Zara did not answer, she had guessed this, but Mirko’s welfare was of first importance. With strict economy Mimo could live upon what he possessed, if alone and if he chose to curtail his irresponsible generosities.
“Do I understand I have your word of honor about this?” her uncle demanded.
Her empress’ air showed plainly now. She arose from the chair and stood haughtily drawn up:
“You know me and whether my spoken word ’is required or no,” she said, “but if it will be any satisfaction to you to have it I give it!”
“Good—Then things are settled, and, I hope, to the happiness of all parties.”
“Happiness!” she answered bitterly. “Who is ever happy?” Then she turned to go, but he arrested her.
“In two or three years’ time you will admit to me that you know of four human beings who are ideally happy.” And with this enigmatic announcement ringing in her ears, she went on up the stairs to her sitting-room.
Who were the four people? Herself and himself and Mimo and Mirko? Was it possible that after all his hardness towards them he meant to be eventually kind? Or was the fourth person not Mimo, but her future husband? Then she smiled grimly. It was not very likely he would be happy—a beast, like the rest of men, who, marrying her only for her uncle’s money, having been ready to marry her for that when he had never even seen her—was yet full enough of the revolting quality of his sex to be desirous now to kiss her and clasp her in his arms!
As far as she was concerned he would have no happiness!
And she herself—what would the new life mean? It appeared a blank—an abyss. A dark curtain seemed to overhang and cover it. All she could feel was that Mirko was being cared for, that she was keeping her word to her adored mother. She would fulfill to the letter her uncle’s wishes as to her suitable equipments, but beyond that she refused to think.
All the evening, when she had finished her short, solitary dinner, she played the piano in her sitting-room, her white fingers passing from one divine air to another, until at last she unconsciously drifted to the Chanson Triste, and Mirko’s words came back to her:
“There, there would be enough place for us both”—Who knows—that might be the end of it!
And the two men heard the distant wail of the last notes as they came out of the dining-room, and, while it made the financier uncomfortable, it caused Tristram a sharp stab of pain.
The next three weeks passed for Lord Tancred in continuously growing excitement. He had much business to see to for the reopening of Wrayth which had been closed for the past two years. He had decided to let Zara choose her own rooms, and decorate them as she pleased, when she should get there. But the big state apartments, with their tapestry and pictures, would remain untouched.