"Do not even say good night, like a dear fellow. Don't you see she is
almost ready to faint? Just go quietly with the rest, and come for her
to-morrow morning to take her to your mother."
So they all left as he wished, and he himself went back upstairs to the
big drawing-room and there saw Zara standing like a marble statue,
exactly as they had left her, and he went forward, and, bending, kissed
"Most beautifully endured, my queenly niece!" he said; and then he led
her to the door and up to her room. She was perfectly mute.
But a little while afterwards, as he came to bed himself, he was
startled and chilled by hearing the _Chanson Triste_ being played in her
sitting-room, with a wailing, passionate pathos, as of a soul in
And if he could have seen her face he would have seen her great eyes
streaming with tears, while she prayed:
"_Maman_, ask God to give me courage to get through all of this, since
it is for your Mirko."
Satan was particularly fresh next morning when Tristram took him for a
canter round the Park. He was glad of it: he required something to work
off steam upon. He was in a mood of restless excitement. During the
three weeks of Zara's absence he had allowed himself to dream into a
state of romantic love for her. He had glossed over in his mind her
distant coldness, her frigid adherence to the bare proposition, so that
to return to that state of things had come to him as a shock.
But, this morning, he knew he was a fool to have expected anything else.
He was probably a great fool altogether, but he never changed his mind,
and was prepared to pay the price of his folly. After all, there would
be plenty of time afterwards to melt her dislike, so he could afford to
wait now. He would not permit himself to suffer again as he had done
last night. Then he came in and had his bath, and made himself into a
very perfect-looking lover, to present himself to his lady at about
half-past twelve o'clock, to take her to his mother.
Zara was, if anything, whiter than usual when she came into the library
where he was waiting for her alone. The financier had gone to the City.
She had heavy, bluish shadows under her eyes, and he saw quite plainly
that, the night before, she must have been weeping bitterly.
A great tenderness came over him. What was this sorrow of hers? Why
might he not comfort her? He put out both hands and then, as she
remained stonily unresponsive, he dropped them, and only said quietly
that he hoped she was well, and his motor was waiting outside, and that
his mother, Lady Tancred, would be expecting them.
"I am ready," said Zara. And they went.
He told her as they flew along, that he had been riding in the Park that
morning, and had looked up at the house and wondered which was her
window; and then he asked her if she liked riding, and she said she had
never tried for ten years - the opportunity to ride had not been in her
life - but she used to like it when she was a child.
"I must get you a really well-mannered hack," he said joyously. Here was
a subject she had not snubbed him over! "And you will let me teach you
again when we go down to Wrayth, won't you?"
But before she could answer they had arrived at the house in Queen
Michelham, with a subdued beam on his old face, stood inside the door
with his footmen, and Tristram said gayly,
"Michelham, this is to be her new ladyship; Countess Shulski" - and he
turned to Zara. "Michelham is a very old friend of mine, Zara. We used
to do a bit of poaching together, when I was a boy and came home from
Michelham was only a servant and could not know of her degradation, so
Zara allowed herself to smile and looked wonderfully lovely, as the old
"I am sure I wish your ladyship every happiness, and his lordship, too;
and, if I may say so, with such a gentleman your ladyship is sure to
And Tristram chaffed him, and they went upstairs.
Lady Tancred had rigidly refrained from questioning her daughters, on
their return from the dinnerparty; she had not even seen them until the
morning, and when they had both burst out with descriptions of their
future sister-in-law's beauty and strangeness their mother had stopped
"Do not tell me anything about her, dear children," she had said. "I
wish to judge for myself without prejudice."
But Lady Coltshurst could not be so easily repressed. She had called
early, on purpose to give her views, with the ostensible excuse of an
inquiry about her sister-in-law's health.
"I am afraid you will be rather unfavorably impressed with Tristram's
choice, when you have seen her, Jane," she announced. "I confess I was.
She treated us all as though _she_ were conferring the honor, not
receiving it, and she is by no means a type that promises domestic
tranquillity for Tristram."
"Really, Julia!" Lady Tancred protested. "I must beg of you to say no
more. I have perfect confidence in my son, and wish to receive his
future wife with every mark of affection."
"Your efforts will be quite wasted, then, Jane," her sister-in-law
snapped. "She is most forbidding, and never once unbent nor became
genial, the whole evening. And besides, for a lady, she is much too
"She cannot help being beautiful," Lady Tancred said. "I am sure I shall
admire her very much, from what the girls tell me. But we will not
discuss her. It was so kind of you to come, and my head is much
"Then I will be off!" Lady Coltshurst sniffed in a slightly offended
tone. Really, relations were so tiresome! They never would accept a word
of advice or warning in the spirit it was given, and Jane in particular
was unpleasantly difficult.
So she got into her electric brougham, and was rolled away, happily
before Tristram and his lady appeared upon the scene; but the jar of her
words still lingered with Lady Tancred, in spite of all her efforts to
Zara's heart beat when they got to the door, and she felt extremely
antagonistic. Francis Markrute had left her in entire ignorance of the
English customs, for a reason of his own. He calculated if he informed
her that on Tristram's side it was purely a love match, she, with her
strange temperament, and sense of honor, would never have accepted it.
He knew she would have turned upon him and said she could be no party to
such a cheat. He with his calm, calculating brain had weighed the pros
and cons of the whole matter: to get her to consent, for her brother's
sake in the beginning, under the impression that it was a dry business
arrangement, equally distasteful personally to both parties - to leave
her with this impression and keep the pair as much as possible apart,
until the actual wedding; and then to leave her awakening to
Tristram - was his plan. A woman would be impossibly difficult to please,
if, in the end, she failed to respond to such a lover as Tristram! He
counted upon what he had called her moral antennae to make no mistakes.
It would not eventually prejudice matters if the family did find her a
little stiff, as long as she did not actually show her contempt for
their apparent willingness to support the bargain. But her look of
scorn, the night before, when he had shown some uneasiness on this
score, had reassured him. He would leave things alone and let her make
her own discoveries.
So now she entered her future mother-in-law's room, with a haughty mien
and no friendly feelings in her heart. She was well acquainted with the
foreign examples of mother-in-law. They interfered with everything and
had their sons under their thumbs. They seemed always mercenary, and
were the chief agents in promoting a match, if it were for their own
family's advantage. No doubt Uncle Francis had arranged the whole affair
with this Lady Tancred in the first instance, and she, Zara, would not
be required to keep up the comedy, as with the uncle and cousins. She
decided she would be quite frank with her if the occasion required, and
if she should, by chance, make the same insinuation of the continuance
of the Tancred race as Lady Ethelrida had innocently done, she would
have plainly to say that was not in the transaction. For her own ends
she must be Lord Tancred's wife and let her uncle have what glory he
pleased from the position; if that were his reason, and as for Lord
Trancred's ends, he was to receive money. That was all: it was quite
The two women were mutually surprised when they looked at one another.
Lady Tancred's first impression was, "It is true she is a very
disturbing type, but how well bred and how beautiful!" And Zara thought,
"It is possible that, after all, I may be wrong. She looks too proud to
have stooped to plan this thing. It may be only Lord Tancred's
doing - men are more horrible than women."
"This is Zara, Mother," Tristram said.
And Lady Tancred held out her hands, and then drew her new
daughter - that was to be - nearer and kissed her.
And over Zara there crept a thrill. She saw that the elder lady was
greatly moved, and no woman had kissed her since her mother's death.
Why, if it were all a bargain, should she tenderly kiss her?
"I am so glad to welcome you, dear," Lady Tancred said, determining to
be very gracious. "I am almost pleased not to have been able to go last
night. Now I can have you all to myself for this, our first little
And they sat down on a sofa, and Zara asked about her head; and Lady
Tancred told her the pain was almost gone, and this broke the ice and
started a conversation.
"I want you to tell me of yourself," Lady Tancred said. "Do you think
you will like this old England of ours, with its damp and its gloom in
the autumn, and its beautiful fresh spring? I want you to - and to love
your future home."
"Everything is very strange to me, but I will try," Zara answered.
"Tristram has been making great arrangements to please you at Wrayth,"
Lady Tancred went on. "But, of course, he has told you all about it."
"I have had to be away all the time," Zara felt she had better say - and
"They are all to be surprises, Mother; everything is to be new to Zara,
from beginning to end. You must not tell her anything of it."
Then Lady Tancred spoke of gardens. She hoped Zara liked gardens; she
herself was a great gardener, and had taken much pride in her herbaceous
borders and her roses at Wrayth.
And when they had got to this stage of the conversation Tristram felt he
could safely leave them to one another, so, saying he wanted to talk to
his sisters, he went out of the room.
"It will be such happiness to think of your living in the old home," the
proud lady said. "It was a great grief to us all when we had to shut it
up, two years ago; but you will, indeed, adorn it for its reopening."
Zara did not know what to reply. She vaguely understood that one might
love a home, though she had never had one but the gloomy castle near
Prague; and that made her sigh when she thought of it.
But a garden she knew she should love. And Mirko was so fond of flowers.
Oh! if they would let her have a beautiful country home in peace, and
Mirko to come sometimes, and play there, and chase butterflies, with his
excited, poor little face, she would indeed be grateful to them. Her
thoughts went on in a dream of this, while Lady Tancred talked of many
things, and she answered, "Yes," and "No," with gentle respect. Her
future mother-in-law's great dignity pleased her sense of the fitness of
things; she so disliked gush of any sort herself, and she felt now that
she knew where she was and there need be no explanations. The family,
one and all, evidently intended to play the same part, and she would,
too. When the awakening came it would be between herself and Tristram.
Yes, she must think of him now as "Tristram!"
Her thoughts had wandered again when she heard Lady Tancred's voice,
"I wanted to give you this myself," and she drew a small case from a
table near and opened it, and there lay a very beautiful diamond ring.
"It is my own little personal present to you, my new, dear daughter.
Will you wear it sometimes, Zara, in remembrance of this day and in
remembrance that I give into your hands the happiness of my son, who is
dearer to me than any one on earth?"
And the two proud pairs of eyes met, and Zara could not answer, and
there was a strange silence between them for a second. And then Tristram
came back into the room, which created a diversion, and she was enabled
to say some ordinary conventional things about the beauty of the stones,
and express her thanks for the gift. Only, in her heart, she determined
never to wear it. It would burn her hand, she thought, and she could
never be a hypocrite.
Luncheon was then announced, and they went into the dining-room.
Here she saw Tristram in a new light, with only "Young Billy" and Jimmy
Danvers who had dropped in, and his mother and sisters.
He was gay as a schoolboy, telling Billy who had not spoken a word to
Zara the night before that now he should sit beside her, and that he was
at liberty to make love to his new cousin! And Billy, aged nineteen - a
perfectly stolid and amiable youth - proceeded to start a laborious
conversation, while the rest of the table chaffed about things which
were Greek to Zara, but she was grateful not to have to talk, and so
passed off the difficulties of the situation.
And the moment the meal was over Tristram took her back to Park Lane.
He, too, was thankful the affair had been got through; he hardly spoke
as they went along, and in silence followed her into the house and into
the library, and there waited for her commands.
Whenever they were alone the disguises of the part fell from Zara, and
she resumed the icy mien.
"Good-bye," she said coldly. "I am going into the country to-morrow for
two or three days. I shall not see you until Monday. Have you anything
more it is necessary to say?"
"You are going into the country!" Tristram exclaimed, aghast. "But I
will not - " and then he paused, for her eyes had flashed ominously. "I
mean," he went on, "must you go? So soon before our wedding?"
She drew herself up and spoke in a scathing voice.
"Why must I repeat again what I said when you gave me your ring? - I do
not wish to see or speak with you. You will have all you bargained for.
Can you not leave my company out of the question?"
The Tancred stern, obstinate spirit was thoroughly roused. He walked up
and down the room rapidly for a moment, fuming with hurt rage. Then
reason told him to wait. He had no intention of breaking off the match
now, no matter what she should do; and this was Thursday; there were
only five more days to get through, and when once she should be his
wife - and then he looked at her, as she stood in her dark, perfect
dress, with the great, sable wrap slipping from her shoulders and making
a regal background, and her beauty fired his senses and made his eyes
swim; and he bent forward and took her hand.
"Very well, you beautiful, unkind thing," he said. "But if you do not
want to marry me you had better say so at once, and I will release you
from your promise. Because when the moment comes afterwards for our
crossing of swords there will be no question as to who is to be
master - I tell you that now."
And Zara dragged her hand from him, and, with the black panther's
glance in her eyes, she turned to the window and stood looking out.
Then after a second she said in a strangled voice,
"I wish that the marriage shall take place. - And now, please go."
And without further words he went.
On her way to Bournemouth next day, to see Mirko, Zara met Mimo in the
British Museum. They walked along the galleries on the ground floor
until they found a bench near the mausoleum of Halicarnassus. To look at
it gave them both infinite pleasure; they knew so well the masterpieces
of all the old Greeks. Mimo, it seemed, had been down to see his son ten
days before. They had met secretly. Mirko had stolen out, and with the
cunning of his little brain fully on the alert he had dodged Mrs. Morley
in the garden, and had fled to the near pine woods with his violin; and
there had met his father and had a blissful time. He was certainly
better, Mimo said, a little fatter and with much less cough, and he
seemed fairly happy and quite resigned. The Morleys were so kind and
good, but, poor souls! it was not their fault if they could not
understand! It was not given to every one to have the understanding of
his Chérisette and his own papa, Mirko had said, but so soon he would be
well; then he would be able to come back to them, and in the meantime he
was going to learn lessons, learn the tiresome things that his
Chérisette alone knew how to teach him with comprehension. The new tutor
who came each day from the town was of a reasonableness, but no wit!
"Body of Bacchus!" the father said, "the poor child had not been able to
make the tutor laugh once - in a week - when we met."
And then after a while it seemed that there was some slight care upon
Mimo's mind. It had rained, it appeared, before the end of their stolen
meeting. It had rained all the morning and then had cleared up
gloriously fine, and they had sat down on a bank under the trees, and
Mirko had played divinely all sorts of gay airs. But when he got up he
had shivered a little, and Mimo could see that his clothes were wet, and
then the rain had come on immediately again, and he had made him run
back. He feared he must have got thoroughly soaked, and he had had
nothing since but one postcard, which said that Mirko had been in bed,
though he was now much better and longing - longing to see his
"Oh, Mimo! how could you let him sit on the grass!" Zara exclaimed
reproachfully, when he got thus far. "And why was I not told? It may
have made him seriously ill. Oh, the poor angel! And I must stay so
short a while - and then this wedding - " She stopped abruptly and her
eyes became black. For she knew there was no asking for respite. To
obtain her brother's possible life she must be ready and resigned, at
the altar at St. George's, Hanover Square, on Wednesday the 25th of
October, at 2 o'clock, and, once made a wife, she must go with Lord
Tancred to the Lord Warren Hotel at Dover, to spend the night.
She rose with a convulsive quiver, and looked with blank, sightless eyes
at an Amazon in the frieze hard by. The Amazon - she saw, when vision
came back to her - was hurling a spear at a splendid young Greek. That is
how she felt she would like to behave to her future husband. Men and
their greed of money, and their revolting passions! - and her poor little
Mirko ill, perhaps, from his father's carelessness - How could she leave
him? And if she did not his welfare would be at an end and life an
There was no use scolding Mimo; she knew of old no one was sorrier than
he for his mistakes, for which those he loved best always had to suffer.
It had taken the heart out of him, the anxious thought, he said, but,
knowing that Chérisette must be so busy arranging to get married, he had
not troubled her, since she could do nothing until her return to
England, and then he knew she would arrange to go to Mirko at once, in
He, Mimo, had been too depressed to work, and the picture of the London
fog was not much further advanced, and he feared it would not be ready
for her wedding gift.
"Oh, never mind!" said Zara. "I know you will think of me kindly, and I
shall like that as well as any present."
And then she drove to the Waterloo station alone, a gnawing anxiety in
her heart. And all the journey to Bournemouth her spirits sank lower and
lower until, when she got there, it seemed as if the old cab-horse were
a cow in its slowness, to get to the doctor's trim house.
"Yes," Mrs. Morley said as soon as she arrived, "your little brother has
had a very sharp attack."
He escaped from the garden about ten days before, she explained, and was
gone at least two hours, and then returned wet through, and was a little
light-headed that night, and had talked of "Maman and the angels," and
"Papa and Chérisette," but they could obtain no information from him as
to why he went, nor whom he had seen. He had so rapidly recovered that
the doctor had not thought it necessary to let any one know, and she,
Mrs. Morley - guessing how busy one must be ordering a trousseau - when
there was no danger had refrained from sending a letter, to be forwarded
from the given address.
Here Zara's eyes had flashed, and she had said sternly,
"The trousseau was not of the slightest consequence in comparison to my
Mirko was upstairs in his pretty bedroom, playing with a puzzle and the
nurse; he had not been told of his sister's proposed coming, but some
sixth sense seemed to inform him it was she, when her footfall sounded
on the lower stairs, for they heard an excited voice shouting:
"I tell you I will go - I will go to her, my Chérisette!" And Zara
hastened the last part, to avoid his rushing, as she feared he would do,
out of his warm room into the cold passage.
The passionate joy he showed at the sight of her made a tightness round
her heart. He did not look ill, only, in some unaccountable way, he
seemed to have grown smaller. There was, too, even an extra pink flush
in his cheeks.
He must sit on her lap and touch all her pretty things. She had put on
her uncle's big pearl earrings and one string of big pearls, on purpose
to show him; he so loved what was beautiful and refined.
"Thou art like a queen, Chérisette," he told her. "Much more beautiful
than when we had our tea party, and I wore Papa's paper cap. And
everything new! The uncle, then, is very rich," he went on, while he
stroked the velvet on her dress.
And she kissed and soothed him to sleep in her arms, when he was ready
for his bed. It was getting quite late, and she sang a soft, Slavonic
cradle song, in a low cooing voice, and, every now and then, before the
poor little fellow sank entirely to rest, he would open his beautiful,
pathetic eyes, and they would swim with love and happiness, while he
murmured, "Adored Chérisette!"
The next day - Saturday - she never left him. They played games together,
and puzzles. The nurse was kind, but of a thickness of understanding,
like all the rest, he said, and, with his sister there, he could
dispense with her services for the moment. He wished, when it grew dusk
and they were to have their tea, to play his violin to only her, in the
firelight; and there he drew forth divine sounds for more than an hour,
tearing at Zara's heart-strings with the exquisite notes until her eyes
grew wet. And at last he began something that she did not know, and the
weird, little figure moved as in a dance in the firelight, while he
played this new air as one inspired, and then stopped suddenly with a
crash of joyous chords.
"It is _Maman_ who has taught me that!" he whispered. "When I was ill
she came often and sang it to me, and when they would give me back my
violin I found it at once, and now I am so happy. It talks of the
butterflies in the woods, which are where she lives, and there is a
little white one which flies up beside her with her radiant blue wings.
And she has promised me that the music will take me to her, quite soon.
"No, no," said Zara faintly. "I cannot spare you, darling. I shall have
a beautiful garden of my own next summer, and you must come and stay
with me, Mirko mio, and chase real butterflies with a golden net."
And this thought enchanted the child. He must hear all about his
sister's garden. By chance there was an old number of _Country Life_
lying on the table, and, the nurse bringing in the tea at the moment,
they turned on the electric light and looked at the pictures; and by the
strangest coincidence, when they came to the weekly series of those
beautiful houses she read at the beginning of the article, "Wrayth - the
property of Lord Tancred of Wrayth."
"See, Mirko," she said in a half voice; "our garden will look exactly
And the child examined every picture with intense interest. One of a
statue of Pan and his pipe, making the center of a star in the Italian
parterre, pleased him most.
"For see, Chérisette, he, too, is not shaped as other people are," he
whispered with delight. "Look! And he plays music, also! When you walk
there, and I am with _Maman_, you must remember that this is me!"
It was with deep grief and foreboding that Zara left him, on Monday
morning, in spite of the doctor's assurance that he was indeed on the