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Chapter XII

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

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

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

"I must go home, Dad."

The word "home" hurt him, and he only answered:

"Very well, Gyp; when?"

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

"Very well; I'll take you up."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And I've turned the water in, m'm. Will you have a little mustard in it?"

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

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

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

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

      "Be it ne-e-ver so humble,
        There's no-o place like home!"

John Galsworthy