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It was not until luncheon time that Zara came down, next day. She felt
he did not wish to see her, and she lay there in her pretty, old, quaint
room, and thought of many things, and the wreck of their lives, above
all. And she thought of Mirko and her mother, and the tears came to her
eyes. But that grief was past, in its bitterness; she knew it was much
The thought of Tristram's going tore her very soul, and swallowed up all
"I cannot, cannot bear it!" she moaned to herself.
He was sitting gazing into the fire, when she timidly came into his
sitting-room. She had been too unhappy to sleep much and was again
looking very pale.
He seemed to speak to her like one in a dream. He was numb with his
growing misery and the struggle in his mind: he must leave her--the
situation was unendurable--he could not stay, because in her present
softened mood it was possible that if he lost control of himself and
caressed her she might yield to him; and, then, he knew no resolutions
on earth could hold him from taking her to his heart. And she must never
really be his wife. The bliss of it might be all that was divine at
first, but there would be always the hideous skeleton beneath, ready to
peep out and mock at them: and then if they should have children? They
were both so young that would be sure to happen; and this thought, which
had once, in that very room, in his happy musings, given him so much
joy, now caused him to quiver with extra pain. For a woman with such a
background should not be the mother of a Tancred of Wrayth.
Tristram was no Puritan, but the ingrained pride in his old name he
could not eliminate from his blood. So he kept himself with an iron
reserve. He never once looked at her, and spoke as coldly as ice; and
they got through luncheon. And Zara said, suddenly, she would like to go
It was at three o'clock, so he ordered the motor without a word. She was
not well enough to walk there through the park.
He could not let her go alone, so he changed his plans and went with
her. They did not speak, all the way.
She had never been into the church before, and was struck with the fine
windows, and the monuments of the Guiscards, and the famous tomb of the
Crusader in the wall of the chancel pew where they sat; and all through
the service she gazed at his carven face, so exactly like Tristram's,
with the same, stern look.
And a wild, miserable rebellion filled her heart, and then a cold fear;
and she passionately prayed to God to protect him. For what if he should
go on some dangerous hunting expedition, and something should happen,
and she should never see him again! And then, as she stood while they
sang the final hymn, she stopped and caught her breath with a sob. And
Tristram glanced at her in apprehension, and he wondered if he should
have to suffer anything further, or if his misery were at its height.
The whole congregation were so interested to see the young pair, and
they had to do some handshakings, as they came out. What would all these
good people think, Tristram wondered with bitter humor, when they heard
that he had gone away on a long tour, leaving his beautiful bride alone,
not a month after their marriage? But he was past caring what they
thought, one way or another, now.
Zara went to her room when they got back to the house, and when she came
down to tea he was not there, and she had hers alone with Jake.
She felt almost afraid to go to dinner. It was so evident he was
avoiding her. And while she stood undecided her maid brought in a note:
"I ask you not to come down--I cannot bear it. I will see you to-morrow
morning, before I go, if you will come to my sitting-room at twelve."
That was all.
And, more passionately wretched than she had ever been in her life, she
went to bed.
She used the whole strength of her will to control herself next morning.
She must not show any emotion, no matter how she should feel. It was not
that she had any pride left, or would not have willingly fallen into his
arms; but she felt no woman could do so, unsolicited and when a man
plainly showed her he held her in disdain.
So it was, with both their hearts breaking, they met in the
"I have only ten minutes," he said constrainedly. "The motor is at the
door. I have to go round by Bury St. Edmunds; it is an hour out of my
way, and I must be in London at five o'clock, as I leave for Paris by
the night mail. Will you sit down, please, and I will be as brief as I
She fell, rather than sank, into a chair. She felt a singing in her
ears; she must not faint--she was so very weak from her recent illness.
"I have arranged that you stay here at Wrayth until you care to make
fresh arrangements for yourself," he began, averting his eyes, and
speaking in a cold, passionless voice. "But if I can help it, after I
leave here to-day I will never see you again. There need be no public
scandal; it is unnecessary that people should be told anything; they can
think what they like. I will explain to my mother that the marriage was
a mistake and we have agreed to part--that is all. And you can live as
you please and I will do the same. I do not reproach you for the ruin
you have brought upon my life. It was my own fault for marrying you so
heedlessly. But I loved you so--!" And then his voice broke suddenly
with a sob, and he stretched out his arms wildly.
"My God!" he cried, "I am punished! The agony of it is that I love you
still, with all my soul--even though I saw them with my own eyes--your
lover and--your child!"
Here Zara gave a stifled shriek, and, as he strode from the room not
daring to look at her for fear of breaking his resolution, she rose
unsteadily to her feet and tried to call him. But she gasped and no
words would come. Then she fell back unconscious in the chair.
He did not turn round, and soon he was in the motor and gliding away as
though the hounds of hell were after him, as, indeed, they were, from
the mad pain in his heart.
And when Zara came to herself it was half an hour later, and he was many
She sat up and found Jake licking her hands.
Then remembrance came back. He was gone--and he loved her even though he
She started to her feet. The blood rushed back to her brain. She must
She stared around, dazed for a moment, and then she saw the time
tables--the Bradshaw and the A.B.C. She turned over the leaves of the
latter with feverish haste. Yes, there was a train which left at 2:30
and got to London at half-past five; it was a slow one--the express
which started at 3:30, did not get in until nearly six. That might be
too late--both might be too late, but she must try. Then she put her
hand to her head in agony. She did not know where he had gone. Would he
go to his mother's, or to his old rooms in St. James's Street? She did
not know their number.
She rang the bell and asked that Michelham should come to her.
The old servant saw her ghastly face, and knew from Higgins that his
master intended going to Paris that night. He guessed some tragedy had
happened between them, and longed to help.
"Michelham," she said, "his lordship has gone to London. Do you know to
what address? I must follow him--it is a matter of life and death that I
see him before he starts for Paris. Order my motor for the 2:30
train--it is quicker than to go by car all the way."
"Yes, my lady," Michelham said. "Everything will be ready. His lordship
has gone to his rooms, 460 St. James's Street. May I accompany your
ladyship? His lordship would not like your ladyship to travel alone."
"Very well," she said. "There is no place anywhere, within driving
distance that I could catch a train that got in before, is there?"
"No, my lady; that will be the soonest," he said. "And will your
ladyship please to eat some luncheon? There is an hour before the motor
will be round. I know your ladyship's own footman, James, should go with
your ladyship, but if it is something serious, as an old servant, and,
if I may say so, a humble and devoted friend of his lordship's, I would
beg to accompany your ladyship instead."
"Yes, yes, Michelham," said Zara, and hurried from the room.
She sent a telegram when at last she reached the station--to the St.
James's Street rooms.
"What you thought was not true. Do not leave until I come and explain. I
am your own Zara."
Then the journey began--three hours of agony, with the constant
stoppages, and the one thought going over and over in her brain. He
believed she had a lover and a child, and yet he loved her! Oh, God!
That was love, indeed!--and she might not be in time.
But at last they arrived--Michelham and she--and drove to Tristram's
Yes, his lordship had been expected at five, but had not arrived yet; he
was late. And Michelham explained that Lady Tancred had come, and would
wait, while he himself went round to Park Lane to see if Lord Tancred
had been there.
He made up a splendid fire in the sitting-room, and, telling Higgins not
to go in and disturb her even with tea, the kind old man started on his
quest--much anxiety in his mind.
Ten minutes passed, and Zara felt she could hardly bear the suspense.
The mad excitement had kept her up until now. What if he were so late
that he went straight to the train? But then she remembered it went at
nine--and it was only six. Yes, he would surely come.
She did not stir from her chair, but her senses began to take in the
room. How comfortable it was, and what good taste, even with the
evidences of coming departure about! She had seen two or three telegrams
lying on the little hall table, waiting for him, as she came in--hers
among the number, she supposed. A motor stopped, surely!--Ah! if it
should be he! But there were hundreds of such noises in St. James's
Street, and it was too dark and foggy to see. She sat still, her heart
beating in her throat. Yes, there was the sound of a latch key turning
in the lock! And, after stopping to pick up his telegrams, Tristram, all
unexpecting to see any one, entered the room.
She rose unsteadily to meet him, as he gave an exclamation of surprise
"Tristram!" she faltered. It seemed as if her voice had gone again, and
the words would make no sound. But she gathered her strength, and, with
pitiful pleading, stretched out her arms.
"Tristram--I have come to tell you--I have never had a lover: Mimo was
at last married to _Maman_. He was her lover, and Mirko was their
child--my little brother. My uncle did not wish me to tell you this for
a time, because it was the family disgrace." Then, as he made a step
forward to her, with passionate joy in his face, she went on:
"Tristram! You said, that night--before you would ever ask me to be your
wife again, I must go down upon my knees--See--I do!--for Oh!--I love
you!" And suddenly she bent and knelt before him, and bowed her proud
But she did not stay in this position a second, for he clasped her in
his arms, and rained mad, triumphant kisses upon her beautiful, curved
lips, while he murmured,
"At last--my Love--my own!"
* * * * *
Then when the delirium of joy had subsided a little,--with what
tenderness he took off her hat and furs, and drew her into his arms, on
the sofa before the fire.--The superlative happiness to feel her resting
there, unresisting, safe in his fond embrace, with those eyes, which had
been so stormy and resentful, now melting upon him in softest passion.
It seemed heaven to them both. They could not speak coherent sentences
for a while--just over and over again they told each other that they
loved.--It seemed as if he could not hear her sweet confession often
enough--or quench the thirst of his parched soul upon her lips.
Then the masterfulness in him which Zara now adored asserted itself. He
must play with her hair! He must undo it, and caress its waves, to blot
out all remembrance of how its forbidden beauty had tortured him.--And
she just lay there in his arms, in one of her silences, only her eyes
were slumberous with love.
But at last she said, nestling closer,
"Tristram, won't you listen to the story that I must tell you? I want
there never to be any more mysteries between us again--"
And, to content her, he brought himself back to earth--
"Only I warn you, my darling," he said, "all such things are side
issues for me now that at last we have obtained the only thing which
really matters in life--we know that we love each other, and are not
going to be so foolish as to part again for a single hour--if we can
help it--for the rest of time."
And then his whole face lit up with radiant joy, and he suddenly buried
it in her hair. "See," he inurmured, "I am to be allowed to play with
this exquisite net to ensnare my heart; and you are not to be allowed to
spend hours in state rooms--alone! Oh! darling! How can I listen to
anything but the music of your whispers, when you tell me you love me
and are my very own!"
Zara did, however, finally get him to understand the whole history from
beginning to end. And when he heard of her unhappy life, and her
mother's tragic story, and her sorrow and poverty, and her final reason
for agreeing to the marriage, and how she thought of men, and then of
him, and all her gradual awakening into this great love, there grew in
him a reverent tenderness.
"Oh! my sweet--my sweet!" he said. "And I dared to be suspicious of you
and doubt you, it seems incredible now!"
Then he had to tell his story--of how reasonable his suspicions looked,
and, in spite of them, of his increasing love. And so an hour passed
with complete clearing up of all shadows, and they could tenderly smile
together over the misunderstandings which had nearly caused them to ruin
both their lives.
"And to think, Tristram," said Zara, "a little common sense would have
made it all smooth!"
"No, it was not that," he answered fondly, with a whimsical smile in his
eyes, "the troubles would never have happened at all if I had only not
paid the least attention to your haughty words in Paris, nor even at
Dover, but had just continued making love to you; all would have been
well!--However," he added joyously, "we will forget dark things, because
to-morrow I shall take you back to Wrayth, and we shall have our real
honeymoon there in perfect peace."
And, as her lips met his, Zara whispered softly once more,
_"Tu sais que je t'aime!"_
* * * * *
Oh! the glorious joy of that second home-coming for the bridal pair! To
walk to all Tristram's favorite haunts, to wander in the old rooms, and
plan out their improvements, and in the late afternoons to sit in the
firelight in his own sitting-room, and make pictures of their future
joys together. Then he would tell her of his dreams, which once had
seemed as if they must turn to Dead Sea fruit, but were now all bright
and glowing with glad promise of fulfillment.
His passionate delight in her seemed as if it could not find enough
expression, as he grew to know the cultivation of her mind and the pure
thoughts of her soul.--And her tenderness to him was all the sweeter in
its exquisite submission, because her general mien was so proud.
They realized they had found the greatest happiness in this world, and
with the knowledge that they had achieved their desires, after anguish
and pain, they held it next their hearts as heaven's gift.
And when they went to Montfitchet again, to spend that Christmas, the
old Duke was satisfied!
* * * * *
Now, all this happened two years ago. And on the
second anniversary of the Tancred wedding Mr. Francis
and Lady Ethelrida Markrute dined with their nephew
And when they came to drinking healths, bowing to Zara her uncle raised
his glass and said,
"I propose a toast, that I prophesied I would, to you, my very dear
niece--the toast of four supremely happy people!"
And as they drank, the four joined hands.
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