Part 4 out of 7
suffer too much.'
She sat on that bench a long time before it came into her mind that
she was due at Monsieur Harmost's for a music lesson at three
o'clock. It was well past two already; and she set out across the
grass. The summer day was full of murmurings of bees and flies,
cooings of blissful pigeons, the soft swish and stir of leaves, and
the scent of lime blossom under a sky so blue, with few white
clouds slow, and calm, and full. Why be unhappy? And one of those
spotty spaniel dogs, that have broad heads, with frizzy topknots,
and are always rascals, smelt at her frock and moved round and
round her, hoping that she would throw her sunshade on the water
for him to fetch, this being in his view the only reason why
anything was carried in the hand.
She found Monsieur Harmost fidgeting up and down the room, whose
opened windows could not rid it of the smell of latakia.
"Ah," he said, "I thought you were not coming! You look pale; are
you not well? Is it the heat? Or"--he looked hard into her face--
"has someone hurt you, my little friend?" Gyp shook her head.
"Ah, yes," he went on irritably; "you tell me nothing; you tell
nobody nothing! You close up your pretty face like a flower at
night. At your age, my child, one should make confidences; a
secret grief is to music as the east wind to the stomach. Put off
your mask for once." He came close to her. "Tell me your
troubles. It is a long time since I have been meaning to ask.
Come! We are only once young; I want to see you happy."
But Gyp stood looking down. Would it be relief to pour her soul
out? Would it? His brown eyes questioned her like an old dog's.
She did not want to hurt one so kind. And yet--impossible!
Monsieur Harmost suddenly sat down at the piano. Resting his hands
on the keys, he looked round at her, and said:
"I am in love with you, you know. Old men can be very much in
love, but they know it is no good--that makes them endurable.
Still, we like to feel of use to youth and beauty; it gives us a
little warmth. Come; tell me your grief!" He waited a moment,
then said irritably: "Well, well, we go to music then!"
It was his habit to sit by her at the piano corner, but to-day he
stood as if prepared to be exceptionally severe. And Gyp played,
whether from overexcited nerves or from not having had any lunch,
better than she had ever played. The Chopin polonaise in A flat,
that song of revolution, which had always seemed so unattainable,
went as if her fingers were being worked for her. When she had
finished, Monsieur Harmost, bending forward, lifted one of her
hands and put his lips to it. She felt the scrub of his little
bristly beard, and raised her face with a deep sigh of satisfaction.
A voice behind them said mockingly:
There, by the door, stood Fiorsen.
"Congratulations, madame! I have long wanted to see you under the
inspiration of your--master!"
Gyp's heart began to beat desperately. Monsieur Harmost had not
moved. A faint grin slowly settled in his beard, but his eyes were
Fiorsen kissed the back of his own hand.
"To this old Pantaloon you come to give your heart. Ho--what a
Gyp saw the old man quiver; she sprang up and cried:
Fiorsen ran forward, stretching out his arms toward Monsieur
Harmost, as if to take him by the throat.
The old man drew himself up. "Monsieur," he said, "you are
Gyp slipped between, right up to those outstretched hands till she
could feel their knuckles against her. Had he gone mad? Would he
strangle her? But her eyes never moved from his, and his began to
waver; his hands dropped, and, with a kind of moan, he made for the
Monsieur Harmost's voice behind her said:
"Before you go, monsieur, give me some explanation of this
Fiorsen spun round, shook his fist, and went out muttering. They
heard the front door slam. Gyp turned abruptly to the window, and
there, in her agitation, she noticed little outside things as one
does in moments of bewildered anger. Even into that back yard,
summer had crept. The leaves of the sumach-tree were glistening;
in a three-cornered little patch of sunlight, a black cat with a
blue ribbon round its neck was basking. The voice of one hawking
strawberries drifted melancholy from a side street. She was
conscious that Monsieur Harmost was standing very still, with a
hand pressed to his mouth, and she felt a perfect passion of
compunction and anger. That kind and harmless old man--to be so
insulted! This was indeed the culmination of all Gustav's
outrages! She would never forgive him this! For he had insulted
her as well, beyond what pride or meekness could put up with. She
turned, and, running up to the old man, put both her hands into
"I'm so awfully sorry. Good-bye, dear, dear Monsieur Harmost; I
shall come on Friday!" And, before he could stop her, she was
She dived into the traffic; but, just as she reached the pavement
on the other side, felt her dress plucked and saw Fiorsen just
behind her. She shook herself free and walked swiftly on. Was he
going to make a scene in the street? Again he caught her arm. She
stopped dead, faced round on him, and said, in an icy voice:
"Please don't make scenes in the street, and don't follow me like
this. If you want to talk to me, you can--at home."
Then, very calmly, she turned and walked on. But he was still
following her, some paces off. She did not quicken her steps, and
to the first taxicab driver that passed she made a sign, and
"Bury Street--quick!" got in. She saw Fiorsen rush forward, too
late to stop her. He threw up his hand and stood still, his face
deadly white under his broad-brimmed hat. She was far too angry
and upset to care.
From the moment she turned to the window at Monsieur Harmost's, she
had determined to go to her father's. She would not go back to
Fiorsen; and the one thought that filled her mind was how to get
Betty and her baby. Nearly four! Dad was almost sure to be at his
club. And leaning out, she said: "No; Hyde Park Corner, please."
The hall porter, who knew her, after calling to a page-boy: "Major
Winton--sharp, now!" came specially out of his box to offer her a
seat and The Times.
Gyp sat with it on her knee, vaguely taking in her surroundings--a
thin old gentleman anxiously weighing himself in a corner, a white-
calved footman crossing with a tea-tray; a number of hats on pegs;
the green-baize board with its white rows of tapelike paper, and
three members standing before it. One of them, a tall, stout,
good-humoured-looking man in pince-nez and a white waistcoat,
becoming conscious, removed his straw hat and took up a position
whence, without staring, he could gaze at her; and Gyp knew,
without ever seeming to glance at him, that he found her to his
liking. She saw her father's unhurried figure passing that little
group, all of whom were conscious now, and eager to get away out of
this sanctum of masculinity, she met him at the top of the low
steps, and said:
"I want to talk to you, Dad."
He gave her a quick look, selected his hat, and followed to the
door. In the cab, he put his hand on hers and said:
"Now, my dear?"
But all she could get out was:
"I want to come back to you. I can't go on there. It's--it's--
I've come to an end."
His hand pressed hers tightly, as if he were trying to save her the
need for saying more. Gyp went on:
"I must get baby; I'm terrified that he'll try to keep her, to get
"Is he at home?"
"I don't know. I haven't told him that I'm going to leave him."
Winton looked at his watch and asked:
"Does the baby ever go out as late as this?"
"Yes; after tea. It's cooler."
"I'll take this cab on, then. You stay and get the room ready for
her. Don't worry, and don't go out till I return."
And Gyp thought: 'How wonderful of him not to have asked a single
The cab stopped at the Bury Street door. She took his hand, put it
to her cheek, and got out. He said quietly:
"Do you want the dogs?"
"Yes--oh, yes! He doesn't care for them."
"All right. There'll be time to get you in some things for the
night after I come back. I shan't run any risks to-day. Make Mrs.
Markey give you tea."
Gyp watched the cab gather way again, saw him wave his hand; then,
with a deep sigh, half anxiety, half relief, she rang the bell.
When the cab debouched again into St. James' Street, Winton gave
the order: "Quick as you can!" One could think better going fast!
A little red had come into his brown cheeks; his eyes under their
half-drawn lids had a keener light; his lips were tightly closed;
he looked as he did when a fox was breaking cover. Gyp could do no
wrong, or, if she could, he would stand by her in it as a matter of
course. But he was going to take no risks--make no frontal attack.
Time for that later, if necessary. He had better nerves than most
people, and that kind of steely determination and resource which
makes many Englishmen of his class formidable in small operations.
He kept his cab at the door, rang, and asked for Gyp, with a kind
of pleasure in his ruse.
"She's not in yet, sir. Mr. Fiorsen's in."
"Ah! And baby?"
"I'll come in and see her. In the garden?"
"Dogs there, too?"
"Yes, sir. And will you have tea, please, sir?"
"No, thanks." How to effect this withdrawal without causing
gossip, and yet avoid suspicion of collusion with Gyp? And he
added: "Unless Mrs. Fiorsen comes in."
Passing out into the garden, he became aware that Fiorsen was at
the dining-room window watching him, and decided to make no sign
that he knew this. The baby was under the trees at the far end,
and the dogs came rushing thence with a fury which lasted till they
came within scent of him. Winton went leisurely up to the
perambulator, and, saluting Betty, looked down at his grandchild.
She lay under an awning of muslin, for fear of flies, and was
awake. Her solemn, large brown eyes, already like Gyp's, regarded
him with gravity. Clucking to her once or twice, as is the custom,
he moved so as to face the house. In this position, he had Betty
with her back to it. And he said quietly:
"I'm here with a message from your mistress, Betty. Keep your
head; don't look round, but listen to me. She's at Bury Street and
going to stay there; she wants you and baby and the dogs." The
stout woman's eyes grew round and her mouth opened. Winton put his
hand on the perambulator. "Steady, now! Go out as usual with this
thing. It's about your time; and wait for me at the turning to
Regent's Park. I'll come on in my cab and pick you all up. Don't
get flurried; don't take anything; do exactly as you usually would.
It is not in the nature of stout women with babies in their charge
to receive such an order without question. Her colour, and the
heaving of that billowy bosom made Winton add quickly:
"Now, Betty, pull yourself together; Gyp wants you. I'll tell you
all about it in the cab."
The poor woman, still heaving vaguely, could only stammer:
"Yes, sir. Poor little thing! What about its night-things? And
Conscious of that figure still at the window, Winton made some
passes with his fingers at the baby, and said:
"Never mind them. As soon as you see me at the drawing-room
window, get ready and go. Eyes front, Betty; don't look round;
I'll cover your retreat! Don't fail Gyp now. Pull yourself
With a sigh that could have been heard in Kensington, Betty
murmured: "Very well, sir; oh dear!" and began to adjust the
strings of her bonnet. With nods, as if he had been the recipient
of some sage remarks about the baby, Winton saluted, and began his
march again towards the house. He carefully kept his eyes to this
side and to that, as if examining the flowers, but noted all the
same that Fiorsen had receded from the window. Rapid thought told
him that the fellow would come back there to see if he were gone,
and he placed himself before a rose-bush, where, at that
reappearance, he could make a sign of recognition. Sure enough, he
came; and Winton quietly raising his hand to the salute passed on
through the drawing-room window. He went quickly into the hall,
listened a second, and opened the dining-room door. Fiorsen was
pacing up and down, pale and restless. He came to a standstill and
stared haggardly at Winton, who said:
"How are you? Gyp not in?"
Something in the sound of that "No" touched Winton with a vague--a
very vague--compunction. To be left by Gyp! Then his heart
hardened again. The fellow was a rotter--he was sure of it, had
always been sure.
"Baby looks well," he said.
Fiorsen turned and began to pace up and down again.
"Where is Gyp? I want her to come in. I want her."
Winton took out his watch.
"It's not late." And suddenly he felt a great aversion for the
part he was playing. To get the baby; to make Gyp safe--yes! But,
somehow, not this pretence that he knew nothing about it. He
turned on his heel and walked out. It imperilled everything; but
he couldn't help it. He could not stay and go on prevaricating
like this. Had that woman got clear? He went back into the
drawing-room. There they were--just passing the side of the house.
Five minutes, and they would be down at the turning. He stood at
the window, waiting. If only that fellow did not come in! Through
the partition wall he could hear him still tramping up and down the
dining-room. What a long time a minute was! Three had gone when
he heard the dining-room door opened, and Fiorsen crossing the hall
to the front door. What was he after, standing there as if
listening? And suddenly he heard him sigh. It was just such a
sound as many times, in the long-past days, had escaped himself,
waiting, listening for footsteps, in parched and sickening anxiety.
Did this fellow then really love--almost as he had loved? And in
revolt at spying on him like this, he advanced and said:
"Well, I won't wait any longer."
Fiorsen started; he had evidently supposed himself alone. And
Winton thought: 'By Jove! he does look bad!'
"Good-bye!" he said; but the words: "Give my love to Gyp," perished
on their way up to his lips.
"Good-bye!" Fiorsen echoed. And Winton went out under the trellis,
conscious of that forlorn figure still standing at the half-opened
door. Betty was nowhere in sight; she must have reached the
turning. His mission had succeeded, but he felt no elation. Round
the corner, he picked up his convoy, and, with the perambulator
hoisted on to the taxi, journeyed on at speed. He had said he
would explain in the cab, but the only remark he made was:
"You'll all go down to Mildenham to-morrow."
And Betty, who had feared him ever since their encounter so many
years ago, eyed his profile, without daring to ask questions.
Before he reached home, Winton stopped at a post-office, and sent
"Gyp and the baby are with me letter follows.--WINTON."
It salved a conscience on which that fellow's figure in the doorway
weighed; besides, it was necessary, lest Fiorsen should go to the
police. The rest must wait till he had talked with Gyp.
There was much to do, and it was late before they dined, and not
till Markey had withdrawn could they begin their talk.
Close to the open windows where Markey had placed two hydrangea
plants--just bought on his own responsibility, in token of silent
satisfaction--Gyp began. She kept nothing back, recounting the
whole miserable fiasco of her marriage. When she came to Daphne
Wing and her discovery in the music-room, she could see the glowing
end of her father's cigar move convulsively. That insult to his
adored one seemed to Winton so inconceivable that, for a moment, he
stopped her recital by getting up to pace the room. In her own
house--her own house! And--after that, she had gone on with him!
He came back to his chair and did not interrupt again, but his
stillness almost frightened her.
Coming to the incidents of the day itself, she hesitated. Must she
tell him, too, of Rosek--was it wise, or necessary? The all-or-
nothing candour that was part of her nature prevailed, and she went
straight on, and, save for the feverish jerking of his evening
shoe, Winton made no sign. When she had finished, he got up and
slowly extinguished the end of his cigar against the window-sill;
then looking at her lying back in her chair as if exhausted, he
said: "By God!" and turned his face away to the window.
At that hour before the theatres rose, a lull brooded in the London
streets; in this quiet narrow one, the town's hum was only broken
by the clack of a half-drunken woman bickering at her man as they
lurched along for home, and the strains of a street musician's
fiddle, trying to make up for a blank day. The sound vaguely
irritated Winton, reminding him of those two damnable foreigners by
whom she had been so treated. To have them at the point of a sword
or pistol--to teach them a lesson! He heard her say:
"Dad, I should like to pay his debts. Then things would be as they
were when I married him."
He emitted an exasperated sound. He did not believe in heaping
coals of fire.
"I want to make sure, too, that the girl is all right till she's
over her trouble. Perhaps I could use some of that--that other
money, if mine is all tied up?"
It was sheer anger, not disapproval of her impulse, that made him
hesitate; money and revenge would never be associated in his mind.
Gyp went on:
"I want to feel as if I'd never let him marry me. Perhaps his
debts are all part of that--who knows? Please!"
Winton looked at her. How like--when she said that "Please!" How
like--her figure sunk back in the old chair, and the face lifted in
shadow! A sort of exultation came to him. He had got her back--
had got her back!
Fiorsen's bedroom was--as the maid would remark--"a proper pigsty"--
until he was out of it and it could be renovated each day. He had
a talent for disorder, so that the room looked as if three men
instead of one had gone to bed in it. Clothes and shoes, brushes,
water, tumblers, breakfast-tray, newspapers, French novels, and
cigarette-ends--none were ever where they should have been; and the
stale fumes from the many cigarettes he smoked before getting up
incommoded anyone whose duty it was to take him tea and shaving-
water. When, on that first real summer day, the maid had brought
Rosek up to him, he had been lying a long time on his back,
dreamily watching the smoke from his cigarette and four flies
waltzing in the sunlight that filtered through the green sun-
blinds. This hour, before he rose, was his creative moment, when
he could best see the form of music and feel inspiration for its
rendering. Of late, he had been stale and wretched, all that side
of him dull; but this morning he felt again the delicious stir of
fancy, that vibrating, half-dreamy state when emotion seems so
easily to find shape and the mind pierces through to new
expression. Hearing the maid's knock, and her murmured: "Count
Rosek to see you, sir," he thought: 'What the devil does he want?'
A larger nature, drifting without control, in contact with a
smaller one, who knows his own mind exactly, will instinctively be
irritable, though he may fail to grasp what his friend is after.
And pushing the cigarette-box toward Rosek, he turned away his
head. It would be money he had come about, or--that girl! That
girl--he wished she was dead! Soft, clinging creature! A baby!
God! What a fool he had been--ah, what a fool! Such absurdity!
Unheard of! First Gyp--then her! He had tried to shake the girl
off. As well try to shake off a burr! How she clung! He had been
patient--oh, yes--patient and kind, but how go on when one was
tired--tired of her--and wanting only Gyp, only his own wife? That
was a funny thing! And now, when, for an hour or two, he had
shaken free of worry, had been feeling happy--yes, happy--this
fellow must come, and stand there with his face of a sphinx! And
he said pettishly:
"Well, Paul! sit down. What troubles have you brought?"
Rosek lit a cigarette but did not sit down. He struck even Fiorsen
by his unsmiling pallor.
"You had better look out for Mr. Wagge, Gustav; he came to me
yesterday. He has no music in his soul."
Fiorsen sat up.
"Satan take Mr. Wagge! What can he do?"
"I am not a lawyer, but I imagine he can be unpleasant--the girl is
Fiorsen glared at him, and said:
"Why did you throw me that cursed girl?"
Rosek answered, a little too steadily:
"I did not, my friend."
"What! You did. What was your game? You never do anything
without a game. You know you did. Come; what was your game?"
"You like pleasure, I believe."
Fiorsen said violently:
"Look here: I have done with your friendship--you are no friend to
me. I have never really known you, and I should not wish to. It
is finished. Leave me in peace."
"My dear, that is all very well, but friendships are not finished
like that. Moreover, you owe me a thousand pounds."
"Well, I will pay it." Rosek's eyebrows mounted. "I will. Gyp
will lend it to me."
"Oh! Is Gyp so fond of you as that? I thought she only loved her
Crouching forward with his knees drawn up, Fiorsen hissed out:
"Don't talk of Gyp! Get out of this! I will pay you your thousand
Rosek, still smiling, answered:
"Gustav, don't be a fool! With a violin to your shoulder, you are
a man. Without--you are a child. Lie quiet, my friend, and think
of Mr. Wagge. But you had better come and talk it over with me.
Good-bye for the moment. Calm yourself." And, flipping the ash
off his cigarette on to the tray by Fiorsen's elbow, he nodded and
Fiorsen, who had leaped out of bed, put his hand to his head. The
cursed fellow! Cursed be every one of them--the father and the
girl, Rosek and all the other sharks! He went out on to the
landing. The house was quite still below. Rosek had gone--good
riddance! He called, "Gyp!" No answer. He went into her room.
Its superlative daintiness struck his fancy. A scent of cyclamen!
He looked out into the garden. There was the baby at the end, and
that fat woman. No Gyp! Never in when she was wanted. Wagge! He
shivered; and, going back into his bedroom, took a brandy-bottle
from a locked cupboard and drank some. It steadied him; he locked
up the cupboard again, and dressed.
Going out to the music-room, he stopped under the trees to make
passes with his fingers at the baby. Sometimes he felt that it was
an adorable little creature, with its big, dark eyes so like Gyp's.
Sometimes it excited his disgust--a discoloured brat. This
morning, while looking at it, he thought suddenly of the other that
was coming--and grimaced. Catching Betty's stare of horrified
amazement at the face he was making at her darling, he burst into a
laugh and turned away into the music-room.
While he was keying up his violin, Gyp's conduct in never having
come there for so long struck him as bitterly unjust. The girl--
who cared about the wretched girl? As if she made any real
difference! It was all so much deeper than that. Gyp had never
loved him, never given him what he wanted, never quenched his
thirst of her! That was the heart of it. No other woman he had
ever had to do with had been like that--kept his thirst unquenched.
No; he had always tired of them before they tired of him. She gave
him nothing really--nothing! Had she no heart or did she give it
elsewhere? What was that Paul had said about her music-lessons?
And suddenly it struck him that he knew nothing, absolutely
nothing, of where she went or what she did. She never told him
anything. Music-lessons? Every day, nearly, she went out, was
away for hours. The thought that she might go to the arms of
another man made him put down his violin with a feeling of actual
sickness. Why not? That deep and fearful whipping of the sexual
instinct which makes the ache of jealousy so truly terrible was at
its full in such a nature as Fiorsen's. He drew a long breath and
shuddered. The remembrance of her fastidious pride, her candour,
above all her passivity cut in across his fear. No, not Gyp!
He went to a little table whereon stood a tantalus, tumblers, and a
syphon, and pouring out some brandy, drank. It steadied him. And
he began to practise. He took a passage from Brahms' violin
concerto and began to play it over and over. Suddenly, he found he
was repeating the same flaws each time; he was not attending. The
fingering of that thing was ghastly! Music-lessons! Why did she
take them? Waste of time and money--she would never be anything
but an amateur! Ugh! Unconsciously, he had stopped playing. Had
she gone there to-day? It was past lunch-time. Perhaps she had
He put down his violin and went back to the house. No sign of her!
The maid came to ask if he would lunch. No! Was the mistress to
be in? She had not said. He went into the dining-room, ate a
biscuit, and drank a brandy and soda. It steadied him. Lighting a
cigarette, he came back to the drawing-room and sat down at Gyp's
bureau. How tidy! On the little calendar, a pencil-cross was set
against to-day--Wednesday, another against Friday. What for?
Music-lessons! He reached to a pigeon-hole, and took out her
address-book. "H--Harmost, 305A, Marylebone Road," and against it
the words in pencil, "3 P.M."
Three o'clock. So that was her hour! His eyes rested idly on a
little old coloured print of a Bacchante, with flowing green scarf,
shaking a tambourine at a naked Cupid, who with a baby bow and
arrow in his hands, was gazing up at her. He turned it over; on
the back was written in a pointed, scriggly hand, "To my little
friend.--E. H." Fiorsen drew smoke deep down into his lungs,
expelled it slowly, and went to the piano. He opened it and began
to play, staring vacantly before him, the cigarette burned nearly
to his lips. He went on, scarcely knowing what he played. At last
he stopped, and sat dejected. A great artist? Often, nowadays, he
did not care if he never touched a violin again. Tired of standing
up before a sea of dull faces, seeing the blockheads knock their
silly hands one against the other! Sick of the sameness of it all!
Besides--besides, were his powers beginning to fail? What was
happening to him of late?
He got up, went into the dining-room, and drank some brandy. Gyp
could not bear his drinking. Well, she shouldn't be out so much--
taking music-lessons. Music-lessons! Nearly three o'clock. If he
went for once and saw what she really did--Went, and offered her
his escort home! An attention. It might please her. Better,
anyway, than waiting here until she chose to come in with her face
all closed up. He drank a little more brandy--ever so little--took
his hat and went. Not far to walk, but the sun was hot, and he
reached the house feeling rather dizzy. A maid-servant opened the
door to him.
"I am Mr. Fiorsen. Mrs. Fiorsen here?"
"Yes, sir; will you wait?"
Why did she look at him like that? Ugly girl! How hateful ugly
people were! When she was gone, he reopened the door of the
waiting-room, and listened.
Chopin! The polonaise in A flat. Good! Could that be Gyp? Very
good! He moved out, down the passage, drawn on by her playing, and
softly turned the handle. The music stopped. He went in.
When Winton had left him, an hour and a half later that afternoon,
Fiorsen continued to stand at the front door, swaying his body to
and fro. The brandy-nurtured burst of jealousy which had made him
insult his wife and old Monsieur Harmost had died suddenly when Gyp
turned on him in the street and spoke in that icy voice; since then
he had felt fear, increasing every minute. Would she forgive? To
one who always acted on the impulse of the moment, so that he
rarely knew afterward exactly what he had done, or whom hurt, Gyp's
self-control had ever been mysterious and a little frightening.
Where had she gone? Why did she not come in? Anxiety is like a
ball that rolls down-hill, gathering momentum. Suppose she did not
come back! But she must--there was the baby--their baby!
For the first time, the thought of it gave him unalloyed
satisfaction. He left the door, and, after drinking a glass to
steady him, flung himself down on the sofa in the drawing-room.
And while he lay there, the brandy warm within him, he thought: 'I
will turn over a new leaf; give up drink, give up everything, send
the baby into the country, take Gyp to Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome--
anywhere out of this England, anywhere, away from that father of
hers and all these stiff, dull folk! She will like that--she loves
travelling!' Yes, they would be happy! Delicious nights--
delicious days--air that did not weigh you down and make you feel
that you must drink--real inspiration--real music! The acrid wood-
smoke scent of Paris streets, the glistening cleanness of the
Thiergarten, a serenading song in a Florence back street, fireflies
in the summer dusk at Sorrento--he had intoxicating memories of
them all! Slowly the warmth of the brandy died away, and, despite
the heat, he felt chill and shuddery. He shut his eyes, thinking
to sleep till she came in. But very soon he opened them, because--
a thing usual with him of late--he saw such ugly things--faces,
vivid, changing as he looked, growing ugly and uglier, becoming all
holes--holes--horrible holes--Corruption--matted, twisted, dark
human-tree-roots of faces! Horrible! He opened his eyes, for when
he did that, they always went. It was very silent. No sound from
above. No sound of the dogs. He would go up and see the baby.
While he was crossing the hall, there came a ring. He opened the
door himself. A telegram! He tore the envelope.
"Gyp and the baby are with me letter follows.--WINTON."
He gave a short laugh, shut the door in the boy's face, and ran up-
stairs; why--heaven knew! There was nobody there now! Nobody!
Did it mean that she had really left him--was not coming back? He
stopped by the side of Gyp's bed, and flinging himself forward, lay
across it, burying his face. And he sobbed, as men will, unmanned
by drink. Had he lost her? Never to see her eyes closing and
press his lips against them! Never to soak his senses in her
loveliness! He leaped up, with the tears still wet on his face.
Lost her? Absurd! That calm, prim, devilish Englishman, her
father--he was to blame--he had worked it all--stealing the baby!
He went down-stairs and drank some brandy. It steadied him a
little. What should he do? "Letter follows." Drink, and wait?
Go to Bury Street? No. Drink! Enjoy himself!
He laughed, and, catching up his hat, went out, walking furiously
at first, then slower and slower, for his head began to whirl, and,
taking a cab, was driven to a restaurant in Soho. He had eaten
nothing but a biscuit since his breakfast, always a small matter,
and ordered soup and a flask of their best Chianti--solids he could
not face. More than two hours he sat, white and silent,
perspiration on his forehead, now and then grinning and flourishing
his fingers, to the amusement and sometimes the alarm of those
sitting near. But for being known there, he would have been
regarded with suspicion. About half-past nine, there being no more
wine, he got up, put a piece of gold on the table, and went out
without waiting for his change.
In the streets, the lamps were lighted, but daylight was not quite
gone. He walked unsteadily, toward Piccadilly. A girl of the town
passed and looked up at him. Staring hard, he hooked his arm in
hers without a word; it steadied him, and they walked on thus
together. Suddenly he said:
"Well, girl, are you happy?" The girl stopped and tried to
disengage her arm; a rather frightened look had come into her dark-
eyed powdered face. Fiorsen laughed, and held it firm. "When the
unhappy meet, they walk together. Come on! You are just a little
like my wife. Will you have a drink?"
The girl shook her head, and, with a sudden movement, slipped her
arm out of this madman's and dived away like a swallow through the
pavement traffic. Fiorsen stood still and laughed with his head
thrown back. The second time to-day. SHE had slipped from his
grasp. Passers looked at him, amazed. The ugly devils! And with
a grimace, he turned out of Piccadilly, past St. James's Church,
making for Bury Street. They wouldn't let him in, of course--not
they! But he would look at the windows; they had flower-boxes--
flower-boxes! And, suddenly, he groaned aloud--he had thought of
Gyp's figure busy among the flowers at home. Missing the right
turning, he came in at the bottom of the street. A fiddler in the
gutter was scraping away on an old violin. Fiorsen stopped to
listen. Poor devil! "Pagliacci!" Going up to the man--dark,
lame, very shabby, he took out some silver, and put his other hand
on the man's shoulder.
"Brother," he said, "lend me your fiddle. Here's money for you.
Come; lend it to me. I am a great violinist."
"Ah! Vraiment! Voyons! Donnez--un instant--vous verrez."
The fiddler, doubting but hypnotized, handed him the fiddle; his
dark face changed when he saw this stranger fling it up to his
shoulder and the ways of his fingers with bow and strings. Fiorsen
had begun to walk up the street, his eyes searching for the flower-
boxes. He saw them, stopped, and began playing "Che faro?" He
played it wonderfully on that poor fiddle; and the fiddler, who had
followed at his elbow, stood watching him, uneasy, envious, but a
little entranced. Sapristi! This tall, pale monsieur with the
strange face and the eyes that looked drunk and the hollow chest,
played like an angel! Ah, but it was not so easy as all that to
make money in the streets of this sacred town! You might play like
forty angels and not a copper! He had begun another tune--like
little pluckings at your heart--tres joli--tout a fait ecoeurant!
Ah, there it was--a monsieur as usual closing the window, drawing
the curtains! Always same thing! The violin and the bow were
thrust back into his hands; and the tall strange monsieur was off
as if devils were after him--not badly drunk, that one! And not a
sou thrown down! With an uneasy feeling that he had been involved
in something that he did not understand, the lame, dark fiddler
limped his way round the nearest corner, and for two streets at
least did not stop. Then, counting the silver Fiorsen had put into
his hand and carefully examining his fiddle, he used the word,
"Bigre!" and started for home.
Gyp hardly slept at all. Three times she got up, and, stealing to
the door, looked in at her sleeping baby, whose face in its new bed
she could just see by the night-light's glow. The afternoon had
shaken her nerves. Nor was Betty's method of breathing while
asleep conducive to the slumber of anything but babies. It was so
hot, too, and the sound of the violin still in her ears. By that
little air of Poise, she had known for certain it was Fiorsen; and
her father's abrupt drawing of the curtains had clinched that
certainty. If she had gone to the window and seen him, she would
not have been half so deeply disturbed as she was by that echo of
an old emotion. The link which yesterday she thought broken for
good was reforged in some mysterious way. The sobbing of that old
fiddle had been his way of saying, "Forgive me; forgive!" To leave
him would have been so much easier if she had really hated him; but
she did not. However difficult it may be to live with an artist,
to hate him is quite as difficult. An artist is so flexible--only
the rigid can be hated. She hated the things he did, and him when
he was doing them; but afterward again could hate him no more than
she could love him, and that was--not at all. Resolution and a
sense of the practical began to come back with daylight. When
things were hopeless, it was far better to recognize it and harden
Winton, whose night had been almost as sleepless--to play like a
beggar in the street, under his windows, had seemed to him the
limit!--announced at breakfast that he must see his lawyer, make
arrangements for the payment of Fiorsen's debts, and find out what
could be done to secure Gyp against persecution. Some deed was
probably necessary; he was vague on all such matters. In the
meantime, neither Gyp nor the baby must go out. Gyp spent the
morning writing and rewriting to Monsieur Harmost, trying to
express her chagrin, but not saying that she had left Fiorsen.
Her father came back from Westminster quiet and angry. He had with
difficulty been made to understand that the baby was Fiorsen's
property, so that, if the fellow claimed it, legally they would be
unable to resist. The point opened the old wound, forced him to
remember that his own daughter had once belonged to another--
father. He had told the lawyer in a measured voice that he would
see the fellow damned first, and had directed a deed of separation
to be prepared, which should provide for the complete payment of
Fiorsen's existing debts on condition that he left Gyp and the baby
in peace. After telling Gyp this, he took an opportunity of going
to the extempore nursery and standing by the baby's cradle. Until
then, the little creature had only been of interest as part of Gyp;
now it had for him an existence of its own--this tiny, dark-eyed
creature, lying there, watching him so gravely, clutching his
finger. Suddenly the baby smiled--not a beautiful smile, but it
made on Winton an indelible impression.
Wishing first to settle this matter of the deed, he put off going
down to Mildenham; but "not trusting those two scoundrels a yard"--
for he never failed to bracket Rosek and Fiorsen--he insisted that
the baby should not go out without two attendants, and that Gyp
should not go out alone. He carried precaution to the point of
accompanying her to Monsieur Harmost's on the Friday afternoon, and
expressed a wish to go in and shake hands with the old fellow. It
was a queer meeting. Those two had as great difficulty in finding
anything to say as though they were denizens of different planets.
And indeed, there ARE two planets on this earth! When, after a
minute or so of the friendliest embarrassment, he had retired to
wait for her, Gyp sat down to her lesson.
Monsieur Harmost said quietly:
"Your letter was very kind, my little friend--and your father is
very kind. But, after all, it was a compliment your husband paid
me." His smile smote Gyp; it seemed to sum up so many
resignations. "So you stay again with your father!" And, looking
at her very hard with his melancholy brown eyes, "When will you
find your fate, I wonder?"
Monsieur Harmost's eyebrows rose.
"Ah," he said, "you think! No, that is impossible!" He walked
twice very quickly up and down the room; then spinning round on his
heel, said sharply: "Well, we must not waste your father's time.
Winton's simple comment in the cab on the way home was:
"Nice old chap!"
At Bury Street, they found Gyp's agitated parlour-maid. Going to
do the music-room that morning, she had "found the master sitting
on the sofa, holding his head, and groaning awful. He's not been
at home, ma'am, since you--you went on your visit, so I didn't know
what to do. I ran for cook and we got him up to bed, and not
knowing where you'd be, ma'am, I telephoned to Count Rosek, and he
came--I hope I didn't do wrong--and he sent me down to see you.
The doctor says his brain's on the touch and go, and he keeps
askin' for you, ma'am. So I didn't know what to do."
Gyp, pale to the lips, said:
"Wait here a minute, Ellen," and went into the dining-room. Winton
followed. She turned to him at once, and said:
"Oh, Dad, what am I to do? His brain! It would be too awful to
feel I'd brought that about."
Winton grunted. Gyp went on:
"I must go and see. If it's really that, I couldn't bear it. I'm
afraid I must go, Dad."
"Well, I'll come too," he said. "The girl can go back in the cab
and say we're on the way."
Taking a parting look at her baby, Gyp thought bitterly: 'My fate?
THIS is my fate, and no getting out of it!' On the journey, she
and Winton were quite silent--but she held his hand tight. While
the cook was taking up to Rosek the news of their arrival, Gyp
stood looking out at her garden. Two days and six hours only since
she had stood there above her pansies; since, at this very spot,
Rosek had kissed her throat! Slipping her hand through Winton's
arm, she said:
"Dad, please don't make anything of that kiss. He couldn't help
himself, I suppose. What does it matter, too?"
A moment later Rosek entered. Before she could speak, Winton was
"Thank you for letting us know, sir. But now that my daughter is
here, there will be no further need for your kind services. Good-
At the cruel curtness of those words, Gyp gave the tiniest start
forward. She had seen them go through Rosek's armour as a sword
through brown paper. He recovered himself with a sickly smile,
bowed, and went out. Winton followed--precisely as if he did not
trust him with the hats in the hall. When the outer door was shut,
"I don't think he'll trouble you again."
Gyp's gratitude was qualified by a queer compassion. After all,
his offence had only been that of loving her.
Fiorsen had been taken to her room, which was larger and cooler
than his own; and the maid was standing by the side of the bed with
a scared face. Gyp signed to her to go. He opened his eyes
"Gyp! Oh! Gyp! Is it you? The devilish, awful things I see--
don't go away again! Oh, Gyp!" With a sob he raised himself and
rested his forehead against her. And Gyp felt--as on the first
night he came home drunk--a merging of all other emotions in the
desire to protect and heal.
"It's all right, all right," she murmured. "I'm going to stay.
Don't worry about anything. Keep quite quiet, and you'll soon be
In a quarter of an hour, he was asleep. His wasted look went to
her heart, and that expression of terror which had been coming and
going until he fell asleep! Anything to do with the brain was so
horrible! Only too clear that she must stay--that his recovery
depended on her. She was still sitting there, motionless, when the
doctor came, and, seeing him asleep, beckoned her out. He looked a
kindly man, with two waistcoats, the top one unbuttoned; and while
he talked, he winked at Gyp involuntarily, and, with each wink, Gyp
felt that he ripped the veil off one more domestic secret. Sleep
was the ticket--the very ticket for him! Had something on his
mind--yes! And--er--a little given to--brandy? Ah! all that must
stop! Stomach as well as nerves affected. Seeing things--nasty
things--sure sign. Perhaps not a very careful life before
marriage. And married--how long? His kindly appreciative eyes
swept Gyp from top to toe. Year and a half! Quite so! Hard
worker at his violin, too? No doubt! Musicians always a little
inclined to be immoderate--too much sense of beauty--burn the
candle at both ends! She must see to that. She had been away, had
she not--staying with her father? Yes. But--no one like a wife
for nursing. As to treatment? Well! One would shove in a dash of
what he would prescribe, night and morning. Perfect quiet. No
stimulant. A little cup of strong coffee without milk, if he
seemed low. Keep him in bed at present. No worry; no excitement.
Young man still. Plenty of vitality. As to herself, no undue
anxiety. To-morrow they would see whether a night nurse would be
necessary. Above all, no violin for a month, no alcohol--in every
way the strictest moderation! And with a last and friendliest
wink, leaning heavily on that word "moderation," he took out a
stylographic pen, scratched on a leaf of his note-book, shook Gyp's
hand, smiled whimsically, buttoned his upper waistcoat, and
Gyp went back to her seat by the bed. Irony! She whose only
desire was to be let go free, was mainly responsible for his
breakdown! But for her, there would be nothing on his mind, for he
would not be married! Brooding morbidly, she asked herself--his
drinking, debts, even the girl--had she caused them, too? And when
she tried to free him and herself--this was the result! Was there
something fatal about her that must destroy the men she had to do
with? She had made her father unhappy, Monsieur Harmost--Rosek,
and her husband! Even before she married, how many had tried for
her love, and gone away unhappy! And, getting up, she went to a
mirror and looked at herself long and sadly.
Three days after her abortive attempt to break away, Gyp, with much
heart-searching, wrote to Daphne Wing, telling her of Fiorsen's
illness, and mentioning a cottage near Mildenham, where--if she
liked to go--she would be quite comfortable and safe from all
curiosity, and finally begging to be allowed to make good the
losses from any broken dance-contracts.
Next morning, she found Mr. Wagge with a tall, crape-banded hat in
his black-gloved hands, standing in the very centre of her drawing-
room. He was staring into the garden, as if he had been vouchsafed
a vision of that warm night when the moonlight shed its ghostly
glamour on the sunflowers, and his daughter had danced out there.
She had a perfect view of his thick red neck in its turndown
collar, crossed by a black bow over a shiny white shirt. And,
holding out her hand, she said:
"How do you do, Mr. Wagge? It was kind of you to come."
Mr. Wagge turned. His pug face wore a downcast expression.
"I hope I see you well, ma'am. Pretty place you 'ave 'ere. I'm
fond of flowers myself. They've always been my 'obby."
"They're a great comfort in London, aren't they?"
"Ye-es; I should think you might grow the dahlia here." And having
thus obeyed the obscure instincts of savoir faire, satisfied some
obscurer desire to flatter, he went on: "My girl showed me your
letter. I didn't like to write; in such a delicate matter I'd
rather be vivey vocey. Very kind, in your position; I'm sure I
appreciate it. I always try to do the Christian thing myself.
Flesh passes; you never know when you may have to take your turn.
I said to my girl I'd come and see you."
"I'm very glad. I hoped perhaps you would."
Mr. Wagge cleared his throat, and went on, in a hoarser voice:
"I don't want to say anything harsh about a certain party in your
presence, especially as I read he's indisposed, but really I hardly
know how to bear the situation. I can't bring myself to think of
money in relation to that matter; all the same, it's a serious loss
to my daughter, very serious loss. I've got my family pride to
think of. My daughter's name, well--it's my own; and, though I say
it, I'm respected--a regular attendant--I think I told you.
Sometimes, I assure you, I feel I can't control myself, and it's
only that--and you, if I may say so, that keeps me in check."
During this speech, his black-gloved hands were clenching and
unclenching, and he shifted his broad, shining boots. Gyp gazed at
them, not daring to look up at his eyes thus turning and turning
from Christianity to shekels, from his honour to the world, from
his anger to herself. And she said:
"Please let me do what I ask, Mr. Wagge. I should be so unhappy if
I mightn't do that little something."
Mr. Wagge blew his nose.
"It's a delicate matter," he said. "I don't know where my duty
lays. I don't, reelly."
Gyp looked up then.
"The great thing is to save Daisy suffering, isn't it?"
Mr. Wagge's face wore for a moment an expression of affront, as if
from the thought: 'Sufferin'! You must leave that to her father!'
Then it wavered; the curious, furtive warmth of the attracted male
came for a moment into his little eyes; he averted them, and
coughed. Gyp said softly:
"To please me."
Mr. Wagge's readjusted glance stopped in confusion at her waist.
He answered, in a voice that he strove to make bland:
"If you put it in that way, I don't reelly know 'ow to refuse; but
it must be quite between you and me--I can't withdraw my attitude."
"No, of course. Thank you so much; and you'll let me know about
everything later. I mustn't take up your time now." And she held
out her hand.
Mr. Wagge took it in a lingering manner.
"Well, I HAVE an appointment," he said; "a gentleman at Campden
Hill. He starts at twelve. I'm never late. GOOD-morning."
When she had watched his square, black figure pass through the
outer gate, busily rebuttoning those shining black gloves, she went
upstairs and washed her face and hands.
For several days, Fiorsen wavered; but his collapse had come just
in time, and with every hour the danger lessened. At the end of a
fortnight of a perfectly white life, there remained nothing to do
in the words of the doctor but "to avoid all recurrence of the
predisposing causes, and shove in sea air!" Gyp had locked up all
brandy--and violins; she could control him so long as he was tamed
by his own weakness. But she passed some very bitter hours before
she sent for her baby, Betty, and the dogs, and definitely took up
life in her little house again. His debts had been paid, including
the thousand pounds to Rosek, and the losses of Daphne Wing. The
girl had gone down to that cottage where no one had ever heard of
her, to pass her time in lonely grief and terror, with the aid of a
black dress and a gold band on her third finger.
August and the first half of September were spent near Bude.
Fiorsen's passion for the sea, a passion Gyp could share, kept him
singularly moderate and free from restiveness. He had been
thoroughly frightened, and such terror is not easily forgotten.
They stayed in a farmhouse, where he was at his best with the
simple folk, and his best could be charming. He was always trying
to get his "mermaid," as he took to calling Gyp, away from the
baby, getting her away to himself, along the grassy cliffs and
among the rocks and yellow sands of that free coast. His delight
was to find every day some new nook where they could bathe, and dry
themselves by sitting in the sun. And very like a mermaid she was,
on a seaweedy rock, with her feet close together in a little pool,
her fingers combing her drowned hair, and the sun silvering her wet
body. If she had loved him, it would have been perfect. But
though, close to nature like this--there are men to whom towns are
poison--he was so much more easy to bear, even to like, her heart
never opened to him, never fluttered at his voice, or beat more
quickly under his kisses. One cannot regulate these things. The
warmth in her eyes when they looked at her baby, and the coolness
when they looked at him, was such that not even a man, and he an
egoist, could help seeing; and secretly he began to hate that tiny
rival, and she began to notice that he did.
As soon as the weather broke, he grew restless, craving his violin,
and they went back to town, in robust health--all three. During
those weeks, Gyp had never been free of the feeling that it was
just a lull, of forces held up in suspense, and the moment they
were back in their house, this feeling gathered density and
darkness, as rain gathers in the sky after a fine spell. She had
often thought of Daphne Wing, and had written twice, getting in
return one naive and pathetic answer:
'DEAR MRS. FIORSEN,
'Oh, it is kind of you to write, because I know what you must be
feeling about me; and it was so kind of you to let me come here. I
try not to think about things, but of course I can't help it; and I
don't seem to care what happens now. Mother is coming down here
later on. Sometimes I lie awake all night, listening to the wind.
Don't you think the wind is the most melancholy thing in the world?
I wonder if I shall die? I hope I shall. Oh, I do, really! Good-
bye, dear Mrs. Fiorsen. I shall never forgive myself about you.
The girl had never once been mentioned between her and Fiorsen
since the night when he sat by her bed, begging forgiveness; she
did not know whether he ever gave the little dancer and her trouble
a thought, or even knew what had become of her. But now that the
time was getting near, Gyp felt more and more every day as if she
must go down and see her. She wrote to her father, who, after a
dose of Harrogate with Aunt Rosamund, was back at Mildenham.
Winton answered that the nurse was there, and that there seemed to
be a woman, presumably the mother, staying with her, but that he
had not of course made direct inquiry. Could not Gyp come down?
He was alone, and cubbing had begun. It was like him to veil his
longings under such dry statements. But the thought of giving him
pleasure, and of a gallop with hounds fortified intensely her
feeling that she ought to go. Now that baby was so well, and
Fiorsen still not drinking, she might surely snatch this little
holiday and satisfy her conscience about the girl. Since the
return from Cornwall, she had played for him in the music-room just
as of old, and she chose the finish of a morning practice to say:
"Gustav, I want to go to Mildenham this afternoon for a week.
He was putting away his violin, but she saw his neck grow red.
"To him? No. He will steal you as he stole the baby. Let him
have the baby if he likes. Not you. No."
Gyp, who was standing by the piano, kept silence at this unexpected
outburst, but revolt blazed up in her. She never asked him
anything; he should not refuse this. He came up behind and put his
arms round her.
"My Gyp, I want you here--I am lonely, too. Don't go away."
She tried to force his arms apart, but could not, and her anger
grew. She said coldly:
"There's another reason why I must go."
"No, no! No good reason--to take you from me."
"There is! The girl who is just going to have your child is
staying near Mildenham, and I want to see how she is."
He let go of her then, and recoiling against the divan, sat down.
And Gyp thought: 'I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--but it serves him
He muttered, in a dull voice:
"Oh, I hoped she was dead."
"Yes! For all you care, she might be. I'm going, but you needn't
be afraid that I shan't come back. I shall be back to-day week; I
He looked at her fixedly.
"Yes. You don't break your promises; you will not break it." But,
suddenly, he said again: "Gyp, don't go!"
He got up and caught her in his arms.
"Say you love me, then!"
But she could not. It was one thing to put up with embraces, quite
another to pretend that. When at last he was gone, she sat
smoothing her hair, staring before her with hard eyes, thinking:
"Here--where I saw him with that girl! What animals men are!"
Late that afternoon, she reached Mildenham. Winton met her at the
station. And on the drive up, they passed the cottage where Daphne
Wing was staying. It stood in front of a small coppice, a
creepered, plain-fronted, little brick house, with a garden still
full of sunflowers, tenanted by the old jockey, Pettance, his
widowed daughter, and her three small children. "That talkative
old scoundrel," as Winton always called him, was still employed in
the Mildenham stables, and his daughter was laundress to the
establishment. Gyp had secured for Daphne Wing the same free,
independent, economic agent who had watched over her own event; the
same old doctor, too, was to be the presiding deity. There were no
signs of life about the cottage, and she would not stop, too eager
to be at home again, to see the old rooms, and smell the old savour
of the house, to get to her old mare, and feel its nose nuzzling
her for sugar. It was so good to be back once more, feeling strong
and well and able to ride. The smile of the inscrutable Markey at
the front door was a joy to her, even the darkness of the hall,
where a gleam of last sunlight fell across the skin of Winton's
first tiger, on which she had so often sunk down dead tired after
hunting. Ah, it was nice to be at home!
In her mare's box, old Pettance was putting a last touch to
cleanliness. His shaven, skin-tight, wicked old face, smiled
deeply. He said in honeyed tones:
"Good evenin', miss; beautiful evenin', ma'am!" And his little
burning brown eyes, just touched by age, regarded her lovingly.
"Well, Pettance, how are you? And how's Annie, and how are the
children? And how's this old darling?"
"Wonderful, miss; artful as a kitten. Carry you like a bird to-
morrow, if you're goin' out."
"How are her legs?"
And while Gyp passed her hand down those iron legs, the old mare
examined her down the back of her neck.
"They 'aven't filled not once since she come in--she was out all
July and August; but I've kept 'er well at it since, in 'opes you
might be comin'."
"They feel splendid." And, still bending down, Gyp asked: "And how
is your lodger--the young lady I sent you?"
"Well, ma'am, she's very young, and these very young ladies they
get a bit excited, you know, at such times; I should say she've
never been--" With obvious difficulty he checked the words, "to an
'orse before!" "Well, you must expect it. And her mother, she's a
dreadful funny one, miss. She does needle me! Oh, she puts my
back up properly! No class, of course--that's where it is. But
this 'ere nurse--well, you know, miss, she won't 'ave no nonsense;
so there we are. And, of course, you're bound to 'ave 'ighsteria,
a bit--losin' her 'usband as young as that."
Gyp could feel his wicked old smile even before she raised herself.
But what did it matter if he did guess? She knew he would keep a
"Oh, we've 'ad some pretty flirts--up and cryin', dear me! I
sleeps in the next room--oh, yes, at night-time--when you're a
widder at that age, you can't expect nothin' else. I remember when
I was ridin' in Ireland for Captain O'Neill, there was a young
Gyp thought: 'I mustn't let him get off--or I shall be late for
dinner,' and she said:
"Oh, Pettance, who bought the young brown horse?"
"Mr. Bryn Summer'ay, ma'am, over at Widrington, for an 'unter, and
'ack in town, miss."
"Summerhay? Ah!" With a touch of the whip to her memory, Gyp
recalled the young man with the clear eyes and teasing smile, on
the chestnut mare, the bold young man who reminded her of somebody,
and she added:
"That'll be a good home for him, I should think."
"Oh, yes, miss; good 'ome--nice gentleman, too. He come over here
to see it, and asked after you. I told 'im you was a married lady
now, miss. 'Ah,' he said; 'she rode beautiful!' And he remembered
the 'orse well. The major, he wasn't 'ere just then, so I let him
try the young un; he popped 'im over a fence or two, and when he
come back he says, 'Well, I'm goin' to have 'im.' Speaks very
pleasant, an' don't waste no time--'orse was away before the end of
the week. Carry 'im well; 'e's a strong rider, too, and a good
plucked one, but bad 'ands, I should say."
"Yes, Pettance; I must go in now. Will you tell Annie I shall be
round to-morrow, to see her?"
"Very good, miss. 'Ounds meets at Filly Cross, seven-thirty.
You'll be goin' out?"
Flying back across the yard, Gyp thought: "'She rode beautiful!'
How jolly! I'm glad he's got my horse."
Still glowing from her morning in the saddle, Gyp started out next
day at noon on her visit to the "old scoundrel's" cottage. It was
one of those lingering mellow mornings of late September, when the
air, just warmed through, lifts off the stubbles, and the hedgerows
are not yet dried of dew. The short cut led across two fields, a
narrow strip of village common, where linen was drying on gorse
bushes coming into bloom, and one field beyond; she met no one.
Crossing the road, she passed into the cottage-garden, where
sunflowers and Michaelmas daisies in great profusion were tangled
along the low red-brick garden-walls, under some poplar trees
yellow-flecked already. A single empty chair, with a book turned
face downward, stood outside an open window. Smoke wreathing from
one chimney was the only sign of life. But, standing undecided
before the half-open door, Gyp was conscious, as it were, of too
much stillness, of something unnatural about the silence. She was
just raising her hand to knock when she heard the sound of
smothered sobbing. Peeping through the window, she could just see
a woman dressed in green, evidently Mrs. Wagge, seated at a table,
crying into her handkerchief. At that very moment, too, a low
moaning came from the room above. Gyp recoiled; then, making up
her mind, she went in and knocked at the room where the woman in
green was sitting. After fully half a minute, it was opened, and
Mrs. Wagge stood there. The nose and eyes and cheeks of that
thinnish, acid face were red, and in her green dress, and with her
greenish hair (for it was going grey and she put on it a yellow
lotion smelling of cantharides), she seemed to Gyp just like one of
those green apples that turn reddish so unnaturally in the sun.
She had rubbed over her face, which shone in streaks, and her
handkerchief was still crumpled in her hand. It was horrible to
come, so fresh and glowing, into the presence of this poor woman,
evidently in bitter sorrow. And a desperate desire came over Gyp
to fly. It seemed dreadful for anyone connected with him who had
caused this trouble to be coming here at all. But she said as
softly as she could:
"Mrs. Wagge? Please forgive me--but is there any news? I am--It
was I who got Daphne down here."
The woman before her was evidently being torn this way and that,
but at last she answered, with a sniff:
"It--it--was born this morning--dead." Gyp gasped. To have gone
through it all for that! Every bit of mother-feeling in her
rebelled and sorrowed; but her reason said: Better so! Much
better! And she murmured:
"How is she?"
Mrs. Wagge answered, with profound dejection:
"Bad--very bad. I don't know I'm sure what to say--my feelings are
all anyhow, and that's the truth. It's so dreadfully upsetting
"Is my nurse with her?"
"Yes; she's there. She's a very headstrong woman, but capable, I
don't deny. Daisy's very weak. Oh, it IS upsetting! And now I
suppose there'll have to be a burial. There really seems no end to
it. And all because of--of that man." And Mrs. Wagge turned away
again to cry into her handkerchief.
Feeling she could never say or do the right thing to the poor lady,
Gyp stole out. At the bottom of the stairs, she hesitated whether
to go up or no. At last, she mounted softly. It must be in the
front room that the bereaved girl was lying--the girl who, but a
year ago, had debated with such naive self-importance whether or
not it was her duty to take a lover. Gyp summoned courage to tap
gently. The economic agent opened the door an inch, but, seeing
who it was, slipped her robust and handsome person through into the
"You, my dear!" she said in a whisper. "That's nice!"
"How is she?"
"Fairly well--considering. You know about it?"
"Yes; can I see her?"
"I hardly think so. I can't make her out. She's got no spirit,
not an ounce. She doesn't want to get well, I believe. It's the
man, I expect." And, looking at Gyp with her fine blue eyes, she
asked: "Is that it? Is he tired of her?"
Gyp met her gaze better than she had believed possible.
The economic agent swept her up and down. "It's a pleasure to look
at you. You've got quite a colour, for you. After all, I believe
it MIGHT do her good to see you. Come in!"
Gyp passed in behind her, and stood gazing, not daring to step
forward. What a white face, with eyes closed, with fair hair still
damp on the forehead, with one white hand lying on the sheet above
her heart! What a frail madonna of the sugar-plums! On the whole
of that bed the only colour seemed the gold hoop round the wedding-
The economic agent said very quietly:
"Look, my dear; I've brought you a nice visitor."
Daphne Wing's eyes and lips opened and closed again. And the awful
thought went through Gyp: 'Poor thing! She thought it was going to
be him, and it's only me!' Then the white lips said:
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, it's you--it is kind of you!" And the eyes
opened again, but very little, and differently.
The economic agent slipped away. Gyp sat down by the bed and
timidly touched the hand.
Daphne Wing looked at her, and two tears slowly ran down her
"It's over," she said just audibly, "and there's nothing now--it
was dead, you know. I don't want to live. Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, why
can't they let me die, too?"
Gyp bent over and kissed the hand, unable to bear the sight of
those two slowly rolling tears. Daphne Wing went on:
"You ARE good to me. I wish my poor little baby hadn't--"
Gyp, knowing her own tears were wetting that hand, raised herself
and managed to get out the words:
"Bear up! Think of your work!"
"Dancing! Ho!" She gave the least laugh ever heard. "It seems so
"Yes; but now it'll all come back to you again, better than ever."
Daphne Wing answered by a feeble sigh.
There was silence. Gyp thought: 'She's falling asleep.'
With eyes and mouth closed like that, and all alabaster white, the
face was perfect, purged of its little commonnesses. Strange freak
that this white flower of a face could ever have been produced by
Mr. and Mrs. Wagge!
Daphne Wing opened her eyes and said:
"Oh! Mrs. Fiorsen, I feel so weak. And I feel much more lonely
now. There's nothing anywhere."
Gyp got up; she felt herself being carried into the mood of the
girl's heart, and was afraid it would be seen. Daphne Wing went
"Do you know, when nurse said she'd brought a visitor, I thought it
was him; but I'm glad now. If he had looked at me like he did--I
couldn't have borne it."
Gyp bent down and put her lips to the damp forehead. Faint, very
faint, there was still the scent of orange-blossom.
When she was once more in the garden, she hurried away; but instead
of crossing the fields again, turned past the side of the cottage
into the coppice behind. And, sitting down on a log, her hands
pressed to her cheeks and her elbows to her breast, she stared at
the sunlit bracken and the flies chasing each other over it. Love!
Was it always something hateful and tragic that spoiled lives?
Criss-cross! One darting on another, taking her almost before she
knew she was seized, then darting away and leaving her wanting to
be seized again. Or darting on her, who, when seized, was fatal to
the darter, yet had never wanted to be seized. Or darting one on
the other for a moment, then both breaking away too soon. Did
never two dart at each other, seize, and cling, and ever after be
one? Love! It had spoiled her father's life, and Daphne Wing's;
never came when it was wanted; always came when it was not.
Malevolent wanderer, alighting here, there; tiring of the spirit
before it tired of the body; or of the body before it tired of the
spirit. Better to have nothing to do with it--far better! If one
never loved, one would never feel lonely--like that poor girl. And
yet! No--there was no "and yet." Who that was free would wish to
become a slave? A slave--like Daphne Wing! A slave--like her own
husband to his want of a wife who did not love him. A slave like
her father had been--still was, to a memory. And watching the
sunlight on the bracken, Gyp thought: 'Love! Keep far from me. I
don't want you. I shall never want you!'
Every morning that week she made her way to the cottage, and every
morning had to pass through the hands of Mrs. Wagge. The good lady
had got over the upsetting fact that Gyp was the wife of that
villain, and had taken a fancy to her, confiding to the economic
agent, who confided it to Gyp, that she was "very distangey--and
such pretty eyes, quite Italian." She was one of those numberless
persons whose passion for distinction was just a little too much
for their passionate propriety. It was that worship of distinction
which had caused her to have her young daughter's talent for
dancing fostered. Who knew to what it might lead in these days?
At great length she explained to Gyp the infinite care with which
she had always "brought Daisy up like a lady--and now this is the
result." And she would look piercingly at Gyp's hair or ears, at
her hands or her instep, to see how it was done. The burial
worried her dreadfully. "I'm using the name of Daisy Wing; she was
christened 'Daisy' and the Wing's professional, so that takes them
both in, and it's quite the truth. But I don't think anyone would
connect it, would they? About the father's name, do you think I
might say the late Mr. Joseph Wing, this once? You see, it never
was alive, and I must put something if they're not to guess the
truth, and that I couldn't bear; Mr. Wagge would be so distressed.
It's in his own line, you see. Oh, it is upsetting!"
Gyp murmured desperately:
"Oh! yes, anything."
Though the girl was so deathly white and spiritless, it soon became
clear that she was going to pull through. With each day, a little
more colour and a little more commonness came back to her. And Gyp
felt instinctively that she would, in the end, return to Fulham
purged of her infatuation, a little harder, perhaps a little deeper.
Late one afternoon toward the end of her week at Mildenham, Gyp
wandered again into the coppice, and sat down on that same log. An
hour before sunset, the light shone level on the yellowing leaves
all round her; a startled rabbit pelted out of the bracken and
pelted back again, and, from the far edge of the little wood, a jay
cackled harshly, shifting its perch from tree to tree. Gyp thought
of her baby, and of that which would have been its half-brother;
and now that she was so near having to go back to Fiorsen, she knew
that she had not been wise to come here. To have been in contact
with the girl, to have touched, as it were, that trouble, had made
the thought of life with him less tolerable even than it was
before. Only the longing to see her baby made return seem
possible. Ah, well--she would get used to it all again! But the
anticipation of his eyes fixed on her, then sliding away from the
meeting with her eyes, of all--of all that would begin again,
suddenly made her shiver. She was very near to loathing at that
moment. He, the father of her baby! The thought seemed ridiculous
and strange. That little creature seemed to bind him to her no
more than if it were the offspring of some chance encounter, some
pursuit of nymph by faun. No! It was hers alone. And a sudden
feverish longing to get back to it overpowered all other thought.
This longing grew in her so all night that at breakfast she told
her father. Swallowing down whatever his feeling may have been, he
"Very well, my child; I'll come up with you."
Putting her into the cab in London, he asked:
"Have you still got your key of Bury Street? Good! Remember, Gyp--
any time day or night--there it is for you."
She had wired to Fiorsen from Mildenham that she was coming, and
she reached home soon after three. He was not in, and what was
evidently her telegram lay unopened in the hall. Tremulous with
expectation, she ran up to the nursery. The pathetic sound of some
small creature that cannot tell what is hurting it, or why, met her
ears. She went in, disturbed, yet with the half-triumphant
thought: 'Perhaps that's for me!'
Betty, very flushed, was rocking the cradle, and examining the
baby's face with a perplexed frown. Seeing Gyp, she put her hand
to her side, and gasped:
"Oh, be joyful! Oh, my dear! I AM glad. I can't do anything with
baby since the morning. Whenever she wakes up, she cries like
that. And till to-day she's been a little model. Hasn't she!
Gyp took up the baby, whose black eyes fixed themselves on her
mother in a momentary contentment; but, at the first movement, she
began again her fretful plaint. Betty went on:
"She's been like that ever since this morning. Mr. Fiorsen's been
in more than once, ma'am, and the fact is, baby don't like it. He
stares at her so. But this morning I thought--well--I thought:
'You're her father. It's time she was getting used to you.' So I
let them be a minute; and when I came back--I was only just across
to the bathroom--he was comin' out lookin' quite fierce and white,
and baby--oh, screamin'! And except for sleepin', she's hardly
stopped cryin' since."
Pressing the baby to her breast, Gyp sat very still, and queer
thoughts went through her mind.
"How has he been, Betty?" she said.
Betty plaited her apron; her moon-face was troubled.
"Well," she said, "I think he's been drinkin'. Oh, I'm sure he
has--I've smelt it about him. The third day it began. And night
before last he came in dreadfully late--I could hear him staggerin'
about, abusing the stairs as he was comin' up. Oh dear--it IS a
The baby, who had been still enough since she lay in her mother's
lap, suddenly raised her little voice again. Gyp said:
"Betty, I believe something hurts her arm. She cries the moment
she's touched there. Is there a pin or anything? Just see. Take
her things off. Oh--look!"
Both the tiny arms above the elbow were circled with dark marks, as
if they had been squeezed by ruthless fingers. The two women
looked at each other in horror; and under her breath Gyp said:
She had flushed crimson; her eyes filled but dried again almost at
once. And, looking at her face, now gone very pale, and those lips
tightened to a line, Betty stopped in her outburst of ejaculation.
When they had wrapped the baby's arm in remedies and cotton-wool,
Gyp went into her bedroom, and, throwing herself down on her bed,
burst into a passion of weeping, smothering it deep in her pillow.
It was the crying of sheer rage. The brute! Not to have control
enough to stop short of digging his claws into that precious mite!
Just because the poor little thing cried at that cat's stare of
his! The brute! The devil! And he would come to her and whine
about it, and say: "My Gyp, I never meant--how should I know I was
hurting? Her crying was so--Why should she cry at me? I was
upset! I wasn't thinking!" She could hear him pleading and
sighing to her to forgive him. But she would not--not this time!
He had hurt a helpless thing once too often. Her fit of crying
ceased, and she lay listening to the tick of the clock, and
marshalling in her mind a hundred little evidences of his
malevolence toward her baby--his own baby. How was it possible?
Was he really going mad? And a fit of such chilly shuddering
seized her that she crept under the eider down to regain warmth.
In her rage, she retained enough sense of proportion to understand
that he had done this, just as he had insulted Monsieur Harmost and
her father--and others--in an ungovernable access of nerve-
irritation; just as, perhaps, one day he would kill someone. But
to understand this did not lessen her feeling. Her baby! Such a
tiny thing! She hated him at last; and she lay thinking out the
coldest, the cruellest, the most cutting things to say. She had
been too long-suffering.
But he did not come in that evening; and, too upset to eat or do
anything, she went up to bed at ten o'clock. When she had
undressed, she stole across to the nursery; she had a longing to
have the baby with her--a feeling that to leave her was not safe.
She carried her off, still sleeping, and, locking her doors, got
into bed. Having warmed a nest with her body for the little
creature, she laid it there; and then for a long time lay awake,
expecting every minute to hear him return. She fell asleep at
last, and woke with a start. There were vague noises down below or
on the stairs. It must be he! She had left the light on in her
room, and she leaned over to look at the baby's face. It was still
sleeping, drawing its tiny breaths peacefully, little dog-shivers
passing every now and then over its face. Gyp, shaking back her
dark plaits of hair, sat up by its side, straining her ears.
Yes; he WAS coming up, and, by the sounds, he was not sober. She
heard a loud creak, and then a thud, as if he had clutched at the
banisters and fallen; she heard muttering, too, and the noise of
boots dropped. Swiftly the thought went through her: 'If he were
quite drunk, he would not have taken them off at all;--nor if he
were quite sober. Does he know I'm back?' Then came another
creak, as if he were raising himself by support of the banisters,
and then--or was it fancy?--she could hear him creeping and
breathing behind the door. Then--no fancy this time--he fumbled at
the door and turned the handle. In spite of his state, he must
know that she was back, had noticed her travelling-coat or seen the
telegram. The handle was tried again, then, after a pause, the
handle of the door between his room and hers was fiercely shaken.
She could hear his voice, too, as she knew it when he was flown
with drink, thick, a little drawling.
"Gyp--let me in--Gyp!"
The blood burned up in her cheeks, and she thought: 'No, my friend;
you're not coming in!'
After that, sounds were more confused, as if he were now at one
door, now at the other; then creakings, as if on the stairs again,
and after that, no sound at all.
For fully half an hour, Gyp continued to sit up, straining her
ears. Where was he? What doing? On her over-excited nerves, all
sorts of possibilities came crowding. He must have gone downstairs
again. In that half-drunken state, where would his baffled
frenzies lead him? And, suddenly, she thought that she smelled
burning. It went, and came again; she got up, crept to the door,
noiselessly turned the key, and, pulling it open a few inches,
All was dark on the landing. There was no smell of burning out
there. Suddenly, a hand clutched her ankle. All the blood rushed
from her heart; she stifled a scream, and tried to pull the door
to. But his arm and her leg were caught between, and she saw the
black mass of his figure lying full-length on its face. Like a
vice, his hand held her; he drew himself up on to his knees, on to
his feet, and forced his way through. Panting, but in utter
silence, Gyp struggled to drive him out. His drunken strength
seemed to come and go in gusts, but hers was continuous, greater
than she had ever thought she had, and she panted:
"Go! go out of my room--you--you--wretch!"
Then her heart stood still with horror, for he had slued round to
the bed and was stretching his hands out above the baby. She heard
"Ah-h-h!--YOU--in my place--YOU!"
Gyp flung herself on him from behind, dragging his arms down, and,
clasping her hands together, held him fast. He twisted round in
her arms and sat down on the bed. In that moment of his collapse,
Gyp snatched up her baby and fled out, down the dark stairs,
hearing him stumbling, groping in pursuit. She fled into the
dining-room and locked the door. She heard him run against it and
fall down. Snuggling her baby, who was crying now, inside her
nightgown, next to her skin for warmth, she stood rocking and
hushing it, trying to listen. There was no more sound. By the
hearth, whence a little heat still came forth from the ashes, she
cowered down. With cushions and the thick white felt from the
dining-table, she made the baby snug, and wrapping her shivering
self in the table-cloth, sat staring wide-eyed before her--and
always listening. There were sounds at first, then none. A long,
long time she stayed like that, before she stole to the door. She
did not mean to make a second mistake. She could hear the sound of
heavy breathing. And she listened to it, till she was quite
certain that it was really the breathing of sleep. Then stealthily
she opened, and looked. He was over there, lying against the
bottom chair, in a heavy, drunken slumber. She knew that sleep so
well; he would not wake from it.
It gave her a sort of evil pleasure that they would find him like
that in the morning when she was gone. She went back to her baby
and, with infinite precaution, lifted it, still sleeping, cushion
and all, and stole past him up the stairs that, under her bare
feet, made no sound. Once more in her locked room, she went to the
window and looked out. It was just before dawn; her garden was
grey and ghostly, and she thought: 'The last time I shall see you.
Then, with the utmost speed, she did her hair and dressed. She was
very cold and shivery, and put on her fur coat and cap. She hunted
out two jerseys for the baby, and a certain old camel's-hair shawl.
She took a few little things she was fondest of and slipped them
into her wrist-bag with her purse, put on her hat and a pair of
gloves. She did everything very swiftly, wondering, all the time,
at her own power of knowing what to take. When she was quite
ready, she scribbled a note to Betty to follow with the dogs to
Bury Street, and pushed it under the nursery door. Then, wrapping
the baby in the jerseys and shawl, she went downstairs. The dawn
had broken, and, from the long narrow window above the door with
spikes of iron across it, grey light was striking into the hall.
Gyp passed Fiorsen's sleeping figure safely, and, for one moment,
stopped for breath. He was lying with his back against the wall,
his head in the hollow of an arm raised against a stair, and his
face turned a little upward. That face which, hundreds of times,
had been so close to her own, and something about this crumpled
body, about his tumbled hair, those cheek-bones, and the hollows
beneath the pale lips just parted under the dirt-gold of his
moustache--something of lost divinity in all that inert figure--
clutched for a second at Gyp's heart. Only for a second. It was
over, this time! No more--never again! And, turning very
stealthily, she slipped her shoes on, undid the chain, opened the
front door, took up her burden, closed the door softly behind her,
and walked away.
Gyp was going up to town. She sat in the corner of a first-class
carriage, alone. Her father had gone up by an earlier train, for
the annual June dinner of his old regiment, and she had stayed to
consult the doctor concerning "little Gyp," aged nearly nineteen
months, to whom teeth were making life a burden.
Her eyes wandered from window to window, obeying the faint
excitement within her. All the winter and spring, she had been at
Mildenham, very quiet, riding much, and pursuing her music as best
she could, seeing hardly anyone except her father; and this
departure for a spell of London brought her the feeling that comes
on an April day, when the sky is blue, with snow-white clouds, when
in the fields the lambs are leaping, and the grass is warm for the
first time, so that one would like to roll in it. At Widrington, a
porter entered, carrying a kit-bag, an overcoat, and some golf-
clubs; and round the door a little group, such as may be seen at
any English wayside station, clustered, filling the air with their
clean, slightly drawling voices. Gyp noted a tall woman whose
blonde hair was going grey, a young girl with a fox-terrier on a
lead, a young man with a Scotch terrier under his arm and his back
to the carriage. The girl was kissing the Scotch terrier's head.
"Good-bye, old Ossy! Was he nice! Tumbo, keep DOWN! YOU'RE not
"Good-bye, dear boy! Don't work too hard!"
The young man's answer was not audible, but it was followed by
irrepressible gurgles and a smothered:
"Oh, Bryan, you ARE--Good-bye, dear Ossy!" "Good-bye!" "Good-
bye!" The young man who had got in, made another unintelligible
joke in a rather high-pitched voice, which was somehow familiar,
and again the gurgles broke forth. Then the train moved. Gyp
caught a side view of him, waving his hat from the carriage window.
It was her acquaintance of the hunting-field--the "Mr. Bryn
Summer'ay," as old Pettance called him, who had bought her horse
last year. Seeing him pull down his overcoat, to bank up the old
Scotch terrier against the jolting of the journey, she thought: 'I
like men who think first of their dogs.' His round head, with
curly hair, broad brow, and those clean-cut lips, gave her again
the wonder: 'Where HAVE I seen someone like him?' He raised the
window, and turned round.
"How would you like--Oh, how d'you do! We met out hunting. You
don't remember me, I expect."
"Yes; perfectly. And you bought my horse last summer. How is he?"
"In great form. I forgot to ask what you called him; I've named
him Hotspur--he'll never be steady at his fences. I remember how
he pulled with you that day."
They were silent, smiling, as people will in remembrance of a good
Then, looking at the dog, Gyp said softly:
"HE looks rather a darling. How old?"
"Twelve. Beastly when dogs get old!"
There was another little silence while he contemplated her steadily
with his clear eyes.
"I came over to call once--with my mother; November the year before
last. Somebody was ill."
Gyp shook her head.
"I heard you were married--" The little drawl in his voice had
increased, as though covering the abruptness of that remark. Gyp
"Yes; but my little daughter and I live with my father again."
What "came over" her--as they say--to be so frank, she could not
He said simply:
"Ah! I've often thought it queer I've never seen you since. What
a run that was!"
"Perfect! Was that your mother on the platform?"
"Yes--and my sister Edith. Extraordinary dead-alive place,
Widrington; I expect Mildenham isn't much better?"
"It's very quiet, but I like it."
"By the way, I don't know your name now?"
"Oh, yes! The violinist. Life's a bit of a gamble, isn't it?"
Gyp did not answer that odd remark, did not quite know what to make
of this audacious young man, whose hazel eyes and lazy smile were
queerly lovable, but whose face in repose had such a broad gravity.
He took from his pocket a little red book.
"Do you know these? I always take them travelling. Finest things
ever written, aren't they?"
The book--Shakespeare's Sonnets--was open at that which begins:
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove--"
Gyp read on as far as the lines:
"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of doom--"
and looked out of the window. The train was passing through a
country of fields and dykes, where the sun, far down in the west,
shone almost level over wide, whitish-green space, and the spotted
cattle browsed or stood by the ditches, lazily flicking their
tufted tails. A shaft of sunlight flowed into the carriage, filled
with dust motes; and, handing the little book back through that
streak of radiance, she said softly:
"Yes; that's wonderful. Do you read much poetry?"
"More law, I'm afraid. But it is about the finest thing in the
world, isn't it?"
"No; I think music."
"Are you a musician?"
"Only a little."
"You look as if you might be."
"What? A little?"
"No; I should think you had it badly."
"Thank you. And you haven't it at all?"
"I like opera."
"The hybrid form--and the lowest!"
"That's why it suits me. Don't you like it, though?"
"Yes; that's why I'm going up to London."
"Really? Are you a subscriber?"
"So am I. Jolly--I shall see you."
Gyp smiled. It was so long since she had talked to a man of her
own age, so long since she had seen a face that roused her
curiosity and admiration, so long since she had been admired. The
sun-shaft, shifted by a westward trend of the train, bathed her
from the knees up; and its warmth increased her light-hearted sense
of being in luck--above her fate, instead of under it.
Astounding how much can be talked of in two or three hours of a
railway journey! And what a friendly after-warmth clings round
those hours! Does the difficulty of making oneself heard provoke
confidential utterance? Or is it the isolation or the continual
vibration that carries friendship faster and further than will a
spasmodic acquaintanceship of weeks? But in that long talk he was
far the more voluble. There was, too, much of which she could not
speak. Besides, she liked to listen. His slightly drawling voice
fascinated her--his audacious, often witty way of putting things,
and the irrepressible bubble of laughter that would keep breaking
from him. He disclosed his past, such as it was, freely--public-
school and college life, efforts at the bar, ambitions, tastes,
even his scrapes. And in this spontaneous unfolding there was
perpetual flattery; Gyp felt through it all, as pretty women will,
a sort of subtle admiration. Presently he asked her if she played
"Yes; I play with my father nearly every evening."
"Shall we have a game, then?"
She knew he only wanted to play because he could sit nearer, joined
by the evening paper over their knees, hand her the cards after
dealing, touch her hand by accident, look in her face. And this
was not unpleasant; for she, in turn, liked looking at his face,
which had what is called "charm"--that something light and
unepiscopal, entirely lacking to so many solid, handsome, admirable
But even railway journeys come to an end; and when he gripped her
hand to say good-bye, she gave his an involuntary little squeeze.
Standing at her cab window, with his hat raised, the old dog under
his arm, and a look of frank, rather wistful, admiration on his
face, he said:
"I shall see you at the opera, then, and in the Row perhaps; and I
may come along to Bury Street, some time, mayn't I?"
Nodding to those friendly words, Gyp drove off through the sultry
London evening. Her father was not back from the dinner, and she
went straight to her room. After so long in the country, it seemed
very close in Bury Street; she put on a wrapper and sat down to
brush the train-smoke out of her hair.
For months after leaving Fiorsen, she had felt nothing but relief.
Only of late had she begun to see her new position, as it was--that
of a woman married yet not married, whose awakened senses have
never been gratified, whose spirit is still waiting for unfoldment
in love, who, however disillusioned, is--even if in secret from
herself--more and more surely seeking a real mate, with every hour
that ripens her heart and beauty. To-night--gazing at her face,
reflected, intent and mournful, in the mirror--she saw that
position more clearly, in all its aridity, than she had ever seen
it. What was the use of being pretty? No longer use to anyone!