Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter VIII

Gyp had a wakeful night. The question she herself had raised, of telling Fiorsen, kept her thoughts in turmoil. Was he likely to divorce her if she did? His contempt for what he called 'these bourgeois morals,' his instability, the very unpleasantness, and offence to his vanity--all this would prevent him. No; he would not divorce her, she was sure, unless by any chance he wanted legal freedom, and that was quite unlikely. What then would be gained? Ease for her conscience? But had she any right to ease her conscience if it brought harm to her lover? And was it not ridiculous to think of conscience in regard to one who, within a year of marriage, had taken to himself a mistress, and not even spared the home paid for and supported by his wife? No; if she told Fiorsen, it would only be to salve her pride, wounded by doing what she did not avow. Besides, where was he? At the other end of the world for all she knew.

She came down to breakfast, dark under the eyes and no whit advanced toward decision. Neither of them mentioned their last night's talk, and Gyp went back to her room to busy herself with dress, after those weeks away. It was past noon when, at a muffled knock, she found Markey outside her door.

"Mr. Fiorsen, m'm."

Gyp beckoned him in, and closed the door.

"In the hall, m'm--slipped in when I answered the bell; short of shoving, I couldn't keep him out."

Gyp stood full half a minute before she said:

"Is my father in?"

"No, m'm; the major's gone to the fencin'-club."

"What did you say?"

"Said I would see. So far as I was aware, nobody was in. Shall I have a try to shift him, m'm?"

With a faint smile Gyp shook her head.

"Say no one can see him."

Markey's woodcock eyes, under their thin, dark, twisting brows, fastened on her dolefully; he opened the door to go. Fiorsen was standing there, and, with a quick movement, came in. She saw Markey raise his arms as if to catch him round the waist, and said quietly:

"Markey--wait outside, please."

When the door was shut, she retreated against her dressing-table and stood gazing at her husband, while her heart throbbed as if it would leap through its coverings.

He had grown a short beard, his cheeks seemed a little fatter, and his eyes surely more green; otherwise, he looked much as she remembered him. And the first thought that passed through her was: 'Why did I ever pity him? He'll never fret or drink himself to death--he's got enough vitality for twenty men.'

His face, which had worn a fixed, nervous smile, grew suddenly grave as her own, and his eyes roved round the room in the old half-fierce, half-furtive way.

"Well, Gyp," he said, and his voice shook a little: "At last! Won't you kiss me?"

The question seemed to Gyp idiotic; and suddenly she felt quite cool.

"If you want to speak to my father, you must come later; he's out."

Fiorsen gave one of his fierce shrugs.

"Is it likely? Look, Gyp! I returned from Russia yesterday. I was a great success, made a lot of money out there. Come back to me! I will be good--I swear it! Now I have seen you again, I can't be without you. Ah, Gyp, come back to me! And see how good I will be. I will take you abroad, you and the bambina. We will go to Rome--anywhere you like--live how you like. Only come back to me!"

Gyp answered stonily:

"You are talking nonsense."

"Gyp, I swear to you I have not seen a woman--not one fit to put beside you. Oh, Gyp, be good to me once more. This time I will not fail. Try me! Try me, my Gyp!"

Only at this moment of his pleading, whose tragic tones seemed to her both false and childish, did Gyp realize the strength of the new feeling in her heart. And the more that feeling throbbed within her, the harder her face and her voice grew. She said:

"If that is all you came to say--please go. I will never come back to you. Once for all, understand, please."

The silence in which he received her words, and his expression, impressed her far more than his appeal; with one of his stealthy movements he came quite close, and, putting his face forward till it almost touched her, said:

"You are my wife. I want you back. I must have you back. If you do not come, I will kill either you or myself."

And suddenly she felt his arms knotted behind her back, crushing her to him. She stilled a scream; then, very swiftly, took a resolve, and, rigid in his arms, said:

"Let go; you hurt me. Sit down quietly. I will tell you something."

The tone of her voice made him loosen his grasp and crane back to see her face. Gyp detached his arms from her completely, sat down on an old oak chest, and motioned him to the window-seat. Her heart thumped pitifully; cold waves of almost physical sickness passed through and through her. She had smelt brandy in his breath when he was close to her. It was like being in the cage of a wild beast; it was like being with a madman! The remembrance of him with his fingers stretched out like claws above her baby was so vivid at that moment that she could scarcely see him as he was, sitting there quietly, waiting for what she was going to say. And fixing her eyes on him, she said softly:

"You say you love me, Gustav. I tried to love you, too, but I never could--never from the first. I tried very hard. Surely you care what a woman feels, even if she happens to be your wife."

She could see his face quiver; and she went on:

"When I found I couldn't love you, I felt I had no right over you. I didn't stand on my rights. Did I?"

Again his face quivered, and again she hurried on:

"But you wouldn't expect me to go all through my life without ever feeling love--you who've felt it so many times?" Then, clasping her hands tight, with a sort of wonder at herself, she murmured: "I am in love. I've given myself."

He made a queer, whining sound, covering his face. And the beggar's tag: "'Ave a feelin' 'eart, gentleman--'ave a feelin' 'eart!" passed idiotically through Gyp's mind. Would he get up and strangle her? Should she dash to the door--escape? For a long, miserable moment, she watched him swaying on the window-seat, with his face covered. Then, without looking at her, he crammed a clenched hand up against his mouth, and rushed out.

Through the open door, Gyp had a glimpse of Markey's motionless figure, coming to life as Fiorsen passed. She drew a long breath, locked the door, and lay down on her bed. Her heart beat dreadfully. For a moment, something had checked his jealous rage. But if on this shock he began to drink, what might not happen? He had said something wild. And she shuddered. But what right had he to feel jealousy and rage against her? What right? She got up and went to the glass, trembling, mechanically tidying her hair. Miraculous that she had come through unscathed!

Her thoughts flew to Summerhay. They were to meet at three o'clock by the seat in St. James's Park. But all was different, now; difficult and dangerous! She must wait, take counsel with her father. And yet if she did not keep that tryst, how anxious he would be--thinking that all sorts of things had happened to her; thinking perhaps--oh, foolish!--that she had forgotten, or even repented of her love. What would she herself think, if he were to fail her at their first tryst after those days of bliss? Certainly that he had changed his mind, seen she was not worth it, seen that a woman who could give herself so soon, so easily, was one to whom he could not sacrifice his life.

In this cruel uncertainty, she spent the next two hours, till it was nearly three. If she did not go out, he would come on to Bury Street, and that would be still more dangerous. She put on her hat and walked swiftly towards St. James's Palace. Once sure that she was not being followed, her courage rose, and she passed rapidly down toward the water. She was ten minutes late, and seeing him there, walking up and down, turning his head every few seconds so as not to lose sight of the bench, she felt almost lightheaded from joy. When they had greeted with that pathetic casualness of lovers which deceives so few, they walked on together past Buckingham Palace, up into the Green Park, beneath the trees. During this progress, she told him about her father; but only when they were seated in that comparative refuge, and his hand was holding hers under cover of the sunshade that lay across her knee, did she speak of Fiorsen.

He tightened his grasp of her hand; then, suddenly dropping it, said:

"Did he touch you, Gyp?"

Gyp heard that question with a shock. Touch her! Yes! But what did it matter?

He made a little shuddering sound; and, wondering, mournful, she looked at him. His hands and teeth were clenched. She said softly:

"Bryan! Don't! I wouldn't let him kiss me."

He seemed to have to force his eyes to look at her.

"It's all right," he said, and, staring before him, bit his nails.

Gyp sat motionless, cut to the heart. She was soiled, and spoiled for him! Of course! And yet a sense of injustice burned in her. Her heart had never been touched; it was his utterly. But that was not enough for a man--he wanted an untouched body, too. That she could not give; he should have thought of that sooner, instead of only now. And, miserably, she, too, stared before her, and her face hardened.

A little boy came and stood still in front of them, regarding her with round, unmoving eyes. She was conscious of a slice of bread and jam in his hand, and that his mouth and cheeks were smeared with red. A woman called out: "Jacky! Come on, now!" and he was hauled away, still looking back, and holding out his bread and jam as though offering her a bite. She felt Summerhay's arm slipping round her.

"It's over, darling. Never again--I promise you!"

Ah, he might promise--might even keep that promise. But he would suffer, always suffer, thinking of that other. And she said:

"You can only have me as I am, Bryan. I can't make myself new for you; I wish I could--oh, I wish I could!"

"I ought to have cut my tongue out first! Don't think of it! Come home to me and have tea--there's no one there. Ah, do, Gyp--come!"

He took her hands and pulled her up. And all else left Gyp but the joy of being close to him, going to happiness.

John Galsworthy