“I’ve had a fearful time. My baby was stolen by him while I was with you. He wrote me a letter saying that he would give her back to me if I gave you up. But I found I couldn’t give you up, not even for my baby. And then, a few minutes ago, he brought her—none the worse. Tomorrow we shall all go down to Mildenham; but very soon, if you still want me, I’ll come with you wherever you like. My father and Betty will take care of my treasure till we come back; and then, perhaps, the old red house we saw—after all. Only—now is the time for you to draw back. Look into the future—look far! Don’t let any foolish pity—or honour—weigh with you; be utterly sure, I do beseech you. I can just bear it now if I know it’s for your good. But afterward it’ll be too late. It would be the worst misery of all if I made you unhappy. Oh, make sure—make sure! I shall understand. I mean this with every bit of me. And now, good-night, and perhaps—good-bye.
She read it over and shivered. Did she really mean that she could bear it if he drew back—if he did look far, far into the future, and decided that she was not worth the candle? Ah, but better now—than later.
She closed and sealed the letter, and sat down to wait for her father. And she thought: ’Why does one have a heart? Why is there in one something so much too soft?’
Ten days later, at Mildenham station, holding her father’s hand, Gyp could scarcely see him for the mist before her eyes. How good he had been to her all those last days, since she told him that she was going to take the plunge! Not a word of remonstrance or complaint.
“Good-bye, my love! Take care of yourself; wire from London, and again from Paris.” And, smiling up at her, he added: “He has luck; I had none.”
The mist became tears, rolled down, fell on his glove.
“Not too long out there, Gyp!”
She pressed her wet cheek passionately to his. The train moved, but, so long as she could see, she watched him standing on the platform, waving his grey hat, then, in her corner, sat down, blinded with tears behind her veil. She had not cried when she left him the day of her fatal marriage; she cried now that she was leaving him to go to her incredible happiness.
Strange! But her heart had grown since then.
Little Gyp, aged nearly four and a half that first of May, stood at the edge of the tulip border, bowing to two hen turkeys who were poking their heads elegantly here and there among the flowers. She was absurdly like her mother, the same oval-shaped face, dark arched brows, large and clear brown eyes; but she had the modern child’s open-air look; her hair, that curled over at the ends, was not allowed to be long, and her polished brown legs were bare to the knees.