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Chapter V

After this, Gyp was daily more and more in contact with high bohemia, that curious composite section of society which embraces the neck of music, poetry, and the drama. She was a success, but secretly she felt that she did not belong to it, nor, in truth, did Fiorsen, who was much too genuine a bohemian, and artist, and mocked at the Gallants and even the Roseks of this life, as he mocked at Winton, Aunt Rosamund, and their world. Life with him had certainly one effect on Gyp; it made her feel less and less a part of that old orthodox, well-bred world which she had known before she married him; but to which she had confessed to Winton she had never felt that she belonged, since she knew the secret of her birth. She was, in truth, much too impressionable, too avid of beauty, and perhaps too naturally critical to accept the dictates of their fact-and-form-governed routine; only, of her own accord, she would never have had initiative enough to step out of its circle. Loosened from those roots, unable to attach herself to this new soil, and not spiritually leagued with her husband, she was more and more lonely. Her only truly happy hours were those spent with Winton or at her piano or with her puppies. She was always wondering at what she had done, longing to find the deep, the sufficient reason for having done it. But the more she sought and longed, the deeper grew her bewilderment, her feeling of being in a cage. Of late, too, another and more definite uneasiness had come to her.

She spent much time in her garden, where the blossoms had all dropped, lilac was over, acacias coming into bloom, and blackbirds silent.

Winton, who, by careful experiment, had found that from half-past three to six there was little or no chance of stumbling across his son-in-law, came in nearly every day for tea and a quiet cigar on the lawn. He was sitting there with Gyp one afternoon, when Betty, who usurped the functions of parlour-maid whenever the whim moved her, brought out a card on which were printed the words, "Miss Daphne Wing."

"Bring her out, please, Betty dear, and some fresh tea, and buttered toast--plenty of buttered toast; yes, and the chocolates, and any other sweets there are, Betty darling."

Betty, with that expression which always came over her when she was called "darling," withdrew across the grass, and Gyp said to her father:

"It's the little dancer I told you of, Dad. Now you'll see something perfect. Only, she'll be dressed. It's a pity."

She was. The occasion had evidently exercised her spirit. In warm ivory, shrouded by leaf-green chiffon, with a girdle of tiny artificial leaves, and a lightly covered head encircled by other green leaves, she was somewhat like a nymph peering from a bower. If rather too arresting, it was charming, and, after all, no frock could quite disguise the beauty of her figure. She was evidently nervous.

"Oh, Mrs. Fiorsen, I thought you wouldn't mind my coming. I did so want to see you again. Count Rosek said he thought I might. It's all fixed for my coming-out. Oh, how do you do?" And with lips and eyes opening at Winton, she sat down in the chair he placed for her. Gyp, watching his expression, felt inclined to laugh. Dad, and Daphne Wing! And the poor girl so evidently anxious to make a good impression! Presently she asked:

"Have you been dancing at Count Rosek's again lately?"

"Oh, yes, haven't you--didn't you--I--" And she stopped.

The thought flashed through Gyp, 'So Gustav's been seeing her, and hasn't told me!' But she said at once:

"Ah, yes, of course; I forgot. When is the night of your coming- out?"

"Next Friday week. Fancy! The Octagon. Isn't it splendid? They've given me such a good engagement. I do so want you and Mr. Fiorsen to come, though!"

Gyp, smiling, murmured:

"Of course we will. My father loves dancing, too; don't you, Dad?"

Winton took his cigar from his mouth.

"When it's good," he said, urbanely.

"Oh, mine is good; isn't it, Mrs. Fiorsen? I mean, I have worked-- ever since I was thirteen, you know. I simply love it. I think you would dance beautifully, Mrs. Fiorsen. You've got such a perfect figure. I simply love to see you walk."

Gyp flushed, and said:

"Do have one of these, Miss Wing--they've got whole raspberries inside."

The little dancer put one in her mouth.

"Oh, but please don't call me Miss Wing! I wish you'd call me Daphne. Mr. Fior--everybody does."

Conscious of her father's face, Gyp murmured:

"It's a lovely name. Won't you have another? These are apricot."

"They're perfect. You know, my first dress is going to be all orange-blossom; Mr. Fiorsen suggested that. But I expect he told you. Perhaps you suggested it really; did you?" Gyp shook her head. "Count Rosek says the world is waiting for me--" She paused with a sugar-plum halfway to her lips, and added doubtfully: "Do you think that's true?"

Gyp answered with a soft: "I hope so."

"He says I'm something new. It would be nice to think that. He has great taste; so has Mr. Fiorsen, hasn't he?"

Conscious of the compression in the lips behind the smoke of her father's cigar, and with a sudden longing to get up and walk away, Gyp nodded.

The little dancer placed the sweet in her mouth, and said complacently:

"Of course he has; because he married you."

Then, seeming to grow conscious of Winton's eyes fixed so intently on her, she became confused, swallowed hastily, and said:

"Oh, isn't it lovely here--like the country! I'm afraid I must go; it's my practice-time. It's so important for me not to miss any now, isn't it?" And she rose.

Winton got up, too. Gyp saw the girl's eyes, lighting on his rigid hand, grow round and rounder; and from her, walking past the side of the house, the careful voice floated back:

"Oh, I do hope--" But what, could not be heard.

Sinking back in her chair, Gyp sat motionless. Bees were murmurous among her flowers, pigeons murmurous among the trees; the sunlight warmed her knees, and her stretched-out feet through the openwork of her stockings. The maid's laughter, the delicious growling of the puppies at play in the kitchen came drifting down the garden, with the distant cry of a milkman up the road. All was very peaceful. But in her heart were such curious, baffled emotions, such strange, tangled feelings. This moment of enlightenment regarding the measure of her husband's frankness came close on the heels of the moment fate had chosen for another revelation, for clinching within her a fear felt for weeks past. She had said to Winton that she did not want to have a child. In those conscious that their birth has caused death or even too great suffering, there is sometimes this hostile instinct. She had not even the consolation that Fiorsen wanted children; she knew that he did not. And now she was sure one was coming. But it was more than that. She had not reached, and knew she could not reach, that point of spirit-union which alone makes marriage sacred, and the sacrifices demanded by motherhood a joy. She was fairly caught in the web of her foolish and presumptuous mistake! So few months of marriage-- and so sure that it was a failure, so hopeless for the future! In the light of this new certainty, it was terrifying. A hard, natural fact is needed to bring a yearning and bewildered spirit to knowledge of the truth. Disillusionment is not welcome to a woman's heart; the less welcome when it is disillusionment with self as much as with another. Her great dedication--her scheme of life! She had been going to--what?--save Fiorsen from himself! It was laughable. She had only lost herself. Already she felt in prison, and by a child would be all the more bound. To some women, the knowledge that a thing must be brings assuagement of the nerves. Gyp was the opposite of those. To force her was the way to stiver up every contrary emotion. She might will herself to acquiesce, but--one cannot change one's nature.

And so, while the pigeons cooed and the sunlight warmed her feet, she spent the bitterest moments of her life--so far. Pride came to her help. She had made a miserable mess of it, but no one must know--certainly not her father, who had warned her so desperately! She had made her bed, and she would have to lie on it.

When Winton came back, he found her smiling, and said:

"I don't see the fascination, Gyp."

"Don't you think her face really rather perfect?"

"Common."

"Yes; but that drops off when she's dancing."

Winton looked at her from under half-closed eyelids.

"With her clothes? What does Fiorsen think of her?"

Gyp smiled.

"Does he think of her? I don't know."

She could feel the watchful tightening of his face. And suddenly he said:

"Daphne Wing! By George!"

The words were a masterpiece of resentment and distrust. His daughter in peril from--such as that!

After he was gone Gyp sat on till the sun had quite vanished and the dew was stealing through her thin frock. She would think of anything, anybody except herself! To make others happy was the way to be happy--or so they said. She would try--must try. Betty--so stout, and with that rheumatism in her leg--did she ever think of herself? Or Aunt Rosamund, with her perpetual rescuings of lost dogs, lame horses, and penniless musicians? And Dad, for all his man-of-the-world ways, was he not always doing little things for the men of his old regiment, always thinking of her, too, and what he could do to give her pleasure? To love everybody, and bring them happiness! Was it not possible? Only, people were hard to love, different from birds and beasts and flowers, to love which seemed natural and easy.

She went up to her room and began to dress for dinner. Which of her frocks did he like best? The pale, low-cut amber, or that white, soft one, with the coffee-dipped lace? She decided on the latter. Scrutinizing her supple, slender image in the glass, a shudder went through her. That would all go; she would be like those women taking careful exercise in the streets, who made her wonder at their hardihood in showing themselves. It wasn't fair that one must become unsightly, offensive to the eye, in order to bring life into the world. Some women seemed proud to be like that. How was that possible? She would never dare to show herself in the days coming.

She finished dressing and went downstairs. It was nearly eight, and Fiorsen had not come in. When the gong was struck, she turned from the window with a sigh, and went in to dinner. That sigh had been relief. She ate her dinner with the two pups beside her, sent them off, and sat down at her piano. She played Chopin--studies, waltzes, mazurkas, preludes, a polonaise or two. And Betty, who had a weakness for that composer, sat on a chair by the door which partitioned off the back premises, having opened it a little. She wished she could go and take a peep at her "pretty" in her white frock, with the candle-flames on each side, and those lovely lilies in the vase close by, smelling beautiful. And one of the maids coming too near, she shooed her angrily away.

It grew late. The tray had been brought up; the maids had gone to bed. Gyp had long stopped playing, had turned out, ready to go up, and, by the French window, stood gazing out into the dark. How warm it was--warm enough to draw forth the scent of the jessamine along the garden wall! Not a star. There always seemed so few stars in London. A sound made her swing round. Something tall was over there in the darkness, by the open door. She heard a sigh, and called out, frightened:

"Is that you, Gustav?"

He spoke some words that she could not understand. Shutting the window quickly, she went toward him. Light from the hall lit up one side of his face and figure. He was pale; his eyes shone strangely; his sleeve was all white. He said thickly:

"Little ghost!" and then some words that must be Swedish. It was the first time Gyp had ever come to close quarters with drunkenness. And her thought was simply: 'How awful if anybody were to see--how awful!' She made a rush to get into the hall and lock the door leading to the back regions, but he caught her frock, ripping the lace from her neck, and his entangled fingers clutched her shoulder. She stopped dead, fearing to make a noise or pull him over, and his other hand clutched her other shoulder, so that he stood steadying himself by her. Why was she not shocked, smitten to the ground with grief and shame and rage? She only felt: "What am I to do? How get him upstairs without anyone knowing?" And she looked up into his face--it seemed to her so pathetic with its shining eyes and its staring whiteness that she could have burst into tears. She said gently:

"Gustav, it's all right. Lean on me; we'll go up."

His hands, that seemed to have no power or purpose, touched her cheeks, mechanically caressing. More than disgust, she felt that awful pity. Putting her arm round his waist, she moved with him toward the stairs. If only no one heard; if only she could get him quietly up! And she murmured:

"Don't talk; you're not well. Lean on me hard."

He seemed to make a big effort; his lips puffed out, and with an expression of pride that would have been comic if not so tragic, he muttered something.

Holding him close with all her strength, as she might have held one desperately loved, she began to mount. It was easier than she had thought. Only across the landing now, into the bedroom, and then the danger would be over. Done! He was lying across the bed, and the door shut. Then, for a moment, she gave way to a fit of shivering so violent that she could hear her teeth chattering yet could not stop them. She caught sight of herself in the big mirror. Her pretty lace was all torn; her shoulders were red where his hands had gripped her, holding himself up. She threw off her dress, put on a wrapper, and went up to him. He was lying in a sort of stupor, and with difficulty she got him to sit up and lean against the bed-rail. Taking off his tie and collar, she racked her brains for what to give him. Sal volatile! Surely that must be right. It brought him to himself, so that he even tried to kiss her. At last he was in bed, and she stood looking at him. His eyes were closed; he would not see if she gave way now. But she would not cry--she would not. One sob came--but that was all. Well, there was nothing to be done now but get into bed too. She undressed, and turned out the light. He was in a stertorous sleep. And lying there, with eyes wide open, staring into the dark, a smile came on her lips--a very strange smile! She was thinking of all those preposterous young wives she had read of, who, blushing, trembling, murmur into the ears of their young husbands that they "have something--something to tell them!"

John Galsworthy