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 believe.”
“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 to next.”
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.