Rosek began playing, his eyes fixed on the girl, and his mouth loosened from compression in a sweetish smile. Miss Daphne Wing was standing with her finger-tips joined at her breast—a perfect statue of ebony and palest wax. Suddenly she flung away the black kimono. A thrill swept Gyp from head to foot. She could dance—that common little girl! Every movement of her round, sinuous body, of her bare limbs, had the ecstasy of natural genius, controlled by the quivering balance of a really fine training. “A dove flying!” So she was. Her face had lost its vacancy, or rather its vacancy had become divine, having that look—not lost but gone before—which dance demands. Yes, she was a gem, even if she had a common soul. Tears came up in Gyp’s eyes. It was so lovely—like a dove, when it flings itself up in the wind, breasting on up, up—wings bent back, poised. Abandonment, freedom—chastened, shaped, controlled!
When, after the dance, the girl came and sat down beside her, she squeezed her hot little hand, but the caress was for her art, not for this moist little person with the lips avid of sugar-plums.
“Oh, did you like it? I’m so glad. Shall I go and put on my flame-colour, now?”
The moment she was gone, comment broke out freely. The dark and cynical Gallant thought the girl’s dancing like a certain Napierkowska whom he had seen in Moscow, without her fire—the touch of passion would have to be supplied. She wanted love! Love! And suddenly Gyp was back in the concert-hall, listening to that other girl singing the song of a broken heart.
“Thy kiss, dear
—Like watercress gathered fresh from cool streams.”
Love! in this abode—of fauns’ heads, deep cushions, silver dancing girls! Love! She had a sudden sense of deep abasement. What was she, herself, but just a feast for a man’s senses? Her home, what but a place like this? Miss Daphne Wing was back again. Gyp looked at her husband’s face while she was dancing. His lips! How was it that she could see that disturbance in him, and not care? If she had really loved him, to see his lips like that would have hurt her, but she might have understood perhaps, and forgiven. Now she neither quite understood nor quite forgave.
And that night, when he kissed her, she murmured:
“Would you rather it were that girl—not me?”
“That girl! I could swallow her at a draft. But you, my Gyp—I want to drink for ever!”
Was that true? If she had loved him—how good to hear!