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Chapter XIX

Gyp hardly slept at all. Three times she got up, and, stealing to the door, looked in at her sleeping baby, whose face in its new bed she could just see by the night-light's glow. The afternoon had shaken her nerves. Nor was Betty's method of breathing while asleep conducive to the slumber of anything but babies. It was so hot, too, and the sound of the violin still in her ears. By that little air of Poise, she had known for certain it was Fiorsen; and her father's abrupt drawing of the curtains had clinched that certainty. If she had gone to the window and seen him, she would not have been half so deeply disturbed as she was by that echo of an old emotion. The link which yesterday she thought broken for good was reforged in some mysterious way. The sobbing of that old fiddle had been his way of saying, "Forgive me; forgive!" To leave him would have been so much easier if she had really hated him; but she did not. However difficult it may be to live with an artist, to hate him is quite as difficult. An artist is so flexible--only the rigid can be hated. She hated the things he did, and him when he was doing them; but afterward again could hate him no more than she could love him, and that was--not at all. Resolution and a sense of the practical began to come back with daylight. When things were hopeless, it was far better to recognize it and harden one's heart.

Winton, whose night had been almost as sleepless--to play like a beggar in the street, under his windows, had seemed to him the limit!--announced at breakfast that he must see his lawyer, make arrangements for the payment of Fiorsen's debts, and find out what could be done to secure Gyp against persecution. Some deed was probably necessary; he was vague on all such matters. In the meantime, neither Gyp nor the baby must go out. Gyp spent the morning writing and rewriting to Monsieur Harmost, trying to express her chagrin, but not saying that she had left Fiorsen.

Her father came back from Westminster quiet and angry. He had with difficulty been made to understand that the baby was Fiorsen's property, so that, if the fellow claimed it, legally they would be unable to resist. The point opened the old wound, forced him to remember that his own daughter had once belonged to another-- father. He had told the lawyer in a measured voice that he would see the fellow damned first, and had directed a deed of separation to be prepared, which should provide for the complete payment of Fiorsen's existing debts on condition that he left Gyp and the baby in peace. After telling Gyp this, he took an opportunity of going to the extempore nursery and standing by the baby's cradle. Until then, the little creature had only been of interest as part of Gyp; now it had for him an existence of its own--this tiny, dark-eyed creature, lying there, watching him so gravely, clutching his finger. Suddenly the baby smiled--not a beautiful smile, but it made on Winton an indelible impression.

Wishing first to settle this matter of the deed, he put off going down to Mildenham; but "not trusting those two scoundrels a yard"-- for he never failed to bracket Rosek and Fiorsen--he insisted that the baby should not go out without two attendants, and that Gyp should not go out alone. He carried precaution to the point of accompanying her to Monsieur Harmost's on the Friday afternoon, and expressed a wish to go in and shake hands with the old fellow. It was a queer meeting. Those two had as great difficulty in finding anything to say as though they were denizens of different planets. And indeed, there are two planets on this earth! When, after a minute or so of the friendliest embarrassment, he had retired to wait for her, Gyp sat down to her lesson.

Monsieur Harmost said quietly:

"Your letter was very kind, my little friend--and your father is very kind. But, after all, it was a compliment your husband paid me." His smile smote Gyp; it seemed to sum up so many resignations. "So you stay again with your father!" And, looking at her very hard with his melancholy brown eyes, "When will you find your fate, I wonder?"

"Never!"

Monsieur Harmost's eyebrows rose.

"Ah," he said, "you think! No, that is impossible!" He walked twice very quickly up and down the room; then spinning round on his heel, said sharply: "Well, we must not waste your father's time. To work."

Winton's simple comment in the cab on the way home was:

"Nice old chap!"

At Bury Street, they found Gyp's agitated parlour-maid. Going to do the music-room that morning, she had "found the master sitting on the sofa, holding his head, and groaning awful. He's not been at home, ma'am, since you--you went on your visit, so I didn't know what to do. I ran for cook and we got him up to bed, and not knowing where you'd be, ma'am, I telephoned to Count Rosek, and he came--I hope I didn't do wrong--and he sent me down to see you. The doctor says his brain's on the touch and go, and he keeps askin' for you, ma'am. So I didn't know what to do."

Gyp, pale to the lips, said:

"Wait here a minute, Ellen," and went into the dining-room. Winton followed. She turned to him at once, and said:

"Oh, Dad, what am I to do? His brain! It would be too awful to feel I'd brought that about."

Winton grunted. Gyp went on:

"I must go and see. If it's really that, I couldn't bear it. I'm afraid I must go, Dad."

Winton nodded.

"Well, I'll come too," he said. "The girl can go back in the cab and say we're on the way."

Taking a parting look at her baby, Gyp thought bitterly: 'My fate? This is my fate, and no getting out of it!' On the journey, she and Winton were quite silent--but she held his hand tight. While the cook was taking up to Rosek the news of their arrival, Gyp stood looking out at her garden. Two days and six hours only since she had stood there above her pansies; since, at this very spot, Rosek had kissed her throat! Slipping her hand through Winton's arm, she said:

"Dad, please don't make anything of that kiss. He couldn't help himself, I suppose. What does it matter, too?"

A moment later Rosek entered. Before she could speak, Winton was saying:

"Thank you for letting us know, sir. But now that my daughter is here, there will be no further need for your kind services. Good- day!"

At the cruel curtness of those words, Gyp gave the tiniest start forward. She had seen them go through Rosek's armour as a sword through brown paper. He recovered himself with a sickly smile, bowed, and went out. Winton followed--precisely as if he did not trust him with the hats in the hall. When the outer door was shut, he said:

"I don't think he'll trouble you again."

Gyp's gratitude was qualified by a queer compassion. After all, his offence had only been that of loving her.

Fiorsen had been taken to her room, which was larger and cooler than his own; and the maid was standing by the side of the bed with a scared face. Gyp signed to her to go. He opened his eyes presently:

"Gyp! Oh! Gyp! Is it you? The devilish, awful things I see-- don't go away again! Oh, Gyp!" With a sob he raised himself and rested his forehead against her. And Gyp felt--as on the first night he came home drunk--a merging of all other emotions in the desire to protect and heal.

"It's all right, all right," she murmured. "I'm going to stay. Don't worry about anything. Keep quite quiet, and you'll soon be well."

In a quarter of an hour, he was asleep. His wasted look went to her heart, and that expression of terror which had been coming and going until he fell asleep! Anything to do with the brain was so horrible! Only too clear that she must stay--that his recovery depended on her. She was still sitting there, motionless, when the doctor came, and, seeing him asleep, beckoned her out. He looked a kindly man, with two waistcoats, the top one unbuttoned; and while he talked, he winked at Gyp involuntarily, and, with each wink, Gyp felt that he ripped the veil off one more domestic secret. Sleep was the ticket--the very ticket for him! Had something on his mind--yes! And--er--a little given to--brandy? Ah! all that must stop! Stomach as well as nerves affected. Seeing things--nasty things--sure sign. Perhaps not a very careful life before marriage. And married--how long? His kindly appreciative eyes swept Gyp from top to toe. Year and a half! Quite so! Hard worker at his violin, too? No doubt! Musicians always a little inclined to be immoderate--too much sense of beauty--burn the candle at both ends! She must see to that. She had been away, had she not--staying with her father? Yes. But--no one like a wife for nursing. As to treatment? Well! One would shove in a dash of what he would prescribe, night and morning. Perfect quiet. No stimulant. A little cup of strong coffee without milk, if he seemed low. Keep him in bed at present. No worry; no excitement. Young man still. Plenty of vitality. As to herself, no undue anxiety. To-morrow they would see whether a night nurse would be necessary. Above all, no violin for a month, no alcohol--in every way the strictest moderation! And with a last and friendliest wink, leaning heavily on that word "moderation," he took out a stylographic pen, scratched on a leaf of his note-book, shook Gyp's hand, smiled whimsically, buttoned his upper waistcoat, and departed.

Gyp went back to her seat by the bed. Irony! She whose only desire was to be let go free, was mainly responsible for his breakdown! But for her, there would be nothing on his mind, for he would not be married! Brooding morbidly, she asked herself--his drinking, debts, even the girl--had she caused them, too? And when she tried to free him and herself--this was the result! Was there something fatal about her that must destroy the men she had to do with? She had made her father unhappy, Monsieur Harmost--Rosek, and her husband! Even before she married, how many had tried for her love, and gone away unhappy! And, getting up, she went to a mirror and looked at herself long and sadly.

John Galsworthy