Zara did not know what to reply. She vaguely understood that one might love a home, though she had never had one but the gloomy castle near Prague; and that made her sigh when she thought of it.
But a garden she knew she should love. And Mirko was so fond of flowers. Oh! if they would let her have a beautiful country home in peace, and Mirko to come sometimes, and play there, and chase butterflies, with his excited, poor little face, she would indeed be grateful to them. Her thoughts went on in a dream of this, while Lady Tancred talked of many things, and she answered, “Yes,” and “No,” with gentle respect. Her future mother-in-law’s great dignity pleased her sense of the fitness of things; she so disliked gush of any sort herself, and she felt now that she knew where she was and there need be no explanations. The family, one and all, evidently intended to play the same part, and she would, too. When the awakening came it would be between herself and Tristram. Yes, she must think of him now as “Tristram!”
Her thoughts had wandered again when she heard Lady Tancred’s voice, saying,
“I wanted to give you this myself,” and she drew a small case from a table near and opened it, and there lay a very beautiful diamond ring. “It is my own little personal present to you, my new, dear daughter. Will you wear it sometimes, Zara, in remembrance of this day and in remembrance that I give into your hands the happiness of my son, who is dearer to me than any one on earth?”
And the two proud pairs of eyes met, and Zara could not answer, and there was a strange silence between them for a second. And then Tristram came back into the room, which created a diversion, and she was enabled to say some ordinary conventional things about the beauty of the stones, and express her thanks for the gift. Only, in her heart, she determined never to wear it. It would burn her hand, she thought, and she could never be a hypocrite.
Luncheon was then announced, and they went into the dining-room.
Here she saw Tristram in a new light, with only “Young Billy” and Jimmy Danvers who had dropped in, and his mother and sisters.
He was gay as a schoolboy, telling Billy who had not spoken a word to Zara the night before that now he should sit beside her, and that he was at liberty to make love to his new cousin! And Billy, aged nineteen—a perfectly stolid and amiable youth—proceeded to start a laborious conversation, while the rest of the table chaffed about things which were Greek to Zara, but she was grateful not to have to talk, and so passed off the difficulties of the situation.
And the moment the meal was over Tristram took her back to Park Lane. He, too, was thankful the affair had been got through; he hardly spoke as they went along, and in silence followed her into the house and into the library, and there waited for her commands.
Whenever they were alone the disguises of the part fell from Zara, and she resumed the icy mien.