“Let me pass at once!”
But Tristram did not move, and for a second they glared at one another, and she took a step forward as if to force her way. Then he angrily seized her in his arms. But at that moment Francis Markrute came out of his room and Tristram let her go—panting. He could not make a scene, and she went on, with her head set haughtily, to her room.
“I see you have been quarreling again,” her uncle said, rather irritably: and then he laughed as he went down.
“I expect she will be late,” he continued; “well, if she is not in the hall at five minutes to eight, I shall go on.”
And Tristram sat down upon the deep sofa on the broad landing outside her room, and waited: the concentrated essence of all the rage and pain he had yet suffered seemed to be now in his heart.
But what had it meant—that look of superb scorn? She had no mien of a guilty person.
At six minutes to eight she opened the door, and came out. She had simply flown into her clothes, in ten minutes! Her eyes were still black as night with resentment, and her bosom rose and fell, while in her white cheeks two scarlet spots flamed.
“I am ready,” she said, haughtily, “let us go,” and not waiting for her husband she swept on down the stairs, exactly as her uncle opened the library door.
“Well done, my punctual niece!” he cried genially. “You are a woman of your word.”
“In all things,” she answered, fiercely, and went towards the door, where the electric brougham waited.
And both men as they followed her wondered what she could mean.
The dinner for Ethelrida’s betrothal resembled in no way the one for Zara and Tristram; for, except in those two hearts there was no bitter strain, and the fiances in this case were radiantly happy, which they could not conceal, and did not try to.
The Dowager Lady Tancred arrived a few minutes after the party of three, and Zara heard her mother-in-law gasp, as she said, “Tristram, my dear boy!” and then she controlled the astonishment in her voice, and went on more ordinarily, but still a little anxiously, “I hope you are very well?”
So he was changed then—to the eye of one who had not seen him since the wedding—and Zara glanced at him critically, and saw that—yes, he was, indeed, changed. His face was perfectly set and stern, and he looked older. It was no wonder his mother should be surprised.
Then Lady Tancred turned to Zara and kissed her. “Welcome back, my dear daughter,” she said. And Zara tried to answer something pleasant: above all things, this proud lady who had so tenderly given her son’s happiness into her keeping must not guess how much there was amiss.
But Lady Tancred was no simpleton—she saw immediately that her son must have gone through much suffering and strain. What was the matter? It tore her heart, but she knew him too well to say anything to him about it.