“And of what nation is Mr. Markrute, Tristram, do you know?” Lady Tancred asked.
Really, all women—even mothers—were tiresome at times with their questions!
“’Pon my word, I don’t.” And he laughed awkwardly. “Austrian, perhaps, or Russian. I have never thought about it; he speaks English so well, and he is a naturalized Englishman, in any case.”
“But as you are marrying into the family, don’t you think it would be more prudent, dear, to gather some information on the subject?” Lady Tancred hazarded.
And then she saw the true Tancred spirit come out, which she had often vainly tried to combat in her husband during her first years of married life, and had desisted in the end. Tristram’s strong, level eyebrows joined themselves in a frown, and his mouth, clean-shaven and chiseled, shut like a vice.
“I am going to do what I am going to do, Mother,” he said. “I am satisfied with my bargain, and I beg of you to accept the situation. I do not demand any information, and I ask you not to trouble yourself either. Nothing any one could say would change me—Give me some more coffee, will you, please.”
Lady Tancred’s hand trembled a little as she poured it out, but she did not say anything, and there was silence for a minute, while his lordship went on with his breakfast, with appetite unimpaired.
“I will take the girls and call there immediately after lunch,” she said presently, “and I am to ask for the Countess Shulski. You pronounce it like that, do you not?”
“Yes. She may not be in, and in any case, perhaps, for to-day only leave cards. To-morrow or next day I’ll go with you, Mother. You see, until the announcement comes out in the Morning Post, everything is not quite settled—I expect Zara would like it better if you did not meet until after then.”
That was probably true, he reflected, since he had not even exchanged personal pledges with her yet himself!
Then, as his mother looked stiffly repulsed, his sense of humor got the better of him, and he burst into a peal of laughter, while he jumped up and kissed her with the delightful, caressing boyishness which made her love him with a love so far beyond what she gave to her other children.
“Darling,” she murmured, “if you are so happy as to laugh like that I am happy, too, and will do just what you wish.” Her proud eyes filled with mist and she pressed his hand.
“Mum, you are a trump!” he said, and he kissed her again and, holding her arm, he led her back into the morning-room.
“Now I must go and change these things,” he announced, as he looked down at his riding clothes. “I am going to lunch with Markrute in the City to discuss all the points. So good-bye for the present. I will probably see you to-night. Call a taxi,” he said to Michelham who at that moment came into the room with a note. He had kissed his mother and was preparing to leave, when just as he got to the door he turned and said: