instance - technically speaking - snatched from the King from whom could
The financier smiled.
"I said purposely, 'some other class,' instead of 'some class above it,'
for this reason: it is because a certain and ever-increasing number of
your class, if I may say so, are snatching - not, indeed, from the
King - but from all classes _beneath them_, manners and morals, and
absence of tenue, and absence of pride - things for which their class was
not fitted. They had their own vices formerly, which only hurt each
individual and not the order, as a stain will spoil the look of a bit of
machinery but will not upset its working powers like a piece of grit.
What they put into the machine now is grit. And the middle classes are
snatching what they think is gentility, and ridiculous pretenses to
birth and breeding; and the lower classes are snatching everything they
can get from the pitiful fall of the other two, and shouting that all
men are equal, when, if you come down to the practical thing, the
foreman of some ironworks, say - where the opinions were purely
socialistic, in the abstract - would give the last joined stoker a sound
trouncing for aspirations in his actual work above his capabilities;
because he would know that if the stoker were then made foreman the
machinery could not work. The stokers of life should first fit
themselves to be foremen before they shout."
Then, as Lady Ethelrida looked very grave, and Francis Markrute was
really a whimsical person, and seldom talked so seriously to women, he
went on, smiling,
"The only really perfect governments in the world are those of the Bees,
and Ants, because they are both ruled with ruthless discipline and no
sentiment, and every individual knows his place!"
"I read once, somewhere, that it has been discovered," said Lady
Ethelrida gently - she never laid down the law - "that the reason why the
wonderful Greeks came to an end was not really because their system of
government was not a good one, but because the mosquitoes came and gave
them malaria, and enervated them and made them feeble, and so they could
not stand against the stronger peoples of the North. Perhaps," she went
on, "England has got some moral malarial mosquitoes and the scientists
have not yet discovered the proper means for their annihilation."
Here Tristram who overheard this interrupted:
"And it would not be difficult to give the noisome insects their English
names, would it, Francis? Some of them are in the cabinet."
And the three laughed. But Lady Ethelrida wanted to hear something more
from her left-hand neighbor, so she said,
"Then the inference to be drawn from what you have said is - we should
aim at making conditions so that it is possible for every individual to
have the chance to make himself practically - not theoretically - fit for
anything his soul aspires to. Is that it?"
"Absolutely in a nutshell, dear lady," Francis Markrute said, and for a
minute he looked into her eyes with such respectful, intense admiration
that Lady Ethelrida looked away.
In the white drawing-room, afterwards, Lady Highford was particularly
gushing to the new bride. She came with a group of other women to
surround her, and was so playful and charming to all her friends! She
must be allowed to sit next to Zara, because, she said, "Your husband
and I are such very dear, old friends. And how lovely it is to think
that now he will be able to reopen Wrayth! Dear Lady Tancred is so
glad," she purred.
Zara just looked at her politely. What a done-up ferret woman! she
thought. She had met many of her tribe. At the rooms at Monte Carlo, and
in another class and another race, they were the kind who played in the
smallest stakes themselves, and often snatched the other people's money.
"I have never heard my husband speak of you," she said presently, when
she had silently borne a good deal of vitriolic gush. "You have perhaps
been out of England for some time?"
And Lady Anningford whispered to Ethelrida, "We need not worry to be
ready to defend her, pet! She can hold her own!" So they moved on to the
group of the girls.
But at the end of their conversation, though Zara had used her method of
silence in a considerable degree and made it as difficult as she could
for Lady Highford, still, that artist in petty spite had been able to
leave behind her some rankling stings. She was a mistress of innuendo.
So that when the men came in, and Tristram, from the sense of "not
funking things" which was in him, deliberately found Laura and sat down
upon a distant sofa with her, Zara suddenly felt some unpleasant feeling
about her heart. She found that she desired to watch them, and that, in
spite of what any one said to her, her attention wandered back to the
distant sofa in some unconscious speculation and unrest.
And Laura was being exceedingly clever. She scented with the cunning of
her species that Tristram was really unhappy, whether he was in love
with his hatefully beautiful wife or not. Now was her chance; not by
reproaches, but by sympathy, and, if possible, by planting some venom
towards his wife in his heart.
"Tristram, dear boy, why did you not tell me? Did you not know I would
have been delighted at anything - if it pleased you?" And she looked
down, and sighed. "I always made it my pleasure to understand you, and
to promote whatever seemed for your good."
And in his astonishment at this attitude Tristram forgot to recall the
constant scenes and reproaches, and the paltry little selfishnesses of
which he had been the victim during the year their - friendship - had
lasted. He felt somehow soothed. Here was some one who was devoted to
him, even if his wife were not!
"You are a dear, Laura," he said.
"And now you must tell me if you are really happy - Tristram." She
lingered over his name. "She is so lovely - your wife - but looks very
cold. And I know, dear" (another hesitation over the word), "I know you
don't like women to be cold."
"We will not discuss my wife," he said. "Tell me what you have been
doing, Laura. Let me see, when did I see you last - in June?"
And the venom came to boiling-point in Laura's adder gland. He could not
even remember when he had said good-by to her! It was in July, after the
Eton and Harrow match!
"Yes, in June," she said sadly, turning her eyes down. "And you might
have told me, Tristram. It came as such a sudden shock. It made me
seriously ill. You must have known, and were probably engaged - even
Tristram sat mute; for how could he announce the truth?
"Oh, don't let us talk of these things, Laura. Let us forget those old
times and begin again - differently. You will be a dear friend to me
always, I am sure. You always were - " and then he stopped abruptly. He
felt this was too much lying! and he hated doing such things.
"Of course I will, dar - Tristram," Laura said, and appeared much moved.
And from where Zara was trying to talk to the Duke she saw the woman
shiver and look down provokingly and her husband stretch his long limbs
out; and a sudden, unknown sensation of blinding rage came over her, and
she did not hear a syllable of the Duke's speech.
Meanwhile Lady Anningford had retired to a seat in a window with the
"Is it all right, Crow?" she asked, and one of his peculiarities was to
understand her - as Lady Ethelrida understood the Duke - and and not ask
"Will be - some day - I expect - unless they get drowned in the current
"Isn't she mysterious, Crow? I am sure she has some tragic history. Have
you heard anything?"
"Husband murdered by another man in a row at Monte Carlo."
"I don't know for a fact, but I gather - not. You may be certain, Queen
Anne, that when a woman is as quiet and haughty as Lady Tancred looks,
and her manners are as cold and perfectly sure of herself as hers are,
she has not done anything she is ashamed of, or regrets."
"Then what can be the cause of the coolness between them? Look at
Tristram now! I think it is horrid of him - sitting like that talking to
Laura, don't you?"
"A viper, Laura," growled the Crow. "She's trying to get him again in
"I cannot imagine why women cannot leave other women's husbands alone.
They are hateful creatures, most of them."
"Natural instinct of the chase," said Colonel Lowerby.
But Lady Anningford flashed.
"You are a cynic, Crow."
* * * * *
"And you will really show me your favorite haunts to-morrow, Lady
Ethelrida?" Francis Markrute was saying to his hostess. He had contrived
insidiously to detach her conversation from a group to himself, and drew
her unconsciously towards a seat where they would be uninterrupted. "One
judges so of people by their tastes in haunts."
Lady Ethelrida never spoke of herself as a rule. She was not in the
habit of getting into those - abstract to begin with, and personal to go
on with - thrilling conversations with men, which most of the modern
young women delight in, and which were the peculiar joy of Lily Opie.
It was because for some unacknowledged reason the financier personally
pleased her that she now drifted where he wished.
"Mine are very simple, I fear, nothing for you to investigate," she said
"So I should have thought - " and he again as he had done at dinner
permitted himself to look into her eyes, and going on after an
imperceptible pause he said softly, "simple, and pure, and sweet ...I
always think of you, Lady Ethelrida, as the embodiment of sane things,
balanced things - perfection." And his last word was almost a caress.
"I am most ordinary," she said; and she wondered why she was not angry
with him, which she quite well could have been.
"It is only perfect balance in all things, if we but know it, which
appeals to the sane eye," he went on, pulling himself up. "All weariness
and satiety are caused in emotion; in pleasure in persons, places, or
things; by the want of proportion in them somewhere which, like all
simple things, is the hardest to find."
"Do you make theories about everything, Mr. Markrute?" she asked, and
there was a smile in her eye.
"It is a wise thing to do sometimes; it keeps one from losing one's
Lady Ethelrida did not answer. She felt deliciously moved. She had often
said to her friend, Anne Anningford, when they had been talking, that
she did not like elderly men; she disliked to see their hair getting
thin, and their chins getting fat, and their little habits and
mannerisms growing pronounced. But here she found herself tremendously
interested in one who, from all accounts, must be quite forty-five if
not older, though it was true his brown colorless hair was excessively
thick, and he was slight of build everywhere.
Now she felt she must turn the conversation to less personal things, so:
"Zara looks very lovely to-night," she said.
"Yes," replied the financier, with an air of detaching himself
unwillingly from a thrilling topic, which was, indeed, what he felt.
"Yes, and I hope some day they will be exceedingly happy."
"Why do you say some day?" Lady Ethelrida asked quickly. "I hoped they
were happy now."
"Not very, I am afraid," he said. "But you remember our compact at
dinner? They will be ideally so if they are left alone," and he glanced
casually at Tristram and Laura.
Ethelrida looked, too, following his eyes.
"Yes," she said. "I wish I had not asked her - " and then she stopped
abruptly, and grew a deep pink. She realized what the inference in her
speech was, and if Mr. Markrute had never heard anything about the silly
affair between her cousin and Lady Highford what would he think! What
might she not have done!
"That won't matter," he said, with his fine smile. "It will be good for
my niece. I meant something quite different."
But what he meant, he would not say.
And so the evening passed smoothly. The girls, and all the young men and
the Crow, and Young Billy, and giddy, irresponsible people like that,
had gathered at one end of the room; they were arranging some especial
picnic for the morrow, as only some of them were going to shoot. And
into their picnic plans they drew Zara, and barred Tristram out, with
"You are only an old, married man now, Tristram," they teased him with.
"But Lady Tancred is young and comes with us!"
"And I will take care of her," announced Lord Elterton, looking
sentimental - much to Tristram's disgust.
Ethelrida seemed to have collected a lot of rotters, he thought to
himself, although it was the same party he had so enjoyed last year!
"Lady Thornby and Lady Melton and Lily Opie and her sister are going out
to the shooters' lunch," Laura said sweetly. "As you are going to be
deprived of your lovely wife, Tristram, I will come, too."
And so, finally good nights were said and the ladies retired to their
rooms; and Zara could not think why she no longer found the atmosphere
of hers peaceful and delightful, as she had done before she went down.
For the first time in her life she felt she hated a woman.
And Tristram, her husband, when he came up an hour or so later, wondered
if she were asleep. Laura had been perfectly sweet, and he felt greatly
soothed. Poor old Laura! He supposed she had really cared for him
rather, and perhaps he had behaved casually, even though she had been
impossible, in the past. But how had he ever even for five minutes
fancied himself in love with her? Why, she looked quite old to-night!
and he had never remarked before how thin and fluffed out her hair was.
Women ought certainly to have beautifully thick hair.
And then all the pretenses of any healing of his aches fell from him,
and he went and stood by the door that separated him from his loved one,
and he stretched out his arms and said aloud, "Darling, if only you
could understand how happy I would make you - if you would let me! But I
can't even break down this hateful door as I want to, because of my
And then for most of the rest of the night he tossed restlessly in his
The next day did not look at all promising as regards the weather, but
still the shooters, Tristram among them, started early for their sport.
And after the merriest breakfast at little tables in the great
dining-room the intending picnickers met in conclave to decide as to
what they should do.
"It is perfectly sure to rain," Jimmy Danvers said. "There is no use
attempting to go to Lynton Heights. Why don't we take the lunch to
Montfitchet Tower and eat it in the big hall? There we wouldn't get
"Quite right, Jimmy," agreed the Crow, who, with Lady Anningford, was to
chaperon the young folk. "I'm all for not getting wet, with my rheumatic
shoulder, and I hear you and Young Billy are a couple of firstclass
"Then," interrupted Lady Betty enthusiastically, "we can cook our own
lunch! Oh, how delightful! We will make a fire in the big chimney. Uncle
Crow, you are a pet!"
"I will go and give orders for everything at once," Lady Ethelrida
agreed delightedly. "Jimmy, what a bright boy to have thought of the
And by twelve o'clock all was arranged. Now, it had been settled the
night before that Mr. Markrute should shoot with the Duke and the rest
of the more serious men; but early in the morning that astute financier
had sent a note to His Grace's room, saying, if it were not putting out
the guns dreadfully, he would crave to be excused as he was expecting a
telegram of the gravest importance concerning the new Turkish loan,
which he would be obliged to answer by a special letter, and he was
uncertain at what time the wire would come. He was extremely sorry, but,
he added whimsically, the Duke must remember he was only a poor,
At which His Grace had smiled, as he thought of his guest's vast
millions, in comparison to his own.
Thus it was that just before twelve o'clock when the young party were
ready to start for their picnic. Mr. Markrute, having written his letter
and despatched it by express to London, chanced upon Lady Ethelrida in a
place where he felt sure he should find her, and, expressing his
surprise that they were not already gone, he begged to be allowed to
come with them. He, too, was an excellent cook, he assured her, and
would be really of use. And they all laughingly started.
And if she could have seen the important letter concerning the new
Turkish loan, she would have found it contained a pressing reminder to
Bumpus to send down that night certain exquisitely bound books!
* * * * *
Above all, the young ladies had demanded they should have no servants at
their picnic - everything, even the fire, was to be made by themselves.
Jimmy was to drive the donkey-cart, with Lady Betty, to take all the
food. The only thing they permitted was that the pots and pans and the
wood for the fire might be sent on.
And they were all so gay and looked so charming and suitably clad, in
their rough, short, tweed frocks.
Zara, who walked demurely by Lord Elterton, had never seen anything of
the sort. She felt like a strange, little child at its first party.
Before he had started in the morning Tristram had sent her a note (he
could not stand the maid and valet as verbal messengers - it made him
laugh too bitterly), it was just a few lines:
"You asked me to tell you anything special about our customs, so this is
to say, just put on some thick, short, ordinary suit, and mind you have
a pair of thick boots."
And it was signed "Tancred" - not "Tristram."
She gave a little quiver as she read it, and then asked and found his
lordship had already gone down. She was to breakfast later with the
non-shooters. She would not see him, then, for the entire day. And that
odious woman with whom he was so friendly would have him all to herself!
These thoughts flashed into her mind before she was aware of it, and
then she crushed them out - furious with herself. For of what possible
matter could her husband's doings be to her? And yet, as she started,
she found herself hoping it would rain, so that the five ladies who
intended joining the guns in the farmhouse, for luncheon at two, would
be unable to go. For just as she had come into the saloon where some of
the party were writing letters that morning she had heard Lady Highford
say to Mrs. Harcourt, in her high voice, "Yes, indeed, we mean to finish
the discussion this afternoon after luncheon. - Dear Tristram! There is a
long wait at the Fulton beat; we shall have plenty of time alone." And
then she had turned round, and seemed confused at seeing her - Zara - and
gushed more than the night before.
But she did not get the satisfaction of perceiving the bride turn a
hair, though as Zara walked on to the end of the room she angrily found
herself wondering who was this woman, and what had she been to Tristram?
What was she _now_?
Lord Elterton had already fallen in love. He was a true _cavalier_
servant; he knew, like the financier, as a fine art, how to manipulate
the temperaments of most women. He prided himself upon it. Indeed, he
spent the greater part of his life doing nothing else. Exquisite
gentleness and sympathy was his method. There were such heaps of rough,
rude brutes about that one would always have a chance by being the
contrast; and husbands, he reasoned, were nearly always brutes - after a
while - in the opinion of their wives! He had hardly ever known this plan
to fail with the most devoted wife. So although Lady Tancred had only
been married a week he hoped to render her not quite indifferent to
himself in some way. He had seen at once that she and Tristram were not
on terms of passionate love, and there was something so piquant about
flirting with a bride! He divided women as a band into about four
divisions. The quite impossible, the recalcitrant, the timid, and the
bold. For the impossible he did not waste powder and shot. For the
recalcitrant he used insidious methods of tickling their fancies, as he
would tickle a trout. For the timid he was tender and protective; and
for the bold subtly indifferent: but always gentle and nice!
He was not sure yet in which of the four divisions he should have to
place his new attraction - probably the second - but he frankly admitted
he had never before had any experience with one of her type. Her strange
eyes thrilled him: he felt, when she turned the deep slate, melting
disks upon him, his heart went "down into his bloomin' boots," as Jimmy
Danvers would have described the sensation. So he began with extreme
gentleness and care.
"You have not been long in this country, Lady Tancred, have you? One can
see it - you are so exquisitely _chic_. And how perfectly you speak
English! Not the slightest accent. It is delicious. Did you learn it
when very young?"
"My father was an Englishman," said Zara, disarmed from her usual
chilling reserve by the sympathy in his voice. "I always spoke it until
I was thirteen, and since then, too. It is a nice, honest language, I
"You speak numbers of others, probably?" Lord Elterton went on,
"Yes, about four or five. It is very easy when one is moving in the
countries, and certain languages are very much alike. Russian is the
"How clever you are!"
"No, I am not a bit. But I have had time to read a good deal - " and then
Zara stopped. It was so against her habit to give personal information
to any one like this.
Lord Elterton saw the little check, and went on another tack. "I have
been an idle fellow and am not at all learned," he said. "Tristram and I
were at Eton together in the same house, and we were both dunces; but he
did rather well at Oxford, and I went straight into the Guards."
Zara longed to ask about Tristram. She had not even heard before that he
had been to Oxford! And it struck her suddenly how ridiculous the whole
thing was. She had sold herself for a bargain; she had asked no
questions of any one; she had intended to despise the whole family and
remain entirely aloof; and now she found every one of her intentions
being gradually upset. But as yet she did not admit for a second to
herself that she was falling in love. It would be such a perfectly
impossible thing to do in any case, when now he was absolutely
indifferent to her and showed it in every way. It made the whole thing
all the more revolting - to have pretended he loved her on that first
night! Yes, with certain modifications of classes and races men were all
perfectly untrustworthy, if not brutes, and a woman, if she could relax
her vigilance, as regards the defense of her person and virtue, could
not afford to unbend a fraction as to her emotions!
And all the time she was thinking this out she was silent, and Lord
Elterton watched her, thrilled with the attraction of the unobtainable.
He saw plainly she had forgotten his very presence, and, though piqued,
he grew the more eager.
"I would love to know what you were thinking of," he said softly; and
then with great care he pulled a bramble aside so that it should not
touch her. They had turned into a lane beyond the kitchen garden and the
Zara started. She had, indeed, been far away!
"I was thinking - " she said, and then she paused for a suitable lie but
none came, so she grew confused, and stopped, and hesitated, and then
she blurted out, "I was thinking was it possible there could ever be any
one whom one could believe?"
Lord Elterton looked at her. What a strange woman!
"Yes," he said simply, "you can believe me when I tell you I have never
been so attracted by any one in my life."
"Oh! for that!" she answered contemptuously. _"Mon Dieu!_ how often I
have heard of that!"
This was not what he had expected. There was no empty boast about the
speech, as there would have been if Laura Highford had uttered it - she
was fond of demonstrating her conquests and power in words. There was
only a weariness as of something banal and tiring. He must be more
"Yes, I quite understand," he said sympathetically. "You must be bored
with the love of men."
"I have never seen any love of men. Do men know love?" she asked, not
with any bitterness - only as a question of fact. What had Tristram been
about? Lord Elterton thought. Here he had been married to this divine
creature for a whole week, and she was plainly asking the question from
her heart. And Tristram was no fool in a general way, he knew. There was
some mystery here, but whatever it was there was the more chance for
him! So he went on very tactfully, trying insidiously to soothe her, so