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.