And when she had gone, Mrs. Morley had told her sister who had come in to tea how beautiful Countess Shulski was and how very regal looking, “but she had on such plain, almost shabby, black clothes, Minnie dear, and a small black toque, and then the most splendid sable wrap—those very grand people do have funny tastes, don’t they? I should have liked a pretty autumn costume of green velveteen, and a hat with a wing or a bird.”
The financier had insisted upon his niece wearing the sable wrap—and somehow, in spite of all things, the beautiful, dark, soft fur had given her pleasure.
And now, three weeks later, she was just returning from Paris, her beauty enriched by all that money and taste could procure. It was the eighteenth of October, exactly a week before her wedding.
She had written to Mimo from Paris, and told him she was going to be married; that she was doing so because she thought it was best for them all; and he had written back enchanted exclamations of surprise and joy, and had told her she should have his new picture, the London fog—so dramatic with its two meeting figures—for his wedding gift. Poor Mimo, so generous, always, with all he had!
Mirko was not to be told until she was actually married.
She had written to her uncle and asked him as a great favor that she might only arrive the very day of the family dinner party, he could plead for her excess of trousseau business, or what he liked. She would come by the nine o’clock morning train, so as to be in ample time for dinner; and it would be so much easier for every one, if they could get the meeting over, the whole family together, rather than have the ordeal of private presentations.
And Francis Markrute had agreed, while Lord Tancred had chafed.
“I shall meet her at the station, whatever you say, Francis!” he had exclaimed. “I am longing to see her.”
And as the train drew up at Victoria, Zara caught sight of him there on the platform, and in spite of her dislike and resentment she could not help seeing that her fiance was a wonderfully good-looking man.
She herself appeared to him as the loveliest thing he had ever seen in his life, with her perfect Paris clothes, and air of distinction. If he had thought her attractive before he felt ecstatic in his admiration now.
Francis Markrute hurried up the platform and Tristram frowned, but the financier knew it might not be safe to leave them to a tete-a-tete drive to the house! Zara’s temper might not brook it, and he had rushed back from the city, though he hated rushing, in order to be on the spot to make a third.
“Welcome, my niece!” he said, before Lord Tancred could speak. “You see, we have both come to greet you.”
She thanked them politely, and turned to give an order to her new French maid—and some of the expectant, boyish joy died out of Tristram’s face, as he walked beside her to the waiting motor.