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“Well,” he said: “What would you like to do now–drop into a theatre or music-hall, or what?”

Gyp shook her head. It was so hot. Could they just drive, and then perhaps sit in the park? That would be lovely. It had gone dark, and the air was not quite so exhausted–a little freshness of scent from the trees in the squares and parks mingled with the fumes of dung and petrol. Winton gave the same order he had given that long past evening: “Knightsbridge Gate.” It had been a hansom then, and the night air had blown in their faces, instead of as now in these infernal taxis, down the back of one’s neck. They left the cab and crossed the Row; passed the end of the Long Water, up among the trees. There, on two chairs covered by Winton’s coat, they sat side by side. No dew was falling yet; the heavy leaves hung unstirring; the air was warm, sweet-smelling. Blotted against trees or on the grass were other couples darker than the darkness, very silent. All was quiet save for the never-ceasing hum of traffic. From Winton’s lips, the cigar smoke wreathed and curled. He was dreaming. The cigar between his teeth trembled; a long ash fell. Mechanically he raised his hand to brush it off–his right hand! A voice said softly in his ear:

“Isn’t it delicious, and warm, and gloomy black?”

Winton shivered, as one shivers recalled from dreams; and, carefully brushing off the ash with his left hand, he answered:

“Yes; very jolly. My cigar’s out, though, and I haven’t a match.”

Gyp’s hand slipped through his arm.

“All these people in love, and so dark and whispery–it makes a sort of strangeness in the air. Don’t you feel it?”

Winton murmured:

“No moon to-night!”

Again they were silent. A puff of wind ruffled the leaves; the night, for a moment, seemed full of whispering; then the sound of a giggle jarred out and a girl’s voice:

“Oh! Chuck it, ‘Arry.”

Gyp rose.

“I feel the dew now, Dad. Can we walk on?”

They went along paths, so as not to wet her feet in her thin shoes. And they talked. The spell was over; the night again but a common London night; the park a space of parching grass and gravel; the people just clerks and shop-girls walking out.

VIII

Fiorsen’s letters were the source of one long smile to Gyp. He missed her horribly; if only she were there!–and so forth–blended in the queerest way with the impression that he was enjoying himself uncommonly. There were requests for money, and careful omission of any real account of what he was doing. Out of a balance running rather low, she sent him remittances; this was her holiday, too, and she could afford to pay for it. She even sought out a shop where she could sell jewelry, and, with a certain malicious joy, forwarded him the proceeds. It would give him and herself another week.

One night she went with Winton to the Octagon, where Daphne Wing was still performing. Remembering the girl’s squeaks of rapture at her garden, she wrote next day, asking her to lunch and spend a lazy afternoon under the trees.

The little dancer came with avidity. She was pale, and droopy from the heat, but happily dressed in Liberty silk, with a plain turn- down straw hat. They lunched off sweetbreads, ices, and fruit, and then, with coffee, cigarettes, and plenty of sugar-plums, settled down in the deepest shade of the garden, Gyp in a low wicker chair, Daphne Wing on cushions and the grass. Once past the exclamatory stage, she seemed a great talker, laying bare her little soul with perfect liberality. And Gyp–excellent listener–enjoyed it, as one enjoys all confidential revelations of existences very different from one’s own, especially when regarded as a superior being.

“Of course I don’t mean to stay at home any longer than I can help; only it’s no good going out into life”–this phrase she often used– “till you know where you are. In my profession, one has to be so careful. Of course, people think it’s worse than it is; father gets fits sometimes. But you know, Mrs. Fiorsen, home’s awful. We have mutton–you know what mutton is–it’s really awful in your bedroom in hot weather. And there’s nowhere to practise. What I should like would be a studio. It would be lovely, somewhere down by the river, or up here near you. That WOULD be lovely. You know, I’m putting by. As soon as ever I have two hundred pounds, I shall skip. What I think would be perfectly lovely would be to inspire painters and musicians. I don’t want to be just a common ‘turn’–ballet business year after year, and that; I want to be something rather special. But mother’s so silly about me; she thinks I oughtn’t to take any risks at all. I shall never get on that way. It IS so nice to talk to you, Mrs. Fiorsen, because you’re young enough to know what I feel; and I’m sure you’d never be shocked at anything. You see, about men: Ought one to marry, or ought one to take a lover? They say you can’t be a perfect artist till you’ve felt passion. But, then, if you marry, that means mutton over again, and perhaps babies, and perhaps the wrong man after all. Ugh! But then, on the other hand, I don’t want to be raffish. I hate raffish people–I simply hate them. What do you think? It’s awfully difficult, isn’t it?”

Gyp, perfectly grave, answered:

“That sort of thing settles itself. I shouldn’t bother beforehand.”

Miss Daphne Wing buried her perfect chin deeper in her hands, and said meditatively:

“Yes; I rather thought that, too; of course I could do either now. But, you see, I really don’t care for men who are not distinguished. I’m sure I shall only fall in love with a really distinguished man. That’s what you did–isn’t it?–so you MUST understand. I think Mr. Fiorsen is wonderfully distinguished.”

Sunlight, piercing the shade, suddenly fell warm on Gyp’s neck where her blouse ceased, and fortunately stilled the medley of emotion and laughter a little lower down. She continued to look gravely at Daphne Wing, who resumed:

“Of course, Mother would have fits if I asked her such a question, and I don’t know what Father would do. Only it is important, isn’t it? One may go all wrong from the start; and I do really want to get on. I simply adore my work. I don’t mean to let love stand in its way; I want to make it help, you know. Count Rosek says my dancing lacks passion. I wish you’d tell me if you think it does. I should believe YOU.”

Gyp shook her head.

“I’m not a judge.”

Daphne Wing looked up reproachfully.

“Oh, I’m sure you are! If I were a man, I should be passionately in love with you. I’ve got a new dance where I’m supposed to be a nymph pursued by a faun; it’s so difficult to feel like a nymph when you know it’s only the ballet-master. Do you think I ought to put passion into that? You see, I’m supposed to be flying all the time; but it would be much more subtle, wouldn’t it, if I could give the impression that I wanted to be caught. Don’t you think so?”

Gyp said suddenly:

“Yes, I think it WOULD do you good to be in love.”

Miss Daphne’s mouth fell a little open; her eyes grew round. She said:

“You frightened me when you said that. You looked so different– so–intense.”

A flame indeed had leaped up in Gyp. This fluffy, flabby talk of love set her instincts in revolt. She did not want to love; she had failed to fall in love. But, whatever love was like, it did not bear talking about. How was it that this little suburban girl, when she once got on her toes, could twirl one’s emotions as she did?

“D’you know what I should simply revel in?” Daphne Wing went on: “To dance to you here in the garden some night. It must be wonderful to dance out of doors; and the grass is nice and hard now. Only, I suppose it would shock the servants. Do they look out this way?” Gyp shook her head. “I could dance over there in front of the drawing-room window. Only it would have to be moonlight. I could come any Sunday. I’ve got a dance where I’m supposed to be a lotus flower–that would do splendidly. And there’s my real moonlight dance that goes to Chopin. I could bring my dresses, and change in the music-room, couldn’t I?” She wriggled up, and sat cross-legged, gazing at Gyp, and clasping her hands. “Oh, may I?”

Her excitement infected Gyp. A desire to give pleasure, the queerness of the notion, and her real love of seeing this girl dance, made her say:

“Yes; next Sunday.”

Daphne Wing got up, made a rush, and kissed her. Her mouth was soft, and she smelled of orange blossom; but Gyp recoiled a little– she hated promiscuous kisses. Somewhat abashed, Miss Daphne hung her head, and said:

“You did look so lovely; I couldn’t help it, really.”

And Gyp gave her hand the squeeze of compunction.

They went indoors, to try over the music of the two dances; and soon after Daphne Wing departed, full of sugar-plums and hope.

She arrived punctually at eight o’clock next Sunday, carrying an exiguous green linen bag, which contained her dresses. She was subdued, and, now that it had come to the point, evidently a little scared. Lobster salad, hock, and peaches restored her courage. She ate heartily. It did not apparently matter to her whether she danced full or empty; but she would not smoke.

“It’s bad for the–” She checked herself.

When they had finished supper, Gyp shut the dogs into the back premises; she had visions of their rending Miss Wing’s draperies, or calves. Then they went into the drawing-room, not lighting up, that they might tell when the moonlight was strong enough outside. Though it was the last night of August, the heat was as great as ever–a deep, unstirring warmth; the climbing moon shot as yet but a thin shaft here and there through the heavy foliage. They talked in low voices, unconsciously playing up to the nature of the escapade. As the moon drew up, they stole out across the garden to the music-room. Gyp lighted the candles.

“Can you manage?”

Miss Daphne had already shed half her garments.

“Oh, I’m so excited, Mrs. Fiorsen! I do hope I shall dance well.”

Gyp stole back to the house; it being Sunday evening, the servants had been easily disposed of. She sat down at the piano, turning her eyes toward the garden. A blurred white shape flitted suddenly across the darkness at the far end and became motionless, as it might be a white-flowering bush under the trees. Miss Daphne had come out, and was waiting for the moon. Gyp began to play. She pitched on a little Sicilian pastorale that the herdsmen play on their pipes coming down from the hills, softly, from very far, rising, rising, swelling to full cadence, and failing, failing away again to nothing. The moon rose over the trees; its light flooded the face of the house, down on to the grass, and spread slowly back toward where the girl stood waiting. It caught the border of sunflowers along the garden wall with a stroke of magical, unearthly colour–gold that was not gold.

Gyp began to play the dance. The pale blurr in the darkness stirred. The moonlight fell on the girl now, standing with arms spread, holding out her drapery–a white, winged statue. Then, like a gigantic moth she fluttered forth, blanched and noiseless flew over the grass, spun and hovered. The moonlight etched out the shape of her head, painted her hair with pallid gold. In the silence, with that unearthly gleam of colour along the sunflowers and on the girl’s head, it was as if a spirit had dropped into the garden and was fluttering to and fro, unable to get out.

A voice behind Gyp said: “My God! What’s this? An angel?”

Fiorsen was standing hall-way in the darkened room staring out into the garden, where the girl had halted, transfixed before the window, her eyes as round as saucers, her mouth open, her limbs rigid with interest and affright. Suddenly she turned and, gathering her garment, fled, her limbs gleaming in the moonlight.

And Gyp sat looking up at the apparition of her husband. She could just see his eyes straining after that flying nymph. Miss Daphne’s faun! Why, even his ears were pointed! Had she never noticed before, how like a faun he was? Yes–on her wedding-night! And she said quietly:

“Daphne Wing was rehearsing her new dance. So you’re back! Why didn’t you let me know? Are you all right–you look splendid!”

Fiorsen bent down and clutched her by the shoulders.

“My Gyp! Kiss me!”

But even while his lips were pressed on hers, she felt rather than saw his eyes straying to the garden, and thought, “He would like to be kissing that girl!”

The moment he had gone to get his things from the cab, she slipped out to the music-room.

Miss Daphne was dressed, and stuffing her garments into the green linen bag. She looked up, and said piteously:

“Oh! Does he mind? It’s awful, isn’t it?”

Gyp strangled her desire to laugh.

“It’s for you to mind.”

“Oh, I don’t, if you don’t! How did you like the dance?”

“Lovely! When you’re ready–come along!”

“Oh, I think I’d rather go home, please! It must seem so funny!”

“Would you like to go by this back way into the lane? You turn to the right, into the road.”

“Oh, yes; please. It would have been better if he could have seen the dance properly, wouldn’t it? What will he think?”

Gyp smiled, and opened the door into the lane. When she returned, Fiorsen was at the window, gazing out. Was it for her or for that flying nymph?

IX

September and October passed. There were more concerts, not very well attended. Fiorsen’s novelty had worn off, nor had his playing sweetness and sentiment enough for the big Public. There was also a financial crisis. It did not seem to Gyp to matter. Everything seemed remote and unreal in the shadow of her coming time. Unlike most mothers to be, she made no garments, no preparations of any kind. Why make what might never be needed? She played for Fiorsen a great deal, for herself not at all, read many books–poetry, novels, biographies–taking them in at the moment, and forgetting them at once, as one does with books read just to distract the mind. Winton and Aunt Rosamund, by tacit agreement, came on alternate afternoons. And Winton, almost as much under that shadow as Gyp herself, would take the evening train after leaving her, and spend the next day racing or cub-hunting, returning the morning of the day after to pay his next visit. He had no dread just then like that of an unoccupied day face to face with anxiety.

Betty, who had been present at Gyp’s birth, was in a queer state. The obvious desirability of such events to one of motherly type defrauded by fate of children was terribly impinged on by that old memory, and a solicitude for her “pretty” far exceeding what she would have had for a daughter of her own. What a peony regards as a natural happening to a peony, she watches with awe when it happens to the lily. That other single lady of a certain age, Aunt Rosamund, the very antithesis to Betty–a long, thin nose and a mere button, a sense of divine rights and no sense of rights at all, a drawl and a comforting wheeze, length and circumference, decision and the curtsey to providence, humour and none, dyspepsia, and the digestion of an ostrich, with other oppositions–Aunt Rosamund was also uneasy, as only one could be who disapproved heartily of uneasiness, and habitually joked and drawled it into retirement.

But of all those round Gyp, Fiorsen gave the most interesting display. He had not even an elementary notion of disguising his state of mind. And his state of mind was weirdly, wistfully primitive. He wanted Gyp as she had been. The thought that she might never become herself again terrified him so at times that he was forced to drink brandy, and come home only a little less far gone than that first time. Gyp had often to help him go to bed. On two or three occasions, he suffered so that he was out all night. To account for this, she devised the formula of a room at Count Rosek’s, where he slept when music kept him late, so as not to disturb her. Whether the servants believed her or not, she never knew. Nor did she ever ask him where he went–too proud, and not feeling that she had the right.

Deeply conscious of the unaesthetic nature of her condition, she was convinced that she could no longer be attractive to one so easily upset in his nerves, so intolerant of ugliness. As to deeper feelings about her–had he any? He certainly never gave anything up, or sacrificed himself in any way. If she had loved, she felt she would want to give up everything to the loved one; but then–she would never love! And yet he seemed frightened about her. It was puzzling! But perhaps she would not be puzzled much longer about that or anything; for she often had the feeling that she would die. How could she be going to live, grudging her fate? What would give her strength to go through with it? And, at times, she felt as if she would be glad to die. Life had defrauded her, or she had defrauded herself of life. Was it really only a year since that glorious day’s hunting when Dad and she, and the young man with the clear eyes and the irrepressible smile, had slipped away with the hounds ahead of all the field–the fatal day Fiorsen descended from the clouds and asked for her? An overwhelming longing for Mildenham came on her, to get away there with her father and Betty.

She went at the beginning of November.

Over her departure, Fiorsen behaved like a tired child that will not go to bed. He could not bear to be away from her, and so forth; but when she had gone, he spent a furious bohemian evening. At about five, he woke with “an awful cold feeling in my heart,” as he wrote to Gyp next day–“an awful feeling, my Gyp; I walked up and down for hours” (in reality, half an hour at most). “How shall I bear to be away from you at this time? I feel lost.” Next day, he found himself in Paris with Rosek. “I could not stand,” he wrote, “the sight of the streets, of the garden, of our room. When I come back I shall stay with Rosek. Nearer to the day I will come; I must come to you.” But Gyp, when she read the letter, said to Winton: “Dad, when it comes, don’t send for him. I don’t want him here.”

With those letters of his, she buried the last remnants of her feeling that somewhere in him there must be something as fine and beautiful as the sounds he made with his violin. And yet she felt those letters genuine in a way, pathetic, and with real feeling of a sort.

From the moment she reached Mildenham, she began to lose that hopelessness about herself; and, for the first time, had the sensation of wanting to live in the new life within her. She first felt it, going into her old nursery, where everything was the same as it had been when she first saw it, a child of eight; there was her old red doll’s house, the whole side of which opened to display the various floors; the worn Venetian blinds, the rattle of whose fall had sounded in her ears so many hundred times; the high fender, near which she had lain so often on the floor, her chin on her hands, reading Grimm, or “Alice in Wonderland,” or histories of England. Here, too, perhaps this new child would live amongst the old familiars. And the whim seized her to face her hour in her old nursery, not in the room where she had slept as a girl. She would not like the daintiness of that room deflowered. Let it stay the room of her girlhood. But in the nursery–there was safety, comfort! And when she had been at Mildenham a week, she made Betty change her over.

No one in that house was half so calm to look at in those days as Gyp. Betty was not guiltless of sitting on the stairs and crying at odd moments. Mrs. Markey had never made such bad soups. Markey so far forgot himself as frequently to talk. Winton lamed a horse trying an impossible jump that he might get home the quicker, and, once back, was like an unquiet spirit. If Gyp were in the room, he would make the pretence of wanting to warm his feet or hand, just to stroke her shoulder as he went back to his chair. His voice, so measured and dry, had a ring in it, that too plainly disclosed the anxiety of his heart. Gyp, always sensitive to atmosphere, felt cradled in all the love about her. Wonderful that they should all care so much! What had she done for anyone, that people should be so sweet–he especially, whom she had so grievously distressed by her wretched marriage? She would sit staring into the fire with her wide, dark eyes, unblinking as an owl’s at night–wondering what she could do to make up to her father, whom already once she had nearly killed by coming into life. And she began to practise the bearing of the coming pain, trying to project herself into this unknown suffering, so that it should not surprise from her cries and contortions.

She had one dream, over and over again, of sinking and sinking into a feather bed, growing hotter and more deeply walled in by that which had no stay in it, yet through which her body could not fall and reach anything more solid. Once, after this dream, she got up and spent the rest of the night wrapped in a blanket and the eider- down, on the old sofa, where, as a child, they had made her lie flat on her back from twelve to one every day. Betty was aghast at finding her there asleep in the morning. Gyp’s face was so like the child-face she had seen lying there in the old days, that she bundled out of the room and cried bitterly into the cup of tea. It did her good. Going back with the tea, she scolded her “pretty” for sleeping out there, with the fire out, too!

But Gyp only said:

“Betty, darling, the tea’s awfully cold! Please get me some more!”

X

From the day of the nurse’s arrival, Winton gave up hunting. He could not bring himself to be out of doors for more than half an hour at a time. Distrust of doctors did not prevent him having ten minutes every morning with the old practitioner who had treated Gyp for mumps, measles, and the other blessings of childhood. The old fellow–his name was Rivershaw–was a most peculiar survival. He smelled of mackintosh, had round purplish cheeks, a rim of hair which people said he dyed, and bulging grey eyes slightly bloodshot. He was short in body and wind, drank port wine, was suspected of taking snuff, read The Times, spoke always in a husky voice, and used a very small brougham with a very old black horse. But he had a certain low cunning, which had defeated many ailments, and his reputation for assisting people into the world stood extremely high. Every morning punctually at twelve, the crunch of his little brougham’s wheels would be heard. Winton would get up, and, taking a deep breath, cross the hall to the dining-room, extract from a sideboard a decanter of port, a biscuit-canister, and one glass. He would then stand with his eyes fixed on the door, till, in due time, the doctor would appear, and he could say:

“Well, doctor? How is she?”

“Nicely; quite nicely.”

“Nothing to make one anxious?”

The doctor, puffing out his cheeks, with eyes straying to the decanter, would murmur:

“Cardiac condition, capital–a little–um–not to matter. Taking its course. These things!”

And Winton, with another deep breath, would say:

“Glass of port, doctor?”

An expression of surprise would pass over the doctor’s face.

“Cold day–ah, perhaps–” And he would blow his nose on his purple-and-red bandanna.

Watching him drink his port, Winton would mark:

“We can get you at any time, can’t we?”

And the doctor, sucking his lips, would answer:

“Never fear, my dear sir! Little Miss Gyp–old friend of mine. At her service day and night. Never fear!”

A sensation of comfort would pass through Winton, which would last quite twenty minutes after the crunching of the wheels and the mingled perfumes of him had died away.

In these days, his greatest friend was an old watch that had been his father’s before him; a gold repeater from Switzerland, with a chipped dial-plate, and a case worn wondrous thin and smooth–a favourite of Gyp’s childhood. He would take it out about every quarter of an hour, look at its face without discovering the time, finger it, all smooth and warm from contact with his body, and put it back. Then he would listen. There was nothing whatever to listen to, but he could not help it. Apart from this, his chief distraction was to take a foil and make passes at a leather cushion, set up on the top of a low bookshelf. In these occupations, varied by constant visits to the room next the nursery, where–to save her the stairs–Gyp was now established, and by excursions to the conservatory to see if he could not find some new flower to take her, he passed all his time, save when he was eating, sleeping, or smoking cigars, which he had constantly to be relighting.

By Gyp’s request, they kept from him knowledge of when her pains began. After that first bout was over and she was lying half asleep in the old nursery, he happened to go up. The nurse–a bonny creature–one of those free, independent, economic agents that now abound–met him in the sitting-room. Accustomed to the “fuss and botheration of men” at such times, she was prepared to deliver him a little lecture. But, in approaching, she became affected by the look on his face, and, realizing somehow that she was in the presence of one whose self-control was proof, she simply whispered:

“It’s beginning; but don’t be anxious–she’s not suffering just now. We shall send for the doctor soon. She’s very plucky”; and with an unaccustomed sensation of respect and pity she repeated: “Don’t be anxious, sir.”

“If she wants to see me at any time, I shall be in my study. Save her all you can, nurse.”

The nurse was left with a feeling of surprise at having used the word “Sir”; she had not done such a thing since–since–! And, pensive, she returned to the nursery, where Gyp said at once:

“Was that my father? I didn’t want him to know.”

The nurse answered mechanically:

“That’s all right, my dear.”

“How long do you think before–before it’ll begin again, nurse? I’d like to see him.”

The nurse stroked her hair.

“Soon enough when it’s all over and comfy. Men are always fidgety.”

Gyp looked at her, and said quietly:

“Yes. You see, my mother died when I was born.”

The nurse, watching those lips, still pale with pain, felt a queer pang. She smoothed the bed-clothes and said:

“That’s nothing–it often happens–that is, I mean,–you know it has no connection whatever.”

And seeing Gyp smile, she thought: ‘Well, I am a fool.’

“If by any chance I don’t get through, I want to be cremated; I want to go back as quick as I can. I can’t bear the thought of the other thing. Will you remember, nurse? I can’t tell my father that just now; it might upset him. But promise me.”

And the nurse thought: ‘That can’t be done without a will or something, but I’d better promise. It’s a morbid fancy, and yet she’s not a morbid subject, either.’ And she said:

“Very well, my dear; only, you’re not going to do anything of the sort. That’s flat.”

Gyp smiled again, and there was silence, till she said:

“I’m awfully ashamed, wanting all this attention, and making people miserable. I’ve read that Japanese women quietly go out somewhere by themselves and sit on a gate.”

The nurse, still busy with the bedclothes, murmured abstractedly:

“Yes, that’s a very good way. But don’t you fancy you’re half the trouble most of them are. You’re very good, and you’re going to get on splendidly.” And she thought: ‘Odd! She’s never once spoken of her husband. I don’t like it for this sort–too perfect, too sensitive; her face touches you so!’

Gyp murmured again:

“I’d like to see my father, please; and rather quick.”

The nurse, after one swift look, went out.

Gyp, who had clinched her hands under the bedclothes, fixed her eyes on the window. November! Acorns and the leaves–the nice, damp, earthy smell! Acorns all over the grass. She used to drive the old retriever in harness on the lawn covered with acorns and the dead leaves, and the wind still blowing them off the trees–in her brown velvet–that was a ducky dress! Who was it had called her once “a wise little owl,” in that dress? And, suddenly, her heart sank. The pain was coming again. Winton’s voice from the door said:

“Well, my pet?”

“It was only to see how you are. I’m all right. What sort of a day is it? You’ll go riding, won’t you? Give my love to the horses. Good-bye, Dad; just for now.”

Her forehead was wet to his lips.

Outside, in the passage, her smile, like something actual on the air, preceded him–the smile that had just lasted out. But when he was back in the study, he suffered–suffered! Why could he not have that pain to bear instead?

The crunch of the brougham brought his ceaseless march over the carpet to an end. He went out into the hall and looked into the doctor’s face–he had forgotten that this old fellow knew nothing of his special reason for deadly fear. Then he turned back into his study. The wild south wind brought wet drift-leaves whirling against the panes. It was here that he had stood looking out into the dark, when Fiorsen came down to ask for Gyp a year ago. Why had he not bundled the fellow out neck and crop, and taken her away?–India, Japan–anywhere would have done! She had not loved that fiddler, never really loved him. Monstrous–monstrous! The full bitterness of having missed right action swept over Winton, and he positively groaned aloud. He moved from the window and went over to the bookcase; there in one row were the few books he ever read, and he took one out. “Life of General Lee.” He put it back and took another, a novel of Whyte Melville’s: “Good for Nothing.” Sad book–sad ending! The book dropped from his hand and fell with a flump on the floor. In a sort of icy discovery, he had seen his life as it would be if for a second time he had to bear such loss. She must not–could not die! If she did–then, for him–! In old times they buried a man with his horse and his dog, as if at the end of a good run. There was always that! The extremity of this thought brought relief. He sat down, and, for a long time, stayed staring into the fire in a sort of coma. Then his feverish fears began again. Why the devil didn’t they come and tell him something, anything–rather than this silence, this deadly solitude and waiting? What was that? The front door shutting. Wheels? Had that hell-hound of an old doctor sneaked off? He started up. There at the door was Markey, holding in his hand some cards. Winton scanned them.

“Lady Summerhay; Mr. Bryan Summerhay. I said, ‘Not at home,’ sir.”

Winton nodded.

“Well?”

“Nothing at present. You have had no lunch, sir.”

“What time is it?”

“Four o’clock.”

“Bring in my fur coat and the port, and make the fire up. I want any news there is.”

Markey nodded.

Odd to sit in a fur coat before a fire, and the day not cold! They said you lived on after death. He had never been able to feel that SHE was living on. SHE lived in Gyp. And now if Gyp–! Death– your own–no great matter! But–for her! The wind was dropping with the darkness. He got up and drew the curtains.

It was seven o’clock when the doctor came down into the hall, and stood rubbing his freshly washed hands before opening the study door. Winton was still sitting before the fire, motionless, shrunk into his fur coat. He raised himself a little and looked round dully.

The doctor’s face puckered, his eyelids drooped half-way across his bulging eyes; it was his way of smiling. “Nicely,” he said; “nicely–a girl. No complications.”

Winton’s whole body seemed to swell, his lips opened, he raised his hand. Then, the habit of a lifetime catching him by the throat, he stayed motionless. At last he got up and said:

“Glass of port, doctor?”

The doctor spying at him above the glass thought: ‘This is “the fifty-two.” Give me “the sixty-eight”–more body.’

After a time, Winton went upstairs. Waiting in the outer room he had a return of his cold dread. “Perfectly successful–the patient died from exhaustion!” The tiny squawking noise that fell on his ears entirely failed to reassure him. He cared nothing for that new being. Suddenly he found Betty just behind him, her bosom heaving horribly.

“What is it, woman? Don’t!”

She had leaned against his shoulder, appearing to have lost all sense of right and wrong, and, out of her sobbing, gurgled:

“She looks so lovely–oh dear, she looks so lovely!”

Pushing her abruptly from him, Winton peered in through the just- opened door. Gyp was lying extremely still, and very white; her eyes, very large, very dark, were fastened on her baby. Her face wore a kind of wonder. She did not see Winton, who stood stone- quiet, watching, while the nurse moved about her business behind a screen. This was the first time in his life that he had seen a mother with her just-born baby. That look on her face–gone right away somewhere, right away–amazed him. She had never seemed to like children, had said she did not want a child. She turned her head and saw him. He went in. She made a faint motion toward the baby, and her eyes smiled. Winton looked at that swaddled speckled mite; then, bending down, he kissed her hand and tiptoed away.

At dinner he drank champagne, and benevolence towards all the world spread in his being. Watching the smoke of his cigar wreathe about him, he thought: ‘Must send that chap a wire.’ After all, he was a fellow being–might be suffering, as he himself had suffered only two hours ago. To keep him in ignorance–it wouldn’t do! And he wrote out the form–

“All well, a daughter.–WINTON,”

and sent it out with the order that a groom should take it in that night.

Gyp was sleeping when he stole up at ten o’clock.

He, too, turned in, and slept like a child.

XI

Returning the next afternoon from the first ride for several days, Winton passed the station fly rolling away from the drive-gate with the light-hearted disillusionment peculiar to quite empty vehicles.

The sight of a fur coat and broad-brimmed hat in the hall warned him of what had happened.

“Mr. Fiorsen, sir; gone up to Mrs. Fiorsen.”

Natural, but a d–d bore! And bad, perhaps, for Gyp. He asked:

“Did he bring things?”

“A bag, sir.”

“Get a room ready, then.”

To dine tete-a-tete with that fellow!

Gyp had passed the strangest morning in her life, so far. Her baby fascinated her, also the tug of its lips, giving her the queerest sensation, almost sensual; a sort of meltedness, an infinite warmth, a desire to grip the little creature right into her–which, of course, one must not do. And yet, neither her sense of humour nor her sense of beauty were deceived. It was a queer little affair with a tuft of black hair, in grace greatly inferior to a kitten. Its tiny, pink, crisped fingers with their infinitesimal nails, its microscopic curly toes, and solemn black eyes–when they showed, its inimitable stillness when it slept, its incredible vigour when it fed, were all, as it were, miraculous. Withal, she had a feeling of gratitude to one that had not killed nor even hurt her so very desperately–gratitude because she had succeeded, performed her part of mother perfectly–the nurse had said so–she, so distrustful of herself! Instinctively she knew, too, that this was HER baby, not his, going “to take after her,” as they called it. How it succeeded in giving that impression she could not tell, unless it were the passivity, and dark eyes of the little creature. Then from one till three they had slept together with perfect soundness and unanimity. She awoke to find the nurse standing by the bed, looking as if she wanted to tell her something.

“Someone to see you, my dear.”

And Gyp thought: ‘He! I can’t think quickly; I ought to think quickly–I want to, but I can’t.’ Her face expressed this, for the nurse said at once:

“I don’t think you’re quite up to it yet.”

Gyp answered:

“Yes. Only, not for five minutes, please.”

Her spirit had been very far away, she wanted time to get it back before she saw him–time to know in some sort what she felt now; what this mite lying beside her had done for her and him. The thought that it was his, too–this tiny, helpless being–seemed unreal. No, it was not his! He had not wanted it, and now that she had been through the torture it was hers, not his–never his. The memory of the night when she first yielded to the certainty that the child was coming, and he had come home drunk, swooped on her, and made her shrink and shudder and put her arm round her baby. It had not made any difference. Only–Back came the old accusing thought, from which these last days she had been free: ‘But I married him–I chose to marry him. I can’t get out of that!’ And she felt as if she must cry out to the nurse: “Keep him away; I don’t want to see him. Oh, please, I’m tired.” She bit the words back. And presently, with a very faint smile, said:

“Now, I’m ready.”

She noticed first what clothes he had on–his newest suit, dark grey, with little lighter lines–she had chosen it herself; that his tie was in a bow, not a sailor’s knot, and his hair brighter than usual–as always just after being cut; and surely the hair was growing down again in front of his ears. Then, gratefully, almost with emotion, she realized that his lips were quivering, his whole face quivering. He came in on tiptoe, stood looking at her a minute, then crossed very swiftly to the bed, very swiftly knelt down, and, taking her hand, turned it over and put his face to it. The bristles of his moustache tickled her palm; his nose flattened itself against her fingers, and his lips kept murmuring words into the hand, with the moist warm touch of his lips. Gyp knew he was burying there all his remorse, perhaps the excesses he had committed while she had been away from him, burying the fears he had felt, and the emotion at seeing her so white and still. She felt that in a minute he would raise a quite different face. And it flashed through her: “If I loved him I wouldn’t mind what he did–ever! Why don’t I love him? There’s something loveable. Why don’t I?”

He did raise his face; his eyes lighted on the baby, and he grinned.

“Look at this!” he said. “Is it possible? Oh, my Gyp, what a funny one! Oh, oh, oh!” He went off into an ecstasy of smothered laughter; then his face grew grave, and slowly puckered into a sort of comic disgust. Gyp too had seen the humours of her baby, of its queer little reddish pudge of a face, of its twenty-seven black hairs, and the dribble at its almost invisible mouth; but she had also seen it as a miracle; she had felt it, and there surged up from her all the old revolt and more against his lack of consideration. It was not a funny one–her baby! It was not ugly! Or, if it were, she was not fit to be told of it. Her arm tightened round the warm bundled thing against her. Fiorsen put his finger out and touched its cheek.

“It IS real–so it is. Mademoiselle Fiorsen. Tk, tk!”

The baby stirred. And Gyp thought: ‘If I loved I wouldn’t even mind his laughing at my baby. It would be different.’

“Don’t wake her!” she whispered. She felt his eyes on her, knew that his interest in the baby had ceased as suddenly as it came, that he was thinking, “How long before I have you in my arms again?” He touched her hair. And, suddenly, she had a fainting, sinking sensation that she had never yet known. When she opened her eyes again, the economic agent was holding something beneath her nose and making sounds that seemed to be the words: “Well, I am a d–d fool!” repeatedly expressed. Fiorsen was gone.

Seeing Gyp’s eyes once more open, the nurse withdrew the ammonia, replaced the baby, and saying: “Now go to sleep!” withdrew behind the screen. Like all robust personalities, she visited on others her vexations with herself. But Gyp did not go to sleep; she gazed now at her sleeping baby, now at the pattern of the wall-paper, trying mechanically to find the bird caught at intervals amongst its brown-and-green foliage–one bird in each alternate square of the pattern, so that there was always a bird in the centre of four other birds. And the bird was of green and yellow with a red beak.

On being turned out of the nursery with the assurance that it was “all right–only a little faint,” Fiorsen went down-stairs disconsolate. The atmosphere of this dark house where he was a stranger, an unwelcome stranger, was insupportable. He wanted nothing in it but Gyp, and Gyp had fainted at his touch. No wonder he felt miserable. He opened a door. What room was this? A piano! The drawing-room. Ugh! No fire–what misery! He recoiled to the doorway and stood listening. Not a sound. Grey light in the cheerless room; almost dark already in the hall behind him. What a life these English lived–worse than the winter in his old country home in Sweden, where, at all events, they kept good fires. And, suddenly, all his being revolted. Stay here and face that father–and that image of a servant! Stay here for a night of this! Gyp was not his Gyp, lying there with that baby beside her, in this hostile house. Smothering his footsteps, he made for the outer hall. There were his coat and hat. He put them on. His bag? He could not see it. No matter! They could send it after him. He would write to her–say that her fainting had upset him– that he could not risk making her faint again–could not stay in the house so near her, yet so far. She would understand. And there came over him a sudden wave of longing. Gyp! He wanted her. To be with her! To look at her and kiss her, and feel her his own again! And, opening the door, he passed out on to the drive and strode away, miserable and sick at heart. All the way to the station through the darkening lanes, and in the railway carriage going up, he felt that aching wretchedness. Only in the lighted street, driving back to Rosek’s, did he shake it off a little. At dinner and after, drinking that special brandy he nearly lost it; but it came back when he went to bed, till sleep relieved him with its darkness and dreams.

XII

Gyp’s recovery proceeded at first with a sure rapidity which delighted Winton. As the economic agent pointed out, she was beautifully made, and that had a lot to do with it!

Before Christmas Day, she was already out, and on Christmas morning the old doctor, by way of present, pronounced her fit and ready to go home when she liked. That afternoon, she was not so well, and next day back again upstairs. Nothing seemed definitely wrong, only a sort of desperate lassitude; as if the knowledge that to go back was within her power, only needing her decision, had been too much for her. And since no one knew her inward feelings, all were puzzled except Winton. The nursing of her child was promptly stopped.

It was not till the middle of January that she said to him.

“I must go home, Dad.”

The word “home” hurt him, and he only answered:

“Very well, Gyp; when?”

“The house is quite ready. I think I had better go to-morrow. He’s still at Rosek’s. I won’t let him know. Two or three days there by myself first would be better for settling baby in.”

“Very well; I’ll take you up.”

He made no effort to ascertain her feelings toward Fiorsen. He knew too well.

They travelled next day, reaching London at half-past two. Betty had gone up in the early morning to prepare the way. The dogs had been with Aunt Rosamund all this time. Gyp missed their greeting; but the installation of Betty and the baby in the spare room that was now to be the nursery, absorbed all her first energies. Light was just beginning to fail when, still in her fur, she took a key of the music-room and crossed the garden, to see how all had fared during her ten weeks’ absence. What a wintry garden! How different from that languorous, warm, moonlit night when Daphne Wing had come dancing out of the shadow of the dark trees. How bare and sharp the boughs against the grey, darkening sky–and not a song of any bird, not a flower! She glanced back at the house. Cold and white it looked, but there were lights in her room and in the nursery, and someone just drawing the curtains. Now that the leaves were off, one could see the other houses of the road, each different in shape and colour, as is the habit of London houses. It was cold, frosty; Gyp hurried down the path. Four little icicles had formed beneath the window of the music-room. They caught her eye, and, passing round to the side, she broke one off. There must be a fire in there, for she could see the flicker through the curtains not quite drawn. Thoughtful Ellen had been airing it! But, suddenly, she stood still. There was more than a fire in there! Through the chink in the drawn curtains she had seen two figures seated on the divan. Something seemed to spin round in her head. She turned to rush away. Then a kind of superhuman coolness came to her, and she deliberately looked in. He and Daphne Wing! His arm was round her neck. The girl’s face riveted her eyes. It was turned a little back and up, gazing at him, the lips parted, the eyes hypnotized, adoring; and her arm round him seemed to shiver–with cold, with ecstasy?

Again that something went spinning through Gyp’s head. She raised her hand. For a second it hovered close to the glass. Then, with a sick feeling, she dropped it and turned away.

Never! Never would she show him or that girl that they could hurt her! Never! They were safe from any scene she would make–safe in their nest! And blindly, across the frosty grass, through the unlighted drawing-room, she went upstairs to her room, locked the door, and sat down before the fire. Pride raged within her. She stuffed her handkerchief between her teeth and lips; she did it unconsciously. Her eyes felt scorched from the fire-flames, but she did not trouble to hold her hand before them.

Suddenly she thought: ‘Suppose I HAD loved him?’ and laughed. The handkerchief dropped to her lap, and she looked at it with wonder– it was blood-stained. She drew back in the chair, away from the scorching of the fire, and sat quite still, a smile on her lips. That girl’s eyes, like a little adoring dog’s–that girl, who had fawned on her so! She had got her “distinguished man”! She sprang up and looked at herself in the glass; shuddered, turned her back on herself, and sat down again. In her own house! Why not here– in this room? Why not before her eyes? Not yet a year married! It was almost funny–almost funny! And she had her first calm thought: ‘I am free.’

But it did not seem to mean anything, had no value to a spirit so bitterly stricken in its pride. She moved her chair closer to the fire again. Why had she not tapped on the window? To have seen that girl’s face ashy with fright! To have seen him–caught– caught in the room she had made beautiful for him, the room where she had played for him so many hours, the room that was part of the house that she paid for! How long had they used it for their meetings–sneaking in by that door from the back lane? Perhaps even before she went away–to bear his child! And there began in her a struggle between mother instinct and her sense of outrage–a spiritual tug-of-war so deep that it was dumb, unconscious–to decide whether her baby would be all hers, or would have slipped away from her heart, and be a thing almost abhorrent.

She huddled nearer the fire, feeling cold and physically sick. And suddenly the thought came to her: ‘If I don’t let the servants know I’m here, they might go out and see what I saw!’ Had she shut the drawing-room window when she returned so blindly? Perhaps already–! In a fever, she rang the bell, and unlocked the door. The maid came up.

“Please shut the drawing-room, window, Ellen; and tell Betty I’m afraid I got a little chill travelling. I’m going to bed. Ask her if she can manage with baby.” And she looked straight into the girl’s face. It wore an expression of concern, even of commiseration, but not that fluttered look which must have been there if she had known.

“Yes, m’m; I’ll get you a hot-water bottle, m’m. Would you like a hot bath and a cup of hot tea at once?”

Gyp nodded. Anything–anything! And when the maid was gone, she thought mechanically: ‘A cup of hot tea! How quaint! What should it be but hot?’

The maid came back with the tea; she was an affectionate girl, full of that admiring love servants and dogs always felt for Gyp, imbued, too, with the instinctive partisanship which stores itself one way or the other in the hearts of those who live in houses where the atmosphere lacks unity. To her mind, the mistress was much too good for him–a foreigner–and such ‘abits! Manners–he hadn’t any! And no good would come of it. Not if you took her opinion!

“And I’ve turned the water in, m’m. Will you have a little mustard in it?”

Again Gyp nodded. And the girl, going downstairs for the mustard, told cook there was “that about the mistress that makes you quite pathetic.” The cook, who was fingering her concertina, for which she had a passion, answered:

“She ‘ides up her feelin’s, same as they all does. Thank ‘eaven she haven’t got that drawl, though, that ‘er old aunt ‘as–always makes me feel to want to say, ‘Buck up, old dear, you ain’t ‘alf so precious as all that!'”

And when the maid Ellen had taken the mustard and gone, she drew out her concertina to its full length and, with cautionary softness, began to practise “Home, Sweet Home!”

To Gyp, lying in her hot bath, those muffled strains just mounted, not quite as a tune, rather as some far-away humming of large flies. The heat of the water, the pungent smell of the mustard, and that droning hum slowly soothed and drowsed away the vehemence of feeling. She looked at her body, silver-white in the yellowish water, with a dreamy sensation. Some day she, too, would love! Strange feeling she had never had before! Strange, indeed, that it should come at such a moment, breaking through the old instinctive shrinking. Yes; some day love would come to her. There floated before her brain the adoring look on Daphne Wing’s face, the shiver that had passed along her arm, and pitifulness crept into her heart–a half-bitter, half-admiring pitifulness. Why should she grudge–she who did not love? The sounds, like the humming of large flies, grew deeper, more vibrating. It was the cook, in her passion swelling out her music on the phrase,

“Be it ne-e-ver so humble,
There’s no-o place like home!”

XIII

That night, Gyp slept peacefully, as though nothing had happened, as though there were no future at all before her. She woke into misery. Her pride would never let her show the world what she had discovered, would force her to keep an unmoved face and live an unmoved life. But the struggle between mother-instinct and revolt was still going on within her. She was really afraid to see her baby, and she sent word to Betty that she thought it would be safer if she kept quite quiet till the afternoon.

She got up at noon and stole downstairs. She had not realized how violent was her struggle over HIS child till she was passing the door of the room where it was lying. If she had not been ordered to give up nursing, that struggle would never have come. Her heart ached, but a demon pressed her on and past the door. Downstairs she just pottered round, dusting her china, putting in order the books which, after house-cleaning, the maid had arranged almost too carefully, so that the first volumes of Dickens and Thackeray followed each other on the top shell, and the second volumes followed each other on the bottom shelf. And all the time she thought dully: ‘Why am I doing this? What do I care how the place looks? It is not my home. It can never be my home!’

For lunch she drank some beef tea, keeping up the fiction of her indisposition. After that, she sat down at her bureau to write. Something must be decided! There she sat, her forehead on her hand, and nothing came–not one word–not even the way to address him; just the date, and that was all. At a ring of the bell she started up. She could not see anybody! But the maid only brought a note from Aunt Rosamund, and the dogs, who fell frantically on their mistress and instantly began to fight for her possession. She went on her knees to separate them, and enjoin peace and good- will, and their little avid tongues furiously licked her cheeks. Under the eager touch of those wet tongues the band round her brain and heart gave way; she was overwhelmed with longing for her baby. Nearly a day since she had seen her–was it possible? Nearly a day without sight of those solemn eyes and crinkled toes and fingers! And followed by the dogs, she went upstairs.

The house was invisible from the music-room; and, spurred on by thought that, until Fiorsen knew she was back, those two might be there in each other’s arms any moment of the day or night, Gyp wrote that evening:

“DEAR GUSTAV,–We are back.–GYP.”

What else in the world could she say? He would not get it till he woke about eleven. With the instinct to take all the respite she could, and knowing no more than before how she would receive his return, she went out in the forenoon and wandered about all day shopping and trying not to think. Returning at tea-time, she went straight up to her baby, and there heard from Betty that he had come, and gone out with his violin to the music-room.

Bent over the child, Gyp needed all her self-control–but her self- control was becoming great. Soon, the girl would come fluttering down that dark, narrow lane; perhaps at this very minute her fingers were tapping at the door, and he was opening it to murmur, “No; she’s back!” Ah, then the girl would shrink! The rapid whispering–some other meeting-place! Lips to lips, and that look on the girl’s face; till she hurried away from the shut door, in the darkness, disappointed! And he, on that silver-and-gold divan, gnawing his moustache, his eyes–catlike—staring at the fire! And then, perhaps, from his violin would come one of those swaying bursts of sound, with tears in them, and the wind in them, that had of old bewitched her! She said:

“Open the window just a little, Betty dear–it’s hot.”

There it was, rising, falling! Music! Why did it so move one even when, as now, it was the voice of insult! And suddenly she thought: “He will expect me to go out there again and play for him. But I will not, never!”

She put her baby down, went into her bedroom, and changed hastily into a teagown for the evening, ready to go downstairs. A little shepherdess in china on the mantel-shelf attracted her attention, and she took it in her hand. She had bought it three and more years ago, when she first came to London, at the beginning of that time of girl-gaiety when all life seemed a long cotillion, and she its leader. Its cool daintiness made it seem the symbol of another world, a world without depths or shadows, a world that did not feel–a happy world!

She had not long to wait before he tapped on the drawing-room window. She got up from the tea-table to let him in. Why do faces gazing in through glass from darkness always look hungry– searching, appealing for what you have and they have not? And while she was undoing the latch she thought: ‘What am I going to say? I feel nothing!’ The ardour of his gaze, voice, hands seemed to her so false as to be almost comic; even more comically false his look of disappointment when she said:

“Please take care; I’m still brittle!” Then she sat down again and asked:

“Will you have some tea?”

“Tea! I have you back, and you ask me if I will have tea Gyp! Do you know what I have felt like all this time? No; you don’t know. You know nothing of me–do you?”

A smile of sheer irony formed on her lips–without her knowing it was there. She said:

“Have you had a good time at Count Rosek’s?” And, without her will, against her will, the words slipped out: “I’m afraid you’ve missed the music-room!”

His stare wavered; he began to walk up and down.

“Missed! Missed everything! I have been very miserable, Gyp. You’ve no idea how miserable. Yes, miserable, miserable, miserable!” With each repetition of that word, his voice grew gayer. And kneeling down in front of her, he stretched his long arms round her till they met behind her waist: “Ah, my Gyp! I shall be a different being, now.”

And Gyp went on smiling. Between that, and stabbing these false raptures to the heart, there seemed to be nothing she could do. The moment his hands relaxed, she got up and said:

“You know there’s a baby in the house?”

He laughed.

“Ah, the baby! I’d forgotten. Let’s go up and see it.”

Gyp answered:

“You go.”

She could feel him thinking: ‘Perhaps it will make her nice to me!’ He turned suddenly and went.

She stood with her eyes shut, seeing the divan in the music-room and the girl’s arm shivering. Then, going to the piano, she began with all her might to play a Chopin polonaise.

That evening they dined out, and went to “The Tales of Hoffmann.” By such devices it was possible to put off a little longer what she was going to do. During the drive home in the dark cab, she shrank away into her corner, pretending that his arm would hurt her dress; her exasperated nerves were already overstrung. Twice she was on the very point of crying out: “I am not Daphne Wing!” But each time pride strangled the words in her throat. And yet they would have to come. What other reason could she find to keep him from her room?

But when in her mirror she saw him standing behind her–he had crept into the bedroom like a cat–fierceness came into her. She could see the blood rush up in her own white face, and, turning round she said:

“No, Gustav, go out to the music-room if you want a companion.”

He recoiled against the foot of the bed and stared at her haggardly, and Gyp, turning back to her mirror, went on quietly taking the pins out of her hair. For fully a minute she could see him leaning there, moving his head and hands as though in pain. Then, to her surprise, he went. And a vague feeling of compunction mingled with her sense of deliverance. She lay awake a long time, watching the fire-glow brighten and darken on the ceiling, tunes from “The Tales of Hoffmann” running in her head; thoughts and fancies crisscrossing in her excited brain. Falling asleep at last, she dreamed she was feeding doves out of her hand, and one of them was Daphne Wing. She woke with a start. The fire still burned, and by its light she saw him crouching at the foot of the bed, just as he had on their wedding-night–the same hungry yearning in his face, and an arm outstretched. Before she could speak, he began:

“Oh, Gyp, you don’t understand! All that is nothing–it is only you I want–always. I am a fool who cannot control himself. Think! It’s a long time since you went away from me.”

Gyp said, in a hard voice:

“I didn’t want to have a child.”

He said quickly:

“No; but now you have it you are glad. Don’t be unmerciful, my Gyp! It is like you to be merciful. That girl–it is all over–I swear–I promise.”

His hand touched her foot through the soft eiderdown. Gyp thought: ‘Why does he come and whine to me like this? He has no dignity– none!’ And she said:

“How can you promise? You have made the girl love you. I saw her face.”

He drew his hand back.

“You saw her?”

“Yes.”

He was silent, staring at her. Presently he began again:

“She is a little fool. I do not care for the whole of her as much as I care for your one finger. What does it matter what one does in that way if one does not care? The soul, not the body, is faithful. A man satisfies appetite–it is nothing.”

Gyp said:

“Perhaps not; but it is something when it makes others miserable.”

“Has it made you miserable, my Gyp?”

His voice had a ring of hope. She answered, startled:

“I? No–her.”

“Her? Ho! It is an experience for her–it is life. It will do her no harm.”

“No; nothing will do anybody harm if it gives you pleasure.”

At that bitter retort, he kept silence a long time, now and then heaving a long sigh. His words kept sounding in her heart: “The soul, not the body, is faithful.” Was he, after all, more faithful to her than she had ever been, could ever be–who did not love, had never loved him? What right had she to talk, who had married him out of vanity, out of–what?

And suddenly he said:

“Gyp! Forgive!”

She uttered a sigh, and turned away her face.

He bent down against the eider-down. She could hear him drawing long, sobbing breaths, and, in the midst of her lassitude and hopelessness, a sort of pity stirred her. What did it matter? She said, in a choked voice:

“Very well, I forgive.”

XIV

The human creature has wonderful power of putting up with things. Gyp never really believed that Daphne Wing was of the past. Her sceptical instinct told her that what Fiorsen might honestly mean to do was very different from what he would do under stress of opportunity carefully put within his reach.

Since her return, Rosek had begun to come again, very careful not to repeat his mistake, but not deceiving her at all. Though his self-control was as great as Fiorsen’s was small, she felt he had not given up his pursuit of her, and would take very good care that Daphne Wing was afforded every chance of being with her husband. But pride never let her allude to the girl. Besides, what good to speak of her? They would both lie–Rosek, because he obviously saw the mistaken line of his first attack; Fiorsen, because his temperament did not permit him to suffer by speaking the truth.

Having set herself to endure, she found she must live in the moment, never think of the future, never think much of anything. Fortunately, nothing so conduces to vacuity as a baby. She gave herself up to it with desperation. It was a good baby, silent, somewhat understanding. In watching its face, and feeling it warm against her, Gyp succeeded daily in getting away into the hypnotic state of mothers, and cows that chew the cud. But the baby slept a great deal, and much of its time was claimed by Betty. Those hours, and they were many, Gyp found difficult. She had lost interest in dress and household elegance, keeping just enough to satisfy her fastidiousness; money, too, was scarce, under the drain of Fiorsen’s irregular requirements. If she read, she began almost at once to brood. She was cut off from the music-room, had not crossed its threshold since her discovery. Aunt Rosamund’s efforts to take her into society were fruitless–all the effervescence was out of that, and, though her father came, he never stayed long for fear of meeting Fiorsen. In this condition of affairs, she turned more and more to her own music, and one morning, after she had come across some compositions of her girlhood, she made a resolution. That afternoon she dressed herself with pleasure, for the first time for months, and sallied forth into the February frost.

Monsieur Edouard Harmost inhabited the ground floor of a house in the Marylebone Road. He received his pupils in a large back room overlooking a little sooty garden. A Walloon by extraction, and of great vitality, he grew old with difficulty, having a soft corner in his heart for women, and a passion for novelty, even for new music, that was unappeasable. Any fresh discovery would bring a tear rolling down his mahogany cheeks into his clipped grey beard, the while he played, singing wheezily to elucidate the wondrous novelty; or moved his head up and down, as if pumping.

When Gyp was shown into this well-remembered room he was seated, his yellow fingers buried in his stiff grey hair, grieving over a pupil who had just gone out. He did not immediately rise, but stared hard at Gyp.

“Ah,” he said, at last, “my little old friend! She has come back! Now that is good!” And, patting her hand he looked into her face, which had a warmth and brilliance rare to her in these days. Then, making for the mantelpiece, he took therefrom a bunch of Parma violets, evidently brought by his last pupil, and thrust them under her nose. “Take them, take them–they were meant for me. Now–how much have you forgotten? Come!” And, seizing her by the elbow, he almost forced her to the piano. “Take off your furs. Sit down!”

And while Gyp was taking off her coat, he fixed on her his prominent brown eyes that rolled easily in their slightly blood- shot whites, under squared eyelids and cliffs of brow. She had on what Fiorsen called her “humming-bird” blouse–dark blue, shot with peacock and old rose, and looked very warm and soft under her fur cap. Monsieur Harmost’s stare seemed to drink her in; yet that stare was not unpleasant, having in it only the rather sad yearning of old men who love beauty and know that their time for seeing it is getting short.

“Play me the ‘Carnival,'” he said. “We shall soon see!”

Gyp played. Twice he nodded; once he tapped his fingers on his teeth, and showed her the whites of his eyes–which meant: “That will have to be very different!” And once he grunted. When she had finished, he sat down beside her, took her hand in his, and, examining the fingers, began:

“Yes, yes, soon again! Spoiling yourself, playing for that fiddler! Trop sympathique! The back-bone, the back-bone–we shall improve that. Now, four hours a day for six weeks–and we shall have something again.”

Gyp said softly:

“I have a baby, Monsieur Harmost.”

Monsieur Harmost bounded.

“What! That is a tragedy!” Gyp shook her head. “You like it? A baby! Does it not squall?”

“Very little.”

“Mon Dieu! Well, well, you are still as beautiful as ever. That is something. Now, what can you do with this baby? Could you get rid of it a little? This is serious. This is a talent in danger. A fiddler, and a baby! C’est beaucoup! C’est trop!”

Gyp smiled. And Monsieur Harmost, whose exterior covered much sensibility, stroked her hand.

“You have grown up, my little friend,” he said gravely. “Never mind; nothing is wasted. But a baby!” And he chirruped his lips. “Well; courage! We shall do things yet!”

Gyp turned her head away to hide the quiver of her lips. The scent of latakia tobacco that had soaked into things, and of old books and music, a dark smell, like Monsieur Harmost’s complexion; the old brown curtains, the sooty little back garden beyond, with its cat-runs, and its one stunted sumach tree; the dark-brown stare of Monsieur Harmost’s rolling eyes brought back that time of happiness, when she used to come week after week, full of gaiety and importance, and chatter away, basking in his brusque admiration and in music, all with the glamourous feeling that she was making him happy, and herself happy, and going to play very finely some day.

The voice of Monsieur Harmost, softly gruff, as if he knew what she was feeling, increased her emotion; her breast heaved under the humming-bird blouse, water came into her eyes, and more than ever her lips quivered. He was saying:

“Come, come! The only thing we cannot cure is age. You were right to come, my child. Music is your proper air. If things are not all what they ought to be, you shall soon forget. In music–in music, we can get away. After all, my little friend, they cannot take our dreams from us–not even a wife, not even a husband can do that. Come, we shall have good times yet!”

And Gyp, with a violent effort, threw off that sudden weakness. From those who serve art devotedly there radiates a kind of glamour. She left Monsieur Harmost that afternoon, infected by his passion for music. Poetic justice–on which all homeopathy is founded–was at work to try and cure her life by a dose of what had spoiled it. To music, she now gave all the hours she could spare. She went to him twice a week, determining to get on, but uneasy at the expense, for monetary conditions were ever more embarrassed. At home, she practised steadily and worked hard at composition. She finished several songs and studies during the spring and summer, and left still more unfinished. Monsieur Harmost was tolerant of these efforts, seeming to know that harsh criticism or disapproval would cut her impulse down, as frost cuts the life of flowers. Besides, there was always something fresh and individual in her things. He asked her one day:

“What does your husband think of these?”

Gyp was silent a moment.

“I don’t show them to him.”

She never had; she instinctively kept back the knowledge that she composed, dreading his ruthlessness when anything grated on his nerves, and knowing that a breath of mockery would wither her belief in herself, frail enough plant already. The only person, besides her master, to whom she confided her efforts was–strangely enough–Rosek. But he had surprised her one day copying out some music, and said at once: “I knew. I was certain you composed. Ah, do play it to me! I am sure you have talent.” The warmth with which he praised that little “caprice” was surely genuine; and she felt so grateful that she even played him others, and then a song for him to sing. From that day, he no longer seemed to her odious; she even began to have for him a certain friendliness, to be a little sorry, watching him, pale, trim, and sphinx-like, in her drawing-room or garden, getting no nearer to the fulfilment of his desire. He had never again made love to her, but she knew that at the least sign he would. His face and his invincible patience made him pathetic to her. Women such as Gyp cannot actively dislike those who admire them greatly. She consulted him about Fiorsen’s debts. There were hundreds of pounds owing, it seemed, and, in addition, much to Rosek himself. The thought of these debts weighed unbearably on her. Why did he, HOW did he get into debt like this? What became of the money he earned? His fees, this summer, were good enough. There was such a feeling of degradation about debt. It was, somehow, so underbred to owe money to all sorts of people. Was it on that girl, on other women, that he spent it all? Or was it simply that his nature had holes in every pocket?

Watching Fiorsen closely, that spring and early summer, she was conscious of a change, a sort of loosening, something in him had given way–as when, in winding a watch, the key turns on and on, the ratchet being broken. Yet he was certainly working hard– perhaps harder than ever. She would hear him, across the garden, going over and over a passage, as if he never would be satisfied. But his playing seemed to her to have lost its fire and sweep; to be stale, and as if disillusioned. It was all as though he had said to himself: “What’s the use?” In his face, too, there was a change. She knew–she was certain that he was drinking secretly. Was it his failure with her? Was it the girl? Was it simply heredity from a hard-drinking ancestry?

Gyp never faced these questions. To face them would mean useless discussion, useless admission that she could not love him, useless asseveration from him about the girl, which she would not believe, useless denials of all sorts. Hopeless!

He was very irritable, and seemed especially to resent her music lessons, alluding to them with a sort of sneering impatience. She felt that he despised them as amateurish, and secretly resented it. He was often impatient, too, of the time she gave to the baby. His own conduct with the little creature was like all the rest of him. He would go to the nursery, much to Betty’s alarm, and take up the baby; be charming with it for about ten minutes, then suddenly dump it back into its cradle, stare at it gloomily or utter a laugh, and go out. Sometimes, he would come up when Gyp was there, and after watching her a little in silence, almost drag her away.

Suffering always from the guilty consciousness of having no love for him, and ever more and more from her sense that, instead of saving him she was, as it were, pushing him down-hill–ironical nemesis for vanity!–Gyp was ever more and more compliant to his whims, trying to make up. But this compliance, when all the time she felt further and further away, was straining her to breaking- point. Hers was a nature that goes on passively enduring till something snaps; after that–no more.

Those months of spring and summer were like a long spell of drought, when moisture gathers far away, coming nearer, nearer, till, at last, the deluge bursts and sweeps the garden.

XV

The tenth of July that year was as the first day of summer. There had been much fine weather, but always easterly or northerly; now, after a broken, rainy fortnight, the sun had come in full summer warmth with a gentle breeze, drifting here and there scent of the opening lime blossom. In the garden, under the trees at the far end, Betty sewed at a garment, and the baby in her perambulator had her seventh morning sleep. Gyp stood before a bed of pansies and sweet peas. How monkeyish the pansies’ faces! The sweet peas, too, were like tiny bright birds fastened to green perches swaying with the wind. And their little green tridents, growing out from the queer, flat stems, resembled the antennae of insects. Each of these bright frail, growing things had life and individuality like herself!

The sound of footsteps on the gravel made her turn. Rosek was coming from the drawing-room window. Rather startled, Gyp looked at him over her shoulder. What had brought him at eleven o’clock in the morning? He came up to her, bowed, and said:

“I came to see Gustav. He’s not up yet, it seems. I thought I would speak to you first. Can we talk?”

Hesitating just a second, Gyp drew off her gardening-gloves:

“Of course! Here? Or in the drawing-room?”

Rosek answered:

“In the drawing-room, please.”

A faint tremor passed through her, but she led the way, and seated herself where she could see Betty and the baby. Rosek stood looking down at her; his stillness, the sweetish gravity of his well-cut lips, his spotless dandyism stirred in Gyp a kind of unwilling admiration.

“What is it?” she said.

“Bad business, I’m afraid. Something must be done at once. I have been trying to arrange things, but they will not wait. They are even threatening to sell up this house.”

With a sense of outrage, Gyp cried:

“Nearly everything here is mine.”

Rosek shook his head.

“The lease is in his name–you are his wife. They can do it, I assure you.” A sort of shadow passed over his face, and he added: “I cannot help him any more–just now.”

Gyp shook her head quickly.

“No–of course! You ought not to have helped him at all. I can’t bear–” He bowed, and she stopped, ashamed. “How much does he owe altogether?”

“About thirteen hundred pounds. It isn’t much, of course. But there is something else–“

“Worse?”

Rosek nodded.

“I am afraid to tell you; you will think again perhaps that I am trying to make capital out of it. I can read your thoughts, you see. I cannot afford that you should think that, this time.”

Gyp made a little movement as though putting away his words.

“No; tell me, please.”

Rosek shrugged his shoulders.

“There is a man called Wagge, an undertaker–the father of someone you know–“

“Daphne Wing?”

“Yes. A child is coming. They have made her tell. It means the cancelling of her engagements, of course–and other things.”

Gyp uttered a little laugh; then she said slowly:

“Can you tell me, please, what this Mr.–Wagge can do?”

Again Rosek shrugged his shoulders.

“He is rabid–a rabid man of his class is dangerous. A lot of money will be wanted, I should think–some blood, perhaps.”

He moved swiftly to her, and said very low:

“Gyp, it is a year since I told you of this. You did not believe me then. I told you, too, that I loved you. I love you more, now, a hundred times! Don’t move! I am going up to Gustav.”

He turned, and Gyp thought he was really going; but he stopped and came back past the line of the window. The expression of his face was quite changed, so hungry that, for a moment, she felt sorry for him. And that must have shown in her face, for he suddenly caught at her, and tried to kiss her lips; she wrenched back, and he could only reach her throat, but that he kissed furiously. Letting her go as suddenly, he bent his head and went out without a look.

Gyp stood wiping his kisses off her throat with the back of her hand, dumbly, mechanically thinking: “What have I done to be treated like this? What HAVE I done?” No answer came. And such rage against men flared up that she just stood there, twisting her garden-gloves in her hands, and biting the lips he would have kissed. Then, going to her bureau, she took up her address book and looked for the name: Wing, 88, Frankland Street, Fulham. Unhooking her little bag from off the back of the chair, she put her cheque-book into it. Then, taking care to make no sound, she passed into the hall, caught up her sunshade, and went out, closing the door without noise.

She walked quickly toward Baker Street. Her gardening-hat was right enough, but she had come out without gloves, and must go into the first shop and buy a pair. In the choosing of them, she forgot her emotions for a minute. Out in the street again, they came back as bitterly as ever. And the day was so beautiful–the sun bright, the sky blue, the clouds dazzling white; from the top of her ‘bus she could see all its brilliance. There rose up before her the memory of the man who had kissed her arm at the first ball. And now–this! But, mixed with her rage, a sort of unwilling compassion and fellow feeling kept rising for that girl, that silly, sugar-plum girl, brought to such a pass by–her husband. These feelings sustained her through that voyage to Fulham. She got down at the nearest corner, walked up a widish street of narrow grey houses till she came to number eighty-eight. On that newly scrubbed step, waiting for the door to open, she very nearly turned and fled. What exactly had she come to do?

The door was opened by a servant in an untidy frock. Mutton! The smell of mutton–there it was, just as the girl had said!

“Is Miss–Miss Daphne Wing at home?”

In that peculiar “I’ve given it up” voice of domestics in small households, the servant answered:

“Yes; Miss Disey’s in. D’you want to see ‘er? What nyme?”

Gyp produced her card. The maid looked at it, at Gyp, and at two brown-painted doors, as much as to say, “Where will you have it?” Then, opening the first of them, she said:

“Tyke a seat, please; I’ll fetch her.”

Gyp went in. In the middle of what was clearly the dining-room, she tried to subdue the tremor of her limbs and a sense of nausea. The table against which her hand rested was covered with red baize, no doubt to keep the stains of mutton from penetrating to the wood. On the mahogany sideboard reposed a cruet-stand and a green dish of very red apples. A bamboo-framed talc screen painted with white and yellow marguerites stood before a fireplace filled with pampas- grass dyed red. The chairs were of red morocco, the curtains a brownish-red, the walls green, and on them hung a set of Landseer prints. The peculiar sensation which red and green in juxtaposition produce on the sensitive was added to Gyp’s distress. And, suddenly, her eyes lighted on a little deep-blue china bowl. It stood on a black stand on the mantel-piece, with nothing in it. To Gyp, in this room of red and green, with the smell of mutton creeping in, that bowl was like the crystallized whiff of another world. Daphne Wing–not Daisy Wagge–had surely put it there! And, somehow, it touched her–emblem of stifled beauty, emblem of all that the girl had tried to pour out to her that August afternoon in her garden nearly a year ago. Thin Eastern china, good and really beautiful! A wonder they allowed it to pollute this room!

A sigh made her turn round. With her back against the door and a white, scared face, the girl was standing. Gyp thought: ‘She has suffered horribly.’ And, going impulsively up to her, she held out her hand.

Daphne Wing sighed out: “Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen!” and, bending over that hand, kissed it. Gyp saw that her new glove was wet. Then the girl relapsed, her feet a little forward, her head a little forward, her back against the door. Gyp, who knew why she stood thus, was swept again by those two emotions–rage against men, and fellow feeling for one about to go through what she herself had just endured.

“It’s all right,” she said, gently; “only, what’s to be done?”

Daphne Wing put her hands up over her white face and sobbed. She sobbed so quietly but so terribly deeply that Gyp herself had the utmost difficulty not to cry. It was the sobbing of real despair by a creature bereft of hope and strength, above all, of love–the sort of weeping which is drawn from desolate, suffering souls only by the touch of fellow feeling. And, instead of making Gyp glad or satisfying her sense of justice, it filled her with more rage against her husband–that he had taken this girl’s infatuation for his pleasure and then thrown her away. She seemed to see him discarding that clinging, dove-fair girl, for cloying his senses and getting on his nerves, discarding her with caustic words, to abide alone the consequences of her infatuation. She put her hand timidly on that shaking shoulder, and stroked it. For a moment the sobbing stopped, and the girl said brokenly:

“Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I do love him so!” At those naive words, a painful wish to laugh seized on Gyp, making her shiver from head to foot. Daphne Wing saw it, and went on: “I know–I know–it’s awful; but I do–and now he–he–” Her quiet but really dreadful sobbing broke out again. And again Gyp began stroking and stroking her shoulder. “And I have been so awful to you! Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, do forgive me, please!”

All Gyp could find to answer, was:

“Yes, yes; that’s nothing! Don’t cry–don’t cry!”

Very slowly the sobbing died away, till it was just a long shivering, but still the girl held her hands over her face and her face down. Gyp felt paralyzed. The unhappy girl, the red and green room, the smell of mutton–creeping!

At last, a little of that white face showed; the lips, no longer craving for sugar-plums, murmured:

“It’s you he–he–really loves all the time. And you don’t love him–that’s what’s so funny–and–and–I can’t understand it. Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, if I could see him–just see him! He told me never to come again; and I haven’t dared. I haven’t seen him for three weeks–not since I told him about IT. What shall I do? What shall I do?”

His being her own husband seemed as nothing to Gyp at that moment. She felt such pity and yet such violent revolt that any girl should want to crawl back to a man who had spurned her. Unconsciously, she had drawn herself up and pressed her lips together. The girl, who followed every movement, said piteously:

“I don’t seem to have any pride. I don’t mind what he does to me, or what he says, if only I can see him.”

Gyp’s revolt yielded to her pity. She said:

“How long before?”

“Three months.”

Three months–and in this state of misery!

“I think I shall do something desperate. Now that I can’t dance, and THEY know, it’s too awful! If I could see him, I wouldn’t mind anything. But I know–I know he’ll never want me again. Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I wish I was dead! I do!”

A heavy sigh escaped Gyp, and, bending suddenly, she kissed the girl’s forehead. Still that scent of orange blossom about her skin or hair, as when she asked whether she ought to love or not; as when she came, moth-like, from the tree-shade into the moonlight, spun, and fluttered, with her shadow spinning and fluttering before her. Gyp turned away, feeling that she must relieve the strain. and pointing to the bowl, said:

“YOU put that there, I’m sure. It’s beautiful.”

The girl answered, with piteous eagerness:

“Oh, would you like it? Do take it. Count Rosek gave it me.” She started away from the door. “Oh, that’s papa. He’ll be coming in!”

Gyp heard a man clear his throat, and the rattle of an umbrella falling into a stand; the sight of the girl wilting and shrinking against the sideboard steadied her. Then the door opened, and Mr. Wagge entered. Short and thick, in black frock coat and trousers, and a greyish beard, he stared from one to the other. He looked what he was, an Englishman and a chapelgoer, nourished on sherry and mutton, who could and did make his own way in the world. His features, coloured, as from a deep liverishness, were thick, like his body, and not ill-natured, except for a sort of anger in his small, rather piggy grey eyes. He said in a voice permanently gruff, but impregnated with a species of professional ingratiation:

“Ye-es? Whom ‘ave I–?”

“Mrs. Fiorsen.”

“Ow!” The sound of his breathing could be heard distinctly; he twisted a chair round and said:

“Take a seat, won’t you?”

Gyp shook her head.

In Mr. Wagge’s face a kind of deference seemed to struggle with some more primitive emotion. Taking out a large, black-edged handkerchief, he blew his nose, passed it freely over his visage, and turning to his daughter, muttered:

“Go upstairs.”

The girl turned quickly, and the last glimpse of her white face whipped up Gyp’s rage against men. When the door was shut, Mr. Wagge cleared his throat; the grating sound carried with it the suggestion of enormously thick linings.

He said more gruffly than ever:

“May I ask what ‘as given us the honour?”

“I came to see your daughter.”

His little piggy eyes travelled from her face to her feet, to the walls of the room, to his own watch-chain, to his hands that had begun to rub themselves together, back to her breast, higher than which they dared not mount. Their infinite embarrassment struck Gyp. She could almost hear him thinking: ‘Now, how can I discuss it with this attractive young female, wife of the scoundrel who’s ruined my daughter? Delicate-that’s what it is!’ Then the words burst hoarsely from him.

“This is an unpleasant business, ma’am. I don’t know what to say. Reelly I don’t. It’s awkward; it’s very awkward.”

Gyp said quietly:

“Your daughter is desperately unhappy; and that can’t be good for her just now.”

Mr. Wagge’s thick figure seemed to writhe. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he spluttered, “but I must call your husband a scoundrel. I’m sorry to be impolite, but I must do it. If I had ‘im ‘ere, I don’t know that I should be able to control myself–I don’t indeed.” Gyp made a movement of her gloved hands, which he seemed to interpret as sympathy, for he went on in a stream of husky utterance: “It’s a delicate thing before a lady, and she the injured party; but one has feelings. From the first I said this dancin’ was in the face of Providence; but women have no more sense than an egg. Her mother she would have it; and now she’s got it! Career, indeed! Pretty career! Daughter of mine! I tell you, ma’am, I’m angry; there’s no other word for it–I’m angry. If that scoundrel comes within reach of me, I shall mark ‘im–I’m not a young man, but I shall mark ‘im. An’ what to say to you, I’m sure I don’t know. That my daughter should be’ave like that! Well, it’s made a difference to me. An’ now I suppose her name’ll be dragged in the mud. I tell you frankly I ‘oped you wouldn’t hear of it, because after all the girl’s got her punishment. And this divorce-court– it’s not nice–it’s a horrible thing for respectable people. And, mind you, I won’t see my girl married to that scoundrel, not if you do divorce ‘im. No; she’ll have her disgrace for nothing.”

Gyp, who had listened with her head a little bent, raised it suddenly, and said:

“There’ll be no public disgrace, Mr. Wagge, unless you make it yourself. If you send Daphne–Daisy–quietly away somewhere till her trouble’s over, no one need know anything.”

Mr. Wagge, whose mouth had opened slightly, and whose breathing could certainly have been heard in the street, took a step forward and said:

“Do I understand you to say that you’re not goin’ to take proceedings, ma’am?”

Gyp shuddered, and shook her head.

Mr. Wagge stood silent, slightly moving his face up and down.

“Well,” he said, at length, “it’s more than she deserves; but I don’t disguise it’s a relief to me. And I must say, in a young lady like you, and–and handsome, it shows a Christian spirit.” Again Gyp shivered, and shook her head. “It does. You’ll allow me to say so, as a man old enough to be your father–and a regular attendant.”

He held out his hand. Gyp put her gloved hand into it.

“I’m very, very sorry. Please be nice to her.”

Mr. Wagge recoiled a little, and for some seconds stood ruefully rubbing his hands together and looking from side to side.

“I’m a domestic man,” he said suddenly. “A domestic man in a serious line of life; and I never thought to have anything like this in my family–never! It’s been–well, I can’t tell you what it’s been!”

Gyp took up her sunshade. She felt that she must get away; at any moment he might say something she could not bear–and the smell of mutton rising fast!

“I am sorry,” she said again; “good-bye”; and moved past him to the door. She heard him breathing hard as he followed her to open it, and thought: ‘If only–oh! please let him be silent till I get outside!’ Mr. Wagge passed her and put his hand on the latch of the front door. His little piggy eyes scanned her almost timidly.

“Well,” he said, “I’m very glad to have the privilege of your acquaintance; and, if I may say so, you ‘ave–you ‘ave my ‘earty sympathy. Good-day.”

The door once shut behind her, Gyp took a long breath and walked swiftly away. Her cheeks were burning; and, with a craving for protection, she put up her sunshade. But the girl’s white face came up again before her, and the sound of her words:

“Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I wish I was dead! I DO!”

XVI

Gyp walked on beneath her sunshade, making unconsciously for the peace of trees. Her mind was a whirl of impressions–Daphne Wing’s figure against the door, Mr. Wagge’s puggy grey-bearded countenance, the red pampas-grass, the blue bowl, Rosek’s face swooping at her, her last glimpse of her baby asleep under the trees!

She reached Kensington Gardens, turned into that walk renowned for the beauty of its flowers and the plainness of the people who frequent it, and sat down on a bench. It was near the luncheon- hour; nursemaids, dogs, perambulators, old gentlemen–all were hurrying a little toward their food. They glanced with critical surprise at this pretty young woman, leisured and lonely at such an hour, trying to find out what was wrong with her, as one naturally does with beauty–bow legs or something, for sure, to balance a face like that! But Gyp noticed none of them, except now and again a dog which sniffed her knees in passing. For months she had resolutely cultivated insensibility, resolutely refused to face reality; the barrier was forced now, and the flood had swept her away. “Proceedings!” Mr. Wagge had said. To those who shrink from letting their secret affairs be known even by their nearest friends, the notion of a public exhibition of troubles simply never comes, and it had certainly never come to Gyp. With a bitter smile she thought: ‘I’m better off than she is, after all! Suppose I loved him, too? No, I never–never–want to love. Women who love