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The Reason Why
by Elinor Glyn
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"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 anguish.

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."



CHAPTER XIV

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 Street.

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 Eton."

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 man said,

"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 have it."

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 them.

"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 striking looking."

"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 better."

"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 forget it.

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 simple.

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 meeting."

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 Tristram interrupted.

"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, saying,

"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.



CHAPTER XV

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 Cherisette 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 Cherisette 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 Cherisette!

"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 abyss.

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 Cherisette 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 any case.

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 Cherisette," 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 brother's health."

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 Cherisette!" 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, Cherisette," 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 Cherisette!"

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. Oh, Cherisette!"

"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 like this."

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, Cherisette, 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 turn to get quite well—well of this sharp attack—whether he would ever grow to be a man was always a doubt but there was no present anxiety—she could be happy on that score. And with this she was obliged to rest content.

But all the way back in the train she saw the picture of the Italian parterre at Wrayth with the statue of Pan, in the center of the star, playing his pipes.



CHAPTER XVI

The second wedding day of Zara Shulski dawned with a glorious sun. One of those autumn mornings that seem like a return to the spring—so fresh and pure the air. She had not seen her bridegroom since she got back from Bournemouth, nor any of the family; she had said to her uncle that she could not bear it.

"I am at the end of my forces, Uncle Francis. You are so clever—you can invent some good excuse. If I must see Lord Tancred I cannot answer for what I may do."

And the financier had realized that this was the truth. The strings of her soul were strained to breaking point, and he let her pass the whole day of Tuesday in peace.

She signed numbers of legal documents concerning her marriage settlements, without the slightest interest; and then her uncle handed her one which he said she was to read with care. It set forth in the wearisome language of the law the provision for Mirko's life, "in consideration of a certain agreement" come to between her uncle and herself. But should the boy Mirko return at any time to the man Sykypri, his father, or should she, Zara, from the moneys settled upon herself give sums to this man Sykypri the transaction between herself and her uncle regarding the boy's fortune would be null and void. This was the document's sense.

Zara read it over but the legal terms were difficult for her. "If it means exactly what we agreed upon, Uncle Francis, I will sign it," she said, "that is—that Mirko shall be cared for and have plenty of money for life."

And Francis Markrute replied,

"That is what is meant."

And then she had gone to her room, and spent the night before her wedding alone. She had steadily read one of her favorite books: she could not permit herself for a moment to think.

There was a man going to be hanged on the morrow, she had seen in the papers; and she wondered if, this last night in his cell, the condemned wretch was numb, or was he feeling at bay, like herself?

Then, at last she opened the window and glanced out on the moon. It was there above her, over the Park, so she turned out the lights, and, putting her furs around her, she sat for a while and gazed above the treetops, while she repeated her prayers.

And Mimo saw her, as he stood in the shadow on the pavement at the other side of Park Lane. He had come there in his sentimental way, to give her his blessing, and had been standing looking up for some time. It seemed to him a good omen for dear Cherisette's happiness, that she should have opened the window and looked out on the night.

It was quite early—only about half-past ten—and Tristram, after a banquet with his bachelor friends on the Monday night, had devoted this, his last evening, to his mother, and had dined quietly with her alone.

He felt extremely moved, and excited, too, when he left. She had talked to him so tenderly—the proud mother who so seldom unbent. How marriage was a beautiful but serious thing, and he must love and try to understand his wife—and then she spoke of her own great love for him, and her pride in their noble name and descent.

"And I will pray to God that you have strong, beautiful children, Tristram, so that there may in years to come be no lack of the Tancreds of Wrayth."

When he got outside in the street the moonlight flooded the road, so he sent his motor away and decided to walk. He wanted breathing space, he wanted to think, and he turned down into Curzon Street and from, thence across Great Stanhope Street and into the Park.

And to-morrow night, at this time, the beautiful Zara would be his! and they would be dining alone together at Dover, and surely she would not be so icily cold; surely—surely he could get her to melt.

And then further visions came to him, and he walked very fast; and presently he found himself opposite his lady's house.

An impulse just to see her window overcame him, and he crossed the road and went out of the gate. And there on the pavement he saw Mimo, also with face turned, gazing up.

And in a flash he thought he recognized that this was the man he had seen that day in Whitehall, when he was in his motor car, going very fast.

A mad rage of jealousy and suspicion rushed through him. Every devil whispered, "Here is a plot. You know nothing of the woman whom to-morrow you are blindly going to make your wife. Who is this man? What is his connection with her? A lover's—of course. No one but a lover would gaze up at a window on a moonlight night."

And it was at this moment that Zara opened the window and, for a second, both men saw her slender, rounded figure standing out sharply against the ground of the room. Then she turned, and put out the light.

A murderous passion of rage filled Lord Tancred's heart.

He looked at Mimo and saw that the man's lips were muttering a prayer, and that he had drawn a little silver crucifix from his coat pocket, and, also, that he was unconscious of any surroundings, for his face was rapt; and he stepped close to him and heard him murmur, in his well-pronounced English,

"Mary, Mother of God, pray for her, and bring her happiness!"

And his common sense reassured him somewhat. If the man were a lover, he could not pray so, on this, the night before her wedding to another. It was not in human, male nature, he felt, to do such an unselfish thing as that.

Then Mimo raised his soft felt hat in his rather dramatic way to the window, and walked up the street.

And Tristram, a prey to all sorts of conflicting emotions, went back into the Park.

* * * * *

It seemed to Francis Markrute that more than half the nobility of England had assembled in St. George's, Hanover Square, next day, as, with the beautiful bride on his arm, he walked up the church.

She wore a gown of dead white velvet, and her face looked the same shade, under the shadow of a wonderful picture creation, of black velvet and feathers, in the way of a hat.

The only jewels she had on were the magnificent pearls which were her uncle's gift. There was no color about her except in her red burnished hair and her red, curved mouth.

And the whole company thrilled as she came up the aisle. She looked like the Princess in a fairy tale—but just come to life.

The organ stopped playing, and now, as in a dream she knew that she was kneeling beside Tristram and that the Bishop had joined their hands.

She repeated the vows mechanically, in a low, quiet voice. All the sense of it that came to her brain was Tristram's firm utterance, "I, Tristram Lorrimer Guiscard, take thee, Zara Elinka, to be my wedded wife."

And so, at last, the ceremony was over, and Lord and Lady Tancred walked into the vestry to sign their names. And as Zara slipped her hand from the arm of her newly-made husband he bent down his tall head and kissed her lips; and, fortunately, the train of coming relations and friends were behind them, as yet, and the Bishops were looking elsewhere, or they would have been startled to observe the bride shiver, and to have seen the expression of passionate resentment which crept into her face. But the bridegroom saw it, and it stabbed his heart.

Then it seemed that a number of people kissed her: his mother and sisters, and Lady Ethelrida, and, lastly, the Duke.

"I am claiming my privilege as an old man," this latter said gayly, "and I welcome you to all our hearts, my beautiful niece."

And Zara had answered, but had hardly been able to give even a mechanical smile.

And when they got into the smart, new motor, after passing through the admiring crowds, she had shrunk into her corner, and half closed her eyes. And Tristram, intensely moved and strained with the excitement of it all, had not known what to think.

But pride made his bride play her part when they reached her uncle's house.

She stood with her bridegroom, and bowed graciously to the countless, congratulatory friends of his, who passed and shook hands. And, when soon after they had entered Lady Tancred arrived with Cyril and the girls, she had even smiled sweetly for one moment, when that gallant youth had stood on tiptoe and given her a hearty kiss! He was very small for his age, and full of superb self-possession.

"I think you are a stunner, Zara," he said. "Two of our fellows, cousins of mine, who were in church with me, congratulated me awfully. And now I hope you're soon going to cut the cake?"

And Tristram wondered why her mutinous mouth had quivered and her eyes become full of mist. She was thinking of her own little brother, far away, who did not even know that there would be any cake.

And so, eventually, they had passed through the shower of rice and slippers and were at last alone in the motorcar again; and once more she shrank into her corner and did not speak, and he waited patiently until they should be in the train.

But once there, in the reserved saloon, when the obsequious guard had finally shut the door from waving friends and last hand shakes, and they slowly steamed out of the station, he came over and sat down beside her and tenderly took her little gray-gloved hand.

But she drew it away from him, and moved further off, before he could even speak.

"Zara!" he said pleadingly.

Then she looked intensely fierce.

"Can you not let me be quiet for a moment?" she hissed. "I am tired out."

And he saw that she was trembling, and, though he was very much in love and maddeningly exasperated with everything, he let her rest, and even settled her cushion for her, silently, and took a paper and sat in an armchair near, and pretended to read.

And Zara stared out of the window, her heart beating in her throat. For she knew this was only a delay because, as her uncle had once said, the English nobility as a race were great gentlemen—and this one in particular—and because of that he would not be likely to make a scene in the train; but they would arrive at the hotel presently, and there was dinner to be got through, alone with him, and then—the afterwards. And as she thought of this her very lips grew white.

The hideous, hideous hatefulness of men! Visions of moments of her first wedding journey with Ladislaus came back to her. He had not shown her any consideration for five minutes in his life.

Everything in her nature was up in arms. She could not be just; with her belief in his baseness it seemed to her that here was this man—her husband—whom she had seen but four times in her life, and he was not content with the honest bargain which he perfectly understood; not content with her fortune and her willingness to adorn his house, but he must perforce allow his revolting senses to be aroused, he must desire to caress her, just because she was a woman—and fair—and the law would give him the right because she was his wife.

But she would not submit to it! She would find some way out.

As yet she had not even noticed Tristram's charm, that something which drew all other women to him but had not yet appealed to her. She saw on the rare occasions in which she had looked at him that he was very handsome—but so had been Ladislaus, and so was Mimo; and all men were selfish or brutes.

She was half English herself, of course, and that part of her—the calm, common sense of the nation, would assert itself presently; but for the time, everything was too strained through her resentment at fate.

And Tristram watched her from behind his Evening Standard, and was unpleasantly thrilled with the passionate hate and resentment and all the varying; storms of feeling which convulsed her beautiful face.

He was extremely sensitive, in spite of his daring insouciance and his pride. It would be perfectly impossible to even address her again while she was in this state.

And so this splendid young bride and bridegroom, not understanding each other in the least, sat silent and constrained, when they should have been in each other's arms; and presently, still in the same moods, they came to Dover, and so to the Lord Warden Hotel.

Here the valet and maid had already arrived, and the sitting-room was full of flowers, and everything was ready for dinner and the night.

"I suppose we dine at eight?" said Zara haughtily, and, hardly waiting for an answer, she went into the room beyond and shut the door.

Here she rang for her maid and asked her to remove her hat.

"A hateful, heavy thing," she said, "and there is a whole hour fortunately, before dinner, Henriette, and I want a lovely bath; and then you can brush my hair, and it will be a rest."

The French maid, full of sympathy and excitement, wondered, while she turned on the taps, how Miladi should look so disdainful and calm.

"Mon Dieu! if Milor was my Raoul! I would be far otherwise," she thought to herself, as she poured in the scent.

At a quarter to the hour of dinner she was still silently brushing her mistress's long, splendid, red hair, while Zara stared into the glass in front of her, with sightless eyes and face set. She was back in Bournemouth, and listening to "Maman's air." It haunted her and rang in her head; and yet, underneath, a wild excitement coursed in her blood.

A knock then came to the door, and when Henrietta answered it Tristram passed her by and stepped into his lady's room.

Zara turned round like a startled fawn, and then her expression changed to one of anger and hauteur.

He was already dressed for dinner, and held a great bunch of gardenias in his hand. He stopped abruptly when he caught sight of the exquisite picture she made, and he drew in his breath. He had not known hair could be so long; he had not realized she was so beautiful. And she was his wife!

"Darling!" he gasped, oblivious of even the maid, who had the discretion to retire quickly to the bathroom beyond. "Darling, how beautiful you are! You drive me perfectly mad."

Zara held on to the dressing-table and almost crouched, like a panther ready to spring.

"How dare you come into my room like this! Go!" she said.

It was as if she had struck him. He drew back, and flung the flowers down into the grate.

"I only came to tell you dinner was nearly ready," he said haughtily, "and to bring you those. But I will await you in the sitting-room, when you are dressed."

And he turned round and left through the door by which he had come.

And Zara called her maid rather sharply, and had her hair plaited and done, and got quickly into her dress. And when she was ready she went slowly into the sitting-room.

She found Tristram leaning upon the mantelpiece, glaring moodily into the flames. He had stood thus for ten minutes, coming to a decision in his mind.

He had been very angry just now, and he thought was justified; but he knew he was passionately in love, as he had never dreamed nor imagined he could be in the whole of his life.

Should he tell her at once about it? and implore her not to be so cold and hard? But no, that would be degrading. After all, he had already shown her a proof of the most reckless devotion, in asking to marry her, after having seen her only once! And she, what had her reasons been? They were forcible enough or she would not have consented to her uncle's wishes before they had even ever met; and he recalled, when he had asked her only on Thursday last if she would wish to be released, that she had said firmly that she wished the marriage to take place. Surely she must know that no man with any spirit would put up with such treatment as this—to be spoken to as though he had been an impudent stranger bursting into her room!

Then his tempestuous thoughts went back to Mimo, that foreign man whom he had seen under her window. What if, after all, he was her lover and that accounted for the reason she resented his—Tristram's—desire to caress?

And all the proud, obstinate fighting blood of the Guiscards got up in him. He would not be made a cat's-paw. If she exasperated him further he would forget about being a gentleman, and act as a savage man, and seize her in his arms and punish her for her haughtiness!

So it was his blue eyes which were blazing with resentment this time, and not her pools of ink.

Thus they sat down to dinner in silence—much to the waiters' surprise and disgust.

Zara felt almost glad her husband looked angry. He would then of his own accord leave her in peace.

As the soup and fish came and went they exchanged no word, and then that breeding that they both had made them realize the situation was impossible, and they said some ordinary things while the waiters were in the room.

The table was a small round one with the two places set at right angles, and very close.

It was the first occasion upon which Zara had ever been so near Tristram, and every time she looked up she was obliged to see his face. She could not help owning to herself, that he was extraordinarily distinguished looking, and that there were strong, noble lines in his whole shape.

At the end of their repast, for different reasons, neither of the two felt calm. Tristram's anger had died down, likewise his suspicions; after a moment's thought the sane point of view always presented itself to his brain. No, whatever her reasons were for her disdain of him, having another lover was not the cause. And then he grew intoxicated again with her beauty and grace.

She was a terrible temptation to him; she would have been so to any normal man—and they were dining together—and she was his very own!

The waiters, with their cough of warning at the door, brought coffee and liqueurs, and then bodily removed the dinner table, and shut the doors.

And now Zara knew she was practically alone with her lord for the night.

He walked about the room—he did not drink any coffee, nor even a Chartreuse—and she stood perfectly still. Then he came back to her, and suddenly clasped her in his arms, and passionately kissed her mouth.

"Zara!" he murmured hoarsely. "Good God! do you think I am a stone! I tell you I love you—madly. Are you not going to be kind to me and really be my wife?"

Then he saw a look in her eyes that turned him to ice.

"Animal!" she hissed, and hit him across the face.

And as he let her fall from him she drew back panting, and deadly white; while he, mad with rage at the blow, stood with flaming blue eyes, and teeth clenched.

"Animal!" again she hissed, and then her words poured forth in a torrent of hate. "Is it not enough that you were willing to sell yourself for my uncle's money—that you were willing to take as a bargain—a woman whom you had never even seen, without letting your revolting passions exhibit themselves like this? And you dare to tell me you love me! What do such as you know of love? Love is a true and a pure and a beautiful thing, not to be sullied like this. It must come from devotion and knowledge. What sort of a vile passion is it which makes a man feel as you do for me? Only that I am a woman. Love! It is no love—it is a question of sense. Any other would do, provided she were as fair. Remember, my lord! I am not your mistress, and I will not stand any of this! Leave me. I hate you, animal that you are!"

He stiffened and grew rigid with every word that she said, and when she had finished he was as deadly pale as she herself.

"Say not one syllable more to me, Zara!" he commanded. "You will have no cause to reprove me for loving you again. And remember this: things shall be as you wish between us. We will each live our lives and play the game. But before I ask you to be my wife again you can go down upon your knees. Do you hear me? Good night."

And without a word further he strode from the room.



CHAPTER XVII

The moon was shining brightly and a fresh breeze had risen when Tristram left the hotel and walked rapidly towards the pier. He was mad with rage and indignation from his bride's cruel taunts. The knowledge of their injustice did not comfort him, and, though he knew he was innocent of any desire to have made a bargain, and had taken her simply for her beautiful self, still, the accusation hurt and angered his pride. How dared she! How dared her uncle have allowed her to think such things! A Tancred to stoop so low! He clenched his hands and his whole frame shook.

And then as he gazed down into the moonlit waves her last words came back with a fresh lashing sting. "Leave me, I hate you, animal that you are!" An animal, forsooth! And this is how she had looked at his love!

And then a cold feeling came over him—he was so very just—and he questioned himself. Was it true? Had it, indeed, been only that? Had he, indeed, been unbalanced and intoxicated merely from the desire of her exquisite body? Had there been nothing beyond? Were men really brutes?—And here he walked up and down very fast. What did it all mean? What did life mean? What was the truth of this thing, called love?

And so he strode for hours, reasoning things out. But he knew that for his nature there could be no love without desire—and no desire without love. And then his conversation with Francis Markrute came back to him, the day they had lunched in the city, when the financier had given his views about women.

Yes, they were right, those views. A woman, to be dangerous, must appeal to both the body and brain of a man. If his feeling for Zara were only for the body then it was true that it was only lust.

But it was not true; and he thought of all his dreams of her at Wrayth, of the pictures he had drawn of their future life together, of the tenderness with which he had longed for this night.

And then his anger died down and was replaced by a passionate grief.

His dream lay in ruins, and there was nothing to look forward to but a blank, soulless life. It did not seem to him then, in the cold moonlight, that things could ever come right. He could not for his pride's sake condescend to any further explanation with her. He would not stoop to defend himself; she must think what she chose, until she should of herself find out the truth.

And then his level mind turned and tried to see her point of view. He must not be unjust. And he realized that if she thought such base things of him she had been more or less right. But, even so, there was some mystery beyond all this—some cruel and oppressing dark shadow in her life.

And his thoughts went back to the night they had first met, and he remembered then that her eyes had been full of hate—resentment and hate—as though he, personally, had caused her some injury.

Francis Markrute was so very clever: what plan had he had in his head? By what scorpion whip had he perhaps forced her to consent to his wishes and become his—Tristram's—wife? And once more the disturbing remembrance of Mimo returned, so that, when at last dawn came and he went back to the hotel, tired out in body and soul, it would not let him rest in his bed. His bed—in the next room his wife!

But one clear decision he had come to. He would treat her with cold courtesy, and they would play the game. To part now, in a dramatic manner, the next day after the wedding, was not in his sense of the fitness of things, was not what was suitable or seemly for the Tancred name.

And when he had left her Zara had stood quite still. Some not understood astonishment caused all her passion to die down. For all the pitifully cruel experiences of her life she was still very young—young and ignorant of any but the vilest of men. Hitherto she had felt when they were kind that it was for some gain, and if a woman relented a second she would be sure to be trapped. For her self-respect and her soul's sake she must go armed at all points. And after her hurling at him all her scorn, instead of her husband turning round and perhaps beating her (as, certainly, Ladislaus would have done), he had answered with dignity and gone out of the room.

And she remembered her father's cold mien. Perhaps there was something else in the English—some other finer quality which she did not yet understand.

The poor, beautiful creature was like some ill-treated animal ready to bite to defend itself at the sight of a man.

It spoke highly for the strength and nobility of her character that, whereas another and weaker woman would have become degraded by the sorrows of such a life, she had remained pure as the snow, and as cold. Her strong will and her pride had kept completely in check every voluptuous instinct which must certainly have always lain dormant in her. Every emotion towards man was frozen to ice.

There are some complete natures which only respond to the highest touch; when the body and soul are evenly balanced they know all that is divine of human love. It is those warped in either of the component parts who bring sorrow—and lust.

The perfect woman gives willingly of herself, body and soul, to the one man she loves.

But of all these things Zara was ignorant. She only knew she was exhausted, and she crept wearily to bed.

Thus neither bride nor bridegroom, on this their wedding night, knew peace or rest.

They met next day for a late breakfast. They were to go to Paris by the one o'clock boat. They were both very quiet and pale. Zara had gone into the sitting-room first, and was standing looking out on the sea when her husband came into the room, and she did not turn round, until he said "Good morning," coldly, and she realized it was he.

Some strange quiver passed over her at the sound of his voice.

"Breakfast should be ready," he went on calmly. "I ordered it for eleven o'clock. I told your maid to tell you so. I hope that gave you time to dress."

"Yes, thank you," was all she said; and he rang the bell and opened the papers, which the waiters had piled on the table, knowing the delight of young bridal pairs to see news of themselves!

And as Zara glanced at her lord's handsome face she saw a cynical, disdainful smile creep over it, at something he read.

And she guessed it was the account of their wedding; and she, too, took up another paper and looked at the headings.

Yes, there was a flaming description of it all. And as she finished the long paragraphs she raised her head suddenly and their eyes met. And Tristram allowed himself to laugh—bitterly, it was true, but still to laugh.

The lingering fear of the ways of men was still in Zara's heart and not altogether gone; she was not yet quite free from the suspicion that he still might trap her if she unbent. So she frowned slightly and then looked down at the paper again; and the waiters brought in breakfast at that moment and nothing was said.

They did not seem to have much appetite, nor to care what they ate, but, the coffee being in front of her, politeness made Zara ask what sort her husband took, and when he answered—none at all—he wanted tea—she was relieved, and let him pour it out at the side-table himself.

"The wind has got up fiercely, and it will be quite rough," he said presently. "Do you mind the sea?"

And she answered, "No, not a bit."

Then they both continued reading the papers until all pretense of breakfast was over; and he rose, and, asking if she would be ready at about half-past twelve, to go on board, so as to avoid the crowd from the London train, he went quietly out of the room, and from the windows she afterwards saw him taking a walk on the pier.

And for some unexplained psychological reason, although she had now apparently obtained exactly the terms she had decided were the only possible ones on which to live with him, she experienced no sense of satisfaction or peace!

No pair could have looked more adorably attractive and interesting than Lord and Lady Tancred did as they went to their private cabin on the boat an admiring group of Dover young ladies thought, watching from the raised part above where the steamer starts. Every one concerned knew that this thrilling bride and bridegroom would be crossing, and the usual number of the daily spectators was greatly increased.

"What wonderful chinchilla!" "What lovely hair!" and "Oh! isn't he just too splendid!" they said. And the maid and the valet, carrying the jewel case, dressing bags, cushion and sable rug, followed, to the young ladies' extra delight.

The apanages of a great position, when augmented by the romance of a wedding journey, are dear to the female heart.

They had the large cabin on the upper deck of the Queen, and it was noticed that until the London train could be expected to arrive the bridal pair went outside and sat where they could not be observed, with a view towards Dover Castle. But it could not be seen that they never spoke a word and that each read a book.

When it seemed advisable to avoid the crowd Tristram glanced up and said,

"I suppose we shall have to stay in that beastly cabin now, or some cad will snapshot us. Will you come along?"

And so they went.

"It is going to be really quite rough," he continued, when the door was shut. "Would you like to lie down—or what?"

"I am never the least ill, but I will try and sleep," Zara answered resignedly, as she undid her chinchilla coat.

So he settled the pillows, and she lay down, and he covered her up; and as he did so, in spite of his anger with her and all his hurt pride he had the most maddeningly strong desire to kiss her and let her rest in his arms. So he turned away brusquely and sat down at the farther end, where he opened the window to let in some air, and pulled the curtain over it, and then tried to go on with his book. But every pulse in his body was throbbing, and at last he could not control the overmastering desire to look at her.

She raised herself a little, and began taking the finely-worked, small-stoned, sapphire pins out of her hat. They had been Cyril's gift.

"Can I help you?" he said.

"It is such soft fur I thought I need not take it off to lie down," she answered coldly, "but there is something hurting in the back."

He took the thing with its lace veil from her, and the ruffled waves of her glorious hair as she lay there nearly drove him mad with the longing to caress.

How, in God's name, would they ever be able to live? He must go outside and fight with himself.

And she wondered why his face grew so stern. And when she was settled comfortably again and the boat had started he left her alone.

It was, fortunately, so rough that there were very few people about, and he went far forward and leant on the rail, and let the salt air blow into his face.

What if, in the end, this wild passion for her should conquer him and he should give in, and have to confess that her cruel words did not hinder him from loving her? It would be too ignominious. He must pull himself together and firmly suppress every emotion. He determined to see her as little as possible when they got to Paris, and when the ghastly honeymoon week, that he had been contemplating with so much excitement and joy should be over, then they would go back to England, and he would take up politics in earnest, and try and absorb himself in that.

And Zara, lying in the cabin, was unconscious of any direct current of thought; she was quite unconscious that already this beautiful young husband of hers had made some impression upon her, and that, underneath, for all her absorption in her little brother and her own affairs, she was growing conscious of his presence and that his comings and goings were things to remark about.

And, strengthened in his resolve to be true to the Tancred pride, Tristram came back to her as they got into Calais harbor.



CHAPTER XVIII

The servants at the Ritz, in Paris, so exquisitely drilled, made no apparent difference, when the bride and bridegroom arrived there about half-past seven o'clock, than if they had been an elderly brother and sister; and they were taken to the beautiful Empire suite on the Vendome side of the first floor. Everything was perfection in the way of arrangement, and the flowers were so particularly beautiful that Zara's love for them caused her to cry out,

"Oh! the dear roses! I must just bury my face in them, first."

They had got through the railway journey very well; real, overcoming fatigue had caused them both to sleep, and in the automobile, coming to the hotel, they had exchanged a few stiff words.

"To-morrow night we can dine out at a restaurant," Tristram had said, "but to-night perhaps you are tired and would rather go to bed?"

"Thank you," said Zara. "Yes, I would." For she thought she wanted to write her letters to Mirko and tell him of her new name and place. So she put on a tea-gown, and at about half-past eight joined Tristram in the sitting-room. If they had not both been so strained their sense of humor would not have permitted them to refrain from a laugh. For here they sat in state, and, when the waiters were in the room, exchanged a few remarks. But Zara did notice that her husband never once looked at her with any directness, and he seemed coldly indifferent to anything she said.

"We shall have to stay here for the whole, boring week," he announced when at last coffee was on the table and they were alone. "There are certain obligations one's position obliges one to conform to. You understand, I expect. I will try to make the time as easy to bear for you as I can. Will you tell me what theaters you have not already seen? We can go somewhere every night, and in the daytime you have perhaps shopping to do; and—I know Paris quite well. I can amuse myself."

Zara did not feel enthusiastically grateful, but she said, "Thank you," in a quiet voice, and Tristram, rang the bell and asked for the list of the places of amusement, and in the most stiff, self-contained manner he chose, with her, a different one for every night.

Then he lit a cigar deliberately, and walked towards the door.

"Good-night, Milady," he said nonchalantly, and then went out.

And Zara sat still by the table and unconsciously pulled the petals off an unoffending rose; and when she realized what she had done she was aghast!

It was not until about five o'clock the next day that he came into the sitting-room again.

Milor had gone to the races, and had left a note for Miladi in the morning, the maid had said.

And Zara, as she lay back on her pillows, had opened it with a strange thrill.

"You won't be troubled with me to-day," she read. "I am going out with some old friends to Maisons Liafitte. I have said you want to rest from the journey, as one has to say something. I have arranged for us to dine at the Cafe de Paris at 7:30, and go to the Gymnase. Tell Higgins, my valet, if you change the plan." And the note was not even signed!

Well, it appeared she had nothing further to fear from him; she could breathe much relieved. And now for her day of quiet rest.

But when she had had her lonely lunch and her letters to her uncle and Mirko were written, she found herself drumming aimlessly on the window panes, and wondering if she would go out.

She had no friends in Paris whom she wanted to see. Her life there with her family had been entirely devoted to them alone. But it was a fine day and there is always something to do in Paris—though what then, particularly, she had not decided; perhaps she would go to the Louvre.

And then she sank down into the big sofa, opposite the blazing wood fire, and gradually fell fast asleep. She slept, with unbroken deepness, until late in the afternoon, and was, in fact, still asleep there when Tristram came in.

He did not see her at first; the lights were not on and it was almost dark in the streets. The fire, too, had burnt low. He came forward, and then went back again and switched on the lamps; and, with the blaze, Zara sat up and rubbed her eyes. One great plait of her hair had become loosened and fell at the side of her head, and she looked like a rosy, sleepy child.

"I did not see you!" Tristram gasped, and, realizing her adorable attractions, he turned to the fire and vigorously began making it up.

Then, as he felt he could not trust himself for another second, he rang the bell and ordered some tea to be brought, while he went to his room to leave his overcoat. And when he thought the excuse of the repast would be there, he went back.

Zara felt nothing in particular. Even yet she was rather on the defensive, looking out for every possible attack.

So they both sat down quietly, and for a few moments neither spoke.

She had put up her hair during his absence, and now looked wide-awake and quite neat.

"I had a most unlucky day," he said—for something to say. "I could not back a single winner. On the whole I think I am bored with racing."

"It has always seemed boring to me," she said. "If it were to try the mettle of a horse one had bred I could understand that; or to ride it oneself and get the better of an adversary: but just with sharp practices—and for money! It seems so common a thing, I never could take an interest in that."

"Does anything interest you?" he hazarded, and then he felt sorry he had shown enough interest to ask.

"Yes," she said slowly, "but perhaps not many games. My life has always been too ordered by the games of others, to take to them myself." And then she stopped abruptly. She could not suppose her life interested him much.

But, on the contrary, he was intensely interested, if she had known.

He felt inclined to tell her so, and that the whole of the present situation was ridiculous, and that he wanted to know her innermost thoughts. He was beginning to examine her all critically, and to take in every point. Beyond his passionate admiration for her beauty there was something more to analyze.

What was the subtle something of mystery and charm? Why could she not unbend and tell him the meaning in those fathomless, dark eyes?—What could they look like, if filled with love and tenderness? Ah!

And if he had done as he felt inclined at the moment the ice might have been broken, and at the end of the week they would probably have been in each other's arms. But fate ordered otherwise, and an incident that night, at dinner, caused a fresh storm.

Zara was looking so absolutely beautiful in her lovely new clothes that it was not in the nature of gallant foreigners to allow her to dine unmolested by their stares, and although the tete-a-tete dinner was quite early at the Cafe de Paris, there happened to be a large party of men next to them and Zara found herself seated in close proximity to a nondescript Count, whom she recognized as one of her late husband's friends. Every one who knows the Cafe de Paris can realize how this happened. The long velvet seats without divisions and the small tables in front make, when the place is full, the whole side look as if it were one big group. Lord Tancred was quite accustomed to it; he knew Paris well as he had told her, so he ought to have been prepared for what could happen, but he was not.

Perhaps he was not on the alert, because he had never before been there with a woman he loved.

Zara's neighbor was a great, big, fierce-looking creature from some wild quarter of the South, and was perhaps also just a little drunk. She knew a good deal of their language, but, taking for granted that this Englishman and his lovely lady would be quite ignorant of what they said, the party of men were most unreserved in their remarks.

Her neighbor looked at her devouringly, once or twice, when he saw Tristram could not observe him, and then began to murmur immensely entreprenant love sentences in his own tongue, as he played with his bread. She knew he had recognized her. And Tristram wondered why his lady's little nostrils should begin to quiver and her eyes to flash.

She was remembering like scenes in the days of Ladislaus, and how he used to grow wild with jealousy, in the beginning when he took her out, and once had dragged her back upstairs by her hair, and flung her into bed. It was always her fault when men looked at her, he assured her. And the horror of the recollection of it all was still vivid enough.

Then Tristram gradually became greatly worried; without being aware that the man was the cause, he yet felt something was going on. He grew jealous and uneasy, and would have liked to have taken her home.

And because of the things she was angrily listening to, and because of her fear of a row, she sat there looking defiant and resentful, and spoke never a word.

And Tristram could not understand it, and he eventually became annoyed. What had he said or done to her again? It was more than he meant to stand, for no reason—to put up with such airs!

For Zara sat frowning, her mouth mutinous and her eyes black as night.

If she had told Tristram what her neighbor was saying there would at once have been a row. She knew this, and so remained in constrained silence, unconscious that her husband was thinking her rude to him, and that he was angry with her. She was so strung up with fury at the foreigner, that she answered Tristram's few remarks at random, and then abruptly rose while he was paying the bill, as if to go out. And as she did so the Count slipped a folded paper into the sleeve of her coat.

Tristram thought he saw something peculiar but was still in doubt, and, with his English self-control and horror of a scene, he followed his wife to the door, as she was walking rapidly ahead, and there helped her into the waiting automobile.

But as she put up her arm, in stepping in, the folded paper fell to the brightly lighted pavement and he picked it up.

He must have some explanation. He was choking with rage. There was some mystery, he was being tricked.

"Why did you not tell me you knew that fellow who sat next to you?" he said in a low, constrained voice.

"Because it would have been a lie," she said haughtily. "I have never seen him but once before in my life."

"Then what business have you to allow him to write notes to you?" Tristram demanded, too overcome with jealousy to control the anger in his tone.

She shrank back in her corner. Here it was beginning again! After all, in spite of his apparent agreement to live on the most frigid terms with her he was now acting like Ladislaus: men were all the same!

"I am not aware the creature wrote me any note," she said. "What do you mean?"

"How can you pretend like this," Tristram exclaimed furiously, "when it fell out of your sleeve? Here it is."

"Take me back to the hotel," she said with a tone of ice. "I refuse to go to the theater to be insulted. How dare you doubt my word? If there is a note you had better read it and see what it says."



So Lord Tancred picked up the speaking-tube and told the chauffeur to go back to the Ritz.

They both sat silent, palpitating with rage, and when they got there he followed her into the lift and up to the sitting-room.

He came in and shut the door and strode over beside her, and then he almost hissed,

"You are asking too much of me. I demand an explanation. Tell me yourself about it. Here is your note."

Zara took it, with infinite disdain, and, touching it as though it were some noisome reptile, she opened it and read aloud,

"Beautiful Comtesse, when can I see you again?"

"The vile wretch!" she said contemptuously. "That is how men insult women!" And she looked up passionately at Tristram. "You are all the same."

"I have not insulted you," he flashed. "It is perfectly natural that I should be angry at such a scene, and if this brute is to be found again to-night he shall know that I will not permit him to write insolent notes to my wife."

She flung the hateful piece of paper into the fire and turned towards her room.

"I beg you to do nothing further about the matter," she said. "This loathsome man was half drunk. It is quite unnecessary to follow it up; it will only make a scandal, and do no good. But you can understand another thing. I will not have my word doubted, nor be treated as an offending domestic—as you have treated me to-night." And without further words she went into her room.

Tristram, left alone, paced up and down; he was wild with rage, furious with her, with himself, and with the man. With her because he had told her once, before the wedding, that when they came to cross swords there would be no doubt as to who would be master! and in the three encounters which already their wills had had she had each time come off the conqueror! He was furious with himself, that he had not leaned forward at dinner to see the man hand the note, and he was frenziedly furious with the stranger, that he had dared to turn his insolent eyes upon his wife.

He would go back to the Cafe de Paris, and, if the man was there, call him to account, and if not, perhaps he could obtain his name. So out he went.

But the waiters vowed they knew nothing of the gentleman; the whole party had been perfect strangers, and they had no idea as to where they had gone on. So this enraged young Englishman spent the third night of his honeymoon in a hunt round the haunts of Paris, but with no success; and at about six o'clock in the morning came back baffled but still raging, and thoroughly wearied out.

And all this while his bride could not sleep, and in spite of her anger was a prey to haunting fears. What if the two had met and there had been bloodshed! A completely possible case! And several times in the night she got out of her bed and went and listened at the communicating doors; but there was no sound of Tristram, and about five o'clock, worn out with the anxiety and injustice of everything, she fell into a restless doze, only to wake again at seven, with a lead weight at her heart. She could not bear it any longer! She must know for certain if he had come in! She slipped on her dressing-gown, and noiselessly stole to the door, and with the greatest caution unlocked it, and, turning the handle, peeped in.

Yes, there he was, sound asleep! His window was wide open, with the curtains pushed back, so the daylight streamed in on his face. He had been too tired to care.

Zara turned round quickly to reenter her room, but in her terror of being discovered she caught the trimming of her dressing-gown on the handle of the door and without her being aware of it a small bunch of worked ribbon roses fell off.

Then she got back into bed, relieved in mind as to him but absolutely quaking at what she had done and at the impossibly embarrassing position she would have placed herself in, if he had awakened and known that she had come!

And the first thing Tristram saw, when some hours later he was aroused by the pouring in of the sun, was the little torn bunch of silk roses lying close to her door.



CHAPTER XIX

He sprang from bed and picked them up. What could they possibly mean? They were her roses, certainly—he remembered she wore the dressing-gown that first evening at Dover, when he had gone to her to give her the gardenias. And they certainly had not been there when at six o'clock he had come in. He would in that case have seen them against the pale carpet.

For one exquisite moment he thought they were a message and then he noticed the ribbon had been wrenched off and was torn.

No, they were no conscious message, but they did mean that she had been in his room while he slept.

Why had she done this thing? He knew she hated him—it was no acting—and she had left him the night' before even unusually incensed. What possible reason could she have, then, for coming into his room? He felt wild with excitement. He would see if, as usual, the door between them was locked. He tried it gently. Yes, it was.

And Zara heard him from her side, and stiffened in her bed with all the expression of a fierce wolfhound putting its hackles up.

Yes, the danger of the ways of men was not over! If she had not unconsciously remembered to lock the door when she had returned from her terrifying adventure he would have come in!

So these two thrilled with different emotions and trembled, and there was the locked harrier between them. And then Tristram rang for his valet and ordered his bath. He would dress quickly, and ask casually if she would breakfast in the sitting-room. It was so late, almost eleven, and they could have it at twelve upstairs—not in the restaurant as he had yesterday intended. He must find out about the roses; he could not endure to pass the whole day in wonder and doubt.

And Zara, too, started dressing. It was better under the circumstances to be armed at all points, and she felt safer and calmer with Henriette in the room.

So a few minutes before twelve they met in the sitting-room.

Her whole expression was on the defensive: he saw that at once.

The waiters would be coming in with the breakfast soon. Would there be time to talk to her, or had he better postpone it until they were certain to be alone? He decided upon this latter course, and just said a cold "Good morning," and turned to the New York Herald and looked at the news.

Zara felt more reassured.

So they presently sat down to their breakfast, each ready to play the game.

They spoke of the theaters—the one they had arranged to go to this Saturday night was causing all Paris to laugh.

"It will be a jolly good thing to laugh," Tristram said—and Zara agreed.

He made no allusion to the events of the night before, and she hardly spoke at all. And at last the repast was over, and the waiters had left the room.

Tristram got up, after his coffee and liqueur, but he lit no cigar; he went to one of the great windows which look out on the Colonne Vendome, and then he came back. Zara was sitting upon the heliotrope Empire sofa and had picked up the paper again.

He stood before her, with an expression upon his face which ought to have melted any woman.

"Zara," he said softly, "I want you to tell me, why did you come into my room?"

Her great eyes filled with startled horror and surprise, and her white cheeks grew bright pink with an exquisite flush.

"I?"—and she clenched her hands. How did he know? Had he seen her, then? But he evidently did know, and there was no use to lie. "I was so—frightened—that—"

Tristram took a step nearer and sat down by her side. He saw the confession was being dragged from her, and he gloried in it and would not help her out.

She moved further from him, then, with grudging reluctance, she continued,

"There can be such unpleasant quarrels with those horrible men. It—was so very late—I—I—wished to be sure that you had come safely in."

Then she looked down, and the rose died out of her face, leaving it very white.

And if Tristram's pride in the decision he had come to, on the fatal wedding night, that she must make the first advances before he would again unbend, had not held him, he would certainly have risked everything and clasped her in his arms. As it was, he resisted the intense temptation to do so, and made himself calm, while he answered,

"It mattered to you, then, in some way, that I should not come to harm?"

He was still sitting on the sofa near her, and that magnetic essence which is in propinquity appealed to her; ignorant of all such emotions as she was she only knew something had suddenly made her feel nervous, and that her heart was thumping in her side.

"Yes, of course it mattered," she faltered, and then went on coldly, as he gave a glad start; "scandals are so unpleasant—scenes and all those things are so revolting. I had to endure many of them in my former life."

Oh! so that was it! Just for fear of a scandal and because she had known disagreeable things! Not a jot of feeling for himself! And Tristram got up quickly and walked to the fireplace. He was cut to the heart.

The case was utterly hopeless, he felt. He was frozen and stung each time he even allowed himself to be human and hope for anything. But he was a strong man, and this should be the end of it. He would not be tortured again.

He took the little bunch of flowers out of his pocket and handed it to her quietly, while his face was full of pain.

"Here is the proof you left me of your kind interest," he told her. "Perhaps your maid will miss it and wish to sew it on." And then without another word he went out of the room.

Zara, left alone, sat staring into the fire. What did all this mean? She felt very unhappy, but not angry or alarmed. She did not want to hurt him. Had she been very unkind? After all, he had behaved, in comparison to Ladislaus, with wonderful self-control—and—yes, supposing he were not quite a sensual brute she had been very hard. She knew what pride meant; she had abundance herself, and she realized for the first time how she must have been stinging his.

But there were facts which could not be got over. He had married her for her uncle's money and then shown at once that her person tempted him, when it could not be anything else.

She got up and walked about the room. There was a scent of him somewhere—the scent of a fine cigar. She felt uneasy of she knew not what. Did she wish him to come back? Was she excited? Should she go out? And then, for no reason on earth, she suddenly burst into tears.

* * * * *

They met for dinner, and she herself had never looked or been more icy cold than Tristram was. They went down into the restaurant and there, of course, he encountered some friends dining, too, in a merry party; and he nodded gayly to them and told her casually who they were, and then went on with his dinner. His manner had lost its constraint, it was just casually indifferent. And soon they started for the theater, and it was he who drew as far away as he could, when they got into the automobile.

They had a box—and the piece had begun. It was one of those impossibly amusing Paris farces, on the borderland of all convention but so intensely comic that none could help their mirth, and Tristram shook with laughter and forgot for the time that he was a most miserable young man. And even Zara laughed. But it did not melt things between them. Tristram's feelings had been too wounded for any ordinary circumstances to cause him to relent.

"Do you care for some supper?" he said coldly when they came out. But she answered. "No," so he took her back, and as far as the lift where he left her, politely saying "Good night," and she saw him disappear towards the door, and knew he had again gone out.

And going on to the sitting-room alone, she found the English mail had come in, and there were the letters on the table, at least a dozen for Tristram, as she sorted them out—a number in women's handwriting—and but two for herself. One was from her uncle, full of agreeable congratulations subtly expressed; and the other, forwarded from Park Lane, from Mirko, as yet ignorant of her change of state, a small, funny, pathetic letter that touched her heart. He was better, and again able to go out, and in a fortnight Agatha, the little daughter of the Morleys, would be returning, and he could play with her. That might be a joy—girls were not so tiresome and did not make so much noise as boys.

Zara turned to the piano, which she had not yet opened, and sat down and comforted herself with the airs she loved; and the maid who listened, while she waited for her mistress to be undressed, turned up her eyes in wonder.

"Quel drole de couple!" she said.

And Tristram reencountered his friends and went off with them to sup.

Her ladyship was tired, he told them, and had gone to bed. And two of the Englishwomen who knew him quite well teased him and said how beautiful his bride was and how strange-looking, and what an iceberg he must be to be able to come out to supper and leave her alone! And they wondered why he then smiled cynically.

"For," said one to the other on their way home, "the new Lady Tancred is perfectly beautiful! Fancy, Gertrude, Tristram leaving her for a minute! And did you ever see such a face? It looks anything but cold."

Zara was wide-awake when, about two, he came in. She heard him in the sitting-room and suddenly became conscious that her thoughts had been with him ever since she went to bed, and not with Mirko and his letter.

She supposed he was now reading his pile of correspondence—he had such numbers of fond friends! And then she heard him shut the door, and go round into his room; but the carpets were very thick and she heard no more.

If she could have seen what happened beyond that closed door, would it have opened her eyes, or made her happy? Who can tell?

For Higgins, with methodical tidiness, had emptied the pockets of the coat his master had worn in the day, and there on top of a letter or two and a card-case was one tiny pink rose, a wee bud that had become detached from the torn bunch.

And when Tristram saw it his heart gave a great bound. So it had stayed behind, when he had returned the others, and was there now to hurt him with remembrance of what might have been! He was unable to control the violent emotion which shook him. He went to the window and opened it wide: the moon was rather over, but still blazed in the sky. Then he bent down and passionately kissed the little bud, while a scorching mist gathered in his eyes.



CHAPTER XX

So at last the Wednesday morning came—and they could go back to England. From that Saturday night until they left Paris Tristram's manner of icy, polite indifference to his bride never changed. She had no more quaking shocks nor any fear of too much ardor! He avoided every possible moment of her society he could, and when forced to be with her seemed aloof and bored.

And the freezing manner of Zara was caused no longer by haughty self-defense but because she was unconsciously numb at heart.

Unknown, undreamed-of emotion came over her, whenever she chanced to find him close, and during his long absences her thoughts followed him—sometimes with wonderment.

Just as they were going down to start for the train on the Wednesday morning a telegram was put into her hand. It was addressed "La Baronne de Tancred," and she guessed at once this would be Mimo's idea of her name. Tristram, who was already down the steps by the concierge's desk, turned and saw her open it, with a look of intense strain. He saw that as she read her eyes widened and stared out in front of them for a moment, and that her face grew pale.

For Mimo had wired, "Mirko not quite so well." She crumpled the blue paper in her hand, and followed her husband through the bowing personnel of the hotel into the automobile. She controlled herself and was even able to give one of her rare smiles in farewell, but when they started she leaned back, and again her face went white. Tristram was moved. Whom was her telegram from? She did not tell him and he would not ask, but the feeling that there were in her life, things and interests of which he knew nothing did not please him. And this particular thing—what was it? Was it from a man? It had caused her some deep emotion—he could plainly see that. He longed to ask her but was far too proud, and their terms had grown so distant he hardly liked to express even solicitude, which, however, he did.

"I hope you have not had any bad news?"

Then she turned her eyes upon him, and he saw that she had hardly heard him; they looked blank.

"What?" she asked vaguely; and then, recollecting herself confusedly, she went on, "No—not exactly—but something about which I must think."

So he was shut out of her confidence. He felt that, and carefully avoided taking any further notice of her.

When they got to the station he suddenly perceived she was not following him as he made way for her in the crowd, but had gone over to the telegraph office by herself.

He waited and fumed. It was evidently something about which she wished no one to see what she wrote, for she could perfectly well have given the telegram to Higgins to take, who would be waiting by the saloon door.

She returned in a few moments, and she saw that Tristram's face was very stern. It did not strike her that he was jealous about the mystery of the telegram; she thought he was annoyed at her for not coming on in case they should be late, so she said hurriedly, "There is plenty of time."

"Naturally," he answered stiffly as they walked along, "but it is quite unnecessary for Lady Tancred to struggle through this rabble and take telegrams herself. Higgins could have done it when we were settled in the train."

And with unexpected meekness all she said was, "I am very sorry."

So the incident ended there—but not the uneasy impression it left.

Tristram did not even make a pretense of reading the papers when the train moved on; he sat there staring in front of him, with his handsome face shadowed by a moody frown. And any close observer who knew him would have seen that there was a change in his whole expression, since the same time the last week.

The impossible disappointment of everything! What kind of a nature could his wife have, to be so absolutely mute and unresponsive as she had been? He felt glad he had not given her the chance to snub him again. These last days he had been able to keep to his determination, and at all events did not feel himself humiliated. How long would it be before he should cease to care for her? He hoped to God—soon, because the strain of crushing his passionate desires was one which no man could stand long.

The little, mutinous face, with its alluring, velvet, white skin, her slightly full lips, all curved and red, and tempting, and anything but cold in shape, and the extraordinary magnetic attraction of her whole personality, made her a most dangerous thing; and then his thoughts turned to the vision of her hair undone that he had had on that first evening at Dover. He had said once to Francis Markrute, he remembered, that these great passions were "storybook stuff." Good God! Well, in those days he had not known.

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