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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Reason Why By Elinor Glyn Characters: 15454

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


Then Lord Tancred left the house in Park Lane he did not go on to the supper party at the Savoy he had promised to attend. That sort of affair had bored him, now for several years. Instead, he drove straight back to his rooms in St. James' Street, and, getting comfortably into his pet chair, he steadily set himself to think. He had acted upon a mad impulse; he knew that and did not argue with himself about it, or regret it. Some force stronger than anything he had hitherto known had compelled him to come to the decision. And what would his future life be like with this strange woman? That could not be exactly guessed. That it would contain scenes of the greatest excitement he did not doubt. She would in all cases look the part. His mother herself-the Lady Tancred, daughter of the late and sister of the present Duke of Glastonbury-could not move with more dignity: a thought which reminded him that he had better write to his parent and inform her of his intended step. He thought of all the women he had loved-or imagined he had loved-since he left Eton. The two affairs which had convulsed him during his second year at Oxford were perhaps the most serious; the Laura Highford, his last episode, was fortunately over and had always been rather tiresome. In any case none of those ladies of the world-or other world-had any reasons to reproach him, and he was free and happy. And if he wished to put down a large stake on the card of marriage he was answerable to no one.

During the last eight hundred years, ever since Amaury Guiscard of that house of Hauteville whose daring deeds gave sovereigns to half Europe, had come over with his Duke William, and had been rewarded by the gift of the Wrayth lands-seized from the Saxons-his descendants had periodically done madly adventurous things. Perhaps the quality was coming out in him!

Then he thought of his lady, personally, and not of the extraordinariness of his action. She was exasperatingly attractive. How delicious it would be when he had persuaded her to talk to him, taught her to love him, because she certainly must love him-some day! It was rather cold-blooded of her to be willing to marry him, a stranger; but he was not going to permit himself to dwell upon that. She could not be really cold-blooded with that face: its every line bespoke capability of exquisite passion. It was not the least cunning, or calculating, either. It was simply adorable. And to kiss! But here he pulled himself together and wrote to his mother a note, short and to the point, which she received by the first post next morning at her small, house in Queen Street, Mayfair; and then he went to bed. The note ran:

"My Dear Mother:

"I am going to be married at last. The lady is a daughter of Maurice Grey (a brother of old Colonel Grey of Hentingdon who died last year), and the widow of a Pole named Shulski, Countess Shulski she is called."

(He had paused here because he had suddenly remembered he did not know her Christian name!)

"She is also the niece of Francis Markrute whom you have such an objection to-or had, last season. She is most beautiful and I hope you will like her. Please go and call to-morrow. I will come and breakfast with you about ten.

"Your affectionate son, Tancred."

And this proud English mother knew here was a serious letter, because he signed it "Tancred." He usually finished his rare communications with just, "love from Tristram."

She leaned back on her pillows and closed her eyes. She adored her son but she was, above all things, a woman of the world and given to making reasonable judgments. Tristram was past the age of a foolish entanglement; there must be some strong motive in this action. He could hardly be in love. She knew him so well, when he was in love! He had shown no signs of it lately-not, really, for several years-for that well conducted-friendship-with Laura Highford could not be called being in love. Then she thought of Francis Markrute. He was so immensely rich, she could not help a relieved sigh. There would be money at all events. But she knew that could not be the reason. She was aware of her son's views about rich wives. She was aware, too, that with all his sporting tastes and modern irreverence of tradition, underneath he was of a proud, reserved nature, intensely proud of the honor of his ancient name. What then could be the reason for this engagement? Well, she would soon know. It was half-past eight in the morning, and Tristram's "about ten" would not mean later than, half-past, or a quarter to eleven. She rang the bell for her maid, and told her to ask the young ladies to put on dressing-gowns and come to her.

Soon Lord Tancred's two sisters entered the room.

They were nice, fresh English girls, and stood a good deal in awe of their mother. They kissed her and sat down on the bed. They felt it was a momentous moment, because Lady Tancred never saw any one until her hair was arranged-not even her own daughters.

"Your brother Tristram is going to be married," she said and referred to the letter lying on the coverlet, "to a Countess Shulski, a niece of that Mr. Markrute whom one meets about."

"Oh! Mother!" and "Really!" gasped Emily and Mary.

"Have we seen her?"

"Do we know her?"

"No, I think we can none of us have seen her. She certainly was not with Mr. Markrute at Cowes, and no one has been in town, except this last week for Flora's wedding. I suppose Tristram must have met her in Scotland, or possibly abroad. He went to Paris, you remember, at Easter, and again in July."

"I wonder what she is like," said Emily.

"Is she young?" asked Mary.

"Tristram does not say," replied Lady Tancred, "only that she is beautiful."

"We are so surprised," both girls gasped together.

"Yes, it is unexpected, certainly," agreed their mother, "but Tristram has judgment; he is not likely to have chosen any one of whom I should disapprove. You must be ready to call with me, directly after lunch. Tristram is coming to breakfast, so you can have yours now-in your room. I must talk to him."

And the girls, who were dying to ask a hundred thousand questions, felt that they were dismissed, and, kissing their dignified parent, they retired to their own large, back room, which they shared, in common with all their pleasures and little griefs, together.

"Isn't it too wonderful, Em?" Mary said, when they were back there, both curled up in the former's bed waiting for their breakfast. "One can see Mother is very much moved; she was so stern. I thought Tristram was devoted to Laura Highford, did not you?"

"Oh! he has been sick of that for ages and ages. She nags at him-she is a cat anyway and I never could understand it, could you, Mary?"

"Men have to be like that," said Mary, wisely, "they must have some one, I mean, to play with, and they are afraid of girls."

"How I hope she will like us, don't you?" Emily said. "Mr. Markrute is very rich and perhaps she is, too. How lovely it will be if they are able to live at Wrayth. How lovely to have it opened again-to go and stay there!"

"Yes, indeed," said Mary.

Lady Tancred awaited her son in the small front morning-room. She was quite as much a specimen of an English aristocrat as he was, with her brushed-back, gray hair, and her beautiful, hard, fine-featured face. She was supremely dignified, and dressed well and with care. She had been brought up in the school which taught the repression of all emotion-now, alas! rapidly passing away-so that she did not even tap her foot from the impatience which was devouring her, and it was nearly eleven o'clock before Tristram made his appearance!

He apologized charmingly, and kissed her che

ek. His horse, Satan, had been particularly fresh, and he had been obliged to give him an extra canter twice round the Row, before coming in, and was breakfast ready?-as he was extremely hungry! Yes, breakfast was ready, and they went into the dining-room where the old butler awaited them.

"Give me everything, Michelham," said his lordship, "I am ravenous. Then you can go. Her ladyship will pour out the coffee."

The old servant beamed upon him, with a "glad to see your lordship's well!" and, surrounding his plate with hot, covered, silver dishes, quietly made his exit, and so they were alone.

Lady Tancred beamed upon her son, too. She could not help it. He looked so completely what he ought to look, she thought-magnificently healthy and handsome, and perfectly groomed. No mother could help being proud of him.

"Tristram, dear boy, now tell me all about it," she said.

"There is hardly anything to tell you, Mother, except that I am going to be married about the 25th of October-and-you will be awfully nice to her-to Zara-won't you?" He had taken the precaution to send round a note, early in the morning, to Francis Markrute, asking for his lady's full name, as he wished to tell his family; so the "Zara" came out quite naturally! "She is rather a peculiar person, and-er-has very stiff manners. You may not like her at first."

"No, dear?" said Lady Tancred hesitatingly, "Stiff manners you say? That at least is on the right side. I always deplore the modern free-and-easy-ness."

"Oh, there is nothing free-and-easy about her!" said Tristram, helping himself to a cutlet, while he smiled almost grimly. His sense of humor was highly aroused oven the whole thing; only that overmastering something which drew him was even stronger than this.

Then he felt that there was no use in allowing his mother to drag information from him; he had better tell her what he meant her to know.

"You see, Mother, the whole thing has been arranged rather suddenly. I only settled upon it last night myself, and so told you at once. She will be awfully rich, which is rather a pity in a sense-though I suppose we shall live at Wrayth again, and all that-- but I need not tell you I am not marrying her for such a reason."

"No, I know you," Lady Tancred said, "but I cannot agree with you about its being a pity that she is rich. We live in an age when the oldest and most honored name is useless without money to keep up its traditions, and any woman would find your title and your position well worth all her gold. There are things you will give her in return which only hundreds of years can produce. You must have no feeling that you are accepting anything from her which you do not equalize. Remember, it is a false sentiment."

"Oh, I expect so-and she is well bred, you know, so she won't throw it in my teeth." And Lord Tancred smiled.

"I remember old Colonel Grey," his mother continued; "years ago he drove a coach; but I don't recollect his brother. Did he live abroad, perhaps?"

This was an awkward question. The young fiancé was quite ignorant about his prospective bride's late father!

"Yes," he said hurriedly. "Zara married very young, she is quite young now-only about twenty-three. Her husband was a brute, and now she has come to live with Francis Markrute. He is an awfully good fellow, Mother, though you don't like him; extremely cultivated, and so quaintly amusing, with his cynical views on life. You will like him when you know him better. He is a jolly good sportsman, too-for a foreigner."

"And of what nation is Mr. Markrute, Tristram, do you know?" Lady Tancred asked.

Really, all women-even mothers-were tiresome at times with their questions!

"'Pon my word, I don't." And he laughed awkwardly. "Austrian, perhaps, or Russian. I have never thought about it; he speaks English so well, and he is a naturalized Englishman, in any case."

"But as you are marrying into the family, don't you think it would be more prudent, dear, to gather some information on the subject?" Lady Tancred hazarded.

And then she saw the true Tancred spirit come out, which she had often vainly tried to combat in her husband during her first years of married life, and had desisted in the end. Tristram's strong, level eyebrows joined themselves in a frown, and his mouth, clean-shaven and chiseled, shut like a vice.

"I am going to do what I am going to do, Mother," he said. "I am satisfied with my bargain, and I beg of you to accept the situation. I do not demand any information, and I ask you not to trouble yourself either. Nothing any one could say would change me-Give me some more coffee, will you, please."

Lady Tancred's hand trembled a little as she poured it out, but she did not say anything, and there was silence for a minute, while his lordship went on with his breakfast, with appetite unimpaired.

"I will take the girls and call there immediately after lunch," she said presently, "and I am to ask for the Countess Shulski. You pronounce it like that, do you not?"

"Yes. She may not be in, and in any case, perhaps, for to-day only leave cards. To-morrow or next day I'll go with you, Mother. You see, until the announcement comes out in the Morning Post, everything is not quite settled-I expect Zara would like it better if you did not meet until after then."

That was probably true, he reflected, since he had not even exchanged personal pledges with her yet himself!

Then, as his mother looked stiffly repulsed, his sense of humor got the better of him, and he burst into a peal of laughter, while he jumped up and kissed her with the delightful, caressing boyishness which made her love him with a love so far beyond what she gave to her other children.

"Darling," she murmured, "if you are so happy as to laugh like that I am happy, too, and will do just what you wish." Her proud eyes filled with mist and she pressed his hand.

"Mum, you are a trump!" he said, and he kissed her again and, holding her arm, he led her back into the morning-room.

"Now I must go and change these things," he announced, as he looked down at his riding clothes. "I am going to lunch with Markrute in the City to discuss all the points. So good-bye for the present. I will probably see you to-night. Call a taxi," he said to Michelham who at that moment came into the room with a note. He had kissed his mother and was preparing to leave, when just as he got to the door he turned and said:

"Don't say a word to any one, to-day, of the news-let it come out in the Morning Post, to-morrow. I ask it-please?"

"Not even to Cyril? You have forgotten that he is coming up from Uncle Charles' to go back to Eton," his mother said, "and the girls already know."

"Oh! Cyril. By Jove! I had forgotten! Yes, tell him; he is a first class chap, he'll understand, and, I say"-and he pulled some sovereigns from his pocket-"do give him these from me for this term."

Then with a smile he went.

And a few minutes afterwards a small, slender boy of fourteen, with only Eton's own inimitable self-confidence and delicious swagger printed upon his every line, drove up to the door, and, paying for the taxi in a lordly way, came into his mother's morning-room. There had been a gap in the family after Tristram's appearance, caused by the death, from diphtheria, of two other boys; then came the two girls of twenty and nineteen respectively and, lastly, Cyril.

His big, blue eyes rounded with astonishment and interest when he heard the important news. All he said was:

"Well, she must be a corker, if Tristram thinks her good enough. But what a beastly nuisance! He won't go to Canada now, I suppose, and we shan't have that ranch."

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