The world knows how Charteris was killed in Fairhaven by Jasper Hardress—the husband of “that flighty Mrs. Hardress” Anne had spoken of.
“And I hardly know,” said Mrs. Ashmeade, “whether more to admire the justice or the sardonic humor of the performance. Here after hundreds of entanglements with women, John Charteris manages to be shot by a jealous maniac on account of a woman with whom—for a wonder—his relations were proven to be innocent. The man needed killing, but it is asking too much of human nature to put up with his being made a martyr of.”
She cried a little, though. “It—it’s because I remember him when he was turning out his first mustache,” she explained, lucidly.
* * * * *
But with the horror and irony of John Charteris’s assassination the biographer of Rudolph Musgrave has really nothing to do save in so far as this event influenced the life of Rudolph Musgrave.
It was on the day of Charteris’s death—a fine, clear afternoon in late September—that Rudolph Musgrave went bass-fishing with some eight of his masculine guests. Luncheon was brought to them in a boat about two o’clock, along with the day’s mail.
“I say—! But listen, everybody!” cried Alfred Chayter, whose mail included a morning paper—the Lichfield Courier-Herald, in fact.
He read aloud.
“I wish I could be with Anne,” thought Colonel Musgrave. “It may be I could make things easier.”
But Anne was in Lichfield now....
He had just finished dressing for supper when it occurred to him that since their return from the river he had not seen Patricia. He was afraid that Patricia, also, would be upset by this deplorable news.
As he crossed the hall Virginia came out of Patricia’s rooms. The colonel raised his voice in speaking to her, for with age Virginia was growing very deaf.
“Yaas, suh,” she said, “I’m doin’ middlin’ well, suh, thank yeh, suh. Jus’ took the evenin’ mail to Miss Patricy, like I always do, suh.” She went away quietly, her pleasant yellow face as imperturbable as an idol’s.
He went into Patricia’s bedroom. Patricia had been taking an afternoon nap, and had not risen from the couch, where she lay with three or four unopened letters upon her breast. Two she had opened and dropped upon the floor. She seemed not to hear him when he spoke her name, and yet she was not asleep, because her eyes were partly unclosed.
There was no purple glint in them, as once there had been always. Her countenance, indeed, showed everywhere less brightly tinted than normally it should be. Her heavy copper-colored hair, alone undimmed, seemed, like some parasitic growth (he thought), to sustain its beauty by virtue of having drained Patricia’s body of color and vitality.
There was a newspaper in her right hand, with flamboyant headlines, because to Lichfield the death of John Charteris was an event of importance.