She was considering the change in him. Anne was recollecting that Colonel Musgrave had somewhat pointedly avoided her since her widowhood. He seemed almost a stranger nowadays.
And she could not recognize in the man any resemblance to the boy whom she remembered—so long ago—excepting just his womanish mouth, which was as in the old time very full and red and sensitive. And, illogically enough, both this great change in him and this one feature that had never changed annoyed her equally.
She was also worried by his odd tone of flippancy. It jarred, it vaguely—for the phrase has no equivalent—“rubbed her the wrong way.” Here at a martyr’s tomb it was hideously out-of-place, and yet she did not see her way clear to rebuke. So she remained silent.
But Rudolph Musgrave was uncanny in some respects. For he said within the moment, “I am not a bit like John Charteris, am I?”
“No,” she answered, quietly. It had been her actual thought.
Anne stayed a tiny while quite motionless. Her eyes saw nothing physical. It was the attitude, Colonel Musgrave reflected, of one who listens to a far-off music and, incommunicably, you knew that the music was of a martial sort. She was all in black, of course, very slim and pure and beautiful. The great cluster of red roses, loosely held, was like blood against the somber gown.
The widow of John Charteris, in fine, was a very different person from that Anne Willoughby whom Rudolph Musgrave had loved so long and long ago. This woman had tasted of tonic sorrows unknown to Rudolph Musgrave, and had got consolation too, somehow, in far half-credible uplands unvisited by him. But, he knew, she lived, and was so exquisite, mainly by virtue of that delusion which he, of all men, had preserved; Anne Charteris was of his creation, his masterpiece; and viewing her, he was aware of great reverence and joy.
Anne was happy. It was for that he had played.
But aloud, “I am envious,” Rudolph Musgrave declared. “He is the single solitary man I ever knew whose widow was contented to be simply his relict for ever and ever, amen. For you will always be just the woman John Charteris loved, won’t you? Yes, if you lived to be thirty-seven years older than Methuselah, and every genius and potentate in the world should come a-wooing in the meantime, it never would occur to you that you could possibly be anything, even to an insane person, except his relict. And he has been dead now all of three whole years! So I am envious, just as we ordinary mortals can’t help being of you both; and—may I say it?—I am glad.”
They were standing thus when a boy of ten or eleven came unhurriedly into the “section.” He assumed possession of Colonel Musgrave’s hand as though the action were a matter of course.
“I got lost, Colonel Musgrave,” the child composedly announced. “I walked ever so far, and the gate wasn’t where we left it. And the roads kept turning and twisting so, it seemed I’d never get anywhere. I don’t like being lost when it’s getting dark and there’s so many dead people ’round, do you?”