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Chapter 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!

John Galsworthy