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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 Ch�risette 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 Ch�risette'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? Ch�risette 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.
"_Ch�risette ador�e_!" 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, Ch�risette?" said Mirko. "Where were thy thoughts
"No, not here, little one. Thy Ch�risette 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 Ch�risette? 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 fianc� 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.
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