Then Mimo saw Tristram by the door, and advanced with his finger on his quivering lips to meet him.
“Ah, sir,” he said. “Alas! you have come too late. My child is going to God!”
And all the manhood in Tristram’s heart rose up in pity. Here was a tragedy too deep for human judgment, too deep for thoughts of vengeance, and without a word he turned and stole from the room. And as he stumbled down the dark, narrow stairs he heard the sound of a violin as it wailed out the beginning notes of the Chanson Triste, and he shivered, as if with cold.
For Mirko had opened his piteous eyes again, and whispered in little gasps:
“Papa—play to me the air Mamam loved. I can see her blue gauze wings!” And in a moment, as his face filled with the radiance of his vision he fell back, dead, into Zara’s arms.
When Tristram reached the street he looked about him for a minute like a blinded man; and then, as his senses came back to him, his first thought was what he could do for her—that poor mother upstairs, with her dying child. For that the boy was Zara’s child he never doubted. Her child—and her lover’s—had he not called her “Maman.” So this was the awful tragedy in her life. He analyzed nothing as yet; his whole being was paralyzed with the shock and the agony of things: the only clear thought he had was that he must help her in whatever way he could.
The green taxi was still there, but he would not take it, in case she should want it. He walked on down the street and found a cab for himself, and got driven to his old rooms in St. James’s Street: he must be alone to think.
The hall-porter was surprised to see him. Nothing was ready for his lordship—but his wife would come up—?
But his lordship required nothing, he wished to find something alone.
He did not even notice that there was no fire in the grate, and that the room was icy cold—the agony of pain in his mind and soul made him unconscious of lesser ills. He pulled one of the holland sheets off his own big chair, and sat down in it.
Poor Zara, poor, unhappy Zara!—were his first thoughts—then he stiffened suddenly. This man must have been her lover before even her first marriage!—for Francis Markrute had told him she had married very soon. She was twenty-three years old now, and the child could not have been less than six; he must have been born when she was only seventeen. What devilish passion in a man could have made him tempt a girl so young! Of course this was her secret, and Francis Markrute knew nothing of it. For one frightful moment the thought came that her husband was not really dead and that this was he: but no, her husband’s name had been Ladislaus, and this man she had called “Mimo,” and if the boy were the child of her marriage there need then have been no secret about his existence. There was no other solution—this Count Sykypri had been her lover when she was a mere child, and probably the concealment had gone through all her first married life. And no doubt her reason for marrying him, which she admitted was a very strong one, had been that she might have money to give to the child—and its father.