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Chapter 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!

John Galsworthy