“I expect so,” he said. “It could not have been Zara, though, because she was in Paris until just before the wedding.”
“I remember the occasion quite well. It was the day after the engagement was announced, because I had been up for Flora’s wedding, and was going down into the country.”
Then in a flash it came to him that that was the very day he himself had seen Zara in Whitehall, the day when she had not gone to Paris. And rankling, uncomfortable suspicions overcame him again.
Laura felt delighted. She did not know why he should be moved at her announcement; but he certainly was, so it was worth while rubbing it in.
“Has she a sister, perhaps? Because—now I come to think of it—the resemblance is extraordinary. I remember I was rather interested at the time because the man was so awfully handsome and as you know, dear boy, I always had a passion for handsome men!”
“My wife was an only child,” Tristram answered. What was Laura driving at?
“Well, she has a double then,” she laughed. “I watched them for quite ten minutes, so I am sure. I was waiting for my maid, who was to meet me, and I could not leave for fear of missing her.”
“How interesting!” said Tristram coldly. He would not permit himself to demand a description of the man.
“Perhaps after all it was she, before she went to Paris, and I may be mistaken about the date,” Laura went on. “It might have been her brother—he was certainly foreign—but no, it could not have been a brother.” And she looked down and smiled knowingly.
Tristram felt gradually wild with the stings her words were planting, and then his anger rebounded upon herself. Little natures always miscalculate the effect of their actions, as factors in their desires, for their ultimate ends.
Laura only longed—after hurting Tristram as a punishment—to get him back again; but she was not clever enough to know that to make him mad with jealousy about his wife was not the way.
“I don’t understand what you wish to insinuate, Laura,” he said in a contemptuous voice; “but whatever it is, it is having no effect upon me. I absolutely adore my wife, and know everything she does or does not do.”
“Oh! the poor, angry darling, there, there!” she laughed, spitefully, “and was It jealous! Well, It shan’t be teased. But what a clever husband, to know all about his wife! He should be put in a glass case in a museum!” And she got up and left him alone.
Tristram would like to have killed some one—he did not know whom—this foreign man, “Mimo,” most likely: he had not forgotten the name!
If his pride had permitted him he would have gone up to Zara, who had now retired to her room, and asked straight out for an explanation. He would if he had been sensible have simply said he was unhappy, and he would have asked her to reassure him. It would all have been perfectly simple and soon ended if treated with common sense. But he was too obstinate, and too hurt, and too passionately in love. The bogey of his insulted Tancred pride haunted him always, and, like all foolish things, caused him more suffering than if it had been a crime.