, playing--at what time of night? She lay listening to
a quivering, gibbering tune that she did not know. Should she be
first to make it up, or should she wait for him? Twice she half
slipped out of bed, but both times, as if fate meant her not to
move, he chose that moment to swell out the sound, and each time
she thought: 'No, I can't. It's just the same now; he doesn't care
how many people he wakes up. He does just what he likes, and cares
nothing for anyone.' And covering her ears with her hands, she
continued to lie motionless.
When she withdrew her hands at last, he had stopped. Then she
heard him coming, and feigned sleep. But he did not spare even
sleep. She submitted to his kisses without a word, her heart
hardening within her--surely he smelled of brandy! Next morning he
seemed to have forgotten it all. But Gyp had not. She wanted
badly to know what he had felt, where he had gone, but was too
proud to ask.
She wrote twice to her father in the first week, but afterwards,
except for a postcard now and then, she never could. Why tell him
what she was doing, in company of one whom he could not bear to
think of? Had he been right? To confess that would hurt her pride
too much. But she began to long for London. The thought of her
little house was a green spot to dwell on. When they were settled
in, and could do what they liked without anxiety about people's
feelings, it would be all right perhaps. When he could start again
really working, and she helping him, all would be different. Her
new house, and so much to do; her new garden, and fruit-trees
coming into blossom! She would have dogs and cats, would ride when
Dad was in town. Aunt Rosamund would come, friends, evenings of
music, dances still, perhaps--he danced beautifully, and loved it,
as she did. And his concerts--the elation of being identified with
his success! But, above all, the excitement of making her home as
dainty as she could, with daring experiments in form and colour.
And yet, at heart she knew that to be already looking forward,
banning the present, was a bad sign.
One thing, at all events, she enjoyed--sailing. They had blue days
when even the March sun was warm, and there was just breeze enough.
He got on excellently well with the old salt whose boat they used,
for he was at his best with simple folk, whose lingo he could
understand about as much as they could understand his.
In those hours, Gyp had some real sensations of romance. The sea
was so blue, the rocks and wooded spurs of that Southern coast so
dreamy in the bright land-haze. Oblivious of "the old salt," he
would put his arm round her; out there, she could swallow down her
sense of form, and be grateful for feeling nearer to him in spirit.
She made loyal efforts to understand him in these weeks that were
bringing a certain disillusionment. The elemental part of marriage
was not the trouble; if she did not herself feel passion, she did
not resent his. When, after one of those embraces, his mouth
curled with a little bitter smile, as if to say, "Yes, much you
care for me," she would feel compunctious and yet aggrieved. But
the trouble lay deeper--the sense of an insuperable barrier; and
always that deep, instinctive recoil from letting herself go. She
could not let herself be known, and she could not know him. Why
did his eyes often fix her with a stare that did not seem to see
her? What made him, in the midst of serious playing, break into
some furious or desolate little tune, or drop his violin? What
gave him those long hours of dejection, following the maddest
gaiety? Above all, what dreams had he in those rare moments when
music transformed his strange pale face? Or was it a mere physical
illusion--had he any dreams? "The heart of another is a dark
forest"--to all but the one who loves.
One morning, he held up a letter.
"Ah, ha! Paul Rosek went to see our house. 'A pretty dove's
nest!' he calls it."
The memory of the Pole's sphinxlike, sweetish face, and eyes that
seemed to know so many secrets, always affected Gyp unpleasantly.
She said quietly:
"Why do you like him, Gustav?"
"Like him? Oh, he is useful. A good judge of music, and--many
"I think he is hateful."
"Hateful? Why hateful, my Gyp? He is a good friend. And he
admires you--oh, he admires you very much! He has success with
women. He always says, 'J'ai une technique merveilleuse pour
seduire une femme'"
"Ugh! He's like a toad, I think."
"Ah, I shall tell him that! He will be flattered."
"If you do; if you give me away--I--"
He jumped up and caught her in his arms; his face was so comically
compunctious that she calmed down at once. She thought over her
words afterwards and regretted them. All the same, Rosek was a
sneak and a cold sensualist, she was sure. And the thought that he
had been spying at their little house tarnished her anticipations
They went to Town three days later. While the taxi was skirting
Lord's Cricket-ground, Gyp slipped her hand into Fiorsen's. She
was brimful of excitement. The trees were budding in the gardens
that they passed; the almond-blossom coming--yes, really coming!
They were in the road now. Five, seven, nine--thirteen! Two more!
There it was, nineteen, in white figures on the leaf-green
railings, under the small green lilac buds; yes, and their almond-
blossom was out, too! She could just catch a glimpse over those
tall railings of the low white house with its green outside
shutters. She jumped out almost into the arms of Betty, who stood
smiling all over her broad, flushed face, while, from under each
arm peered forth the head of a black devil, with pricked ears and
eyes as bright as diamonds.
"Betty! What darlings!"
"Major Winton's present, my dear--ma'am!"
Giving the stout shoulders a hug, Gyp seized the black devils, and
ran up the path under the trellis, while the Scotch-terrier pups,
squeezed against her breast, made confused small noises and licked
her nose and ears. Through the square hall she ran into the
drawing-room, which opened out on to the lawn; and there, in the
French window, stood spying back at the spick-and-span room, where
everything was, of course, placed just wrong. The colouring,
white, ebony, and satinwood, looked nicer even than she had hoped.
Out in the garden--her own garden--the pear-trees were thickening,
but not in blossom yet; a few daffodils were in bloom along the
walls, and a magnolia had one bud opened. And all the time she
kept squeezing the puppies to her, enjoying their young, warm,
fluffy savour, and letting them kiss her. She ran out of the
drawing-room, up the stairs. Her bedroom, the dressing-room, the
spare room, the bathroom--she dashed into them all. Oh, it was
nice to be in your own place, to be--Suddenly she felt herself
lifted off the ground from behind, and in that undignified
position, her eyes flying, she turned her face till he could reach
To wake, and hear the birds at early practise, and feel that winter
is over--is there any pleasanter moment?
That first morning in her new house, Gyp woke with the sparrow, or
whatever the bird which utters the first cheeps and twitters, soon
eclipsed by so much that is more important in bird-song. It seemed
as if all the feathered creatures in London must be assembled in
her garden; and the old verse came into her head:
"All dear Nature's children sweet
Lie at bride and bridegroom's feet,
Blessing their sense.
Not a creature of the air,
Bird melodious or bird fair,
Be absent hence!"
She turned and looked at her husband. He lay with his head
snoozled down into the pillow, so that she could only see his
thick, rumpled hair. And a shiver went through her, exactly as if
a strange man were lying there. Did he really belong to her, and
she to him--for good? And was this their house--together? It all
seemed somehow different, more serious and troubling, in this
strange bed, of this strange room, that was to be so permanent.
Careful not to wake him, she slipped out and stood between the
curtains and the window. Light was all in confusion yet; away low
down behind the trees, the rose of dawn still clung. One might
almost have been in the country, but for the faint, rumorous noises
of the town beginning to wake, and that film of ground-mist which
veils the feet of London mornings. She thought: "I am mistress in
this house, have to direct it all--see to everything! And my pups!
Oh, what do they eat?"
That was the first of many hours of anxiety, for she was very
conscientious. Her fastidiousness desired perfection, but her
sensitiveness refused to demand it of others--especially servants.
Why should she harry them?
Fiorsen had not the faintest notion of regularity. She found that
he could not even begin to appreciate her struggles in
housekeeping. And she was much too proud to ask his help, or
perhaps too wise, since he was obviously unfit to give it. To live
like the birds of the air was his motto. Gyp would have liked
nothing better; but, for that, one must not have a house with three
servants, several meals, two puppy-dogs, and no great experience of
how to deal with any of them.
She spoke of her difficulties to no one and suffered the more.
With Betty--who, bone-conservative, admitted Fiorsen as hardly as
she had once admitted Winton--she had to be very careful. But her
great trouble was with her father. Though she longed to see him,
she literally dreaded their meeting. He first came--as he had been
wont to come when she was a tiny girl--at the hour when he thought
the fellow to whom she now belonged would most likely be out. Her
heart beat, when she saw him under the trellis. She opened the
door herself, and hung about him so that his shrewd eyes should not
see her face. And she began at once to talk of the puppies, whom
she had named Don and Doff. They were perfect darlings; nothing
was safe from them; her slippers were completely done for; they had
already got into her china-cabinet and gone to sleep there! He
must come and see all over.
Hooking her arm into his, and talking all the time, she took him
up-stairs and down, and out into the garden, to the studio, or
music-room, at the end, which had an entrance to itself on to a
back lane. This room had been the great attraction. Fiorsen could
practice there in peace. Winton went along with her very quietly,
making a shrewd comment now and then. At the far end of the
garden, looking over the wall, down into that narrow passage which
lay between it and the back of another garden he squeezed her arm
suddenly and said:
"Well, Gyp, what sort of a time?"
The question had come at last.
"Oh, rather lovely--in some ways." But she did not look at him,
nor he at her. "See, Dad! The cats have made quite a path there!"
Winton bit his lips and turned from the wall. The thought of that
fellow was bitter within him. She meant to tell him nothing, meant
to keep up that lighthearted look--which didn't deceive him a bit!
"Look at my crocuses! It's really spring today!"
It was. Even a bee or two had come. The tiny leaves had a
transparent look, too thin as yet to keep the sunlight from passing
through them. The purple, delicate-veined crocuses, with little
flames of orange blowing from their centres, seemed to hold the
light as in cups. A wind, without harshness, swung the boughs; a
dry leaf or two still rustled round here and there. And on the
grass, and in the blue sky, and on the almond-blossom was the first
spring brilliance. Gyp clasped her hands behind her head.
"Lovely--to feel the spring!"
And Winton thought: 'She's changed!' She had softened, quickened--
more depth of colour in her, more gravity, more sway in her body,
more sweetness in her smile. But--was she happy?
A voice said:
"Ah, what a pleasure!"
The fellow had slunk up like the great cat he was. And it seemed
to Winton that Gyp had winced.
"Dad thinks we ought to have dark curtains in the music-room,
Fiorsen made a bow.
"Yes, yes--like a London club."
Winton, watching, was sure of supplication in her face. And,
forcing a smile, he said:
"You seem very snug here. Glad to see you again. Gyp looks
Another of those bows he so detested! Mountebank! Never, never
would he be able to stand the fellow! But he must not, would not,
show it. And, as soon as he decently could, he went, taking his
lonely way back through this region, of which his knowledge was
almost limited to Lord's Cricket-ground, with a sense of doubt and
desolation, an irritation more than ever mixed with the resolve to
be always at hand if the child wanted him.
He had not been gone ten minutes before Aunt Rosamund appeared,
with a crutch-handled stick and a gentlemanly limp, for she, too,
indulged her ancestors in gout. A desire for exclusive possession
of their friends is natural to some people, and the good lady had
not known how fond she was of her niece till the girl had slipped
off into this marriage. She wanted her back, to go about with and
make much of, as before. And her well-bred drawl did not quite
disguise this feeling.
Gyp could detect Fiorsen subtly mimicking that drawl; and her ears
began to burn. The puppies afforded a diversion--their points,
noses, boldness, and food, held the danger in abeyance for some
minutes. Then the mimicry began again. When Aunt Rosamund had
taken a somewhat sudden leave, Gyp stood at the window of her
drawing-room with the mask off her face. Fiorsen came up, put his
arm round her from behind, and said with a fierce sigh:
"Are they coming often--these excellent people?"
Gyp drew back from him against the wall.
"If you love me, why do you try to hurt the people who love me
"Because I am jealous. I am jealous even of those puppies."
"And shall you try to hurt them?"
"If I see them too much near you, perhaps I shall."
"Do you think I can be happy if you hurt things because they love
He sat down and drew her on to his knee. She did not resist, but
made not the faintest return to his caresses. The first time--the
very first friend to come into her own new home! It was too much!
Fiorsen said hoarsely:
"You do not love me. If you loved me, I should feel it through
your lips. I should see it in your eyes. Oh, love me, Gyp! You
But to say to Love: "Stand and deliver!" was not the way to touch
Gyp. It seemed to her mere ill-bred stupidity. She froze against
him in soul, all the more that she yielded her body. When a woman
refuses nothing to one whom she does not really love, shadows are
already falling on the bride-house. And Fiorsen knew it; but his
self-control about equalled that of the two puppies.
Yet, on the whole, these first weeks in her new home were happy,
too busy to allow much room for doubting or regret. Several
important concerts were fixed for May. She looked forward to these
with intense eagerness, and pushed everything that interfered with
preparation into the background. As though to make up for that
instinctive recoil from giving her heart, of which she was always
subconscious, she gave him all her activities, without calculation
or reserve. She was ready to play for him all day and every day,
just as from the first she had held herself at the disposal of his
passion. To fail him in these ways would have tarnished her
opinion of herself. But she had some free hours in the morning,
for he had the habit of lying in bed till eleven, and was never
ready for practise before twelve. In those early hours she got
through her orders and her shopping--that pursuit which to so many
women is the only real "sport"--a chase of the ideal; a pitting of
one's taste and knowledge against that of the world at large; a
secret passion, even in the beautiful, for making oneself and one's
house more beautiful. Gyp never went shopping without that faint
thrill running up and down her nerves. She hated to be touched by
strange fingers, but not even that stopped her pleasure in turning
and turning before long mirrors, while the saleswoman or man, with
admiration at first crocodilic and then genuine, ran the tips of
fingers over those curves, smoothing and pinning, and uttering the
On other mornings, she would ride with Winton, who would come for
her, leaving her again at her door after their outings. One day,
after a ride in Richmond Park, where the horse-chestnuts were just
coming into flower, they had late breakfast on the veranda of a
hotel before starting for home. Some fruit-trees were still in
blossom just below them, and the sunlight showering down from a
blue sky brightened to silver the windings of the river, and to
gold the budding leaves of the oak-trees. Winton, smoking his
after-breakfast cigar, stared down across the tops of those trees
toward the river and the wooded fields beyond. Stealing a glance
at him, Gyp said very softly:
"Did you ever ride with my mother, Dad?"
"Only once--the very ride we've been to-day. She was on a black
mare; I had a chestnut--" Yes, in that grove on the little hill,
which they had ridden through that morning, he had dismounted and
stood beside her.
Gyp stretched her hand across the table and laid it on his.
"Tell me about her, dear. Was she beautiful?"
"Very like you, Gyp. A little--a little"--he did not know how to
describe that difference--"a little more foreign-looking perhaps.
One of her grandmothers was Italian, you know."
"How did you come to love her? Suddenly?"
"As suddenly as"--he drew his hand away and laid it on the veranda
rail--"as that sun came on my hand."
Gyp said quietly, as if to herself:
"Yes; I don't think I understand that--yet."
Winton drew breath through his teeth with a subdued hiss.
"Did she love you at first sight, too?"
He blew out a long puff of smoke.
"One easily believes what one wants to--but I think she did. She
used to say so."
"And how long?"
"Only a year."
Gyp said very softly:
"Poor darling Dad." And suddenly she added: "I can't bear to think
I killed her--I can't bear it!"
Winton got up in the discomfort of these sudden confidences; a
blackbird, startled by the movement, ceased his song. Gyp said in
a hard voice:
"No; I don't want to have any children."
"Without that, I shouldn't have had you, Gyp."
"No; but I don't want to have them. And I don't--I don't want to
love like that. I should be afraid."
Winton looked at her for a long time without speaking, his brows
drawn down, frowning, puzzled, as though over his own past.
"Love," he said, "it catches you, and you're gone. When it comes,
you welcome it, whether it's to kill you or not. Shall we start
back, my child?"
When she got home, it was not quite noon. She hurried over her
bath and dressing, and ran out to the music-room. Its walls had
been hung with Willesden scrim gilded over; the curtains were
silver-grey; there was a divan covered with silver-and-gold stuff,
and a beaten brass fireplace. It was a study in silver, and gold,
save for two touches of fantasy--a screen round the piano-head,
covered with brilliantly painted peacocks' tails, and a blue
Persian vase, in which were flowers of various hues of red.
Fiorsen was standing at the window in a fume of cigarette smoke.
He did not turn round. Gyp put her hand within his arm, and said:
"So sorry, dear. But it's only just half-past twelve."
His face was as if the whole world had injured him.
"Pity you came back! Very nice, riding, I'm sure!"
Could she not go riding with her own father? What insensate
jealousy and egomania! She turned away, without a word, and sat
down at the piano. She was not good at standing injustice--not
good at all! The scent of brandy, too, was mixed with the fumes of
his cigarette. Drink in the morning was so ugly--really horrid!
She sat at the piano, waiting. He would be like this till he had
played away the fumes of his ill mood, and then he would come and
paw her shoulders and put his lips to her neck. Yes; but it was
not the way to behave, not the way to make her love him. And she
"Gustav; what exactly have I done that you dislike?"
"You have had a father."
Gyp sat quite still for a few seconds, and then began to laugh. He
looked so like a sulky child, standing there. He turned swiftly on
her and put his hand over her mouth. She looked up over that hand
which smelled of tobacco. Her heart was doing the grand ecart
within her, this way in compunction, that way in resentment. His
eyes fell before hers; he dropped his hand.
"Well, shall we begin?" she said.
He answered roughly: "No," and went out into the garden.
Gyp was left dismayed, disgusted. Was it possible that she could
have taken part in such a horrid little scene? She remained
sitting at the piano, playing over and over a single passage,
without heeding what it was.
So far, they had seen nothing of Rosek at the little house. She
wondered if Fiorsen had passed on to him her remark, though if he
had, he would surely say he hadn't; she had learned that her
husband spoke the truth when convenient, not when it caused him
pain. About music, or any art, however, he could be implicitly
relied on; and his frankness was appalling when his nerves were
But at the first concert she saw Rosek's unwelcome figure on the
other side of the gangway, two rows back. He was talking to a
young girl, whose face, short and beautifully formed, had the
opaque transparency of alabaster. With her round blue eyes fixed
on him, and her lips just parted, she had a slightly vacant look.
Her laugh, too, was just a little vacant. And yet her features
were so beautiful, her hair so smooth and fair, her colouring so
pale and fine, her neck so white and round, the poise of her body
so perfect that Gyp found it difficult to take her glance away.
She had refused her aunt's companionship. It might irritate
Fiorsen and affect his playing to see her with "that stiff English
creature." She wanted, too, to feel again the sensations of
Wiesbaden. There would be a kind of sacred pleasure in knowing
that she had helped to perfect sounds which touched the hearts and
senses of so many listeners. She had looked forward to this
concert so long. And she sat scarcely breathing, abstracted from
consciousness of those about her, soft and still, radiating warmth
Fiorsen looked his worst, as ever, when first coming before an
audience--cold, furtive, defensive, defiant, half turned away, with
those long fingers tightening the screws, touching the strings. It
seemed queer to think that only six hours ago she had stolen out of
bed from beside him. Wiesbaden! No; this was not like Wiesbaden!
And when he played she had not the same emotions. She had heard
him now too often, knew too exactly how he produced those sounds;
knew that their fire and sweetness and nobility sprang from
fingers, ear, brain--not from his soul. Nor was it possible any
longer to drift off on those currents of sound into new worlds, to
hear bells at dawn, and the dews of evening as they fell, to feel
the divinity of wind and sunlight. The romance and ecstasy that at
Wiesbaden had soaked her spirit came no more. She was watching for
the weak spots, the passages with which he had struggled and she
had struggled; she was distracted by memories of petulance, black
moods, and sudden caresses. And then she caught his eye. The look
was like, yet how unlike, those looks at Wiesbaden. It had the old
love-hunger, but had lost the adoration, its spiritual essence.
And she thought: 'Is it my fault, or is it only because he has me
now to do what he likes with?' It was all another disillusionment,
perhaps the greatest yet. But she kindled and flushed at the
applause, and lost herself in pleasure at his success. At the
interval, she slipped out at once, for her first visit to the
artist's room, the mysterious enchantment of a peep behind the
scenes. He was coming down from his last recall; and at sight of
her his look of bored contempt vanished; lifting her hand, he
kissed it. Gyp felt happier than she had since her marriage. Her
eyes shone, and she whispered:
He whispered back:
"So! Do you love me, Gyp?"
She nodded. And at that moment she did, or thought so.
Then people began to come; amongst them her old music-master,
Monsieur Harmost, grey and mahogany as ever, who, after a
"Merveilleux," "Tres fort" or two to Fiorsen, turned his back on
him to talk to his old pupil.
So she had married Fiorsen--dear, dear! That was extraordinary,
but extraordinary! And what was it like, to be always with him--a
little funny--not so? And how was her music? It would be spoiled
now. Ah, what a pity! No? She must come to him, then; yes, come
again. All the time he patted her arm, as if playing the piano,
and his fingers, that had the touch of an angel, felt the firmness
of her flesh, as though debating whether she were letting it
deteriorate. He seemed really to have missed "his little friend,"
to be glad at seeing her again; and Gyp, who never could withstand
appreciation, smiled at him. More people came. She saw Rosek
talking to her husband, and the young alabaster girl standing
silent, her lips still a little parted, gazing up at Fiorsen. A
perfect figure, though rather short; a dovelike face, whose
exquisitely shaped, just-opened lips seemed to be demanding sugar-
plums. She could not be more than nineteen. Who was she?
A voice said almost in her ear:
"How do you do, Mrs. Fiorsen? I am fortunate to see you again at
She was obliged to turn. If Gustav had given her away, one would
never know it from this velvet-masked creature, with his suave
watchfulness and ready composure, who talked away so smoothly.
What was it that she so disliked in him? Gyp had acute instincts,
the natural intelligence deep in certain natures not over
intellectual, but whose "feelers" are too delicate to be deceived.
And, for something to say, she asked:
"Who is the girl you were talking to, Count Rosek? Her face is so
He smiled, exactly the smile she had so disliked at Wiesbaden;
following his glance, she saw her husband talking to the girl,
whose lips at that moment seemed more than ever to ask for
"A young dancer, Daphne Wing--she will make a name. A dove flying!
So you admire her, Madame Gyp?"
Gyp said, smiling:
"She's very pretty--I can imagine her dancing beautifully."
"Will you come one day and see her? She has still to make her
"Thank you. I don't know. I love dancing, of course."
"Good! I will arrange it."
And Gyp thought: "No, no! I don't want to have anything to do with
you! Why do I not speak the truth? Why didn't I say I hate
Just then a bell sounded; people began hurrying away. The girl
came up to Rosek.
"Miss Daphne Wing--Mrs. Fiorsen."
Gyp put out her hand with a smile--this girl was certainly a
picture. Miss Daphne Wing smiled, too, and said, with the
intonation of those who have been carefully corrected of an accent:
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, how beautifully your husband plays--doesn't he?"
It was not merely the careful speech but something lacking when the
perfect mouth moved--spirit, sensibility, who could say? And Gyp
felt sorry, as at blight on a perfect flower. With a friendly nod,
she turned away to Fiorsen, who was waiting to go up on to the
platform. Was it at her or at the girl he had been looking? She
smiled at him and slid away. In the corridor, Rosek, in
"Why not this evening? Come with Gustav to my rooms. She shall
dance to us, and we will all have supper. She admires you, Madame
Gyp. She will love to dance for you."
Gyp longed for the simple brutality to say: "I don't want to come.
I don't like you!" But all she could manage was:
"Thank you. I--I will ask Gustav."
Once in her seat again, she rubbed the cheek that his breath had
touched. A girl was singing now--one of those faces that Gyp
always admired, reddish-gold hair, blue eyes--the very antithesis
of herself--and the song was "The Bens of Jura," that strange
outpouring from a heart broken by love:
"And my heart reft of its own sun--"
Tears rose in her eyes, and the shiver of some very deep response
passed through her. What was it Dad had said: "Love catches you,
and you're gone!"
She, who was the result of love like that, did not want to love!
The girl finished singing. There was little applause. Yet she had
sung beautifully; and what more wonderful song in the world? Was
it too tragic, too painful, too strange--not "pretty" enough? Gyp
felt sorry for her. Her head ached now. She would so have liked
to slip away when it was all over. But she had not the needful
rudeness. She would have to go through with this evening at
Rosek's and be gay. And why not? Why this shadow over everything?
But it was no new sensation, that of having entered by her own free
will on a life which, for all effort, would not give her a feeling
of anchorage or home. Of her own accord she had stepped into the
On the way to Rosek's rooms, she disguised from Fiorsen her
headache and depression. He was in one of his boy-out-of-school
moods, elated by applause, mimicking her old master, the idolatries
of his worshippers, Rosek, the girl dancer's upturned expectant
lips. And he slipped his arm round Gyp in the cab, crushing her
against him and sniffing at her cheek as if she had been a flower.
Rosek had the first floor of an old-time mansion in Russell Square.
The smell of incense or some kindred perfume was at once about one;
and, on the walls of the dark hall, electric light burned, in jars
of alabaster picked up in the East. The whole place was in fact a
sanctum of the collector's spirit. Its owner had a passion for
black--the walls, divans, picture-frames, even some of the tilings
were black, with glimmerings of gold, ivory, and moonlight. On a
round black table there stood a golden bowl filled with moonlight-
coloured velvety "palm" and "honesty"; from a black wall gleamed
out the ivory mask of a faun's face; from a dark niche the little
silver figure of a dancing girl. It was beautiful, but deathly.
And Gyp, though excited always by anything new, keenly alive to
every sort of beauty, felt a longing for air and sunlight. It was
a relief to get close to one of the black-curtained windows, and
see the westering sun shower warmth and light on the trees of the
Square gardens. She was introduced to a Mr. and Mrs. Gallant, a
dark-faced, cynical-looking man with clever, malicious eyes, and
one of those large cornucopias of women with avid blue stares. The
little dancer was not there. She had "gone to put on nothing,"
Rosek informed them.
He took Gyp the round of his treasures, scarabs, Rops drawings,
death-masks, Chinese pictures, and queer old flutes, with an air of
displaying them for the first time to one who could truly
appreciate. And she kept thinking of that saying, "Une technique
merveilleuse." Her instinct apprehended the refined bone-
viciousness of this place, where nothing, save perhaps taste, would
be sacred. It was her first glimpse into that gilt-edged bohemia,
whence the generosities, the elans, the struggles of the true
bohemia are as rigidly excluded as from the spheres where bishops
moved. But she talked and smiled; and no one could have told that
her nerves were crisping as if at contact with a corpse. While
showing her those alabaster jars, her host had laid his hand softly
on her wrist, and in taking it away, he let his fingers, with a
touch softer than a kitten's paw, ripple over the skin, then put
them to his lips. Ah, there it was--the--the TECHNIQUE! A
desperate desire to laugh seized her. And he saw it--oh, yes, he
saw it! He gave her one look, passed that same hand over his
smooth face, and--behold!--it showed as before, unmortified,
unconscious. A deadly little man!
When they returned to the salon, as it was called, Miss Daphne Wing
in a black kimono, whence her face and arms emerged more like
alabaster than ever, was sitting on a divan beside Fiorsen. She
rose at once and came across to Gyp.
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen"--why did everything she said begin with "Oh"--
"isn't this room lovely? It's perfect for dancing. I only brought
cream, and flame-colour; they go so beautifully with black."
She threw back her kimono for Gyp to inspect her dress--a girdled
cream-coloured shift, which made her ivory arms and neck seem more
than ever dazzling; and her mouth opened, as if for a sugar-plum of
praise. Then, lowering her voice, she murmured:
"Do you know, I'm rather afraid of Count Rosek."
"Oh, I don't know; he's so critical, and smooth, and he comes up so
quietly. I do think your husband plays wonderfully. Oh, Mrs.
Fiorsen, you are beautiful, aren't you?" Gyp laughed. "What would
you like me to dance first? A waltz of Chopin's?"
"Yes; I love Chopin."
"Then I shall. I shall dance exactly what you like, because I do
admire you, and I'm sure you're awfully sweet. Oh, yes; you are; I
can see that! And I think your husband's awfully in love with you.
I should be, if I were a man. You know, I've been studying five
years, and I haven't come out yet. But now Count Rosek's going to
back me, I expect it'll be very soon. Will you come to my first
night? Mother says I've got to be awfully careful. She only let
me come this evening because you were going to be here. Would you
like me to begin?"
She slid across to Rosek, and Gyp heard her say:
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen wants me to begin; a Chopin waltz, please. The
one that goes like this."
Rosek went to the piano, the little dancer to the centre of the
room. Gyp sat down beside Fiorsen.
Rosek began playing, his eyes fixed on the girl, and his mouth
loosened from compression in a sweetish smile. Miss Daphne Wing
was standing with her finger-tips joined at her breast--a perfect
statue of ebony and palest wax. Suddenly she flung away the black
kimono. A thrill swept Gyp from head to foot. She COULD dance--
that common little girl! Every movement of her round, sinuous
body, of her bare limbs, had the ecstasy of natural genius,
controlled by the quivering balance of a really fine training. "A
dove flying!" So she was. Her face had lost its vacancy, or
rather its vacancy had become divine, having that look--not lost
but gone before--which dance demands. Yes, she was a gem, even if
she had a common soul. Tears came up in Gyp's eyes. It was so
lovely--like a dove, when it flings itself up in the wind,
breasting on up, up--wings bent back, poised. Abandonment,
freedom--chastened, shaped, controlled!
When, after the dance, the girl came and sat down beside her, she
squeezed her hot little hand, but the caress was for her art, not
for this moist little person with the lips avid of sugar-plums.
"Oh, did you like it? I'm so glad. Shall I go and put on my
The moment she was gone, comment broke out freely. The dark and
cynical Gallant thought the girl's dancing like a certain
Napierkowska whom he had seen in Moscow, without her fire--the
touch of passion would have to be supplied. She wanted love!
Love! And suddenly Gyp was back in the concert-hall, listening to
that other girl singing the song of a broken heart.
"Thy kiss, dear love--
Like watercress gathered fresh from cool streams."
Love! in this abode--of fauns' heads, deep cushions, silver dancing
girls! Love! She had a sudden sense of deep abasement. What was
she, herself, but just a feast for a man's senses? Her home, what
but a place like this? Miss Daphne Wing was back again. Gyp
looked at her husband's face while she was dancing. His lips! How
was it that she could see that disturbance in him, and not care?
If she had really loved him, to see his lips like that would have
hurt her, but she might have understood perhaps, and forgiven. Now
she neither quite understood nor quite forgave.
And that night, when he kissed her, she murmured:
"Would you rather it were that girl--not me?"
"That girl! I could swallow her at a draft. But you, my Gyp--I
want to drink for ever!"
Was that true? IF she had loved him--how good to hear!
After this, Gyp was daily more and more in contact with high
bohemia, that curious composite section of society which embraces
the neck of music, poetry, and the drama. She was a success, but
secretly she felt that she did not belong to it, nor, in truth, did
Fiorsen, who was much too genuine a bohemian, and artist, and
mocked at the Gallants and even the Roseks of this life, as he
mocked at Winton, Aunt Rosamund, and their world. Life with him
had certainly one effect on Gyp; it made her feel less and less a
part of that old orthodox, well-bred world which she had known
before she married him; but to which she had confessed to Winton
she had never felt that she belonged, since she knew the secret of
her birth. She was, in truth, much too impressionable, too avid of
beauty, and perhaps too naturally critical to accept the dictates
of their fact-and-form-governed routine; only, of her own accord,
she would never have had initiative enough to step out of its
circle. Loosened from those roots, unable to attach herself to
this new soil, and not spiritually leagued with her husband, she
was more and more lonely. Her only truly happy hours were those
spent with Winton or at her piano or with her puppies. She was
always wondering at what she had done, longing to find the deep,
the sufficient reason for having done it. But the more she sought
and longed, the deeper grew her bewilderment, her feeling of being
in a cage. Of late, too, another and more definite uneasiness had
come to her.
She spent much time in her garden, where the blossoms had all
dropped, lilac was over, acacias coming into bloom, and blackbirds
Winton, who, by careful experiment, had found that from half-past
three to six there was little or no chance of stumbling across his
son-in-law, came in nearly every day for tea and a quiet cigar on
the lawn. He was sitting there with Gyp one afternoon, when Betty,
who usurped the functions of parlour-maid whenever the whim moved
her, brought out a card on which were printed the words, "Miss
"Bring her out, please, Betty dear, and some fresh tea, and
buttered toast--plenty of buttered toast; yes, and the chocolates,
and any other sweets there are, Betty darling."
Betty, with that expression which always came over her when she was
called "darling," withdrew across the grass, and Gyp said to her
"It's the little dancer I told you of, Dad. Now you'll see
something perfect. Only, she'll be dressed. It's a pity."
She was. The occasion had evidently exercised her spirit. In warm
ivory, shrouded by leaf-green chiffon, with a girdle of tiny
artificial leaves, and a lightly covered head encircled by other
green leaves, she was somewhat like a nymph peering from a bower.
If rather too arresting, it was charming, and, after all, no frock
could quite disguise the beauty of her figure. She was evidently
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I thought you wouldn't mind my coming. I did so
want to see you again. Count Rosek said he thought I might. It's
all fixed for my coming-out. Oh, how do you do?" And with lips
and eyes opening at Winton, she sat down in the chair he placed for
her. Gyp, watching his expression, felt inclined to laugh. Dad,
and Daphne Wing! And the poor girl so evidently anxious to make a
good impression! Presently she asked:
"Have you been dancing at Count Rosek's again lately?"
"Oh, yes, haven't you--didn't you--I--" And she stopped.
The thought flashed through Gyp, 'So Gustav's been seeing her, and
hasn't told me!' But she said at once:
"Ah, yes, of course; I forgot. When is the night of your coming-
"Next Friday week. Fancy! The Octagon. Isn't it splendid?
They've given me such a good engagement. I do so want you and Mr.
Fiorsen to come, though!"
Gyp, smiling, murmured:
"Of course we will. My father loves dancing, too; don't you, Dad?"
Winton took his cigar from his mouth.
"When it's good," he said, urbanely.
"Oh, mine IS good; isn't it, Mrs. Fiorsen? I mean, I HAVE worked--
ever since I was thirteen, you know. I simply love it. I think
YOU would dance beautifully, Mrs. Fiorsen. You've got such a
perfect figure. I simply love to see you walk."
Gyp flushed, and said:
"Do have one of these, Miss Wing--they've got whole raspberries
The little dancer put one in her mouth.
"Oh, but please don't call me Miss Wing! I wish you'd call me
Daphne. Mr. Fior--everybody does."
Conscious of her father's face, Gyp murmured:
"It's a lovely name. Won't you have another? These are apricot."
"They're perfect. You know, my first dress is going to be all
orange-blossom; Mr. Fiorsen suggested that. But I expect he told
you. Perhaps you suggested it really; did you?" Gyp shook her
head. "Count Rosek says the world is waiting for me--" She paused
with a sugar-plum halfway to her lips, and added doubtfully: "Do
you think that's true?"
Gyp answered with a soft: "I hope so."
"He says I'm something new. It would be nice to think that. He
has great taste; so has Mr. Fiorsen, hasn't he?"
Conscious of the compression in the lips behind the smoke of her
father's cigar, and with a sudden longing to get up and walk away,
The little dancer placed the sweet in her mouth, and said
"Of course he has; because he married you."
Then, seeming to grow conscious of Winton's eyes fixed so intently
on her, she became confused, swallowed hastily, and said:
"Oh, isn't it lovely here--like the country! I'm afraid I must go;
it's my practice-time. It's so important for me not to miss any
now, isn't it?" And she rose.
Winton got up, too. Gyp saw the girl's eyes, lighting on his rigid
hand, grow round and rounder; and from her, walking past the side
of the house, the careful voice floated back:
"Oh, I do hope--" But what, could not be heard.
Sinking back in her chair, Gyp sat motionless. Bees were murmurous
among her flowers, pigeons murmurous among the trees; the sunlight
warmed her knees, and her stretched-out feet through the openwork
of her stockings. The maid's laughter, the delicious growling of
the puppies at play in the kitchen came drifting down the garden,
with the distant cry of a milkman up the road. All was very
peaceful. But in her heart were such curious, baffled emotions,
such strange, tangled feelings. This moment of enlightenment
regarding the measure of her husband's frankness came close on the
heels of the moment fate had chosen for another revelation, for
clinching within her a fear felt for weeks past. She had said to
Winton that she did not want to have a child. In those conscious
that their birth has caused death or even too great suffering,
there is sometimes this hostile instinct. She had not even the
consolation that Fiorsen wanted children; she knew that he did not.
And now she was sure one was coming. But it was more than that.
She had not reached, and knew she could not reach, that point of
spirit-union which alone makes marriage sacred, and the sacrifices
demanded by motherhood a joy. She was fairly caught in the web of
her foolish and presumptuous mistake! So few months of marriage--
and so sure that it was a failure, so hopeless for the future! In
the light of this new certainty, it was terrifying. A hard,
natural fact is needed to bring a yearning and bewildered spirit to
knowledge of the truth. Disillusionment is not welcome to a
woman's heart; the less welcome when it is disillusionment with
self as much as with another. Her great dedication--her scheme of
life! She had been going to--what?--save Fiorsen from himself! It
was laughable. She had only lost herself. Already she felt in
prison, and by a child would be all the more bound. To some women,
the knowledge that a thing must be brings assuagement of the
nerves. Gyp was the opposite of those. To force her was the way
to stiver up every contrary emotion. She might will herself to
acquiesce, but--one cannot change one's nature.
And so, while the pigeons cooed and the sunlight warmed her feet,
she spent the bitterest moments of her life--so far. Pride came to
her help. She had made a miserable mess of it, but no one must
know--certainly not her father, who had warned her so desperately!
She had made her bed, and she would have to lie on it.
When Winton came back, he found her smiling, and said:
"I don't see the fascination, Gyp."
"Don't you think her face really rather perfect?"
"Yes; but that drops off when she's dancing."
Winton looked at her from under half-closed eyelids.
"With her clothes? What does Fiorsen think of her?"
"Does he think of her? I don't know."
She could feel the watchful tightening of his face. And suddenly
"Daphne Wing! By George!"
The words were a masterpiece of resentment and distrust. His
daughter in peril from--such as that!
After he was gone Gyp sat on till the sun had quite vanished and
the dew was stealing through her thin frock. She would think of
anything, anybody except herself! To make others happy was the way
to be happy--or so they said. She would try--must try. Betty--so
stout, and with that rheumatism in her leg--did she ever think of
herself? Or Aunt Rosamund, with her perpetual rescuings of lost
dogs, lame horses, and penniless musicians? And Dad, for all his
man-of-the-world ways, was he not always doing little things for
the men of his old regiment, always thinking of her, too, and what
he could do to give her pleasure? To love everybody, and bring
them happiness! Was it not possible? Only, people were hard to
love, different from birds and beasts and flowers, to love which
seemed natural and easy.
She went up to her room and began to dress for dinner. Which of
her frocks did he like best? The pale, low-cut amber, or that
white, soft one, with the coffee-dipped lace? She decided on the
latter. Scrutinizing her supple, slender image in the glass, a
shudder went through her. That would all go; she would be like
those women taking careful exercise in the streets, who made her
wonder at their hardihood in showing themselves. It wasn't fair
that one must become unsightly, offensive to the eye, in order to
bring life into the world. Some women seemed proud to be like
that. How was that possible? She would never dare to show herself
in the days coming.
She finished dressing and went downstairs. It was nearly eight,
and Fiorsen had not come in. When the gong was struck, she turned
from the window with a sigh, and went in to dinner. That sigh had
been relief. She ate her dinner with the two pups beside her, sent
them off, and sat down at her piano. She played Chopin--studies,
waltzes, mazurkas, preludes, a polonaise or two. And Betty, who
had a weakness for that composer, sat on a chair by the door which
partitioned off the back premises, having opened it a little. She
wished she could go and take a peep at her "pretty" in her white
frock, with the candle-flames on each side, and those lovely lilies
in the vase close by, smelling beautiful. And one of the maids
coming too near, she shooed her angrily away.
It grew late. The tray had been brought up; the maids had gone to
bed. Gyp had long stopped playing, had turned out, ready to go up,
and, by the French window, stood gazing out into the dark. How
warm it was--warm enough to draw forth the scent of the jessamine
along the garden wall! Not a star. There always seemed so few
stars in London. A sound made her swing round. Something tall was
over there in the darkness, by the open door. She heard a sigh,
and called out, frightened:
"Is that you, Gustav?"
He spoke some words that she could not understand. Shutting the
window quickly, she went toward him. Light from the hall lit up
one side of his face and figure. He was pale; his eyes shone
strangely; his sleeve was all white. He said thickly:
"Little ghost!" and then some words that must be Swedish. It was
the first time Gyp had ever come to close quarters with
drunkenness. And her thought was simply: 'How awful if anybody
were to see--how awful!' She made a rush to get into the hall and
lock the door leading to the back regions, but he caught her frock,
ripping the lace from her neck, and his entangled fingers clutched
her shoulder. She stopped dead, fearing to make a noise or pull
him over, and his other hand clutched her other shoulder, so that
he stood steadying himself by her. Why was she not shocked,
smitten to the ground with grief and shame and rage? She only
felt: "What am I to do? How get him upstairs without anyone
knowing?" And she looked up into his face--it seemed to her so
pathetic with its shining eyes and its staring whiteness that she
could have burst into tears. She said gently:
"Gustav, it's all right. Lean on me; we'll go up."
His hands, that seemed to have no power or purpose, touched her
cheeks, mechanically caressing. More than disgust, she felt that
awful pity. Putting her arm round his waist, she moved with him
toward the stairs. If only no one heard; if only she could get him
quietly up! And she murmured:
"Don't talk; you're not well. Lean on me hard."
He seemed to make a big effort; his lips puffed out, and with an
expression of pride that would have been comic if not so tragic, he
Holding him close with all her strength, as she might have held one
desperately loved, she began to mount. It was easier than she had
thought. Only across the landing now, into the bedroom, and then
the danger would be over. Done! He was lying across the bed, and
the door shut. Then, for a moment, she gave way to a fit of
shivering so violent that she could hear her teeth chattering yet
could not stop them. She caught sight of herself in the big
mirror. Her pretty lace was all torn; her shoulders were red where
his hands had gripped her, holding himself up. She threw off her
dress, put on a wrapper, and went up to him. He was lying in a
sort of stupor, and with difficulty she got him to sit up and lean
against the bed-rail. Taking off his tie and collar, she racked
her brains for what to give him. Sal volatile! Surely that must
be right. It brought him to himself, so that he even tried to kiss
her. At last he was in bed, and she stood looking at him. His
eyes were closed; he would not see if she gave way now. But she
would not cry--she would not. One sob came--but that was all.
Well, there was nothing to be done now but get into bed too. She
undressed, and turned out the light. He was in a stertorous sleep.
And lying there, with eyes wide open, staring into the dark, a
smile came on her lips--a very strange smile! She was thinking of
all those preposterous young wives she had read of, who, blushing,
trembling, murmur into the ears of their young husbands that they
"have something--something to tell them!"
Looking at Fiorsen, next morning, still sunk in heavy sleep, her
first thought was: 'He looks exactly the same.' And, suddenly, it
seemed queer to her that she had not been, and still was not,
disgusted. It was all too deep for disgust, and somehow, too
natural. She took this new revelation of his unbridled ways
without resentment. Besides, she had long known of this taste of
his--one cannot drink brandy and not betray it.
She stole noiselessly from bed, noiselessly gathered up his boots
and clothes all tumbled on to a chair, and took them forth to the
dressing-room. There she held the garments up to the early light
and brushed them, then, noiseless, stole back to bed, with needle
and thread and her lace. No one must know; not even he must know.
For the moment she had forgotten that other thing so terrifically
important. It came back to her, very sudden, very sickening. So
long as she could keep it secret, no one should know that either--
he least of all.
The morning passed as usual; but when she came to the music-room at
noon, she found that he had gone out. She was just sitting down to
lunch when Betty, with the broad smile which prevailed on her moon-
face when someone had tickled the right side of her, announced:
Gyp got up, startled.
"Say that Mr. Fiorsen is not in, Betty. But--but ask if he will
come and have some lunch, and get a bottle of hock up, please."
In the few seconds before her visitor appeared, Gyp experienced the
sort of excitement one has entering a field where a bull is
But not even his severest critics could accuse Rosek of want of
tact. He had hoped to see Gustav, but it was charming of her to
give him lunch--a great delight!
He seemed to have put off, as if for her benefit, his corsets, and
some, at all events, of his offending looks--seemed simpler, more
genuine. His face was slightly browned, as if, for once, he had
been taking his due of air and sun. He talked without cynical
submeanings, was most appreciative of her "charming little house,"
and even showed some warmth in his sayings about art and music.
Gyp had never disliked him less. But her instincts were on the
watch. After lunch, they went out across the garden to see the
music-room, and he sat down at the piano. He had the deep,
caressing touch that lies in fingers of steel worked by a real
passion for tone. Gyp sat on the divan and listened. She was out
of his sight there; and she looked at him, wondering. He was
playing Schumann's Child Music. How could one who produced such
fresh idyllic sounds have sinister intentions? And presently she
"Will you please tell me why you sent Daphne Wing here yesterday?"
"I send her?"
But instantly she regretted having asked that question. He had
swung round on the music-stool and was looking full at her. His
face had changed.
"Since you ask me, I thought you should know that Gustav is seeing
a good deal of her."
He had given the exact answer she had divined.
"Do you think I mind that?"
A flicker passed over his face. He got up and said quietly:
"I am glad that you do not."
She, too, had risen. Though he was little taller than herself, she
was conscious suddenly of how thick and steely he was beneath his
dapper garments, and of a kind of snaky will-power in his face.
Her heart beat faster.
He came toward her and said:
"I am glad you understand that it is over with Gustav--finished--"
He stopped dead, seeing at once that he had gone wrong, and not
knowing quite where. Gyp had simply smiled. A flush coloured his
cheeks, and he said:
"He is a volcano soon extinguished. You see, I know him. Better
you should know him, too. Why do you smile?"
"Why is it better I should know?"
He went very pale, and said between his teeth:
"That you may not waste your time; there is love waiting for you."
But Gyp still smiled.
"Was it from love of me that you made him drunk last night?"
His lips quivered.
"Gyp!" Gyp turned. But with the merest change of front, he had
put himself between her and the door. "You never loved him. That
is my excuse. You have given him too much already--more than he is
worth. Ah! God! I am tortured by you; I am possessed."
He had gone white through and through like a flame, save for his
smouldering eyes. She was afraid, and because she was afraid, she
stood her ground. Should she make a dash for the door that opened
into the little lane and escape that way? Then suddenly he seemed
to regain control; but she could feel that he was trying to break
through her defences by the sheer intensity of his gaze--by a kind
of mesmerism, knowing that he had frightened her.
Under the strain of this duel of eyes, she felt herself beginning
to sway, to get dizzy. Whether or no he really moved his feet, he
seemed coming closer inch by inch. She had a horrible feeling--as
if his arms were already round her.
With an effort, she wrenched her gaze from his, and suddenly his
crisp hair caught her eyes. Surely--surely it was curled with
tongs! A kind of spasm of amusement was set free in her heart,
and, almost inaudibly, the words escaped her lips: "Une technique
merveilleuse!" His eyes wavered; he uttered a little gasp; his
lips fell apart. Gyp walked across the room and put her hand on
the bell. She had lost her fear. Without a word, he turned, and
went out into the garden. She watched him cross the lawn. Gone!
She had beaten him by the one thing not even violent passions can
withstand--ridicule, almost unconscious ridicule. Then she gave
way and pulled the bell with nervous violence. The sight of the
maid, in her trim black dress and spotless white apron, coming from
the house completed her restoration. Was it possible that she had
really been frightened, nearly failing in that encounter, nearly
dominated by that man--in her own house, with her own maids down
there at hand? And she said quietly:
"I want the puppies, please."
Over the garden, the day brooded in the first-gathered warmth of
summer. Mid-June of a fine year. The air was drowsy with hum and
And Gyp, sitting in the shade, while the puppies rolled and
snapped, searched her little world for comfort and some sense of
safety, and could not find it; as if there were all round her a hot
heavy fog in which things lurked, and where she kept erect only by
pride and the will not to cry out that she was struggling and
Fiorsen, leaving his house that morning, had walked till he saw a
taxi-cab. Leaning back therein, with hat thrown off, he caused
himself to be driven rapidly, at random. This was one of his
habits when his mind was not at ease--an expensive idiosyncrasy,
ill-afforded by a pocket that had holes. The swift motion and
titillation by the perpetual close shaving of other vehicles were
sedative to him. He needed sedatives this morning. To wake in his
own bed without the least remembering how he had got there was no
more new to him than to many another man of twenty-eight, but it
was new since his marriage. If he had remembered even less he
would have been more at ease. But he could just recollect standing
in the dark drawing-room, seeing and touching a ghostly Gyp quite
close to him. And, somehow, he was afraid. And when he was
afraid--like most people--he was at his worst.
If she had been like all the other women in whose company he had
eaten passion-fruit, he would not have felt this carking
humiliation. If she had been like them, at the pace he had been
going since he obtained possession of her, he would already have
"finished," as Rosek had said. And he knew well enough that he had
not "finished." He might get drunk, might be loose-ended in every
way, but Gyp was hooked into his senses, and, for all that he could
not get near her, into his spirit. Her very passivity was her
strength, the secret of her magnetism. In her, he felt some of
that mysterious sentiency of nature, which, even in yielding to
man's fevers, lies apart with a faint smile--the uncapturable smile
of the woods and fields by day or night, that makes one ache with
longing. He felt in her some of the unfathomable, soft, vibrating
indifference of the flowers and trees and streams, of the rocks, of
birdsongs, and the eternal hum, under sunshine or star-shine. Her
dark, half-smiling eyes enticed him, inspired an unquenchable
thirst. And his was one of those natures which, encountering
spiritual difficulty, at once jib off, seek anodynes, try to
bandage wounded egoism with excess--a spoiled child, with the
desperations and the inherent pathos, the something repulsive and
the something lovable that belong to all such. Having wished for
this moon, and got her, he now did not know what to do with her,
kept taking great bites at her, with a feeling all the time of
getting further and further away. At moments, he desired revenge
for his failure to get near her spiritually, and was ready to
commit follies of all kinds. He was only kept in control at all by
his work. For he did work hard; though, even there, something was
lacking. He had all the qualities of making good, except the moral
backbone holding them together, which alone could give him his
rightful--as he thought--pre-eminence. It often surprised and
vexed him to find that some contemporary held higher rank than
Threading the streets in his cab, he mused:
"Did I do anything that really shocked her last night? Why didn't
I wait for her this morning and find out the worst?" And his lips
twisted awry--for to find out the worst was not his forte.
Meditation, seeking as usual a scapegoat, lighted on Rosek. Like
most egoists addicted to women, he had not many friends. Rosek was
the most constant. But even for him, Fiorsen had at once the
contempt and fear that a man naturally uncontrolled and yet of
greater scope has for one of less talent but stronger will-power.
He had for him, too, the feeling of a wayward child for its nurse,
mixed with the need that an artist, especially an executant artist,
feels for a connoisseur and patron with well-lined pockets.
'Curse Paul!' he thought. 'He must know--he does know--that brandy
of his goes down like water. Trust him, he saw I was getting
silly! He had some game on. Where did I go after? How did I get
home?' And again: 'Did I hurt Gyp?' If the servants had seen--
that would be the worst; that would upset her fearfully! And he
laughed. Then he had a fresh access of fear. He didn't know her,
never knew what she was thinking or feeling, never knew anything
about her. And he thought angrily: 'That's not fair! I don't hide
myself from her. I am as free as nature; I let her see everything.
What did I do? That maid looked very queerly at me this morning!'
And suddenly he said to the driver: "Bury Street, St. James's." He
could find out, at all events, whether Gyp had been to her
father's. The thought of Winton ever afflicted him; and he changed
his mind several times before the cab reached that little street,
but so swiftly that he had not time to alter his instructions to
the driver. A light sweat broke out on his forehead while he was
waiting for the door to be opened.
"Mrs. Fiorsen here?"
"Not been here this morning?"
He shrugged away the thought that he ought to give some explanation
of his question, and got into the cab again, telling the man to
drive to Curzon Street. If she had not been to "that Aunt
Rosamund" either it would be all right. She had not. There was no
one else she would go to. And, with a sigh of relief, he began to
feel hungry, having had no breakfast. He would go to Rosek's,
borrow the money to pay his cab, and lunch there. But Rosek was
not in. He would have to go home to get the cab paid. The driver
seemed to eye him queerly now, as though conceiving doubts about
Going in under the trellis, Fiorsen passed a man coming out, who
held in his hand a long envelope and eyed him askance.
Gyp, who was sitting at her bureau, seemed to be adding up the
counterfoils in her cheque-book. She did not turn round, and
Fiorsen paused. How was she going to receive him?
"Is there any lunch?" he said.
She reached out and rang the bell. He felt sorry for himself. He
had been quite ready to take her in his arms and say: "Forgive me,
little Gyp; I'm sorry!"
Betty answered the bell.
"Please bring up some lunch for Mr. Fiorsen."
He heard the stout woman sniff as she went out. She was a part of
his ostracism. And, with sudden rage, he said:
"What do you want for a husband--a bourgeois who would die if he
missed his lunch?"
Gyp turned round to him and held out her cheque-book.
"I don't in the least mind about meals; but I do about this." He
read on the counterfoil:
"Messrs. Travers & Sanborn, Tailors, Account rendered: L54 35s.
7d." "Are there many of these, Gustav?"
Fiorsen had turned the peculiar white that marked deep injury to
his sell-esteem. He said violently:
"Well, what of that? A bill! Did you pay it? You have no
business to pay my bills."
"The man said if it wasn't paid this time, he'd sue you." Her lips
quivered. "I think owing money is horrible. It's undignified.
Are there many others? Please tell me!"
"I shall not tell you. What is it to you?"
"It is a lot to me. I have to keep this house and pay the maids
and everything, and I want to know how I stand. I am not going to
make debts. That's hateful."
Her face had a hardness that he did not know. He perceived dimly
that she was different from the Gyp of this hour yesterday--the
last time when, in possession of his senses, he had seen or spoken
to her. The novelty of her revolt stirred him in strange ways,
wounded his self-conceit, inspired a curious fear, and yet excited
his senses. He came up to her, said softly:
"Money! Curse money! Kiss me!" With a certain amazement at the
sheer distaste in her face, he heard her say:
"It's childish to curse money. I will spend all the income I have;
but I will not spend more, and I will not ask Dad."
He flung himself down in a chair.
"Ho! Ho! Virtue!"
He said gloomily:
"So you don't believe in me. You don't believe I can earn as much
as I want--more than you have--any time? You never have believed
"I think you earn now as much as you are ever likely to earn."
"That is what you think! I don't want money--your money! I can
live on nothing, any time. I have done it--often."
He looked round and saw the maid in the doorway.
"Please, sir, the driver says can he have his fare, or do you want
him again? Twelve shillings."
Fiorsen stared at her a moment in the way that--as the maid often
said--made you feel like a silly.
"No. Pay him."
The girl glanced at Gyp, answered: "Yes, sir," and went out.
Fiorsen laughed; he laughed, holding his sides. It was droll
coming on the top of his assertion, too droll! And, looking up at
her, he said:
"That was good, wasn't it, Gyp?"
But her face had not abated its gravity; and, knowing that she was
even more easily tickled by the incongruous than himself, he felt
again that catch of fear. Something was different. Yes; something
was really different.
"Did I hurt you last night?"
She shrugged her shoulders and went to the window. He looked at
her darkly, jumped up, and swung out past her into the garden.
And, almost at once, the sound of his violin, furiously played in
the music-room, came across the lawn.
Gyp listened with a bitter smile. Money, too! But what did it
matter? She could not get out of what she had done. She could
never get out. Tonight he would kiss her; and she would pretend it
was all right. And so it would go on and on! Well, it was her own
fault. Taking twelve shillings from her purse, she put them aside
on the bureau to give the maid. And suddenly she thought: 'Perhaps
he'll get tired of me. If only he would get tired!' That was a
long way the furthest she had yet gone.
They who have known the doldrums--how the sails of the listless
ship droop, and the hope of escape dies day by day--may understand
something of the life Gyp began living now. On a ship, even
doldrums come to an end. But a young woman of twenty-three, who
has made a mistake in her marriage, and has only herself to blame,
looks forward to no end, unless she be the new woman, which Gyp was
not. Having settled that she would not admit failure, and clenched
her teeth on the knowledge that she was going to have a child, she
went on keeping things sealed up even from Winton. To Fiorsen, she
managed to behave as usual, making material life easy and pleasant
for him--playing for him, feeding him well, indulging his
amorousness. It did not matter; she loved no one else. To count
herself a martyr would be silly! Her malaise, successfully
concealed, was deeper--of the spirit; the subtle utter
discouragement of one who has done for herself, clipped her own
As for Rosek, she treated him as if that little scene had never
taken place. The idea of appealing to her husband in a difficulty
was gone for ever since the night he came home drunk. And she did
not dare to tell her father. He would--what would he not do? But
she was always on her guard, knowing that Rosek would not forgive
her for that dart of ridicule. His insinuations about Daphne Wing
she put out of mind, as she never could have if she had loved
Fiorsen. She set up for herself the idol of pride, and became its
faithful worshipper. Only Winton, and perhaps Betty, could tell
she was not happy. Fiorsen's debts and irresponsibility about
money did not worry her much, for she paid everything in the house--
rent, wages, food, and her own dress--and had so far made ends
meet; and what he did outside the house she could not help.
So the summer wore on till concerts were over, and it was supposed
to be impossible to stay in London. But she dreaded going away.
She wanted to be left quiet in her little house. It was this which
made her tell Fiorsen her secret one night, after the theatre. He
had begun to talk of a holiday, sitting on the edge of the settee,
with a glass in his hand and a cigarette between his lips. His
cheeks, white and hollow from too much London, went a curious dull
red; he got up and stared at her. Gyp made an involuntary movement
with her hands.
"You needn't look at me. It's true."
He put down glass and cigarette and began to tramp the room. And
Gyp stood with a little smile, not even watching him. Suddenly he
clasped his forehead and broke out:
"But I don't want it; I won't have it--spoiling my Gyp." Then
quickly going up to her with a scared face: "I don't want it; I'm
afraid of it. Don't have it."
In Gyp's heart came the same feeling as when he had stood there
drunk, against the wall--compassion, rather than contempt of his
childishness. And taking his hand she said:
"All right, Gustav. It shan't bother you. When I begin to get
ugly, I'll go away with Betty till it's over."
He went down on his knees.
"Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! My beautiful Gyp!"
And Gyp sat like a sphinx, for fear that she too might let slip
those words: "Oh, no!"
The windows were open, and moths had come in. One had settled on
the hydrangea plant that filled the hearth. Gyp looked at the
soft, white, downy thing, whose head was like a tiny owl's against
the bluish petals; looked at the purple-grey tiles down there, and
the stuff of her own frock, in the shaded gleam of the lamps. And
all her love of beauty rebelled, called up by his: "Oh, no!" She
would be unsightly soon, and suffer pain, and perhaps die of it, as
her own mother had died. She set her teeth, listening to that
grown-up child revolting against what he had brought on her, and
touched his hand, protectingly.
It interested, even amused her this night and next day to watch his
treatment of the disconcerting piece of knowledge. For when at
last he realized that he had to acquiesce in nature, he began, as
she had known he would, to jib away from all reminder of it. She
was careful not to suggest that he should go away without her,
knowing his perversity. But when he proposed that she should come
to Ostend with him and Rosek, she answered, after seeming
deliberation, that she thought she had better not--she would rather
stay at home quite quietly; but he must certainly go and get a good
When he was really gone, peace fell on Gyp--peace such as one
feels, having no longer the tight, banded sensations of a fever.
To be without that strange, disorderly presence in the house! When
she woke in the sultry silence of the next morning, she utterly
failed to persuade herself that she was missing him, missing the
sound of his breathing, the sight of his rumpled hair on the
pillow, the outline of his long form under the sheet. Her heart
was devoid of any emptiness or ache; she only felt how pleasant and
cool and tranquil it was to lie there alone. She stayed quite late
in bed. It was delicious, with window and door wide open and the
puppies running in and out, to lie and doze off, or listen to the
pigeons' cooing, and the distant sounds of traffic, and feel in
command once more of herself, body and soul. Now that she had told
Fiorsen, she had no longer any desire to keep her condition secret.
Feeling that it would hurt her father to learn of it from anyone
but herself, she telephoned to tell him she was alone, and asked if
she might come to Bury Street and dine with him.
Winton had not gone away, because, between Goodwood and Doncaster
there was no racing that he cared for; one could not ride at this
time of year, so might just as well be in London. In fact, August
was perhaps the pleasantest of all months in town; the club was
empty, and he could sit there without some old bore buttonholing
him. Little Boncarte, the fencing-master, was always free for a
bout--Winton had long learned to make his left hand what his right
hand used to be; the Turkish baths in Jermyn Street were nearly
void of their fat clients; he could saunter over to Covent Garden,
buy a melon, and carry it home without meeting any but the most
inferior duchesses in Piccadilly; on warm nights he could stroll
the streets or the parks, smoking his cigar, his hat pushed back to
cool his forehead, thinking vague thoughts, recalling vague
memories. He received the news that his daughter was alone and
free from that fellow with something like delight. Where should he
dine her? Mrs. Markey was on her holiday. Why not Blafard's?
Quiet---small rooms--not too respectable--quite fairly cool--good
things to eat. Yes; Blafard's!
When she drove up, he was ready in the doorway, his thin brown face
with its keen, half-veiled eyes the picture of composure, but
feeling at heart like a schoolboy off for an exeat. How pretty she
was looking--though pale from London--her dark eyes, her smile!
And stepping quickly to the cab, he said:
"No; I'm getting in--dining at Blafard's, Gyp--a night out!"
It gave him a thrill to walk into that little restaurant behind
her; and passing through its low red rooms to mark the diners turn
and stare with envy--taking him, perhaps, for a different sort of
relation. He settled her into a far corner by a window, where she
could see the people and be seen. He wanted her to be seen; while
he himself turned to the world only the short back wings of his
glossy greyish hair. He had no notion of being disturbed in his
enjoyment by the sight of Hivites and Amorites, or whatever they
might be, lapping champagne and shining in the heat. For,
secretly, he was living not only in this evening but in a certain
evening of the past, when, in this very corner, he had dined with
her mother. HIS face then had borne the brunt; hers had been
turned away from inquisition. But he did not speak of this to Gyp.
She drank two full glasses of wine before she told him her news.
He took it with the expression she knew so well--tightening his
lips and staring a little upward. Then he said quietly:
A shudder, not to be repressed, went through Winton. The very
month! And stretching his hand across the table, he took hers and
pressed it tightly.
"It'll be all right, child; I'm glad."
Clinging to his hand, Gyp murmured:
"I'm not; but I won't be frightened--I promise."
Each was trying to deceive the other; and neither was deceived.
But both were good at putting a calm face on things. Besides, this
was "a night out"--for her, the first since her marriage--of
freedom, of feeling somewhat as she used to feel with all before
her in a ballroom of a world; for him, the unfettered resumption of
a dear companionship and a stealthy revel in the past. After his,
"So he's gone to Ostend?" and his thought: 'He would!' they never
alluded to Fiorsen, but talked of horses, of Mildenham--it seemed
to Gyp years since she had been there--of her childish escapades.
And, looking at him quizzically, she asked:
"What were you like as a boy, Dad? Aunt Rosamund says that you
used to get into white rages when nobody could go near you. She
says you were always climbing trees, or shooting with a catapult,
or stalking things, and that you never told anybody what you didn't
want to tell them. And weren't you desperately in love with your
Winton smiled. How long since he had thought of that first
affection. Miss Huntley! Helena Huntley--with crinkly brown hair,
and blue eyes, and fascinating frocks! He remembered with what
grief and sense of bitter injury he heard in his first school-
holidays that she was gone. And he said:
"Yes, yes. By Jove, what a time ago! And my father's going off to
India. He never came back; killed in that first Afghan business.
When I was fond, I WAS fond. But I didn't feel things like you--
not half so sensitive. No; not a bit like you, Gyp."
And watching her unconscious eyes following the movements of the
waiters, never staring, but taking in all that was going on, he
thought: 'Prettiest creature in the world!'