Tristram’s resolve had held him, nothing could have been more gallingly cold and disdainful than had been his treatment of her, so perfect, in its acting for ‘the game,’ and, so bitter, in the humiliation of the between times. She would tell him of her mistake. That was all. She must guard herself against showing any emotion over it.
They each sank down into chairs beside the fire with sighs of relief.
“Good Lord!” he said, as he put his hand to his forehead. “What a hideous mockery the whole thing is, and not half over yet! I am afraid you must be tired. You ought to go and rest until dinner—when, please be very magnificent and wear some of the jewels—part of them have come down from London on purpose, I think, beyond those you had at Montfitchet.”
“Yes, I will,” she answered, listlessly, and began to pour out the tea, while he sat quite still staring into the fire, a look of utter weariness and discouragement upon his handsome face.
Everything about the whole thing was hurting him so, all the pleasure he had taken in the improvements and the things he had done, hoping to please her; and now, as he saw them about, each one stabbed him afresh.
She gave him his cup without a word. She had remembered from Paris his tastes in cream and sugar; and then as the icy silence continued, she could bear it no longer.
“Tristram,” she said, in as level a voice as she could. At the sound of his name he looked at her startled. It was the first time she had ever used it!
She lowered her head and, clasping her hands, she went on constrainedly, so overcome with emotion she dared not let herself go. “I want to tell you something, and ask you to forgive me. I have learned the truth, that you did not marry me just for my uncle’s money. I know exactly what really happened now. I am ashamed, humiliated, to remember what I said to you. But I understood you had agreed to the bargain before you had ever seen me. The whole thing seemed so awful to me—so revolting—I am sorry for what I taunted you with. I know now that you are really a great gentleman.”
His face, if she had looked up and seen it, had first all lightened with hope and love; but as she went on coldly, the warmth died out of it, and a greater pain than ever filled his heart. So she knew now, and yet she did not love him. There was no word of regret for the rest of her taunts, that he had been an animal, and the blow in his face! The recollection of this suddenly lashed him again, and made him rise to his feet, all the pride of his race flooding his being once more.
He put down his tea-cup on the mantelpiece untasted, and then said hoarsely:
“I married you because I loved you, and no man has ever regretted a thing more.”
Then he turned round, and walked slowly from the room.
And Zara, left alone, felt that the end had come.