"I have heaps to tell you, Anne!" she said, while she pushed her gently
into a big low chair, and herself sank into the corner of her sofa.
Ethelrida was not a person who curled up among pillows, or sat on rugs,
or little stools. All her movements, even in her most intimate moments
of affection with her friend, were dignified and reserved.
"Darling, I am thrilled," Lady Anningford responded, "and I guess it is
all about Mr. Markrute - and oh, Ethelrida, when did it begin?"
"He has been thinking of me for a long time, Anne - quite eighteen
months - but I - " she looked down, while a tender light grew in her face,
"I only began to be interested the night we dined with him - it is a
little more than a fortnight ago - the dinner for Tristram's engagement.
He said a number of things not like any one else, then, and he made me
think of him afterwards - and I saw him again at the wedding - and since
he has been here - and do you know, Anne, I have never loved any one
before in my life!"
"Ethelrida, you darling, I know you haven't!" and Anne bounded up and
gave her a hug. "And I knew you were perfectly happy, and had had a
blissful afternoon when you came down to tea yesterday. Your whole face
was changed, you pet!"
"Did I look so like a fool, Anne?" Ethelrida cried.
Then Lady Anningford laughed happily, as she answered with a roguish
"It was not exactly that, darling, but your dear cheeks were scarlet,
as though they had been exquisitely kissed!"
"Oh!" gasped Ethelrida, flaming pink, as she laughed and covered her
face with her hands.
"Perhaps he knows how to make love nicely - I am no judge of such
things - in any case, he makes me thrill. Anne, tell me, is that - that
curious sensation as though one were rather limp and yet quivering - is
that just how every one feels when they are in love?"
"Ethelrida, you sweet thing!" gurgled Anne.
Then Ethelrida told her friend about the present of books, and showed
them to her, and of all the subtlety of his ways, and how they appealed
"And oh, Anne, he makes me perfectly happy and sure of everything; and I
feel that I need never decide anything for myself again in my life!"
Which, taking it all round, was a rather suitable and fortunate
conviction for a man to have implanted in his lady love's breast, and
held out the prospect of much happiness in their future existence
"I think he is very nice looking," said Anne, "and he has the most
perfect clothes. I do like a man to have that groomed look, which I must
say most Englishmen have, but Tristram has it, especially, and Mr.
Markrute, too. If you knew the despair my old man is to me with his
indifference about his appearance. It is my only crumpled rose leaf,
with the dear old thing."
"Yes," agreed Ethelrida, "I like them to be smart - and above all, they
must have thick hair. Anne, have you noticed Francis' hair? It is so
nice, it grows on his forehead just as Zara's does. If he had been bald
like Papa, I could not have fallen in love with him!"
So once more the fate of a man was decided by his hair!
And during this exchange of confidences, while Emily and Mary took a
brisk walk with the Crow and young Billy, Francis Markrute faced his
lady's ducal father in the library.
He had begun without any preamble, and with perfect calm; and the Duke,
who was above all a courteous gentleman, had listened, first with silent
consternation and resentment, and then with growing interest.
Francis Markrute had manipulated infinitely more difficult situations,
when the balance of some of the powers of Europe depended upon his
nerve; but he knew, as he talked to this gallant old Englishman, that he
had never had so much at stake, and it stimulated him to do his best.
He briefly stated his history, which Ethelrida already knew; he made no
apology for his bar sinister; indeed, he felt none was needed. He knew,
and the Duke knew, that when a man has won out as he had done, such
things fade into space. And then with wonderful taste and discretion he
had but just alluded to his vast wealth, and that it would be so
perfectly administered through Lady Ethelrida's hands, for the good of
her order and of mankind.
And the Duke, accustomed to debate and the watching of methods in men,
could not help admiring the masterly reserve and force of this man.
And, finally, when the financier had finished speaking, the Duke rose
and stood before the fire, while he fixed his eyeglass in his eye.
"You have stated the case admirably, my dear Markrute," he said, in his
distinguished old voice. "You leave me without argument and with merely
my prejudices, which I dare say are unjust, but I confess they are
strongly in favor of my own countrymen and strongly against this
union - though, on the other hand, my daughter and her happiness are my
first consideration in this world. Ethelrida was twenty-six yesterday,
and she is a young woman of strong and steady character, unlikely to be
influenced by any foolish emotion. Therefore, if you have been fortunate
enough to find favor in her eyes - if the girl loves you, in short, my
dear fellow, then I have nothing to say. - Let us ring and have a glass
And presently the two men, now with the warmest friendship in their
hearts for one another, mounted the staircase to Lady Ethelrida's room,
and there found her still talking to Anne.
Her sweet eyes widened with a question as the two appeared at the door,
and then she rushed into her father's arms and buried her face in his
coat; and with his eyeglass very moist, the old Duke kissed her
fondly - as he muttered.
"Why, Ethelrida, my little one. This is news! If you are happy, darling,
that is all I want!"
So the whole dreaded moment passed off with rejoicing, and presently
Lady Anningford and the fond father made their exit, and left the lovers
"Oh, Francis, isn't the world lovely!" murmured Ethelrida from the
shelter of his arms. "Papa and I have always been so happy together, and
now we shall be three, because you understand him, too, and you won't
make me stay away from him for very long times, will you, dear?"
"Never, my sweet. I thought of asking the Duke, if you would wish it, to
let me take the place from him in this county, which eventually comes to
you, and I will keep on Thorpmoor, my house in Lincolnshire, merely for
the shooting. Then you would feel you were always in your own home, and
perhaps the Duke would spend much time with us, and we could come to him
here, in an hour; but all this is merely a suggestion - everything shall
be as you wish."
"Francis, you are good to me," she said.
"Darling," he whispered, as he kissed her hair, "it took me forty-six
years to find my pearl of price."
Then they settled all kinds of other details: how he would give Zara,
for her own, the house in Park Lane, which would not be big enough now
for them; and he would purchase one of those historic mansions, looking
on The Green Park, which he knew was soon to be in the market.
Ethelrida, if she left the ducal roof for the sake of his love, should
find a palace worthy of her acceptance waiting for her.
He had completely recovered his balance, upset a little the night before
by the uncomfortable momentary fear about his niece.
She and Tristram had arranged to come up to Park Lane for two nights
again at the end of the week, to say good-bye to the Dowager Lady
Tancred, who was starting with her daughters for Cannes. If he should
see then that things were still amiss, he would tell Tristram the whole
history of what Zara had thought of him. Perhaps that might throw some
light on her conduct towards him, and so things could be cleared up. But
he pinned his whole faith on youth and propinquity to arrange matters
before then, and dismissed it from his mind.
Meanwhile, the pair in question were speeding along to Wrayth.
Of all the ordeals of the hours which Tristram had had to endure since
his wedding, these occasions, upon which he had to sit close beside her
in a motor, were the worst. An ordinary young man, not in love with her,
would have found something intoxicating in her atmosphere - and how much
more this poor Tristram, who was passionately obsessed.
Fortunately, she liked plenty of window open and did not object to
smoke; but with the new air of meekness which was on her face and the
adorably attractive personal scent of the creature, nearly two hours
with her, under a sable rug, was no laughing matter.
At the end of the first half hour of silence and nearness, her husband
found he was obliged to concentrate his mind by counting sheep jumping
over imaginary stiles to prevent himself from clasping her in his arms.
It was the same old story, which has been chronicled over and over
again. Two young, human, natural, normal people fighting against iron
bars. For Zara felt the same as he, and she had the extra anguish of
knowing she had been unjust, and that the present impossible situation
was entirely her own doing.
And how to approach the subject and confess her fault? She did not know.
Her sense of honor made her feel she must, but the queer silent habit of
her life was still holding her enchained. And so, until they got into
his own country, the strained speechlessness continued, and then he
looked out and said:
"We must have the car opened now - please smile and bow as we go through
the villages when any of the old people curtsey to you; the young ones
won't do it, I expect, but my mother's old friends may."
So Zara leaned forward, when the footman had opened the landaulette top,
and tried to look radiant.
And the first act of this pitiful comedy began.
Every sort of emotion convulsed the new Lady Tancred's heart, as they
began to get near the park, with the village nestling close to its gates
on the far side. So this was the home of her love and her lord; and they
ought to be holding hands, and approaching it and the thought of their
fond life together there with full hearts, - well, her heart was full
enough, but only of anguish and pain. For Tristram, afraid of the
smallest unbending, maintained a freezing attitude of contemptuous
disdain, which she could not yet pluck up enough courage to break
through to tell him she knew how unjust and unkind she had been.
And presently they came through cheering yokels to the South Lodge, the
furthest away from the village, and so under a triumphant arch of
evergreens, with banners floating and mottoes of "God Bless the Bride
and Bridegroom" and "Health and Long Life to Lord and Lady Tancred." And
now Tristram did take her hand and, indeed, put his arm round her as
they both stood up for a moment in the car, while raising his hat and
waving it gayly he answered graciously:
"My friends, Lady Tancred and I thank you so heartily for your kind
wishes and welcome home."
Then they sat down, and the car went on, and his face became rigid
again, as he let go her hand.
And at the next arch by the bridge, the same thing, only more
elaborately carried out, began again, for here were all the farmers of
the hunt, of which Tristram was a great supporter, on horseback; and the
cheering and waving knew no end. The cavalcade of mounted men followed
them round outside the Norman tower and to the great gates in the
smaller one, where the portcullis had been.
Here all the village children were, and the old women from the
almshouse, in their scarlet frieze cloaks and charming black bonnets;
and every sort of wish for their happiness was shouted out. "Bless the
beautiful bride and bring her many little lords and ladies, too," one
old body quavered shrilly, above the din, and this pleasantry was
greeted with shouts of delight. And for that second Tristram dropped his
lady's hand as though it had burnt him, and then, recollecting himself,
picked it up again. They were both pale with excitement and emotion,
when they finally reached the hall-door in the ugly, modern Gothic wing
and were again greeted by all the household servants in rows, two of
them old and gray-haired, who had stayed on to care for things when the
house had been shut up. There was Michelham back at his master's old
home, only promoted to be groom of the chambers, now, with a smart
younger butler under him.
Tristram was a magnificent orderer, and knew exactly how things ought to
And the stately housekeeper, in her black silk, stepped forward, and in
the name of herself and her subordinates, bade the new mistress welcome,
and hoping she was not fatigued, presented her with a bouquet of white
roses. "Because his lordship told us all, when he was here making the
arrangements, that your ladyship was as beautiful as a white rose!"
And tears welled up in Zara's eyes and her voice trembled, as she
thanked them and tried to smile.
"She was quite overcome, the lovely young lady," they told one another
afterwards, "and no wonder. Any woman would be mad after his lordship.
It is quite to be understood."
How they all loved him, the poor bride thought, and he had told them she
was a beautiful white rose. He felt like that about her then, and she
had thrown it all away. Now he looked upon her with loathing and
disdain, and no wonder either - there was nothing to be done.
Presently, he took her hand again and placed it on his arm, as they
walked through the long corridor, to the splendid hall, built by the
brothers Adam, with its stately staircase to the gallery above.
"I have prepared the state rooms for your ladyship, pending your
ladyship's choice of your own," Mrs. Anglin said. "Here is the boudoir,
the bedroom, the bathroom, and his lordship's dressing-room - all en
suite - and I hope your ladyship will find them as handsome, as we old
servants of the family think they are!"
And Zara came up to the scratch and made a charming little speech.
When they got to the enormous bedroom, with its windows looking out on
the French garden and park, all in exquisite taste, furnished and
decorated by the Adams themselves, Tristram gallantly bent and kissed
her hand, as he said:
"I will wait for you in the boudoir, while you take off your coat. Mrs.
Anglin will show you the toilet-service of gold, which was given by
Louis XIV to a French grandmother and which the Ladies Tancred always
use, when they are at Wrayth. I hope you won't find the brushes too
hard," and he laughed and went out.
And Zara, overcome with the state and beauty and tradition of it all,
sat down upon the sofa for a moment to try to control her pain. She was
throbbing with rage and contempt at herself, at the remembrance that
she, in her ignorance, her ridiculous ignorance, had insulted this
man - this noble gentleman, who owned all these things - and had taunted
him with taking her for her uncle's wealth.
How he must have loved her in the beginning to have been willing to give
her all this, after seeing her for only one night. She writhed with
anguish. There is no bitterness as great as the bitterness of loss
caused by oneself.
Tristram was standing by the window of the delicious boudoir when she
went in. Zara, who as yet knew very little of English things, admired
the Adam style; and when Mrs. Anglin left them discreetly for a moment,
she told him so, timidly, for something to say.
"Yes, it is rather nice," he said stiffly, and then went on: "We shall
have to go down now to this fearful lunch, but you had better take your
sable boa with you. The great hall is so enormous and all of stone, it
may be cold. I will get it for you," and he went back and found it lying
by her coat on the chair, and brought it, and wrapped it round her
casually, as if she had been a stone, and then held the door for her to
go out. And Zara's pride was stung, even though she knew he was doing
exactly as she herself would have done, so that instead of the meek
attitude she had unconsciously assumed, for a moment now she walked
beside him with her old mien of head in the air, to the admiration of
Mrs. Anglin, who watched them descend the stairs.
"She is as haughty-looking as our own ladyship," she thought to herself.
"I wonder how his lordship likes that!"
The great hall was a survival of the time of Henry IV with its daÃ¯s to
eat above the salt, and a magnificent stone fireplace, and an oak screen
and gallery of a couple of centuries later. The tables were laid down
each side, as in the olden time, and across the daÃ¯s; and here, in the
carved oak "Lord" and "Lady" chairs, the bride and bridegroom sat with a
principal tenant and his wife on either side of them, while the powdered
footmen served them with lunch.
And all the time, when one or two comic incidents happened, she longed
to look at Tristram and laugh; but he maintained his attitude of cold
reserve, only making some genial stereotyped remark, when it was
necessary for the public effect.
And presently the speeches began, and this was the most trying moment of
all. For the land-steward, who proposed their healths, said such nice
things; and Zara realized how they all loved her lord, and her anger at
herself grew and grew. In each speech from different tenants there was
some intimate friendly allusion about herself, too, linking her always
with Tristram; and these parts hurt her particularly.
Then Tristram rose to answer them in his name and hers. He made a
splendid speech, telling them that he had come back to live among them
and had brought them a beautiful new Lady - and here he turned to her a
moment and took and kissed her hand - and how he would always think of
all their interests in every way; and that he looked upon them as his
dear old friends; and that he and Lady Tancred would always endeavor to
promote their welfare, as long as the radicals - here he laughed, for
they were all true blue to a man - would let them! And when voices
shouted, "We want none of them rats here," he was gay and chaffed them;
and finally sat down amidst yells of applause.
Then an old apple-cheeked farmer got up from far down the table and made
a long rambling harangue, about having been there, man and boy, and his
forbears before him, for a matter of two hundred years; but he'd take
his oath they had none of them ever seen such a beautiful bride brought
to Wrayth as they were welcoming now; and he drank to her ladyship's
health, and hoped it would not be long before they would have another
and as great a feast for the rejoicings over the son and heir!
At this deplorable bit of bucolic wit and hearty taste, Tristram's face
went stern as death; and he bit his lips, while his bride became the
color of the red roses on the table in front of her.
Thus the luncheon passed. And amidst countless hand-shakes of affection,
accelerated by port wine and champagne, the bride and bridegroom,
followed by the land-steward and a chosen few, went to receive and
return the same sort of speeches among the lesser people in the tent.
Here the allusions to marital felicity were even more glaring, and Zara
saw that each time Tristram heard them, an instantaneous gleam of bitter
sarcasm would steal into his eyes. So, worn out at last with the heat in
the tent and the emotions of the day, at about five, the bridegroom was
allowed to conduct his bride to tea in the boudoir of the state rooms.
Thus they were alone, and now was Zara's time to make her confession, if
it ever should come.
Tristram's resolve had held him, nothing could have been more gallingly
cold and disdainful than had been his treatment of her, so perfect, in
its acting for 'the game,' and, so bitter, in the humiliation of the
between times. She would tell him of her mistake. That was all. She must
guard herself against showing any emotion over it.
They each sank down into chairs beside the fire with sighs of relief.
"Good Lord!" he said, as he put his hand to his forehead. "What a
hideous mockery the whole thing is, and not half over yet! I am afraid
you must be tired. You ought to go and rest until dinner - when, please
be very magnificent and wear some of the jewels - part of them have come
down from London on purpose, I think, beyond those you had at
"Yes, I will," she answered, listlessly, and began to pour out the tea,
while he sat quite still staring into the fire, a look of utter
weariness and discouragement upon his handsome face.
Everything about the whole thing was hurting him so, all the pleasure he
had taken in the improvements and the things he had done, hoping to
please her; and now, as he saw them about, each one stabbed him afresh.
She gave him his cup without a word. She had remembered from Paris his
tastes in cream and sugar; and then as the icy silence continued, she
could bear it no longer.
"Tristram," she said, in as level a voice as she could. At the sound of
his name he looked at her startled. It was the first time she had ever
She lowered her head and, clasping her hands, she went on constrainedly,
so overcome with emotion she dared not let herself go. "I want to tell
you something, and ask you to forgive me. I have learned the truth, that
you did not marry me just for my uncle's money. I know exactly what
really happened now. I am ashamed, humiliated, to remember what I said
to you. But I understood you had agreed to the bargain before you had
ever seen me. The whole thing seemed so awful to me - so revolting - I am
sorry for what I taunted you with. I know now that you are really a
His face, if she had looked up and seen it, had first all lightened with
hope and love; but as she went on coldly, the warmth died out of it, and
a greater pain than ever filled his heart. So she knew now, and yet she
did not love him. There was no word of regret for the rest of her
taunts, that he had been an animal, and the blow in his face! The
recollection of this suddenly lashed him again, and made him rise to his
feet, all the pride of his race flooding his being once more.
He put down his tea-cup on the mantelpiece untasted, and then said
"I married you because I loved you, and no man has ever regretted a
Then he turned round, and walked slowly from the room.
And Zara, left alone, felt that the end had come.
A pale and most unhappy bride awaited her bridegroom in the boudoir at a
few minutes to eight o'clock. She felt perfectly lifeless, as though she
had hardly enough will left even to act her part. The white satin of her
dress was not whiter than her face. The head gardener had sent up some
splendid gardenias for her to wear and the sight of them pained her, for
were not these the flowers that Tristram had brought her that evening of
her wedding day, not a fortnight ago, and that she had then thrown into
the grate. She pinned some in mechanically, and then let the maid clasp
the diamonds round her throat and a band of them in her hair. They were
so very beautiful, and she had not seen them before; she could not thank
him for them even - all conversation except before people was now at an
end. Then, for her further unhappiness, she remembered he had said:
"When the mockery of the rejoicings is over then we can discuss our
future plans." What did that mean? That he wished to separate from her,
she supposed. How could circumstance be so cruel to her! What had she
done? Then she sat down for a moment while she waited, and clenched her
hands. And all the passionate resentment her deep nature was capable of
surged up against fate, so that she looked more like the black panther
than ever, and her mood had only dwindled into a sullen smoldering
rage - while she still sat in the peculiar, concentrated attitude of an
animal waiting to spring - when Tristram opened the door, and came in.
The sight of her thus, looking so unEnglish, so barbaric, suddenly
filled him with the wild excitement of the lion hunt again. Could
anything be more diabolically attractive? he thought, and for a second,
the idea flashed across him that he would seize her to-night and treat
her as if she were the panther she looked, conquer her by force, beat
her if necessary, and then kiss her to death! Which plan, if he had
carried it out, in this case, would have been very sensible, but the
training of hundreds of years of chivalry toward women and things weaker
than himself was still in his blood. For Tristram, twenty-fourth Baron
Tancred, was no brute or sensualist, but a very fine specimen of his
fine, old race.
So, his heart beating with some uncontrollable excitement, and her heart
filled with smoldering rage, they descended the staircase, arm in arm,
to the admiration of peeping housemaids and the pride of her own maid.