Suppose she said: “Yes, go!” She made a little movement, as if in protest, and without looking at him, answered very low:
“Of course I don’t want you to go. How could I?”
“Then you do love me?”
She turned her face away.
“Wait, please. Wait a little longer. When we come back I’ll tell you: I promise!”
“A month. Is that long? Please! It’s not easy for me.” She smiled faintly, lifted her eyes to him just for a second. “Please not any more now.”
That evening at his club, through the bluish smoke of cigarette after cigarette, he saw her face as she had lifted it for that one second; and now he was in heaven, now in hell.
The verandahed bungalow on the South Coast, built and inhabited by an artist friend of Aunt Rosamund’s, had a garden of which the chief feature was one pine-tree which had strayed in advance of the wood behind. The little house stood in solitude, just above a low bank of cliff whence the beach sank in sandy ridges. The verandah and thick pine wood gave ample shade, and the beach all the sun and sea air needful to tan little Gyp, a fat, tumbling soul, as her mother had been at the same age, incurably fond and fearless of dogs or any kind of beast, and speaking words already that required a glossary.
At night, Gyp, looking from her bedroom through the flat branches of the pine, would get a feeling of being the only creature in the world. The crinkled, silvery sea, that lonely pine-tree, the cold moon, the sky dark corn-flower blue, the hiss and sucking rustle of the surf over the beach pebbles, even the salt, chill air, seemed lonely. By day, too—in the hazy heat when the clouds merged, scarce drifting, into the blue, and the coarse sea-grass tufts hardly quivered, and sea-birds passed close above the water with chuckle and cry—it all often seemed part of a dream. She bathed, and grew as tanned as her little daughter, a regular Gypsy, in her broad hat and linen frocks; and yet she hardly seemed to be living down here at all, for she was never free of the memory of that last meeting with Summerhay. Why had he spoken and put an end to their quiet friendship, and left her to such heart-searchings all by herself? But she did not want his words unsaid. Only, how to know whether to recoil and fly, or to pass beyond the dread of letting herself go, of plunging deep into the unknown depths of love—of that passion, whose nature for the first time she had tremulously felt, watching “Pagliacci”—and had ever since been feeling and trembling at! Must it really be neck or nothing? Did she care enough to break through all barriers, fling herself into midstream? When they could see each other every day, it was so easy to live for the next meeting—not think of what was coming after. But now, with all else cut away, there was only the future to think about—hers and his. But need she trouble about his? Would he not just love her as long as he liked?