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The next three weeks passed for Lord Tancred in continuously growing
excitement. He had much business to see to for the reopening of Wrayth
which had been closed for the past two years. He had decided to let Zara
choose her own rooms, and decorate them as she pleased, when she should
get there. But the big state apartments, with their tapestry and
pictures, would remain untouched.
It gave him infinite pleasure--the thought of living at his old house
once again--and it touched him to see the joy of the village and all the
old keepers and gardeners who had been pensioned off! He found himself
wondering all sorts of things--if he would have a son some day soon, to
inherit it all. Each wood and broad meadow seemed to take on new
interest and significance from this thought.
His home was so very dear to him though he had drilled himself into a
seeming indifference. The great, round tower of the original Norman keep
was still there, connected with the walls of the later house, a large,
wandering edifice built at all periods from that epoch upwards, and
culminating in a shocking early-Victorian Gothic wing and porch.
"I think we shall pull that wretched bit down some time," he said to
himself. "Zara must have good taste--she could not look so well in her
clothes, if she had not."
His thoughts were continually for her, and what she would be likely to
wish; and, in the evening, when he sat alone in his own sanctum after a
hard day with electricians and work-people, he would gaze into the
blazing logs and dream.
The new electric light was not installed yet, and only the big, old
lamps lit the shadowy oak panelling. There in a niche beside the
fireplace was the suit of armor which another Tristram Guiscard had worn
at Agincourt. What little chaps they had been in those days in
comparison with himself and his six feet two inches! But they had been
great lords, his ancestors, and he, too, would be worthy of the race.
There were no wars just now to go to and fight for his country--but he
would fight for his order, with his uncle, the Duke, that splendid, old
specimen of the hereditary legislator. Francis Markrute who was a good
judge had said that he had made some decent speeches in the House of
Lords already, and he would go on and do his best, and Zara would help
him. He wondered if she liked reading and poetry. He was such a
magnificently healthy sportsman he had always been a little shy of
letting people know his inner and gentler tastes. He hoped so much she
would care for the books he did. There was a deep strain of romance in
his nature, undreamed of by such women as Laura Highford, and these
evenings--alone, musing and growing in love with a phantom--drew it
His plan was to go to Paris--to the Ritz--for the honeymoon. Zara who
did not know England would probably hate the solemn servants staring at
her in those early days if he took her to Orton, one of the Duke's
places which he had offered him for the blissful week. Paris was much
better--they could go to the theater there--because he knew it would not
all be plain sailing by any means! And every time he thought of that
aspect, his keen, blue eyes sparkled with the instinct of the chase and
he looked the image of the Baron Tancred who, carved in stone, with his
Crusader's crossed feet, reposed in state in the church of Wrayth.
A lissom, wiry, splendid English aristocrat, in perfect condition and
health, was Tristram Guiscard, twenty-fourth Baron Tancred, as he
lounged in his chair before the fire and dreamed of his lady and his
And when they were used to one another--at the end of the week--there
would be the party at Montfitchet where he would have the joy and pride
of showing his beautiful wife--and Laura would be there;--he suddenly
thought of her. Poor old Laura! she had been awfully nice about it and
had written him the sweetest letter. He would not have believed her
capable of it--and he felt so kindly disposed towards her--little as she
deserved it if he had only known!
Then when these gayeties were over, he and Zara would come here to
Wrayth! And he could not help picturing how he would make love to her in
this romantic setting; and perhaps soon she, too, would love him. When
he got thus far in his picturings he would shut his eyes, stretch out
his long limbs, and call to Jake, his solemn bulldog, and pat his
And Zara, in Paris, was more tranquil in mind than was her wont. Mirko
had not made much difficulty about going to Bournemouth. Everything was
so pretty, the day she took him there, the sun shining gayly and the sea
almost as blue as the Mediterranean, and Mrs. Morley, the doctor's wife,
had been so gentle and sweet, and had drawn him to her heart at once,
and petted him, and talked of his violin. The doctor had examined his
lungs and said they certainly might improve with plenty of the fine air
if he were very carefully fed and tended, and not allowed to catch cold.
The parting with poor Mimo had been very moving. They had said good-bye
to him in the Neville Street lodging, as Zara thought it was wiser not
to risk a scene at the station. The father and son had kissed and
clasped one another and both wept, and Mimo had promised to come to see
him soon, soon!
Then there had been another painful wrench when she herself left
Bournemouth. She had put off her departure until the afternoon of the
following day. Mirko had tried to be as brave as he could; but the
memory of the pathetic little figure, as she saw it waving a hand to her
from the window, made those rare tears brim up and splash on her glove,
as she sat in the train.
In her short life with its many moments of deep anguish she had seldom
been able to cry; there were always others to be thought of first, and
an iron self-control was one of her inheritances from her grandfather,
the Emperor, just as that voluptuous, undulating grace, and the red,
lustrous hair, came from the beautiful opera dancer and great artiste,
She had cautioned Mrs. Morley, if she should often hear Mirko playing
the _Chanson Triste_, to let her know, and she would come to him. It was
a sure indication of his state of mind. And Mrs. Morley, who had read in
the _Morning Post_ the announcement of her approaching marriage, asked
her where she could be found, and Zara had stiffened suddenly and
said--at her uncle's house in Park Lane, the letters to be marked "To be
And when she had gone, Mrs. Morley had told her sister who had come in
to tea how beautiful Countess Shulski was and how very regal looking,
"but she had on such plain, almost shabby, black clothes, Minnie dear,
and a small black toque, and then the most splendid sable wrap--those
very grand people do have funny tastes, don't they? I should have liked
a pretty autumn costume of green velveteen, and a hat with a wing or a
The financier had insisted upon his niece wearing the sable wrap--and
somehow, in spite of all things, the beautiful, dark, soft fur had given
And now, three weeks later, she was just returning from Paris, her
beauty enriched by all that money and taste could procure. It was the
eighteenth of October, exactly a week before her wedding.
She had written to Mimo from Paris, and told him she was going to be
married; that she was doing so because she thought it was best for them
all; and he had written back enchanted exclamations of surprise and joy,
and had told her she should have his new picture, the London fog--so
dramatic with its two meeting figures--for his wedding gift. Poor Mimo,
so generous, always, with all he had!
Mirko was not to be told until she was actually married.
She had written to her uncle and asked him as a great favor that she
might only arrive the very day of the family dinner party, he could
plead for her excess of trousseau business, or what he liked. She would
come by the nine o'clock morning train, so as to be in ample time for
dinner; and it would be so much easier for every one, if they could get
the meeting over, the whole family together, rather than have the ordeal
of private presentations.
And Francis Markrute had agreed, while Lord Tancred had chafed.
"I _shall_ meet her at the station, whatever you say, Francis!" he had
exclaimed. "I am longing to see her."
And as the train drew up at Victoria, Zara caught sight of him there on
the platform, and in spite of her dislike and resentment she could not
help seeing that her fianc� was a wonderfully good-looking man.
She herself appeared to him as the loveliest thing he had ever seen in
his life, with her perfect Paris clothes, and air of distinction. If he
had thought her attractive before he felt ecstatic in his admiration
Francis Markrute hurried up the platform and Tristram frowned, but the
financier knew it might not be safe to leave them to a t�te-�-t�te drive
to the house! Zara's temper might not brook it, and he had rushed back
from the city, though he hated rushing, in order to be on the spot to
make a third.
"Welcome, my niece!" he said, before Lord Tancred could speak. "You see,
we have both come to greet you."
She thanked them politely, and turned to give an order to her new French
maid--and some of the expectant, boyish joy died out of Tristram's face,
as he walked beside her to the waiting motor.
They said the usual things about the crossing--it had been smooth and
pleasant--so fortunate for that time of the year--and she had stayed on
deck and enjoyed it. Yes, Paris had been charming; it was always a
delightful spot to find oneself in.
Then Tristram said he was glad she thought that, because, if she would
consent, he would arrange to go there for the honeymoon directly after
the wedding. She inclined her head in acquiescence but did not speak.
The matter appeared one of complete indifference to her.
In spite of his knowledge that this would be her attitude and he need
not expect anything different Tristram's heart began to sink down into
his boots, by the time they reached the house, and Francis Markrute
whispered to his niece as they came up the steps:
"I beg of you to be a little more gracious--the man has some spirit, you
So when they got into the library, and she began to pour out the tea for
them, she made conversation. But Tristram's teeth were set, and a steely
light began to grow in his blue eyes.
She looked so astonishingly alluring there in her well-fitting, blue
serge, traveling dress, yet he might not even kiss her white, slender
hand! And there was a whole week before the wedding! And after
it?--would she keep up this icy barrier between them? If so--but he
refused to think of it!
He noticed that she wore his engagement ring only, on her left hand, and
that the right one was ringless, nor had she a brooch or any other
jewel. He felt glad--he would be able to give her everything. His mother
had been so splendid about the family jewels, insisting upon handing
them over, and even in the short time one or two pieces had been reset,
the better to please the presumably modern taste of the new bride of the
Tancreds. These, and the wonderful pearls, her uncle's gift, were
waiting for her, up in her sitting-room.
"I think I will go and rest now until dinner," she said, and forced a
smile as she moved towards the door.
It was the first time Tristram had ever seen her smile, and it thrilled
him. He had the most frantic longing to take her in his arms and kiss
her, and tell her he was madly in love with her, and wanted her never to
be out of his sight.
But he let her pass out, and, turning round, he found Francis Markrute
pouring out some liqueur brandy from a wonderful, old, gold-chased
bottle, which stood on a side-table with its glasses. He filled two, and
handed one to Tristram, while he quoted Doctor Johnson with an
"'Claret for boys, port for men, but brandy for heroes!' By Jove! my
dear boy," he said, "you are a hero!"
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