The Rivet in Grandfather's Neck
James Branch Cabell
Part 2 out of 5
this digging up of boyish recollections. One by one, they come to
light--the brave hopes and dreams and aspirations of youth; the ruddy
life has gone out of them; they have shriveled into an alien, pathetic
dignity. They might have been one's great-grandfather's or Hannibal's or
Adam's; the boy whose life was swayed by them is quite as dead as these.
Amaryllis is dead, too. Perhaps, you drop in of an afternoon to talk
over old happenings. She is perfectly affable. She thinks it is time you
were married. She thinks it very becoming, the way you have stoutened.
And, no, they weren't at the Robinsons'; that was the night little
Amaryllis was threatened with croup.
Then, after a little, the lamps of welcome are lighted in her eyes, her
breath quickens, her cheeks mount crimson flags in honor of her lord,
her hero, her conqueror.
It is Mr. Grundy, who is happy to meet you, and hopes you will stay to
dinner. He patronizes you a trifle; his wife, you see, has told him all
about that boy who is as dead as Hannibal. You don't mind in the least;
you dine with Mr. and Mrs. Grundy, and pass a very pleasant evening.
Colonel Musgrave had dined often with the Charterises.
And then some frolic god, _en route_ from homicide by means of an
unloaded pistol in Chicago for the demolishment of a likely ship off
Palos, with the cooeperancy of a defective pistonrod, stayed in his
flight to bring Joe Parkinson to Lichfield.
It was Roger Stapylton who told the colonel of this advent, as the very
apex of jocularity.
"For you remember the Parkinsons, I suppose?"
"The ones that had a cabin near Matocton? Very deserving people, I
"And _their_ son, sir, wants to marry my daughter," said Mr.
Stapylton,--"_my_ daughter, who is shortly to be connected by marriage
with the Musgraves of Matocton! I don't know what this world will come
It was a treat to see him shake his head in deprecation of such anarchy.
Then Roger Stapylton said, more truculently: "Yes, sir! on account of a
boy-and-girl affair five years ago, this half-strainer, this poor-white
trash, has actually had the presumption, sir,--but I don't doubt that
Pat has told you all about it?"
"Why, no," said Colonel Musgrave. "She did not mention it this
afternoon. She was not feeling very well. A slight headache. I noticed
she was not inclined to conversation."
It had just occurred to him, as mildly remarkable, that Patricia had
never at any time alluded to any one of those countless men who must
have inevitably made love to her.
"Though, mind you, I don't say anything against Joe. He's a fine young
fellow. Paid his own way through college. Done good work in Panama and
in Alaska too. But--confound it, sir, the boy's a fool! Now I put it to
you fairly, ain't he a fool?" said Mr. Stapylton.
"Upon my word, sir, if his folly has no other proof than an adoration of
your daughter," the colonel protested, "I must in self-defense beg leave
to differ with you."
Yes, that was it undoubtedly. Patricia had too high a sense of honor to
exhibit these defeated rivals in a ridiculous light, even to him. It was
a revelation of an additional and as yet unsuspected adorability.
Then after a little further talk they separated. Colonel Musgrave left
that night for Matocton in order to inspect the improvements which were
being made there. He was to return to Lichfield on the ensuing
Wednesday, when his engagement to Patricia was to be announced--"just
as your honored grandfather did your Aunt Constantia's betrothal."
Meanwhile Joe Parkinson, a young man much enamored, who fought the world
by ordinary like Hal o' the Wynd, "for his own hand," was seeing
Patricia every day.
Colonel Musgrave remained five days at Matocton, that he might put his
house in order against his nearing marriage. It was a pleasant sight to
see the colonel stroll about the paneled corridors and pause to chat
with divers deferential workmen who were putting the last touches there,
or to observe him mid-course in affable consultation with gardeners
anent the rolling of a lawn or the retrimming of a rosebush, and to mark
the bearing of the man so optimistically colored by goodwill toward the
He joyed in his old home,--in the hipped roof of it, the mullioned
casements, the wide window-seats, the high and spacious rooms, the
geometrical gardens and broad lawns, in all that was quaint and
beautiful at Matocton,--because it would be Patricia's so very soon, the
lovely frame of a yet lovelier picture, as the colonel phrased it with a
flight of imagery.
Gravely he inspected all the portraits of his feminine ancestors that he
might decide, as one without bias, whether Matocton had ever boasted a
more delectable mistress. Equity--or in his fond eyes at
least,--demanded a negative. Only in one of these canvases, a
counterfeit of Miss Evelyn Ramsay, born a Ramsay of Blenheim, that had
married the common great-great-grandfather of both the colonel and
Patricia--Major Orlando Musgrave, an aide-de-camp to General Charles Lee
in the Revolution,--Rudolph Musgrave found, or seemed to find, dear
likenesses to that demented seraph who was about to stoop to his
He spent much time before this portrait. Yes, yes! this woman had been
lovely in her day. And this bright, roguish shadow of her was lovely,
too, eternally postured in white patnet, trimmed with a vine of
rose-colored satin leaves, a pink rose in her powdered hair and a huge
ostrich plume as well.
Yet it was an adamantean colonel that remarked:
"My dear, perhaps it is just as fortunate as not that you have quitted
Matocton. For I have heard tales of you, Miss Ramsay. Oh, no! I honestly
do not believe that you would have taken kindlily to any young
person--not even in the guise of a great-great-grand-daughter,--to whom
you cannot hold a candle, madam. A fico for you, madam," said the most
undutiful of great-great-grandsons.
Let us leave him to his roseate meditations. Questionless, in the woman
he loved there was much of his own invention: but the circumstance is
not unhackneyed; and Colonel Musgrave was in a decorous fashion the
happiest of living persons.
Meanwhile Joe Parkinson, a young man much enamored, who fought the
world by ordinary, like Hal o' the Wynd "for his own hand," was seeing
Patricia every day.
Joe Parkinson--tall and broad-shouldered, tanned, resolute, chary of
speech, decisive in gesture, having close-cropped yellow hair and frank,
keen eyes like amethysts,--was the one alien present when Colonel
Musgrave came again into Roger Stapylton's fine and choicely-furnished
This was on the evening Roger Stapylton gave the long-anticipated dinner
at which he was to announce his daughter's engagement. As much indeed
was suspected by most of his dinner-company, so carefully selected from
the aristocracy of Lichfield; and the heart of the former overseer, as
these handsome, courtly and sweet voiced people settled according to
their rank about his sumptuous table, was aglow with pride.
Then Rudolph Musgrave turned to his companion and said softly: "My dear,
you are like a wraith. What is it?"
"I have a headache," said Patricia. "It is nothing."
"You reassure me," the colonel gaily declared, "for I had feared it was
She faced him. Desperation looked out of her purple eyes. "It is," the
girl said swiftly.
"Ah--?" Only it was an intake of the breath, rather than an
interjection. Colonel Musgrave ate his fish with deliberation. "Young
Parkinson?" he presently suggested.
"I thought I had forgotten him. I didn't know I cared--I didn't know I
_could_ care so much--" And there was a note in her voice which thrust
the poor colonel into an abyss of consternation.
"Remember that these people are your guests," he said, in perfect
"--and I refused him this afternoon for the last time, and he is going
But here Judge Allardyce broke in, to tell Miss Stapylton of the
pleasure with which he had _nolle prosequied_ the case against Tom
"A son of my old schoolmate, ma'am," the judge explained. "A Bellingham
of Assequin. Oh, indiscreet of course--but, God bless my soul! when were
the Bellinghams anything else? The boy regretted it as much as anybody."
And she listened with almost morbid curiosity concerning the finer
details of legal intricacy.
Colonel Musgrave was mid-course in an anecdote which the lady upon the
other side of him found wickedly amusing.
He was very gay. He had presently secured the attention of the company
at large, and held it through a good half-hour; for by common consent
Rudolph Musgrave was at his best to-night, and Lichfield found his best
worth listening to.
"Grinning old popinjay!" thought Mr. Parkinson; and envied him and
internally noted, and with an unholy fervor cursed, the adroitness of
intonation and the discreetly modulated gesture with which the colonel
gave to every point of his merry-Andrewing its precise value.
The colonel's mind was working busily on matters oddly apart from those
of which he talked. He wanted this girl next to him--at whom he did not
look. He loved her as that whippersnapper yonder was not capable of
loving anyone. Young people had these fancies; and they outlived them,
as the colonel knew of his own experience. Let matters take their course
unhindered, at all events by him. For it was less his part than that of
any other man alive to interfere when Rudolph Musgrave stood within a
finger's reach of, at worst, his own prosperity and happiness.
He would convey no note to Roger Stapylton. Let the banker announce the
engagement. Let the young fellow go to the devil. Colonel Musgrave would
marry the girl and make Patricia, at worst, content. To do otherwise,
even to hesitate, would be the emptiest quixotism....
Then came the fatal thought, "But what a gesture!" To fling away his
happiness--yes, even his worldly fortune,--and to do it smilingly!
Patricia must, perforce, admire him all her life.
Then as old Stapylton stirred in his chair and broke into a wide
premonitory smile, Colonel Musgrave rose to his feet. And of that
company Clarice Pendomer at least thought of how like he was to the boy
who had fought the famous duel with George Pendomer some fifteen years
Ensued a felicitous speech. Rudolph Musgrave was familiar with his
audience. And therefore:
Colonel Musgrave alluded briefly to the pleasure he took in addressing
such a gathering. He believed no other State in the 'Union could have
afforded an assembly of more distinguished men and fairer women. But the
fact was not unnatural; they might recall the venerable saying that
blood will tell? Well, it was their peculiar privilege to represent
to-day that sturdy stock which, when this great republic was in the
pangs of birth, had with sword and pen and oratory discomfited the
hirelings of England and given to history the undying names of several
Revolutionary patriots,--all of whom he enumerated with the customary
pause after each cognomen to allow for the customary applause.
And theirs, too, was the blood of those heroic men who fought more
recently beneath the stars and bars, as bravely, he would make bold to
say, as Leonidas at Thermopylae, in defense of their loved Southland.
Right, he conceded, had not triumphed here. For hordes of brutal
soldiery had invaded the fertile soil, the tempest of war had swept the
land and left it desolate. The South lay battered and bruised, and pros
trate in blood, the "Niobe of nations," as sad a victim of ingratitude
as King Lear.
The colonel touched upon the time when buzzards, in the guise of
carpet-baggers, had battened upon the recumbent form; and spoke
slightingly of divers persons of antiquity as compared with various
Confederate leaders, whose names were greeted with approving nods and
ripples of polite enthusiasm.
But the South, and in particular the grand old Commonwealth which they
inhabited, he stated, had not long sat among the ruins of her temples,
like a sorrowing priestess with veiled eyes and a depressed soul,
mourning for that which had been. Like the fabled Phoenix, she had risen
from the ashes of her past. To-day she was once more to be seen in her
hereditary position, the brightest gem in all that glorious galaxy of
States which made America the envy of every other nation. Her
battlefields converted into building lots, tall factories smoked where
once a holocaust had flamed, and where cannon had roared you heard
to-day the tinkle of the school bell. Such progress was without a
Nor was there any need for him, he was assured, to mention the
imperishable names of their dear homeland's poets and statesmen of
to-day, the orators and philanthropists and prominent business-men who
jostled one another in her splendid, new asphalted streets, since all
were quite familiar to his audience,--as familiar, he would venture to
predict, as they would eventually be to the most cherished recollections
of Macaulay's prophesied New Zealander, when this notorious antipodean
should pay his long expected visit to the ruins of St. Paul's.
In fine, by a natural series of transitions, Colonel Musgrave thus
worked around to "the very pleasing duty with which our host, in view of
the long and intimate connection between our families, has seen fit to
honor me"--which was, it developed, to announce the imminent marriage of
Miss Patricia Stapylton and Mr. Joseph Parkinson.
It may conservatively be stated that everyone was surprised.
Old Stapylton had half risen, with a purple face.
The colonel viewed him with a look of bland interrogation.
There was silence for a heart-beat.
Then Stapylton lowered his eyes, if just because the laws of caste had
triumphed, and in consequence his glance crossed that of his daughter,
who sat motionless regarding him. She was an unusually pretty girl, he
thought, and he had always been inordinately proud of her. It was not
pride she seemed to beg him muster now. Patricia through that moment was
not the fine daughter the old man was sometimes half afraid of. She was,
too, like a certain defiant person--oh, of an incredible beauty, such
as women had not any longer!--who had hastily put aside her bonnet and
had looked at a young Roger Stapylton in much this fashion very long
ago, because the minister was coming downstairs, and they would
presently be man and wife,--provided always her pursuing brothers did
not arrive in time....
Old Roger Stapylton cleared his throat.
Old Roger Stapylton said, half sheepishly: "My foot's asleep, that's
all. I beg everybody's pardon, I'm sure. Please go on"--he had come
within an ace of saying "Mr. Rudolph," and only in the nick of time did
he continue, "Colonel Musgrave."
So the colonel continued in time-hallowed form, with happy allusions to
Mr. Parkinson's anterior success as an engineer before he came "like a
young Lochinvar to wrest away his beautiful and popular fiancee from us
fainthearted fellows of Lichfield"; touched of course upon the colonel's
personal comminglement of envy and rage, and so on, as an old bachelor
who saw too late what he had missed in life; and concluded by proposing
the health of the young couple.
This was drunk with all the honors.
Upon what Patricia said to the colonel in the drawing-room, what Joe
Parkinson blurted out in the hall, and chief of all, what Roger
Stapylton asseverated to Rudolph Musgrave in the library, after the
other guests had gone, it is unnecessary to dwell in this place. To each
of these in various fashions did Colonel Musgrave explain such reasons
as, he variously explained, must seem to any gentleman sufficient cause
for acting as he had done; but most candidly, and even with a touch of
eloquence, to Roger Stapylton.
"You are like your grandfather, sir, at times," the latter said,
inconsequently enough, when the colonel had finished.
And Rudolph Musgrave gave a little bowing gesture, with an entire
gravity. He knew it was the highest tribute that Stapylton could pay to
"She's a daughter any father might be proud of," said the banker, also.
He removed his cigar from his mouth and looked at it critically. "She's
rather like her mother sometimes," he said carelessly. "Her mother made
a runaway match, you may remember--Damn' poor cigar, this. But no, you
wouldn't, I reckon. I had branched out into cotton then and had a little
place just outside of Chiswick--"
So that, all in all, Colonel Musgrave returned homeward not entirely
The colonel sat for a long while before his fire that night. The room
seemed less comfortable than he had ever known it. So many of his books
and pictures and other furnishings had been already carried to Matocton
that the walls were a little bare. Also there was a formidable pile of
bills upon the table by him,--from contractors and upholsterers and
furniture-houses, and so on, who had been concerned in the late
renovation of Matocton,--the heralds of a host he hardly saw his way to
He had flung away a deal of money that evening, with something which to
him was dearer. Had you attempted to condole with him he would not have
"But what would you have had a gentleman do, sir?" Colonel Musgrave
would have said, in real perplexity.
Besides, it was, in fact, not sorrow that he felt, rather it was
contentment, when he remembered the girl's present happiness; and what
alone depressed the colonel's courtly affability toward the universe at
large was the queer, horrible new sense of being somehow out of touch
with yesterday's so comfortable world, of being out-moded, of being
"Eh, well!" he said; "I am of a certain age undoubtedly."
By an odd turn the colonel thought of how his friends of his own class
and generation had honestly admired the after-dinner speech which he had
made that evening. And he smiled, but very tenderly, because they were
all men and women whom he loved.
"The most of us have known each other for a long while. The most of us,
in fact, are of a certain age.... I think no people ever met the sorry
problem that we faced. For we were born the masters of a leisured,
ordered world; and by a tragic quirk of destiny were thrust into a quite
new planet, where we were for a while the inferiors, and after that just
the competitors of yesterday's slaves.
"We couldn't meet the new conditions. Oh, for the love of heaven, let us
be frank, and confess that we have not met them as things practical go.
We hadn't the training for it. A man who has not been taught to swim may
rationally be excused for preferring to sit upon the bank; and should he
elect to ornament his idleness with protestations that he is
self-evidently an excellent swimmer, because once upon a time his
progenitors were the only people in the world who had the slightest
conception of how to perform a natatorial masterpiece, the thing is
simply human nature. Talking chokes nobody, worse luck.
"And yet we haven't done so badly. For the most part we have sat upon
the bank our whole lives long. We have produced nothing--after
all--which was absolutely earth-staggering; and we have talked a deal of
clap-trap. But meanwhile we have at least enhanced the comeliness of our
particular sand-bar. We have lived a courteous and tranquil and
independent life thereon, just as our fathers taught us. It may be--in
the final outcome of things--that will be found an even finer pursuit
than the old one of producing Presidents.
"Besides, we have produced ourselves. We have been gentlefolk in spite
of all, we have been true even in our iniquities to the traditions of
our race. No, I cannot assert that these traditions always square with
ethics or even with the Decalogue, for we have added a very complex
Eleventh Commandment concerning honor. And for the rest, we have
defiantly embroidered life, and indomitably we have converted the
commonest happening of life into a comely thing. We have been artists if
There was upon the table a large photograph in sepia of Patricia
Stapylton. He studied this now. She was very beautiful, he thought.
"'Nor thou detain her vesture's hem'--" said the colonel aloud. "Oh,
that infernal Yankee understood, even though he was born in Boston!" And
this as coming from a Musgrave of Matocton, may fairly be considered as
a sweeping tribute to the author of _Give All to Love_.
Colonel Musgrave was intent upon the portrait.... So! she had chosen at
last between himself and this young fellow, a workman born of workmen,
who went about the world building bridges and canals and tunnels and
such, in those far countries which were to Colonel Musgrave just so many
gray or pink or fawn-colored splotches on the map. It seemed to Colonel
Musgrave almost an allegory.
So Colonel Musgrave filled a glass with the famed Lafayette madeira of
Matocton, and solemnly drank yet another toast. He loved to do, as you
already know, that which was colorful.
"To this new South," he said. "To this new South that has not any longer
need of me or of my kind.
"To this new South! She does not gaze unwillingly, nor too complacently,
upon old years, and dares concede that but with loss of manliness may
any man encroach upon the heritage of a dog or of a trotting-horse, and
consider the exploits of an ancestor to guarantee an innate and personal
"For to her all former glory is less a jewel than a touchstone, and with
her portion of it daily she appraises her own doing, and without vain
speech. And her high past she values now, in chief, as fit foundation of
that edifice whereon she labors day by day, and with augmenting
* * * * *
And yet--"It may be he will serve you better. But, oh, it isn't
possible that he should love you more than I," said Colonel Musgrave of
The man was destined to remember that utterance--and, with the
recollection, to laugh not altogether in either scorn or merriment.
PART FOUR - APPRECIATION
"You have chosen; and I cry content thereto,
And cry your pardon also, and am reproved
In that I took you for a woman I loved
Odd centuries ago, and would undo
That curious error. Nay, your eyes are blue,
Your speech is gracious, but you are not she,
And I am older--and changed how utterly!--
I am no longer I, you are not you.
"Time, destined as we thought but to befriend
And guerdon love like ours, finds you beset
With joys and griefs I neither share nor mend
Who am a stranger; and we two are met
Nor wholly glad nor sorry; and the end
Of too much laughter is a faint regret."
R.E. TOWNSEND. _Sonnets for Elena._
Next morning Rudolph Musgrave found the world no longer an impassioned
place, but simply a familiar habitation,--no longer the wrestling-ground
of big emotions, indeed, but undoubtedly a spot, whatever were its other
pretensions to praise, wherein one was at home. He breakfasted on ham
and eggs, in a state of tolerable equanimity; and mildly wondered at
himself for doing it.
The colonel was deep in a heraldic design and was whistling through his
teeth when Patricia came into the Library. He looked up, with the
outlines of a frown vanishing like pencilings under the india-rubber of
professional courtesy,--for he was denoting _or_ at the moment, which is
fussy work, as it consists exclusively of dots.
Then his chair scraped audibly upon the floor as he pushed it from him.
It occurred to Rudolph Musgrave after an interval that he was still
half-way between sitting and standing, and that his mouth was open....
He could hear a huckster outside on Regis Avenue. The colonel never
forgot the man was crying "Fresh oranges!"
"He kissed me, Olaf. Yes, I let him kiss me, even after he had asked me
if he could. No sensible girl would ever do that, of course. And then I
Patricia was horribly frightened.
"And afterwards the jackass-fool made matters worse by calling me 'his
darling.' There is no more hateful word in the English language than
'darling.' It sounds like castor-oil tastes, or a snail looks after you
have put salt on him."
The colonel deliberated this information; and he appeared to understand.
"So Parkinson has gone the way of Pevensey,--. and of I wonder how many
others? Well, may Heaven be very gracious to us both!" he said. "For I
am going to do it."
Then composedly he took up the telephone upon his desk and called Roger
"I want you to come at once to Dr. Rabbet's,--yes, the rectory, next
door to St. Luke's. Patricia and I are to be married there in half an
hour. We are on our way to the City Hall to get the license now.... No,
she might change her mind again, you see.... I have not the least notion
how it happened. I don't care.... Then you will have to be rude to him
or else not see your only daughter married.... Kindly permit me to
repeat, sir, that I don't care about that or anything else. And for the
rest, Patricia was twenty-one last December."
The colonel hung up the receiver. "And now," he said, "we are going to
the City Hall."
"Are you?" said Patricia, with courteous interest. "Well, my way lies
uptown. I have to stop in at Greenberg's and get a mustard plaster for
He had his hat by this. "It isn't cool enough for me to need an
overcoat, is it?"
"I think you must be crazy," she said, sharply.
"Of course I am. So I am going to marry you."
"Let me go--! Oh, and I had thought you were a gentleman--."
"I fear that at present I am simply masculine." He became aware that his
hands, in gripping both her shoulders, were hurting the girl.
"Come now," he continued, "will you go quietly or will I have to carry
She said, "And you would, too--." She spoke in wonder, for Patricia had
glimpsed an unguessed Rudolph Musgrave.
His hands went under her arm-pits and he lifted her like a feather. He
held her thus at arm's length.
"You--you adorable whirligig!" he laughed. "I am a stronger animal than
you. It would be as easy for me to murder you as it would be for you to
kill one of those flies on the window-pane. Do you quite understand that
"Oh, but you are an idiot--."
"In wanting you, my dear?"
"Please put me down."
She thoroughly enjoyed her helplessness. He saw it, long before he
"Why, not so much in that," said Miss Stapylton, "because inasmuch as I
am a woman of superlative charm, of course you can't help yourself. But
how do you know that Dr. Rabbet may not be somewhere else, harrying a
defenseless barkeeper, or superintending the making of dress-shirt
protectors for the Hottentots, or doing something else clerical, when we
get to the rectory?"
After an irrelevant interlude she stamped her foot.
"I don't care what you say, I won't marry an atheist. If you had the
least respect for his cloth, Olaf, you would call him up and
arrange--Oh, well! whatever you want to arrange--and permit me to powder
my nose without being bothered, because I don't want people to think you
are marrying a second helping to butter, and I never did like that
Baptist man on the block above, anyhow. And besides," said Patricia, as
with the occurrence of a new view-point, "think what a delicious scandal
it will create!"
Patricia spoke the truth. By supper-time Lichfield had so industriously
embroidered the Stapylton dinner and the ensuing marriage with
hypotheses and explanations and unparented rumors that none of the
participants in the affair but could advantageously have exchanged
reputations with Benedict Arnold or Lucretia Borgia, had Lichfield
believed a tithe of what Lichfield was repeating.
A duel was of course anticipated between Mr. Parkinson and Colonel
Musgrave, and the colonel indeed offered, through Major Wadleigh, any
satisfaction which Mr. Parkinson might desire.
The engineer, with garnishments of profanity, considered dueling to be a
painstakingly-described absurdity and wished "the old popinjay" joy of
Lichfield felt that only showed what came of treating poor-white trash
as your equals, and gloried in the salutary moral.
Meanwhile the two originators of so much Lichfieldian diversion were not
But indeed it were irreverent even to try to express the happiness of
their earlier married life ...
They were an ill-matched couple in so many ways that no long-headed
person could conceivably have anticipated--in the outcome--more than
decorous tolerance of each other. For apart from the disparity in age
and tastes and rearing, there was always the fact to be weighed that in
marrying the only child of a wealthy man Rudolph Musgrave was making
what Lichfield called "an eminently sensible match"--than which, as
Lichfield knew, there is no more infallible recipe for discord.
In this case the axiom seemed, after the manner of all general rules, to
bulwark itself with an exception. Colonel Musgrave continued to emanate
an air of contentment which fell perilously short of fatuity; and that
Patricia was honestly fond of him was evident to the most impecunious of
True, curtains had been lifted, a little by a little. Patricia could
hardly have told you at what exact moment it was that she discovered
Miss Agatha--who continued of course to live with them--was a
dipsomaniac. Very certainly Rudolph Musgrave was not Patricia's
informant; it is doubtful if the colonel ever conceded his sister's
infirmity in his most private meditations; so that Patricia found the
cause of Miss Agatha's "attacks" to be an open secret of which everyone
in the house seemed aware and of which by tacit agreement nobody ever
spoke. It bewildered Patricia, at first, to find that as concerned
Lichfield at large any over-indulgence in alcohol by a member of the
Musgrave family was satisfactorily accounted for by the matter-of-course
statement that the Musgraves usually "drank,"--just as the Allardyces
notoriously perpetuated the taint of insanity, and the Townsends were
proverbially unable "to let women alone," and the Vartreys were
deplorably prone to dabble in literature. These things had been for a
long while just as they were to-day; and therefore (Lichfield estimated)
they must be reasonable.
Then, too, Patricia would have preferred to have been rid of the old
mulatto woman Virginia, because it was through Virginia that Miss Agatha
furtively procured intoxicants. But Rudolph Musgrave would not consider
Virginia's leaving. "Virginia's faithfulness has been proven by too many
years of faithful service" was the formula with which he dismissed the
suggestion ... Afterward Patricia learned from Miss Agatha of the wrong
that had been done Virginia by Olaf's uncle, Senator Edward Musgrave,
the noted ante-bellum orator, and understood that Olaf--without, of
course, conceding it to himself, because that was Olaf's way--was trying
to make reparation. Patricia respected the sentiment, and continued to
fret under its manifestation.
Miss Agatha also told Patricia of how the son of Virginia and Senator
Musgrave had come to a disastrous end--"lynched in Texas, I believe,
only it may not have been Texas. And indeed when I come to think of it,
I don't believe it was, because I know we first heard of it on a Monday,
and Virginia couldn't do the washing that week and I had to send it out.
And for the usual crime, of course. It simply shows you how much better
off the darkies were before the War," Miss Agatha said.
Patricia refrained from comment, not being willing to consider the
deduction strained. For love is a contagious infection; and loving
Rudolph Musgrave so much, Patricia must perforce love any person whom he
loved as conscientiously as she would have strangled any person with
whom he had flirted.
And yet, to Patricia, it was beginning to seem that Patricia Musgrave
was not living, altogether, in that Lichfield which John Charteris has
made immortal--"that nursery of Free Principles" (according to the
_Lichfield Courier-Herald_) "wherein so many statesmen,
lieutenants-general and orators were trained to further the faith of
their fathers, to thrill the listening senates, draft constitutions, and
bruise the paws of the British lion."
It may be remembered that Lichfield had asked long ago, "But who, pray,
are the Stapyltons?" It was characteristic of Colonel Musgrave that he
went about answering the question without delay. The Stapletons--for
"Stapylton" was a happy innovation of Roger Stapylton's dead wife--the
colonel knew to have been farmers in Brummell County, and Brummell
Courthouse is within an hour's ride, by rail, of Lichfield.
So he set about his labor of love.
And in it he excelled himself. The records of Brummell date back to 1750
and are voluminous; but Rudolph Musgrave did not overlook an item in any
Will Book, or in any Orders of the Court, that pertained, however
remotely, to the Stapletons. Then he renewed his labors at the
courthouse of the older county from which Brummell was formed in 1750,
and through many fragmentary, evil-odored and unindexed volumes
indefatigably pursued the family's fortune back to the immigration of
its American progenitor in 1619,--and, by the happiest fatality, upon
the same _Bona Nova_ which enabled the first American Musgrave to grace
the Colony of Virginia with his presence. It could no longer be said
that the wife of a Musgrave of Matocton lacked an authentic and
tolerably ancient pedigree.
The colonel made a book of his Stapyltonian researches which he
vaingloriously proclaimed to be the stupidest reading within the ample
field of uninteresting printed English. Patricia was allowed to see no
word of it until the first ten copies had come from the printer's, very
splendid in green "art-vellum" and stamped with the Stapylton
coat-of-arms in gold.
She read the book. "It is perfectly superb," was her verdict. "It is as
dear as remembered kisses after death and as sweet as a plaintiff in a
breach-of-promise suit. Only I would have preferred it served with a few
kings and dukes for parsley. The Stapletons don't seem to have been
anything but perfectly respectable mediocrities."
The colonel smiled. At the bottom of his heart he shared Patricia's
regret that the Stapylton pedigree was unadorned by a potentate, because
nobody can stay unimpressed by a popular superstition, however crass the
thing may be. But for all this, an appraisal of himself and his own
achievements profusely showed high lineage is not invariably a guarantee
of excellence; and so he smiled and said:
"There are two ends to every stick. It was the Stapletons and others of
their sort, rather than any soft-handed Musgraves, who converted a
wilderness, a little by a little, into the America of to-day. The task
was tediously achieved, and without ostentation; and always the ship had
its resplendent figure-head, as always it had its hidden, nay! grimy,
engines, which propelled the ship. And, however direfully America may
differ from Utopia, to have assisted in the making of America is no mean
distinction. We Musgraves and our peers, I sometimes think, may possibly
have been just gaudy autumn leaves which happened to lie in the path of
a high wind. And to cut a gallant figure in such circumstances does not
necessarily prove the performer to be a _rara avis_, even though he
rides the whirlwind quite as splendidly as any bird existent."
Patricia fluttered, and as lightly and irresponsibly as a wren might
have done, perched on his knee.
"No! there is really something in heredity, after all. Now, you are a
Musgrave in every vein of you. It always seems like a sort of flippancy
for you to appear in public without a stock and a tarnished gilt frame
with most of the gilt knocked off and a catalogue-number tucked in the
corner." Patricia spoke without any regard for punctuation. "And I am so
unlike you. I am only a Stapylton. I do hope you don't mind my being
merely a Stapylton, Olaf, because if only I wasn't too modest to even
think of alluding to the circumstance, I would try to tell you about the
tiniest fraction of how much a certain ravishingly beautiful
half-strainer loves you, Olaf, and the consequences would be
"My dear----" he began.
"Ouch!" said Patricia; "you are tickling me. You don't shave half as
often as you used to, do you? No, nowadays you think you have me safe
and don't have to bother about being attractive. If I had a music-box I
could put your face into it and play all sorts of tunes, only I prefer
to look at it. You are a slattern and a jay-bird and a joy forever. And
besides, the first Stapleton seems to have blundered somehow into the
House of Burgesses, so that entitles me to be a Colonial Dame on my
father's side, too, doesn't it, Olaf?"
The colonel laughed. "Madam Vanity!" said he, "I repeat that to be
descended of a line of czars or from a house of emperors is, at the
worst, an empty braggartism, or, at best--upon the plea of heredity--a
handy palliation for iniquity; and to be descended of sturdy and honest
and clean-blooded folk is beyond doubt preferable, since upon quite
similar grounds it entitles one to hope that even now, 'when their
generation is gone, when their play is over, when their panorama is
withdrawn in tatters from the stage of the world,' there may yet survive
of them 'some few actions worth remembering, and a few children who have
retained some happy stamp from the disposition of their parents.'"
Patricia--with eyes widened in admiration at his rhetoric,--had turned
an enticing shade of pink.
"I am glad of that," she said.
She snuggled so close he could not see her face now. She was to all
appearances attempting to twist the top-button from his coat.
"I am very glad that it entitles one to hope--about the
The colonel lifted her a little from him. He did not say anything. But
he was regarding her half in wonder and one-half in worship.
She, too, was silent. Presently she nodded.
He kissed her as one does a very holy relic.
It was a moment to look back upon always. There was no period in Rudolph
Musgrave's life when he could not look back upon this instant and exult
because it had been his.
* * * * *
Only, Patricia found out afterward, with an inexplicable disappointment,
that her husband had not been talking extempore, but was freely quoting
his "Compiler's Foreword" just as it figured in the printed book.
One judges this posturing, so inevitable of detection, to have been as
significant of much in Rudolph Musgrave as was the fact of its belated
discovery characteristic of Patricia.
Yet she had read this book about her family from purely normal motives:
first, to make certain how old her various cousins were; secondly, to
gloat over any traces of distinction such as her ancestry afforded;
thirdly, to note with what exaggerated importance the text seemed to
accredit those relatives she did not esteem, and mentally to annotate
each page with unprintable events "which _everybody_ knew about"; and
fourthly, to reflect, as with a gush of steadily augmenting love, how
dear and how unpractical it was of Olaf to have concocted these
date-bristling pages--so staunch and blind in his misguided gratitude
toward those otherwise uninteresting people who had rendered possible
the existence of a Patricia.
Matters went badly with Patricia in the ensuing months. Her mother's
blood told here, as Colonel Musgrave saw with disquietude. He knew the
women of his race had by ordinary been unfit for childbearing; indeed,
the daughters of this famous house had long, in a grim routine,
perished, just as Patricia's mother had done, in their first maternal
essay. There were many hideous histories the colonel could have told you
of, unmeet to be set down, and he was familiar with this talk of pelvic
anomalies which were congenital. But he had never thought of Patricia,
till this, as being his kinswoman, and in part a Musgrave.
And even now the Stapylton blood that was in her pulled Patricia through
long weeks of anguish. Surgeons dealt with her very horribly in a famed
Northern hospital, whither she had been removed. By her obdurate
request--and secretly, to his own preference, since it was never in his
power to meet discomfort willingly--Colonel Musgrave had remained in
Lichfield. Patricia knew that officious people would tell him her life
could be saved only by the destruction of an unborn boy.
She never questioned her child would be a boy. She knew that Olaf wanted
"Oh, even more than he does me, daddy. And so he mustn't know, you see,
until it is all over. Because Olaf is such an ill-informed person that
he really believes he prefers me."
"Pat," her father inconsequently said, "I'm proud of you! And--and, by
God, if I _want_ to cry, I guess I am old enough to know my own mind!
And I'll help you in this if you'll only promise not to die in spite of
what these damn' doctors say, because you're _mine_, Pat, and so you
realize a bargain is a bargain."
"Yes--I am really yours, daddy. It is just my crazy body that is a
Musgrave," Patricia explained. "The real me is an unfortunate Stapylton
who has somehow got locked up in the wrong house. It is not a desirable
residence, you know, daddy. No modern improvements, for instance. But I
have to live in it!... Still, I have not the least intention of dying,
and I solemnly promise that I won't."
So these two hoodwinked Rudolph Musgrave, and brought it about by
subterfuge that his child was born. At most he vaguely understood that
Patricia was having rather a hard time of it, and steadfastly drugged
this knowledge by the performance of trivialities. He was eating a
cucumber sandwich at the moment young Roger Musgrave came into the
world, and by that action very nearly accomplished Patricia's death.
And the gods cursed Roger Stapylton with such a pride in, and so great a
love for, his only grandson that the old man could hardly bear to be out
of the infant's presence. He was frequently in Lichfield nowadays; and
he renewed his demands that Rudolph Musgrave give up the
exhaustively-particularized librarianship, so that "the little coot"
would be removed to New York and all three of them be with Roger
Patricia had not been well since little Roger's birth.
It was a peaked and shrewish Patricia, rather than Rudolph Musgrave, who
fought out the long and obstinate battle with Roger Stapylton.
She was jealous at the bottom of her heart. She would not have anyone,
not even her father, be too fond of what was preeminently hers; the
world at large, including Rudolph Musgrave, was at liberty to adore her
boy, as was perfectly natural, but not to meddle: and in fine, Patricia
was both hysterical and vixenish whenever a giving up of the Library
work was suggested.
The old man did not quarrel with her. And with Roger Stapylton's
loneliness in these days, and the long thoughts it bred, we have nothing
here to do. But when he died, stricken without warning, some five years
after Patricia's marriage, his will was discovered to bequeath
practically his entire fortune to little Roger Musgrave when the child
should come of age; and to Rudolph Musgrave, as Patricia's husband, what
was a reasonable income when judged by Lichfield's unexacting standards
rather than by Patricia's anticipations. In a word, Patricia found that
she and the colonel could for the future count upon a little more than
half of the income she had previously been allowed by Roger Stapylton.
"It isn't fair!" she said. "It's monstrous! And all because you were so
obstinate about your picayune Library!"
"Patricia--" he began.
"Oh, I tell you it's absurd, Olaf! The money logically ought to have
been left to me. And here I will have to come to you for every penny of
_my_ money. And Heaven knows I have had to scrimp enough to support us
all on what I used to have--Olaf," Patricia said, in another voice,
"Olaf! why, what is it, dear?"
"I was reflecting," said Colonel Musgrave, "that, as you justly observe,
both Agatha and I have been practically indebted to you for our support
these past five years--"
It must be enregistered, not to the man's credit, but rather as a simple
fact, that it was never within Colonel Musgrave's power to forget the
incident immediately recorded.
He forgave; when Patricia wept, seeing how leaden-colored his handsome
face had turned, he forgave as promptly and as freely as he was learning
to pardon the telling of a serviceable lie, or the perpetration of an
occasional barbarism in speech, by Patricia. For he, a Musgrave of
Matocton, had married a Stapylton; he had begun to comprehend that their
standards were different, and that some daily conflict between these
standards was inevitable.
And besides, as it has been veraciously observed, the truth of an insult
is the barb which prevents its retraction. Patricia spoke the truth:
Rudolph Musgrave and all those rationally reliant upon Rudolph Musgrave
for support, had lived for some five years upon the money which they
owed to Patricia. He saw about him other scions of old families who
accepted such circumstances blithely: but, he said, he was a Musgrave
of Matocton; and, he reflected, in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed
is necessarily very unhappy.
He did not mean to touch a penny of such moneys as Roger Stapylton had
bequeathed to him; for the colonel considered--now--it was a man's duty
personally to support his wife and child and sister. And he vigorously
attempted to discharge this obligation, alike by virtue of his salary at
the Library, and by spasmodic raids upon his tiny capital, and--chief of
all--by speculation in the Stock Market.
Oddly enough, his ventures were through a long while--for the most
part--successful. Here he builded a desperate edifice whose foundations
were his social talents; and it was with quaint self-abhorrence he often
noted how the telling of a smutty jest or the insistence upon a
manifestly superfluous glass of wine had purchased from some properly
tickled magnate a much desiderated "tip."
And presently these tips misled him. So the colonel borrowed from
And on this occasion he guessed correctly.
And then he stumbled upon such a chance for reinvestment as does not
often arrive. And so he borrowed a trifle more in common justice to
When those then famous warriors, Colonel Gaynor and Captain Green, were
obstinately fighting extradition in Quebec; when in Washington the
Senate was wording a suitable resolution wherewith to congratulate Cuba
upon that island's brand-new independence; and when Messieurs
Fitzsimmons and Jeffries were making amicable arrangements in San
Francisco to fight for the world's championship:--at this remote time,
in Chicago (on the same day, indeed, that in this very city Mr. S.E.
Gross was legally declared the author of a play called Cyrano de
Bergerac), the Sons of the Colonial Governors opened their tenth
biennial convention. You may depend upon it that Colonel Rudolph
Musgrave represented the Lichfield chapter.
It was two days later the telegram arrived. It read:
_Agatha very ill come to me roger in perfect health._
He noted how with Stapyltonian thrift Patricia telegraphed ten words
And when he had reached home, late in the evening, the colonel, not
having taken his bunch of keys with him, laid down his dress-suit case
on the dark porch, and reached out one hand to the door-bell. He found
it muffled with some flimsy, gritty fabric. He did not ring.
Upon the porch was a rustic bench. He sat upon it for a quarter of an
hour--precisely where he had first talked with Agatha about Patricia's
first coming to Lichfield.... Once the door of a house across the street
was opened, with a widening gush of amber light wherein he saw three
women fitting wraps about them. One of them was adjusting a lace scarf
above her hair.
"No, we're not a _bit_ afraid--Just around the corner, you know--_Such_
a pleasant evening----" Their voices carried far in the still night.
Rudolph Musgrave was not thinking of anything. Presently he went around
through the side entrance, and thus came into the kitchen, where the old
mulattress, Virginia, was sitting alone. The room was very hot.... In
Agatha's time supper would have been cooked upon the gas-range in the
cellar, he reflected.... Virginia had risen and made as though to take
his dress-suit case, her pleasant yellow face as imperturbable as an
"No--don't bother, Virginia," said Colonel Musgrave.
He met Patricia in the dining-room, on her way to the kitchen. She had
not chosen--as even the most sensible of us will instinctively decline
to do--to vex the quiet of a house wherein death was by ringing a bell.
Holding his hand in hers, fondling it as she talked, Patricia told how
three nights before Miss Agatha had been "queer, you know," at supper.
Patricia had not liked to leave her, but it was the night of the Woman's
Club's second Whist Tournament. And Virginia had promised to watch Miss
Agatha. And, anyhow, Miss Agatha had gone to bed before Patricia left
the house, and _anybody_ would have thought she was going to sleep all
night. And, in fine, Patricia's return at a drizzling half-past eleven
had found Miss Agatha sitting in the garden, in her night-dress only,
weeping over fancied grievances--and Virginia asleep in the kitchen. And
Agatha had died that afternoon of pneumonia.
Even in the last half-stupor she was asking always when would Rudolph
come? Patricia told him....
Rudolph Musgrave did not say anything. Without any apparent emotion he
put Patricia aside, much as he did the dress-suit case which he had
forgotten to lay down until Patricia had ended her recital.
He went upstairs--to the front room, Patricia's bedroom. Patricia
Agatha's body lay upon the bed, with a sheet over all. The undertaker's
skill had arranged everything with smug and horrible tranquillity.
Rudolph Musgrave remembered he was forty-six years old; and when in all
these years had there been a moment when Agatha--the real Agatha--had
not known that what he had done was self-evidently correct, because
otherwise Rudolph would not have done it?
"I trust you enjoyed your whist-game, Patricia."
"Well, I couldn't help it. I'm not running a sanitarium. I wasn't
responsible for her eternal drinking."
The words skipped out of either mouth like gleeful little devils.
Then both were afraid, and both were as icily tranquil as the thing upon
the bed. You could not hear anything except the clock upon the mantel.
Colonel Musgrave went to the mantel, opened the clock, and with an odd
deliberation removed the pendulum from its hook. Followed one metallic
gasp, as of indignation, and then silence.
He spoke, still staring at the clock, his back turned to Patricia. "You
must be utterly worn out. You had better go to bed."
He shifted by the fraction of an inch the old-fashioned "hand-colored"
daguerreotype of his father in Confederate uniform. "Please don't wear
that black dress again. It is no cause for mourning that we are rid of
Behind him, very far away, it seemed, he heard Patricia wailing,
Colonel Musgrave turned without any haste. "Please go," he said, and
appeared to plead with her. "You must be frightfully tired. I am sorry
that I was not here. I seem always to evade my responsibilities,
Then he began to laugh. "It _is_ rather amusing, after all. Agatha was
the most noble person I have ever known. The--this habit of hers to
which you have alluded was not a part of her. And I loved Agatha. And I
suppose loving is not altogether dependent upon logic. In any event, I
loved Agatha. And when I came back to her I had come home,
somehow--wherever she might be at the time. That has been true, oh, ever
since I can remember--"
He touched the dead hand now. "Please go!" he said, and he did not look
toward Patricia. "For Agatha loved me better than she did God, you know.
The curse was born in her. She had to pay for what those dead,
soft-handed Musgraves did. That is why her hands are so cold now. She
had to pay for the privilege of being a Musgrave, you see. But then we
cannot always pick and choose as to what we prefer to be."
"Oh, yes, of course, it is all my fault. Everything is my fault. But God
knows what would have become of you and your Agatha if it hadn't been
for me. Oh! oh!" Patricia wailed. "I was a child and I hadn't any better
sense, and I married you, and you've been living off my money ever
since! There hasn't been a Christmas present or a funeral wreath bought
in this house since I came into it I didn't pick out and pay for out of
my own pocket. And all the thanks I get for it is this perpetual
fault-finding, and I wish I was dead like this poor saint here. She
spent her life slaving for you. And what thanks did she get for it? Oh,
you ought to go down on your knees, Rudolph Musgrave--!"
"Please leave," he said.
"I will leave when I feel like it, and not a single minute before, and
you might just as well understand as much. You _have_ been living off my
money. Oh, you needn't go to the trouble of lying. And she did too. And
she hated me, she always hated me, because I had been fool enough to
marry you, and she carried on like a lunatic more than half the time,
and I always pretended not to notice it, and this is my reward for
trying to behave like a lady."
Patricia tossed her head. "Yes, and you needn't look at me as if I were
some sort of a bug you hadn't ever seen before and didn't approve of,
because I've seen you try that high-and-mighty trick too often for it to
work with me."
Patricia stood now beneath the Stuart portrait of young Gerald Musgrave.
She had insisted, long ago, that it be hung in her own bedroom--"because
it was through that beautiful boy we first got really acquainted, Olaf."
The boy smiles at you from the canvas, smiles ambiguously, as the
colonel now noted.
"I think you had better go," said Colonel Musgrave. "Please go,
Patricia, before I murder you."
She saw that he was speaking in perfect earnest.
Rudolph Musgrave sat all night beside the body. He had declined to speak
with innumerable sympathetic cousins--Vartreys and Fentons and
Allardyces and Musgraves, to the fifth and sixth remove--who had come
from all quarters, with visiting-cards and low-voiced requests to be
informed "if there is anything we can possibly do."
Rudolph Musgrave sat all night beside the body. He had not any strength
for anger now, and hardly for grief, Agatha had been his charge; and the
fact that he had never plucked up courage to allude to her practises was
now an enormity in which he could not quite believe. His cowardice and
its fruitage confronted him, and frightened him into a panic frenzy of
Agatha had been his charge; and he had entrusted the stewardship to
Patricia. Between them--that Patricia might have her card-game, that he
might sit upon a platform for an hour or two with a half-dozen other
pompous fools--they had let Agatha die. There was no mercy in him for
Patricia or for himself. He wished Patricia had been a man. Had any man
--an emperor or a coal-heaver, it would not have mattered--spoken as
Patricia had done within the moment, here, within arm's reach of the
poor flesh that had been Agatha's, Rudolph Musgrave would have known his
duty. But, according to his code, it was not permitted to be
discourteous to a woman....
He caught himself with grotesque meanness wishing that Agatha had been
there,--privileged by her sex where he was fettered,--she who was so
generous of heart and so fiery of tongue at need; and comprehension that
Agatha would never abet or adore him any more smote him anew.
* * * * *
And chance reserved for him more poignant torture. Next day, while
Rudolph Musgrave was making out the list of honorary pall-bearers, the
postman brought a letter which had been forwarded from Chicago. It was
from Agatha, written upon the morning of that day wherein later she had
been, as Patricia phrased it, "queer, you know."
He found it wildly droll to puzzle out those "crossed" four sheets of
trivialities written in an Italian hand so minute and orderly that the
finished page suggested a fly-screen. He had so often remonstrated with
Agatha about her penuriousness as concerned stationery.
"Selina Brice & the Rev'd Henry Anstruther, who now has a church in
Seattle, have announced their engagement. Stanley Haggage has gone to
Alabama to marry Leonora Bright, who moved from here a year ago. They
are both as poor as church mice, & I think marriage in such a case an
unwise step for anyone. It brings cares & anxieties enough any way,
without starting out with poverty to increase and render deeper every
Such was the tenor of Agatha's last letter, of the last self-expression
of that effigy upstairs who (you could see) knew everything and was not
Here the dead spoke, omniscient; and told you that Stanley Haggage had
gone to Alabama, and that marriage brought new cares and anxieties.
"I cannot laugh," said Rudolph Musgrave, aloud. "I know the jest
deserves it. But I cannot laugh, because my upper lip seems to be made
of leather and I can't move it. And, besides, I loved Agatha to a degree
which only You and I have ever known of. She never understood quite how
I loved her. Oh, won't You make her understand just how I loved her? For
Agatha is dead, because You wanted her to be dead, and I have never told
her how much I loved her, and now I cannot ever tell her how much I
loved her. Oh, won't You please show me that You have made her
understand? or else have me struck by lightning? or do _anything_....?"
Nothing was done.
And afterward Rudolph Musgrave and his wife met amicably, and without
reference to their last talk. Patricia wore black-and-white for some six
months, and Colonel Musgrave accepted the compromise tacitly. All passed
with perfect smoothness between them; and anyone in Lichfield would have
told you that the Musgraves were a model couple.
She called him "Rudolph" now.
"Olaf is such a silly-sounding nickname for two old married people, you
know," Patricia estimated.
The colonel negligently said that he supposed it did sound odd.
"Only I don't think Clarice Pendomer would care about coming," he
resumed,--for the two were discussing an uncompleted list of the people
Patricia was to invite to their first house-party.
"And for heaven's sake, why not? We always have her to everything."
He could not tell her it was because the Charterises were to be among
their guests. So he said: "Oh, well--!"
"Mrs. C.B. Pendomer, then"--Patricia wrote the name with a flourish.
"Oh, you jay-bird, I'm not jealous. Everybody knows you never had any
more morals than a tom-cat on the back fence. It's a lucky thing the boy
didn't take after you, isn't it? He doesn't, not a bit. No, Harry
Pendomer is the puniest black-haired little wretch, whereas your other
son, sir, resembles his mother and is in consequence a ravishingly
beautiful person of superlative charm--"
He was staring at her so oddly that she paused. So Patricia was familiar
with that old scandal which linked his name with Clarice Pendomer's! He
was wondering if Patricia had married him in the belief that she was
marrying a man who, appraised by any standards, had acted infamously.
"I was only thinking you had better ask Judge Allardyce, Patricia. You
see, he is absolutely certain not to come--"
* * * * *
This year the Musgraves had decided not to spend the spring alone
together at Matocton, as they had done the four preceding years.
"It looks so silly," as Patricia pointed out.
And, besides, a house-party is the most economical method,--as she also
pointed out, being born a Stapylton--of paying off your social
obligations, because you can always ask so many people who, you know,
have made other plans, and cannot accept.
* * * * *
"So we will invite Judge Allardyce, of course," said Patricia. "I had
forgotten his court met in June. Oh, and Peter Blagden too. It had
slipped my mind his uncle was dead...."
"I learned this morning Mrs. Haggage was to lecture in Louisville on the
sixteenth. She was reading up in the Library, you see--"
"Rudolph, you are the lodestar of my existence. I will ask her to come
on the fourteenth and spend a week. I never could abide the hag, but she
has such a--There! I've made a big blot right in the middle of
'darling,' and spoiled a perfectly good sheet of paper!... You'd better
mail it at once, though, because the evening-paper may have something in
it about her lecture."
This was after supper, and Patricia was playing solitaire. Her husband
was reading the paper.
"Agatha told me all about Virginia, you know--"
Here Colonel Musgrave frowned. "It is not a pleasant topic."
"You jay-bird, you behave entirely too much as if you were my
grandfather. As I was saying, Agatha told me all about your uncle and
Virginia," Patricia hurried on. "And how she ran away afterwards, and
hid in the woods for three days, and came to your father's plantation,
and how your father bought her, and how her son was born, and how her
son was lynched--"
"Now, really, Patricia! Surely there are other matters which may be more
"Of course. Now, for instance, why is the King of Hearts the only one
that hasn't a moustache?" Patricia peeped to see what cards lay beneath
that monarch, and upon reflection moved the King of Spades into the
vacant space. She was a devotee of solitaire and invariably cheated at
She went on, absently: "But don't you see? That colored boy was your own
first cousin, and he was killed for doing exactly what his father had
done. Only they sent the father to the Senate and gave him columns of
flubdub and laid him out in state when he died--and they poured kerosene
upon the son and burned him alive. And I believe Virginia thinks that
"What do you mean?"
"I honestly believe Virginia hates the Musgraves. She is only a negro,
of course, but then she was a mother once--Oh, yes! all I need is a
black eight--" Patricia demanded, "Now look at your brother Hector--the
awfully dissipated one that died of an overdose of opiates. When it
happened wasn't Virginia taking care of him?"
"Of course. She is an invaluable nurse."
"And nobody else was here when Agatha went out into the rain. Now, what
if she had just let Agatha go, without trying to stop her? It would have
been perfectly simple. So is this. All I have to do is to take them off
Colonel Musgrave negligently returned to his perusal of the afternoon
paper. "You are suggesting--if you will overlook my frankness--the most
deplorable sort of nonsense, Patricia."
"I know exactly how Balaam felt," she said, irrelevantly, and fell to
shuffling the cards. "You don't, and you won't, understand that Virginia
is a human being. In any event, I wish you would get rid of her."
"I couldn't decently do that," said Rudolph Musgrave, with careful
patience. "Virginia's faithfulness has been proven by too many years of
faithful service. Nothing more strikingly attests the folly of freeing
the negro than the unwillingness of the better class of slaves to leave
their former owners--"
"Now you are going to quote a paragraph or so from your Gracious Era. As
if I hadn't read everything you ever wrote! You are a fearful humbug in
some ways, Rudolph."
"And you are a red-headed rattlepate, madam. But seriously, Patricia,
you who were reared in the North are strangely unwilling to concede that
we of the South are after all best qualified to deal with the Negro
Problem. We know the negro as you cannot ever know him."
"You! Oh, God ha' mercy on us!" mocked Patricia. "There wasn't any Negro
Problem hereabouts, you beautiful idiot, so long as there were any
negroes. Why, to-day there is hardly one full-blooded negro in
Lichfield. There are only a thousand or so of mulattoes who share the
blood of people like your Uncle Edward. And for the most part they take
after their white kin, unfortunately. And there you have the Lichfield
Negro Problem in a nutshell. It is a venerable one and fully set forth
in the Bible. You needn't attempt to argue with me, because you are a
ninnyhammer, and I am a second Nestor. The Holy Scriptures are perfectly
explicit as to what happens to the heads of the children and their teeth
"I wish you wouldn't jest about such matters--"
"Because it isn't lady-like? But, Rudolph, you know perfectly well that
I am not a lady."
"My dear!" he cried, in horror that was real, "and what on earth have I
said even to suggest--"
"Oh, not a syllable; it isn't at all the sort of thing that your sort
_says_ ... And I am not your sort. I don't know that I altogether wish I
were. But _if_ I were, it would certainly make things easier," Patricia
"My dear--!" he again protested.
"Now, candidly, Rudolph"--relinquishing the game, she fell to shuffling
the cards--"just count up the number of times this month that my--oh,
well! I really don't know what to call it except my deplorable omission
in failing to be born a lady--has seemed to you to yank the very last
rag off the gooseberry-bush?"
He scoffed. "What nonsense! Although, of course, Patricia--"
She nodded, mischief in her brightly-colored tiny face. "Yes, that is
just your attitude, you beautiful idiot."
"--although, of course--now, quite honestly, Patricia, I have
occasionally wished that you would not speak of sacred and--er,
physical and sociological matters in exactly the tone in which--well! in
which you sometimes do speak of them. It may sound old-fashioned, but I
have always believed that decency is quite as important in mental
affairs as it is in physical ones, and that as a consequence, a
gentlewoman should always clothe her thoughts with at least the same
care she accords her body. Oh, don't misunderstand me! Of course it
doesn't do any harm, my dear, between us. But outside--you see, for
people to know that you think about such things must necessarily give
them a false opinion of you."
She said, with utter solemnity, "Anathema maranatha! oh, hell to damn!
may the noses of all respectable people be turned upside down and
jackasses dance eternally upon their grandmothers' graves!"
"Patricia--!" cried a shocked colonel.
"I mean every syllable of it. No, Rudolph; _I_ can't help it if the
vinaigretted beauties of your boyhood were unabridged dictionaries of
prudery. You see, I know almost all the swearwords there are. And I read
the newspapers, and medical books, and even the things that boys chalk
up on fences. In consequence I am not a bit whiteminded, because if you
use your mind at all it gets more or less dingy, just like using
He could not help but laugh, much as he disapproved. Patricia fluttered
and, as a wren might have done, perched presently upon his knee.
"Rudolph, can't you laugh more often, and not devote so much time to
tracing out the genealogies of those silly people, and being so
tediously beautiful and good?" she asked, and with a hint of
seriousness. "Rudolph, you don't know how I would adore you if you would
rob a church or cut somebody's throat in an alley, and tell me all about
it because you knew I wouldn't betray you. You are so infernally
respectable in everything you do! How did you come to bully me that day
at the Library? It seems almost as if those two were different people...
doesn't it, Rudolph?"
"My dear," the colonel said whimsically, "I am afraid we are rather like
the shepherdess and the chimney-sweep of the fable I read you very long
ago. We climbed up so far that we could see the stars, once, very long
ago, Patricia, and we have come back to live upon the parlor table. I
suppose it happens to all the little china people."
She took his meaning. Each was aware of an odd sense of intimacy.
"Everything we have to be glad for now, Rudolph, is the rivet in
grandfather's neck. It is rather a fiasco, isn't it?"
"Eh, there are all sorts of rivets, Patricia. And the thing one cannot
do because one is what one is, need not be necessarily a cause for
It was excellent to see Jack Charteris again, as Colonel Musgrave did
within a few days of this. Musgrave was unreasonably fond of the
novelist and frankly confessed it would be as preposterous to connect
Charteris with any of the accepted standards of morality as it would be
to judge an artesian-well from the standpoint of ethics.
Anne was not yet in Lichfield. She had broken the journey to visit a
maternal grand-aunt and some Virginia cousins, in Richmond, Charteris
explained, and was to come thence to Matocton.
"And so you have acquired a boy and, by my soul, a very handsome wife,
"It is sufficiently notorious," said Colonel Musgrave. "Yes, we are
quite absurdly happy." He laughed and added: "Patricia--but you don't
know her droll way of putting things--says that the only rational
complaint I can advance against her is her habit of rushing into a
hospital every month or so and having a section or two of her person
removed by surgeons. It worries me,--only, of course, it is not the
sort of thing you can talk about. And, as Patricia says, it _is_ an
unpleasant thing to realize that your wife is not leaving you through
the ordinary channels of death or of type-written decrees of the court,
but only in vulgar fractions, as it were--"
"Please don't be quite so brutal, Rudolph. It is not becoming in a
Musgrave of Matocton to speak of women in any tone other than the most
honeyed accents of chivalry."
"Oh, I was only quoting Patricia," the colonel largely said,
"and--er--Jack," he continued. "By the way, Jack, Clarice Pendomer will
be at Matocton--"
"I rejoice in her good luck," said Charteris, equably.
"--and--well! I was wondering--?"
"I can assure you that there will be no--trouble. That skeleton is
safely locked in its closet, and the key to that closet is missing--more
thanks to you. You acted very nobly in the whole affair, Rudolph. I wish
I could do things like that. As it is, of course, I shall always detest
you for having been able to do it."
Charteris said, thereafter: "I shall always envy you, though, Rudolph.
No other man I know has ever attained the good old troubadourish ideal
of _domnei_--that love which rather abhors than otherwise the notion of
possessing its object. I still believe it was a distinct relief to a
certain military officer, whose name we need not mention, when Anne
decided not to marry you."
The colonel grinned, a trifle consciously. "Well, Anne meant youth, you
comprehend, and all the things we then believed in, Jack. It would have
been decidedly difficult to live up to such a contract, and--as it
were--to fulfil every one of the implied specifications!"
"And yet"--here Charteris flicked his cigarette--"Anne ruled in the
stead of Aline Van Orden. And Aline, in turn, had followed Clarice
Pendomer. And before the coming of Clarice had Pauline Romeyne, whom
time has converted into Polly Ashmeade, reigned in the land--"
"Don't be an ass!" the colonel pleaded; and then observed,
inconsequently: "I can't somehow quite realize Aline is dead. Lord,
Lord, the letters that I wrote to her! She sent them all back, you know,
in genuine romantic fashion, after we had quarreled. I found those
boyish ravings only the other day in my father's desk at Matocton, and
skimmed them over. I shall read them through some day and appropriately
meditate over life's mysteries that are too sad for tears."
He meditated now.
"It wouldn't be quite equitable, Jack," the colonel summed it up, "if
the Aline I loved--no, I don't mean the real woman, the one you and all
the other people knew, the one that married the enterprising brewer and
died five years ago--were not waiting for me somewhere. I can't express
just what I mean, but you will understand, I know--?"
"That heaven is necessarily run on a Mohammedan basis? Why, of course,"
said Mr. Charteris. "Heaven, as I apprehend it, is a place where we
shall live eternally among those ladies of old years who never
condescended actually to inhabit any realm more tangible than that of
our boyish fancies. It is the obvious definition; and I defy you to
evolve a more enticing allurement toward becoming a deacon."
"You romancers are privileged to talk nonsense anywhere," the colonel
estimated, "and I suppose that in the Lichfield you have made famous,
Jack, you have a double right."
"Ah, but I never wrote a line concerning Lichfield. I only wrote about
the Lichfield whose existence you continue to believe in, in spite of
the fact that you are actually living in the real Lichfield," Charteris
returned. "The vitality of the legend is wonderful."
He cocked his head to one side--an habitual gesture with Charteris--and
the colonel noted, as he had often done before, how extraordinarily
reminiscent Jack was of a dried-up, quizzical black parrot. Said
"I love to serve that legend. I love to prattle of 'ole Marster' and
'ole Miss,' and throw in a sprinkling of 'mockin'-buds' and 'hants' and
'horg-killing time,' and of sweeping animadversions as to all 'free
niggers'; and to narrate how 'de quality use ter cum'--you spell it
c-u-m because that looks so convincingly like dialect--'ter de gret
hous.' Those are the main ingredients. And, as for the unavoidable
love-interest--" Charteris paused, grinned, and pleasantly resumed:
"Why, jes arter dat, suh, a hut Yankee cap'en, whar some uv our folks
done shoot in de laig, wuz lef on de road fer daid--a quite notorious
custom on the part of all Northern armies--un Young Miss had him fotch
up ter de gret hous, un nuss im same's he one uv de fambly, un dem two
jes fit un argufy scanlous un never spicion huccum dey's in love wid
each othuh till de War's ovuh. And there you are! I need not mention
that during the tale's progress it is necessary to introduce at least
one favorable mention of Lincoln, arrange a duel 'in de low grouns'
immediately after day-break, and have the family silver interred in the
back garden, because these points will naturally suggest themselves."
"Jack, Jack!" the colonel cried, "it is an ill bird that fouls its own
"But, believe me, I don't at heart," said Charteris, in a queer earnest
voice. "There is a sardonic imp inside me that makes me jeer at the
commoner tricks of the trade--and yet when I am practising that trade,
when I am writing of those tender-hearted, brave and gracious men and
women, and of those dear old darkies, I very often write with tears in
my eyes. I tell you this with careful airiness because it is true and
because it would embarrass me so horribly if you believed it."
Then he was off upon another tack. "And wherein, pray, have I harmed
Lichfield by imagining a dream city situated half way between Atlantis
and Avalon and peopled with superhuman persons--and by having called
this city Lichfield? The portrait did not only flatter Lichfield, it
flattered human nature. So, naturally, it pleased everybody. Yes, that,
I take it, is the true secret of romance--to induce the momentary
delusion that humanity is a superhuman race, profuse in aspiration, and
prodigal in the exercise of glorious virtues and stupendous vices. As a
matter of fact, all human passions are depressingly chicken-hearted, I
find. Were it not for the police court records, I would pessimistically
insist that all of us elect to love one person and to hate another with
very much the same enthusiasm that we display in expressing a preference
for rare roast beef as compared with the outside slice. Oh, really,
Rudolph, you have no notion how salutary it is to the self-esteem of us
romanticists to run across, even nowadays, an occasional breach of the
peace. For then sometimes--when the coachman obligingly cuts the
butler's throat in the back-alley, say--we actually presume to think for
a moment that our profession is almost as honest as that of making
The colonel did not interrupt his brief pause of meditation. Then the
"Why, no; if I were ever really to attempt a tale of Lichfield, I would
not write a romance but a tragedy. I think that I would call my tragedy
_Futility_, for it would mirror the life of Lichfield with unengaging
candor; and, as a consequence, people would complain that my tragedy
lacked sustained interest, and that its participants were inconsistent;
that it had no ordered plot, no startling incidents, no high endeavors,
and no especial aim; and that it was equally deficient in all
time-hallowed provocatives of either laughter or tears. For very few
people would understand that a life such as this, when rightly viewed,
is the most pathetic tragedy conceivable."
"Oh, come, now, Jack! come, recollect that your reasoning powers are
almost as worthy of employment as your rhetorical abilities! We are not
quite so bad as that, you know. We may be a little behind the times in
Lichfield; we certainly let well enough alone, and we take things pretty
much as they come; but we meddle with nobody, and, after all, we don't
do any especial harm."
"We don't do anything whatever in especial, Rudolph. That would be
precisely the theme of my story of the real Lichfield if I were ever
bold enough to write it. There seems to be a sort of blight upon
Lichfield. Oh, yes! it would be unfair, perhaps, to contrast it with the
bigger Southern cities, like Richmond and Atlanta and New Orleans; but
even the inhabitants of smaller Southern towns are beginning to buy
excursion tickets, and thereby ascertain that the twentieth century has
really begun. Yes, it is only in Lichfield I can detect the raw stuff of
a genuine tragedy; for, depend upon it, Rudolph, the most pathetic
tragedy in life is to get nothing in particular out of it."
"But, for my part, I don't see what you are driving at," the colonel
And Charteris only laughed. "And I hardly expected you to do so,
Rudolph--or not yet, at least."
PART FIVE - SOUVENIR
"I am contented by remembrances--
Dreams of dead passions, wraiths of vanished times,
Fragments of vows, and by-ends of old rhymes--
Flotsam and jetsam tumbling in the seas
Whereon, long since, put forth our argosies
Which, bent on traffic in the Isles of Love,
Lie foundered somewhere in some firth thereof,
Encradled by eternal silences."
"Thus, having come to naked bankruptcy,
Let us part friends, as thrifty tradesmen do
When common ventures fail, for it may be
These battered oaths and rhymes may yet ring true
To some fair woman's hearing, so that she
Will listen and think of love, and I of you."
F. Ashcroft Wheeler. _Revisions_.
When the _Reliance_, the _Constitution_ and the _Columbia_ were holding
trial races off Newport to decide which one of these yachts should
defend the _America's_ cup; when the tone of the Japanese press as to
Russia's actions in Manchuria was beginning to grow ominous; when the
Jews of America were drafting a petition to the Czar; and when it was
rumored that the health of Pope Leo XIII was commencing to fail:--at
this remote time, the Musgraves gave their first house-party.
And at this period Colonel Musgrave noted and admired the apparent
unconcern with which John Charteris and Clarice Pendomer encountered at
Matocton. And at this period Colonel Musgrave noted with approval the
intimacy which was, obviously, flourishing between the little novelist
Also Colonel Musgrave had presently good reason to lament a contretemps,
over which he was sulking when Mrs. Pendomer rustled to her seat at the
breakfast-table, with a shortness of breath that was partly due to the
stairs, and in part attributable to her youthful dress, which fitted a
trifle too perfectly.
"Waffles?" said Mrs. Pendomer. "At my age and weight the first is an
experiment and the fifth an amiable indiscretion of which I am
invariably guilty. Sugar, please." She yawned, and reached a
generously-proportioned arm toward the sugar-bowl. "Yes, that will do,
Colonel Musgrave--since the remainder of his house-party had already
breakfasted--raised his fine eyes toward the chandelier, and sighed, as
Pilkins demurely closed the dining-room door.
Leander Pilkins--butler for a long while now to the Musgraves of
Matocton--would here, if space permitted, be the subject of an encomium.
Leander Pilkins was in Lichfield considered to be, upon the whole, the
handsomest man whom Lichfield had produced; for this quadroon's skin was
like old ivory, and his profile would have done credit to an emperor.
His terrapin is still spoken of in Lichfield as people in less favored
localities speak of the Golden Age, and his mayonnaise (boasts
Lichfield) would have compelled an Olympian to plead for a second
helping. For the rest, his deportment in all functions of butlership is
best described as super-Chesterfieldian; and, indeed, he was generally
known to be a byblow of Captain Beverley Musgrave's, who in his day was
Lichfield's arbiter as touched the social graces. And so, no more of
Mrs. Pendomer partook of chops. "Is this remorse," she queried, "or a
convivially induced requirement for bromides? At this unearthly hour of
the morning it is very often difficult to disentangle the two."
"It is neither," said Colonel Musgrave, and almost snappishly.
Followed an interval of silence. "Really," said Mrs. Pendomer, and as
with sympathy, "one would think you had at last been confronted with one
of your thirty-seven pasts--or is it thirty-eight, Rudolph?"
Colonel Musgrave frowned disapprovingly at her frivolity; he swallowed
his coffee, and buttered a superfluous potato. "H'm!" said he; "then you
"I know," sighed she, "that a sleeping past frequently suffers from
"And in that case," said he, darkly, "it is not the only sufferer."
Mrs. Pendomer considered the attractions of a third waffle--a mellow
blending of autumnal yellows, fringed with a crisp and irresistible
brown, that, for the moment, put to flight all dreams and visions of
"And Patricia?" she queried, with a mental hiatus.
Colonel Musgrave flushed.
"Patricia," he conceded, with mingled dignity and sadness, "is, after
all, still in her twenties----"
"Yes," said Mrs. Pendomer, with a dryness which might mean anything or
nothing; "she _was_ only twenty-one when she married you."
"I mean," he explained, with obvious patience, "that at her age she--not
unnaturally--takes an immature view of things. Her unspoiled purity,"
he added, meditatively, "and innocence and general unsophistication are,
of course, adorable, but I can admit to thinking that for a journey
through life they impress me as excess baggage."
"Patricia," said Mrs. Pendomer, soothingly, "has ideals. And ideals,
like a hare-lip or a mission in life, should be pitied rather than
condemned, when our friends possess them; especially," she continued,
buttering her waffle, "as so many women have them sandwiched between
their last attack of measles and their first imported complexion. No one
of the three is lasting, Rudolph."
"H'm!" said he.
There was another silence. The colonel desperately felt that matters
were not advancing.
"H'm!" said she, with something of interrogation in her voice.
"See here, Clarice, I have known you----"
"You have not!" cried she, very earnestly; "not by five years!"
"Well, say for some time. You are a sensible woman----"
"A man," Mrs. Pendomer lamented, parenthetically, "never suspects a
woman of discretion, until she begins to lose her waist."
"--and I am sure that I can rely upon your womanly tact, and finer
instincts,--and that sort of thing, you know--to help me out of a deuce
of a mess."
Mrs. Pendomer ate on, in an exceedingly noncommittal fashion, as he
"She has been reading some letters," said he, at length; "some letters
that I wrote a long time ago."
"In the case of so young a girl," observed Mrs. Pendomer, with perfect
comprehension, "I should have undoubtedly recommended a judicious
supervision of her reading-matter."
"She was looking through an old escritoire," he explained; "Jack
Charteris had suggested that some of my father's letters--during the
War, you know--. might be of value--"
He paused, for Mrs. Pendomer appeared on the verge of a question.
But she only said, "So it was Mr. Charteris who suggested Patricia's
searching the desk. Ah, yes! And then--?"
"And it was years ago--and just the usual sort of thing, though it may
have seemed from the letters--Why, I hadn't given the girl a thought,"
he cried, in virtuous indignation, "until Patricia found the
letters--and read them!"
"Naturally," she assented--"yes,--just as I read George's."
The smile with which she accompanied this remark, suggested that both
Mr. Pendomer's correspondence and home life were at times of an
"I had destroyed the envelopes when she returned them," continued
Colonel Musgrave, with morose confusion of persons. "Patricia doesn't
even know who the girl was--her name, somehow, was not mentioned."
"'Woman of my heart'--'Dearest girl in all the world,'" quoted Mrs.
Pendomer, reminiscently, "and suchlike tender phrases, scattered in with
a pepper-cruet, after the rough copy was made in pencil, and dated just
'Wednesday,' or 'Thursday,' of course. Ah, you were always very careful,
Rudolph," she sighed; "and now that makes it all the worse, because--as
far as all the evidence goes--these letters may have been returned
"Why--!" Colonel Musgrave pulled up short, hardly seeing his way clear
through the indignant periods on which he had entered. "I declined,"
said he, somewhat lamely, "to discuss the matter with her, in her
present excited and perfectly unreasonable condition."
Mrs. Pendomer's penciled eyebrows rose, and her lips--which were quite
as red as there was any necessity for their being--twitched.
"Hysterics?" she asked.
"Worse!" groaned Colonel Musgrave; "patient resignation under unmerited
He had picked up a teaspoon, and he carefully balanced it upon his
"There were certain phrases in these letters which were, somehow,
repeated in certain letters I wrote to Patricia the summer we were
engaged, and--not to put too fine a point upon it--she doesn't like it."
Mrs. Pendomer smiled, as though she considered this not improbable; and
he continued, with growing embarrassment and indignation:
"She says there must have been others"--Mrs. Pendomer's smile grew
reminiscent--"any number of others; that she is only an incident in my
life. Er--as you have mentioned, Patricia has certain notions--Northern
idiocies about the awfulness of a young fellow's sowing his wild oats,
which you and I know perfectly well he is going to do, anyhow, if he is
worth his salt. But she doesn't know it, poor little girl. So she won't
listen to reason, and she won't come downstairs--which," lamented
Rudolph Musgrave, plaintively, "is particularly awkward in a
He drummed his fingers, for a moment, on the table.
"It is," he summed up, "a combination of Ibsen and hysterics, and
of--er, rather declamatory observations concerning there being one law
for the man and another for the woman, and Patricia's realization of the
mistake we both made--and all that sort of nonsense, you know, exactly
as if, I give you my word, she were one of those women who want to
vote." The colonel, patently, considered that feminine outrageousness
could go no farther. "And she is taking menthol and green tea and
mustard plasters and I don't know what all, in bed, prior to--to----"
"Taking leave?" Mrs. Pendomer suggested.
"Er--that was mentioned, I believe," said Colonel Musgrave. "But of
course she was only talking."
Mrs. Pendomer looked about her; and, without, the clean-shaven lawns
and trim box-hedges were very beautiful in the morning sunlight; within,
the same sunlight sparkled over the heavy breakfast service, and gleamed
in the high walnut panels of the breakfast-room. She viewed the
comfortable appointments about her a little wistfully, for Mrs.
Pendomer's purse was not over-full.
"Of course," said she, as in meditation, "there was the money."
"Yes," said Rudolph Musgrave, slowly; "there was the money."
He sprang to his feet, and drew himself erect. Here was a moment he must
give its full dramatic value.
"Oh, no, Clarice, my marriage may have been an eminently sensible one,
but I love my wife. Oh, believe me, I love her very tenderly, poor
little Patricia! I have weathered some forty-seven birthdays; and I have
done much as other men do, and all that--there have been flirtations and
suchlike, and--er--some women have been kinder to me than I deserved.
But I love her; and there has not been a moment since she came into my
life I haven't loved her, and been--" he waved his hands now impotently,
almost theatrically--"sickened at the thought of the others."
Mrs. Pendomer's foot tapped the floor whilst he spoke. When he had made
an ending, she inclined her head toward him.
"Thank you!" said Mrs. Pendomer.
Colonel Musgrave bit his lip; and he flushed.
"That," said he, hastily, "was different."
But the difference, whatever may have been its nature, was seemingly a
matter of unimportance to Mrs. Pendomer, who was in meditation. She
rested her ample chin on a much-bejeweled hand for a moment; and, when
Mrs. Pendomer raised her face, her voice was free from affectation.
"You will probably never understand that this particular July day is a
crucial point in your life. You will probably remember it, if you
remember it at all, simply as that morning when Patricia found some
girl-or-another's old letters, and behaved rather unreasonably about
them. It was the merest trifle, you will think.... John Charteris
understands women better than you do, Rudolph."
"I need not pretend at this late day to be as clever as Jack," the
colonel said, in some bewilderment. "But why not more succinctly state
that the Escurial is not a dromedary, although there are many flies in
France? For what on earth has Jack to do with crucial points and July
"Why, I suppose, I only made bold to introduce his name for the sake of
an illustration, Rudolph. For the last person in the world to realize,
precisely, why any woman did anything is invariably the woman who did
it.... Yet there comes in every married woman's existence that time when
she realizes, suddenly, that her husband has a past which might be
taken as, in itself, a complete and rounded life--as a life which had
run the gamut of all ordinary human passions, and had become familiar
with all ordinary human passions a dishearteningly long while before she
ever came into that life. A woman never realizes that of her lover,
somehow. But to know that your husband, the father of your child, has
lived for other women a life in which you had no part, and never can
have part!--she realizes that, at one time or another, and--and it
sickens her." Mrs. Pendomer smiled as she echoed his phrase, but her
eyes were not mirthful.
"Ah, she hungers for those dead years, Rudolph, and, though you devote
your whole remaining life to her, nothing can ever make up for them; and
she always hates those shadowy women who have stolen them from her. A
woman never, at heart, forgives the other women who have loved her
husband, even though she cease to care for him herself. For she
remembers--ah, you men forget so easily, Rudolph! God had not invented
memory when he created Adam; it was kept for the woman."
Then ensued a pause, during which Rudolph Musgrave smiled down upon her,
irresolutely; for he abhorred "a scene," as his vernacular phrased it,
and to him Clarice's present manner bordered upon both the scenic and
"Ah!--you women!" he temporized.
There was a glance from eyes whose luster time and irregular living had
conspired to dim.
"Ah!--you men!" Mrs. Pendomer retorted. "And there we have the tragedy
of life in a nutshell!"
Silence lasted for a while. The colonel was finding this matutinal talk
discomfortably opulent in pauses.
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