Part 2 out of 6
"Really!" she said.
"Yes, I do." And he set his teeth--certainly she was difficult!
"That is fortunate for you, since you are going to do so."
This was not encouraging; it was also unexpected.
"Yes, I am," he answered, "on the 25th of October, with your
"I have already consented." And she clasped her hands.
"May I sit down beside you and talk?" he asked.
She pointed to a Louis XVI. _bergere_ which stood opposite, and herself
took a small armchair at the other side of the fire.
So they sat down, she gazing into the blazing coals and he gazing at
her. She was facing the gloomy afternoon light, though she did not think
out these things like her uncle, so he had a clear and wonderful picture
of her. "How could so voluptuous looking a creature be so icily cold?"
he wondered. Her wonderful hair seemed burnished like dark copper, in
the double light of fire and day, and that gardenia skin looked fit to
eat. He was thrilled with a mad desire to kiss her; he had never felt so
strong an emotion towards a woman in his life.
"Your uncle tells me you are going away to-morrow, and that you will be
away until a week before our wedding. I wish you were not going to be,
but I suppose you must--for clothes and things."
"Yes, I must."
He got up; he could not sit still, he was too wildly excited; he stood
leaning on the mantelpiece, quite close to her, for a moment, his eyes
devouring her with the passionate admiration he felt. She glanced up,
and when she saw their expression her jet brows met, while a look of
infinite disgust crept over her face.
So it had come--so soon! He was just like all men--a hateful, sensual
beast. She knew he desired to kiss her--to kiss a person he did not
know! Her experience of life had not encouraged her to make the least
allowance for the instinct of man. For her, that whole side of human
beings was simply revolting. In the far back recesses of her mind she
knew and felt that caresses and such things might be good if one
loved--passionately loved--but in the abstract, just because of the
attraction of sex, they were hideous. No man had ever had the conceded
tip of her little finger, although she had been forced to submit to
unspeakable exhibitions of passion from Ladislaus, her husband.
For her, Tristram appeared a satyr, but she was no timid nymph, but a
fierce panther ready to defend herself!
He saw her look and drew back--cooled.
The thing was going to be much more difficult than he had even thought;
he must keep himself under complete control, he knew now. So he turned
away to the window and glanced out on the wet park.
"My mother called upon you to-day, I believe," he said. "I asked her not
to expect you to be at home. It was only to show you that my family will
welcome you with affection."
"It is very good of them."
"The announcement of the engagement will be in the _Morning Post_
to-morrow. Do you mind?"
"Why should I mind?" (her voice evinced surprise). "Since it is true,
the formalities must take place."
"It seems as if it could not be true. You are so frightfully frigid," he
said with faint resentment.
"I cannot help how I am," she said in a tone of extreme hauteur. "I have
consented to marry you. I will go through with all the necessary
ceremonies, the presentations to your family, and such affairs; but I
have nothing to say to you: why should we talk when once these things
are settled? You must accept me as I am, or leave me alone--that is
all"--and then her temper made her add, in spite of her uncle's warning,
"for I do not care!"
He turned now; he was a little angry and nearly flared up, but the sight
of her standing there, magnificently attractive, stopped him. This was
merely one of the phases of the game; he should not allow himself to be
worsted by such speeches.
"I expect you don't, but I do," he said. "I am quite willing to take you
as you are, or will be."
"Then that is all that need be said," she answered coldly. "Arrange with
my uncle when you wish me to see your family on my return; I will carry
out what he settles. And now I need not detain you, and will say
good-bye." And bowing to him she walked towards the door.
"I am sorry you feel you want to go so soon," he said, as he sprang
forward to open it for her, "but good-bye." And he let her pass without
When he was alone in the room he realized that he had not given her the
engagement ring, which still reposed in his pocket!
He looked round for a writing table, and finding one, sat down and wrote
her a few words.
"I meant to give you this ring. If you don't like sapphires it can be
changed. Please wear it, and believe me to be
He put the note with the little ring-case, inclosed both in a large
envelope, and then he rang the bell.
"Send this up to the Countess Shulski," he said to the footman who
presently came. "And is my motor at the door?"
It was, so he descended the stairs.
"To Glastonbury House," he ordered his chauffeur. Then he leaned back
against the cushions, no look of satisfaction upon his face.
Ethelrida might be having tea, and she was always so soothing and
Yes, her ladyship was at home, and he was shown up into his cousin's own
Lady Ethelrida Montfitchet had kept house for her father, the Duke of
Glastonbury, ever since she was sixteen when her mother had died, and
she acted as hostess at the ducal parties, with the greatest success.
She was about twenty-five now, and one of the sweetest of young women.
She was very tall, rather plain, and very distinguished.
Francis Markrute thought her beautiful. He was fond of analyzing types
and breeds, and he said there were those who looked as if they had been
poured into more or less fine or clumsy mould, and there were others who
were sharply carved as with a knife. He loved a woman's face to look
_ciselee_, he said. That is why he did not entirely admire his niece,
for although the mould was of the finest in her case, her small nose was
not chiseled. Numbers of English and some Austrians were chiseled, he
affirmed--showing their race--but very few of other nations.
Now some people would have said the Lady Ethelrida was too chiseled--she
might grow peaky, with old age. But no one could deny the extreme
refinement of the young woman.
She was strikingly fair, with silvery light hair that had no yellow in
it; and kind, wise, gray eyes. Her figure in its slenderness was a thing
which dressmakers adored; there was so little of it that any frock could
be made to look well on it.
Lady Ethelrida did everything with moderation. She was not mad about any
sport or any fad. She loved her father, her aunt, her cousins of the
Tancred family, and her friend, Lady Anningford. She was, in short, a
fine character and a great lady.
"I have come to tell you such a piece of news, Ethelrida," Tristram said
as he sat down beside her on the chintz-covered sofa. Ethelrida's tastes
in furniture and decorations were of the simplest in her own room.
"Guess what it is!"
"How can I, Tristram? Mary is really going to marry Lord Henry?"
"Not that I know of as yet, but I daresay she will, some day. No, guess
again; it is about a marriage."
She poured him out some tea and indicated the bread and butter.
Tristram, she knew, loved her stillroom maid's brown bread and butter.
"A man, or a woman?" she asked, meditatively.
"A man--ME!" he said, with reckless grammar.
"You, Tristram!" Ethelrida exclaimed, with as much excitement as she
ever permitted herself. "You going to be married! But to whom?"
The thing seemed too preposterous; and her mind had instantly flown to
the name, Laura Highford, before her reason said, "How ridiculous--she
is married already!"--so she repeated again: "But to whom?"
"I am going to be married to a widow, a niece of Francis Markrute's; you
know him." Lady Ethelrida nodded. "She is the most wonderfully
attractive creature you ever saw, Ethelrida, a type not like any one
else. You'll understand in a minute, when you see her. She has stormy
black eyes--no, they are not really black; they are slate color--and red
hair, and a white face, and, by Jove! a figure! And do you know, my dear
child, I believe I am awfully in love with her!"
"You only 'believe,' Tristram! That sounds odd to be going to be married
upon!" Lady Ethelrida could not help smiling.
He sipped his tea and then jumped up. He was singularly restless to-day.
"She is the kind of woman a man would go perfectly mad about when he
knew her well. I shall, I know." Then, as he saw his cousin's humorous
expression, he laughed boyishly. "It does sound odd, I admit," he said,
"the inference is that I don't know her well--and that is just it,
Ethelrida, but only to you would I say it. Look here, my dear girl, I
have got to be comforted this afternoon. She has just flattened me out.
We are going to be married on the 25th of October, and I want you to be
awfully nice to her. I am sure she has had a rottenly unhappy life."
"Of course I will, Tristram dear," said Lady Ethelrida, "but remember, I
am completely in the dark. When did you meet her? Can't you tell me
something more? Then I will be as sympathetic as you please."
So Lord Tancred sat down on the sofa beside her again, and told her the
bare facts: that it was rather sudden, but he was convinced it was what
he wanted most to do in life; that she was young and beautiful, rich,
and very reserved, and rather cold; that she was going away, until a
week before the wedding; that he knew it sounded all mad, but his dear
Ethelrida was to be a darling, and to understand and not reason with
And she did not. She had gathered enough from this rather incoherent
recital to make her see that some very deep and unusual current must
have touched her cousin's life. She knew the Tancred character, so she
said all sorts of nice things to him, asked interested but not
indiscreet questions. And soon that irritated and baffled sense left
him, and he became calm.
"I want Uncle Glastonbury to ask Francis Markrute to the shoot on the
2nd of November, Ethelrida," he said, "and you will let me bring
Zara--she will be my wife by then--although I was asked only as a
"It is my party, not Papa's, you dear old goose, you know that," Lady
Ethelrida said. "Of course you shall bring your Zara and I myself will
write and ask Mr. Markrute. In spite of Aunt Jane's saying that he is a
cynical foreigner I like him!"
Society was absolutely flabbergasted when it read in the _Morning Post_
the announcement of Lord Tancred's engagement! No one had heard a word
about it. There had been talk of his going to Canada, and much chaff
upon that subject--so ridiculous, Tancred emigrating! But of a
prospective bride the most gossip-loving busybody at White's had never
heard! It fell like a bombshell. And Lady Highford, as she read the
news, clenched her pointed teeth, and gave a little squeal like a stoat.
So he had drifted beyond her, after all! He had often warned her he
would, at the finish of one of those scenes she was so fond of creating.
It was true then, when he had told her before Cowes that everything must
be over. She had thought his silence since had only been sulking! But
who was the creature? "Countess Shulski." Was it a Polish or Hungarian
name? "Daughter of the late Maurice Grey." Which Grey was that? "Niece
of Francis Markrute, Esquire, of Park Lane." Here was the reason--money!
How disgusting men were! They would sell their souls for money. But the
woman should suffer for this, and Tristram, too, if she could manage it!
Then she wept some tears of rage. He was so adorably good looking and
had been such a feather in her cap, although she had never been really
sure of him. It was a mercy her conduct had always been of such an
immaculate character--in public--no one could say a word. And now she
must act the dear, generous, congratulating friend.
So she had a dose of sal volatile and dressed, with extra care, to lunch
at Glastonbury House. There she might hear all the details; only
Ethelrida was so superior, and uninterested in news or gossip.
There was a party of only five assembled, when she arrived--she was
always a little late. The Duke and Lady Ethelrida, Constance Radcliffe,
and two men: an elderly politician, and another cousin of the family.
She could certainly chatter about Tristram, and hear all she could.
They were no sooner seated than she began:
"Is not this wonderful news about your nephew, Duke? No one expected it
of him just now, though I as one of his best friends have been urging
him to marry, for the last two years. Dear Lady Tancred must be so
"I am sure you gave him good counsel," said the Duke, screwing his
eyeglass which he wore on a long black ribbon into his whimsical old
blue eye. "But Tristram's a tender mouth, and a bit of a bolter--got to
ride him on the snaffle, not the curb."
Lady Highford looked down at her plate, while she gave an answer quite
at variance with her own methods.
"Snaffle or curb, no one would ever try to guide Lord Tancred! And what
is the charming lady like? You all know her, of course?"
"Why, no," said His Grace. "The uncle, Mr. Markrute, dined here the
other night. He's been very useful to the Party, in a quiet way and
seems a capital fellow--but Ethelrida and I have never met the niece. Of
course, no one has been in town since the season, and she was not here
then. We only came up, like you, for Flora's wedding, and go down
"This is thrilling!" said Lady Highford. "An unknown bride! Have you not
even heard what she is like--young or old? A widow always sounds so
"I am told that she is perfectly beautiful," said Lady Ethelrida from
the other side of the table--there had been a pause--"and Tristram seems
so happy. She is quite young, and very rich."
She had always been amiably friendly and indifferent to Laura Highford.
It was Ethelrida's way to have no likes and dislikes for the general
circle of her friends; her warm attachment was given to so very few, and
the rest were just all of a band. Perhaps if she felt anything definite
it was a tinge on the side of dislike for Laura. Thinking to please
Tristram at the time she had asked her to this, her birthday party, when
they had met at Cowes in August, and now she was faced with the problem
how to put her off, since Tristram and his bride would be coming. She
saw the glint in the light hazel eyes as she described the fiance and
her kind heart at once made her determine to turn the conversation.
After all, it was perfectly natural for poor Laura to have been in love
with Tristram--no one could be more attractive--and, of course, it must
hurt her--this marriage. She would reserve the "putting off," until they
left the dining-room and she could speak to her alone. So with her
perfect tact and easy grace she diverted the current of conversation to
the political situation, and luncheon went on.
But this was not what Lady Highford had come for. She wanted to hear
everything she could about her rival, in order to lay her plans; and the
moment Ethelrida was engaged with the politician and the Duke had
turned to Mrs. Radcliffe, she tackled the cousin, in a lower voice.
He, Jimmy Danvers, had only read what she had, that morning. He had seen
Tristram at the Turf on Tuesday after lunch--the day before
yesterday--and he had only talked of Canada--and not a word of a lady
then. It was a bolt from the blue. "And when I telephoned to the old boy
this morning," he said, "and asked him to take me to call upon his
damsel to-day, he told me she had gone to Paris and would not be back
until a week before the wedding!"
"How very mysterious!" piped Laura. "Tristram is off to Paris, too,
then, I suppose?"
"He did not say; he seemed in the deuce of a hurry and put the receiver
"He is probably only doing it for money, poor darling boy!" she said
sympathetically. "It was quite necessary for him."
"Oh, that's not Tristram's measure," Sir James Danvers interrupted.
"He'd never do anything for money. I thought you knew him awfully well,"
he added, surprised. Apprehension of situations was not one of his
"Of course I do!" Laura snapped out and then laughed. "But you men!
Money would tempt any of you!"
"You may bet your last farthing, Lady Highford, Tristram is in
love--crazy, if you ask me--he'd not have been so silent about it all
otherwise. The Canada affair was probably because she was playing the
poor old chap,--and now she's given in; and that, of course, is
Money, as the motive, Lady Highford could have borne, but, to hear
about love drove her wild! Her little pink and white face with its
carefully arranged childish setting suddenly looked old and strained,
while her eyes grew yellow in the light.
"They won't be happy long, then!" she said. "Tristram could not be
faithful to any one."
"I don't think he's ever been in love before, so we can't judge," the
blundering cousin continued, now with malice prepense. "He's had lots of
little affairs, but they have only been 'come and go.'"
Lady Highford crumbled her bread and then turned to the Duke--there was
nothing further to be got out of this quarter. Finally luncheon came to
an end, and the three ladies went up to Ethelrida's sitting-room. Mrs.
Radcliffe presently took her leave to catch a train, so the two were
"I am so looking forward to your party, dear Ethelrida," Lady Highford
cooed. "I am going back to Hampshire to-morrow, but at the end of the
month I come up again and will be with you in Norfolk on the 2nd."
"I was just wondering," said Lady Ethelrida, "if, after all, you would
not be bored, Laura? Your particular friends, the Sedgeworths, have had
to throw us over--his father being dead. It will be rather a family sort
of collection, and not so amusing this year, I am afraid. Em and Mary,
Tristram and his new bride,--and Mr. Markrute, the uncle--and the rest
as I told you."
"Why, my dear child, it sounds delightful! I shall long to meet the new
Lady Tancred! Tristram and I are such dear friends, poor darling boy! I
must write and tell him how delighted I am with the news. Do you know
where he is at the moment?"
"He is in London, I believe. Then you really will stick to us and not be
bored? How sweet of you!" Lady Ethelrida said without a change in her
level voice while her thoughts ran: "It is very plucky of Laura; or, she
has some plan! In any case I can't prevent her coming now, and perhaps
it is best to get it over. But I had better warn Tristram, surprises are
Then, after a good deal of gush about "dear Lady Tancred's" prospective
happiness in having a daughter-in-law, and "dear Tristram," Lady
Highford's motor was announced, and she went.
And when she had gone Lady Ethelrida sat down and wrote her cousin a
note. Just to tell him in case she did not see him before she went back
to the country to-morrow that her list, which she enclosed, was made up
for her November party, but if he would like any one else for his bride
to meet, he was to say so. She added that some friends had been to
luncheon, and among them Laura Highford, who had said the nicest things
and wished him every happiness.
Lady Ethelrida was not deceived about these wishes, but she could do no
The Duke came into her room, just as she was finishing, and warmed
himself by her wood fire.
"The woman is a cat, Ethelrida," he said without any preamble. These two
understood each other so well, they often seemed to begin in the middle
of a sentence, of which no outsider could grasp the meaning.
"I am afraid she is, Papa. I have just been writing to Tristram, to let
him know she still insists upon coming to the shoot. She can't do
anything there, and they may as well get it over. She will have to be
civil to the new Lady Tancred in our house."
"Whew!" whistled the Duke, "you may have an exciting party. You had
better go and leave our cards to-day on the Countess Shulski, and
another of mine, as well, for the uncle. We'll have to swallow the whole
lot, I suppose."
"I rather like Mr. Markrute, Papa," Ethelrida said. "I talked to him the
other night for the first time; he is extremely intelligent. We ought
not to be so prejudiced, perhaps, just because he is a foreigner, and in
the City. I've asked him on the 2nd, too--you don't mind? I will leave
the note to-day; Tristram particularly wished it."
"Then we'll have to make the best of it, pet. I daresay you are right,
and one ought not to be prejudiced about anything, in these days."
And then he patted his daughter's smoothly brushed head, and went out
Lady Ethelrida drove in the ducal carriage (the Duke insisted upon a
carriage, in London), to Park Lane, and was handing her cards to her
footman to leave, when Francis Markrute himself came out of the door.
His whole face changed; it seemed to grow younger. He was a fairly tall
man, and distinguished looking. He came forward and said: "How do you
do," through the brougham window.
Alas! his niece had left that morning _en route_ for Paris--_trousseaux_
and feminine business, but he was so delighted to have had this chance
of a few words with her--Lady Ethelrida.
"I was leaving a note to ask you to come and shoot with my father at
Montfitchet, Mr. Markrute," she said, "on the 2nd of November. Tristram
says he hopes they will be back from the honeymoon in time to join us,
"I shall be delighted, and my niece will be delighted at your kindness
in calling so soon."
Then they said a few more polite things and the financier finished
by:--"I am taking the great liberty of having the book, which I told you
about, rebound--it was in such a tattered condition, I was ashamed to
send it to you--do not think I had forgotten. I hope you will accept
"I thought you only meant to lend it to me because it is out of print
and I cannot buy it. I am so sorry you have had this trouble," Lady
Ethelrida said, a little stiffly. "Bring it to the shoot. It will
interest me to see it but you must not give it to me." And then she
smiled graciously; and he allowed her to say good-bye, and drive on. And
as he turned into Grosvenor Street he mused,
"I like her exquisite pride; but she shall take the book--and many other
* * * * *
Meanwhile Zara Shulski had arrived at Bournemouth. She had started early
in the morning, and she was making a careful investigation of the house.
The doctor appeared all that was kind and clever, and his wife gentle
and sweet. Mirko could not have a nicer home, it seemed. Their little
girl was away at her grandmother's for the next six weeks, they said,
but would be enchanted to have a little boy companion. Everything was
arranged satisfactorily. Zara stayed the night, and next day, having
wired to Mimo to meet her at the station, she returned to London.
They talked in the Waterloo waiting-room; poor Mimo seemed so glad and
happy. He saw her and her small bag into a taxi. She was going back to
her uncle's, and was to take Mirko down next day, and, on the following
one, start for Paris.
"But I can't go back to Park Lane without seeing Mirko, now," she said.
"I did not tell my uncle what train I was returning by. There is plenty
of time so I will go and have tea with you at Neville Street. It will be
like old times, we will get some cakes and other things on the way, and
boil the kettle on the fire."
So Mimo gladly got in with her and they started. He had a new suit of
clothes and a new felt hat, and looked a wonderfully handsome foreign
gentleman; his manner to women was always courteous and gallant. Zara
smiled and looked almost happy, as they arranged the details of their
surprise tea party for Mirko.
At that moment there passed them in Whitehall a motorcar going very
fast, the occupant of which, a handsome young man, caught the most
fleeting glimpse of them--hardly enough to be certain he recognized
Zara. But it gave him a great start and a thrill.
"It cannot be she," he said to himself, "she went to Paris yesterday;
but if it is--who is the man?"
He altered his plans, went back to his rooms, and sat moodily down in
his favorite chair--an unpleasant, gnawing uncertainty in his heart.
Mirko, crouched up by the smoldering fire, was playing the _Chanson
Triste_ on his violin when the two reached the studio. He had a
wonderful talent--of that there was no doubt--but his health had always
been too delicate to stand any continuous study. Nor had the means of
the family ever been in a sufficiently prosperous condition, in later
years, to procure a really good master. But the touch and soul of the
strange little fellow sounded in every wailing note. He always played
the _Chanson Triste_ when he was sad and lonely. He had been nearly
seven when his mother died, and he remembered her vividly. She had so
loved Tschaikovsky's music, and this piece especially. He had played it
to her--from ear then--the afternoon she lay dying, and for him, as for
them all, it was indissolubly connected with her memory. The tears were
slowly trickling down Mirko's cheeks. He was going to be taken away from
his father, his much loved Cherisette would not be near him, and he
feared and hated strangers.
He felt he was talking to his mother with his bow. His mother who was in
heaven, with all the saints and angels. What could it be like up there?
It was perhaps a forest, such as Fontainebleau, only there were sure to
be numbers of birds which sang like the nightingales in the Borghese
Gardens--there would be no canaries! The sun always shone and _Maman_
would wear a beautiful dress of blue gauze with wings, and her lovely
hair, which was fair, not red like Cherisette's, would be all hanging
down. It surely was a very desirable place, and quite different from the
Neville Street lodging. Why could he not get there, out of the cold and
darkness? Cherisette had always taught him that God was so good and kind
to little boys who had crippled backs. He would ask God with all the
force of his music, to take him there to _Maman_.
The sound of the familiar air struck a chill note upon Mimo and Zara, as
they came up the stairs; it made them hasten their steps--they knew very
well what mood it meant with the child.
He was so far away, in his passionate dream-prayer, that he did not hear
them coming until they opened the door; and then he looked up, his
beautiful dark eyes all wet with tears which suddenly turned to joy when
he saw his sister.
"_Cherisette adoree_!" he cried, and was soon in her arms, soothed and
comforted and caressed. Oh, if he could always be with her, he really,
after all, would wish for no other heaven!
"We are going to have such a picnic!" Zara told him. "Papa and I have
brought a new tablecloth, and some pretty cups and saucers, and spoons,
and knives, and forks--and see! such buns! English buns for you to
toast, Mirko mio! You must be the little cook, while I lay the table."
And the child clapped his hands with glee and helped to take the papers
off; he stroked the pretty roses on the china with his delicate, little
forefinger--he had Mimo's caressing ways with everything he admired and
loved. He had never broken his toys, as other children do; accidental
catastrophes to them had always caused him pain and weeping. And these
bright, new flowery cups should be his special care, to wash, and dry,
He grew merry as a cricket, and his laughter pealed over the paper cap
Mimo made for him and the towel his sister had for an apron. They were
to be the servants, and Mimo a lordly guest.
And soon the table was laid, and the buns toasted and buttered; Zara had
even bought a vase of the same china, in which she placed a bunch of
autumn red roses, to match those painted on it and this was a particular
"The Apache," which had not yet found a purchaser, stood on one easel,
and from it the traveling rug hung to the other, concealing all
unsightly things, and yesterday Mimo had bought from the Tottenham Court
Road a cheap basket armchair with bright cretonne cushions. And really,
with the flowers and the blazing fire when they sat down to tea it all
looked very cozy and home-like.
What would her uncle or Lord Tancred have thought, could they have seen
those tempestuous eyes of Zara's glistening and tender--and soft as a
After tea she sat in the basket chair, and took Mirko in her arms, and
told him all about the delightful, new home he was going to, the kind
lady, and the beautiful view of the sea he would get from his bedroom
windows; how pretty and fresh it all looked, how there were pine woods
to walk in, and how she would--presently--come down to see him. And as
she said this her thoughts flew to her own fate--what would her
"presently" be? And she gave a little, unconscious shiver almost of
"What hast thou, Cherisette?" said Mirko. "Where were thy thoughts
"No, not here, little one. Thy Cherisette is going also to a new home;
some day thou must visit her there."
But when he questioned and implored her to tell him about it she
answered vaguely, and tried to divert his thoughts, until he said:
"It is not to _Maman_ in heaven, is it, dear Cherisette? Because there,
there would be enough place for us both--and surely thou couldst take me
* * * * *
When she got back to Park Lane, and entered her uncle's library he was
sitting at the writing table, the telephone in his hand. He welcomed her
with his eyes and went on speaking, while she took a chair.
"Yes, do come and dine.--May you see her if by chance she did not go to
Paris?" He looked up at Zara, who frowned. "No--she is very tired and
has gone to her room for the evening.--She has been in the country
to-day, seeing some friends.--No--not to-morrow--she goes to the country
again, and to Paris the following night--To the station? I will ask her,
but perhaps she is like me, and dislikes being seen off," then a
laugh,--and then, "All right--well, come and dine at eight--good-bye."
The financier put the receiver down and looked at his niece, a whimsical
smile in his eyes.
"Well," he said, "your fiance is very anxious to see you, it seems. What
do you say?"
"Certainly not!" she flashed. "I thought it was understood; he shall not
come to the train. I will go by another if he insists."
"He won't insist; tell me of your day?"
She calmed herself--her face had grown stormy.
"I am quite satisfied with the home you have chosen for Mirko and will
take him there to-morrow. All the clothes have come that you said I
might order for him, and I hope and think he will be comfortable and
happy. He has a very beautiful, tender nature, and a great talent. If he
could only grow strong, and more balanced! Perhaps he will, in this
calm, English air."
Francis Markrute's face changed, as it always did with the mention and
discussion of Mirko--whose presence in the world was an ever-rankling
proof of his loved sister's disgrace. All his sense of justice--and he
was in general a just man--could never reconcile him to the idea of ever
seeing or recognizing the child. "The sins of the fathers"--was his
creed and he never forgot the dying Emperor's words. He had lost sight
of his niece for nearly two years after his sister's death. She had
wished for no communication with him, believing then that he had left
her mother to die without forgiveness, and it was not until he happened
to read in a foreign paper the casual mention of Count Shulski's murder,
and so guessed at Zara's whereabouts, that a correspondence had been
opened again, and he was able to explain that he had been absent in
Africa and had not received any letters.
He then offered her his protection and a home, if she would sever all
connection with the two, Mimo and Mirko, and she had indignantly
refused. And it was only when they were in dire poverty, and he had
again written asking his niece to come and stay with him for a few
weeks, this time with no conditions attached, that she had consented,
thinking that perhaps she would be able in some way to benefit them.
But now that she looked at him she felt keenly how he had trapped her,
all the same.
"We will not discuss your brother's nature," he said, coldly. "I will
keep my side of the bargain scrupulously, for all material things; that
is all you can expect of me. Now let us talk of yourself. I have
ventured to send some sables for your inspection up to your sitting room;
it will be cold traveling. I hope you will select what you wish. And
remember, I desire you to order the most complete trousseau in Paris,
everything that a great lady could possibly want for visits and
entertainments; and you must secure a good maid there, and return with
all the _apanages_ of your position."
She bowed, as at the reception of an order. She did not thank him.
"I will not give you any advice what to get," he went on. "Your own
admirable taste will direct you. I understand that in the days of your
late husband you were a beautifully dressed woman, so you will know all
the best places to go to. But please to remember, while I give you
unlimited resources for you to do what I wish, I trust to your honor
that you will bestow none of them upon the--man Sykypri. The bargain is
about the child; the father is barred from it in every way."
Zara did not answer, she had guessed this, but Mirko's welfare was of
first importance. With strict economy Mimo could live upon what he
possessed, if alone and if he chose to curtail his irresponsible
"Do I understand I have your word of honor about this?" her uncle
Her empress' air showed plainly now. She arose from the chair and stood
haughtily drawn up:
"You know me and whether my spoken word 'is required or no," she said,
"but if it will be any satisfaction to you to have it I give it!"
"Good--Then things are settled, and, I hope, to the happiness of all
"Happiness!" she answered bitterly. "Who is ever happy?" Then she turned
to go, but he arrested her.
"In two or three years' time you will admit to me that you know of four
human beings who are ideally happy." And with this enigmatic
announcement ringing in her ears, she went on up the stairs to her
Who were the _four_ people? Herself and himself and Mimo and Mirko? Was
it possible that after all his hardness towards them he meant to be
eventually kind? Or was the fourth person not Mimo, but her future
husband? Then she smiled grimly. It was not very likely _he_ would be
happy--a beast, like the rest of men, who, marrying her only for her
uncle's money, having been ready to marry her for that when he had never
even seen her--was yet full enough of the revolting quality of his sex
to be desirous now to kiss her and clasp her in his arms!
As far as she was concerned he would have no happiness!
And she herself--what would the new life mean? It appeared a blank--an
abyss. A dark curtain seemed to overhang and cover it. All she could
feel was that Mirko was being cared for, that she was keeping her word
to her adored mother. She would fulfill to the letter her uncle's wishes
as to her suitable equipments, but beyond that she refused to think.
All the evening, when she had finished her short, solitary dinner, she
played the piano in her sitting-room, her white fingers passing from one
divine air to another, until at last she unconsciously drifted to the
_Chanson Triste_, and Mirko's words came back to her:
"There, there would be enough place for us both"--Who knows--that might
be the end of it!
And the two men heard the distant wail of the last notes as they came
out of the dining-room, and, while it made the financier uncomfortable,
it caused Tristram a sharp stab of pain.
The next three weeks passed for Lord Tancred in continuously growing
excitement. He had much business to see to for the reopening of Wrayth
which had been closed for the past two years. He had decided to let Zara
choose her own rooms, and decorate them as she pleased, when she should
get there. But the big state apartments, with their tapestry and
pictures, would remain untouched.
It gave him infinite pleasure--the thought of living at his old house
once again--and it touched him to see the joy of the village and all the
old keepers and gardeners who had been pensioned off! He found himself
wondering all sorts of things--if he would have a son some day soon, to
inherit it all. Each wood and broad meadow seemed to take on new
interest and significance from this thought.
His home was so very dear to him though he had drilled himself into a
seeming indifference. The great, round tower of the original Norman keep
was still there, connected with the walls of the later house, a large,
wandering edifice built at all periods from that epoch upwards, and
culminating in a shocking early-Victorian Gothic wing and porch.
"I think we shall pull that wretched bit down some time," he said to
himself. "Zara must have good taste--she could not look so well in her
clothes, if she had not."
His thoughts were continually for her, and what she would be likely to
wish; and, in the evening, when he sat alone in his own sanctum after a
hard day with electricians and work-people, he would gaze into the
blazing logs and dream.
The new electric light was not installed yet, and only the big, old
lamps lit the shadowy oak panelling. There in a niche beside the
fireplace was the suit of armor which another Tristram Guiscard had worn
at Agincourt. What little chaps they had been in those days in
comparison with himself and his six feet two inches! But they had been
great lords, his ancestors, and he, too, would be worthy of the race.
There were no wars just now to go to and fight for his country--but he
would fight for his order, with his uncle, the Duke, that splendid, old
specimen of the hereditary legislator. Francis Markrute who was a good
judge had said that he had made some decent speeches in the House of
Lords already, and he would go on and do his best, and Zara would help
him. He wondered if she liked reading and poetry. He was such a
magnificently healthy sportsman he had always been a little shy of
letting people know his inner and gentler tastes. He hoped so much she
would care for the books he did. There was a deep strain of romance in
his nature, undreamed of by such women as Laura Highford, and these
evenings--alone, musing and growing in love with a phantom--drew it
His plan was to go to Paris--to the Ritz--for the honeymoon. Zara who
did not know England would probably hate the solemn servants staring at
her in those early days if he took her to Orton, one of the Duke's
places which he had offered him for the blissful week. Paris was much
better--they could go to the theater there--because he knew it would not
all be plain sailing by any means! And every time he thought of that
aspect, his keen, blue eyes sparkled with the instinct of the chase and
he looked the image of the Baron Tancred who, carved in stone, with his
Crusader's crossed feet, reposed in state in the church of Wrayth.
A lissom, wiry, splendid English aristocrat, in perfect condition and
health, was Tristram Guiscard, twenty-fourth Baron Tancred, as he
lounged in his chair before the fire and dreamed of his lady and his
And when they were used to one another--at the end of the week--there
would be the party at Montfitchet where he would have the joy and pride
of showing his beautiful wife--and Laura would be there;--he suddenly
thought of her. Poor old Laura! she had been awfully nice about it and
had written him the sweetest letter. He would not have believed her
capable of it--and he felt so kindly disposed towards her--little as she
deserved it if he had only known!
Then when these gayeties were over, he and Zara would come here to
Wrayth! And he could not help picturing how he would make love to her in
this romantic setting; and perhaps soon she, too, would love him. When
he got thus far in his picturings he would shut his eyes, stretch out
his long limbs, and call to Jake, his solemn bulldog, and pat his
And Zara, in Paris, was more tranquil in mind than was her wont. Mirko
had not made much difficulty about going to Bournemouth. Everything was
so pretty, the day she took him there, the sun shining gayly and the sea
almost as blue as the Mediterranean, and Mrs. Morley, the doctor's wife,
had been so gentle and sweet, and had drawn him to her heart at once,
and petted him, and talked of his violin. The doctor had examined his
lungs and said they certainly might improve with plenty of the fine air
if he were very carefully fed and tended, and not allowed to catch cold.
The parting with poor Mimo had been very moving. They had said good-bye
to him in the Neville Street lodging, as Zara thought it was wiser not
to risk a scene at the station. The father and son had kissed and
clasped one another and both wept, and Mimo had promised to come to see
him soon, soon!
Then there had been another painful wrench when she herself left
Bournemouth. She had put off her departure until the afternoon of the
following day. Mirko had tried to be as brave as he could; but the
memory of the pathetic little figure, as she saw it waving a hand to her
from the window, made those rare tears brim up and splash on her glove,
as she sat in the train.
In her short life with its many moments of deep anguish she had seldom
been able to cry; there were always others to be thought of first, and
an iron self-control was one of her inheritances from her grandfather,
the Emperor, just as that voluptuous, undulating grace, and the red,
lustrous hair, came from the beautiful opera dancer and great artiste,
She had cautioned Mrs. Morley, if she should often hear Mirko playing
the _Chanson Triste_, to let her know, and she would come to him. It was
a sure indication of his state of mind. And Mrs. Morley, who had read in
the _Morning Post_ the announcement of her approaching marriage, asked
her where she could be found, and Zara had stiffened suddenly and
said--at her uncle's house in Park Lane, the letters to be marked "To be
And when she had gone, Mrs. Morley had told her sister who had come in
to tea how beautiful Countess Shulski was and how very regal looking,
"but she had on such plain, almost shabby, black clothes, Minnie dear,
and a small black toque, and then the most splendid sable wrap--those
very grand people do have funny tastes, don't they? I should have liked
a pretty autumn costume of green velveteen, and a hat with a wing or a
The financier had insisted upon his niece wearing the sable wrap--and
somehow, in spite of all things, the beautiful, dark, soft fur had given
And now, three weeks later, she was just returning from Paris, her
beauty enriched by all that money and taste could procure. It was the
eighteenth of October, exactly a week before her wedding.
She had written to Mimo from Paris, and told him she was going to be
married; that she was doing so because she thought it was best for them
all; and he had written back enchanted exclamations of surprise and joy,
and had told her she should have his new picture, the London fog--so
dramatic with its two meeting figures--for his wedding gift. Poor Mimo,
so generous, always, with all he had!
Mirko was not to be told until she was actually married.
She had written to her uncle and asked him as a great favor that she
might only arrive the very day of the family dinner party, he could
plead for her excess of trousseau business, or what he liked. She would
come by the nine o'clock morning train, so as to be in ample time for
dinner; and it would be so much easier for every one, if they could get
the meeting over, the whole family together, rather than have the ordeal
of private presentations.
And Francis Markrute had agreed, while Lord Tancred had chafed.
"I _shall_ meet her at the station, whatever you say, Francis!" he had
exclaimed. "I am longing to see her."
And as the train drew up at Victoria, Zara caught sight of him there on
the platform, and in spite of her dislike and resentment she could not
help seeing that her fiance was a wonderfully good-looking man.
She herself appeared to him as the loveliest thing he had ever seen in
his life, with her perfect Paris clothes, and air of distinction. If he
had thought her attractive before he felt ecstatic in his admiration
Francis Markrute hurried up the platform and Tristram frowned, but the
financier knew it might not be safe to leave them to a tete-a-tete drive
to the house! Zara's temper might not brook it, and he had rushed back
from the city, though he hated rushing, in order to be on the spot to
make a third.
"Welcome, my niece!" he said, before Lord Tancred could speak. "You see,
we have both come to greet you."
She thanked them politely, and turned to give an order to her new French
maid--and some of the expectant, boyish joy died out of Tristram's face,
as he walked beside her to the waiting motor.
They said the usual things about the crossing--it had been smooth and
pleasant--so fortunate for that time of the year--and she had stayed on
deck and enjoyed it. Yes, Paris had been charming; it was always a
delightful spot to find oneself in.
Then Tristram said he was glad she thought that, because, if she would
consent, he would arrange to go there for the honeymoon directly after
the wedding. She inclined her head in acquiescence but did not speak.
The matter appeared one of complete indifference to her.
In spite of his knowledge that this would be her attitude and he need
not expect anything different Tristram's heart began to sink down into
his boots, by the time they reached the house, and Francis Markrute
whispered to his niece as they came up the steps:
"I beg of you to be a little more gracious--the man has some spirit, you
So when they got into the library, and she began to pour out the tea for
them, she made conversation. But Tristram's teeth were set, and a steely
light began to grow in his blue eyes.
She looked so astonishingly alluring there in her well-fitting, blue
serge, traveling dress, yet he might not even kiss her white, slender
hand! And there was a whole week before the wedding! And after
it?--would she keep up this icy barrier between them? If so--but he
refused to think of it!
He noticed that she wore his engagement ring only, on her left hand, and
that the right one was ringless, nor had she a brooch or any other
jewel. He felt glad--he would be able to give her everything. His mother
had been so splendid about the family jewels, insisting upon handing
them over, and even in the short time one or two pieces had been reset,
the better to please the presumably modern taste of the new bride of the
Tancreds. These, and the wonderful pearls, her uncle's gift, were
waiting for her, up in her sitting-room.
"I think I will go and rest now until dinner," she said, and forced a
smile as she moved towards the door.
It was the first time Tristram had ever seen her smile, and it thrilled
him. He had the most frantic longing to take her in his arms and kiss
her, and tell her he was madly in love with her, and wanted her never to
be out of his sight.
But he let her pass out, and, turning round, he found Francis Markrute
pouring out some liqueur brandy from a wonderful, old, gold-chased
bottle, which stood on a side-table with its glasses. He filled two, and
handed one to Tristram, while he quoted Doctor Johnson with an
"'Claret for boys, port for men, but brandy for heroes!' By Jove! my
dear boy," he said, "you are a hero!"
Lady Tancred unfortunately had one of her very bad headaches, and an
hour before dinner, in fact before her son had left the Park Lane house,
a telephone message came to say she was dreadfully sorry, it would be
impossible for her to come. It was Emily who spoke to Francis Markrute,
"Mother is so disappointed," she said, "but she really suffers so
dreadfully. I am sure Countess Shulski will forgive her, and you, too.
She wants to know if Countess Shulski will let Tristram bring her
to-morrow morning, without any more ceremony, to see her and stay to
Thus it was settled and this necessitated a change in the table
Lady Ethelrida would now sit on the host's right hand, and Lady
Coltshurst, an aunt on the Tancred side, at his left, while Zara would
be between the Duke and her fiance, as originally arranged. Emily
Guiscard would have Sir James Danvers and Lord Coltshurst as neighbors,
and Mary her uncle, the Duke's brother, a widower, Lord Charles
Montfitchet, and his son, "Young Billy," the Glastonbury heir--Lady
Ethelrida was the Duke's only child.
At a quarter before eight Francis Markrute went up to his niece's
sitting-room. She was already dressed in a sapphire-blue velvet
masterpiece of simplicity. The Tancred presents of sapphires and
diamonds lay in their open cases on the table with the splendid
Markrute yards of pearls. She was standing looking down at them, the
strangest expression of cynical resignation upon her face.
"Your gift is magnificent, Uncle Francis," she said, without thanking
him. "Which do you wish me to wear? Yours--or his?"
"Lord Tancred's, he has specially asked that you put his on to-night,"
the financier replied. "These are only his first small ones; the other
jewels are being reset for you. Nothing can be kinder or more generous
than the whole family has been. You see this brooch, with the large drop
sapphire and diamond, is from the Duke."
She inclined her head without enthusiasm, and took her own small pearls
from her ears, and replaced them by the big sapphire and diamond
earrings; a riviere of alternate solitaire sapphires and diamonds she
clasped round her snowy throat.
"You look absolutely beautiful," her uncle exclaimed with admiration. "I
knew I could perfectly trust to your taste--the dress is perfection."
"Then I suppose we shall have to go down," she said quietly.
She was perfectly calm, her face expressionless; if there was a
tempestuous suggestion in her somber eyes she generally kept the lids
lowered. Inwardly, she felt a raging rebellion. This was the first
ceremony of the sacrifice, and although in the abstract her fine senses
appreciated the jewels and all her new and beautiful clothes and
_apanages_, they in no way counterbalanced the hateful degradation.
To her it was a hideous mockery--the whole thing; she was just a
chattel, a part of a business bargain. She could not guess her uncle's
motive for the transaction (he had a deep one, of course), but Lord
Tancred's was plain and purely contemptible. Money! For had not the
whole degrading thing been settled before he had ever seen her? He was
worse than Ladislaus who, at all events, had been passionately in love,
in his revolting, animal way.
She knew nothing of the English customs, nor how such a thing as the
arrangement of this marriage, as she thought it was, was a perfectly
unknown impossibility, as an idea. She supposed that the entire family
were aware of the circumstances, and were willing to accept her only for
her uncle's wealth--she already hated and despised them all. Her idea
was, "_noblesse oblige_," and that a great and ancient house should
never stoop to such depths.
Francis Markrute looked at her when she said, "I suppose we shall have
to go down," with that icy calm. He felt faintly uneasy.
"Zara, it is understood you will be gracious? and _brusquer_ no one?"
But all the reply he received was a glance of scorn. She had given her
word and refused to discuss that matter.
And so they descended the stairs just in time to be standing ready to
receive Lord and Lady Coltshurst who were the first to be announced. He
was a spare, unintelligent, henpecked, elderly man, and she, a stout,
forbidding-looking lady. She had prominent, shortsighted eyes, and she
used longhandled glasses; she had also three chins, and did not resemble
the Guiscards in any way, except for her mouth and her haughty bearing.
Zara's manner was that of an empress graciously receiving foreigners in
a private audience!
The guests now arrived in quick succession. Lord Charles and his son,
"Young Billy," then Tristram and his sisters, and Jimmy Danvers, and,
lastly, the Duke and Lady Ethelrida.
They were all such citizens of the world there was no awkwardness, and
the old Duke had kissed his fair, prospective niece's hand when he had
been presented, and had said that some day he should claim the privilege
of an old man and kiss her cheek. And Zara had smiled for an instant,
overcome by his charm, and so she had put her fingers on his arm, and
they had gone down to dinner; and now they were talking suavely.
Francis Markrute had a theory that certain human beings are born with
moral antennae--a sort of extra combination beyond the natural of the
senses of sight, smell, hearing and understanding--which made them
apprehend situations and people even when these chanced to be of a
hitherto unknown race or habit. Zara was among those whose antennae were
highly developed. She had apprehended almost instantaneously that
whatever their motives were underneath, her future husband's family were
going to act the part of receiving her for herself. It was a little
ridiculous, but very well bred, and she must fall in with it when with
them collectively like this.
Before they had finished the soup the Duke was saying to himself that
she was the most attractive creature he had ever met in his life, and no
wonder Tristram was mad about her; for Tristram's passionate admiration
to-night could not have been mistaken by a child!
And yet Zara had never smiled, but that once--in the drawing-room.
Lady Ethelrida from where she sat could see her face through a gap in
the flowers. The financier had ordered a tall arrangement on purpose:
if Zara by chance should look haughtily indifferent it were better that
her expression should escape the observation of all but her nearest
neighbors. However, Lady Ethelrida just caught the picture of her
through an oblique angle, against a background of French panelling.
And with her quiet, calm judgment of people she was wondering what was
the cause of that strange look in her eyes? Was it of a stag at bay? Was
it temper, or resentment, or only just pain? And Tristram had said their
color was slate gray; for her part she saw nothing but pools of jet ink!
"There is some tragic story hidden here," she thought, "and Tristram is
too much in love to see it." But she felt rather drawn to her new
prospective cousin, all the same.
Francis Markrute seemed perfectly happy--his manner as a host left
nothing to be desired; he did not neglect the uninteresting aunt, who
formed golden opinions of him; but he contrived to make Lady Ethelrida
feel that he wished only to talk to her; not because she was an
attractive, young woman, but because he was impressed with her
intelligence, in the abstract. It made things very easy.
The Duke asked Zara if she knew anything about English politics.
"You will have to keep Tristram up to the mark," he said, "he has done
very well now and then, but he is a rather lazy fellow." And he smiled.
"'Tristram,'" she thought. "So his name is 'Tristram'!" She had actually
never heard it before, nor troubled herself to inquire about it. It
seemed incredible, it aroused in her a grim sense of humor, and she
looked into the old Duke's face for a second and wondered what he would
say if she announced this fact, and he caught the smile, cynical though
it was, and continued:
"I see you have noticed his laziness! Now it will really be your duty to
make him a first-rate fighter for our cause. The Radicals will begin to
attack our very existence presently, and we must all come up to the
"I know nothing as yet of your politics," Zara said. "I do not
understand which party is which, though my uncle says one consists of
gentlemen, and the other of the common people. I suppose it is like in
other countries, every one wanting to secure what some one above him has
got, without being fitted for the administration of what he desires to
"That is about it," smiled the Duke.
"It would be reasonable, if they were all oppressed here, as in France
before the great revolution, but are they?"
"Oh! dear, no!" interrupted Tristram. "All the laws are made for the
lower classes. They have compensations for everything, and they have
openings to rise to the top of the tree if they wish to. It is wretched
landlords like my uncle and myself who are oppressed!" and he smiled
delightedly, he was so happy to hear her talk.
"When I shall know I shall perhaps find it all interesting," she
continued to the Duke.
"Between us we shall have to instruct you thoroughly, eh, Tristram, my
boy? And then you must be a great leader, and have a salon, as the
ladies of the eighteenth century did: we want a beautiful young woman to
draw us all together."
"Well, don't you think I have found you a perfect specimen, Uncle!"
Tristram exclaimed; and he raised his glass and kissed the brim, while
"Darling, my sweet lady--I drink to your health."
But this was too much for Zara--he was overdoing the part--and she
turned and flashed upon him a glance of resentment and contempt.
Beyond the Duke sat Jimmy Danvers, and then Emily Guiscard and Lord
Coltshurst, and the two young people exchanged confidences in a low
"I say, Emily, isn't she a corker?" Sir James said. "She don't look a
bit English, though, she reminds me of a--oh, well, I'm not good at
history or dates, but some one in the old Florentine time. She looks as
if she could put a dagger into one or give a fellow a cup of poison,
without turning a hair."
"Oh, Jimmy! how horrid," exclaimed Emily. "She does not seem to me to
have a cruel face, she only looks peculiar and mysterious,
and--and--unsmiling. Do you think she loves Tristram? Perhaps that is
the foreign way--to appear so cold."
At that moment Sir James Danvers caught the glance which Zara gave her
fiance for his toast.
"Je-hoshaphat!" he exclaimed! But he realized that Emily had not seen,
so he stopped abruptly.
"Yes--one can never be sure of things with foreigners," he said, and he
looked down at his plate. That poor devil of a Tristram was going to
have a thorny time in the future, he thought, and he was to be best man
at the wedding; it would be like giving the old chap over to a tigress!
But, by Jove!--such a beautiful one would be worth being eaten by--he
added to himself.
And during one of Francis Markrute's turnings to his left-hand neighbor
Lord Coltshurst said to Lady Ethelrida:
"I think Tristram's choice peculiarly felicitous, Ethelrida, do not you?
But I fear her ladyship"--and he glanced timidly at his wife--"will not
take this view. She has a most unreasonable dislike for young women with
red hair. 'Ungovernable temperaments,' she affirms. I trust she won't
prejudice your Aunt Jane."
"Aunt Jane always thinks for herself," said Lady Ethelrida. She
announced no personal opinion about Tristram's fiance, nor could Lord
Coltshurst extort one from her.
As the dinner went on she felt a growing sense that they were all on the
edge of a volcano.
Lady Ethelrida never meddled in other people's affairs, but she loved
Tristram as a brother and she felt a little afraid. She could not see
his face, from where she sat--the table was a long one with oval
ends--but she, too, had seen the flash from Zara which had caused Jimmy
Danvers to exclaim: "Jehoshaphat!"
The host soon turned back from duty to pleasure, leaving Lady Coltshurst
to Lord Charles Montfitchet. The conversation turned upon types.
Types were not things of chance, Francis Markrute affirmed; if one could
look back far enough there was always a reason for them.
"People are so extremely unthinking about such a number of interesting
things, Lady Ethelrida," he said, "their speculative faculties seem only
to be able to roam into cut and dried channels. We have had great
scientists like Darwin investigating our origin, and among the Germans
there are several who study the atavism of races, but in general even
educated people are perfectly ignorant upon the subject, and they expect
little Tommy Jones and Katie Robinson, or Jacques Dubois and Marie
Blanc, to have the same instincts as your cousin, Lord Tancred, and you,
for instance. Whatever individual you are dealing with, you should
endeavor to understand his original group. In moments of great
excitement when all acquired control is in abeyance the individual
always returns to the natural action of his group."
"How interesting!" said Lady Ethelrida. "Let us look round the table and
decide to what particular group each one of us belongs."
"Most of you are from the same group," he said meditatively.
"Eliminating myself and my niece, Sir James Danvers has perhaps had the
"Yes," said Lady Ethelrida, and she laughed. "Jimmy's grandmother was
the daughter of a very rich Manchester cotton spinner; that is what
gives him his sound common sense. I am afraid Tristram and the rest of
us except Lord Coltshurst have not had anything sensible like that in us
for hundreds of years, so what would be your speculation as to the
action of our group?"
"That you would have high courage and fine senses, and highly-strung,
nervous force, and chivalry and good taste, and broad and noble aims in
the higher half and that in the lower portion you would run to the
decadence of all those things--the fine turned to vices--yet even so I
would not look for vulgarity, or bad taste, or cowardice in any of you."
"No," said Lady Ethelrida--"I hope not. Then, according to your
reasoning it is very unjust of us when we say, as perhaps you have heard
it said, that Lady Darrowood is to blame when she is noisy and
assertive and treats Lord Darrowood with bad taste?"
"Certainly--she only does those things when she is excited and has gone
back to her group. When she is under her proper control she plays the
part of an English marchioness very well. It is the prerogative of a new
race to be able to play a part; the result of the cunning and strength
which have been required of the immediate forbears in order to live at
all under unfavorable conditions. Now, had her father been a Deptford
ox-slaughterer instead of a Chicago pig-sticker she could never have
risen to the role of a marchioness at all. This is no new country; it
does not need nor comprehend bluff, and so produces no such type as Lady
At this moment Lady Ethelrida again caught sight of Zara. She was silent
at the instant, and a look of superb pride and disdain was on her face.
Almost before she was aware of it Ethelrida had exclaimed:
"Your niece looks like an empress, a wonderful, Byzantine, Roman
Francis Markrute glanced at her, sideways, with his clever eyes; had she
ever heard anything of Zara's parentage, he wondered for a second, and
then he smiled at himself for the thought. Lady Ethelrida was not likely
to have spoken so in that case--she would not be acting up to her group.
"There are certain reasons why she should," he said. "I cannot answer
for the part of her which comes from her father, Maurice Grey, a very
old English family, I believe, but on her mother's side she could have
the passions of an artist and the pride of a Caesar: she is a very
"May I know something of her?" Ethelrida said, "I do so want them to be
happy. Tristram is one of the simplest and finest characters I have ever
met. He will love her very much, I fear."
"Why do you say you _fear?_"
Lady Ethelrida reddened a little; a soft, warm flush came into her
delicate face and made it look beautiful: she never spoke of love--to
"Because a great love is a very powerful and sometimes a terrible thing,
if it is not returned in like measure. And, oh, forgive me for saying
so, but the Countess Shulski does not look as if--she loved
Francis Markrute did not speak for an instant, then he turned and gazed
straight into her eyes gravely, as he said:
"Believe me, I would not allow your cousin to marry my niece if I were
not truly convinced that it will be for the eventual great happiness of
them both. Will you promise me something, Lady Ethelrida? Will you help
me not to permit any one to interfere between them for some time, no
matter how things may appear? Give them the chance of settling
Ethelrida looked back at him, with a seriousness equal to his own as she
answered, "I promise." And inwardly the sense of some unknown
undercurrent that might grow into a rushing torrent made itself felt,
stronger than before.
Meanwhile Lady Coltshurst, who could just see Zara's profile all the
time when she put up those irritating, longhandled glasses of hers, now
gave her opinion of the bride-elect to Lord Charles Montfitchet, her
neighbor on the left hand.
"I strongly disapprove of her, Charles. Either her hair is dyed or her
eyes are blackened; that mixture is not natural, and if, indeed, it
should be in this case then I consider it uncanny and not what one would
wish for in the family."
"Oh, I say, my lady!" objected Lord Charles, "I think she is the most
stunning-looking young woman I've seen in a month of Sundays!"
Lady Coltshurst put up her glasses again and glared:
"I cannot bear your modern slang, Charles, but 'stunning,' used
literally, is quite appropriate. She does stun one; that is exactly it.
I fear poor Tristram with such a type can look forward to very little
happiness, or poor Jane to any likelihood that the Tancred name will
remain free from scandal."
Lord Charles grew exasperated and retaliated.
"By George! A demure mouse can cause scandal to a name, with probably
more certainty than this beauty!"
There was a member of Lady Coltshurst's husband's family whom she
herself, having no children, had brought out, and who had been
perilously near the Divorce Court this very season: and she was a dull,
colorless little thing.
Her ladyship turned the conversation abruptly, with an annihilating
glance. And fortunately, just then Zara rose, and the ladies filed out
of the room: and so this trying dinner was over.
Nothing could exceed Zara's dignity, when they reached the drawing-room
above. They at first stood in a group by the fire in the larger room,
and Emily and Mary tried to get a word in and say something nice in
their frank girlish way. They admired their future sister-in-law so
immensely, and if Zara had not thought they were all acting a part, as
she herself was, she would have been touched at their sweetness. As it
was she inwardly froze more and more, while she answered with
politeness; and Lady Ethelrida, watching quietly for a while, grew
It was certainly a mask this extraordinary and beautiful young woman was
wearing, she felt, and presently, when Lady Coltshurst who had remained
rather silently aloof, only fixing them all in turn with her long
eyeglasses, drew the girls aside to talk to her by asking for news of
their mother's headache, Ethelrida indicated she and Zara might sit down
upon the nearest, stiff, French sofa; and as she clasped her thin, fine
hands together, holding her pale gray gloves which she did not attempt
to put on again, she said gently:
"I hope we shall all make you feel you are so welcome, Zara--may I call
you Zara? It is such a beautiful name I think."
The Countess Shulski's strange eyes seemed to become blacker than
ever--a startled, suspicious look grew in them, just such as had come
into the black panther's on a day when Francis Markrute whistled a
softly caressing note outside its bars: what did this mean?
"I shall be very pleased if you will," she said coldly.
Lady Ethelrida determined not to be snubbed. She must overcome this
barrier if she could, for Tristram's sake.
"England and our customs must seem so strange to you," she went on. "But
we are not at all disagreeable people when you know us!" And she smiled
"It is easy to be agreeable when one is happy," Zara said. "And you all
seem very happy here--_sans souci_. It is good."
And Ethelrida wondered. "What can make you so unhappy, you beautiful
thing, with Tristram to love you, and youth and health and riches?"
And Zara thought, "This appears a sweet and most frank lady, but how can
I tell? I know not the English. It is perhaps because she is so well
bred that she is enabled to act so nicely."
"You have not yet seen Wrayth, have you?" Ethelrida went on. "I am sure
you will be interested in it, it is so old."
"Wr--ayth--?" Zara faltered. She had never heard of it! What was Wrayth?
"Perhaps I do not pronounce it as you are accustomed to think of it,"
Ethelrida said kindly. She was absolutely startled at the other's
ignorance. "Tristram's place, I mean. The Guiscards have owned it ever
since the Conqueror gave it to them after the Battle of Hastings, you
know. It is the rarest case of a thing being so long in one family, even
here in England, and the title has only gone in the male line, too, as
yet. But Tristram and Cyril are the very last. If anything happened to
them it would be the end. Oh! we are all so glad Tristram is going to be
Zara's eyes now suddenly blazed at the unconscious insinuation in this
speech. Any one who has ever watched a caged creature of the cat tribe
and seen how the whole gamut of emotions--sullen endurance, suspicion,
resentment, hate and rage, as well as contentment and happiness--can
appear in its orbs without the slightest aid from lids or eyebrows,
without the smallest alteration in mouth or chin, will understand how
Zara's pools of ink spoke while their owner remained icily still.
She understood perfectly the meaning of Ethelrida's speech. The line of
the Tancreds should go on through her! But never, never! That should
never be! If they were counting upon that they were counting in vain.
The marriage was never intended to be anything but an empty ceremony,
for mercenary reasons. There must be no mistake about this. What if Lord
Tancred had such ideas, too? And she quivered suddenly and caught in her
breath with the horror of this thought.
And who was Cyril? Zara had no knowledge of Cyril, any more than of
Wrayth! But she did not ask.
If Francis Markrute had heard this conversation he would have been very
much annoyed with himself, and would have blamed himself for stupidity.
He, of course, should have seen that his niece was sufficiently well
coached, in all the details that she should know, not to be led into
Ethelrida felt a sensation of a sort of petrified astonishment. There is
a French word, _ahuri_, which expresses her emotion exactly, but there
is no English equivalent. Tristram's fiance was evidently quite ignorant
of the simplest facts about him, or his family, or his home! Her eyes
had blazed at Ethelrida's last speech, with a look of self-defence and
defiance. And yet Tristram was evidently passionately in love with her.
How could such things be? It was a great mystery. Ethelrida was thrilled
Francis Markrute guessed the ladies' lonely moments would be most
difficult to pass, so he had curtailed the enjoyment of the port and old
brandy and cigars to the shortest possible dimensions, Tristram aiding
him. His one desire was to be near his fiance.
The overmastering magnetic current which seemed to have drawn him from
the very first moment he had seen her now had augmented into almost
pain. She had been cruelly cold and disdainful at dinner whenever she
had spoken to him, her contempt showing plainly in her eyes, and it had
maddened and excited him; and when the other men had all drunk the
fiances' health and wished them happiness he had gulped down the old
brandy, and vowed to himself, "Before a year is out I will make her love
me as I love her, so help me God!"
And then they all had trooped up into the drawing-room just as Ethelrida
"The northern property, Morndale, is not half so pretty as Wrayth--"
But when she saw them enter she rose and ceded her place to Tristram who
gladly sank into the sofa beside his lady.
He was to have no tete-a-tete, however, for Jimmy Danvers who felt it
was his turn to say something to the coming bride came now, and leant
upon the mantelpiece beside them.
"I am going to be the most severe 'best man' next Wednesday, Countess,"
he said. "I shall see that Tristram is at St. George's a good half-hour
before the time, and that he does not drop the ring; you trust to me!"
And he laughed nervously, Zara's face was so unresponsive.
"Countess Shulski does not know the English ceremony, Jimmy," Tristram
interrupted quickly, "nor what is a 'best man.' Now, if we were only
across the water we would have a rehearsal of the whole show as we did
for Darrowood's wedding."
"That must have been a joke," said Jimmy.
"It was very sensible there; there was such a lot of fuss, and
bridesmaids, and things; but we are going to be quite quiet, aren't we,
Zara? I hate shows; don't you?"
"Immensely," was all she answered.
Then Sir James, who felt thoroughly crushed, after one or two more
fatuous remarks moved away, and Zara arose in her character of hostess,
and spoke to Lady Coltshurst.
Tristram crossed over to the Duke and rapidly began a political
discussion, but while his uncle appeared to notice nothing unusual, and
entered into it with interest, his kind, old heart was wrung with the
pain he saw his favorite nephew was suffering.
"Mr. Markrute, I am troubled," Lady Ethelrida said, as she walked with
the host to look at an exquisite Vigee le Brun across the room. "Your
niece is the most interesting personality I have ever met; but,
underneath, something is making her unhappy, I am sure. Please, what
does it mean? Oh, I know I have promised what I did at dinner, but are
you certain it is all right? And can they ever be really at peace
Francis Markrute bent over, apparently to point to a _bibelot_ which
lay on a table under the picture, and he said in a low, vibrating tone.
"I give you my word there is some one, who is dead--whom I loved--who
would come back and curse me now, if I should let this thing be, with a
doubt in my heart as to their eventual happiness."
And Lady Ethelrida looked full at him and saw that the man's cold face
was deeply moved and softened.
"If that is so then I will speculate no more," she said. "Listen! I will
"You dear, noble English lady," the financier replied, "how truly I
thank you!" And he let some of the emotion which he felt, gleam from his
eyes, while he changed the conversation.
A few minutes after this, Lady Coltshurst announced it was time to go,
and she would take the girls home. And the Duke's carriage was also
waiting, and good nights were said, and the host whispered to Jimmy
"Take Tancred along with you, too, please. My niece is overtired with
the strain of this evening and I want her to go to bed at once." And to
Tristram he said,
"Do not even say good night, like a dear fellow. Don't you see she is
almost ready to faint? Just go quietly with the rest, and come for her
to-morrow morning to take her to your mother."
So they all left as he wished, and he himself went back upstairs to the
big drawing-room and there saw Zara standing like a marble statue,
exactly as they had left her, and he went forward, and, bending, kissed
"Most beautifully endured, my queenly niece!" he said; and then he led
her to the door and up to her room. She was perfectly mute.
But a little while afterwards, as he came to bed himself, he was
startled and chilled by hearing the _Chanson Triste_ being played in her
sitting-room, with a wailing, passionate pathos, as of a soul in
And if he could have seen her face he would have seen her great eyes
streaming with tears, while she prayed:
"_Maman_, ask God to give me courage to get through all of this, since
it is for your Mirko."
Satan was particularly fresh next morning when Tristram took him for a
canter round the Park. He was glad of it: he required something to work
off steam upon. He was in a mood of restless excitement. During the
three weeks of Zara's absence he had allowed himself to dream into a
state of romantic love for her. He had glossed over in his mind her
distant coldness, her frigid adherence to the bare proposition, so that
to return to that state of things had come to him as a shock.
But, this morning, he knew he was a fool to have expected anything else.
He was probably a great fool altogether, but he never changed his mind,
and was prepared to pay the price of his folly. After all, there would
be plenty of time afterwards to melt her dislike, so he could afford to
wait now. He would not permit himself to suffer again as he had done
last night. Then he came in and had his bath, and made himself into a
very perfect-looking lover, to present himself to his lady at about
half-past twelve o'clock, to take her to his mother.
Zara was, if anything, whiter than usual when she came into the library
where he was waiting for her alone. The financier had gone to the City.
She had heavy, bluish shadows under her eyes, and he saw quite plainly
that, the night before, she must have been weeping bitterly.
A great tenderness came over him. What was this sorrow of hers? Why
might he not comfort her? He put out both hands and then, as she
remained stonily unresponsive, he dropped them, and only said quietly
that he hoped she was well, and his motor was waiting outside, and that
his mother, Lady Tancred, would be expecting them.
"I am ready," said Zara. And they went.
He told her as they flew along, that he had been riding in the Park that
morning, and had looked up at the house and wondered which was her
window; and then he asked her if she liked riding, and she said she had
never tried for ten years--the opportunity to ride had not been in her
life--but she used to like it when she was a child.
"I must get you a really well-mannered hack," he said joyously. Here was
a subject she had not snubbed him over! "And you will let me teach you
again when we go down to Wrayth, won't you?"
But before she could answer they had arrived at the house in Queen
Michelham, with a subdued beam on his old face, stood inside the door
with his footmen, and Tristram said gayly,
"Michelham, this is to be her new ladyship; Countess Shulski"--and he
turned to Zara. "Michelham is a very old friend of mine, Zara. We used
to do a bit of poaching together, when I was a boy and came home from
Michelham was only a servant and could not know of her degradation, so
Zara allowed herself to smile and looked wonderfully lovely, as the old
"I am sure I wish your ladyship every happiness, and his lordship, too;
and, if I may say so, with such a gentleman your ladyship is sure to
And Tristram chaffed him, and they went upstairs.
Lady Tancred had rigidly refrained from questioning her daughters, on
their return from the dinnerparty; she had not even seen them until the
morning, and when they had both burst out with descriptions of their
future sister-in-law's beauty and strangeness their mother had stopped
"Do not tell me anything about her, dear children," she had said. "I
wish to judge for myself without prejudice."
But Lady Coltshurst could not be so easily repressed. She had called
early, on purpose to give her views, with the ostensible excuse of an
inquiry about her sister-in-law's health.
"I am afraid you will be rather unfavorably impressed with Tristram's
choice, when you have seen her, Jane," she announced. "I confess I was.
She treated us all as though _she_ were conferring the honor, not
receiving it, and she is by no means a type that promises domestic
tranquillity for Tristram."
"Really, Julia!" Lady Tancred protested. "I must beg of you to say no
more. I have perfect confidence in my son, and wish to receive his
future wife with every mark of affection."
"Your efforts will be quite wasted, then, Jane," her sister-in-law
snapped. "She is most forbidding, and never once unbent nor became
genial, the whole evening. And besides, for a lady, she is much too
"She cannot help being beautiful," Lady Tancred said. "I am sure I shall
admire her very much, from what the girls tell me. But we will not
discuss her. It was so kind of you to come, and my head is much
"Then I will be off!" Lady Coltshurst sniffed in a slightly offended
tone. Really, relations were so tiresome! They never would accept a word
of advice or warning in the spirit it was given, and Jane in particular
was unpleasantly difficult.
So she got into her electric brougham, and was rolled away, happily
before Tristram and his lady appeared upon the scene; but the jar of her
words still lingered with Lady Tancred, in spite of all her efforts to
Zara's heart beat when they got to the door, and she felt extremely
antagonistic. Francis Markrute had left her in entire ignorance of the
English customs, for a reason of his own. He calculated if he informed
her that on Tristram's side it was purely a love match, she, with her
strange temperament, and sense of honor, would never have accepted it.
He knew she would have turned upon him and said she could be no party to
such a cheat. He with his calm, calculating brain had weighed the pros
and cons of the whole matter: to get her to consent, for her brother's
sake in the beginning, under the impression that it was a dry business
arrangement, equally distasteful personally to both parties--to leave
her with this impression and keep the pair as much as possible apart,
until the actual wedding; and then to leave her awakening to
Tristram--was his plan. A woman would be impossibly difficult to please,
if, in the end, she failed to respond to such a lover as Tristram! He
counted upon what he had called her moral antennae to make no mistakes.
It would not eventually prejudice matters if the family did find her a
little stiff, as long as she did not actually show her contempt for
their apparent willingness to support the bargain. But her look of
scorn, the night before, when he had shown some uneasiness on this
score, had reassured him. He would leave things alone and let her make
her own discoveries.
So now she entered her future mother-in-law's room, with a haughty mien
and no friendly feelings in her heart. She was well acquainted with the
foreign examples of mother-in-law. They interfered with everything and
had their sons under their thumbs. They seemed always mercenary, and
were the chief agents in promoting a match, if it were for their own
family's advantage. No doubt Uncle Francis had arranged the whole affair
with this Lady Tancred in the first instance, and she, Zara, would not
be required to keep up the comedy, as with the uncle and cousins. She
decided she would be quite frank with her if the occasion required, and
if she should, by chance, make the same insinuation of the continuance
of the Tancred race as Lady Ethelrida had innocently done, she would
have plainly to say that was not in the transaction. For her own ends
she must be Lord Tancred's wife and let her uncle have what glory he
pleased from the position; if that were his reason, and as for Lord
Trancred's ends, he was to receive money. That was all: it was quite
The two women were mutually surprised when they looked at one another.
Lady Tancred's first impression was, "It is true she is a very
disturbing type, but how well bred and how beautiful!" And Zara thought,
"It is possible that, after all, I may be wrong. She looks too proud to
have stooped to plan this thing. It may be only Lord Tancred's
doing--men are more horrible than women."
"This is Zara, Mother," Tristram said.
And Lady Tancred held out her hands, and then drew her new
daughter--that was to be--nearer and kissed her.
And over Zara there crept a thrill. She saw that the elder lady was
greatly moved, and no woman had kissed her since her mother's death.
Why, if it were all a bargain, should she tenderly kiss her?
"I am so glad to welcome you, dear," Lady Tancred said, determining to
be very gracious. "I am almost pleased not to have been able to go last
night. Now I can have you all to myself for this, our first little
And they sat down on a sofa, and Zara asked about her head; and Lady
Tancred told her the pain was almost gone, and this broke the ice and
started a conversation.
"I want you to tell me of yourself," Lady Tancred said. "Do you think
you will like this old England of ours, with its damp and its gloom in
the autumn, and its beautiful fresh spring? I want you to--and to love
your future home."
"Everything is very strange to me, but I will try," Zara answered.
"Tristram has been making great arrangements to please you at Wrayth,"
Lady Tancred went on. "But, of course, he has told you all about it."
"I have had to be away all the time," Zara felt she had better say--and
"They are all to be surprises, Mother; everything is to be new to Zara,
from beginning to end. You must not tell her anything of it."
Then Lady Tancred spoke of gardens. She hoped Zara liked gardens; she
herself was a great gardener, and had taken much pride in her herbaceous
borders and her roses at Wrayth.
And when they had got to this stage of the conversation Tristram felt he
could safely leave them to one another, so, saying he wanted to talk to
his sisters, he went out of the room.
"It will be such happiness to think of your living in the old home," the
proud lady said. "It was a great grief to us all when we had to shut it
up, two years ago; but you will, indeed, adorn it for its reopening."
Zara did not know what to reply. She vaguely understood that one might
love a home, though she had never had one but the gloomy castle near
Prague; and that made her sigh when she thought of it.
But a garden she knew she should love. And Mirko was so fond of flowers.
Oh! if they would let her have a beautiful country home in peace, and
Mirko to come sometimes, and play there, and chase butterflies, with his
excited, poor little face, she would indeed be grateful to them. Her
thoughts went on in a dream of this, while Lady Tancred talked of many
things, and she answered, "Yes," and "No," with gentle respect. Her
future mother-in-law's great dignity pleased her sense of the fitness of
things; she so disliked gush of any sort herself, and she felt now that
she knew where she was and there need be no explanations. The family,
one and all, evidently intended to play the same part, and she would,
too. When the awakening came it would be between herself and Tristram.
Yes, she must think of him now as "Tristram!"
Her thoughts had wandered again when she heard Lady Tancred's voice,
"I wanted to give you this myself," and she drew a small case from a
table near and opened it, and there lay a very beautiful diamond ring.
"It is my own little personal present to you, my new, dear daughter.
Will you wear it sometimes, Zara, in remembrance of this day and in
remembrance that I give into your hands the happiness of my son, who is
dearer to me than any one on earth?"
And the two proud pairs of eyes met, and Zara could not answer, and
there was a strange silence between them for a second. And then Tristram
came back into the room, which created a diversion, and she was enabled
to say some ordinary conventional things about the beauty of the stones,
and express her thanks for the gift. Only, in her heart, she determined
never to wear it. It would burn her hand, she thought, and she could
never be a hypocrite.
Luncheon was then announced, and they went into the dining-room.
Here she saw Tristram in a new light, with only "Young Billy" and Jimmy
Danvers who had dropped in, and his mother and sisters.
He was gay as a schoolboy, telling Billy who had not spoken a word to
Zara the night before that now he should sit beside her, and that he was
at liberty to make love to his new cousin! And Billy, aged nineteen--a
perfectly stolid and amiable youth--proceeded to start a laborious
conversation, while the rest of the table chaffed about things which
were Greek to Zara, but she was grateful not to have to talk, and so
passed off the difficulties of the situation.
And the moment the meal was over Tristram took her back to Park Lane.
He, too, was thankful the affair had been got through; he hardly spoke
as they went along, and in silence followed her into the house and into
the library, and there waited for her commands.
Whenever they were alone the disguises of the part fell from Zara, and
she resumed the icy mien.
"Good-bye," she said coldly. "I am going into the country to-morrow for
two or three days. I shall not see you until Monday. Have you anything
more it is necessary to say?"
"You are going into the country!" Tristram exclaimed, aghast. "But I
will not--" and then he paused, for her eyes had flashed ominously. "I
mean," he went on, "must you go? So soon before our wedding?"
She drew herself up and spoke in a scathing voice.
"Why must I repeat again what I said when you gave me your ring?--I do
not wish to see or speak with you. You will have all you bargained for.
Can you not leave my company out of the question?"
The Tancred stern, obstinate spirit was thoroughly roused. He walked up
and down the room rapidly for a moment, fuming with hurt rage. Then
reason told him to wait. He had no intention of breaking off the match
now, no matter what she should do; and this was Thursday; there were
only five more days to get through, and when once she should be his
wife--and then he looked at her, as she stood in her dark, perfect
dress, with the great, sable wrap slipping from her shoulders and making
a regal background, and her beauty fired his senses and made his eyes
swim; and he bent forward and took her hand.
"Very well, you beautiful, unkind thing," he said. "But if you do not
want to marry me you had better say so at once, and I will release you
from your promise. Because when the moment comes afterwards for our
crossing of swords there will be no question as to who is to be
master--I tell you that now."
And Zara dragged her hand from him, and, with the black panther's
glance in her eyes, she turned to the window and stood looking out.
Then after a second she said in a strangled voice,
"I wish that the marriage shall take place.--And now, please go."
And without further words he went.
On her way to Bournemouth next day, to see Mirko, Zara met Mimo in the
British Museum. They walked along the galleries on the ground floor
until they found a bench near the mausoleum of Halicarnassus. To look at
it gave them both infinite pleasure; they knew so well the masterpieces
of all the old Greeks. Mimo, it seemed, had been down to see his son ten
days before. They had met secretly. Mirko had stolen out, and with the
cunning of his little brain fully on the alert he had dodged Mrs. Morley
in the garden, and had fled to the near pine woods with his violin; and
there had met his father and had a blissful time. He was certainly
better, Mimo said, a little fatter and with much less cough, and he
seemed fairly happy and quite resigned. The Morleys were so kind and
good, but, poor souls! it was not their fault if they could not
understand! It was not given to every one to have the understanding of
his Cherisette and his own papa, Mirko had said, but so soon he would be
well; then he would be able to come back to them, and in the meantime he
was going to learn lessons, learn the tiresome things that his
Cherisette alone knew how to teach him with comprehension. The new tutor
who came each day from the town was of a reasonableness, but no wit!
"Body of Bacchus!" the father said, "the poor child had not been able to
make the tutor laugh once--in a week--when we met."
And then after a while it seemed that there was some slight care upon
Mimo's mind. It had rained, it appeared, before the end of their stolen
meeting. It had rained all the morning and then had cleared up
gloriously fine, and they had sat down on a bank under the trees, and
Mirko had played divinely all sorts of gay airs. But when he got up he
had shivered a little, and Mimo could see that his clothes were wet, and
then the rain had come on immediately again, and he had made him run
back. He feared he must have got thoroughly soaked, and he had had
nothing since but one postcard, which said that Mirko had been in bed,
though he was now much better and longing--longing to see his
"Oh, Mimo! how could you let him sit on the grass!" Zara exclaimed
reproachfully, when he got thus far. "And why was I not told? It may
have made him seriously ill. Oh, the poor angel! And I must stay so
short a while--and then this wedding--" She stopped abruptly and her
eyes became black. For she knew there was no asking for respite. To
obtain her brother's possible life she must be ready and resigned, at
the altar at St. George's, Hanover Square, on Wednesday the 25th of
October, at 2 o'clock, and, once made a wife, she must go with Lord
Tancred to the Lord Warren Hotel at Dover, to spend the night.
She rose with a convulsive quiver, and looked with blank, sightless eyes
at an Amazon in the frieze hard by. The Amazon--she saw, when vision
came back to her--was hurling a spear at a splendid young Greek. That is
how she felt she would like to behave to her future husband. Men and
their greed of money, and their revolting passions!--and her poor little
Mirko ill, perhaps, from his father's carelessness--How could she leave
him? And if she did not his welfare would be at an end and life an
There was no use scolding Mimo; she knew of old no one was sorrier than
he for his mistakes, for which those he loved best always had to suffer.
It had taken the heart out of him, the anxious thought, he said, but,
knowing that Cherisette must be so busy arranging to get married, he had
not troubled her, since she could do nothing until her return to
England, and then he knew she would arrange to go to Mirko at once, in
He, Mimo, had been too depressed to work, and the picture of the London
fog was not much further advanced, and he feared it would not be ready
for her wedding gift.
"Oh, never mind!" said Zara. "I know you will think of me kindly, and I
shall like that as well as any present."
And then she drove to the Waterloo station alone, a gnawing anxiety in
her heart. And all the journey to Bournemouth her spirits sank lower and
lower until, when she got there, it seemed as if the old cab-horse were
a cow in its slowness, to get to the doctor's trim house.
"Yes," Mrs. Morley said as soon as she arrived, "your little brother has
had a very sharp attack."
He escaped from the garden about ten days before, she explained, and was
gone at least two hours, and then returned wet through, and was a little
light-headed that night, and had talked of "Maman and the angels," and
"Papa and Cherisette," but they could obtain no information from him as
to why he went, nor whom he had seen. He had so rapidly recovered that
the doctor had not thought it necessary to let any one know, and she,
Mrs. Morley--guessing how busy one must be ordering a trousseau--when
there was no danger had refrained from sending a letter, to be forwarded
from the given address.
Here Zara's eyes had flashed, and she had said sternly,
"The trousseau was not of the slightest consequence in comparison to my
Mirko was upstairs in his pretty bedroom, playing with a puzzle and the
nurse; he had not been told of his sister's proposed coming, but some
sixth sense seemed to inform him it was she, when her footfall sounded
on the lower stairs, for they heard an excited voice shouting:
"I tell you I will go--I will go to her, my Cherisette!" And Zara
hastened the last part, to avoid his rushing, as she feared he would do,
out of his warm room into the cold passage.
The passionate joy he showed at the sight of her made a tightness round
her heart. He did not look ill, only, in some unaccountable way, he
seemed to have grown smaller. There was, too, even an extra pink flush
in his cheeks.
He must sit on her lap and touch all her pretty things. She had put on
her uncle's big pearl earrings and one string of big pearls, on purpose
to show him; he so loved what was beautiful and refined.
"Thou art like a queen, Cherisette," he told her. "Much more beautiful
than when we had our tea party, and I wore Papa's paper cap. And
everything new! The uncle, then, is very rich," he went on, while he
stroked the velvet on her dress.
And she kissed and soothed him to sleep in her arms, when he was ready
for his bed. It was getting quite late, and she sang a soft, Slavonic
cradle song, in a low cooing voice, and, every now and then, before the
poor little fellow sank entirely to rest, he would open his beautiful,