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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 fianc�s 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 fianc�, 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 Ch�risette 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.
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