So, the moment the servants went out of the room to get the coffee—after a desultory conversation about the engagement until then, he said coldly:
“You told me on Monday that you now know the reason I had married you: may I ask you why did you marry me?”
She clasped her hands convulsively. This brought it all back—her poor little brother—and she was not free yet from her promise to her uncle: she never failed to keep her word.
A look of deep, tragic earnestness grew in her pools of ink, and she said to him, with a strange sob in her voice:
“Believe me I had a strong reason, but I cannot tell it to you now.”
And the servants reentered the room at the moment, so he could not ask her why: it broke the current.
But what an unexpected inference she always put into affairs! What was the mystery? He was thrilled with suspicious, terrible interest. But of one thing he felt sure—Francis Markrute did not really know.
And in spite of his chain of reasoning about this probable lover some doubt about it haunted him always; her air was so pure—her mien so proud.
And while the servants were handing the coffee and still there Zara rose, and, making the excuse that she must write to her uncle at once, left the room to avoid further questioning. Then Tristram leant his head upon his hands and tried to think.
He was in a maze—and there seemed no way out. If he went to her now and demanded to have everything explained he might have some awful confirmation of his suspicions, and then how could they go through to-morrow—and the town’s address? Of all things he had no right—just because of his wild passion in marrying this foreign woman—he had no right to bring disgrace and scandal upon his untarnished name: “noblesse oblige” was the motto graven on his soul. No, he must bear it until Friday night after the Glastonbury House dinner. Then he would face her and demand the truth.
And Zara under the wing of Mrs. Anglin made a thorough tour of the beautiful, old house. She saw its ancient arras hangings, and panellings of carved oak, and heard all the traditions, and looked at the portraits—many so wonderfully like Tristram, for they were a strong, virile race—and her heart ached, and swelled with pride, alternately. And, last of all, she stood under the portrait that had been painted by Sargent, of her husband at his coming of age, and that master of art had given him, on the canvas, his very soul. There he stood, in a scarlet hunt-coat—debonair, and strong, and true—with all the promise of a noble, useful life in his dear, blue eyes. And suddenly this proud woman put her hand to her throat to check the sob that rose there; and then, again, out of the mist of her tears she saw Pan and his broken pipes.