He had completely recovered his balance, upset a little the night before by the uncomfortable momentary fear about his niece.
She and Tristram had arranged to come up to Park Lane for two nights again at the end of the week, to say good-bye to the Dowager Lady Tancred, who was starting with her daughters for Cannes. If he should see then that things were still amiss, he would tell Tristram the whole history of what Zara had thought of him. Perhaps that might throw some light on her conduct towards him, and so things could be cleared up. But he pinned his whole faith on youth and propinquity to arrange matters before then, and dismissed it from his mind.
Meanwhile, the pair in question were speeding along to Wrayth.
Of all the ordeals of the hours which Tristram had had to endure since his wedding, these occasions, upon which he had to sit close beside her in a motor, were the worst. An ordinary young man, not in love with her, would have found something intoxicating in her atmosphere—and how much more this poor Tristram, who was passionately obsessed.
Fortunately, she liked plenty of window open and did not object to smoke; but with the new air of meekness which was on her face and the adorably attractive personal scent of the creature, nearly two hours with her, under a sable rug, was no laughing matter.
At the end of the first half hour of silence and nearness, her husband found he was obliged to concentrate his mind by counting sheep jumping over imaginary stiles to prevent himself from clasping her in his arms.
It was the same old story, which has been chronicled over and over again. Two young, human, natural, normal people fighting against iron bars. For Zara felt the same as he, and she had the extra anguish of knowing she had been unjust, and that the present impossible situation was entirely her own doing.
And how to approach the subject and confess her fault? She did not know. Her sense of honor made her feel she must, but the queer silent habit of her life was still holding her enchained. And so, until they got into his own country, the strained speechlessness continued, and then he looked out and said:
“We must have the car opened now—please smile and bow as we go through the villages when any of the old people curtsey to you; the young ones won’t do it, I expect, but my mother’s old friends may.”
So Zara leaned forward, when the footman had opened the landaulette top, and tried to look radiant.
And the first act of this pitiful comedy began.
Every sort of emotion convulsed the new Lady Tancred’s heart, as they began to get near the park, with the village nestling close to its gates on the far side. So this was the home of her love and her lord; and they ought to be holding hands, and approaching it and the thought of their fond life together there with full hearts,—well, her heart was full enough, but only of anguish and pain. For Tristram, afraid of the smallest unbending, maintained a freezing attitude of contemptuous disdain, which she could not yet pluck up enough courage to break through to tell him she knew how unjust and unkind she had been.