He dared not look at her, now the bargain was made, so he took a step towards the door, and then turned and said:
“I thank you—I shall be grateful to you. Whatever may occur, please believe that nothing that may look as if it was my wish to throw us together, as though we were really husband and wife, will be my fault; and you can count upon my making the thing as easy for you as I can—and when the mockery of the rejoicings are over—then we can discuss our future plans.”
And though Zara was longing to cry aloud in passionate pain, “I love you! I love you! Come back and beat me, if you will, only do not go coldly like that!” she spoke never a word. The strange iron habit of her life held her, and he went sadly from the room.
And when he had gone, she could control herself no longer and, forgetful of coming maid and approaching dinner, she groveled on the white bearskin rug before the fire, and gave way to passionate tears—only to recollect in a moment the position of things. Then she got up and shook with passion against fate, and civilization, and custom—against the whole of life. She could not even cry in peace. No! She must play the game! So her eyes had to be bathed, the window opened, and the icy air breathed in, and at last she had quieted herself down to the look of a person with a headache, when the dressing-gong sounded, and her maid came into the room.
This, the last dinner at Montfitchet, passed more quietly than the rest. The company were perhaps subdued, from their revels of the night before; and every one hates the thought of breaking up a delightful party and separating on the morrow, even when it has only been a merry gathering like this.
And two people were divinely happy, and two people supremely sad, and one mean little heart was full of bitterness and malice unassuaged. So after dinner was over, and they were all once more in the white drawing-room, the different elements assorted themselves.
Lady Anningford took Tristram aside and began, with great tact and much feeling, to see if he could be cajoled into a better mood; and finally got severely snubbed for her trouble, which hurt her more because she realized how deep must be his pain than from any offense to herself. Then Laura caught him and implanted her last sting:
“You are going away to-morrow, Tristram,—into your new life—and when you have found out all about your wife—and her handsome friend—you may remember that there was one woman who loved you truly—” and then she moved on and left him sitting there, too raging to move.
After this, his uncle had joined him, had talked politics, and just at the end, for the hearty old gentleman could not believe a man could really be cold or indifferent to as beautiful a piece of flesh and blood as his new niece, he had said:
“Tristram, my dear boy,—I don’t know whether it is the modern spirit—or not—but, if I were you, I’d be hanged if I would let that divine creature, your wife, out of my sight day or night!—When you get her alone at Wrayth, just kiss her until she can’t breathe—and you’ll find it is all right!”