Part 6 out of 6
as things can be arranged with suitability. I hope you and Tristram will
arrive in time to accompany me to dinner at Glastonbury House on Friday
evening, when you can congratulate my beloved fiance, who holds you in
"I am, my dear niece, always your devoted uncle,
When Tristram finished reading he exclaimed:
"Good Lord!" For, quite absorbed in his own affairs, he had never even
noticed the financier's peregrinations! Then as he looked at the letter
again he said meditatively:
"I expect they will be awfully happy--Ethelrida is such an unselfish,
sensible, darling girl--"
And it hurt Zara even in her present mood, for she felt the contrast to
herself in his unconscious tone.
"My uncle never does anything without having calculated it will turn out
perfectly," she said bitterly--"only sometimes it can happen that he
plays with the wrong pawns."
And Tristram wondered what she meant. He and she had certainly been
pawns in one of the Markrute games, and now he began to see this object,
just as Zara had done. Then the thought came to him.--Why should he not
now ask her straight out--why she had married him? It was not from any
desire for himself, nor his position, he knew that: but for what?
So, the moment the servants went out of the room to get the
coffee--after a desultory conversation about the engagement until then,
he said coldly:
"You told me on Monday that you now know the reason I had married you:
may I ask you why did you marry me?"
She clasped her hands convulsively. This brought it all back--her poor
little brother--and she was not free yet from her promise to her uncle:
she never failed to keep her word.
A look of deep, tragic earnestness grew in her pools of ink, and she
said to him, with a strange sob in her voice:
"Believe me I had a strong reason, but I cannot tell it to you now."
And the servants reentered the room at the moment, so he could not ask
her why: it broke the current.
But what an unexpected inference she always put into affairs! What was
the mystery? He was thrilled with suspicious, terrible interest. But of
one thing he felt sure--Francis Markrute did not really know.
And in spite of his chain of reasoning about this probable lover some
doubt about it haunted him always; her air was so pure--her mien so
And while the servants were handing the coffee and still there Zara
rose, and, making the excuse that she must write to her uncle at once,
left the room to avoid further questioning. Then Tristram leant his head
upon his hands and tried to think.
He was in a maze--and there seemed no way out. If he went to her now and
demanded to have everything explained he might have some awful
confirmation of his suspicions, and then how could they go through
to-morrow--and the town's address? Of all things he had no right--just
because of his wild passion in marrying this foreign woman--he had no
right to bring disgrace and scandal upon his untarnished name: "noblesse
oblige" was the motto graven on his soul. No, he must bear it until
Friday night after the Glastonbury House dinner. Then he would face her
and demand the truth.
And Zara under the wing of Mrs. Anglin made a thorough tour of the
beautiful, old house. She saw its ancient arras hangings, and panellings
of carved oak, and heard all the traditions, and looked at the
portraits--many so wonderfully like Tristram, for they were a strong,
virile race--and her heart ached, and swelled with pride, alternately.
And, last of all, she stood under the portrait that had been painted by
Sargent, of her husband at his coming of age, and that master of art
had given him, on the canvas, his very soul. There he stood, in a
scarlet hunt-coat--debonair, and strong, and true--with all the promise
of a noble, useful life in his dear, blue eyes. And suddenly this proud
woman put her hand to her throat to check the sob that rose there; and
then, again, out of the mist of her tears she saw Pan and his broken
Tristram passed the afternoon outdoors, inspecting the stables, and
among his own favorite haunts, and then rushed in, too late for tea and
only just in time to catch the post. He wrote a letter to Ethelrida, and
his uncle-in-law that was to be. How ridiculous that sounded! He would
be his uncle and Zara's cousin now, by marriage! Then, when he thought
of this dear Ethelrida whom he had loved more than his own young
sisters, he hurriedly wrote out, as well, a telegram of affection and
congratulation which he handed to Michelham as he came in to get the
letters--and the old man left the room. Then Tristram remembered that he
had addressed the telegram to Montfitchet, and Ethelrida would, of
course, he now recollected, be at Glastonbury House, as she was coming
up that day--so he went to the door and called out:
"Michelham, bring me back the telegram."
And the grave servant, who was collecting all the other letters from the
post-box in the hall, returned and placed beside his master on the table
a blue envelope. There were always big blue envelopes, for the sending
of telegrams, on all the writing tables at Wrayth.
Tristram hurriedly wrote out another and handed it, and the servant
finally left the room. Then he absently pulled out his original one and
glanced at it before tearing it up; and before he realized what he did
his eye caught: "To Count Mimo Sykypri"--he did not read the
address--"Immediately, to-morrow, wire me your news. Cherisette."
And ere his rage burst in a terrible oath he noticed that stamps were
enclosed. Then he threw the paper with violence into the fire!
There was not any more doubt nor speculation; a woman did not sign
herself "Cherisette"--"little darling"--except to a lover! Cherisette!
He was so mad with rage that if she had come into the room at that
moment he would have strangled her, there and then.
He forgot that it was time to dress for dinner--forgot everything but
his overmastering fury. He paced up and down the room, and then after a
while, as ever, his balance returned. The law could give him no redress
yet: she certainly had not been unfaithful to him in their brief married
life, and the law recks little of sins committed before the tie. Nothing
could come now of going to her and reproaching her--only a public
scandal and disgrace. No, he must play his part until he could consult
with Francis Markrute, learn all the truth, and then concoct some plan.
Out of all the awful ruin of his life he could at least save his name.
And after some concentrated moments of agony he mastered himself at last
sufficiently to go to his room and dress for dinner.
But Count Mimo Sykypri would get no telegram that night!
The idea that there could be any scandalous interpretations put upon any
of her actions or words never even entered Zara's brain; so innocently
unconscious was she of herself and her doings that that possible aspect
of the case never struck her. She was the last type of person to make a
mystery or in any way play a part. The small subtly-created situations
and hidden darknesses and mysterious appearances which delighted the
puny soul of Laura Highford were miles beneath her feet. If she had even
faintly dreamed that some doubts were troubling Tristram she would have
plainly told him the whole story and chanced her uncle's wrath. But she
had not the slightest idea of it. She only knew that Tristram was stern
and cold, and showed his disdain of her, and that even though she had
made up her mind to be gentle and try to win him back with friendship,
it was almost impossible. She looked upon his increased, icy contempt of
her at dinner as a protest at her outburst of tears during the day.
So the meal was got through, and the moment the coffee was brought he
gulped it down, and then rose: he could not stand being alone with her
for a moment.
She was looking so beautiful, and so meek, and so tragic, he could not
contain the mixed emotions he felt. He only knew if he had to bear them
another minute he should go mad. So, hardly with sufficient politeness
"I have some important documents to look over; I will wish you good
night." And he hurried her from the room and went on to his own
sitting-room in the other part of the house. And Zara, quite crushed
with her anxiety and sorrow about Mirko, and passionately unhappy at
Tristram's treatment of her, once more returned to her lonely room. And
here she dismissed her maid, and remained looking out on the night. The
mist had gone and some pure, fair stars shone out.
Was that where _Maman_ was--up there? And was Mirko going to her soon,
away out of this cruel world of sorrow and pain? As he had once said,
surely there, there would be room for them both.
But Zara was no morbidly sentimental person, the strong blood ran in her
veins, and she knew she must face her life and be true to herself,
whatever else might betide. So after a while the night airs soothed her,
and she said her prayers and went to bed.
But Tristram, her lord, paced the floor of his room until almost dawn.
* * * * *
The next day passed in the same kind of way, only, it was nearly all in
public, with local festivities again; and both of the pair played their
parts well, as they were now experienced actors, and only one incident
marked the pain of this Thursday out from the pains of the other days.
It was in the schoolhouse at Wrayth, where the buxom girl who had been
assistant mistress, and had married, a year before, brought her
first-born son to show the lord and lady--as he had been born on their
wedding day, just a fortnight ago! She was pale and wan, but so
ecstatically proud and happy looking; and Tristram at once said,
they--he and Zara--must be the god-parents of her boy; and Zara held the
crimson, crumpled atom for a moment, and then looked up and met her
husband's eyes, and saw that they had filled with tears. And she
returned the creature to its mother--but she could not speak, for a
And finally they had come home again--home to Wrayth--and no more
unhappy pair of young, healthy people lived on earth.
Zara could hardly contain her impatience to see if a telegram for her
from Mimo had come in her absence. Tristram saw her look of anxiety and
strain, and smiled grimly to himself. She would get no answering
telegram from her lover that day!
And, worn out with the whole thing, Zara turned to him and asked if it
would matter or look unusual if she said--what was true--that she was so
fatigued she would like to go to bed and not have to come down to
"I will not do so, if it would not be in the game," she said.
And he answered, shortly:
"The game is over, to-night: do as you please."
So she went off sadly, and did not see him again until they were ready
to start in the morning--the Friday morning, which Tristram called the
beginning of the end!
He had arranged that they should go by train, and not motor up, as he
usually did because he loved motoring; but the misery of being so close
to her, even now when he hoped he loathed and despised her, was too
great to chance. So, early after lunch, they started, and would be at
Park Lane after five. No telegram had come for Zara--Mimo must be
away--but, in any case, it indicated nothing unusual was happening,
unless he had been called to Bournemouth by Mirko himself and had left
hurriedly. This idea so tortured her that by the time she got to London
she could not bear it, and felt she must go to Neville Street and see.
But how to get away?
Francis Markrute was waiting for them in the library, and seemed so full
of the exuberance of happiness that she could not rush off until she had
poured out and pretended to enjoy a lengthy tea.
And the change in the reserved man struck them both. He seemed years
younger, and full of the milk of human kindness. And Tristram thought of
himself on the day he had gone to Victoria to meet Zara, when she had
come from Paris, and he had given a beggar half a sovereign, from sheer
joy of life.
For happiness and wine open men's hearts. He would not attempt to speak
about his own troubles until the morning: it was only fair to leave the
elderly lover without cares until after the dinner at Glastonbury House.
At last Zara was able to creep away. She watched her chance, and, with
the cunning of desperation, finding the hall momentarily empty,
stealthily stole out of the front door. But it was after half-past six
o'clock, and they were dining at Glastonbury House, St. James's Square,
She got into a taxi quickly, finding one in Grosvenor Street because she
was afraid to wait to look in Park Lane, in case, by chance, she should
be observed; and at last she reached the Neville Street lodging, and
rang the noisy bell.
The slatternly little servant said that the gentleman was "hout," but
would the lady come in and wait? He would not be long, as he had said
"as how he was only going to take a telegram."
Zara entered at once. A telegram!--perhaps for her--Yes, surely for her.
Mimo had no one else, she knew, to telegraph to. She went up to the
dingy attic studio. The fire was almost out, and the little maid lit one
candle and placed it upon a table. It was very cold on this damp
November day. The place struck her as piteously poor, after the grandeur
from which she had come. Dear, foolish, generous Mimo! She must do
something for him--and would plan how. The room had the air of
scrupulous cleanness which his things always wore, and there was the
"Apache" picture waiting for her to take, in a new gold frame; and the
"London Fog" seemed to be advanced, too; he had evidently worked at it
late, because his palette and brushes, still wet, were on a box beside
it, and on a chair near was his violin. He was no born musician like
Mirko, but played very well. The palette and brushes showed he must have
put them hurriedly down. What for? Why? Had some message come for him?
Had he heard news? And a chill feeling gripped her heart. She looked
about to see if Mirko had written a letter, or one of his funny little
postcards? No, there was nothing--nothing she had not seen except, yes,
just this one on a picture of the town. Only a few words: "Thank
Cherisette for her letter, Agatha is _tres jolie_, but does not
understand the violin, and wants to play it herself. And heavens! the
noise!" How he managed to post these cards was always a mystery; they
were marked with the mark of doubling up twice, so it showed he
concealed them somewhere and perhaps popped them into a pillar-box, when
out for a walk. This one was dated two days ago. Could anything have
happened since? She burned with impatience for Mimo to come in.
A cheap, little clock struck seven. Where could he be? The minutes
seemed to drag into an eternity. All sorts of possibilities struck her,
and then she controlled herself and became calm.
There was a large photograph of her mother, which Mimo had colored
really well. It was in a silver frame upon the mantelpiece, and she
gazed and gazed at that, and whispered aloud in the gloomy room:
"_Maman, adoree!_ Take care of your little one now, even if he must come
to you soon."
And beside this there was another, of Mimo, taken at the same time, when
Zara and her mother had gone to the Emperor's palace in that far land.
How wonderfully handsome he was then, and even still!--and how the air
of _insouciance_ suited him, in that splendid white and gold uniform.
But Mimo looked always a gentleman, even in his shabbiest coat.
And now that she knew what the passion of love meant herself, she better
understood how her mother had loved. She had never judged her mother, it
was not in her nature to judge any one; underneath the case of steel
which her bitter life had wrought her, Zara's heart was as tender as an
Then she thought of the words in the Second Commandment: "And the sins
of the fathers shall be visited upon the children." Had they sinned,
then? And if so how terribly cruel such Commandments were--to make the
innocent children suffer. Mirko and she were certainly paying some
price. But the God that _Maman_ had gone to and loved and told her
children of, was not really cruel, and some day perhaps she--Zara--would
come into peace on earth. And Mirko? Mirko would be up there, happy and
safe with _Maman_.
The cheap clock showed nearly half-past seven. She could not wait
another moment, and also she reasoned if Mimo were sending her a
telegram it would be to Park Lane. He knew she was coming up; she would
get it there on her return, so she scribbled a line to Count Sykypri,
and told him she had been--and why--and that she must hear at once, and
then she left and hurried back to her uncle's house. And when she got
there it was twenty minutes to eight.
Her maid had been dreadfully worried, as she had given no orders as to
what she would wear--but Henriette, being a person of intelligence, had
put out what she thought best,--only she could not prevent her anxiety
and impatience from causing her to go on to the landing, and hang over
the stairs at every noise; and Tristram, coming out of his room already
dressed, found her there--and asked her what she was doing.
"I wait for _Miladi_, _Milor_, she have not come in," Henriette said.
"And I so fear _Miladi_ will be late."
Tristram felt his heart stop beating for a second--strong man as he was.
_Miladi_ had not come in!--But as they spoke, he perceived her on the
landing below, hurrying up--she had not waited to get the lift--and he
went down to meet her, while Henriette returned to her room.
"Where have you been?" he demanded, with a pale, stern face. He was too
angry and suspicious to let her pass in silence, and he noticed her
cheeks were flushed with nervous excitement and that she was out of
breath; and no wonder, for she had run up the stairs.
"I cannot wait to tell you now," she panted. "And what right have you to
speak to me so? Let me pass, or I shall be late."
"I do not care if you are late, or no. You shall answer me!" he said
furiously, barring the way. "You bear my name, at all events, and I have
a right because of that to know."
"Your name?" she said, vaguely, and then for the first time she grasped
that there was some insulting doubt of her in his words.
She cast upon him a look of withering scorn, and, with the air of an
empress commanding an insubordinate guard, she flashed:
"Let me pass at once!"
But Tristram did not move, and for a second they glared at one another,
and she took a step forward as if to force her way. Then he angrily
seized her in his arms. But at that moment Francis Markrute came out of
his room and Tristram let her go--panting. He could not make a scene,
and she went on, with her head set haughtily, to her room.
"I see you have been quarreling again," her uncle said, rather
irritably: and then he laughed as he went down.
"I expect she will be late," he continued; "well, if she is not in the
hall at five minutes to eight, I shall go on."
And Tristram sat down upon the deep sofa on the broad landing outside
her room, and waited: the concentrated essence of all the rage and pain
he had yet suffered seemed to be now in his heart.
But what had it meant--that look of superb scorn? She had no mien of a
At six minutes to eight she opened the door, and came out. She had
simply flown into her clothes, in ten minutes! Her eyes were still black
as night with resentment, and her bosom rose and fell, while in her
white cheeks two scarlet spots flamed.
"I am ready," she said, haughtily, "let us go," and not waiting for her
husband she swept on down the stairs, exactly as her uncle opened the
"Well done, my punctual niece!" he cried genially. "You are a woman of
"In all things," she answered, fiercely, and went towards the door,
where the electric brougham waited.
And both men as they followed her wondered what she could mean.
The dinner for Ethelrida's betrothal resembled in no way the one for
Zara and Tristram; for, except in those two hearts there was no bitter
strain, and the fiances in this case were radiantly happy, which they
could not conceal, and did not try to.
The Dowager Lady Tancred arrived a few minutes after the party of three,
and Zara heard her mother-in-law gasp, as she said, "Tristram, my dear
boy!" and then she controlled the astonishment in her voice, and went on
more ordinarily, but still a little anxiously, "I hope you are very
So he was changed then--to the eye of one who had not seen him since the
wedding--and Zara glanced at him critically, and saw that--yes, he was,
indeed, changed. His face was perfectly set and stern, and he looked
older. It was no wonder his mother should be surprised.
Then Lady Tancred turned to Zara and kissed her. "Welcome back, my dear
daughter," she said. And Zara tried to answer something pleasant: above
all things, this proud lady who had so tenderly given her son's
happiness into her keeping must not guess how much there was amiss.
But Lady Tancred was no simpleton--she saw immediately that her son must
have gone through much suffering and strain. What was the matter? It
tore her heart, but she knew him too well to say anything to him about
So she continued to talk agreeably to them, and Tristram made a great
effort, and chaffed her, and became gay. And soon they went in to
dinner. And Lady Tancred sat on Francis Markrute's other side, and tried
to overcome her prejudice against him. If Ethelrida loved him so much he
must be really nice. And Zara sat on one side of the old Duke, and Lady
Anningford on the other, and on her other side was Young Billy who was
now in an idiotic state of calf love for her--to the amusement of every
one. So, with much gayety and chaff the repast came to an end, and the
ladies, who were all old friends--no strangers now among them--disposed
themselves in happy groups about one of the drawing-rooms, while they
sipped their coffee.
Ethelrida drew Zara aside to talk to her alone.
"Zara," she said, taking her soft, white hand, "I am so awfully happy
with my dear love that I want you to be so, too. Dearest Zara, won't you
be friends with me, now--real friends?"
And Zara, won by her gentleness, pressed Ethelrida's hand with her other
"I am so glad, nothing my uncle could have done would have given me so
much pleasure," she said, with a break in her voice. "Yes, indeed, I
will be friends with you, dear Ethelrida. I am so glad--and
touched--that you should care to have me as your friend." Then Ethelrida
bent forward and kissed her. "When one is as happy as I am," she said,
"it makes one feel good, as if one wanted to do all the kind things and
take away all sorrow out of the world. I have thought sometimes, Zara
dear, that you did not look as happy as--as--I would like you to look."
Happy! the mockery of the word!
"Ethelrida," Zara whispered hurriedly--"don't--don't ask me anything
about it, please, dear. No one can help me. I must come through with it
alone--but you of Tristram's own family, and especially you whom he
loves so much, I don't want you ever to misjudge me. You think perhaps I
have made him unhappy. Oh, if you only knew it all!--Yes, I have. And I
did not know, nor understand. I would die for him now, if I could, but
it is too late; we can only play the game!"
"Zara, do not say this!" said Ethelrida, much distressed. "What can it
be that should come between such beautiful people as you? And Tristram
adores you, Zara dear."
"He did love me--once," Zara answered sadly, "but not now. He would like
never to have to see me again. Please do not let us talk of it;
please--I can't bear any more."
And Ethelrida, watching her face anxiously, saw that it wore a hopeless,
hunted look, as though some agonizing trouble and anxiety brooded over
her. And poor Zara could say nothing of her other anxiety, for now that
Ethelrida was engaged to her uncle her lips, about her own sorrow
concerning her little brother, must be more than ever sealed.
Perhaps--she did not know much of the English point of view yet--perhaps
if the Duke knew that there was some disgrace in the background of the
family he might forbid the marriage, and then she would be spoiling this
sweet Ethelrida's life.
And Ethelrida's fine senses told her there was no use pressing the
matter further, whatever the trouble was this was not the moment to
interfere; so she turned the conversation to lighter things, and,
finally, talked about her own wedding, and so the time passed.
The Dowager Lady Tancred was too proud to ask any one any questions,
although she talked alone with Lady Anningford and could easily have
done so: the only person she mentioned her anxiety to was her brother,
the Duke, when, later, she spoke a few words with him alone.
"Tristram looks haggard and very unhappy, Glastonbury," she said simply,
"have you anything to tell me about it?"
"My dear Jane," replied the Duke, "it is the greatest puzzle in the
world; no one can account for it. I gave him some sound advice at
Montfitchet, when I saw things were so strained, and I don't believe he
has taken it, by the look of them to-night. These young, modern people
are so unnaturally cold, though I did hear they had got through the
rejoicings, in fine style."
"It troubles me very much, Glastonbury--to go abroad and leave him
looking like that. Is it her fault? Or what--do you think?"
"'Pon my soul, I can't say--even the Crow could not unravel the mystery.
Laura Highford was at Montfitchet--confound her--would come; can she
have had anything to do with it, I wonder?"
Then they were interrupted and no more could be said, and finally the
party broke up, with the poor mother's feeling of anxiety unassuaged.
Tristram and Zara were to lunch with her to-morrow, to say good-bye, and
then she was going to Paris--by the afternoon train.
And Francis Markrute staying on to smoke a cigar with the Duke, and,
presumably, to say a snatched good night to his fiance, Tristram was
left to take Zara home alone.
Now would come the moment of the explanation! But she outwitted him,
for they no sooner got into the brougham and he had just begun to speak
than she leaned back and interrupted him:
"You insinuated something on the stairs this evening, the vileness of
which I hardly understood at first; I warn you I will hear no more upon
the subject!" and then her voice broke suddenly and she said,
passionately and yet with a pitiful note, "Ah! I am suffering so
to-night, please--please don't speak to me--leave me alone."
And Tristram was silenced. Whatever it was that soon she must explain,
he could not torture her to-night, and, in spite of his anger and
suspicions and pain, it hurt him to see her, when the lights flashed in
upon them, huddled up in the corner--her eyes like a wounded deer's.
"Zara!" he said at last--quite gently, "what is this, awful shadow that
is hanging over you?--If you will only tell me--" But at that moment
they arrived at the door, which was immediately opened, and she walked
in and then to the lift without answering, and entering, closed the
door. For what could she say?
She could bear things no longer. Tristram evidently saw she had some
secret trouble, she would get her uncle to release her from her promise,
as far as her husband was concerned at least,--she hated mysteries, and
if it had annoyed him for her to be out late she would tell him the
truth--and about Mirko, and everything.
Evidently he had been very much annoyed at that, but this was the first
time he had even suggested he had noticed she was troubled about
anything, except that day in the garden at Wrayth. Her motives were so
perfectly innocent that not the faintest idea even yet dawned upon her
that anything she had ever done could even look suspicious. Tristram
was angry with her because she was late, and had insinuated something
out of jealousy; men were always jealous, she knew, even if they were
perfectly indifferent to a woman. What really troubled her terribly
to-night Was the telegram she found in her room. She had told the maid
to put it there when it came. It was from Mimo, saying Mirko was
feverish again--really ill, he feared, this time.
So poor Zara spent a night of anguish and prayer, little knowing what
the morrow was to bring.
And Tristram went out again to the Turf, and tried to divert his mind
away from his troubles. There was no use in speculating any further, he
must wait for an explanation which he would not consent to put off
beyond the next morning.
So at last the day of a pitiful tragedy dawned.
Zara got up and dressed early. She must be ready to go out to try and
see Mimo, the moment she could slip away after breakfast, so she came
down with her hat on: she wanted to speak to her uncle alone, and
Tristram, she thought, would not be there so early--only nine o'clock.
"This is energetic, my niece!" Francis Markrute said, but she hardly
answered him, and as soon as Turner and the footman had left the room
she began at once:
"Tristram was very angry with me last night because I was out late. I
had gone to obtain news of Mirko, I am very anxious about him and I
could give Tristram no explanation. I ask you to relieve me from my
promise not to tell him--about things."
The financier frowned. This was a most unfortunate moment to revive the
family skeleton, but he was a very just man and he saw, directly, that
suspicion of any sort was too serious a thing to arouse in Tristram's
"Very well," he said, "tell him what you think best. He looks
desperately unhappy--you both do--are you keeping him at arm's length
all this time, Zara? Because if so, my child, you will lose him, I warn
you. You cannot treat a man of his spirit like that; he will leave you
if you do."
"I do not want to keep him at arm's length; he is there of his own will.
I told you at Montfitchet everything is too late--"
Then the butler entered the room: "Some one wishes to speak to your
ladyship on the telephone, immediately," he said.
And Zara forgot her usual dignity as she almost rushed across the hall
to the library, to talk:--it was Mimo, of course, so her presence of
mind came to her and as the butler held the door for her she said, "Call
a taxi at once."
She took the receiver up, and it was, indeed, Mimo's voice--and in
It appeared from his almost incoherent utterances that little Agatha had
teased Mirko and finally broken his violin. And that this had so excited
him, in his feverish state, that it had driven him almost mad, and he
had waited until all the household, including the nurse, were asleep,
and, with superhuman cunning, crept from his bed and dressed himself,
and had taken the money which his Cherisette had given him for an
emergency that day in the Park, and which he had always kept hidden in
his desk; and he had then stolen out and gone to the station--all in the
night, alone, the poor, poor lamb!--and there he had waited until the
Weymouth night mail had come through, and had bought a ticket, and got
in, and come to London to find his father--with the broken violin
wrapped in its green baize cover. And all the while coughing--coughing
enough to kill him! And he had arrived with just enough money to pay a
cab, and had come at about five o'clock and could hardly wake the house
to be let in; and he, Mimo, had heard the noise and come down, and there
found the little angel, and brought him in, and warmed him in his bed.
And he had waited to boil him some hot milk before he could come to the
public telephone near, to call her up. Oh! but he was very ill--very,
very ill--and could she come at once--but oh!--at once!
And Tristram, entering the room at that moment, saw her agonized face
and heard her say, "Yes, yes, dear Mimo, I will come now!" and before he
could realize what she was doing she brushed past him and rushed from
the room, and across the hall and down to the waiting taxicab into which
she sprang, and told the man where to go, with her head out of the
window, as he turned into Grosvenor Street.
The name "Mimo" drove Tristram mad again. He stood for a moment,
deciding what to do, then he seized his coat and hat and rushed out
after her, to the amazement of the dignified servants. Here he hailed
another taxi, but hers was just out of sight down to Park Street, when
he got into his.
"Follow that taxi!" he said to the driver, "that green one in front of
you--I will give you a sovereign if you never lose sight of it."
So the chase began! He must see where she would go! "Mimo!" the "Count
Sykypri" she had telegraphed to--and she had the effrontery to talk to
her lover, in her uncle's house! Tristram was so beside himself with
rage he knew if he found them meeting at the end he would kill her. His
taxi followed the green one, keeping it always in view, right on to
Oxford Street, then Regent Street, then Mortimer Street. Was she going
to Euston Station? Another of those meetings perhaps in a waiting-room,
that Laura had already described! Unutterable disgust as well as blind
fury filled him. He was too overcome with passion to reason with himself
even. No, it was not Euston--they were turning into the Tottenham Court
Road--and so into a side street. And here a back tire on his taxi went,
with a loud report, and the driver came to a stop. And, almost foaming
with rage, Tristram saw the green taxi disappear round the further
corner of a mean street, and he knew it would be lost to view before he
could overtake it: there was none other in sight. He flung the man some
money and almost ran down the road--and, yes, when he turned the corner
he could see the green taxi in the far distance; it was stopping at a
door. He had caught her then, after all! He could afford to go slowly
now. She had entered the house some five or ten minutes before he got
there. He began making up his mind.
It was evidently a most disreputable neighborhood. A sickening,
nauseating revulsion crept over him: Zara--the beautiful, refined
Zara--to be willing to meet a lover here! The brute was probably ill,
and that was why she had looked so distressed. He walked up and down
rapidly twice, and then he crossed the road and rang the bell; the taxi
was still at the door. It was opened almost immediately by the little,
dirty maid--very dirty in the early morning like this.
He controlled his voice and asked politely to be taken to the lady who
had just gone in. With a snivel of tears Jenny asked him to follow her,
and, while she was mounting in front of him, she turned and said: "It
ain't no good, doctor, I ken tell yer; my mother was took just like
that, and after she'd once broke the vessel she didn't live a hour." And
by this time they had reached the attic door which, without knocking
Jenny opened a little, and, with another snivel, announced, "The doctor,
And Tristram entered the room.
And this is what he saw.
The poor, mean room, with its scrupulous neatness slightly disturbed by
the evidences of the boiling of milk and the warming of flannel, and
Zara, kneeling by the low, iron bed where lay the little body of a
child. For Mirko had dwindled, these last weeks of his constant fever,
so that his poor, small frame, undersized for his age at any time,
looked now no more than that of a boy of six years old. He was evidently
dying. Zara held his tiny hand, and the divine love and sorrowful agony
in her face wrung her husband's soul. A towel soaked with blood had
fallen to the floor, and lay there, a ghastly evidence of the "broken
vessel" Jenny had spoken of. Mimo, with his tall, military figure
shaking with dry sobs, stood on the other side, and Zara murmured in a
tender voice of anguish: "My little one! My Mirko!" She was oblivious in
her grief of any other presence--and the dying child opened his eyes and
called faintly, "Maman!"
Then Mimo saw Tristram by the door, and advanced with his finger on his
quivering lips to meet him.
"Ah, sir," he said. "Alas! you have come too late. My child is going to
And all the manhood in Tristram's heart rose up in pity. Here was a
tragedy too deep for human judgment, too deep for thoughts of vengeance,
and without a word he turned and stole from the room. And as he
stumbled down the dark, narrow stairs he heard the sound of a violin as
it wailed out the beginning notes of the _Chanson Triste_, and he
shivered, as if with cold.
For Mirko had opened his piteous eyes again, and whispered in little
"Papa--play to me the air _Mamam_ loved. I can see her blue gauze
wings!" And in a moment, as his face filled with the radiance of his
vision he fell back, dead, into Zara's arms.
When Tristram reached the street he looked about him for a minute like a
blinded man; and then, as his senses came back to him, his first thought
was what he could do for her--that poor mother upstairs, with her dying
child. For that the boy was Zara's child he never doubted. Her
child--and her lover's--had he not called her "_Maman_." So this was the
awful tragedy in her life. He analyzed nothing as yet; his whole being
was paralyzed with the shock and the agony of things: the only clear
thought he had was that he must help her in whatever way he could.
The green taxi was still there, but he would not take it, in case she
should want it. He walked on down the street and found a cab for
himself, and got driven to his old rooms in St. James's Street: he must
be alone to think.
The hall-porter was surprised to see him. Nothing was ready for his
lordship--but his wife would come up--?
But his lordship required nothing, he wished to find something alone.
He did not even notice that there was no fire in the grate, and that the
room was icy cold--the agony of pain in his mind and soul made him
unconscious of lesser ills. He pulled one of the holland sheets off his
own big chair, and sat down in it.
Poor Zara, poor, unhappy Zara!--were his first thoughts--then he
stiffened suddenly. This man must have been her lover before even her
first marriage!--for Francis Markrute had told him she had married very
soon. She was twenty-three years old now, and the child could not have
been less than six; he must have been born when she was only seventeen.
What devilish passion in a man could have made him tempt a girl so
young! Of course this was her secret, and Francis Markrute knew nothing
of it. For one frightful moment the thought came that her husband was
not really dead and that this was he: but no, her husband's name had
been Ladislaus, and this man she had called "Mimo," and if the boy were
the child of her marriage there need then have been no secret about his
existence. There was no other solution--this Count Sykypri had been her
lover when she was a mere child, and probably the concealment had gone
through all her first married life. And no doubt her reason for marrying
him, which she admitted was a very strong one, had been that she might
have money to give to the child--and its father.
The sickening--sickening, squalid tragedy of it all!
And she, Zara, had seemed so proud and so pure! Her look of scorn, only
the night before, at his jealous accusation, came back to him. He could
not remember a single movement nor action of hers that had not been that
of an untarnished queen. What horrible actresses women were! His whole
belief had crumbled to the dust.
And the most terrible part of it all to him was the knowledge that in
spite of everything he still loved her--loved her with a consuming,
almighty passion that he knew nothing now could kill. It had been put
to the bitterest proof. Whatever she had done he could love no other
Then he realized that his life was over. The future a blank,
unutterable, hopeless gray which must go on for years and years. For he
could never come back to her again, nor even live in the house with her,
under the semblance of things.
Then an agonizing bitterness came to him, the hideous malevolence of
fate, not to have let him meet this woman first before this other man;
think of the faithfulness of her nature, with all its cruel actions to
himself! She had been absolutely faithful to her lover, and had defended
herself from his--Tristram's--caresses, even of her finger-tips. What a
love worth having, what a strong, true character--worth dying for--in a
And now, he must never see her again; or, if once more, only for a
business meeting, to settle things without scandal to either of them.
He would not go back to Park Lane, yet--not for a week; he would give
her time to see to the funeral, without the extra pain of his presence.
The man had taken him for the doctor, and she had not even been aware of
his entrance: he would go back to Wrayth, alone, and there try to think
out some plan. So he searched among the covered-up furniture for his
writing table, and found some paper, and sat down and wrote two notes,
one to his mother. He could not face her to-day--she must go without
seeing him--but he knew his mother loved him, and, in all deep moments,
never questioned his will even if she did not understand it.
The note to her was very short, merely saying something was troubling
him greatly for the time, so neither he nor Zara would come to luncheon;
and she was to trust him and not speak of this to any one until he
himself told her more. He might come and see her in Cannes, the
Then he wrote to Zara, and these were his words:
"I know everything. I understand now, and however I blame you for your
deception of me you have my deep sympathy in your grief. I am going away
for a week, so you will not be distressed by seeing me. Then I must ask
you to meet me, here or at your uncle's house, to arrange for our future
Then he rang for a messenger boy, and gave him both notes, and, picking
up the telephone, called up his valet and told him to pack and bring his
things here to his old rooms, and, if her ladyship came in, to see that
she immediately got the note he was sending round to her. Francis
Markrute would have gone to the City by now and was going to lunch with
Ethelrida, so he telephoned to one of his clerks there--finding he was
out for the moment--just to say he was called away for a week and would
She should have the first words with her uncle. Whether she would tell
him or no she must decide, he would not do anything to make her
existence more difficult than it must naturally be.
And then when all this was done the passionate jealousy of a man
overcame him again, and when he thought of Mimo he once more longed to
It was late in the afternoon when Zara got back to her uncle's house.
She had been too distracted with grief to know or care about time, or
what they would be thinking of her absence.
Just after the poor little one was dead frantic telegrams had come from
the Morleys, in consternation at his disappearance, and Mimo, quite
prostrate in his sorrow, as he had been at her mother's death, had left
all practical things to Zara.
No doctor turned up, either. Mimo had not coherently given the address,
on the telephone. Thus they passed the day alone with their dead, in
anguish; and at last thought came back to Zara. She would go to her
uncle, and let him help to settle things; she could count upon him to do
Francis Markrute, anxious and disturbed by Tristram's message and her
absence, met her as she came in and drew her into the library.
The butler had handed her her husband's note, but she held it listlessly
in her hand, without opening it. She was still too numb with sorrow to
take notice of ordinary things. Her uncle saw immediately that something
terrible had happened.
"Zara, dear child," he said, and folded her in his arms with
affectionate kindness, "tell me everything."
She was past tears now, but her voice sounded strange with the tragedy
"Mirko is dead, Uncle Francis," was all she said. "He ran away from
Bournemouth because Agatha, the Morleys' child, broke his violin. He
loved it, you know _Maman_ had given it to him. He came in the night,
all alone, ill with fever, to find his father, and he broke a blood
vessel this morning, and died in my arms--there, in the poor lodging."
Francis Markrute had drawn her to the sofa now, and stroked her hands.
He was deeply moved.
"My poor, dear child! My poor Zara!" he said.
Then, with most pathetic entreaty she went on,
"Oh, Uncle Francis, can't you forgive poor Mimo, now? _Maman_ is dead
and Mirko is dead, and if you ever, some day, have a child yourself, you
may know what this poor father is suffering. Won't you help us? He is
foolish always--unpractical--and he is distracted with grief. You are so
strong--won't you see about the funeral for my little love?"
"Of course I will, dear girl," he answered. "You must have no more
distresses. Leave everything to me." And he bent and kissed her white
cheek, while he tenderly began to remove the pins from her fur toque.
"Thank you," she said gently, as she took the hat from his hand, and
laid it beside her. "I grieve because I loved him--my dear little
brother. His soul was all music, and there was no room for him here. And
oh! I loved _Maman_ so! But I know that it is better as it is; he is
safe there, with her now, far away from all his pain. He saw her when he
was dying." Then after a pause she went on: "Uncle Francis, you love
Ethelrida very much, don't you? Try to look back and think how _Maman_
loved Mimo, and he loved her. Think of all the sorrow of her life, and
the great, great price she paid for her love; and then, when you see
him--poor Mimo--try to be merciful."
And Francis Markrute suddenly felt a lump in his throat. The whole
pitiful memory of his beloved sister stabbed him, and extinguished the
last remnant of rancor towards her lover, which had smoldered always in
his proud heart.
There was a moisture in his clever eyes, and a tremulous note in his
cold voice as he answered his niece:
"Dear child, we will forget and forgive everything. My one thought about
it all now, is to do whatever will bring you comfort."
"There is one thing--yes," she said, and there was the first look of
life in her face. "Mirko, when I saw him last at Bournemouth, played to
me a wonderful air; he said _Maman_ always came back to him in his
dreams when he was ill--feverish, you know--and that she had taught it
to him. It talks of the woods where she is, and beautiful butterflies;
there is a blue one for her, and a little white one for him. He wrote
out the score--it is so joyous--and I have it. Will you send it to
Vienna or Paris, to some great artist, and get it really arranged, and
then when I play it we shall always be able to see _Maman_."
And the moisture gathered again in Francis Markrute's eyes.
"Oh, my dear!" he said. "Will you forgive me some day for my hardness,
for my arrogance to you both? I never knew, I never understood--until
lately--what love could mean in a life. And you, Zara, yourself, dear
child, can nothing be done for you and Tristram?"
At the mention of her husband's name Zara looked up, startled; and then
a deeper tragedy than ever gathered in her eyes, as she rose.
"Let us speak of that no more, my uncle," she said. "Nothing can be
done, because his love for me is dead. I killed it myself, in my
ignorance. Nothing you or I can do is of any avail now--it is all too
And Francis Markrute could not speak. Her ignorance had been his fault,
his only mistake in calculation, because he had played with souls as
pawns in those days before love had softened him. And she made him no
reproaches, when that past action of his had caused the finish of her
life's happiness! Verily, his niece was a noble woman, and, with deepest
homage, as he led her to the door he bent down and kissed her forehead;
and no one in the world who knew him would have believed that she felt
it wet with tears.
When she got to her room she remembered she still carried some note, and
she at last looked at the superscription. It was in Tristram's writing.
In spite of her grief and her numbness to other things it gave her a
sharp emotion. She opened it quickly and read its few cold words. Then
it seemed as if her knees gave way under her, as at Montfitchet that day
when Laura Highford had made her jealous. She could not think clearly,
nor fully understand their meaning; only one point stood out distinctly.
He must see her to arrange for their separation. He had grown to hate
her so much, then, that he could not any longer even live in the house
with her, and all her grief of the day seemed less than this thought.
Then she read it again. He knew all? Who could have told him? Her Uncle
Francis? No, he did not himself know that Mirko was dead until she had
told him. This was a mystery, but it was unimportant. Her numb brain
could not grasp it yet. The main thing was that he was very angry with
her for her deception of him: that, perhaps, was what was causing him
finally to part from her. How strange it was that she was always
punished for keeping her word and acting up to her principles! She did
not think this bitterly, only with utter hopelessness. There was no use
in her trying any longer; happiness was evidently not meant for her. She
must just accept things--and life, or death, as it came. But how hard
men were--she could never be so stern to any one for such a little
fault, for _any_ fault--stern and unforgiving as that strange God who
wrote the Commandments.
And then she felt her cheeks suddenly burn, and yet she shivered; and
when her maid came to her, presently, she saw that her mistress was not
only deeply grieved, but ill, too. So she put her quickly to bed, and
then went down to see Mr. Markrute.
"I think we must have a doctor, monsieur," she said. "_Miladi_ is not at
And Francis Markrute, deeply distressed, telephoned at once for his
His betrothed had gone back to the country after luncheon, so he could
not even have the consolation of her sympathy, and where Tristram was he
did not know.
For the four following days Zara lay in her bed, seriously ill. She had
caught a touch of influenza the eminent physician said, and had
evidently had a most severe shock as well. But she was naturally so
splendidly healthy that, in spite of grief and hopelessness, the
following Thursday she was able to get up again. Francis Markrute
thought her illness had been merciful in a way because the funeral had
all been got over while she was confined to her room. Zara had accepted
everything without protest. She had not desired even to see Mirko once
more. She had no morbid fancies; it was his soul she loved and
remembered, not the poor little suffering body.
It came to her as a comfort that her uncle and Mimo had met and shaken
hands in forgiveness, and now poor Mimo was coming to say good-bye to
her that afternoon.
He was leaving England at once, and would return to his own country and
his people. In his great grief, and with no further ties, he hoped they
would receive him. He had only one object now in life--to get through
with it and join those he loved in some happier sphere.
This was the substance of what he said to Zara when he came; and they
kissed and blessed one another, and parted, perhaps for ever. The
"Apache" and the "London Fog," which would never be finished now he
feared--the pain would be too great--would be sent to her to keep as a
remembrance of their years of life together and the deep ties that bound
them by the memory of those two graves.
And Zara in her weakness had cried for a long time after he had left.
And then she realized that all that part of her life was over now, and
the outlook of what was to come held out no hope.
Francis Markrute had telegraphed to Wrayth, to try and find Tristram,
but he was not there. He had not gone there at all. At the last moment
he could not face it, he felt; he must go somewhere away alone--by the
sea. A great storm was coming on--it suited his mood--so he had left
even his servant in London and had gone off to a wild place on the
Dorsetshire coast that he knew of, and there heard no news of any one.
He would go back on the Friday, and see Zara the next day, as he had
said he would do. Meanwhile he must fight his ghosts alone. And what
ghosts they were!
Now on this Saturday morning Francis Markrute was obliged to leave his
niece. His vast schemes required his attention in Berlin and he would be
gone for a week, and then was going down to Montfitchet. Ethelrida had
written Zara the kindest letters. Her fiance had told her all the
pitiful story, and now she understood the tragedy in Zara's eyes, and
loved her the more for her silence and her honor.
But all these thoughts seemed to be things of naught to the sad
recipient of her letters, since the one and only person who mattered now
in her life knew, also, and held different ones. He was aware of all,
and had no sympathy or pity--only blame--for her. And now that her
health was better and she was able to think, this ceaseless question
worried her; how could Tristram possibly have known all? Had he followed
her? As soon as she would be allowed to go out she would go and see
Jenny, and question her.
And Tristram, by the wild sea--the storm like his mood had lasted all
the time--came eventually to some conclusions. He would return and see
his wife and tell her that now they must part, that he knew of her past
and he would trouble her no more. He would not make her any reproaches,
for of what use? And, besides, she had suffered enough. He would go
abroad at once, and see his mother for a day at Cannes, and tell her his
arrangements, and that Zara and he had agreed to part--he would give her
no further explanations--and then he would go on to India and Japan.
And, after this, his plans were vague. It seemed as if life were too
impossible to look ahead, but not until he could think of Zara with
calmness would he return to England.
And if Zara's week of separation from him had been grief and suffering,
his had been hell.
On the Saturday morning, after her uncle had started for Dover, a note,
sent by hand, was brought to Zara. It was again only a few words, merely
to say if it was convenient to her, he--Tristram--would come at two
o'clock, as he was motoring down to Wrayth at three, and was leaving
England on Monday night.
Her hand trembled too much to write an answer.
"Tell the messenger I will be here," she said; and she sat then for a
long time, staring in front of her.
Then a thought came to her. Whether she were well enough or no she must
go and question Jenny. So, to the despair of her maid, she wrapped
herself in furs and started. She felt extremely faint when she got into
the air, but her will pulled her through, and when she got there the
little servant put her doubts at rest.
Yes, a very tall, handsome gentleman had come a few minutes after
herself, and she had taken him up, thinking he was the doctor.
"Why, missus," she said, "he couldn't have stayed a minute. He come away
while the Count was playin' his fiddle."
So this was how it was! Her thoughts were all in a maze: she could not
reason. And when she got back to the Park Lane house she felt too feeble
to go any further, even to the lift.
Her maid came and took her furs from her, and she lay on the library
sofa, after Henriette had persuaded her to have a little chicken broth;
and then she fell into a doze, and was awakened only by the sound of the
electric bell. She knew it was her husband coming, and sat up, with a
wildly beating heart. Her trembling limbs would not support her as she
rose for his entrance, and she held on by the back of a chair.
And, grave and pale with the torture he had been through, Tristram came
into the room.
He stopped dead short when he saw her so white and fragile looking. Then
he exclaimed, "Zara--you have been ill!"
"Yes," she faltered.
"Why did they not tell me?" he said hurriedly, and then recollected
himself. How could they? No one, not even his servant, knew where he had
She dropped back unsteadily on the sofa.
"Uncle Francis did telegraph to you, to Wrayth, but you were not there,"
He bit his lips--he was so very moved. How was he to tell her all the
things he had come to say so coldly, with her looking so pitiful, so
gentle? His one longing was to take her to his heart and comfort her,
and make her forget all pain.
And she was so afraid of her own weakness, she felt she could not bear
to hear her death-knell, yet. If she could only gain a little time! It
was characteristic of her that she never dreamed of defending herself.
She still had not the slightest idea that he suspected Mimo of being her
lover. Tristram's anger with her was just because he was an
Englishman--very straight and simple--who could brook no deception! that
is what she thought.
If she had not been so lately and so seriously ill--if all her fine
faculties had been in their full vigor--perhaps some idea might have
come to her; but her soul was so completely pure it did not naturally
grasp such things, so even that is doubtful.
"Tristram--" she said, and there was the most piteous appeal in her
tones, which almost brought the tears to his eyes. "Please--I know you
are angry with me for not telling you about Mirko and Mimo, but I had
promised not to, and the poor, little one is dead. I will tell you
everything presently, if you wish, but don't ask me to now. Oh! if you
must go from me soon--you know best--I will not keep you, but--but
please won't you take me with you to-day--back to Wrayth--just until I
get quite well? My uncle is away, and I am so lonely, and I have not any
one else on earth."
Her eyes had a pleading, frightened look, like a child's who is afraid
to be left alone in the dark.
He could not resist her. And, after all, her sin was of long ago--she
could have done nothing since she had been his wife--why should she not
come to Wrayth? She could stay there if she wished, for a while after he
had gone. Only one thing he must know.
"Where is Count Sykypri?" he asked hoarsely.
"Mimo has gone away, back to his own country," she said simply,
wondering at his tone. "Alas! I shall perhaps never see him again."
A petrifying sensation of astonishment crept over Tristram. With all her
meek gentleness she had still the attitude of a perfectly innocent
person. It must be because she was only half English, and foreigners
perhaps had different points of reasoning on all such questions.
The man had gone, then--out of her life. Yes, he would take her back to
Wrayth if it would be any comfort to her.
"Will you get ready now?" he said, controlling his voice into a note of
sternness which he was far from feeling. "Because I am sure you ought
not to be out late in the damp air. I was going in the open car, and to
drive myself, and it takes four hours. The closed one is not in London,
as you know." And then he saw she was not fit for this, so he said
anxiously, "But are you sure you ought to travel to-day at all? You look
so awfully pale."
For there was a great difference in her present transparent, snowy
whiteness, with the blue-circled eyes, to her habitual gardenia hue;
even her lips were less red.
"Yes, yes, I am quite able to go," she said, rising to show him she was
all right. "I will be ready in ten minutes. Henriette can come by train
with my things." And she walked towards the door, which he held open for
her. And here she paused, and then went on to the lift. He followed her
"Are you sure you can go up alone?" he asked anxiously. "Or may I come?"
"Indeed, I am quite well," she answered, with a little pathetic smile.
"I will not trouble you. Wait, I shall not be long." And so she went up.
And when she came down again, all wrapped in her furs, she found
Tristram had port wine ready for her, poured out.
"You must drink this--a big glass of it," he said; and she took it
without a word.
Then when they got to the door she found instead of his own open motor
he had ordered one of her uncle's closed ones, which with footwarmer and
cushions was waiting, so that she should be comfortable and not catch
"Thank you--that is kind of you," she said.
He helped her in, and the butler tucked the fur rug over them, while
Tristram settled the cushions. Then she leaned back for a second and
closed her eyes--everything was going round.
He was very troubled about her. She must have been very ill, even in the
short time--and then her grief,--for, even though she had been so much
separated from it, a mother always loves her child. Then this thought
hurt him again. He hated to remember about the child.
She lay there back against the pillows until they had got quite out of
London, without speaking a word. The wine in her weak state made her
sleepy, and she gradually fell into a doze, and her head slipped
sideways and rested against Tristram's shoulder, and it gave him a
tremendous thrill--her beautiful, proud head with its thick waves of
hair showing under her cap.
He was going to leave her so soon, and she would not know it--she was
asleep--he must just hold her to him a little; she would be more
comfortable like that. So, with cautious care not to wake her, he
slipped his arm under the cushion, and very gently and gradually drew
her into his embrace, so that her unconscious head rested upon his
And thus more than two hours of the journey were accomplished.
And what thoughts coursed through his brain as they went!
He loved her so madly. What did it matter how she had sinned? She was
ill and lonely, and must stay in his arms--just for to-day. But he could
never really take her to his heart--the past was too terrible for that.
And, besides, she did not love him; this gentleness was only because
she was weak and crushed, for the time. But how terribly, bitterly sweet
it was, all the same! He had the most overpowering temptation to kiss
her, but he resisted it; and presently, when they came to a level
crossing and a train gave a wild whistle, she woke with a start. It was
quite dark now, and she said, in a frightened voice, "Where am I? Where
have I been?"
Tristram slipped his arm from round her instantly, and turned on the
"You are in the motor, going to Wrayth," he said. "And I am glad to say
you have been asleep. It will do you good."
She rubbed her eyes.
"Ah! I was dreaming. And Mirko was there, too, with _Maman_, and we were
so happy!" she said, as if to herself.
"Are we near home--I mean, Wrayth?" she asked.
"Not quite yet," he answered. "There will be another hour and a half."
"Need we have the light on?" she questioned. "It hurts my eyes."
He put it out, and there they sat in the growing darkness, and did not
speak any more for some time; and, bending over her, he saw that she had
dozed off again. How very weak she must have been!
He longed to take her into his arms once more, but did not like to
disturb her--she seemed to have fallen into a comfortable position among
the pillows--so he watched over her tenderly, and presently they came to
the lodge gates of Wrayth, and the stoppage caused her to wake and sit
"It seems I had not slept for so long," she said, "and now I feel
better. It is good of you to let me come with you. We are in the park,
are we not?"
"Yes, we shall be at the door in a minute."
And then she cried suddenly,
"Oh! look at the deer!" For a bold and valiant buck, startled and
indignant at the motor lights, was seen, for an instant, glaring at them
as they flashed past.
"You must go to bed as soon as you have had some tea," Tristram said,
"after this long drive. It is half-past six. I telegraphed to have a
room prepared for you. Not that big state apartment you had before, but
one in the other part of the house, where we live when we are alone; and
I thought you would like your maid next you, as you have been ill."
"Thank you," she whispered quite low.
How kind and thoughtful he was being to her! She was glad she had been
Then they arrived at the door, and this time they turned to the left
before they got to the Adam's hall, and went down a corridor to the old
paneled rooms, and into his own sitting-room where it was all warm and
cozy, and the tea-things were laid out. She already looked better for
her sleep; some of the bluish transparency seemed to have left her face.
She had not been into this room on her inspection of the house. She
liked it best of all, with its scent of burning logs and good cigars.
And Jake snorted by the fire with pleasure to see his master, and she
bent and patted his head.
But everything she did was filling Tristram with fresh bitterness and
pain. To be so sweet and gentle now when it was all too late!
He began opening his letters until the tea came. There were the
telegrams from Francis Markrute, sent a week before to say Zara was ill,
and many epistles from friends. And at the end of the pile he found a
short note from Francis Markrute, as well. It was written the day
before, and said that he supposed he, Tristram, would get it eventually;
that Zara had had a very sad bereavement which he felt sure she would
rather tell him about herself, and that he trusted, seeing how very sad
and ill she had been, that Tristram would be particularly kind to her.
So her uncle knew, then! This was incredible: but perhaps Zara had told
him, in her first grief.
He glanced up at her; she was lying back in a great leather chair now,
looking so fragile and weary, he could not say what he intended. Then
Jake rose leisurely and put his two fat forepaws up on her knees and
snorted as was his habit when he approved of any one. And she bent down
and kissed his broad wrinkles.
It all looked so homelike and peaceful! Suddenly scorching tears came
into Tristram's eyes and he rose abruptly, and walked to the window. And
at that moment the servants brought the teapot and the hot scones.
She poured the tea out silently, and then she spoke a little to Jake,
just a few silly, gentle words about his preference for cakes or toast.
She was being perfectly adorable, Tristram thought, with her air of
pensive, subdued sorrow, and her clinging black dress.
He wished she would suggest going to her room. He could not bear it much
She wondered why he was so restless. And he certainly was changed; he
looked haggard and unhappy, more so even than before. And then she
remembered how radiantly strong and splendid he had appeared, at dinner
on their wedding night, and a lump rose in her throat.
"Henriette will have arrived by now," she said in a few minutes. "If you
will tell me where it is I will go to my room."
He got up, and she followed him.
"I expect you will find it is the blue, Chinese damask one just at the
top of these little stairs." Then he strode on in front of her quickly,
and called out from the top, "Yes, it is, and your maid is here."
And as she came up the low, short steps, they met on the turn, and
"Good night," he said. "I will have some soup and suitable things for an
invalid sent up to you; and then you must sleep well, and not get up in
the morning. I shall be very busy to-morrow. I have a great many things
to do before I go on Monday. I am going away for a long time."
She held on to the banisters for a minute, but the shadows were so
deceiving, with all the black oak, that he was not sure what her
expression said. Her words were a very low "Thank you--I will try to
sleep. Good night."
And she went up to her room, and Tristram went on, downstairs--a deeper
ache than ever in his heart.
It was not until luncheon time that Zara came down, next day. She felt
he did not wish to see her, and she lay there in her pretty, old, quaint
room, and thought of many things, and the wreck of their lives, above
all. And she thought of Mirko and her mother, and the tears came to her
eyes. But that grief was past, in its bitterness; she knew it was much
The thought of Tristram's going tore her very soul, and swallowed up all
"I cannot, cannot bear it!" she moaned to herself.
He was sitting gazing into the fire, when she timidly came into his
sitting-room. She had been too unhappy to sleep much and was again
looking very pale.
He seemed to speak to her like one in a dream. He was numb with his
growing misery and the struggle in his mind: he must leave her--the
situation was unendurable--he could not stay, because in her present
softened mood it was possible that if he lost control of himself and
caressed her she might yield to him; and, then, he knew no resolutions
on earth could hold him from taking her to his heart. And she must never
really be his wife. The bliss of it might be all that was divine at
first, but there would be always the hideous skeleton beneath, ready to
peep out and mock at them: and then if they should have children? They
were both so young that would be sure to happen; and this thought, which
had once, in that very room, in his happy musings, given him so much
joy, now caused him to quiver with extra pain. For a woman with such a
background should not be the mother of a Tancred of Wrayth.
Tristram was no Puritan, but the ingrained pride in his old name he
could not eliminate from his blood. So he kept himself with an iron
reserve. He never once looked at her, and spoke as coldly as ice; and
they got through luncheon. And Zara said, suddenly, she would like to go
It was at three o'clock, so he ordered the motor without a word. She was
not well enough to walk there through the park.
He could not let her go alone, so he changed his plans and went with
her. They did not speak, all the way.
She had never been into the church before, and was struck with the fine
windows, and the monuments of the Guiscards, and the famous tomb of the
Crusader in the wall of the chancel pew where they sat; and all through
the service she gazed at his carven face, so exactly like Tristram's,
with the same, stern look.
And a wild, miserable rebellion filled her heart, and then a cold fear;
and she passionately prayed to God to protect him. For what if he should
go on some dangerous hunting expedition, and something should happen,
and she should never see him again! And then, as she stood while they
sang the final hymn, she stopped and caught her breath with a sob. And
Tristram glanced at her in apprehension, and he wondered if he should
have to suffer anything further, or if his misery were at its height.
The whole congregation were so interested to see the young pair, and
they had to do some handshakings, as they came out. What would all these
good people think, Tristram wondered with bitter humor, when they heard
that he had gone away on a long tour, leaving his beautiful bride alone,
not a month after their marriage? But he was past caring what they
thought, one way or another, now.
Zara went to her room when they got back to the house, and when she came
down to tea he was not there, and she had hers alone with Jake.
She felt almost afraid to go to dinner. It was so evident he was
avoiding her. And while she stood undecided her maid brought in a note:
"I ask you not to come down--I cannot bear it. I will see you to-morrow
morning, before I go, if you will come to my sitting-room at twelve."
That was all.
And, more passionately wretched than she had ever been in her life, she
went to bed.
She used the whole strength of her will to control herself next morning.
She must not show any emotion, no matter how she should feel. It was not
that she had any pride left, or would not have willingly fallen into his
arms; but she felt no woman could do so, unsolicited and when a man
plainly showed her he held her in disdain.
So it was, with both their hearts breaking, they met in the
"I have only ten minutes," he said constrainedly. "The motor is at the
door. I have to go round by Bury St. Edmunds; it is an hour out of my
way, and I must be in London at five o'clock, as I leave for Paris by
the night mail. Will you sit down, please, and I will be as brief as I
She fell, rather than sank, into a chair. She felt a singing in her
ears; she must not faint--she was so very weak from her recent illness.
"I have arranged that you stay here at Wrayth until you care to make
fresh arrangements for yourself," he began, averting his eyes, and
speaking in a cold, passionless voice. "But if I can help it, after I
leave here to-day I will never see you again. There need be no public
scandal; it is unnecessary that people should be told anything; they can
think what they like. I will explain to my mother that the marriage was
a mistake and we have agreed to part--that is all. And you can live as
you please and I will do the same. I do not reproach you for the ruin
you have brought upon my life. It was my own fault for marrying you so
heedlessly. But I loved you so--!" And then his voice broke suddenly
with a sob, and he stretched out his arms wildly.
"My God!" he cried, "I am punished! The agony of it is that I love you
still, with all my soul--even though I saw them with my own eyes--your
lover and--your child!"
Here Zara gave a stifled shriek, and, as he strode from the room not
daring to look at her for fear of breaking his resolution, she rose
unsteadily to her feet and tried to call him. But she gasped and no
words would come. Then she fell back unconscious in the chair.
He did not turn round, and soon he was in the motor and gliding away as
though the hounds of hell were after him, as, indeed, they were, from
the mad pain in his heart.
And when Zara came to herself it was half an hour later, and he was many
She sat up and found Jake licking her hands.
Then remembrance came back. He was gone--and he loved her even though he
She started to her feet. The blood rushed back to her brain. She must
She stared around, dazed for a moment, and then she saw the time
tables--the Bradshaw and the A.B.C. She turned over the leaves of the
latter with feverish haste. Yes, there was a train which left at 2:30
and got to London at half-past five; it was a slow one--the express
which started at 3:30, did not get in until nearly six. That might be
too late--both might be too late, but she must try. Then she put her
hand to her head in agony. She did not know where he had gone. Would he
go to his mother's, or to his old rooms in St. James's Street? She did
not know their number.
She rang the bell and asked that Michelham should come to her.
The old servant saw her ghastly face, and knew from Higgins that his
master intended going to Paris that night. He guessed some tragedy had
happened between them, and longed to help.
"Michelham," she said, "his lordship has gone to London. Do you know to
what address? I must follow him--it is a matter of life and death that I
see him before he starts for Paris. Order my motor for the 2:30
train--it is quicker than to go by car all the way."
"Yes, my lady," Michelham said. "Everything will be ready. His lordship
has gone to his rooms, 460 St. James's Street. May I accompany your
ladyship? His lordship would not like your ladyship to travel alone."
"Very well," she said. "There is no place anywhere, within driving
distance that I could catch a train that got in before, is there?"
"No, my lady; that will be the soonest," he said. "And will your
ladyship please to eat some luncheon? There is an hour before the motor
will be round. I know your ladyship's own footman, James, should go with
your ladyship, but if it is something serious, as an old servant, and,
if I may say so, a humble and devoted friend of his lordship's, I would
beg to accompany your ladyship instead."
"Yes, yes, Michelham," said Zara, and hurried from the room.
She sent a telegram when at last she reached the station--to the St.
James's Street rooms.
"What you thought was not true. Do not leave until I come and explain. I
am your own Zara."
Then the journey began--three hours of agony, with the constant
stoppages, and the one thought going over and over in her brain. He
believed she had a lover and a child, and yet he loved her! Oh, God!
That was love, indeed!--and she might not be in time.
But at last they arrived--Michelham and she--and drove to Tristram's
Yes, his lordship had been expected at five, but had not arrived yet; he
was late. And Michelham explained that Lady Tancred had come, and would
wait, while he himself went round to Park Lane to see if Lord Tancred
had been there.
He made up a splendid fire in the sitting-room, and, telling Higgins not
to go in and disturb her even with tea, the kind old man started on his
quest--much anxiety in his mind.
Ten minutes passed, and Zara felt she could hardly bear the suspense.
The mad excitement had kept her up until now. What if he were so late
that he went straight to the train? But then she remembered it went at
nine--and it was only six. Yes, he would surely come.
She did not stir from her chair, but her senses began to take in the
room. How comfortable it was, and what good taste, even with the
evidences of coming departure about! She had seen two or three telegrams
lying on the little hall table, waiting for him, as she came in--hers
among the number, she supposed. A motor stopped, surely!--Ah! if it
should be he! But there were hundreds of such noises in St. James's
Street, and it was too dark and foggy to see. She sat still, her heart
beating in her throat. Yes, there was the sound of a latch key turning
in the lock! And, after stopping to pick up his telegrams, Tristram, all
unexpecting to see any one, entered the room.
She rose unsteadily to meet him, as he gave an exclamation of surprise
"Tristram!" she faltered. It seemed as if her voice had gone again, and
the words would make no sound. But she gathered her strength, and, with
pitiful pleading, stretched out her arms.
"Tristram--I have come to tell you--I have never had a lover: Mimo was
at last married to _Maman_. He was her lover, and Mirko was their
child--my little brother. My uncle did not wish me to tell you this for
a time, because it was the family disgrace." Then, as he made a step
forward to her, with passionate joy in his face, she went on:
"Tristram! You said, that night--before you would ever ask me to be your
wife again, I must go down upon my knees--See--I do!--for Oh!--I love
you!" And suddenly she bent and knelt before him, and bowed her proud
But she did not stay in this position a second, for he clasped her in
his arms, and rained mad, triumphant kisses upon her beautiful, curved
lips, while he murmured,
"At last--my Love--my own!"
* * * * *
Then when the delirium of joy had subsided a little,--with what
tenderness he took off her hat and furs, and drew her into his arms, on
the sofa before the fire.--The superlative happiness to feel her resting
there, unresisting, safe in his fond embrace, with those eyes, which had
been so stormy and resentful, now melting upon him in softest passion.
It seemed heaven to them both. They could not speak coherent sentences
for a while--just over and over again they told each other that they
loved.--It seemed as if he could not hear her sweet confession often
enough--or quench the thirst of his parched soul upon her lips.
Then the masterfulness in him which Zara now adored asserted itself. He
must play with her hair! He must undo it, and caress its waves, to blot
out all remembrance of how its forbidden beauty had tortured him.--And
she just lay there in his arms, in one of her silences, only her eyes
were slumberous with love.
But at last she said, nestling closer,
"Tristram, won't you listen to the story that I must tell you? I want
there never to be any more mysteries between us again--"
And, to content her, he brought himself back to earth--
"Only I warn you, my darling," he said, "all such things are side
issues for me now that at last we have obtained the only thing which
really matters in life--we know that we love each other, and are not
going to be so foolish as to part again for a single hour--if we can
help it--for the rest of time."
And then his whole face lit up with radiant joy, and he suddenly buried
it in her hair. "See," he inurmured, "I am to be allowed to play with
this exquisite net to ensnare my heart; and you are not to be allowed to
spend hours in state rooms--alone! Oh! darling! How can I listen to
anything but the music of your whispers, when you tell me you love me
and are my very own!"
Zara did, however, finally get him to understand the whole history from
beginning to end. And when he heard of her unhappy life, and her
mother's tragic story, and her sorrow and poverty, and her final reason
for agreeing to the marriage, and how she thought of men, and then of
him, and all her gradual awakening into this great love, there grew in
him a reverent tenderness.
"Oh! my sweet--my sweet!" he said. "And I dared to be suspicious of you
and doubt you, it seems incredible now!"
Then he had to tell his story--of how reasonable his suspicions looked,
and, in spite of them, of his increasing love. And so an hour passed
with complete clearing up of all shadows, and they could tenderly smile
together over the misunderstandings which had nearly caused them to ruin
both their lives.
"And to think, Tristram," said Zara, "a little common sense would have
made it all smooth!"
"No, it was not that," he answered fondly, with a whimsical smile in his
eyes, "the troubles would never have happened at all if I had only not
paid the least attention to your haughty words in Paris, nor even at
Dover, but had just continued making love to you; all would have been
well!--However," he added joyously, "we will forget dark things, because
to-morrow I shall take you back to Wrayth, and we shall have our real
honeymoon there in perfect peace."
And, as her lips met his, Zara whispered softly once more,
_"Tu sais que je t'aime!"_
* * * * *
Oh! the glorious joy of that second home-coming for the bridal pair! To
walk to all Tristram's favorite haunts, to wander in the old rooms, and
plan out their improvements, and in the late afternoons to sit in the
firelight in his own sitting-room, and make pictures of their future
joys together. Then he would tell her of his dreams, which once had
seemed as if they must turn to Dead Sea fruit, but were now all bright
and glowing with glad promise of fulfillment.
His passionate delight in her seemed as if it could not find enough
expression, as he grew to know the cultivation of her mind and the pure
thoughts of her soul.--And her tenderness to him was all the sweeter in
its exquisite submission, because her general mien was so proud.
They realized they had found the greatest happiness in this world, and
with the knowledge that they had achieved their desires, after anguish
and pain, they held it next their hearts as heaven's gift.
And when they went to Montfitchet again, to spend that Christmas, the
old Duke was satisfied!
* * * * *
Now, all this happened two years ago. And on the
second anniversary of the Tancred wedding Mr. Francis
and Lady Ethelrida Markrute dined with their nephew
And when they came to drinking healths, bowing to Zara her uncle raised
his glass and said,
"I propose a toast, that I prophesied I would, to you, my very dear
niece--the toast of four supremely happy people!"
And as they drank, the four joined hands.