Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
It was late in the afternoon when Zara got back to her uncle's house.
She had been too distracted with grief to know or care about time, or
what they would be thinking of her absence.
Just after the poor little one was dead frantic telegrams had come from
the Morleys, in consternation at his disappearance, and Mimo, quite
prostrate in his sorrow, as he had been at her mother's death, had left
all practical things to Zara.
No doctor turned up, either. Mimo had not coherently given the address,
on the telephone. Thus they passed the day alone with their dead, in
anguish; and at last thought came back to Zara. She would go to her
uncle, and let him help to settle things; she could count upon him to do
Francis Markrute, anxious and disturbed by Tristram's message and her
absence, met her as she came in and drew her into the library.
The butler had handed her her husband's note, but she held it listlessly
in her hand, without opening it. She was still too numb with sorrow to
take notice of ordinary things. Her uncle saw immediately that something
terrible had happened.
"Zara, dear child," he said, and folded her in his arms with
affectionate kindness, "tell me everything."
She was past tears now, but her voice sounded strange with the tragedy
"Mirko is dead, Uncle Francis," was all she said. "He ran away from
Bournemouth because Agatha, the Morleys' child, broke his violin. He
loved it, you know _Maman_ had given it to him. He came in the night,
all alone, ill with fever, to find his father, and he broke a blood
vessel this morning, and died in my arms--there, in the poor lodging."
Francis Markrute had drawn her to the sofa now, and stroked her hands.
He was deeply moved.
"My poor, dear child! My poor Zara!" he said.
Then, with most pathetic entreaty she went on,
"Oh, Uncle Francis, can't you forgive poor Mimo, now? _Maman_ is dead
and Mirko is dead, and if you ever, some day, have a child yourself, you
may know what this poor father is suffering. Won't you help us? He is
foolish always--unpractical--and he is distracted with grief. You are so
strong--won't you see about the funeral for my little love?"
"Of course I will, dear girl," he answered. "You must have no more
distresses. Leave everything to me." And he bent and kissed her white
cheek, while he tenderly began to remove the pins from her fur toque.
"Thank you," she said gently, as she took the hat from his hand, and
laid it beside her. "I grieve because I loved him--my dear little
brother. His soul was all music, and there was no room for him here. And
oh! I loved _Maman_ so! But I know that it is better as it is; he is
safe there, with her now, far away from all his pain. He saw her when he
was dying." Then after a pause she went on: "Uncle Francis, you love
Ethelrida very much, don't you? Try to look back and think how _Maman_
loved Mimo, and he loved her. Think of all the sorrow of her life, and
the great, great price she paid for her love; and then, when you see
him--poor Mimo--try to be merciful."
And Francis Markrute suddenly felt a lump in his throat. The whole
pitiful memory of his beloved sister stabbed him, and extinguished the
last remnant of rancor towards her lover, which had smoldered always in
his proud heart.
There was a moisture in his clever eyes, and a tremulous note in his
cold voice as he answered his niece:
"Dear child, we will forget and forgive everything. My one thought about
it all now, is to do whatever will bring you comfort."
"There is one thing--yes," she said, and there was the first look of
life in her face. "Mirko, when I saw him last at Bournemouth, played to
me a wonderful air; he said _Maman_ always came back to him in his
dreams when he was ill--feverish, you know--and that she had taught it
to him. It talks of the woods where she is, and beautiful butterflies;
there is a blue one for her, and a little white one for him. He wrote
out the score--it is so joyous--and I have it. Will you send it to
Vienna or Paris, to some great artist, and get it really arranged, and
then when I play it we shall always be able to see _Maman_."
And the moisture gathered again in Francis Markrute's eyes.
"Oh, my dear!" he said. "Will you forgive me some day for my hardness,
for my arrogance to you both? I never knew, I never understood--until
lately--what love could mean in a life. And you, Zara, yourself, dear
child, can nothing be done for you and Tristram?"
At the mention of her husband's name Zara looked up, startled; and then
a deeper tragedy than ever gathered in her eyes, as she rose.
"Let us speak of that no more, my uncle," she said. "Nothing can be
done, because his love for me is dead. I killed it myself, in my
ignorance. Nothing you or I can do is of any avail now--it is all too
And Francis Markrute could not speak. Her ignorance had been his fault,
his only mistake in calculation, because he had played with souls as
pawns in those days before love had softened him. And she made him no
reproaches, when that past action of his had caused the finish of her
life's happiness! Verily, his niece was a noble woman, and, with deepest
homage, as he led her to the door he bent down and kissed her forehead;
and no one in the world who knew him would have believed that she felt
it wet with tears.
When she got to her room she remembered she still carried some note, and
she at last looked at the superscription. It was in Tristram's writing.
In spite of her grief and her numbness to other things it gave her a
sharp emotion. She opened it quickly and read its few cold words. Then
it seemed as if her knees gave way under her, as at Montfitchet that day
when Laura Highford had made her jealous. She could not think clearly,
nor fully understand their meaning; only one point stood out distinctly.
He must see her to arrange for their separation. He had grown to hate
her so much, then, that he could not any longer even live in the house
with her, and all her grief of the day seemed less than this thought.
Then she read it again. He knew all? Who could have told him? Her Uncle
Francis? No, he did not himself know that Mirko was dead until she had
told him. This was a mystery, but it was unimportant. Her numb brain
could not grasp it yet. The main thing was that he was very angry with
her for her deception of him: that, perhaps, was what was causing him
finally to part from her. How strange it was that she was always
punished for keeping her word and acting up to her principles! She did
not think this bitterly, only with utter hopelessness. There was no use
in her trying any longer; happiness was evidently not meant for her. She
must just accept things--and life, or death, as it came. But how hard
men were--she could never be so stern to any one for such a little
fault, for _any_ fault--stern and unforgiving as that strange God who
wrote the Commandments.
And then she felt her cheeks suddenly burn, and yet she shivered; and
when her maid came to her, presently, she saw that her mistress was not
only deeply grieved, but ill, too. So she put her quickly to bed, and
then went down to see Mr. Markrute.
"I think we must have a doctor, monsieur," she said. "_Miladi_ is not at
And Francis Markrute, deeply distressed, telephoned at once for his
His betrothed had gone back to the country after luncheon, so he could
not even have the consolation of her sympathy, and where Tristram was he
did not know.
For the four following days Zara lay in her bed, seriously ill. She had
caught a touch of influenza the eminent physician said, and had
evidently had a most severe shock as well. But she was naturally so
splendidly healthy that, in spite of grief and hopelessness, the
following Thursday she was able to get up again. Francis Markrute
thought her illness had been merciful in a way because the funeral had
all been got over while she was confined to her room. Zara had accepted
everything without protest. She had not desired even to see Mirko once
more. She had no morbid fancies; it was his soul she loved and
remembered, not the poor little suffering body.
It came to her as a comfort that her uncle and Mimo had met and shaken
hands in forgiveness, and now poor Mimo was coming to say good-bye to
her that afternoon.
He was leaving England at once, and would return to his own country and
his people. In his great grief, and with no further ties, he hoped they
would receive him. He had only one object now in life--to get through
with it and join those he loved in some happier sphere.
This was the substance of what he said to Zara when he came; and they
kissed and blessed one another, and parted, perhaps for ever. The
"Apache" and the "London Fog," which would never be finished now he
feared--the pain would be too great--would be sent to her to keep as a
remembrance of their years of life together and the deep ties that bound
them by the memory of those two graves.
And Zara in her weakness had cried for a long time after he had left.
And then she realized that all that part of her life was over now, and
the outlook of what was to come held out no hope.
Francis Markrute had telegraphed to Wrayth, to try and find Tristram,
but he was not there. He had not gone there at all. At the last moment
he could not face it, he felt; he must go somewhere away alone--by the
sea. A great storm was coming on--it suited his mood--so he had left
even his servant in London and had gone off to a wild place on the
Dorsetshire coast that he knew of, and there heard no news of any one.
He would go back on the Friday, and see Zara the next day, as he had
said he would do. Meanwhile he must fight his ghosts alone. And what
ghosts they were!
Now on this Saturday morning Francis Markrute was obliged to leave his
niece. His vast schemes required his attention in Berlin and he would be
gone for a week, and then was going down to Montfitchet. Ethelrida had
written Zara the kindest letters. Her fianc� had told her all the
pitiful story, and now she understood the tragedy in Zara's eyes, and
loved her the more for her silence and her honor.
But all these thoughts seemed to be things of naught to the sad
recipient of her letters, since the one and only person who mattered now
in her life knew, also, and held different ones. He was aware of all,
and had no sympathy or pity--only blame--for her. And now that her
health was better and she was able to think, this ceaseless question
worried her; how could Tristram possibly have known all? Had he followed
her? As soon as she would be allowed to go out she would go and see
Jenny, and question her.
And Tristram, by the wild sea--the storm like his mood had lasted all
the time--came eventually to some conclusions. He would return and see
his wife and tell her that now they must part, that he knew of her past
and he would trouble her no more. He would not make her any reproaches,
for of what use? And, besides, she had suffered enough. He would go
abroad at once, and see his mother for a day at Cannes, and tell her his
arrangements, and that Zara and he had agreed to part--he would give her
no further explanations--and then he would go on to India and Japan.
And, after this, his plans were vague. It seemed as if life were too
impossible to look ahead, but not until he could think of Zara with
calmness would he return to England.
And if Zara's week of separation from him had been grief and suffering,
his had been hell.
On the Saturday morning, after her uncle had started for Dover, a note,
sent by hand, was brought to Zara. It was again only a few words, merely
to say if it was convenient to her, he--Tristram--would come at two
o'clock, as he was motoring down to Wrayth at three, and was leaving
England on Monday night.
Her hand trembled too much to write an answer.
"Tell the messenger I will be here," she said; and she sat then for a
long time, staring in front of her.
Then a thought came to her. Whether she were well enough or no she must
go and question Jenny. So, to the despair of her maid, she wrapped
herself in furs and started. She felt extremely faint when she got into
the air, but her will pulled her through, and when she got there the
little servant put her doubts at rest.
Yes, a very tall, handsome gentleman had come a few minutes after
herself, and she had taken him up, thinking he was the doctor.
"Why, missus," she said, "he couldn't have stayed a minute. He come away
while the Count was playin' his fiddle."
So this was how it was! Her thoughts were all in a maze: she could not
reason. And when she got back to the Park Lane house she felt too feeble
to go any further, even to the lift.
Her maid came and took her furs from her, and she lay on the library
sofa, after Henriette had persuaded her to have a little chicken broth;
and then she fell into a doze, and was awakened only by the sound of the
electric bell. She knew it was her husband coming, and sat up, with a
wildly beating heart. Her trembling limbs would not support her as she
rose for his entrance, and she held on by the back of a chair.
And, grave and pale with the torture he had been through, Tristram came
into the room.
|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.