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Not yet twenty-six, and in a nunnery! With a shiver, but not of cold, she drew her wrapper close. This time last year she had at least been in the main current of life, not a mere derelict. And yet–better far be like this than go back to him whom memory painted always standing over her sleeping baby, with his arms stretched out and his fingers crooked like claws.

After that early-morning escape, Fiorsen had lurked after her for weeks, in town, at Mildenham, followed them even to Scotland, where Winton had carried her off. But she had not weakened in her resolution a second time, and suddenly he had given up pursuit, and gone abroad. Since then–nothing had come from him, save a few wild or maudlin letters, written evidently during drinking-bouts. Even they had ceased, and for four months she had heard no word. He had “got over” her, it seemed, wherever he was–Russia, Sweden– who knew–who cared?

She let the brush rest on her knee, thinking again of that walk with her baby through empty, silent streets, in the early misty morning last October, of waiting dead-tired outside here, on the pavement, ringing till they let her in. Often, since, she had wondered how fear could have worked her up to that weird departure. She only knew that it had not been unnatural at the time. Her father and Aunt Rosamund had wanted her to try for a divorce, and no doubt they had been right. But her instincts had refused, still refused to let everyone know her secrets and sufferings–still refused the hollow pretence involved, that she had loved him when she never had. No, it had been her fault for marrying him without love–

“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds!”

What irony–giving her that to read–if her fellow traveller had only known!

She got up from before the mirror, and stood looking round her room, the room she had always slept in as a girl. So he had remembered her all this time! It had not seemed like meeting a stranger. They were not strangers now, anyway. And, suddenly, on the wall before her, she saw his face; or, if not, what was so like that she gave a little gasp. Of course! How stupid of her not to have known at once! There, in a brown frame, hung a photograph of the celebrated Botticelli or Masaccio “Head of a Young Man” in the National Gallery. She had fallen in love with it years ago, and on the wall of her room it had been ever since. That broad face, the clear eyes, the bold, clean-cut mouth, the audacity–only, the live face was English, not Italian, had more humour, more “breeding,” less poetry–something “old Georgian” about it. How he would laugh if she told him he was like that peasant acolyte with fluffed-out hair, and a little ruching round his neck! And, smiling, Gyp plaited her own hair and got into bed.

But she could not sleep; she heard her father come in and go up to his room, heard the clocks strike midnight, and one, and two, and always the dull roar of Piccadilly. She had nothing over her but a sheet, and still it was too hot. There was a scent in the room, as of honeysuckle. Where could it come from? She got up at last, and went to the window. There, on the window-sill, behind the curtains, was a bowl of jessamine. Her father must have brought it up for her–just like him to think of that!

And, burying her nose in those white blossoms, she was visited by a memory of her first ball–that evening of such delight and disillusionment. Perhaps Bryan Summerhay had been there–all that time ago! If he had been introduced to her then, if she had happened to dance with him instead of with that man who had kissed her arm, might she not have felt different toward all men? And if he had admired her–and had not everyone, that night–might she not have liked, perhaps more than liked, him in return? Or would she have looked on him as on all her swains before she met Fiorsen, so many moths fluttering round a candle, foolish to singe themselves, not to be taken seriously? Perhaps she had been bound to have her lesson, to be humbled and brought low!

Taking a sprig of jessamine and holding it to her nose, she went up to that picture. In the dim light, she could just see the outline of the face and the eyes gazing at her. The scent of the blossom penetrated her nerves; in her heart, something faintly stirred, as a leaf turns over, as a wing flutters. And, blossom and all, she clasped her hands over her breast, where again her heart quivered with that faint, shy tremor.

It was late, no–early, when she fell asleep and had a strange dream. She was riding her old mare through a field of flowers. She had on a black dress, and round her head a crown of bright, pointed crystals; she sat without saddle, her knee curled up, perched so lightly that she hardly felt the mare’s back, and the reins she held were long twisted stems of honeysuckle. Singing as she rode, her eyes flying here and there, over the field, up to the sky, she felt happier, lighter than thistledown. While they raced along, the old mare kept turning her head and biting at the honeysuckle flowers; and suddenly that chestnut face became the face of Summerhay, looking back at her with his smile. She awoke. Sunlight, through the curtains where she had opened them to find the flowers, was shining on her.

II

Very late that same night, Summerhay came out of the little Chelsea house, which he inhabited, and walked toward the river. In certain moods men turn insensibly toward any space where nature rules a little–downs, woods, waters–where the sky is free to the eye and one feels the broad comradeship of primitive forces. A man is alone when he loves, alone when he dies; nobody cares for one so absorbed, and he cares for nobody, no–not he! Summerhay stood by the river-wall and looked up at the stars through the plane-tree branches. Every now and then he drew a long breath of the warm, unstirring air, and smiled, without knowing that he smiled. And he thought of little, of nothing; but a sweetish sensation beset his heart, a kind of quivering lightness his limbs. He sat down on a bench and shut his eyes. He saw a face–only a face. The lights went out one by one in the houses opposite; no cabs passed now, and scarce a passenger was afoot, but Summerhay sat like a man in a trance, the smile coming and going on his lips; and behind him the air that ever stirs above the river faintly moved with the tide flowing up.

It was nearly three, just coming dawn, when he went in, and, instead of going to bed, sat down to a case in which he was junior on the morrow, and worked right on till it was time to ride before his bath and breakfast. He had one of those constitutions, not uncommon among barristers–fostered perhaps by ozone in the Courts of Law–that can do this sort of thing and take no harm. Indeed, he worked best in such long spurts of vigorous concentration. With real capacity and a liking for his work, this young man was certainly on his way to make a name; though, in the intervals of energy, no one gave a more complete impression of imperturbable drifting on the tides of the moment. Altogether, he was rather a paradox. He chose to live in that little Chelsea house which had a scrap of garden rather than in the Temple or St. James’s, because he often preferred solitude; and yet he was an excellent companion, with many friends, who felt for him the affectionate distrust inspired by those who are prone to fits and starts of work and play, conviviality and loneliness. To women, he was almost universally attractive. But if he had scorched his wings a little once or twice, he had kept heart-free on the whole. He was, it must be confessed, a bit of a gambler, the sort of gambler who gets in deep, and then, by a plucky, lucky plunge, gets out again, until some day perhaps–he stays there. His father, a diplomatist, had been dead fifteen years; his mother was well known in the semi- intellectual circles of society. He had no brothers, two sisters, and an income of his own. Such was Bryan Summerhay at the age of twenty-six, his wisdom-teeth to cut, his depths unplumbed.

When he started that morning for the Temple, he had still a feeling of extraordinary lightness in his limbs, and he still saw that face–its perfect regularity, its warm pallor, and dark smiling eyes rather wide apart, its fine, small, close-set ears, and the sweep of the black-brown hair across the low brow. Or was it something much less definite he saw–an emanation or expression, a trick, a turn, an indwelling grace, a something that appealed, that turned, and touched him? Whatever it was, it would not let him be, and he did not desire that it should. For this was in his character; if he saw a horse that he liked, he put his money on whatever it ran; if charmed by an opera, he went over and over again; if by a poem, he almost learned it by heart. And while he walked along the river–his usual route–he had queer and unaccustomed sensations, now melting, now pugnacious. And he felt happy.

He was rather late, and went at once into court. In wig and gown, that something “old Georgian” about him was very visible. A beauty-spot or two, a full-skirted velvet coat, a sword and snuff- box, with that grey wig or its equivalent, and there would have been a perfect eighteenth-century specimen of the less bucolic stamp–the same strong, light build, breadth of face, brown pallor, clean and unpinched cut of lips, the same slight insolence and devil-may-caredom, the same clear glance, and bubble of vitality. It was almost a pity to have been born so late.

Except that once or twice he drew a face on blotting-paper and smeared it over, he remained normally attentive to his “lud” and the matters in hand all day, conducted without error the examination of two witnesses and with terror the cross-examination of one; lunched at the Courts in perfect amity with the sucking barrister on the other side of the case, for they had neither, as yet, reached that maturity which enables an advocate to call his enemy his “friend,” and treat him with considerable asperity. Though among his acquaintances Summerhay always provoked badinage, in which he was scarcely ever defeated, yet in chambers and court, on circuit, at his club, in society or the hunting-field, he had an unfavourable effect on the grosser sort of stories. There are men– by no means strikingly moral–who exercise this blighting influence. They are generally what the French call “spirituel,” and often have rather desperate love-affairs which they keep very closely to themselves.

When at last in chambers, he had washed off that special reek of clothes, and parchment, far-away herrings, and distemper, which clings about the law, dipping his whole curly head in water, and towelling vigorously, he set forth alone along the Embankment, his hat tilted up, smoking a cigar. It was nearly seven. Just this time yesterday he had got into the train, just this time yesterday turned and seen the face which had refused to leave him since. Fever recurs at certain hours, just so did the desire to see her mount within him, becoming an obsession, because it was impossible to gratify it. One could not call at seven o’clock! The idea of his club, where at this time of day he usually went, seemed flat and stale, until he remembered that he might pass up Bury Street to get to it. But, near Charing Cross, a hand smote him on the shoulder, and the voice of one of his intimates said:

“Halo, Bryan!”

Odd, that he had never noticed before how vacuous this fellow was– with his talk of politics, and racing, of this ass and that ass– subjects hitherto of primary importance! And, stopping suddenly, he drawled out:

“Look here, old chap, you go on; see you at the club–presently.”

“Why? What’s up?”

With his lazy smile, Summerhay answered:

“‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,'” and turned on his heel.

When his friend had disappeared, he resumed his journey toward Bury Street. He passed his boot shop, where, for some time, he had been meaning to order two pairs, and went by thinking: ‘I wonder where SHE goes for things.’ Her figure came to him so vividly–sitting back in that corner, or standing by the cab, her hand in his. The blood rushed up in his cheeks. She had been scented like flowers, and–and a rainy wind! He stood still before a plate-glass window, in confusion, and suddenly muttered aloud: “Damn it! I believe I am!” An old gentleman, passing, turned so suddenly, to see what he was, that he ricked his neck.

But Summerhay still stood, not taking in at all the reflected image of his frowning, rueful face, and of the cigar extinct between his lips. Then he shook his head vigorously and walked on. He walked faster, his mind blank, as it is sometimes for a short space after a piece of sell-revelation that has come too soon for adjustment or even quite for understanding. And when he began to think, it was irritably and at random. He had come to Bury Street, and, while he passed up it, felt a queer, weak sensation down the back of his legs. No flower-boxes this year broke the plain front of Winton’s house, and nothing whatever but its number and the quickened beating of his heart marked it out for Summerhay from any other dwelling. The moment he turned into Jermyn Street, that beating of the heart subsided, and he felt suddenly morose. He entered his club at the top of St. James’ Street and passed at once into the least used room. This was the library; and going to the French section, he took down “The Three Musketeers” and seated himself in a window, with his back to anyone who might come in. He had taken this–his favourite romance, feeling in want of warmth and companionship; but he did not read. From where he sat he could throw a stone to where she was sitting perhaps; except for walls he could almost reach her with his voice, could certainly see her. This was imbecile! A woman he had only met twice. Imbecile! He opened the book–

“Oh, no; it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken. It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown altho’ its height be taken.”

“Point of five! Three queens–three knaves! Do you know that thing of Dowson’s: ‘I have been faithful to thee, Cynara, in my fashion’? Better than any Verlaine, except ‘Les sanglots longs.’ What have you got?”

“Only quart to the queen. Do you like the name ‘Cynara’?”

“Yes; don’t you?”

“Cynara! Cynara! Ye-es–an autumn, rose-petal, whirling, dead- leaf sound.”

“Good! Pipped. Shut up, Ossy–don’t snore!”

“Ah, poor old dog! Let him. Shuffle for me, please. Oh! there goes another card!” Her knee was touching his–! . . .

The book had dropped–Summerhay started.

Dash it! Hopeless! And, turning round in that huge armchair, he snoozed down into its depths. In a few minutes, he was asleep. He slept without a dream.

It was two hours later when the same friend, seeking distraction, came on him, and stood grinning down at that curly head and face which just then had the sleepy abandonment of a small boy’s. Maliciously he gave the chair a little kick.

Summerhay stirred, and thought: ‘What! Where am I?’

In front of the grinning face, above him, floated another, filmy, charming. He shook himself, and sat up. “Oh, damn you!”

“Sorry, old chap!”

“What time is it?”

“Ten o’clock.”

Summerhay uttered an unintelligible sound, and, turning over on the other arm, pretended to snooze down again. But he slept no more. Instead, he saw her face, heard her voice, and felt again the touch of her warm, gloved hand.

III

At the opera, that Friday evening, they were playing “Cavalleria” and “Pagliacci”–works of which Gyp tolerated the first and loved the second, while Winton found them, with “Faust” and “Carmen,” about the only operas he could not sleep through.

Women’s eyes, which must not stare, cover more space than the eyes of men, which must not stare, but do; women’s eyes have less method, too, seeing all things at once, instead of one thing at a time. Gyp had seen Summerhay long before he saw her; seen him come in and fold his opera hat against his white waistcoat, looking round, as if for–someone. Her eyes criticized him in this new garb–his broad head, and its crisp, dark, shining hair, his air of sturdy, lazy, lovable audacity. He looked well in evening clothes. When he sat down, she could still see just a little of his profile; and, vaguely watching the stout Santuzza and the stouter Turiddu, she wondered whether, by fixing her eyes on him, she could make him turn and see her. Just then he did see her, and his face lighted up. She smiled back. Why not? She had not so many friends nowadays. But it was rather startling to find, after that exchange of looks, that she at once began to want another. Would he like her dress? Was her hair nice? She wished she had not had it washed that morning. But when the interval came, she did not look round, until his voice said:

“How d’you do, Major Winton? Oh, how d’you do?”

Winton had been told of the meeting in the train. He was pining for a cigarette, but had not liked to desert his daughter. After a few remarks, he got up and said:

“Take my pew a minute, Summerhay, I’m going to have a smoke.”

He went out, thinking, not for the first time by a thousand: ‘Poor child, she never sees a soul! Twenty-five, pretty as paint, and clean out of the running. What the devil am I to do about her?’

Summerhay sat down. Gyp had a queer feeling, then, as if the house and people vanished, and they two were back again in the railway- carriage–alone together. Ten minutes to make the most of! To smile and talk, and enjoy the look in his eyes, the sound of his voice and laugh. To laugh, too, and be warm and nice to him. Why not? They were friends. And, presently, she said, smiling:

“Oh, by the way, there’s a picture in the National Gallery, I want you to look at.”

“Yes? Which? Will you take me?”

“If you like.”

“To-morrow’s Saturday; may I meet you there? What time? Three?”

Gyp nodded. She knew she was flushing, and, at that moment, with the warmth in her cheeks and the smile in her eyes, she had the sensation, so rare and pleasant, of feeling beautiful. Then he was gone! Her father was slipping back into his stall; and, afraid of her own face, she touched his arm, and murmured:

“Dad, do look at that head-dress in the next row but one; did you ever see anything so delicious!”

And while Winton was star-gazing, the orchestra struck up the overture to “Pagliacci.” Watching that heart-breaking little plot unfold, Gyp had something more than the old thrill, as if for the first time she understood it with other than her aesthetic sense. Poor Nedda! and poor Canio! Poor Silvio! Her breast heaved, and her eyes filled with tears. Within those doubled figures of the tragi-comedy she seemed to see, to feel that passionate love–too swift, too strong, too violent, sweet and fearful within them.

“Thou hast my heart, and I am thine for ever– To-night and for ever I am thine!
What is there left to me? What have I but a heart that is broken?”

And the clear, heart-aching music mocking it all, down to those last words:

La commedia e finita!

While she was putting on her cloak, her eyes caught Summerhay’s. She tried to smile–could not, gave a shake of her head, slowly forced her gaze away from his, and turned to follow Winton.

At the National Gallery, next day, she was not late by coquetry, but because she had changed her dress at the last minute, and because she was afraid of letting him think her eager. She saw him at once standing under the colonnade, looking by no means imperturbable, and marked the change in his face when he caught sight of her, with a little thrill. She led him straight up into the first Italian room to contemplate his counterfeit. A top hat and modern collar did not improve the likeness, but it was there still.

“Well! Do you like it?”

“Yes. What are you smiling at?”

“I’ve had a photograph of that, ever since I was fifteen; so you see I’ve known you a long time.”

He stared.

“Great Scott! Am I like that? All right; I shall try and find YOU now.”

But Gyp shook her head.

“No. Come and look at my very favourite picture ‘The Death of Procris.’ What is it makes one love it so? Procris is out of drawing, and not beautiful; the faun’s queer and ugly. What is it– can you tell?”

Summerhay looked not at the picture, but at her. In aesthetic sense, he was not her equal. She said softly:

“The wonder in the faun’s face, Procris’s closed eyes; the dog, and the swans, and the pity for what might have been!”

Summerhay repeated:

“Ah, for what might have been! Did you enjoy ‘Pagliacci’?”

Gyp shivered.

“I think I felt it too much.”

“I thought you did. I watched you.”

“Destruction by–love–seems such a terrible thing! Now show me your favourites. I believe I can tell you what they are, though.”

“Well?”

“The ‘Admiral,’ for one.”

“Yes. What others?”

“The two Bellini’s.”

“By Jove, you ARE uncanny!”

Gyp laughed.

“You want decision, clarity, colour, and fine texture. Is that right? Here’s another of MY favourites.”

On a screen was a tiny “Crucifixion” by da Messina–the thinnest of high crosses, the thinnest of simple, humble, suffering Christs, lonely, and actual in the clear, darkened landscape.

“I think that touches one more than the big, idealized sort. One feels it WAS like that. Oh! And look–the Francesca’s! Aren’t they lovely?”

He repeated:

“Yes; lovely!” But his eyes said: “And so are you.”

They spent two hours among those endless pictures, talking a little of art and of much besides, almost as alone as in the railway carriage. But, when she had refused to let him walk back with her, Summerhay stood stock-still beneath the colonnade. The sun streamed in under; the pigeons preened their feathers; people passed behind him and down there in the square, black and tiny against the lions and the great column. He took in nothing of all that. What was it in her? She was like no one he had ever known– not one! Different from girls and women in society as–Simile failed. Still more different from anything in the half-world he had met! Not the new sort–college, suffrage! Like no one! And he knew so little of her! Not even whether she had ever really been in love. Her husband–where was he; what was he to her? “The rare, the mute, the inexpressive She!” When she smiled; when her eyes–but her eyes were so quick, would drop before he could see right into them! How beautiful she had looked, gazing at that picture–her favourite, so softly, her lips just smiling! If he could kiss them, would he not go nearly mad? With a deep sigh, he moved down the wide, grey steps into the sunlight. And London, throbbing, overflowing with the season’s life, seemed to him empty. To-morrow–yes, to-morrow he could call!

IV

After that Sunday call, Gyp sat in the window at Bury Street close to a bowl of heliotrope on the window-sill. She was thinking over a passage of their conversation.

“Mrs. Fiorsen, tell me about yourself.”

“Why? What do you want to know?”

“Your marriage?”

“I made a fearful mistake–against my father’s wish. I haven’t seen my husband for months; I shall never see him again if I can help it. Is that enough?”

“And you love him?”

“No.”

“It must be like having your head in chancery. Can’t you get it out?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Divorce-court! Ugh! I couldn’t!”

“Yes, I know–it’s hellish!”

Was he, who gripped her hand so hard and said that, really the same nonchalant young man who had leaned out of the carriage window, gurgling with laughter? And what had made the difference? She buried her face in the heliotrope, whose perfume seemed the memory of his visit; then, going to the piano, began to play. She played Debussy, McDowell, Ravel; the chords of modern music suited her feelings just then. And she was still playing when her father came in. During these last nine months of his daughter’s society, he had regained a distinct measure of youthfulness, an extra twist in his little moustache, an extra touch of dandyism in his clothes, and the gloss of his short hair. Gyp stopped playing at once, and shut the piano.

“Mr. Summerhay’s been here, Dad. He was sorry to miss you.”

There was an appreciable pause before Winton answered:

“My dear, I doubt it.”

And there passed through Gyp the thought that she could never again be friends with a man without giving that pause. Then, conscious that her father was gazing at her, she turned and said:

“Well, was it nice in the Park?”

“Thirty years ago they were all nobs and snobs; now God himself doesn’t know what they are!”

“But weren’t the flowers nice?”

“Ah–and the trees, and the birds–but, by Jove, the humans do their best to dress the balance!”

“What a misanthrope you’re getting!”

“I’d like to run a stud for two-leggers; they want proper breeding. What sort of a fellow is young Summerhay? Not a bad face.”

She answered impassively:

“Yes; it’s so alive.”

In spite of his self-control, she could always read her father’s thoughts quicker than he could read hers, and knew that he was struggling between the wish that she should have a good time and the desire to convey some kind of warning. He said, with a sigh:

“What does a young man’s fancy turn to in summer, Gyp?”

Women who have subtle instincts and some experience are able to impose their own restraint on those who, at the lifting of a hand, would become their lovers. From that afternoon on, Gyp knew that a word from her would change everything; but she was far from speaking it. And yet, except at week-ends, when she went back to her baby at Mildenham, she saw Summerhay most days–in the Row, at the opera, or at Bury Street. She had a habit of going to St. James’s Park in the late afternoon and sitting there by the water. Was it by chance that he passed one day on his way home from chambers, and that, after this, they sat there together constantly? Why make her father uneasy–when there was nothing to be uneasy about–by letting him come too often to Bury Street? It was so pleasant, too, out there, talking calmly of many things, while in front of them the small ragged children fished and put the fishes into clear glass bottles, to eat, or watch on rainy days, as is the custom of man with the minor works of God.

So, in nature, when the seasons are about to change, the days pass, tranquil, waiting for the wind that brings in the new. And was it not natural to sit under the trees, by the flowers and the water, the pigeons and the ducks, that wonderful July? For all was peaceful in Gyp’s mind, except, now and then, when a sort of remorse possessed her, a sort of terror, and a sort of troubling sweetness.

V

Summerhay did not wear his heart on his sleeve, and when, on the closing-day of term, he left his chambers to walk to that last meeting, his face was much as usual under his grey top hat. But, in truth, he had come to a pretty pass. He had his own code of what was befitting to a gentleman. It was perhaps a trifle “old Georgian,” but it included doing nothing to distress a woman. All these weeks he had kept himself in hand; but to do so had cost him more than he liked to reflect on. The only witness of his struggles was his old Scotch terrier, whose dreams he had disturbed night after night, tramping up and down the long back-to-front sitting-room of his little house. She knew–must know–what he was feeling. If she wanted his love, she had but to raise her finger; and she had not raised it. When he touched her, when her dress disengaged its perfume or his eyes traced the slow, soft movement of her breathing, his head would go round, and to keep calm and friendly had been torture.

While he could see her almost every day, this control had been just possible; but now that he was about to lose her–for weeks–his heart felt sick within him. He had been hard put to it before the world. A man passionately in love craves solitude, in which to alternate between fierce exercise and that trance-like stillness when a lover simply aches or is busy conjuring her face up out of darkness or the sunlight. He had managed to do his work, had been grateful for having it to do; but to his friends he had not given attention enough to prevent them saying: “What’s up with old Bryan?” Always rather elusive in his movements, he was now too elusive altogether for those who had been accustomed to lunch, dine, dance, and sport with him. And yet he shunned his own company–going wherever strange faces, life, anything distracted him a little, without demanding real attention. It must be confessed that he had come unwillingly to discovery of the depth of his passion, aware that it meant giving up too much. But there are women who inspire feeling so direct and simple that reason does not come into play; and he had never asked himself whether Gyp was worth loving, whether she had this or that quality, such or such virtue. He wanted her exactly as she was; and did not weigh her in any sort of balance. It is possible for men to love passionately, yet know that their passion is but desire, possible for men to love for sheer spiritual worth, feeling that the loved one lacks this or that charm.

Summerhay’s love had no such divided consciousness. About her past, too, he dismissed speculation. He remembered having heard in the hunting-field that she was Winton’s natural daughter; even then it had made him long to punch the head of that covertside scandal- monger. The more there might be against the desirability of loving her, the more he would love her; even her wretched marriage only affected him in so far as it affected her happiness. It did not matter–nothing mattered except to see her and be with her as much as she would let him. And now she was going to the sea for a month, and he himself–curse it!–was due in Perthshire to shoot grouse. A month!

He walked slowly along the river. Dared he speak? At times, her face was like a child’s when it expects some harsh or frightening word. One could not hurt her–impossible! But, at times, he had almost thought she would like him to speak. Once or twice he had caught a slow soft glance–gone the moment he had sight of it.

He was before his time, and, leaning on the river parapet, watched the tide run down. The sun shone on the water, brightening its yellowish swirl, and little black eddies–the same water that had flowed along under the willows past Eynsham, past Oxford, under the church at Clifton, past Moulsford, past Sonning. And he thought: ‘My God! To have her to myself one day on the river–one whole long day!’ Why had he been so pusillanimous all this time? He passed his hand over his face. Broad faces do not easily grow thin, but his felt thin to him, and this gave him a kind of morbid satisfaction. If she knew how he was longing, how he suffered! He turned away, toward Whitehall. Two men he knew stopped to bandy a jest. One of them was just married. They, too, were off to Scotland for the twelfth. Pah! How stale and flat seemed that which till then had been the acme of the whole year to him! Ah, but if he had been going to Scotland WITH HER! He drew his breath in with a sigh that nearly removed the Home Office.

Oblivious of the gorgeous sentries at the Horse Guards, oblivious of all beauty, he passed irresolute along the water, making for their usual seat; already, in fancy, he was sitting there, prodding at the gravel, a nervous twittering in his heart, and that eternal question: Dare I speak? asking itself within him. And suddenly he saw that she was before him, sitting there already. His heart gave a jump. No more craning–he WOULD speak!

She was wearing a maize-coloured muslin to which the sunlight gave a sort of transparency, and sat, leaning back, her knees crossed, one hand resting on the knob of her furled sunshade, her face half hidden by her shady hat. Summerhay clenched his teeth, and went straight up to her.

“Gyp! No, I won’t call you anything else. This can’t go on! You know it can’t. You know I worship you! If you can’t love me, I’ve got to break away. All day, all night, I think and dream of nothing but you. Gyp, do you want me to go?”

Suppose she said: “Yes, go!” She made a little movement, as if in protest, and without looking at him, answered very low:

“Of course I don’t want you to go. How could I?”

Summerhay gasped.

“Then you DO love me?”

She turned her face away.

“Wait, please. Wait a little longer. When we come back I’ll tell you: I promise!”

“So long?”

“A month. Is that long? Please! It’s not easy for me.” She smiled faintly, lifted her eyes to him just for a second. “Please not any more now.”

That evening at his club, through the bluish smoke of cigarette after cigarette, he saw her face as she had lifted it for that one second; and now he was in heaven, now in hell.

VI

The verandahed bungalow on the South Coast, built and inhabited by an artist friend of Aunt Rosamund’s, had a garden of which the chief feature was one pine-tree which had strayed in advance of the wood behind. The little house stood in solitude, just above a low bank of cliff whence the beach sank in sandy ridges. The verandah and thick pine wood gave ample shade, and the beach all the sun and sea air needful to tan little Gyp, a fat, tumbling soul, as her mother had been at the same age, incurably fond and fearless of dogs or any kind of beast, and speaking words already that required a glossary.

At night, Gyp, looking from her bedroom through the flat branches of the pine, would get a feeling of being the only creature in the world. The crinkled, silvery sea, that lonely pine-tree, the cold moon, the sky dark corn-flower blue, the hiss and sucking rustle of the surf over the beach pebbles, even the salt, chill air, seemed lonely. By day, too–in the hazy heat when the clouds merged, scarce drifting, into the blue, and the coarse sea-grass tufts hardly quivered, and sea-birds passed close above the water with chuckle and cry–it all often seemed part of a dream. She bathed, and grew as tanned as her little daughter, a regular Gypsy, in her broad hat and linen frocks; and yet she hardly seemed to be living down here at all, for she was never free of the memory of that last meeting with Summerhay. Why had he spoken and put an end to their quiet friendship, and left her to such heart-searchings all by herself? But she did not want his words unsaid. Only, how to know whether to recoil and fly, or to pass beyond the dread of letting herself go, of plunging deep into the unknown depths of love–of that passion, whose nature for the first time she had tremulously felt, watching “Pagliacci”–and had ever since been feeling and trembling at! Must it really be neck or nothing? Did she care enough to break through all barriers, fling herself into midstream? When they could see each other every day, it was so easy to live for the next meeting–not think of what was coming after. But now, with all else cut away, there was only the future to think about– hers and his. But need she trouble about his? Would he not just love her as long as he liked?

Then she thought of her father–still faithful to a memory–and felt ashamed. Some men loved on–yes–even beyond death! But, sometimes, she would think: ‘Am I a candle-flame again? Is he just going to burn himself? What real good can I be to him–I, without freedom, and with my baby, who will grow up?’ Yet all these thoughts were, in a way, unreal. The struggle was in herself, so deep that she could hardly understand it; as might be an effort to subdue the instinctive dread of a precipice. And she would feel a kind of resentment against all the happy life round her these summer days–the sea-birds, the sunlight, and the waves; the white sails far out; the calm sun-steeped pine-trees; her baby, tumbling and smiling and softly twittering; and Betty and the other servants–all this life that seemed so simple and untortured.

To the one post each day she looked forward terribly. And yet his letters, which began like hers: “My dear friend,” might have been read by anyone–almost. She spent a long time over her answers. She was not sleeping well; and, lying awake, she could see his face very distinct before her closed eyes–its teasing, lazy smile, its sudden intent gravity. Once she had a dream of him, rushing past her down into the sea. She called, but, without turning his head, he swam out further, further, till she lost sight of him, and woke up suddenly with a pain in her heart. “If you can’t love me, I’ve got to break away!” His face, his flung-back head reminded her too sharply of those words. Now that he was away from her, would he not feel that it was best to break, and forget her? Up there, he would meet girls untouched by life–not like herself. He had everything before him; could he possibly go on wanting one who had nothing before her? Some blue-eyed girl with auburn hair–that type so superior to her own–would sweep, perhaps had already swept him, away from her! What then? No worse than it used to be? Ah, so much worse that she dared not think of it!

Then, for five days, no letter came. And, with each blank morning, the ache in her grew–a sharp, definite ache of longing and jealousy, utterly unlike the mere feeling of outraged pride when she had surprised Fiorsen and Daphne Wing in the music-room–a hundred years ago, it seemed. When on the fifth day the postman left nothing but a bill for little Gyp’s shoes, and a note from Aunt Rosamund at Harrogate, where she had gone with Winton for the annual cure, Gyp’s heart sank to the depths. Was this the end? And, with a blind, numb feeling, she wandered out into the wood, where the fall of the pine-needles, season after season, had made of the ground one soft, dark, dust-coloured bed, on which the sunlight traced the pattern of the pine boughs, and ants rummaged about their great heaped dwellings.

Gyp went along till she could see no outer world for the grey-brown tree-stems streaked with gum-resin; and, throwing herself down on her face, dug her elbows deep into the pine dust. Tears, so rare with her, forced their way up, and trickled slowly to the hands whereon her chin rested. No good–crying! Crying only made her ill; crying was no relief. She turned over on her back and lay motionless, the sunbeams warm on her cheeks. Silent here, even at noon! The sough of the calm sea could not reach so far; the flies were few; no bird sang. The tall bare pine stems rose up all round like columns in a temple roofed with the dark boughs and sky. Cloud-fleeces drifted slowly over the blue. There should be peace– but in her heart there was none!

A dusky shape came padding through the trees a little way off, another–two donkeys loose from somewhere, who stood licking each other’s necks and noses. Those two humble beasts, so friendly, made her feel ashamed. Why should she be sorry for herself, she who had everything in life she wanted–except love–the love she had thought she would never want? Ah, but she wanted it now, wanted it at last with all her being!

With a shudder, she sprang up; the ants had got to her, and she had to pick them off her neck and dress. She wandered back towards the beach. If he had truly found someone to fill his thoughts, and drive her out, all the better for him; she would never, by word or sign, show him that she missed, and wanted him–never! She would sooner die!

She came out into the sunshine. The tide was low; and the wet foreshore gleamed with opal tints; there were wandering tracks on the sea, as of great serpents winding their way beneath the surface; and away to the west the archwayed, tawny rock that cut off the line of coast was like a dream-shape. All was dreamy. And, suddenly her heart began beating to suffocation and the colour flooded up in her cheeks. On the edge of the low cliff bank, by the side of the path, Summerhay was sitting!

He got up and came toward her. Putting her hands up to her glowing face, she said:

“Yes; it’s me. Did you ever see such a gipsified object? I thought you were still in Scotland. How’s dear Ossy?” Then her self-possession failed, and she looked down.

“It’s no good, Gyp. I must know.”

It seemed to Gyp that her heart had given up beating; she said quietly: “Let’s sit down a minute”; and moved under the cliff bank where they could not be seen from the house. There, drawing the coarse grass blades through her fingers, she said, with a shiver:

“I didn’t try to make you, did I? I never tried.”

“No; never.”

“It’s wrong.”

“Who cares? No one could care who loves as I do. Oh, Gyp, can’t you love me? I know I’m nothing much.” How quaint and boyish! “But it’s eleven weeks to-day since we met in the train. I don’t think I’ve had one minute’s let-up since.”

“Have you tried?”

“Why should I, when I love you?”

Gyp sighed; relief, delight, pain–she did not know.

“Then what is to be done? Look over there–that bit of blue in the grass is my baby daughter. There’s her–and my father–and–“

“And what?”

“I’m afraid–afraid of love, Bryan!”

At that first use of his name, Summerhay turned pale and seized her hand.

“Afraid–how–afraid?”

Gyp said very low:

“I might love too much. Don’t say any more now. No; don’t! Let’s go in and have lunch.” And she got up.

He stayed till tea-time, and not a word more of love did he speak. But when he was gone, she sat under the pine-tree with little Gyp on her lap. Love! If her mother had checked love, she herself would never have been born. The midges were biting before she went in. After watching Betty give little Gyp her bath, she crossed the passage to her bedroom and leaned out of the window. Could it have been to-day she had lain on the ground with tears of despair running down on to her hands? Away to the left of the pine-tree, the moon had floated up, soft, barely visible in the paling sky. A new world, an enchanted garden! And between her and it–what was there?

That evening she sat with a book on her lap, not reading; and in her went on the strange revolution which comes in the souls of all women who are not half-men when first they love–the sinking of ‘I’ into ‘Thou,’ the passionate, spiritual subjection, the intense, unconscious giving-up of will, in preparation for completer union.

She slept without dreaming, awoke heavy and oppressed. Too languid to bathe, she sat listless on the beach with little Gyp all the morning. Had she energy or spirit to meet him in the afternoon by the rock archway, as she had promised? For the first time since she was a small and naughty child, she avoided the eyes of Betty. One could not be afraid of that stout, devoted soul, but one could feel that she knew too much. When the time came, after early tea, she started out; for if she did not go, he would come, and she did not want the servants to see him two days running.

This last day of August was warm and still, and had a kind of beneficence–the corn all gathered in, the apples mellowing, robins singing already, a few slumberous, soft clouds, a pale blue sky, a smiling sea. She went inland, across the stream, and took a footpath back to the shore. No pines grew on that side, where the soil was richer–of a ruddy brown. The second crops of clover were already high; in them humblebees were hard at work; and, above, the white-throated swallows dipped and soared. Gyp gathered a bunch of chicory flowers. She was close above the shore before she saw him standing in the rock archway, looking for her across the beach. After the hum of the bees and flies, it was very quiet here–only the faintest hiss of tiny waves. He had not yet heard her coming, and the thought flashed through her: ‘If I take another step, it is for ever! She stood there scarcely breathing, the chicory flowers held before her lips. Then she heard him sigh, and, moving quickly forward, said:

“Here I am.”

He turned round, seized her hand, and, without a word, they passed through the archway. They walked on the hard sand, side by side, till he said:

“Let’s go up into the fields.”

They scrambled up the low cliff and went along the grassy top to a gate into a stubble field. He held it open for her, but, as she passed, caught her in his arms and kissed her lips as if he would never stop. To her, who had been kissed a thousand times, it was the first kiss. Deadly pale, she fell back from him against the gate; then, her lips still quivering, her eyes very dark, she looked at him distraught with passion, drunk on that kiss. And, suddenly turning round to the gate, she laid her arms on the top bar and buried her face on them. A sob came up in her throat that seemed to tear her to bits, and she cried as if her heart would break. His timid despairing touches, his voice close to her ear:

“Gyp, Gyp! My darling! My love! Oh, don’t, Gyp!” were not of the least avail; she could not stop. That kiss had broken down something in her soul, swept away her life up to that moment, done something terrible and wonderful. At last, she struggled out:

“I’m sorry–so sorry! Don’t–don’t look at me! Go away a little, and I’ll–I’ll be all right.”

He obeyed without a word, and, passing through the gate, sat down on the edge of the cliff with his back to her, looking out over the sea.

Gripping the wood of the old grey gate till it hurt her hands, Gyp gazed at the chicory flowers and poppies that had grown up again in the stubble field, at the butterflies chasing in the sunlight over the hedge toward the crinkly foam edging the quiet sea till they were but fluttering white specks in the blue.

But when she had rubbed her cheeks and smoothed her face, she was no nearer to feeling that she could trust herself. What had happened in her was too violent, too sweet, too terrifying. And going up to him she said:

“Let me go home now by myself. Please, let me go, dear. To-morrow!”

Summerhay looked up.

“Whatever you wish, Gyp–always!”

He pressed her hand against his cheek, then let it go, and, folding his arms tight, resumed his meaningless stare at the sea. Gyp turned away. She crossed back to the other side of the stream, but did not go in for a long time, sitting in the pine wood till the evening gathered and the stars crept out in a sky of that mauve- blue which the psychic say is the soul-garment colour of the good.

Late that night, when she had finished brushing her hair, she opened her window and stepped out on to the verandah. How warm! How still! Not a sound from the sleeping house–not a breath of wind! Her face, framed in her hair, her hands, and all her body, felt as if on fire. The moon behind the pine-tree branches was filling every cranny of her brain with wakefulness. The soft shiver of the wellnigh surfless sea on a rising tide, rose, fell, rose, fell. The sand cliff shone like a bank of snow. And all was inhabited, as a moonlit night is wont to be, by a magical Presence. A big moth went past her face, so close that she felt the flutter of its wings. A little night beast somewhere was scruttling in bushes or the sand. Suddenly, across the wan grass the shadow of the pine-trunk moved. It moved–ever so little–moved! And, petrified–Gyp stared. There, joined to the trunk, Summerhay was standing, his face just visible against the stem, the moonlight on one cheek, a hand shading his eyes. He moved that hand, held it out in supplication. For long–how long–Gyp did not stir, looking straight at that beseeching figure. Then, with a feeling she had never known, she saw him coming. He came up to the verandah and stood looking up at her. She could see all the workings of his face–passion, reverence, above all amazement; and she heard his awed whisper:

“Is it you, Gyp? Really you? You look so young–so young!”

VII

From the moment of surrender, Gyp passed straight into a state the more enchanted because she had never believed in it, had never thought that she could love as she now loved. Days and nights went by in a sort of dream, and when Summerhay was not with her, she was simply waiting with a smile on her lips for the next hour of meeting. Just as she had never felt it possible to admit the world into the secrets of her married life, so, now she did not consider the world at all. Only the thought of her father weighed on her conscience. He was back in town. And she felt that she must tell him. When Summerhay heard this he only said: “All right, Gyp, whatever you think best.”

And two days before her month at the bungalow was up, she went, leaving Betty and little Gyp to follow on the last day. Winton, pale and somewhat languid, as men are when they have been cured, found her when he came in from the club. She had put on evening dress, and above the pallor of her shoulders, her sunwarmed face and throat had almost the colour of a nectarine. He had never seen her look like that, never seen her eyes so full of light. And he uttered a quiet grunt of satisfaction. It was as if a flower, which he had last seen in close and elegant shape, had bloomed in full perfection. She did not meet his gaze quite steadily and all that evening kept putting her confession off and off. It was not easy–far from easy. At last, when he was smoking his “go-to-bed” cigarette, she took a cushion and sank down on it beside his chair, leaning against his knee, where her face was hidden from him, as on that day after her first ball, when she had listened to HIS confession. And she began:

“Dad, do you remember my saying once that I didn’t understand what you and my mother felt for each other?” Winton did not speak; misgiving had taken possession of him. Gyp went on: “I know now how one would rather die than give someone up.”

Winton drew his breath in sharply:

“Who? Summerhay?”

“Yes; I used to think I should never be in love, but you knew better.”

Better!

In disconsolate silence, he thought rapidly: ‘What’s to be done? What can I do? Get her a divorce?’

Perhaps because of the ring in her voice, or the sheer seriousness of the position, he did not feel resentment as when he lost her to Fiorsen. Love! A passion such as had overtaken her mother and himself! And this young man? A decent fellow, a good rider– comprehensible! Ah, if the course had only been clear! He put his hand on her shoulder and said:

“Well, Gyp, we must go for the divorce, then, after all.”

She shook her head.

“It’s too late. Let HIM divorce me, if he only will!”

Winton needed all his self-control at that moment. Too late? Already! Sudden recollection that he had not the right to say a word alone kept him silent. Gyp went on:

“I love him, with every bit of me. I don’t care what comes– whether it’s open or secret. I don’t care what anybody thinks.”

She had turned round now, and if Winton had doubt of her feeling, he lost it. This was a Gyp he had never seen! A glowing, soft, quick-breathing creature, with just that lithe watchful look of the mother cat or lioness whose whelps are threatened. There flashed through him a recollection of how, as a child, with face very tense, she would ride at fences that were too big. At last he said:

“I’m sorry you didn’t tell me sooner.”

“I couldn’t. I didn’t know. Oh, Dad, I’m always hurting you! Forgive me!”

She was pressing his hand to her cheek that felt burning hot. And he thought: “Forgive! Of course I forgive. That’s not the point; the point is–“

And a vision of his loved one talked about, besmirched, bandied from mouth to mouth, or else–for her what there had been for him, a hole-and-corner life, an underground existence of stealthy meetings kept dark, above all from her own little daughter. Ah, not that! And yet–was not even that better than the other, which revolted to the soul his fastidious pride in her, roused in advance his fury against tongues that would wag, and eyes that would wink or be uplifted in righteousness? Summerhay’s world was more or less his world; scandal, which–like all parasitic growths– flourishes in enclosed spaces, would have every chance. And, at once, his brain began to search, steely and quick, for some way out; and the expression as when a fox broke covert, came on his face.

“Nobody knows, Gyp?”

“No; nobody.”

That was something! With an irritation that rose from his very soul, he muttered:

“I can’t stand it that you should suffer, and that fellow Fiorsen go scot-free. Can you give up seeing Summerhay while we get you a divorce? We might do it, if no one knows. I think you owe it to me, Gyp.”

Gyp got up and stood by the window a long time without answering. Winton watched her face. At last she said:

“I couldn’t. We might stop seeing each other; it isn’t that. It’s what I should feel. I shouldn’t respect myself after; I should feel so mean. Oh, Dad, don’t you see? He really loved me in his way. And to pretend! To make out a case for myself, tell about Daphne Wing, about his drinking, and baby; pretend that I wanted him to love me, when I got to hate it and didn’t care really whether he was faithful or not–and knowing all the while that I’ve been everything to someone else! I couldn’t. I’d much rather let him know, and ask him to divorce me.”

Winton replied:

“And suppose he won’t?”

“Then my mind would be clear, anyway; and we would take what we could.”

“And little Gyp?”

Staring before her as if trying to see into the future, she said slowly:

“Some day, she’ll understand, as I do. Or perhaps it will be all over before she knows. Does happiness ever last?”

And, going up to him, she bent over, kissed his forehead, and went out. The warmth from her lips, and the scent of her remained with Winton like a sensation wafted from the past.

Was there then nothing to be done–nothing? Men of his stamp do not, as a general thing, see very deep even into those who are nearest to them; but to-night he saw his daughter’s nature more fully perhaps than ever before. No use to importune her to act against her instincts–not a bit of use! And yet–how to sit and watch it all–watch his own passion with its ecstasy and its heart- burnings re-enacted with her–perhaps for many years? And the old vulgar saying passed through his mind: “What’s bred in the bone will come out in the meat.” Now she had given, she would give with both hands–beyond measure–beyond!–as he himself, as her mother had given! Ah, well, she was better off than his own loved one had been. One must not go ahead of trouble, or cry over spilled milk!

VIII

Gyp had a wakeful night. The question she herself had raised, of telling Fiorsen, kept her thoughts in turmoil. Was he likely to divorce her if she did? His contempt for what he called ‘these bourgeois morals,’ his instability, the very unpleasantness, and offence to his vanity–all this would prevent him. No; he would not divorce her, she was sure, unless by any chance he wanted legal freedom, and that was quite unlikely. What then would be gained? Ease for her conscience? But had she any right to ease her conscience if it brought harm to her lover? And was it not ridiculous to think of conscience in regard to one who, within a year of marriage, had taken to himself a mistress, and not even spared the home paid for and supported by his wife? No; if she told Fiorsen, it would only be to salve her pride, wounded by doing what she did not avow. Besides, where was he? At the other end of the world for all she knew.

She came down to breakfast, dark under the eyes and no whit advanced toward decision. Neither of them mentioned their last night’s talk, and Gyp went back to her room to busy herself with dress, after those weeks away. It was past noon when, at a muffled knock, she found Markey outside her door.

“Mr. Fiorsen, m’m.”

Gyp beckoned him in, and closed the door.

“In the hall, m’m–slipped in when I answered the bell; short of shoving, I couldn’t keep him out.”

Gyp stood full half a minute before she said:

“Is my father in?”

“No, m’m; the major’s gone to the fencin’-club.”

“What did you say?”

“Said I would see. So far as I was aware, nobody was in. Shall I have a try to shift him, m’m?”

With a faint smile Gyp shook her head.

“Say no one can see him.”

Markey’s woodcock eyes, under their thin, dark, twisting brows, fastened on her dolefully; he opened the door to go. Fiorsen was standing there, and, with a quick movement, came in. She saw Markey raise his arms as if to catch him round the waist, and said quietly:

“Markey–wait outside, please.”

When the door was shut, she retreated against her dressing-table and stood gazing at her husband, while her heart throbbed as if it would leap through its coverings.

He had grown a short beard, his cheeks seemed a little fatter, and his eyes surely more green; otherwise, he looked much as she remembered him. And the first thought that passed through her was: ‘Why did I ever pity him? He’ll never fret or drink himself to death–he’s got enough vitality for twenty men.’

His face, which had worn a fixed, nervous smile, grew suddenly grave as her own, and his eyes roved round the room in the old half-fierce, half-furtive way.

“Well, Gyp,” he said, and his voice shook a little: “At last! Won’t you kiss me?”

The question seemed to Gyp idiotic; and suddenly she felt quite cool.

“If you want to speak to my father, you must come later; he’s out.”

Fiorsen gave one of his fierce shrugs.

“Is it likely? Look, Gyp! I returned from Russia yesterday. I was a great success, made a lot of money out there. Come back to me! I will be good–I swear it! Now I have seen you again, I can’t be without you. Ah, Gyp, come back to me! And see how good I will be. I will take you abroad, you and the bambina. We will go to Rome–anywhere you like–live how you like. Only come back to me!”

Gyp answered stonily:

“You are talking nonsense.”

“Gyp, I swear to you I have not seen a woman–not one fit to put beside you. Oh, Gyp, be good to me once more. This time I will not fail. Try me! Try me, my Gyp!”

Only at this moment of his pleading, whose tragic tones seemed to her both false and childish, did Gyp realize the strength of the new feeling in her heart. And the more that feeling throbbed within her, the harder her face and her voice grew. She said:

“If that is all you came to say–please go. I will never come back to you. Once for all, understand, PLEASE.”

The silence in which he received her words, and his expression, impressed her far more than his appeal; with one of his stealthy movements he came quite close, and, putting his face forward till it almost touched her, said:

“You are my wife. I want you back. I must have you back. If you do not come, I will kill either you or myself.”

And suddenly she felt his arms knotted behind her back, crushing her to him. She stilled a scream; then, very swiftly, took a resolve, and, rigid in his arms, said:

“Let go; you hurt me. Sit down quietly. I will tell you something.”

The tone of her voice made him loosen his grasp and crane back to see her face. Gyp detached his arms from her completely, sat down on an old oak chest, and motioned him to the window-seat. Her heart thumped pitifully; cold waves of almost physical sickness passed through and through her. She had smelt brandy in his breath when he was close to her. It was like being in the cage of a wild beast; it was like being with a madman! The remembrance of him with his fingers stretched out like claws above her baby was so vivid at that moment that she could scarcely see him as he was, sitting there quietly, waiting for what she was going to say. And fixing her eyes on him, she said softly:

“You say you love me, Gustav. I tried to love you, too, but I never could–never from the first. I tried very hard. Surely you care what a woman feels, even if she happens to be your wife.”

She could see his face quiver; and she went on:

“When I found I couldn’t love you, I felt I had no right over you. I didn’t stand on my rights. Did I?”

Again his face quivered, and again she hurried on:

“But you wouldn’t expect me to go all through my life without ever feeling love–you who’ve felt it so many times?” Then, clasping her hands tight, with a sort of wonder at herself, she murmured: “I AM in love. I’ve given myself.”

He made a queer, whining sound, covering his face. And the beggar’s tag: “‘Ave a feelin’ ‘eart, gentleman–‘ave a feelin’ ‘eart!” passed idiotically through Gyp’s mind. Would he get up and strangle her? Should she dash to the door–escape? For a long, miserable moment, she watched him swaying on the window-seat, with his face covered. Then, without looking at her, he crammed a clenched hand up against his mouth, and rushed out.

Through the open door, Gyp had a glimpse of Markey’s motionless figure, coming to life as Fiorsen passed. She drew a long breath, locked the door, and lay down on her bed. Her heart beat dreadfully. For a moment, something had checked his jealous rage. But if on this shock he began to drink, what might not happen? He had said something wild. And she shuddered. But what right had he to feel jealousy and rage against her? What right? She got up and went to the glass, trembling, mechanically tidying her hair. Miraculous that she had come through unscathed!

Her thoughts flew to Summerhay. They were to meet at three o’clock by the seat in St. James’s Park. But all was different, now; difficult and dangerous! She must wait, take counsel with her father. And yet if she did not keep that tryst, how anxious he would be–thinking that all sorts of things had happened to her; thinking perhaps–oh, foolish!–that she had forgotten, or even repented of her love. What would she herself think, if he were to fail her at their first tryst after those days of bliss? Certainly that he had changed his mind, seen she was not worth it, seen that a woman who could give herself so soon, so easily, was one to whom he could not sacrifice his life.

In this cruel uncertainty, she spent the next two hours, till it was nearly three. If she did not go out, he would come on to Bury Street, and that would be still more dangerous. She put on her hat and walked swiftly towards St. James’s Palace. Once sure that she was not being followed, her courage rose, and she passed rapidly down toward the water. She was ten minutes late, and seeing him there, walking up and down, turning his head every few seconds so as not to lose sight of the bench, she felt almost lightheaded from joy. When they had greeted with that pathetic casualness of lovers which deceives so few, they walked on together past Buckingham Palace, up into the Green Park, beneath the trees. During this progress, she told him about her father; but only when they were seated in that comparative refuge, and his hand was holding hers under cover of the sunshade that lay across her knee, did she speak of Fiorsen.

He tightened his grasp of her hand; then, suddenly dropping it, said:

“Did he touch you, Gyp?”

Gyp heard that question with a shock. Touch her! Yes! But what did it matter?

He made a little shuddering sound; and, wondering, mournful, she looked at him. His hands and teeth were clenched. She said softly:

“Bryan! Don’t! I wouldn’t let him kiss me.”

He seemed to have to force his eyes to look at her.

“It’s all right,” he said, and, staring before him, bit his nails.

Gyp sat motionless, cut to the heart. She was soiled, and spoiled for him! Of course! And yet a sense of injustice burned in her. Her heart had never been touched; it was his utterly. But that was not enough for a man–he wanted an untouched body, too. That she could not give; he should have thought of that sooner, instead of only now. And, miserably, she, too, stared before her, and her face hardened.

A little boy came and stood still in front of them, regarding her with round, unmoving eyes. She was conscious of a slice of bread and jam in his hand, and that his mouth and cheeks were smeared with red. A woman called out: “Jacky! Come on, now!” and he was hauled away, still looking back, and holding out his bread and jam as though offering her a bite. She felt Summerhay’s arm slipping round her.

“It’s over, darling. Never again–I promise you!”

Ah, he might promise–might even keep that promise. But he would suffer, always suffer, thinking of that other. And she said:

“You can only have me as I am, Bryan. I can’t make myself new for you; I wish I could–oh, I wish I could!”

“I ought to have cut my tongue out first! Don’t think of it! Come home to me and have tea–there’s no one there. Ah, do, Gyp–come!”

He took her hands and pulled her up. And all else left Gyp but the joy of being close to him, going to happiness.

IX

Fiorsen, passing Markey like a blind man, made his way out into the street, but had not gone a hundred yards before he was hurrying back. He had left his hat. The servant, still standing there, handed him that wide-brimmed object and closed the door in his face. Once more he moved away, going towards Piccadilly. If it had not been for the expression on Gyp’s face, what might he not have done? And, mixed with sickening jealousy, he felt a sort of relief, as if he had been saved from something horrible. So she had never loved him! Never at all? Impossible! Impossible that a woman on whom he had lavished such passion should never have felt passion for him–never any! Innumerable images of her passed before him–surrendering, always surrendering. It could not all have been pretence! He was not a common man–she herself had said so; he had charm–or, other women thought so! She had lied; she must have lied, to excuse herself!

He went into a cafe and asked for a fine champagne. They brought him a carafe, with the measures marked. He sat there a long time. When he rose, he had drunk nine, and he felt better, with a kind of ferocity that was pleasant in his veins and a kind of nobility that was pleasant in his soul. Let her love, and be happy with her lover! But let him get his fingers on that fellow’s throat! Let her be happy, if she could keep her lover from him! And suddenly, he stopped in his tracks, for there on a sandwich-board just in front of him were the words: “Daphne Wing. Pantheon. Daphne Wing. Plastic Danseuse. Poetry of Motion. To-day at three o’clock. Pantheon. Daphne Wing.”

Ah, SHE had loved him–little Daphne! It was past three. Going in, he took his place in the stalls, close to the stage, and stared before him, with a sort of bitter amusement. This was irony indeed! Ah–and here she came! A Pierrette–in short, diaphanous muslin, her face whitened to match it; a Pierrette who stood slowly spinning on her toes, with arms raised and hands joined in an arch above her glistening hair.

Idiotic pose! Idiotic! But there was the old expression on her face, limpid, dovelike. And that something of the divine about her dancing smote Fiorsen through all the sheer imbecility of her posturings. Across and across she flitted, pirouetting, caught up at intervals by a Pierrot in black tights with a face as whitened as her own, held upside down, or right end up with one knee bent sideways, and the toe of a foot pressed against the ankle of the other, and arms arched above her. Then, with Pierrot’s hands grasping her waist, she would stand upon one toe and slowly twiddle, lifting her other leg toward the roof, while the trembling of her form manifested cunningly to all how hard it was; then, off the toe, she capered out to the wings, and capered back, wearing on her face that divine, lost, dovelike look, while her perfect legs gleamed white up to the very thigh-joint. Yes; on the stage she was adorable! And raising his hands high, Fiorsen clapped and called out: “Brava!” He marked the sudden roundness of her eyes, a tiny start–no more. She had seen him. ‘Ah! Some don’t forget me!’ he thought.

And now she came on for her second dance, assisted this time only by her own image reflected in a little weedy pool about the middle of the stage. From the programme Fiorsen read, “Ophelia’s last dance,” and again he grinned. In a clinging sea-green gown, cut here and there to show her inevitable legs, with marguerites and corn-flowers in her unbound hair, she circled her own reflection, languid, pale, desolate; then slowly gaining the abandon needful to a full display, danced with frenzy till, in a gleam of limelight, she sank into the apparent water and floated among paper water- lilies on her back. Lovely she looked there, with her eyes still open, her lips parted, her hair trailing behind. And again Fiorsen raised his hands high to clap, and again called out: ‘Brava!’ But the curtain fell, and Ophelia did not reappear. Was it the sight of him, or was she preserving the illusion that she was drowned? That “arty” touch would be just like her.

Averting his eyes from two comedians in calico, beating each other about the body, he rose with an audible “Pish!” and made his way out. He stopped in the street to scribble on his card, “Will you see me?–G. F.” and took it round to the stage-door. The answer came back:

“Miss Wing will see you m a minute, sir.”

And leaning against the distempered wall of the draughty corridor, a queer smile on his face, Fiorsen wondered why the devil he was there, and what the devil she would say.

When he was admitted, she was standing with her hat on, while her “dresser” buttoned her patent-leather shoes. Holding out her hand above the woman’s back, she said:

“Oh, Mr. Fiorsen, how do you do?”

Fiorsen took the little moist hand; and his eyes passed over her, avoiding a direct meeting with her eyes. He received an impression of something harder, more self-possessed, than he remembered. Her face was the same, yet not the same; only her perfect, supple little body was as it had been. The dresser rose, murmured: “Good- afternoon, miss,” and went.

Daphne Wing smiled faintly.

“I haven’t seen you for a long time, have I?”

“No; I’ve been abroad. You dance as beautifully as ever.”

“Oh, yes; it hasn’t hurt my dancing.”

With an effort, he looked her in the face. Was this really the same girl who had clung to him, cloyed him with her kisses, her tears, her appeals for love–just a little love? Ah, but she was more desirable, much more desirable than he had remembered! And he said:

“Give me a kiss, little Daphne!”

Daphne Wing did not stir; her white teeth rested on her lower lip; she said:

“Oh, no, thank you! How is Mrs. Fiorsen?”

Fiorsen turned abruptly.

“There is none.”

“Oh, has she divorced you?”

“No. Stop talking of her; stop talking, I say!”

Daphne Wing, still motionless in the centre of her little crowded dressing-room said, in a matter-of-fact voice:

“You are polite, aren’t you? It’s funny; I can’t tell whether I’m glad to see you. I had a bad time, you know; and Mrs. Fiorsen was an angel. Why do you come to see me now?”

Exactly! Why had he come? The thought flashed through him: ‘She’ll help me to forget.’ And he said:

“I was a great brute to you, Daphne. I came to make up, if I can.”

“Oh, no; you can’t make up–thank you!” A shudder ran through her, and she began drawing on her gloves. “You taught me a lot, you know. I ought to be quite grateful. Oh, you’ve grown a little beard! D’you think that improves you? It makes you look rather like Mephistopheles, I think.”

Fiorsen stared fixedly at that perfectly shaped face, where a faint, underdone pink mingled with the fairness of the skin. Was she mocking him? Impossible! She looked too matter of fact.

“Where do you live now?” he said.

“I’m on my own, in a studio. You can come and see it, if you like.”

“With pleasure.”

“Only, you’d better understand. I’ve had enough of love.”

Fiorsen grinned.

“Even for another?” he said.

Daphne Wing answered calmly:

“I wish you would treat me like a lady.”

Fiorsen bit his lip, and bowed.

“May I have the pleasure of giving you some tea?”

“Yes, thank you; I’m very hungry. I don’t eat lunch on matinee- days; I find it better not. Do you like my Ophelia dance?”

“It’s artificial.”

“Yes, it IS artificial–it’s done with mirrors and wire netting, you know. But do I give you the illusion of being mad?” Fiorsen nodded. “I’m so glad. Shall we go? I do want my tea.”

She turned round, scrutinized herself in the glass, touched her hat with both hands, revealing, for a second, all the poised beauty of her figure, took a little bag from the back of a chair, and said:

“I think, if you don’t mind going on, it’s less conspicuous. I’ll meet you at Ruffel’s–they have lovely things there. Au revoir.”

In a state of bewilderment, irritation, and queer meekness, Fiorsen passed down Coventry Street, and entering the empty Ruffel’s, took a table near the window. There he sat staring before him, for the sudden vision of Gyp sitting on that oaken chest, at the foot of her bed, had blotted the girl clean out. The attendant coming to take his order, gazed at his pale, furious face, and said mechanically:

“What can I get you, please?”

Looking up, Fiorsen saw Daphne Wing outside, gazing at the cakes in the window. She came in.

“Oh, here you are! I should like iced coffee and walnut cake, and some of those marzipan sweets–oh, and some whipped cream with my cake. Do you mind?” And, sitting down, she fixed her eyes on his face and asked:

“Where have you been abroad?”

“Stockholm, Budapest, Moscow, other places.”

“How perfect! Do you think I should make a success in Budapest or Moscow?”

“You might; you are English enough.”

“Oh! Do you think I’m very English?”

“Utterly. Your kind of–” But even he was not quite capable of finishing that sentence–“your kind of vulgarity could not be produced anywhere else.” Daphne Wing finished it for him:

“My kind of beauty?”

Fiorsen grinned and nodded.

“Oh, I think that’s the nicest thing you ever said to me! Only, of course, I should like to think I’m more of the Greek type–pagan, you know.”

She fell silent, casting her eyes down. Her profile at that moment, against the light, was very pure and soft in line. And he said:

“I suppose you hate me, little Daphne? You ought to hate me.”

Daphne Wing looked up; her round, blue-grey eyes passed over him much as they had been passing over the marzipan.

“No; I don’t hate you–now. Of course, if I had any love left for you, I should. Oh, isn’t that Irish? But one can think anybody a rotter without hating them, can’t one?”

Fiorsen bit his lips.

“So you think me a ‘rotter’?”

Daphne Wing’s eyes grew rounder.

“But aren’t you? You couldn’t be anything else–could you?–with the sort of things you did.”

“And yet you don’t mind having tea with me?”

Daphne Wing, who had begun to eat and drink, said with her mouth full:

“You see, I’m independent now, and I know life. That makes you harmless.”

Fiorsen stretched out his hand and seized hers just where her little warm pulse was beating very steadily. She looked at it, changed her fork over, and went on eating with the other hand. Fiorsen drew his hand away as if he had been stung.

“Ah, you HAVE changed–that is certain!”

“Yes; you wouldn’t expect anything else, would you? You see, one doesn’t go through that for nothing. I think I was a dreadful little fool–” She stopped, with her spoon on its way to her mouth–“and yet–“

“I love you still, little Daphne.”

She slowly turned her head toward him, and a faint sigh escaped her.

“Once I would have given a lot to hear that.”

And turning her head away again, she picked a large walnut out of her cake and put it in her mouth.

“Are you coming to see my studio? I’ve got it rather nice and new. I’m making twenty-five a week; my next engagement, I’m going to get thirty. I should like Mrs. Fiorsen to know–Oh, I forgot; you don’t like me to speak of her! Why not? I wish you’d tell me!” Gazing, as the attendant had, at his furious face, she went on: “I don’t know how it is, but I’m not a bit afraid of you now. I used to be. Oh, how is Count Rosek? Is he as pale as ever? Aren’t you going to have anything more? You’ve had hardly anything. D’you know what I should like–a chocolate eclair and a raspberry ice- cream soda with a slice of tangerine in it.”

When she had slowly sucked up that beverage, prodding the slice of tangerine with her straws, they went out and took a cab. On that journey to her studio, Fiorsen tried to possess himself of her hand, but, folding her arms across her chest, she said quietly:

“It’s very bad manners to take advantage of cabs.” And, withdrawing sullenly into his corner, he watched her askance. Was she playing with him? Or had she really ceased to care the snap of a finger? It seemed incredible. The cab, which had been threading the maze of the Soho streets, stopped. Daphne Wing alighted, proceeded down a narrow passage to a green door on the right, and, opening it with a latch-key, paused to say:

“I like it’s being in a little sordid street–it takes away all amateurishness. It wasn’t a studio, of course; it was the back part of a paper-maker’s. Any space conquered for art is something, isn’t it?” She led the way up a few green-carpeted stairs, into a large room with a skylight, whose walls were covered in Japanese silk the colour of yellow azaleas. Here she stood for a minute without speaking, as though lost in the beauty of her home: then, pointing to the walls, she said:

“It took me ages, I did it all myself. And look at my little Japanese trees; aren’t they dickies?” Six little dark abortions of trees were arranged scrupulously on a lofty window-sill, whence the skylight sloped. She added suddenly: “I think Count Rosek would like this room. There’s something bizarre about it, isn’t there? I wanted to surround myself with that, you know–to get the bizarre note into my work. It’s so important nowadays. But through there I’ve got a bedroom and a bathroom and a little kitchen with everything to hand, all quite domestic; and hot water always on. My people are SO funny about this room. They come sometimes, and stand about. But they can’t get used to the neighbourhood; of course it IS sordid, but I think an artist ought to be superior to that.”

Suddenly touched, Fiorsen answered gently:

“Yes, little Daphne.”

She looked at him, and another tiny sigh escaped her.

“Why did you treat me like you did?” she said. “It’s such a pity, because now I can’t feel anything at all.” And turning, she suddenly passed the back of her hand across her eyes. Really moved by that, Fiorsen went towards her, but she had turned round again, and putting out her hand to keep him off, stood shaking her head, with half a tear glistening on her eyelashes.

“Please sit down on the divan,” she said. “Will you smoke? These are Russians.” And she took a white box of pink-coloured cigarettes from a little golden birchwood table. “I have everything Russian and Japanese so far as I can; I think they help more than anything with atmosphere. I’ve got a balalaika; you can’t play on it, can you? What a pity! If only I had a violin! I SHOULD have liked to hear you play again.” She clasped her hands: “Do you remember when I danced to you before the fire?”

Fiorsen remembered only too well. The pink cigarette trembled in his fingers, and he said rather hoarsely:

“Dance to me now, Daphne!”

She shook her head.

“I don’t trust you a yard. Nobody would–would they?”

Fiorsen started up.

“Then why did you ask me here? What are you playing at, you little–” At sight of her round, unmoving eyes, he stopped. She said calmly:

“I thought you’d like to see that I’d mastered my fate–that’s all. But, of course, if you don’t, you needn’t stop.”

Fiorsen sank back on the divan. A conviction that everything she said was literal had begun slowly to sink into him. And taking a long pull at that pink cigarette he puffed the smoke out with a laugh.

“What are you laughing at?”

“I was thinking, little Daphne, that you are as great an egoist as I.”

“I want to be. It’s the only thing, isn’t it?”

Fiorsen laughed again.

“You needn’t worry. You always were.”

She had seated herself on an Indian stool covered with a bit of Turkish embroidery, and, joining her hands on her lap, answered gravely:

“No; I think I wasn’t, while I loved you. But it didn’t pay, did it?”

Fiorsen stared at her.

“It has made a woman of you, Daphne. Your face is different. Your mouth is prettier for my kisses–or the want of them. All over, you are prettier.” Pink came up in Daphne Wing’s cheeks. And, encouraged by that flush, he went on warmly: “If you loved me now, I should not tire of you. Oh, you can believe me! I–“

She shook her head.

“We won’t talk about love, will we? Did you have a big triumph in Moscow and St. Petersburg? It must be wonderful to have really great triumphs!”

Fiorsen answered gloomily:

“Triumphs? I made a lot of money.”

Daphne Wing purred:

“Oh, I expect you’re very happy.”

Did she mean to be ironic?

“I’m miserable.”

He got up and went towards her. She looked up in his face.

“I’m sorry if you’re miserable. I know what it feels like.”

“You can help me not to be. Little Daphne, you can help me to forget.” He had stopped, and put his hands on her shoulders. Without moving Daphne Wing answered:

“I suppose it’s Mrs. Fiorsen you want to forget, isn’t it?”

“As if she were dead. Ah, let it all be as it was, Daphne! You have grown up; you are a woman, an artist, and you–“

Daphne Wing had turned her head toward the stairs.

“That was the bell,” she said. “Suppose it’s my people? It’s just their time! Oh, isn’t that awkward?”

Fiorsen dropped his grasp of her and recoiled against the wall. There with his head touching one of the little Japanese trees, he stood biting his fingers. She was already moving toward the door.

“My mother’s got a key, and it’s no good putting you anywhere, because she always has a good look round. But perhaps it isn’t them. Besides, I’m not afraid now; it makes a wonderful difference being on one’s own.”

She disappeared. Fiorsen could hear a woman’s acid voice, a man’s, rather hoarse and greasy, the sound of a smacking kiss. And, with a vicious shrug, he stood at bay. Trapped! The little devil! The little dovelike devil! He saw a lady in a silk dress, green shot with beetroot colour, a short, thick gentleman with a round, greyish beard, in a grey suit, having a small dahlia in his buttonhole, and, behind them, Daphne Wing, flushed, and very round- eyed. He took a step, intending to escape without more ado. The gentleman said:

“Introduce us, Daisy. I didn’t quite catch–Mr. Dawson? How do you do, sir? One of my daughter’s impresarios, I think. ‘Appy to meet you, I’m sure.”

Fiorsen took a long breath, and bowed. Mr. Wagge’s small piggy eyes had fixed themselves on the little trees.

“She’s got a nice little place here for her work–quiet and unconventional. I hope you think well of her talent, sir? You might go further and fare worse, I believe.”

Again Fiorsen bowed.

“You may be proud of her,” he said; “she is the rising star.”

Mr. Wagge cleared his throat.

“Ow,” he said; “ye’es! From a little thing, we thought she had stuff in her. I’ve come to take a great interest in her work. It’s not in my line, but I think she’s a sticker; I like to see perseverance. Where you’ve got that, you’ve got half the battle of success. So many of these young people seem to think life’s all play. You must see a lot of that in your profession, sir.”

“Robert!”

A shiver ran down Fiorsen’s spine.

“Ye-es?”

“The name was not DAWson!”

There followed a long moment. On the one side was that vinegary woman poking her head forward like an angry hen, on the other, Daphne Wing, her eyes rounder and rounder, her cheeks redder and redder, her lips opening, her hands clasped to her perfect breast, and, in the centre, that broad, grey-bearded figure, with reddening face and angry eyes and hoarsening voice:

“You scoundrel! You infernal scoundrel!” It lurched forward, raising a pudgy fist. Fiorsen sprang down the stairs and wrenched open the door. He walked away in a whirl of mortification. Should he go back and take that pug-faced vulgarian by the throat? As for that minx! But his feelings about HER were too complicated for expression. And then–so dark and random are the ways of the mind– his thoughts darted back to Gyp, sitting on the oaken chest, making her confession; and the whips and stings of it scored him worse than ever.

X

That same evening, standing at the corner of Bury Street, Summerhay watched Gyp going swiftly to her father’s house. He could not bring himself to move while there was still a chance to catch a glimpse of her face, a sign from her hand. Gone! He walked away with his head down. The more blissful the hours just spent, the greater the desolation when they are over. Of such is the nature of love, as he was now discerning. The longing to have her always with him was growing fast. Since her husband knew–why wait? There would be no rest for either of them in an existence of meetings and partings like this, with the menace of that fellow. She must come away with him at once–abroad–until things had declared themselves; and then he must find a place where they could live and she feel safe and happy. He must show he was in dead earnest, set his affairs in order. And he thought: ‘No good doing things by halves. Mother must know. The sooner the better. Get it over–at once!’ And, with a grimace of discomfort, he set out for his aunt’s house in Cadogan Gardens, where his mother always stayed when she was in town.

Lady Summerhay was in the boudoir, waiting for dinner and reading a book on dreams. A red-shaded lamp cast a mellow tinge over the grey frock, over one reddish cheek and one white shoulder. She was a striking person, tall and well built, her very blonde hair only just turning grey, for she had married young and been a widow fifteen years–one of those women whose naturally free spirits have been netted by association with people of public position. Bubbles were still rising from her submerged soul, but it was obvious that it would not again set eyes on the horizon. With views neither narrow nor illiberal, as views in society go, she judged everything now as people of public position must–discussion, of course, but no alteration in one’s way of living. Speculation and ideas did not affect social usage. The countless movements in which she and her friends were interested for the emancipation and benefit of others were, in fact, only channels for letting off her superfluous goodwill, conduit-pipes, for the directing spirit bred in her. She thought and acted in terms of the public good, regulated by what people of position said at luncheon and dinner. And it was surely not her fault that such people must lunch and dine. When her son had bent and kissed her, she held up the book to him and said:

“Well, Bryan, I think this man’s book disgraceful; he simply runs his sex-idea to death. Really, we aren’t all quite so obsessed as that. I do think he ought to be put in his own lunatic asylum.”

Summerhay, looking down at her gloomily, answered:

“I’ve got bad news for you, Mother.”

Lady Summerhay closed the book and searched his face with apprehension. She knew that expression. She knew that poise of his head, as if butting at something. He looked like that when he came to her in gambling scrapes. Was this another? Bryan had always been a pickle. His next words took her breath away.

“The people at Mildenham, Major Winton and his daughter–you know. Well, I’m in love with her–I’m–I’m her lover.”

Lady Summerhay uttered a gasp.

“But–but–Bryan–“

“That fellow she married drinks. He’s impossible. She had to leave him a year ago, with her baby–other reasons, too. Look here, Mother: This is hateful, but you’d got to know. I can’t talk of her. There’s no chance of a divorce.” His voice grew higher. “Don’t try to persuade me out of it. It’s no good.”