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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. Ch�risette."
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 "Ch�risette"--"little darling"--except to a lover! Ch�risette!
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
Ch�risette for her letter, Agatha is _tr�s 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, ador�e!_ 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.
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