Francis Markrute bent over, apparently to point to a bibelot which lay on a table under the picture, and he said in a low, vibrating tone.
“I give you my word there is some one, who is dead—whom I loved—who would come back and curse me now, if I should let this thing be, with a doubt in my heart as to their eventual happiness.”
And Lady Ethelrida looked full at him and saw that the man’s cold face was deeply moved and softened.
“If that is so then I will speculate no more,” she said. “Listen! I will trust you!”
“You dear, noble English lady,” the financier replied, “how truly I thank you!” And he let some of the emotion which he felt, gleam from his eyes, while he changed the conversation.
A few minutes after this, Lady Coltshurst announced it was time to go, and she would take the girls home. And the Duke’s carriage was also waiting, and good nights were said, and the host whispered to Jimmy Danvers,
“Take Tancred along with you, too, please. My niece is overtired with the strain of this evening and I want her to go to bed at once.” And to Tristram he said,
“Do not even say good night, like a dear fellow. Don’t you see she is almost ready to faint? Just go quietly with the rest, and come for her to-morrow morning to take her to your mother.”
So they all left as he wished, and he himself went back upstairs to the big drawing-room and there saw Zara standing like a marble statue, exactly as they had left her, and he went forward, and, bending, kissed her hand.
“Most beautifully endured, my queenly niece!” he said; and then he led her to the door and up to her room. She was perfectly mute.
But a little while afterwards, as he came to bed himself, he was startled and chilled by hearing the Chanson Triste being played in her sitting-room, with a wailing, passionate pathos, as of a soul in anguish.
And if he could have seen her face he would have seen her great eyes streaming with tears, while she prayed:
“Maman, ask God to give me courage to get through all of this, since it is for your Mirko.”
Satan was particularly fresh next morning when Tristram took him for a canter round the Park. He was glad of it: he required something to work off steam upon. He was in a mood of restless excitement. During the three weeks of Zara’s absence he had allowed himself to dream into a state of romantic love for her. He had glossed over in his mind her distant coldness, her frigid adherence to the bare proposition, so that to return to that state of things had come to him as a shock.
But, this morning, he knew he was a fool to have expected anything else. He was probably a great fool altogether, but he never changed his mind, and was prepared to pay the price of his folly. After all, there would be plenty of time afterwards to melt her dislike, so he could afford to wait now. He would not permit himself to suffer again as he had done last night. Then he came in and had his bath, and made himself into a very perfect-looking lover, to present himself to his lady at about half-past twelve o’clock, to take her to his mother.