Part 6 out of 7
Lady Summerhay, from whose comely face a frock, as it were, had
slipped, clasped her hands together on the book.
Such a swift descent of "life" on one to whom it had for so long
been a series of "cases" was cruel, and her son felt this without
quite realizing why. In the grip of his new emotions, he still
retained enough balance to appreciate what an abominably desolate
piece of news this must be to her, what a disturbance and
disappointment. And, taking her hand, he put it to his lips.
"Cheer up, Mother! It's all right. She's happy, and so am I."
Lady Summerhay could only press her hand against his kiss, and
"Yes; that's not everything, Bryan. Is there--is there going to be
"I don't know. I hope not; but, anyway, HE knows about it."
"Society doesn't forgive."
Summerhay shrugged his shoulders.
"Awfully sorry for YOU, Mother."
This repetition of her plaint jarred his nerves.
"Don't run ahead of things. You needn't tell Edith or Flo. You
needn't tell anybody. We don't know what'll happen yet."
But in Lady Summerhay all was too sore and blank. This woman she
had never seen, whose origin was doubtful, whose marriage must have
soiled her, who was some kind of a siren, no doubt. It really was
too hard! She believed in her son, had dreamed of public position
for him, or, rather, felt he would attain it as a matter of course.
And she said feebly:
"This Major Winton is a man of breeding, isn't he?"
"Rather!" And, stopping before her, as if he read her thoughts, he
added: "You think she's not good enough for me? She's good enough
for anyone on earth. And she's the proudest woman I've ever met.
If you're bothering as to what to do about her--don't! She won't
want anything of anybody--I can tell you that. She won't accept
"That's lucky!" hovered on Lady Summerhay's lips; but, gazing at
her son, she became aware that she stood on the brink of a downfall
in his heart. Then the bitterness of her disappointment rising up
again, she said coldly:
"Are you going to live together openly?"
"Yes; if she will."
"You don't know yet?"
Lady Summerhay got up, and the book on dreams slipped off her lap
with a thump. She went to the fireplace, and stood there looking
at her son. He had altered. His merry look was gone; his face was
strange to her. She remembered it like that, once in the park at
Widrington, when he lost his temper with a pony and came galloping
past her, sitting back, his curly hair stivered up like a little
demon's. And she said sadly:
"You can hardly expect me to like it for you, Bryan, even if she is
what you say. And isn't there some story about--"
"My dear mother, the more there is against her, the more I shall
love her--that's obvious."
Lady Summerhay sighed again.
"What is this man going to do? I heard him play once."
"I don't know. Nothing, I dare say. Morally and legally, he's out
of court. I only wish to God he WOULD bring a case, and I could
marry her; but Gyp says he won't."
Lady Summerhay murmured:
"Gyp? Is that her name?" And a sudden wish, almost a longing, not
a friendly one, to see this woman seized her. "Will you bring her
to see me? I'm alone here till Wednesday."
"I'll ask her, but I don't think she'll come." He turned his head
away. "Mother, she's wonderful!"
An unhappy smile twisted Lady Summerhay's lips. No doubt!
Aphrodite herself had visited her boy. Aphrodite! And--afterward?
She asked desolately:
"Does Major Winton know?"
"What does he say to it?"
"Say? What can anyone say? From your point of view, or his, it's
rotten, of course. But in her position, anything's rotten."
At that encouraging word, the flood-gates gave way in Lady
Summerhay, and she poured forth a stream of words.
"Oh, my dear, can't you pull up? I've seen so many of these
affairs go wrong. It really is not for nothing that law and
conventions are what they are--believe me! Really, Bryan,
experience does show that the pressure's too great. It's only once
in a way--very exceptional people, very exceptional circumstances.
You mayn't think now it'll hamper you, but you'll find it will--
most fearfully. It's not as if you were a writer or an artist, who
can take his work where he likes and live in a desert if he wants.
You've got to do yours in London, your whole career is bound up
with society. Do think, before you go butting up against it! It's
all very well to say it's no affair of anyone's, but you'll find it
is, Bryan. And then, can you--can you possibly make her happy in
She stopped at the expression on his face. It was as if he were
saying: "I have left your world. Talk to your fellows; all this is
nothing to me."
"Look here, Mother: you don't seem to understand. I'm devoted--
devoted so that there's nothing else for me."
"How long will that last, Bryan? You mean bewitched."
Summerhay said, with passion:
"I don't. I mean what I said. Good-night!" And he went to the
"Won't you stay to dinner, dear?"
But he was gone, and the full of vexation, anxiety, and
wretchedness came on Lady Summerhay. It was too hard! She went
down to her lonely dinner, desolate and sore. And to the book on
dreams, opened beside her plate, she turned eyes that took in
Summerhay went straight home. The lamps were brightening in the
early-autumn dusk, and a draughty, ruffling wind flicked a yellow
leaf here and there from off the plane trees. It was just the
moment when evening blue comes into the colouring of the town--that
hour of fusion when day's hard and staring shapes are softening,
growing dark, mysterious, and all that broods behind the lives of
men and trees and houses comes down on the wings of illusion to
repossess the world--the hour when any poetry in a man wells up.
But Summerhay still heard his mother's, "Oh, Bryan!" and, for the
first time, knew the feeling that his hand was against everyone's.
There was a difference already, or so it seemed to him, in the
expression of each passer-by. Nothing any more would be a matter
of course; and he was of a class to whom everything has always been
a matter of course. Perhaps he did not realize this clearly yet;
but he had begun to take what the nurses call "notice," as do those
only who are forced on to the defensive against society.
Putting his latch-key into the lock, he recalled the sensation with
which, that afternoon, he had opened to Gyp for the first time--
half furtive, half defiant. It would be all defiance now. This
was the end of the old order! And, lighting a fire in his sitting-
room, he began pulling out drawers, sorting and destroying. He
worked for hours, burning, making lists, packing papers and
photographs. Finishing at last, he drank a stiff whisky and soda,
and sat down to smoke. Now that the room was quiet, Gyp seemed to
fill it again with her presence. Closing his eyes, he could see
her there by the hearth, just as she stood before they left,
turning her face up to him, murmuring: "You won't stop loving me,
now you're so sure I love you?" Stop loving her! The more she
loved him, the more he would love her. And he said aloud: "By God!
I won't!" At that remark, so vehement for the time of night, the
old Scotch terrier, Ossian, came from his corner and shoved his
long black nose into his master's hand.
"Come along up, Ossy! Good dog, Oss!" And, comforted by the
warmth of that black body beside him in the chair, Summerhay fell
asleep in front of the fire smouldering with blackened fragments of
Though Gyp had never seemed to look round she had been quite
conscious of Summerhay still standing where they had parted,
watching her into the house in Bury Street. The strength of her
own feeling surprised her, as a bather in the sea is surprised,
finding her feet will not touch bottom, that she is carried away
helpless--only, these were the waters of ecstasy.
For the second night running, she hardly slept, hearing the clocks
of St. James's strike, and Big Ben boom, hour after hour. At
breakfast, she told her father of Fiorsen's reappearance. He
received the news with a frown and a shrewd glance.
"I told him."
His feelings, at that moment, were perhaps as mixed as they had
ever been--curiosity, parental disapproval, to which he knew he was
not entitled, admiration of her pluck in letting that fellow know,
fears for the consequences of this confession, and, more than all,
his profound disturbance at knowing her at last launched into the
deep waters of love. It was the least of these feelings that found
"How did he take it?"
"Rushed away. The only thing I feel sure of is that he won't
"No, by George; I don't suppose even he would have that impudence!"
And Winton was silent, trying to penetrate the future. "Well," he
said suddenly, "it's on the knees of the gods then. But be
About noon, Betty returned from the sea, with a solemn, dark-eyed,
cooing little Gyp, brown as a roasted coffee-berry. When she had
been given all that she could wisely eat after the journey, Gyp
carried her off to her own room, undressed her for sheer delight of
kissing her from head to foot, and admiring her plump brown legs,
then cuddled her up in a shawl and lay down with her on the bed. A
few sleepy coos and strokings, and little Gyp had left for the land
of Nod, while her mother lay gazing at her black lashes with a kind
of passion. She was not a child-lover by nature; but this child of
her own, with her dark softness, plump delicacy, giving
disposition, her cooing voice, and constant adjurations to "dear
mum," was adorable. There was something about her insidiously
seductive. She had developed so quickly, with the graceful
roundness of a little animal, the perfection of a flower. The
Italian blood of her great-great-grandmother was evidently
prepotent in her as yet; and, though she was not yet two years old,
her hair, which had lost its baby darkness, was already curving
round her neck and waving on her forehead. One of her tiny brown
hands had escaped the shawl and grasped its edge with determined
softness. And while Gyp gazed at the pinkish nails and their
absurdly wee half-moons, at the sleeping tranquillity stirred by
breathing no more than a rose-leaf on a windless day, her lips grew
fuller, trembled, reached toward the dark lashes, till she had to
rein her neck back with a jerk to stop such self-indulgence.
Soothed, hypnotized, almost in a dream, she lay there beside her
That evening, at dinner, Winton said calmly:
"Well, I've been to see Fiorsen, and warned him off. Found him at
that fellow Rosek's." Gyp received the news with a vague sensation
of alarm. "And I met that girl, the dancer, coming out of the
house as I was going in--made it plain I'd seen her, so I don't
think he'll trouble you."
An irresistible impulse made her ask:
"How was she looking, Dad?"
Winton smiled grimly. How to convey his impression of the figure
he had seen coming down the steps--of those eyes growing rounder
and rounder at sight of him, of that mouth opening in an: "Oh!"
"Much the same. Rather flabbergasted at seeing me, I think. A
white hat--very smart. Attractive in her way, but common, of
course. Those two were playing the piano and fiddle when I went
up. They tried not to let me in, but I wasn't to be put off.
Queer place, that!"
Gyp smiled. She could see it all so well. The black walls, the
silver statuettes, Rops drawings, scent of dead rose-leaves and
pastilles and cigarettes--and those two by the piano--and her
father so cool and dry!
"One can't stand on ceremony with fellows like that. I hadn't
forgotten that Polish chap's behaviour to you, my dear."
Through Gyp passed a quiver of dread, a vague return of the
feelings once inspired by Rosek.
"I'm almost sorry you went, Dad. Did you say anything very--"
"Did I? Let's see! No; I think I was quite polite." He added,
with a grim, little smile: "I won't swear I didn't call one of them
a ruffian. I know they said something about my presuming on being
"Yes; it was that Polish chap--and so he is!"
"I'd almost rather it had been--the other." Rosek's pale, suave
face, with the eyes behind which there were such hidden things, and
the lips sweetish and restrained and sensual--he would never
forgive! But Winton only smiled again, patting her arm. He was
pleased with an encounter which had relieved his feelings.
Gyp spent all that evening writing her first real love-letter. But
when, next afternoon at six, in fulfilment of its wording, she came
to Summerhay's little house, her heart sank; for the blinds were
down and it had a deserted look. If he had been there, he would
have been at the window, waiting. Had he, then, not got her
letter, not been home since yesterday? And that chill fear which
besets lovers' hearts at failure of a tryst smote her for the first
time. In the three-cornered garden stood a decayed statue of a
naked boy with a broken bow--a sparrow was perching on his greenish
shoulder; sooty, heart-shaped lilac leaves hung round his head, and
at his legs the old Scotch terrier was sniffing. Gyp called:
"Ossian! Ossy!" and the old dog came, wagging his tail feebly.
"Master! Where is your master, dear?"
Ossian poked his long nose into her calf, and that gave her a
little comfort. She passed, perforce, away from the deserted house
and returned home; but all manner of frightened thoughts beset her.
Where had he gone? Why had he gone? Why had he not let her know?
Doubts--those hasty attendants on passion--came thronging, and
scepticism ran riot. What did she know of his life, of his
interests, of him, except that he said he loved her? Where had he
gone? To Widrington, to some smart house-party, or even back to
Scotland? The jealous feelings that had so besieged her at the
bungalow when his letters ceased came again now with redoubled
force. There must be some woman who, before their love began, had
claim on him, or some girl that he admired. He never told her of
any such--of course, he would not! She was amazed and hurt by her
capacity for jealousy. She had always thought she would be too
proud to feel jealousy--a sensation so dark and wretched and
undignified, but--alas!--so horribly real and clinging.
She had said she was not dining at home; so Winton had gone to his
club, and she was obliged to partake of a little trumped-up lonely
meal. She went up to her room after it, but there came on her such
restlessness that presently she put on her things and slipped out.
She went past St. James's Church into Piccadilly, to the further,
crowded side, and began to walk toward the park. This was foolish;
but to do a foolish thing was some relief, and she went along with
a faint smile, mocking her own recklessness. Several women of the
town--ships of night with sails set--came rounding out of side
streets or down the main stream, with their skilled, rapid-seeming
slowness. And at the discomfited, half-hostile stares on their
rouged and powdered faces, Gyp felt a wicked glee. She was
disturbing, hurting them--and she wanted to hurt.
Presently, a man, in evening dress, with overcoat thrown open,
gazed pointblank into her face, and, raising his hat, ranged up
beside her. She walked straight on, still with that half-smile,
knowing him puzzled and fearfully attracted. Then an insensate
wish to stab him to the heart made her turn her head and look at
him. At the expression on her face, he wilted away from her, and
again she felt that wicked glee at having hurt him.
She crossed out into the traffic, to the park side, and turned back
toward St. James's; and now she was possessed by profound, black
sadness. If only her lover were beside her that beautiful evening,
among the lights and shadows of the trees, in the warm air! Why
was he not among these passers-by? She who could bring any casual
man to her side by a smile could not conjure up the only one she
wanted from this great desert of a town! She hurried along, to get
in and hide her longing. But at the corner of St. James's Street,
she stopped. That was his club, nearly opposite. Perhaps he was
there, playing cards or billiards, a few yards away, and yet as in
another world. Presently he would come out, go to some music-hall,
or stroll home thinking of her--perhaps not even thinking of her!
Another woman passed, giving her a furtive glance. But Gyp felt no
glee now. And, crossing over, close under the windows of the club,
she hurried home. When she reached her room, she broke into a
storm of tears. How could she have liked hurting those poor women,
hurting that man--who was only paying her a man's compliment, after
all? And with these tears, her jealous, wild feelings passed,
leaving only her longing.
Next morning brought a letter. Summerhay wrote from an inn on the
river, asking her to come down by the eleven o'clock train, and he
would meet her at the station. He wanted to show her a house that
he had seen; and they could have the afternoon on the river! Gyp
received this letter, which began: "My darling!" with an ecstasy
that she could not quite conceal. And Winton, who had watched her
face, said presently:
"I think I shall go to Newmarket, Gyp. Home to-morrow evening."
In the train on the way down, she sat with closed eyes, in a sort
of trance. If her lover had been there holding her in his arms, he
could not have seemed nearer.
She saw him as the train ran in; but they met without a hand-clasp,
without a word, simply looking at each other and breaking into
A little victoria "dug up"--as Summerhay said--"horse, driver and
all," carried them slowly upward. Under cover of the light rugs
their hands were clasped, and they never ceased to look into each
other's faces, except for those formal glances of propriety which
deceive no one.
The day was beautiful, as only early September days can be--when
the sun is hot, yet not too hot, and its light falls in a silken
radiance on trees just losing the opulent monotony of summer, on
silvery-gold reaped fields, silvery-green uplands, golden mustard;
when shots ring out in the distance, and, as one gazes, a leaf
falls, without reason, as it would seem. Presently they branched
off the main road by a lane past a clump of beeches and drew up at
the gate of a lonely house, built of very old red brick, and
covered by Virginia creeper just turning--a house with an ingle-
nook and low, broad chimneys. Before it was a walled, neglected
lawn, with poplars and one large walnut-tree. The sunlight seemed
to have collected in that garden, and there was a tremendous hum of
bees. Above the trees, the downs could be seen where racehorses,
they said, were trained. Summerhay had the keys of the house, and
they went in. To Gyp, it was like a child's "pretending"--to
imagine they were going to live there together, to sort out the
rooms and consecrate each. She would not spoil this perfect day by
argument or admission of the need for a decision. And when he
"Well, darling, what do you think of it?" she only answered:
"Oh, lovely, in a way; but let's go back to the river and make the
most of it."
They took boat at 'The Bowl of Cream,' the river inn where
Summerhay was staying. To him, who had been a rowing man at
Oxford, the river was known from Lechlade to Richmond; but Gyp had
never in her life been on it, and its placid magic, unlike that of
any other river in the world, almost overwhelmed her. On this
glistening, windless day, to drift along past the bright, flat
water-lily leaves over the greenish depths, to listen to the
pigeons, watch the dragon-flies flitting past, and the fish leaping
lazily, not even steering, letting her hand dabble in the water,
then cooling her sun-warmed cheek with it, and all the time gazing
at Summerhay, who, dipping his sculls gently, gazed at her--all
this was like a voyage down some river of dreams, the very
fulfilment of felicity. There is a degree of happiness known to
the human heart which seems to belong to some enchanted world--a
bright maze into which, for a moment now and then, we escape and
wander. To-day, he was more than ever like her Botticelli "Young
Man," with his neck bare, and his face so clear-eyed and broad and
brown. Had she really had a life with another man? And only a
year ago? It seemed inconceivable!
But when, in the last backwater, he tied the boat up and came to
sit with her once more, it was already getting late, and the vague
melancholy of the now shadowy river was stealing into her. And,
with a sort of sinking in her heart, she heard him begin:
"Gyp, we MUST go away together. We can never stand it going on
apart, snatching hours here and there."
Pressing his hand to her cheeks, she murmured:
"Why not, darling? Hasn't this been perfect? What could we ever
have more perfect? It's been paradise itself!"
"Yes; but to be thrown out every day! To be whole days and nights
without you! Gyp, you must--you must! What is there against it?
Don't you love me enough?"
She looked at him, and then away into the shadows.
"Too much, I think. It's tempting Providence to change. Let's go
on as we are, Bryan. No; don't look like that--don't be angry!"
"Why are you afraid? Are you sorry for our love?"
"No; but let it be like this. Don't let's risk anything."
"Risk? Is it people--society--you're afraid of? I thought YOU
"Society? No; I'm not afraid of that."
"What, then? Of me?"
"I don't know. Men soon get tired. I'm a doubter, Bryan, I can't
"As if anyone could get tired of you! Are you afraid of yourself?"
Again Gyp smiled.
"Not of loving too little, I told you."
"How can one love too much?"
She drew his head down to her. But when that kiss was over, she
only said again:
"No, Bryan; let's go on as we are. I'll make up to you when I'm
with you. If you were to tire of me, I couldn't bear it."
For a long time more he pleaded--now with anger, now with kisses,
now with reasonings; but, to all, she opposed that same tender,
half-mournful "No," and, at last, he gave it up, and, in dogged
silence, rowed her to the village, whence she was to take train
back. It was dusk when they left the boat, and dew was falling.
Just before they reached the station, she caught his hand and
pressed it to her breast.
"Darling, don't be angry with me! Perhaps I will--some day."
And, in the train, she tried to think herself once more in the
boat, among the shadows and the whispering reeds and all the quiet
wonder of the river.
On reaching home she let herself in stealthily, and, though she had
not had dinner, went up at once to her room. She was just taking
off her blouse when Betty entered, her round face splotched with
red, and tears rolling down her cheeks.
"Betty! What is it?"
"Oh, my dear, where HAVE you been? Such a dreadful piece of news!
They've stolen her! That wicked man--your husband--he took her
right out of her pram--and went off with her in a great car--he and
that other one! I've been half out of my mind!" Gyp stared
aghast. "I hollered to a policeman. 'He's stolen her--her father!
Catch them!' I said. 'However shall I face my mistress?'" She
stopped for breath, then burst out again. "'He's a bad one,' I
said. 'A foreigner! They're both foreigners!' 'Her father?' he
said. 'Well, why shouldn't he? He's only givin' her a joy ride.
He'll bring her back, never you fear.' And I ran home--I didn't
know where you were. Oh dear! The major away and all--what was I
to do? I'd just turned round to shut the gate of the square
gardens, and I never saw him till he'd put his great long arm over
the pram and snatched her out." And, sitting on the bed, she gave
Gyp stood still. Nemesis for her happiness? That vengeful wretch,
Rosek! This was his doing. And she said:
"Oh, Betty, she must be crying!"
A fresh outburst of moans was the only answer. Gyp remembered
suddenly what the lawyer had said over a year ago--it had struck
her with terror at the time. In law, Fiorsen owned and could claim
her child. She could have got her back, then, by bringing a
horrible case against him, but now, perhaps, she had no chance.
Was it her return to Fiorsen that they aimed at--or the giving up
of her lover? She went over to her mirror, saying:
"We'll go at once, Betty, and get her back somehow. Wash your
While she made ready, she fought down those two horrible fears--of
losing her child, of losing her lover; the less she feared, the
better she could act, the more subtly, the swifter. She remembered
that she had somewhere a little stiletto, given her a long time
ago. She hunted it out, slipped off its red-leather sheath, and,
stabbing the point into a tiny cork, slipped it beneath her blouse.
If they could steal her baby, they were capable of anything. She
wrote a note to her father, telling him what had happened, and
saying where she had gone. Then, in a taxi, they set forth. Cold
water and the calmness of her mistress had removed from Betty the
main traces of emotion; but she clasped Gyp's hand hard and gave
vent to heavy sighs.
Gyp would not think. If she thought of her little one crying, she
knew she would cry, too. But her hatred for those who had dealt
this cowardly blow grew within her. She took a resolution and said
"Mr. Summerhay, Betty. That's why they've stolen our darling. I
suppose you know he and I care for each other. They've stolen her
so as to make me do anything they like."
A profound sigh answered her.
Behind that moon-face with the troubled eyes, what conflict was in
progress--between unquestioning morality and unquestioning belief
in Gyp, between fears for her and wishes for her happiness, between
the loyal retainer's habit of accepting and the old nurse's feeling
of being in charge? She said faintly:
"Oh dear! He's a nice gentleman, too!" And suddenly, wheezing it
out with unexpected force: "To say truth, I never did hold you was
rightly married to that foreigner in that horrible registry place--
no music, no flowers, no blessin' asked, nor nothing. I cried me
eyes out at the time."
Gyp said quietly:
"No; Betty, I never was. I only thought I was in love." A
convulsive squeeze and creaking, whiffling sounds heralded a fresh
outburst. "Don't cry; we're just there. Think of our darling!"
The cab stopped. Feeling for her little weapon, she got out, and
with her hand slipped firmly under Betty's arm, led the way
upstairs. Chilly shudders ran down her spine--memories of Daphne
Wing and Rosek, of that large woman--what was her name?--of many
other faces, of unholy hours spent up there, in a queer state,
never quite present, never comfortable in soul; memories of late
returnings down these wide stairs out to their cab, of Fiorsen
beside her in the darkness, his dim, broad-cheekboned face moody in
the corner or pressed close to hers. Once they had walked a long
way homeward in the dawn, Rosek with them, Fiorsen playing on his
muted violin, to the scandal of the policemen and the cats. Dim,
unreal memories! Grasping Betty's arm more firmly, she rang the
bell. When the man servant, whom she remembered well, opened the
door, her lips were so dry that they could hardly form the words:
"Is Mr. Fiorsen in, Ford?"
"No, ma'am; Mr. Fiorsen and Count Rosek went into the country this
afternoon. I haven't their address at present." She must have
turned white, for she could hear the man saying: "Anything I can
get you, ma'am?"
"When did they start, please?"
"One o'clock, ma'am--by car. Count Rosek was driving himself. I
should say they won't be away long--they just had their bags with
them." Gyp put out her hand helplessly; she heard the servant say
in a concerned voice: "I could let you know the moment they return,
ma'am, if you'd kindly leave me your address."
Giving her card, and murmuring:
"Thank you, Ford; thank you very much," she grasped Betty's arm
again and leaned heavily on her going down the stairs.
It was real, black fear now. To lose helpless things--children--
dogs--and know for certain that one cannot get to them, no matter
what they may be suffering! To be pinned down to ignorance and
have in her ears the crying of her child--this horror, Gyp suffered
now. And nothing to be done! Nothing but to go to bed and wait--
hardest of all tasks! Mercifully--thanks to her long day in the
open--she fell at last into a dreamless sleep, and when she was
called, there was a letter from Fiorsen on the tray with her tea.
"I am not a baby-stealer like your father. The law gives me the
right to my own child. But swear to give up your lover, and the
baby shall come back to you at once. If you do not give him up, I
will take her away out of England. Send me an answer to this post-
office, and do not let your father try any tricks upon me.
Beneath was written the address of a West End post-office.
When Gyp had finished reading, she went through some moments of
such mental anguish as she had never known, but--just as when Betty
first told her of the stealing--her wits and wariness came quickly
back. Had he been drinking when he wrote that letter? She could
almost fancy that she smelled brandy, but it was so easy to fancy
what one wanted to. She read it through again--this time, she felt
almost sure that it had been dictated to him. If he had composed
the wording himself, he would never have resisted a gibe at the
law, or a gibe at himself for thus safeguarding her virtue. It was
Rosek's doing. Her anger flamed up anew. Since they used such
mean, cruel ways, why need she herself be scrupulous? She sprang
out of bed and wrote:
"How COULD you do such a brutal thing? At all events, let the
darling have her nurse. It's not like you to let a little child
suffer. Betty will be ready to come the minute you send for her.
As for myself, you must give me time to decide. I will let you
know within two days.
When she had sent this off, and a telegram to her father at
Newmarket, she read Fiorsen's letter once more, and was more than
ever certain that it was Rosek's wording. And, suddenly, she
thought of Daphne Wing, whom her father had seen coming out of
Rosek's house. Through her there might be a way of getting news.
She seemed to see again the girl lying so white and void of hope
when robbed by death of her own just-born babe. Yes; surely it was
An hour later, her cab stopped before the Wagges' door in Frankland
Street. But just as she was about to ring the bell, a voice from
behind her said:
"Allow me; I have a key. What may I--Oh, it's you!" She turned.
Mr. Wagge, in professional habiliments, was standing there. "Come
in; come in," he said. "I was wondering whether perhaps we
shouldn't be seeing you after what's transpired."
Hanging his tall black hat, craped nearly to the crown, on a knob
of the mahogany stand, he said huskily:
"I DID think we'd seen the last of that," and opened the dining-
room door. "Come in, ma'am. We can put our heads together better
In that too well remembered room, the table was laid with a stained
white cloth, a cruet-stand, and bottle of Worcestershire sauce.
The little blue bowl was gone, so that nothing now marred the
harmony of red and green. Gyp said quickly:
"Doesn't Daph--Daisy live at home, then, now?"
The expression on Mr. Wagge's face was singular; suspicion, relief,
and a sort of craftiness were blended with that furtive admiration
which Gyp seemed always to excite in him.
"Do I understand that you--er--"
"I came to ask if Daisy would do something for me."
Mr. Wagge blew his nose.
"You didn't know--" he began again.
"Yes; I dare say she sees my husband, if that's what you mean; and
I don't mind--he's nothing to me now."
Mr. Wagge's face became further complicated by the sensations of a
"Well," he said, "it's not to be wondered at, perhaps, in the
circumstances. I'm sure I always thought--"
Gyp interrupted swiftly.
"Please, Mr. Wagge--please! Will you give me Daisy's address?"
Mr. Wagge remained a moment in deep thought; then he said, in a
gruff, jerky voice:
"Seventy-three Comrade Street, So'o. Up to seeing him there on
Tuesday, I must say I cherished every hope. Now I'm sorry I didn't
strike him--he was too quick for me--" He had raised one of his
gloved hands and was sawing it up and down. The sight of that
black object cleaving the air nearly made Gyp scream, her nerves
were so on edge. "It's her blasted independence--I beg pardon--but
who wouldn't?" he ended suddenly.
Gyp passed him.
"Who wouldn't?" she heard his voice behind her. "I did think she'd
have run straight this time--" And while she was fumbling at the
outer door, his red, pudgy face, with its round grey beard,
protruded almost over her shoulder. "If you're going to see her, I
Gyp was gone. In her cab she shivered. Once she had lunched with
her father at a restaurant in the Strand. It had been full of Mr.
Wagges. But, suddenly, she thought: 'It's hard on him, poor man!'
Seventy-three Comrade Street, Soho, was difficult to find; but,
with the aid of a milk-boy, Gyp discovered the alley at last, and
the right door. There her pride took sudden alarm, and but for the
milk-boy's eyes fixed on her while he let out his professional
howl, she might have fled. A plump white hand and wrist emerging
took the can, and Daphne Wing's voice said:
"Oh, where's the cream?"
"Ain't got none."
"Oh! I told you always--two pennyworth at twelve o'clock."
"Two penn'orth." The boy's eyes goggled.
"Didn't you want to speak to her, miss?" He beat the closing door.
"Lidy wants to speak to you! Good-mornin', miss."
The figure of Daphne Wing in a blue kimono was revealed. Her eyes
peered round at Gyp.
"Oh!" she said.
"May I come in?"
"Oh, yes! Oh, do! I've been practising. Oh, I am glad to see
In the middle of the studio, a little table was laid for two.
Daphne Wing went up to it, holding in one hand the milk-can and in
the other a short knife, with which she had evidently been opening
oysters. Placing the knife on the table, she turned round to Gyp.
Her face was deep pink, and so was her neck, which ran V-shaped
down into the folds of her kimono. Her eyes, round as saucers, met
Gyp's, fell, met them again. She said:
"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I am glad! I really am. I wanted you so much
to see my room--do you like it? How DID you know where I was?"
She looked down and added: "I think I'd better tell you. Mr.
Fiorsen came here, and, since then, I've seen him at Count Rosek's--
"Yes; but don't trouble to tell me, please."
Daphne Wing hurried on.
"Of course, I'm quite mistress of myself now." Then, all at once,
the uneasy woman-of-the-world mask dropped from her face and she
seized Gyp's hand. "Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I shall never be like you!"
With a little shiver, Gyp said:
"I hope not." Her pride rushed up in her. How could she ask this
girl anything? She choked back that feeling, and said stonily: "Do
you remember my baby? No, of course; you never saw her. HE and
Count Rosek have just taken her away from me."
Daphne Wing convulsively squeezed the hand of which she had
"Oh, what a wicked thing! When?"
"Oh, I AM glad I haven't seen him since! Oh, I DO think that was
wicked! Aren't you dreadfully distressed?" The least of smiles
played on Gyp's mouth. Daphne Wing burst forth: "D'you know--I
think--I think your self-control is something awful. It frightens
me. If my baby had lived and been stolen like that, I should have
been half dead by now."
Gyp answered stonily as ever:
"Yes; I want her back, and I wondered--"
Daphne Wing clasped her hands.
"Oh, I expect I can make him--" She stopped, confused, then added
hastily: "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"I shouldn't mind if he had fifty loves. Perhaps he has."
Daphne Wing uttered a little gasp; then her teeth came down rather
viciously on her lower lip.
"I mean him to do what I want now, not what he wants me. That's
the only way when you love. Oh, don't smile like that, please; you
do make me feel so--uncertain."
"When are you going to see him next?"
Daphne Wing grew very pink.
"I don't know. He might be coming in to lunch. You see, it's not
as if he were a stranger, is it?" Casting up her eyes a little,
she added: "He won't even let me speak your name; it makes him mad.
That's why I'm sure he still loves you; only, his love is so
funny." And, seizing Gyp's hand: "I shall never forget how good
you were to me. I do hope you--you love somebody else." Gyp
pressed those damp, clinging fingers, and Daphne Wing hurried on:
"I'm sure your baby's a darling. How you must be suffering! You
look quite pale. But it isn't any good suffering. I learned that."
Her eyes lighted on the table, and a faint ruefulness came into
them, as if she were going to ask Gyp to eat the oysters.
Gyp bent forward and put her lips to the girl's forehead.
"Good-bye. My baby would thank you if she knew."
And she turned to go. She heard a sob. Daphne Wing was crying;
then, before Gyp could speak, she struck herself on the throat, and
said, in a strangled voice:
"Tha--that's idiotic! I--I haven't cried since--since, you know.
I--I'm perfect mistress of myself; only, I--only--I suppose you
reminded me--I NEVER cry!"
Those words and the sound of a hiccough accompanied Gyp down the
alley to her cab.
When she got back to Bury Street, she found Betty sitting in the
hall with her bonnet on. She had not been sent for, nor had any
reply come from Newmarket. Gyp could not eat, could settle to
nothing. She went up to her bedroom to get away from the servants'
eyes, and went on mechanically with a frock of little Gyp's she had
begun on the fatal morning Fiorsen had come back. Every other
minute she stopped to listen to sounds that never meant anything,
went a hundred times to the window to look at nothing. Betty, too,
had come upstairs, and was in the nursery opposite; Gyp could hear
her moving about restlessly among her household gods. Presently,
those sounds ceased, and, peering into the room, she saw the stout
woman still in her bonnet, sitting on a trunk, with her back
turned, uttering heavy sighs. Gyp stole back into her own room
with a sick, trembling sensation. If--if her baby really could not
be recovered except by that sacrifice! If that cruel letter were
the last word, and she forced to decide between them! Which would
she give up? Which follow--her lover or her child?
She went to the window for air--the pain about her heart was
dreadful. And, leaning there against the shutter, she felt quite
dizzy from the violence of a struggle that refused coherent thought
or feeling, and was just a dumb pull of instincts, both so terribly
strong--how terribly strong she had not till then perceived.
Her eyes fell on the picture that reminded her of Bryan; it seemed
now to have no resemblance--none. He was much too real, and loved,
and wanted. Less than twenty-four hours ago, she had turned a deaf
ear to his pleading that she should go to him for ever. How funny!
Would she not rush to him now--go when and where he liked? Ah, if
only she were back in his arms! Never could she give him up--
never! But then in her ears sounded the cooing words, "Dear mum!"
Her baby--that tiny thing--how could she give her up, and never
again hold close and kiss that round, perfect little body, that
grave little dark-eyed face?
The roar of London came in through the open window. So much life,
so many people--and not a soul could help! She left the window and
went to the cottage-piano she had there, out of Winton's way. But
she only sat with arms folded, looking at the keys. The song that
girl had sung at Fiorsen's concert--song of the broken heart--came
back to her.
No, no; she couldn't--couldn't! It was to her lover she would
cling. And tears ran down her cheeks.
A cab had stopped below, but not till Betty came rushing in did she
When, trembling all over, she entered the dining-room, Fiorsen was
standing by the sideboard, holding the child.
He came straight up and put her into Gyp's arms.
"Take her," he said, "and do what you will. Be happy."
Hugging her baby, close to the door as she could get, Gyp answered
nothing. Her heart was in such a tumult that she could not have
spoken a word to save her life; relieved, as one dying of thirst by
unexpected water; grateful, bewildered, abashed, yet instinctively
aware of something evanescent and unreal in his altruism. Daphne
Wing! What bargain did this represent?
Fiorsen must have felt the chill of this instinctive vision, for he
"Yes! You never believed in me; you never thought me capable of
good! Why didn't you?"
Gyp bent her face over her baby to hide the quivering of her lips.
"I am sorry--very, very sorry."
Fiorsen came closer and looked into her face.
"By God, I am afraid I shall never forget you--never!"
Tears had come into his eyes, and Gyp watched them, moved,
troubled, but still deeply mistrusting.
He brushed his hand across his face; and the thought flashed
through her: 'He means me to see them! Ah, what a cynical wretch I
Fiorsen saw that thought pass, and muttering suddenly:
"Good-bye, Gyp! I am not all bad. I AM NOT!" He tore the door
open and was gone.
That passionate "I am not!" saved Gyp from a breakdown. No; even
at his highest pitch of abnegation, he could not forget himself.
Relief, if overwhelming, is slowly realized; but when, at last,
what she had escaped and what lay before her were staring full in
each other's face, it seemed to her that she must cry out, and tell
the whole world of her intoxicating happiness. And the moment
little Gyp was in Betty's arms, she sat down and wrote to
"I've had a fearful time. My baby was stolen by him while I was
with you. He wrote me a letter saying that he would give her back
to me if I gave you up. But I found I couldn't give you up, not
even for my baby. And then, a few minutes ago, he brought her--
none the worse. Tomorrow we shall all go down to Mildenham; but
very soon, if you still want me, I'll come with you wherever you
like. My father and Betty will take care of my treasure till we
come back; and then, perhaps, the old red house we saw--after all.
Only--now is the time for you to draw back. Look into the future--
look far! Don't let any foolish pity--or honour--weigh with you;
be utterly sure, I do beseech you. I can just bear it now if I
know it's for your good. But afterward it'll be too late. It
would be the worst misery of all if I made you unhappy. Oh, make
sure--make sure! I shall understand. I mean this with every bit
of me. And now, good-night, and perhaps--good-bye.
She read it over and shivered. Did she really mean that she could
bear it if he drew back--if he did look far, far into the future,
and decided that she was not worth the candle? Ah, but better now--
She closed and sealed the letter, and sat down to wait for her
father. And she thought: 'Why does one have a heart? Why is there
in one something so much too soft?'
Ten days later, at Mildenham station, holding her father's hand,
Gyp could scarcely see him for the mist before her eyes. How good
he had been to her all those last days, since she told him that she
was going to take the plunge! Not a word of remonstrance or
"Good-bye, my love! Take care of yourself; wire from London, and
again from Paris." And, smiling up at her, he added: "He has luck;
I had none."
The mist became tears, rolled down, fell on his glove.
"Not too long out there, Gyp!"
She pressed her wet cheek passionately to his. The train moved,
but, so long as she could see, she watched him standing on the
platform, waving his grey hat, then, in her corner, sat down,
blinded with tears behind her veil. She had not cried when she
left him the day of her fatal marriage; she cried now that she was
leaving him to go to her incredible happiness.
Strange! But her heart had grown since then.
Little Gyp, aged nearly four and a half that first of May, stood at
the edge of the tulip border, bowing to two hen turkeys who were
poking their heads elegantly here and there among the flowers. She
was absurdly like her mother, the same oval-shaped face, dark
arched brows, large and clear brown eyes; but she had the modern
child's open-air look; her hair, that curled over at the ends, was
not allowed to be long, and her polished brown legs were bare to
"Turkeys! You aren't good, are you? Come ON!" And, stretching
out her hands with the palms held up, she backed away from the
tulip-bed. The turkeys, trailing delicately their long-toed feet
and uttering soft, liquid interrogations, moved after her in hopes
of what she was not holding in her little brown hands. The sun,
down in the west, for it was past tea-time, slanted from over the
roof of the red house, and painted up that small procession--the
deep blue frock of little Gyp, the glint of gold in the chestnut of
her hair; the daisy-starred grass; the dark birds with translucent
red dewlaps, and checkered tails and the tulip background, puce and
red and yellow. When she had lured them to the open gate, little
Gyp raised herself, and said:
"Aren't you duffies, dears? Shoo!" And on the tails of the
turkeys she shut the gate. Then she went to where, under the
walnut-tree--the one large tree of that walled garden--a very old
Scotch terrier was lying, and sitting down beside him, began
stroking his white muzzle, saying:
"Ossy, Ossy, do you love me?"
Presently, seeing her mother in the porch, she jumped up, and
crying out: "Ossy--Ossy! Walk!" rushed to Gyp and embraced her
legs, while the old Scotch terrier slowly followed.
Thus held prisoner, Gyp watched the dog's approach. Nearly three
years had changed her a little. Her face was softer, and rather
more grave, her form a little fuller, her hair, if anything,
darker, and done differently--instead of waving in wings and being
coiled up behind, it was smoothly gathered round in a soft and
lustrous helmet, by which fashion the shape of her head was better
"Darling, go and ask Pettance to put a fresh piece of sulphur in
Ossy's water-bowl, and to cut up his meat finer. You can give
Hotspur and Brownie two lumps of sugar each; and then we'll go
out." Going down on her knees in the porch, she parted the old
dog's hair, and examined his eczema, thinking: "I must rub some
more of that stuff in to-night. Oh, ducky, you're not smelling
your best! Yes; only--not my face!"
A telegraph-boy was coming from the gate. Gyp opened the missive
with the faint tremor she always felt when Summerhay was not with
"Detained; shall be down by last train; need not come up to-morrow.--
When the boy was gone, she stooped down and stroked the old dog's
"Master home all day to-morrow, Ossy--master home!"
A voice from the path said, "Beautiful evenin', ma'am."
The "old scoundrel," Pettance, stiffer in the ankle-joints, with
more lines in his gargoyle's face, fewer stumps in his gargoyle's
mouth, more film over his dark, burning little eyes, was standing
before her, and, behind him, little Gyp, one foot rather before the
other, as Gyp had been wont to stand, waited gravely.
"Oh, Pettance, Mr. Summerhay will be at home all to-morrow, and
we'll go a long ride: and when you exercise, will you call at the
inn, in case I don't go that way, and tell Major Winton I expect
him to dinner to-night?"
"Yes, ma'am; and I've seen the pony for little Miss Gyp this
morning, ma'am. It's a mouse pony, five year old, sound, good
temper, pretty little paces. I says to the man: 'Don't you come it
over me,' I says; 'I was born on an 'orse. Talk of twenty pounds,
for that pony! Ten, and lucky to get it!' 'Well,' he says,
'Pettance, it's no good to talk round an' round with you.
Fifteen!' he says. 'I'll throw you one in,' I says, 'Eleven! Take
it or leave it.' 'Ah!' he says, 'Pettance, YOU know 'ow to buy an
'orse. All right,' he says; 'twelve!' She's worth all of fifteen,
ma'am, and the major's passed her. So if you likes to have 'er,
there she is!"
Gyp looked at her little daughter, who had given one excited hop,
but now stood still, her eyes flying up at her mother and her lips
parted; and she thought: "The darling! She never begs for
"Very well, Pettance; buy her."
The "old scoundrel" touched his forelock:
"Yes, ma'am--very good, ma'am. Beautiful evenin', ma'am." And,
withdrawing at his gait of one whose feet are at permanent right
angles to the legs, he mused: 'And that'll be two in my pocket.'
Ten minutes later Gyp, little Gyp, and Ossian emerged from the
garden gate for their evening walk. They went, not as usual, up to
the downs, but toward the river, making for what they called "the
wild." This was an outlying plot of neglected ground belonging to
their farm, two sedgy meadows, hedged by banks on which grew oaks
and ashes. An old stone linhay, covered to its broken thatch by a
huge ivy bush, stood at the angle where the meadows met. The spot
had a strange life to itself in that smooth, kempt countryside of
cornfields, grass, and beech-clumps; it was favoured by beasts and
birds, and little Gyp had recently seen two baby hares there. From
an oak-tree, where the crinkled leaves were not yet large enough to
hide him, a cuckoo was calling and they stopped to look at the grey
bird till he flew off. The singing and serenity, the green and
golden oaks and ashes, the flowers--marsh-orchis, ladies' smocks,
and cuckoo-buds, starring the rushy grass--all brought to Gyp that
feeling of the uncapturable spirit which lies behind the forms of
nature, the shadowy, hovering smile of life that is ever vanishing
and ever springing again out of death. While they stood there
close to the old linhay a bird came flying round them in wide
circles, uttering shrill cries. It had a long beak and long,
pointed wings, and seemed distressed by their presence. Little Gyp
squeezed her mother's hand.
"Poor bird! Isn't it a poor bird, mum?"
"Yes, dear, it's a curlew--I wonder what's the matter with it.
Perhaps its mate is hurt."
"What is its mate?"
"The bird it lives with."
"It's afraid of us. It's not like other birds. Is it a real bird,
mum? Or one out of the sky?"
"I think it's real. Shall we go on and see if we can find out
what's the matter?"
They went on into the sedgy grass and the curlew continued to
circle, vanishing and reappearing from behind the trees, always
uttering those shrill cries. Little Gyp said:
"Mum, could we speak to it? Because we're not going to hurt
nothing, are we?"
"Of course not, darling! But I'm afraid the poor bird's too wild.
Try, if you like. Call to it: 'Courlie! Courlie!"'
Little Gyp's piping joined the curlew's cries and other bird-songs
in the bright shadowy quiet of the evening till Gyp said:
"Oh, look; it's dipping close to the ground, over there in that
corner--it's got a nest! We won't go near, will we?"
Little Gyp echoed in a hushed voice:
"It's got a nest."
They stole back out of the gate close to the linhay, the curlew
still fighting and crying behind them.
"Aren't we glad the mate isn't hurt, mum?"
Gyp answered with a shiver:
"Yes, darling, fearfully glad. Now then, shall we go down and ask
Grandy to come up to dinner?"
Little Gyp hopped. And they went toward the river.
At "The Bowl of Cream," Winton had for two years had rooms, which
he occupied as often as his pursuits permitted. He had refused to
make his home with Gyp, desiring to be on hand only when she wanted
him; and a simple life of it he led in those simple quarters,
riding with her when Summerhay was in town, visiting the cottagers,
smoking cigars, laying plans for the defence of his daughter's
position, and devoting himself to the whims of little Gyp. This
moment, when his grandchild was to begin to ride, was in a manner
sacred to one for whom life had scant meaning apart from horses.
Looking at them, hand in hand, Gyp thought: 'Dad loves her as much
as he loves me now--more, I think.'
Lonely dinner at the inn was an infliction which he studiously
concealed from Gyp, so he accepted their invitation without
alacrity, and they walked on up the hill, with little Gyp in the
middle, supported by a hand on each side.
The Red House contained nothing that had been in Gyp's married home
except the piano. It had white walls, furniture of old oak, and
for pictures reproductions of her favourites. "The Death of
Procris" hung in the dining-room. Winton never failed to
scrutinize it when he came in to a meal--that "deuced rum affair"
appeared to have a fascination for him. He approved of the dining-
room altogether; its narrow oak "last supper" table made gay by a
strip of blue linen, old brick hearth, casement windows hung with
flowered curtains--all had a pleasing austerity, uncannily redeemed
to softness. He got on well enough with Summerhay, but he enjoyed
himself much more when he was there alone with his daughter. And
this evening he was especially glad to have her to himself, for she
had seemed of late rather grave and absent-minded. When dinner was
over and they were undisturbed, he said:
"It must be pretty dull for you, my dear, sometimes. I wish you
saw more people."
"Oh no, Dad."
Watching her smile, he thought: 'That's not sour grapes"--What is
the trouble, then?'
"I suppose you've not heard anything of that fellow Fiorsen
"Not a word. But he's playing again in London this season, I see."
"Is he? Ah, that'll cheer them." And he thought: 'It's not that,
then. But there's something--I'll swear!'
"I hear that Bryan's going ahead. I met a man in town last week
who spoke of him as about the most promising junior at the bar."
"Yes; he's doing awfully well." And a sound like a faint sigh
caught his ears. "Would you say he's changed much since you knew
"I don't know--perhaps a little less jokey."
"Yes; he's lost his laugh."
It was very evenly and softly said, yet it affected Winton.
"Can't expect him to keep that," he answered, "turning people
inside out, day after day--and most of them rotten. By George,
what a life!"
But when he had left her, strolling back in the bright moonlight,
he reverted to his suspicions and wished he had said more directly:
"Look here, Gyp, are you worrying about Bryan--or have people been
making themselves unpleasant?"
He had, in these last three years, become unconsciously inimical to
his own class and their imitators, and more than ever friendly to
the poor--visiting the labourers, small farmers, and small
tradesmen, doing them little turns when he could, giving their
children sixpences, and so forth. The fact that they could not
afford to put on airs of virtue escaped him; he perceived only that
they were respectful and friendly to Gyp and this warmed his heart
toward them in proportion as he grew exasperated with the two or
three landed families, and that parvenu lot in the riverside
When he first came down, the chief landowner--a man he had known
for years--had invited him to lunch. He had accepted with the
deliberate intention of finding out where he was, and had taken the
first natural opportunity of mentioning his daughter. She was, he
said, devoted to her flowers; the Red House had quite a good
garden. His friend's wife, slightly lifting her brows, had
answered with a nervous smile: "Oh! yes; of course--yes." A
silence had, not unnaturally, fallen. Since then, Winton had
saluted his friend and his friend's wife with such frigid
politeness as froze the very marrow in their bones. He had not
gone there fishing for Gyp to be called on, but to show these
people that his daughter could not be slighted with impunity.
Foolish of him, for, man of the world to his fingertips, he knew
perfectly well that a woman living with a man to whom she was not
married could not be recognized by people with any pretensions to
orthodoxy; Gyp was beyond even the debatable ground on which stood
those who have been divorced and are married again. But even a man
of the world is not proof against the warping of devotion, and
Winton was ready to charge any windmill at any moment on her
Outside the inn door, exhaling the last puffs of his good-night
cigarette, he thought: 'What wouldn't I give for the old days, and
a chance to wing some of these moral upstarts!'
The last train was not due till eleven-thirty, and having seen that
the evening tray had sandwiches, Gyp went to Summerhay's study, the
room at right angles to the body of the house, over which was their
bedroom. Here, if she had nothing to do, she always came when he
was away, feeling nearer to him. She would have been horrified if
she had known of her father's sentiments on her behalf. Her
instant denial of the wish to see more people had been quite
genuine. The conditions of her life, in that respect, often seemed
to her ideal. It was such a joy to be free of people one did not
care two straws about, and of all empty social functions.
Everything she had now was real--love, and nature, riding, music,
animals, and poor people. What else was worth having? She would
not have changed for anything. It often seemed to her that books
and plays about the unhappiness of women in her position were all
false. If one loved, what could one want better? Such women, if
unhappy, could have no pride; or else could not really love! She
had recently been reading "Anna Karenina," and had often said to
herself: "There's something not true about it--as if Tolstoy wanted
to make us believe that Anna was secretly feeling remorse. If one
loves, one doesn't feel remorse. Even if my baby had been taken
away, I shouldn't have felt remorse. One gives oneself to love--or
one does not."
She even derived a positive joy from the feeling that her love
imposed a sort of isolation; she liked to be apart--for him.
Besides, by her very birth she was outside the fold of society, her
love beyond the love of those within it--just as her father's love
had been. And her pride was greater than theirs, too. How could
women mope and moan because they were cast out, and try to scratch
their way back where they were not welcome? How could any woman do
that? Sometimes, she wondered whether, if Fiorsen died, she would
marry her lover. What difference would it make? She could not
love him more. It would only make him feel, perhaps, too sure of
her, make it all a matter of course. For herself, she would rather
go on as she was. But for him, she was not certain, of late had
been less and less certain. He was not bound now, could leave her
when he tired! And yet--did he perhaps feel himself more bound
than if they were married--unfairly bound? It was this thought--
barely more than the shadow of a thought--which had given her, of
late, the extra gravity noticed by her father.
In that unlighted room with the moonbeams drifting in, she sat down
at Summerhay's bureau, where he often worked too late at his cases,
depriving her of himself. She sat there resting her elbows on the
bare wood, crossing her finger-tips, gazing out into the moonlight,
her mind drifting on a stream of memories that seemed to have
beginning only from the year when he came into her life. A smile
crept out on her face, and now and then she uttered a little sigh
So many memories, nearly all happy! Surely, the most adroit work
of the jeweller who put the human soul together was his provision
of its power to forget the dark and remember sunshine. The year
and a half of her life with Fiorsen, the empty months that followed
it were gone, dispersed like mist by the radiance of the last three
years in whose sky had hung just one cloud, no bigger than a hand,
of doubt whether Summerhay really loved her as much as she loved
him, whether from her company he got as much as the all she got
from his. She would not have been her distrustful self if she
could have settled down in complacent security; and her mind was
ever at stretch on that point, comparing past days and nights with
the days and nights of the present. Her prevision that, when she
loved, it would be desperately, had been fulfilled. He had become
her life. When this befalls one whose besetting strength and
weakness alike is pride--no wonder that she doubts.
For their Odyssey they had gone to Spain--that brown un-European
land of "lyrio" flowers, and cries of "Agua!" in the streets, where
the men seem cleft to the waist when they are astride of horses,
under their wide black hats, and the black-clothed women with
wonderful eyes still look as if they missed their Eastern veils.
It had been a month of gaiety and glamour, last days of September
and early days of October, a revel of enchanted wanderings in the
streets of Seville, of embraces and laughter, of strange scents and
stranger sounds, of orange light and velvety shadows, and all the
warmth and deep gravity of Spain. The Alcazar, the cigarette-
girls, the Gipsy dancers of Triana, the old brown ruins to which
they rode, the streets, and the square with its grave talkers
sitting on benches in the sun, the water-sellers and the melons;
the mules, and the dark ragged man out of a dream, picking up the
ends of cigarettes, the wine of Malaga, burnt fire and honey!
Seville had bewitched them--they got no further. They had come
back across the brown uplands of Castile to Madrid and Goya and
Velasquez, till it was time for Paris, before the law-term began.
There, in a queer little French hotel--all bedrooms, and a lift,
coffee and carved beds, wood fires, and a chambermaid who seemed
all France, and down below a restaurant, to which such as knew
about eating came, with waiters who looked like monks, both fat and
lean--they had spent a week. Three special memories of that week
started up in the moonlight before Gyp's eyes: The long drive in
the Bois among the falling leaves of trees flashing with colour in
the crisp air under a brilliant sky. A moment in the Louvre before
the Leonardo "Bacchus," when--his "restored" pink skin forgotten--
all the world seemed to drop away while she listened, with the
listening figure before her, to some mysterious music of growing
flowers and secret life. And that last most disconcerting memory,
of the night before they returned. They were having supper after
the theatre in their restaurant, when, in a mirror she saw three
people come in and take seats at a table a little way behind--
Fiorsen, Rosek, and Daphne Wing! How she managed to show no sign
she never knew! While they were ordering, she was safe, for Rosek
was a gourmet, and the girl would certainly be hungry; but after
that, she knew that nothing could save her being seen--Rosek would
mark down every woman in the room! Should she pretend to feel
faint and slip out into the hotel? Or let Bryan know? Or sit
there laughing and talking, eating and drinking, as if nothing were
Her own face in the mirror had a flush, and her eyes were bright.
When they saw her, they would see that she was happy, safe in her
love. Her foot sought Summerhay's beneath the table. How splendid
and brown and fit he looked, compared with those two pale, towny
creatures! And he was gazing at her as though just discovering her
beauty. How could she ever--that man with his little beard and his
white face and those eyes--how could she ever! Ugh! And then, in
the mirror, she saw Rosek's dark-circled eyes fasten on her and
betray their recognition by a sudden gleam, saw his lips
compressed, and a faint red come up in his cheeks. What would he
do? The girl's back was turned--her perfect back--and she was
eating. And Fiorsen was staring straight before him in that moody
way she knew so well. All depended on that deadly little man, who
had once kissed her throat. A sick feeling seized on Gyp. If her
lover knew that within five yards of him were those two men! But
she still smiled and talked, and touched his foot. Rosek had seen
that she was conscious--was getting from it a kind of satisfaction.
She saw him lean over and whisper to the girl, and Daphne Wing
turning to look, and her mouth opening for a smothered "Oh!" Gyp
saw her give an uneasy glance at Fiorsen, and then begin again to
eat. Surely she would want to get away before he saw. Yes; very
soon she rose. What little airs of the world she had now--quite
mistress of the situation! The wrap must be placed exactly on her
shoulders; and how she walked, giving just one startled look back
from the door. Gone! The ordeal over! And Gyp said:
"Let's go up, darling."
She felt as if they had both escaped a deadly peril--not from
anything those two could do to him or her, but from the cruel ache
and jealousy of the past, which the sight of that man would have
Women, for their age, are surely older than men--married women, at
all events, than men who have not had that experience. And all
through those first weeks of their life together, there was a kind
of wise watchfulness in Gyp. He was only a boy in knowledge of
life as she saw it, and though his character was so much more
decided, active, and insistent than her own, she felt it lay with
her to shape the course and avoid the shallows and sunken rocks.
The house they had seen together near the river, under the
Berkshire downs, was still empty; and while it was being got ready,
they lived at a London hotel. She had insisted that he should tell
no one of their life together. If that must come, she wanted to be
firmly settled in, with little Gyp and Betty and the horses, so
that it should all be for him as much like respectable married life
as possible. But, one day, in the first week after their return,
while in her room, just back from a long day's shopping, a card was
brought up to her: "Lady Summerhay." Her first impulse was to be
"not at home"; her second, "I'd better face it. Bryan would wish
me to see her!" When the page-boy was gone, she turned to the
mirror and looked at herself doubtfully. She seemed to know
exactly what that tall woman whom she had seen on the platform
would think of her--too soft, not capable, not right for him!--not
even if she were legally his wife. And touching her hair, laying a
dab of scent on her eyebrows, she turned and went downstairs
fluttering, but outwardly calm enough.
In the little low-roofed inner lounge of that old hotel, whose
rooms were all "entirely renovated," Gyp saw her visitor standing
at a table, rapidly turning the pages of an illustrated magazine,
as people will when their minds are set upon a coming operation.
And she thought: 'I believe she's more frightened than I am!'
Lady Summerhay held out a gloved hand.
"How do you do?" she said. "I hope you'll forgive my coming."
Gyp took the hand.
"Thank you. It was very good of you. I'm sorry Bryan isn't in
yet. Will you have some tea?"
"I've had tea; but do let's sit down. How do you find the hotel?"
On a velvet lounge that had survived the renovation, they sat side
by side, screwed round toward each other.
"Bryan's told me what a pleasant time you had abroad. He's looking
very well, I think. I'm devoted to him, you know."
Gyp answered softly:
"Yes, you must be." And her heart felt suddenly as hard as flint.
Lady Summerhay gave her a quick look.
"I--I hope you won't mind my being frank--I've been so worried.
It's an unhappy position, isn't it?" Gyp did not answer, and she
hurried on. "If there's anything I can do to help, I should be so
glad--it must be horrid for you."
Gyp said very quietly:
"Oh! no. I'm perfectly happy--couldn't be happier." And she
thought: 'I suppose she doesn't believe that.'
Lady Summerhay was looking at her fixedly.
"One doesn't realize these things at first--neither of you will,
till you see how dreadfully Society can cold-shoulder."
Gyp made an effort to control a smile.
"One can only be cold-shouldered if one puts oneself in the way of
it. I should never wish to see or speak to anyone who couldn't
take me just for what I am. And I don't really see what difference
it will make to Bryan; most men of his age have someone,
somewhere." She felt malicious pleasure watching her visitor jib
and frown at the cynicism of that soft speech; a kind of hatred had
come on her of this society woman, who--disguise it as she would--
was at heart her enemy, who regarded her, must regard her, as an
enslaver, as a despoiler of her son's worldly chances, a Delilah
dragging him down. She said still more quietly: "He need tell no
one of my existence; and you can be quite sure that if ever he
feels he's had enough of me, he'll never be troubled by the sight
of me again."
And she got up. Lady Summerhay also rose.
"I hope you don't think--I really am only too anxious to--"
"I think it's better to be quite frank. You will never like me, or
forgive me for ensnaring Bryan. And so it had better be, please,
as it would be if I were just his common mistress. That will be
perfectly all right for both of us. It was very good of you to
come, though. Thank you--and good-bye."
Lady Summerhay literally faltered with speech and hand.
With a malicious smile, Gyp watched her retirement among the little
tables and elaborately modern chairs till her tall figure had
disappeared behind a column. Then she sat down again on the
lounge, pressing her hands to her burning ears. She had never till
then known the strength of the pride-demon within her; at the
moment, it was almost stronger than her love. She was still
sitting there, when the page-boy brought her another card--her
father's. She sprang up saying:
"Yes, here, please."
Winton came in all brisk and elated at sight of her after this long
absence; and, throwing her arms round his neck, she hugged him
tight. He was doubly precious to her after the encounter she had
just gone though. When he had given her news of Mildenham and
little Gyp, he looked at her steadily, and said:
"The coast'll be clear for you both down there, and at Bury Street,
whenever you like to come, Gyp. I shall regard this as your real
marriage. I shall have the servants in and make that plain."
A row like family prayers--and Dad standing up very straight,
saying in his dry way: "You will be so good in future as to
remember--" "I shall be obliged if you will," and so on; Betty's
round face pouting at being brought in with all the others;
Markey's soft, inscrutable; Mrs. Markey's demure and goggling; the
maids' rabbit-faces; old Pettance's carved grin the film lifting
from his little burning eyes: "Ha! Mr. Bryn Summer'ay; he bought
her orse, and so she's gone to 'im!" And she said:
"Darling, I don't know! It's awfully sweet of you. We'll see
Winton patted her hand. "We must stand up to 'em, you know, Gyp.
You mustn't get your tail down."
"No, Dad; never!"
That same night, across the strip of blackness between their beds,
"Bryan, promise me something!"
"It depends. I know you too well."
"No; it's quite reasonable, and possible. Promise!"
"All right; if it is."
"I want you to let me take the lease of the Red House--let it be
mine, the whole thing--let me pay for everything there."
"Reasonable! What's the point?"
"Only that I shall have a proper home of my own. I can't explain,
but your mother's coming to-day made me feel I must."
"My child, how could I possibly live on YOU there? It's absurd!"
"You can pay for everything else; London--travelling--clothes, if
you like. We can make it square up. It's not a question of money,
of course. I only want to feel that if, at any moment, you don't
need me any more, you can simply stop coming."
"I think that's brutal, Gyp."
"No, no; so many women lose men's love because they seem to claim
things of them. I don't want to lose yours that way--that's all."
"That's silly, darling!"
"It's not. Men--and women, too--always tug at chains. And when
there is no chain--"
"Well then; let me take the house, and you can go away when you're
tired of me." His voice sounded smothered, resentful; she could
hear him turning and turning, as if angry with his pillows. And
"No; I can't explain. But I really mean it."
"We're just beginning life together, and you talk as if you want to
split it up. It hurts, Gyp, and that's all about it."
She said gently:
"Don't be angry, dear."
"Well! Why don't you trust me more?"
"I do. Only I must make as sure as I can."
The sound came again of his turning and turning.
Gyp said slowly:
"Oh! Very well!"
A dead silence followed, both lying quiet in the darkness, trying
to get the better of each other by sheer listening. An hour
perhaps passed before he sighed, and, feeling his lips on hers, she
knew that she had won.
There, in the study, the moonlight had reached her face; an owl was
hooting not far away, and still more memories came--the happiest of
all, perhaps--of first days in this old house together.
Summerhay damaged himself out hunting that first winter. The
memory of nursing him was strangely pleasant, now that it was two
years old. For convalescence they had gone to the Pyrenees--
Argeles in March, all almond-blossom and snows against the blue--a
wonderful fortnight. In London on the way back they had their
first awkward encounter. Coming out of a theatre one evening, Gyp
heard a woman's voice, close behind, say: "Why, it's Bryan! What
ages!" And his answer defensively drawled out:
"Halo! How are you, Diana?"
"Oh, awfully fit. Where are you, nowadays? Why don't you come and
Again the drawl:
"Down in the country. I will, some time. Good-bye."
A tall woman or girl--red-haired, with one of those wonderful white
skins that go therewith; and brown--yes, brown eyes; Gyp could see
those eyes sweeping her up and down with a sort of burning-live
curiosity. Bryan's hand was thrust under her arm at once.
"Come on, let's walk and get a cab."
As soon as they were clear of the crowd, she pressed his hand to
her breast, and said:
"Did you mind?"
"Mind? Of course not. It's for you to mind."
"Who was it?"
"A second cousin. Diana Leyton."
"Do you know her very well?"
"Oh yes--used to."
"And do you like her very much?"
He looked round into her face, with laughter bubbling up behind his
gravity. Ah, but could one tease on such a subject as their love?
And to this day the figure of that tall girl with the burning-white
skin, the burning-brown eyes, the burning-red hair was not quite a
pleasant memory to Gyp. After that night, they gave up all attempt
to hide their union, going to whatever they wished, whether they
were likely to meet people or not. Gyp found that nothing was so
easily ignored as Society when the heart was set on other things.
Besides, they were seldom in London, and in the country did not
wish to know anyone, in any case. But she never lost the feeling
that what was ideal for her might not be ideal for him. He ought
to go into the world, ought to meet people. It would not do for
him to be cut off from social pleasures and duties, and then some
day feel that he owed his starvation to her. To go up to London,
too, every day was tiring, and she persuaded him to take a set of
residential chambers in the Temple, and sleep there three nights a
week. In spite of all his entreaties, she herself never went to
those chambers, staying always at Bury Street when she came up. A
kind of superstition prevented her; she would not risk making him
feel that she was hanging round his neck. Besides, she wanted to
keep herself desirable--so little a matter of course that he would
hanker after her when he was away. And she never asked him where
he went or whom he saw. But, sometimes, she wondered whether he
could still be quite faithful to her in thought, love her as he
used to; and joy would go down behind a heavy bank of clouds, till,
at his return, the sun came out again. Love such as hers--
passionate, adoring, protective, longing to sacrifice itself, to
give all that it had to him, yet secretly demanding all his love in
return--for how could a proud woman love one who did not love her?--
such love as this is always longing for a union more complete than
it is likely to get in a world where all things move and change.
But against the grip of this love she never dreamed of fighting
now. From the moment when she knew she must cling to him rather
than to her baby, she had made no reservations; all her eggs were
in one basket, as her father's had been before her--all!
The moonlight was shining full on the old bureau and a vase of
tulips standing there, giving those flowers colour that was not
colour, and an unnamed look, as if they came from a world which no
human enters. It glinted on a bronze bust of old Voltaire, which
she had bought him for a Christmas present, so that the great
writer seemed to be smiling from the hollows of his eyes. Gyp
turned the bust a little, to catch the light on its far cheek; a
letter was disclosed between it and the oak. She drew it out
thinking: 'Bless him! He uses everything for paper-weights'; and,
in the strange light, its first words caught her eyes:
"But I say--you ARE wasting yourself--"
She laid it down, methodically pushing it back under the bust.
Perhaps he had put it there on purpose! She got up and went to the
window, to check the temptation to read the rest of that letter and
see from whom it was. No! She did not admit that she was tempted.
One did not read letters. Then the full import of those few words
struck into her: "Dear Bryan. But I say--you ARE wasting
yourself." A letter in a chain of correspondence, then! A woman's
hand; but not his mother's, nor his sisters'--she knew their
writings. Who had dared to say he was wasting himself? A letter
in a chain of letters! An intimate correspondent, whose name she
did not know, because--he had not told her! Wasting himself--on
what?--on his life with her down here? And was he? Had she
herself not said that very night that he had lost his laugh? She
began searching her memory. Yes, last Christmas vacation--that
clear, cold, wonderful fortnight in Florence, he had been full of
fun. It was May now. Was there no memory since--of his old
infectious gaiety? She could not think of any. "But I say--you
ARE wasting yourself." A sudden hatred flared up in her against
the unknown woman who had said that thing--and fever, running
through her veins, made her ears burn. She longed to snatch forth
and tear to pieces the letter, with its guardianship of which that
bust seemed mocking her; and she turned away with the thought:
'I'll go and meet him; I can't wait here.'
Throwing on a cloak she walked out into the moonlit garden, and
went slowly down the whitened road toward the station. A magical,
dewless night! The moonbeams had stolen in to the beech clump,
frosting the boles and boughs, casting a fine ghostly grey over the
shadow-patterned beech-mast. Gyp took the short cut through it.
Not a leaf moved in there, no living thing stirred; so might an
earth be where only trees inhabited! She thought: 'I'll bring him
back through here.' And she waited at the far corner of the clump,
where he must pass, some little distance from the station. She
never gave people unnecessary food for gossip--any slighting of her
irritated him, she was careful to spare him that. The train came
in; a car went whizzing by, a cyclist, then the first foot-
passenger, at a great pace, breaking into a run. She saw that it
was he, and, calling out his name, ran back into the shadow of the
trees. He stopped dead in his tracks, then came rushing after her.
That pursuit did not last long, and, in his arms, Gyp said:
"If you aren't too hungry, darling, let's stay here a little--it's
They sat down on a great root, and leaning against him, looking up
at the dark branches, she said:
"Have you had a hard day?"
"Yes; got hung up by a late consultation; and old Leyton asked me
to come and dine."
Gyp felt a sensation as when feet happen on ground that gives a
"The Leytons--that's Eaton Square, isn't it? A big dinner?"
"No. Only the old people, and Bertie and Diana."
"Diana? That's the girl we met coming out of the theatre, isn't
"When? Oh--ah--what a memory, Gyp!"
"Yes; it's good for things that interest me."
"Why? Did she interest you?"
Gyp turned and looked into his face.
"Yes. Is she clever?"
"H'm! I suppose you might call her so."
"And in love with you?"
"Great Scott! Why?"
"Is it very unlikely? I am."
He began kissing her lips and hair. And, closing her eyes, Gyp
thought: 'If only that's not because he doesn't want to answer!'
Then, for some minutes, they were silent as the moonlit beech
"Answer me truly, Bryan. Do you never--never--feel as if you were
wasting yourself on me?"
She was certain of a quiver in his grasp; but his face was open and
serene, his voice as usual when he was teasing.
"Well, hardly ever! Aren't you funny, dear?"
"Promise me faithfully to let me know when you've had enough of me.
"All right! But don't look for fulfilment in this life."
"I'm not so sure."
Gyp put up her lips, and tried to drown for ever in a kiss the
memory of those words: "But I say--you ARE wasting yourself."
Summerhay, coming down next morning, went straight to his bureau;
his mind was not at ease. "Wasting yourself!" What had he done
with that letter of Diana's? He remembered Gyp's coming in just as
he finished reading it. Searching the pigeonholes and drawers,
moving everything that lay about, he twitched the bust--and the
letter lay disclosed. He took it up with a sigh of relief:
"But I say--you ARE wasting yourself. Why, my dear, of course!
'Il faut se faire valoir!' You have only one foot to put forward;
the other is planted in I don't know what mysterious hole. One
foot in the grave--at thirty! Really, Bryan! Pull it out.
There's such a lot waiting for you. It's no good your being hoity-
toity, and telling me to mind my business. I'm speaking for
everyone who knows you. We all feel the blight on the rose.
Besides, you always were my favourite cousin, ever since I was five
and you a horrid little bully of ten; and I simply hate to think of
you going slowly down instead of quickly up. Oh! I know 'D--n the
world!' But--are you? I should have thought it was 'd--ning' you!
Enough! When are you coming to see us? I've read that book. The
man seems to think love is nothing but passion, and passion always
fatal. I wonder! Perhaps you know.
"Don't be angry with me for being such a grandmother.
"Your very good cousin,
He crammed the letter into his pocket, and sat there, appalled. It
must have lain two days under that bust! Had Gyp seen it? He
looked at the bronze face; and the philosopher looked back from the
hollows of his eyes, as if to say: "What do you know of the human
heart, my boy--your own, your mistress's, that girl's, or anyone's?
A pretty dance the heart will lead you yet! Put it in a packet,
tie it round with string, seal it up, drop it in a drawer, lock the
drawer! And to-morrow it will be out and skipping on its
wrappings. Ho! Ho!" And Summerhay thought: 'You old goat. You
never had one!' In the room above, Gyp would still be standing as
he had left her, putting the last touch to her hair--a man would be
a scoundrel who, even in thought, could--"Hallo!" the eyes of the
bust seemed to say. "Pity! That's queer, isn't it? Why not pity
that red-haired girl, with the skin so white that it burns you, and
the eyes so brown that they burn you--don't they?" Old Satan! Gyp
had his heart; no one in the world would ever take it from her!
And in the chair where she had sat last night conjuring up
memories, he too now conjured. How he had loved her, did love her!
She would always be what she was and had been to him. And the
sage's mouth seemed to twist before him with the words: "Quite so,
my dear! But the heart's very funny--very--capacious!" A tiny
sound made him turn.
Little Gyp was standing in the doorway.
"Hallo!" he said.
"Hallo, Baryn!" She came flying to him, and he caught her up so
that she stood on his knees with the sunlight shining on her
fluffed out hair.
"Well, Gipsy! Who's getting a tall girl?"
"I'm goin' to ride."
"Baryn, let's do Humpty-Dumpty!"
"All right; come on!" He rose and carried her upstairs.
Gyp was still doing one of those hundred things which occupy women
for a quarter of an hour after they are "quite ready," and at
little Gyp's shout of, "Humpty!" she suspended her needle to watch
the sacred rite.
Summerhay had seated himself on the foot-rail of the bed, rounding
his arms, sinking his neck, blowing out his cheeks to simulate an
egg; then, with an unexpectedness that even little Gyp could always
see through, he rolled backward on to the bed.
And she, simulating "all the king's horses," tried in vain to put
him up again. This immemorial game, watched by Gyp a hundred
times, had to-day a special preciousness. If he could be so
ridiculously young, what became of her doubts? Looking at his face
pulled this way and that, lazily imperturbable under the pommelings
of those small fingers, she thought: 'And that girl dared to say he
was WASTING HIMSELF!' For in the night conviction had come to her
that those words were written by the tall girl with the white skin,
the girl of the theatre--the Diana of his last night's dinner.
Humpty-Dumpty was up on the bed-rail again for the finale; all the
king's horses were clasped to him, making the egg more round, and
over they both went with shrieks and gurgles. What a boy he was!
She would not--no, she would not brood and spoil her day with him.
But that afternoon, at the end of a long gallop on the downs, she
turned her head away and said suddenly:
"Is she a huntress?"