Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
Francis Markrute's moral antennae upon which he prided himself informed
him that all was not as it should be between this young bride and
bridegroom. Zara seemed to have acquired in this short week even an
extra air of regal dignity, aided by her perfect clothes; and Tristram
looked stern, and less joyous and more haughty than he had done. And
they were both so deadly cold, and certainly constrained! It was not one
of the financier's habits ever to doubt himself or his deductions. They
were based upon far too sound reasoning. No, if something had gone wrong
or had not yet evolutionized it was only for the moment and need cause
no philosophical _deus ex machina_ any uneasiness.
For it was morally and physically impossible that such a perfectly
developed pair of the genus human being could live together in the bonds
of marriage, and not learn to love.
Meanwhile, it was his business as the friend and uncle of the two to be
genial and make things go on greased wheels.
So he exerted himself to talk at dinner--their dinner _� trois_--. He
told them all the news that had happened during the week--Was it only a
week--Zara and Tristram both thought!
How there were rumors that in the coming spring there might be a general
election, and that the Radicals were making fresh plots to ruin the
country; but there was to be no autumn session, and, as usual, the
party to which they all had the honor to belong was half asleep.
And then the two men grew deep in a political discussion, so as soon as
Zara had eaten her peach she said she would leave them to their talk,
and say "Good night," as she was tired out.
"Yes, my niece," said her uncle who had risen. And he did what he had
not done since she was a child, he stooped and kissed her white
forehead. "Yes, indeed, you must go and rest. We both want you to do us
justice to-morrow, don't we, Tristram? We must have our special lady
looking her best."
And she smiled a faint smile as she passed from the room.
"By George! my dear boy," the financier went on, "I don't believe I ever
realized what a gorgeously beautiful creature my niece is. She is like
some wonderful exotic blossom--a mass of snow and flame!"
And Tristram said with unconscious cynicism,
"Certainly snow--but where is the flame?"
Francis Markrute looked at him out of the corners of his clever eyes.
She had been icy to him in Paris, then! But his was not the temperament
to interfere. It was only a question of time. After all, a week was not
long to grow accustomed to a perfect stranger.
Then they went back to the library, and smoked for an hour or so and
continued their political chat; and at last Markrute said to his new
"In a year or so, when you and Zara have a son, I will give you, my dear
boy, some papers to read which will interest you as showing the mother's
side of his lineage. It will be a fit balance, as far as actual blood
goes, to your own."
In a year or so, when Zara should have a son!
Of all the aspects of the case, which her pride and disdain had robbed
him of, this, Tristram felt, was perhaps--though it had not before
presented itself to him--the most cruel. He would have no son!
He got up suddenly and threw his unfinished cigar into the grate--that
old habit of his when he was moved--and he said in a voice that the
financier knew was strained,
"That is awfully good of you. I shall have to have it inserted in the
family tree--some day. But now I think I shall turn in. I want to have
my eye rested, and be as fit as a fiddle for the shoot. I have had a
And Francis Markrute came out with him into the passage and up to the
first floor, and when they got so far they heard the notes of the
_Chanson Triste_ being played again from Zara's sitting-room. She had
not gone to bed, then, it seemed!
"Good God!" said Tristram. "I don't know why, but I wish to heaven she
would not play that tune."
And the two men looked at one another with some uneasy wonder in their
"Go on and take her to bed," the financier suggested. "Perhaps she does
not like being left so long alone."
Tristram went upstairs with a bitter laugh to himself.
He did not go near the sitting-room; he went straight into the room
which had been allotted to himself: and a savage sense of humiliation
and impotent rage convulsed him.
The next day, the express which would stop for them at Tylling Green,
the little station for Montfitchet, started at two o'clock, and the
financier had given orders to have an early lunch at twelve before they
left. He, himself, went off to the City for half an hour to read his
letters, at ten o'clock, and was surprised when he asked Turner if Lord
and Lady Tancred had break-fasted to hear that her ladyship had gone out
at half-past nine o'clock and that his lordship had given orders to his
valet not to disturb him, in his lordship's room--and here Turner
coughed--until half-past ten.
"See that they have everything they want," his master said, and then
went out. But when he was in his electric brougham, gliding eastwards,
he frowned to himself.
"The proud, little minx! So she has insisted upon keeping to the
business bargain up till now, has she!" he thought. "If it goes on we
shall have to make her jealous. That would be an infallible remedy for
But Zara was not concerned with such things at all for the moment. She
was waiting anxiously for Mimo at their trysting-place, the mausoleum of
Halicarnassus in the British Museum, and he was late. He would have the
last news of Mirko. No reply had awaited her to her telegram to Mrs.
Morley from Paris, and it had been too late to wire again last night.
And Mrs. Morley must have got the telegram, because Mimo had got his.
Some day, she hoped--when she could grow perhaps more friendly with her
husband--she would get her uncle to let her tell him about Mirko. It
would make everything so much more simple as regards seeing him, and
why, since the paper was all signed and nothing could be altered, should
there be any mystery now? Only, her uncle had said the day before the
"I beg of you not to mention the family disgrace of your mother to your
husband nor speak to him of the man Sykypri for a good long time--if you
And she had acquiesced.
"For," Francis Markrute had reasoned to himself, "if the boy dies, as
Morley thinks there is every likelihood that he will, why should
Tristram ever know?"
The disgrace of his adored sister always made him wince.
Mimo came at last, looking anxious and haggard, and not his debonair
self. Yes, he had had a telegram that morning. He had sent one, as he
was obliged to do, in her name, and hence the confusion in the answer.
Mrs. Morley had replied to the Neville Street address, and Zara wondered
if she knew London very well and would see how impossible such a
locality would be for the Lady Tancred!
But Mirko was better--decidedly better--the attack had again been very
short. So she felt reassured for the moment, and was preparing to go
when she remembered that one of the things she had come for was to give
Mimo some money in notes which she had prepared for him; but, knowing
the poor gentleman's character, she was going to do it delicately by
buying the "Apache!" For she was quite aware that just money, for him to
live, now that it was not a question of the welfare of Mirko, he would
never accept from her. In such unpractical, sentimental ways does
breeding show itself in some weak natures!
Mimo was almost suspicious of the transaction, and she was obliged to
soothe and flatter him by saying that he must surely always have
understood how intensely she had admired that work; and now she was rich
it would be an everlasting pleasure to her to own it for her very own.
So poor Mimo _was_ comforted, and they parted after a while, all
arrangements having been made that the telegrams--should any more
come--were to go first, addressed to her at Neville Street, so that the
poor father should see them and then send them on.
And as it was now past eleven o'clock Zara returned quickly back to Park
Lane and was coming in at the door just as her husband was descending
"You are up very early, Milady," he said casually, and because of the
servants in the hall she felt it would look better to follow him into
Tristram was surprised at this and he longed to ask her where she had
been, but she did not tell him; she just said,
"What time do we arrive at your uncle's? Is it five or six?"
"It only takes three hours. We shall be in about five. And, Zara, I want
you to wear the sable coat. I think it suits you better than the
chinchilla you had when we left."
A little pink came into her cheeks. This was the first time he had ever
spoken of her clothes; and to hide the sudden strange emotion she felt,
she said coldly.
"Yes, I intended to. I shall always hate that chinchilla coat."
And he turned away to the window, stung again by her words which she had
said unconsciously. The chinchilla had been her conventional "going
away" bridal finery. That was, of course, why she hated the remembrance
As soon as she had said the words she felt sorry. What on earth made her
so often wound him? She did not know it was part of the same instinct of
self-defense which had had to make up her whole attitude towards life.
Only this time it was unconsciously to hide and so defend the new
emotion which was creeping into her heart.
He stayed with his back turned, looking out of the window; so, after
waiting a moment, she went from the room.
At the station they found Jimmy Danvers, and a Mr. and Mrs. Harcourt
with the latter's sister, Miss Opie, and several men. The rest of the
party, including Emily and Mary, Jimmy told them, had gone down by the
eleven o'clock train.
Both Mrs. Harcourt and her sister and, indeed, the whole company were
Tristram's old and intimate friends and they were so delighted to see
him, and chaffed and were gay, and Zara watched, and saw that her uncle
entered into the spirit of the fun in the saloon, and only she was a
stranger and out in the cold.
As for Tristram, he seemed to become a different person to the stern,
constrained creature of the past week, and he sat in a corner with Mrs.
Harcourt, and bent over her and chaffed and whispered in her ear, and
she--Zara--was left primly in one of the armchairs, a little aloof. But
such a provoking looking type of beauty as hers did not long leave the
men of the party cold to her charms; and soon Jimmy Danvers joined her
and a Colonel Lowerby, commonly known as "the Crow," and she held a
little court. But to relax and be genial and unregal was so difficult
for her, with the whole contrary training of all her miserable life.
Hitherto men and, indeed, often women were things to be kept at a
distance, as in one way or another they were sure to bite!
And after a while the party adjusted itself, some for bridge and some
for sleep; and Jimmy Danvers and Colonel Lowerby went into the small
compartment to smoke.
"Well, Crow," said Jimmy, "what do you think of Tristram's new lady?
Isn't she a wonder? But, Jehoshaphat! doesn't she freeze you to death!"
"Very curious type," growled the Crow. "Bit of Vesuvius underneath, I
"Yes, that is what a fellow'd think to look at her," Jimmy said, puffing
at his cigarette. "But she keeps the crust on the top all the time; the
bloomin' volcano don't get a chance!"
"She doesn't look stupid," continued the Crow. "She looks stormy--expect
it's pretty well worth while, though, when she melts."
"Poor old Tristram don't look as if he had had a taste of paradise with
his houri, for his week, does he? Before we'd heartened him up on the
platform a bit--give you my word--he looked as mum as an owl," Jimmy
said. "And she looked like an iceberg, as she's done all the time. I've
never seen her once warm up."
"He's awfully in love with her," grunted the Crow.
"I believe that is about the measure, though I can't see how you've
guessed it. You had not got back for the wedding, Crow, and it don't
The Crow laughed--one of his chuckling, cynical laughs which to his dear
friend Lady Anningford meant so much that was in his mind.
"Oh, doesn't it!" he said.
"Well, tell me, what do you really think of her?" Jimmy went on. "You
see, I was best man at the wedding, and I feel kind of responsible if
she is going to make the poor, old boy awfully unhappy."
"She's unhappy herself," said the Crow. "It's because she is unhappy
she's so cold. She reminds me of a rough terrier I bought once, when I
was a lad, from a particularly brutal bargeman. It snarled at every one
who came near it, before they could show if they were going to kick or
not, just from force of habit."
"Well?" questioned Jimmy, who, as before has been stated, was rather
"Well, after I had had it for a year it was the most faithful and the
gentlest dog I ever owned. That sort of creature wants oceans of
kindness. Expect Tristram's pulled the curb--doesn't understand as yet."
"Why, how could a person who must always have had heaps of
cash--Markrute's niece, you know--and a fine position be like your dog,
Crow? You _are_ drawing it!"
"Well, you need not mind what I say, Jimmy," Colonel Lowerby went on.
"Judge for yourself. You asked my opinion, and as I am an old friend of
the family I've given it, and time will show."
"Lady Highford's going to be at Montfitchet," Jimmy announced after a
pause. "She won't make things easy for any one, will she!"
"How did that happen?" asked the Crow in an astonished voice.
"Ethelrida had asked her in the season, when every one supposed the
affair was still on, and I expect she would not let them put her off--"
And then both men looked up at the door, for Tristram peeped in.
"We shall be arriving in five minutes, you fellows," he said.
And soon they drew up at the little Tylling Green station, and the
saloon was switched off, while the express flew on to King's Lynn.
There were motor cars and an omnibus to meet them, and Lady Ethelrida's
own comfortable coup� for the bridal pair. They might just want to say a
few words together alone before arriving, she had kindly thought. And
so, though neither of the two were very eager for this t�te-�-t�te, they
got in and started off. The little coup� had very powerful engines and
flew along, so they were well ahead of the rest of the party and would
get to the house first, which was what the hostess had calculated upon.
Then Tristram could have the pleasure of presenting his bride to the
assembled company at tea, without the interruptions of the greetings of
the other folk.
Zara felt excited. She was beginning to realize that these English
people were all of her dead father's class, not creatures whom one must
beware of until one knew whether or not they were gamblers or rogues.
And it made her breathe more freely, and the black panther's look died
out of her eyes. She did not feel nervous, as she well might have
done--only excited and highly worked up. Tristram, for his part, wished
to heaven Ethelrida had not arranged to send the coup� for them. It was
such a terrible temptation for him to resist for five miles, sitting so
near her all alone in the dusk of the afternoon! He clenched his hands
under the rug, and drew as far away from her as he could; and she
glanced at him and wondered, almost timidly, why he looked so stern.
"I hope you will tell me, if there is anything special you wish me to
do, please?" she said. "Because, you see, I have never been in the
English country before, and my uncle has given me to understand the
customs are different to those abroad."
He felt he could not look at her; the unusual gentleness in her voice
was so alluring, and he had not forgotten the hurt of the chinchilla
coat. If he relented in his attitude at all she would certainly snub him
again; so he continued staring in front of him, and answered ordinarily,
"I expect you will do everything perfectly right, and every one will
only want to be kind to you, and make you have a good time; and my uncle
will certainly make love to you but you must not mind that."
And Zara allowed herself to smile as she answered,
"No, I shall not in the least object to that!"
He knew she was smiling--out of the corner of his eye--and the
temptation to clasp her to him was so overpowering that he said rather
hoarsely, "Do you mind if I put the window down?"
He must have some air; he was choking. She wondered more and more what
was the matter with him, and they both fell into a constrained silence
which lasted until they turned into the park gates; and Zara peered out
into the ghostly trees, with their autumn leaves nearly off, and tried
to guess from the lodge what the house would be like.
It was very enormous and stately, she found when they reached it, and,
she walking with her empress air and Tristram following her, they at
last came to the picture gallery where the rest of the party, who had
arrived earlier, were all assembled in the center, by one of the big
fireplaces, with their host and hostess having tea.
The Duke and Lady Ethelrida came forward, down the very long, narrow
room (they had quite sixty feet to walk before they met them), and
then, when they did, they both kissed Zara--their beautiful new
relation!--and Lady Ethelrida taking her arm drew her towards the party,
while she whispered,
"You dear, lovely thing! Ever so many welcomes to the family and
And Zara suddenly felt a lump in her throat. How she had misjudged them
all in her hurt ignorance! And determining to repair her injustice she
advanced with a smile and was presented to the group.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.