The servants at the Ritz, in Paris, so exquisitely drilled, made no apparent difference, when the bride and bridegroom arrived there about half-past seven o'clock, than if they had been an elderly brother and sister; and they were taken to the beautiful Empire suite on the Vendôme side of the first floor. Everything was perfection in the way of arrangement, and the flowers were so particularly beautiful that Zara's love for them caused her to cry out,
"Oh! the dear roses! I must just bury my face in them, first."
They had got through the railway journey very well; real, overcoming fatigue had caused them both to sleep, and in the automobile, coming to the hotel, they had exchanged a few stiff words.
"To-morrow night we can dine out at a restaurant," Tristram had said, "but to-night perhaps you are tired and would rather go to bed?"
"Thank you," said Zara. "Yes, I would." For she thought she wanted to write her letters to Mirko and tell him of her new name and place. So she put on a tea-gown, and at about half-past eight joined Tristram in the sitting-room. If they had not both been so strained their sense of humor would not have permitted them to refrain from a laugh. For here they sat in state, and, when the waiters were in the room, exchanged a few remarks. But Zara did notice that her husband never once looked at her with any directness, and he seemed coldly indifferent to anything she said.
"We shall have to stay here for the whole, boring week," he announced when at last coffee was on the table and they were alone. "There are certain obligations one's position obliges one to conform to. You understand, I expect. I will try to make the time as easy to bear for you as I can. Will you tell me what theaters you have not already seen? We can go somewhere every night, and in the daytime you have perhaps shopping to do; and--I know Paris quite well. I can amuse myself."
Zara did not feel enthusiastically grateful, but she said, "Thank you," in a quiet voice, and Tristram, rang the bell and asked for the list of the places of amusement, and in the most stiff, self-contained manner he chose, with her, a different one for every night.
Then he lit a cigar deliberately, and walked towards the door.
"Good-night, Milady," he said nonchalantly, and then went out.
And Zara sat still by the table and unconsciously pulled the petals off an unoffending rose; and when she realized what she had done she was aghast!
It was not until about five o'clock the next day that he came into the sitting-room again.Milor
had gone to the races, and had left a note for Miladi
in the morning, the maid had said.
And Zara, as she lay back on her pillows, had opened it with a strange thrill.
"You won't be troubled with me to-day," she read. "I am going out with some old friends to Maisons Liafitte. I have said you want to rest from the journey, as one has to say something. I have arranged for us to dine at the Café de Paris at 7:30, and go to the Gymnâse. Tell Higgins, my valet, if you change the plan." And the note was not even signed!
Well, it appeared she had nothing further to fear from him; she could breathe much relieved. And now for her day of quiet rest.
But when she had had her lonely lunch and her letters to her uncle and Mirko were written, she found herself drumming aimlessly on the window panes, and wondering if she would go out.
She had no friends in Paris whom she wanted to see. Her life there with her family had been entirely devoted to them alone. But it was a fine day and there is always something to do in Paris--though what then, particularly, she had not decided; perhaps she would go to the Louvre.
And then she sank down into the big sofa, opposite the blazing wood fire, and gradually fell fast asleep. She slept, with unbroken deepness, until late in the afternoon, and was, in fact, still asleep there when Tristram came in.
He did not see her at first; the lights were not on and it was almost dark in the streets. The fire, too, had burnt low. He came forward, and then went back again and switched on the lamps; and, with the blaze, Zara sat up and rubbed her eyes. One great plait of her hair had become loosened and fell at the side of her head, and she looked like a rosy, sleepy child.
"I did not see you!" Tristram gasped, and, realizing her adorable attractions, he turned to the fire and vigorously began making it up.
Then, as he felt he could not trust himself for another second, he rang the bell and ordered some tea to be brought, while he went to his room to leave his overcoat. And when he thought the excuse of the repast would be there, he went back.
Zara felt nothing in particular. Even yet she was rather on the defensive, looking out for every possible attack.
So they both sat down quietly, and for a few moments neither spoke.
She had put up her hair during his absence, and now looked wide-awake and quite neat.
"I had a most unlucky day," he said--for something to say. "I could not back a single winner. On the whole I think I am bored with racing."
"It has always seemed boring to me," she said. "If it were to try the mettle of a horse one had bred I could understand that; or to ride it oneself and get the better of an adversary: but just with sharp practices--and for money! It seems so common a thing, I never could take an interest in that."
"Does anything interest you?" he hazarded, and then he felt sorry he had shown enough interest to ask.
"Yes," she said slowly, "but perhaps not many games. My life has always been too ordered by the games of others, to take to them myself." And then she stopped abruptly. She could not suppose her life interested him much.
But, on the contrary, he was intensely interested, if she had known.
He felt inclined to tell her so, and that the whole of the present situation was ridiculous, and that he wanted to know her innermost thoughts. He was beginning to examine her all critically, and to take in every point. Beyond his passionate admiration for her beauty there was something more to analyze.
What was the subtle something of mystery and charm? Why could she not unbend and tell him the meaning in those fathomless, dark eyes?--What could they look like, if filled with love and tenderness? Ah!
And if he had done as he felt inclined at the moment the ice might have been broken, and at the end of the week they would probably have been in each other's arms. But fate ordered otherwise, and an incident that night, at dinner, caused a fresh storm.
Zara was looking so absolutely beautiful in her lovely new clothes that it was not in the nature of gallant foreigners to allow her to dine unmolested by their stares, and although the tête-à-tête dinner was quite early at the Café de Paris, there happened to be a large party of men next to them and Zara found herself seated in close proximity to a nondescript Count, whom she recognized as one of her late husband's friends. Every one who knows the Café de Paris can realize how this happened. The long velvet seats without divisions and the small tables in front make, when the place is full, the whole side look as if it were one big group. Lord Tancred was quite accustomed to it; he knew Paris well as he had told her, so he ought to have been prepared for what could happen, but he was not.
Perhaps he was not on the alert, because he had never before been there with a woman he loved.
Zara's neighbor was a great, big, fierce-looking creature from some wild quarter of the South, and was perhaps also just a little drunk. She knew a good deal of their language, but, taking for granted that this Englishman and his lovely lady would be quite ignorant of what they said, the party of men were most unreserved in their remarks.
Her neighbor looked at her devouringly, once or twice, when he saw Tristram could not observe him, and then began to murmur immensely entreprenant
love sentences in his own tongue, as he played with his bread. She knew he had recognized her. And Tristram wondered why his lady's little nostrils should begin to quiver and her eyes to flash.
She was remembering like scenes in the days of Ladislaus, and how he used to grow wild with jealousy, in the beginning when he took her out, and once had dragged her back upstairs by her hair, and flung her into bed. It was always her fault when men looked at her, he assured her. And the horror of the recollection of it all was still vivid enough.
Then Tristram gradually became greatly worried; without being aware that the man was the cause, he yet felt something was going on. He grew jealous and uneasy, and would have liked to have taken her home.
And because of the things she was angrily listening to, and because of her fear of a row, she sat there looking defiant and resentful, and spoke never a word.
And Tristram could not understand it, and he eventually became annoyed. What had he said or done to her again? It was more than he meant to stand, for no reason--to put up with such airs!
For Zara sat frowning, her mouth mutinous and her eyes black as night.
If she had told Tristram what her neighbor was saying there would at once have been a row. She knew this, and so remained in constrained silence, unconscious that her husband was thinking her rude to him, and that he was angry with her. She was so strung up with fury at the foreigner, that she answered Tristram's few remarks at random, and then abruptly rose while he was paying the bill, as if to go out. And as she did so the Count slipped a folded paper into the sleeve of her coat.
Tristram thought he saw something peculiar but was still in doubt, and, with his English self-control and horror of a scene, he followed his wife to the door, as she was walking rapidly ahead, and there helped her into the waiting automobile.
But as she put up her arm, in stepping in, the folded paper fell to the brightly lighted pavement and he picked it up.
He must have some explanation. He was choking with rage. There was some mystery, he was being tricked.
"Why did you not tell me you knew that fellow who sat next to you?" he said in a low, constrained voice.
"Because it would have been a lie," she said haughtily. "I have never seen him but once before in my life."
"Then what business have you to allow him to write notes to you?" Tristram demanded, too overcome with jealousy to control the anger in his tone.
She shrank back in her corner. Here it was beginning again! After all, in spite of his apparent agreement to live on the most frigid terms with her he was now acting like Ladislaus: men were all the same!
"I am not aware the creature wrote me any note," she said. "What do you mean?"
"How can you pretend like this," Tristram exclaimed furiously, "when it fell out of your sleeve? Here it is."
"Take me back to the hotel," she said with a tone of ice. "I refuse to go to the theater to be insulted. How dare you doubt my word? If there is a note you had better read it and see what it says."
"With his English self-control and horror of a scene, he followed his wife to the door."
So Lord Tancred picked up the speaking-tube and told the chauffeur to go back to the Ritz.
They both sat silent, palpitating with rage, and when they got there he followed her into the lift and up to the sitting-room.
He came in and shut the door and strode over beside her, and then he almost hissed,
"You are asking too much of me. I demand an explanation. Tell me yourself about it. Here is your note."
Zara took it, with infinite disdain, and, touching it as though it were some noisome reptile, she opened it and read aloud,"Beautiful Comtesse, when can I see you again?"
"The vile wretch!" she said contemptuously. "That is how men insult women!" And she looked up passionately at Tristram. "You are all the same."
"I have not insulted you," he flashed. "It is perfectly natural that I should be angry at such a scene, and if this brute is to be found again to-night he shall know that I will not permit him to write insolent notes to my wife."
She flung the hateful piece of paper into the fire and turned towards her room.
"I beg you to do nothing further about the matter," she said. "This loathsome man was half drunk. It is quite unnecessary to follow it up; it will only make a scandal, and do no good. But you can understand another thing. I will not have my word doubted, nor be treated as an offending domestic--as you have treated me to-night." And without further words she went into her room.
Tristram, left alone, paced up and down; he was wild with rage, furious with her, with himself, and with the man. With her because he had told her once, before the wedding, that when they came to cross swords there would be no doubt as to who would be master! and in the three encounters which already their wills had had she had each time come off the conqueror! He was furious with himself, that he had not leaned forward at dinner to see the man hand the note, and he was frenziedly furious with the stranger, that he had dared to turn his insolent eyes upon his wife.
He would go back to the Café de Paris, and, if the man was there, call him to account, and if not, perhaps he could obtain his name. So out he went.
But the waiters vowed they knew nothing of the gentleman; the whole party had been perfect strangers, and they had no idea as to where they had gone on. So this enraged young Englishman spent the third night of his honeymoon in a hunt round the haunts of Paris, but with no success; and at about six o'clock in the morning came back baffled but still raging, and thoroughly wearied out.
And all this while his bride could not sleep, and in spite of her anger was a prey to haunting fears. What if the two had met and there had been bloodshed! A completely possible case! And several times in the night she got out of her bed and went and listened at the communicating doors; but there was no sound of Tristram, and about five o'clock, worn out with the anxiety and injustice of everything, she fell into a restless doze, only to wake again at seven, with a lead weight at her heart. She could not bear it any longer! She must know for certain if he had come in! She slipped on her dressing-gown, and noiselessly stole to the door, and with the greatest caution unlocked it, and, turning the handle, peeped in.
Yes, there he was, sound asleep! His window was wide open, with the curtains pushed back, so the daylight streamed in on his face. He had been too tired to care.
Zara turned round quickly to reenter her room, but in her terror of being discovered she caught the trimming of her dressing-gown on the handle of the door and without her being aware of it a small bunch of worked ribbon roses fell off.
Then she got back into bed, relieved in mind as to him but absolutely quaking at what she had done and at the impossibly embarrassing position she would have placed herself in, if he had awakened and known that she had come!
And the first thing Tristram saw, when some hours later he was aroused by the pouring in of the sun, was the little torn bunch of silk roses lying close to her door.