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 fiancÃ©, 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 ChÃ©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.
And this is what he saw.
The poor, mean room, with its scrupulous neatness slightly disturbed by
the evidences of the boiling of milk and the warming of flannel, and
Zara, kneeling by the low, iron bed where lay the little body of a
child. For Mirko had dwindled, these last weeks of his constant fever,
so that his poor, small frame, undersized for his age at any time,
looked now no more than that of a boy of six years old. He was evidently
dying. Zara held his tiny hand, and the divine love and sorrowful agony
in her face wrung her husband's soul. A towel soaked with blood had
fallen to the floor, and lay there, a ghastly evidence of the "broken
vessel" Jenny had spoken of. Mimo, with his tall, military figure
shaking with dry sobs, stood on the other side, and Zara murmured in a
tender voice of anguish: "My little one! My Mirko!" She was oblivious in
her grief of any other presence - and the dying child opened his eyes and
called faintly, "Maman!"
Then Mimo saw Tristram by the door, and advanced with his finger on his
quivering lips to meet him.
"Ah, sir," he said. "Alas! you have come too late. My child is going to
And all the manhood in Tristram's heart rose up in pity. Here was a
tragedy too deep for human judgment, too deep for thoughts of vengeance,
and without a word he turned and stole from the room. And as he
stumbled down the dark, narrow stairs he heard the sound of a violin as
it wailed out the beginning notes of the _Chanson Triste_, and he
shivered, as if with cold.
For Mirko had opened his piteous eyes again, and whispered in little
"Papa - play to me the air _Mamam_ loved. I can see her blue gauze
wings!" And in a moment, as his face filled with the radiance of his
vision he fell back, dead, into Zara's arms.
When Tristram reached the street he looked about him for a minute like a
blinded man; and then, as his senses came back to him, his first thought
was what he could do for her - that poor mother upstairs, with her dying
child. For that the boy was Zara's child he never doubted. Her
child - and her lover's - had he not called her "_Maman_." So this was the
awful tragedy in her life. He analyzed nothing as yet; his whole being
was paralyzed with the shock and the agony of things: the only clear
thought he had was that he must help her in whatever way he could.
The green taxi was still there, but he would not take it, in case she
should want it. He walked on down the street and found a cab for
himself, and got driven to his old rooms in St. James's Street: he must
be alone to think.
The hall-porter was surprised to see him. Nothing was ready for his
lordship - but his wife would come up - ?
But his lordship required nothing, he wished to find something alone.
He did not even notice that there was no fire in the grate, and that the
room was icy cold - the agony of pain in his mind and soul made him
unconscious of lesser ills. He pulled one of the holland sheets off his
own big chair, and sat down in it.
Poor Zara, poor, unhappy Zara! - were his first thoughts - then he
stiffened suddenly. This man must have been her lover before even her
first marriage! - for Francis Markrute had told him she had married very
soon. She was twenty-three years old now, and the child could not have
been less than six; he must have been born when she was only seventeen.
What devilish passion in a man could have made him tempt a girl so
young! Of course this was her secret, and Francis Markrute knew nothing
of it. For one frightful moment the thought came that her husband was
not really dead and that this was he: but no, her husband's name had
been Ladislaus, and this man she had called "Mimo," and if the boy were
the child of her marriage there need then have been no secret about his
existence. There was no other solution - this Count Sykypri had been her
lover when she was a mere child, and probably the concealment had gone
through all her first married life. And no doubt her reason for marrying
him, which she admitted was a very strong one, had been that she might
have money to give to the child - and its father.
The sickening - sickening, squalid tragedy of it all!
And she, Zara, had seemed so proud and so pure! Her look of scorn, only
the night before, at his jealous accusation, came back to him. He could
not remember a single movement nor action of hers that had not been that
of an untarnished queen. What horrible actresses women were! His whole
belief had crumbled to the dust.
And the most terrible part of it all to him was the knowledge that in
spite of everything he still loved her - loved her with a consuming,
almighty passion that he knew nothing now could kill. It had been put
to the bitterest proof. Whatever she had done he could love no other
Then he realized that his life was over. The future a blank,
unutterable, hopeless gray which must go on for years and years. For he
could never come back to her again, nor even live in the house with her,
under the semblance of things.
Then an agonizing bitterness came to him, the hideous malevolence of
fate, not to have let him meet this woman first before this other man;
think of the faithfulness of her nature, with all its cruel actions to
himself! She had been absolutely faithful to her lover, and had defended
herself from his - Tristram's - caresses, even of her finger-tips. What a
love worth having, what a strong, true character - worth dying for - in a
And now, he must never see her again; or, if once more, only for a
business meeting, to settle things without scandal to either of them.
He would not go back to Park Lane, yet - not for a week; he would give
her time to see to the funeral, without the extra pain of his presence.
The man had taken him for the doctor, and she had not even been aware of
his entrance: he would go back to Wrayth, alone, and there try to think
out some plan. So he searched among the covered-up furniture for his
writing table, and found some paper, and sat down and wrote two notes,
one to his mother. He could not face her to-day - she must go without
seeing him - but he knew his mother loved him, and, in all deep moments,
never questioned his will even if she did not understand it.
The note to her was very short, merely saying something was troubling
him greatly for the time, so neither he nor Zara would come to luncheon;
and she was to trust him and not speak of this to any one until he
himself told her more. He might come and see her in Cannes, the
Then he wrote to Zara, and these were his words:
"I know everything. I understand now, and however I blame you for your
deception of me you have my deep sympathy in your grief. I am going away
for a week, so you will not be distressed by seeing me. Then I must ask
you to meet me, here or at your uncle's house, to arrange for our future
Then he rang for a messenger boy, and gave him both notes, and, picking
up the telephone, called up his valet and told him to pack and bring his
things here to his old rooms, and, if her ladyship came in, to see that
she immediately got the note he was sending round to her. Francis
Markrute would have gone to the City by now and was going to lunch with
Ethelrida, so he telephoned to one of his clerks there - finding he was
out for the moment - just to say he was called away for a week and would
She should have the first words with her uncle. Whether she would tell
him or no she must decide, he would not do anything to make her
existence more difficult than it must naturally be.
And then when all this was done the passionate jealousy of a man
overcame him again, and when he thought of Mimo he once more longed to
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