“It will only be for a time, darling,” Zara said, “just until you get quite well and strong, and learn some lessons. All little boys go to school, and come home for the holidays. You know Maman would have wished you to be educated like a gentleman.”
“But I hate other boys, and you have taught me so well. Oh! Cherisette, what shall I do? And to whom play my violin, who will understand?”
“Oh, but Mirko mio, it is a splendid offer! Think, dear child, a comfortable home and no anxieties,” Mimo said. “Truly your sister is an angel, and you must not be so ungrateful. Your cough will get quite well; perhaps I can come and lodge in the town, and we could walk together.”
But Mirko pouted. Zara sighed and clasped her hands.
“If you only knew how hard it has been to obtain this much,” she said, with despair in her voice. “Oh, Mirko, if you love me you will accept it! Can’t you trust me that I would not ask you to go where they are hard or cruel? I am going down to the place to-morrow, to see it and judge for myself. Won’t you be good and try to please me?”
Then the little cripple fell to sobbing and kissing her, nestling in her arms with his curly head against her neck.
But in the end she comforted him, the never varying gentleness toward him which she showed would have soothed the most peevish invalid.
So at last she was able to feel that her sacrifice, of which they must always remain ignorant, would not be all in vain; Mirko appeared reconciled to his fate, and would certainly benefit by more healthy surroundings. Instinct told her there would be no use even suggesting to her uncle that the child should stay with Mimo, the situation would have become an impasse if the boy had held out, and between them they would have had only this forty pounds until Christmas—and then very little more—and the life of hand-to-mouth poverty would have gone on and on, while here were comfort and probable health, with a certainty of welfare, and education, and a competence in the future. And who knows but Mirko might grow into a great artist one day!
This possible picture she painted in glowing colors until the child’s pathetic, dark eyes glistened with pleasure.
Then she became practical; they must change their lodging and find a better one. But here Mimo interfered. They were really very comfortable where they were, he urged, humble though it looked, and changing was unpleasant. If they were able to buy some linen sheets and a new suit of clothes for each it would be much better to stay for the present, until Mirko’s going to Bournemouth should be completely settled. “And even then,” Count Sykypri said, “it will do for me. No one cooks garlic here, and there is no canary!”
Neither Lord Tancred nor Francis Markrute was late at the appointment in the city restaurant where they were to lunch, and they were soon seated at a table in a corner where they could talk without being interrupted. They spoke of ordinary things for a moment. Then Lord Tancred’s impatience to get at the matter which interested him became too great to wait longer, so he said laconically: