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 solar system.
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 unworthiness.
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 mansion.