In the days that followed, she gave no sign, uttered no word in any way suggesting that she meant to go against his wishes. Fiorsen might not have existed, for any mention made of him. But Winton knew well that she was moping, and cherishing some feeling against himself. And this he could not bear. So, one evening, after dinner, he said quietly:
“Tell me frankly, Gyp; do you care for that chap?”
She answered as quietly:
“In a way—yes.”
“Is that enough?”
“I don’t know, Dad.”
Her lips had quivered; and Winton’s heart softened, as it always did when he saw her moved. He put his hand out, covered one of hers, and said:
“I shall never stand in the way of your happiness, Gyp. But it must be happiness. Can it possibly be that? I don’t think so. You know what they said of him out there?”
He had not thought she knew. And his heart sank.
“That’s pretty bad, you know. And is he of our world at all?”
Gyp looked up.
“Do you think I belong to ‘our world,’ Dad?”
Winton turned away. She followed, slipping her hand under his arm.
“I didn’t mean to hurt. But it’s true, isn’t it? I don’t belong among society people. They wouldn’t have me, you know—if they knew about what you told me. Ever since that I’ve felt I don’t belong to them. I’m nearer him. Music means more to me than anything!”
Winton gave her hand a convulsive grip. A sense of coming defeat and bereavement was on him.
“If your happiness went wrong, Gyp, I should be most awfully cut up.”
“But why shouldn’t I be happy, Dad?”
“If you were, I could put up with anyone. But, I tell you, I can’t believe you would be. I beg you, my dear—for God’s sake, make sure. I’ll put a bullet into the man who treats you badly.”
Gyp laughed, then kissed him. But they were silent. At bedtime he said:
“We’ll go up to town to-morrow.”
Whether from a feeling of the inevitable, or from the forlorn hope that seeing more of the fellow might be the only chance of curing her—he put no more obstacles in the way.
And the queer courtship began again. By Christmas she had consented, still under the impression that she was the mistress, not the slave—the cat, not the bird. Once or twice, when Fiorsen let passion out of hand and his overbold caresses affronted her, she recoiled almost with dread from what she was going toward. But, in general, she lived elated, intoxicated by music and his adoration, withal remorseful that she was making her father sad. She was but little at Mildenham, and he, in his unhappiness, was there nearly all the time, riding extra hard, and leaving Gyp with his sister. Aunt Rosamund, though under the spell of Fiorsen’s music, had agreed with her brother that Fiorsen was “impossible.” But nothing she said made any effect on Gyp. It was new and startling to discover in this soft, sensitive girl such a vein of stubbornness. Opposition seemed to harden her resolution. And the good lady’s natural optimism began to persuade her that Gyp would make a silk purse out of that sow’s ear yet. After all, the man was a celebrity in his way!