The sickening—sickening, squalid tragedy of it all!
And she, Zara, had seemed so proud and so pure! Her look of scorn, only the night before, at his jealous accusation, came back to him. He could not remember a single movement nor action of hers that had not been that of an untarnished queen. What horrible actresses women were! His whole belief had crumbled to the dust.
And the most terrible part of it all to him was the knowledge that in spite of everything he still loved her—loved her with a consuming, almighty passion that he knew nothing now could kill. It had been put to the bitterest proof. Whatever she had done he could love no other woman.
Then he realized that his life was over. The future a blank, unutterable, hopeless gray which must go on for years and years. For he could never come back to her again, nor even live in the house with her, under the semblance of things.
Then an agonizing bitterness came to him, the hideous malevolence of fate, not to have let him meet this woman first before this other man; think of the faithfulness of her nature, with all its cruel actions to himself! She had been absolutely faithful to her lover, and had defended herself from his—Tristram’s—caresses, even of her finger-tips. What a love worth having, what a strong, true character—worth dying for—in a woman!
And now, he must never see her again; or, if once more, only for a business meeting, to settle things without scandal to either of them.
He would not go back to Park Lane, yet—not for a week; he would give her time to see to the funeral, without the extra pain of his presence.
The man had taken him for the doctor, and she had not even been aware of his entrance: he would go back to Wrayth, alone, and there try to think out some plan. So he searched among the covered-up furniture for his writing table, and found some paper, and sat down and wrote two notes, one to his mother. He could not face her to-day—she must go without seeing him—but he knew his mother loved him, and, in all deep moments, never questioned his will even if she did not understand it.
The note to her was very short, merely saying something was troubling him greatly for the time, so neither he nor Zara would come to luncheon; and she was to trust him and not speak of this to any one until he himself told her more. He might come and see her in Cannes, the following week.
Then he wrote to Zara, and these were his words:
“I know everything. I understand now, and however I blame you for your deception of me you have my deep sympathy in your grief. I am going away for a week, so you will not be distressed by seeing me. Then I must ask you to meet me, here or at your uncle’s house, to arrange for our future separation.
Then he rang for a messenger boy, and gave him both notes, and, picking up the telephone, called up his valet and told him to pack and bring his things here to his old rooms, and, if her ladyship came in, to see that she immediately got the note he was sending round to her. Francis Markrute would have gone to the City by now and was going to lunch with Ethelrida, so he telephoned to one of his clerks there—finding he was out for the moment—just to say he was called away for a week and would write later.