“You are like your grandfather, sir, at times,” the latter said, inconsequently enough, when the colonel had finished.
And Rudolph Musgrave gave a little bowing gesture, with an entire gravity. He knew it was the highest tribute that Stapylton could pay to any man.
“She’s a daughter any father might be proud of,” said the banker, also. He removed his cigar from his mouth and looked at it critically. “She’s rather like her mother sometimes,” he said carelessly. “Her mother made a runaway match, you may remember—Damn’ poor cigar, this. But no, you wouldn’t, I reckon. I had branched out into cotton then and had a little place just outside of Chiswick—”
So that, all in all, Colonel Musgrave returned homeward not entirely dissatisfied.
The colonel sat for a long while before his fire that night. The room seemed less comfortable than he had ever known it. So many of his books and pictures and other furnishings had been already carried to Matocton that the walls were a little bare. Also there was a formidable pile of bills upon the table by him,—from contractors and upholsterers and furniture-houses, and so on, who had been concerned in the late renovation of Matocton,—the heralds of a host he hardly saw his way to dealing with.
He had flung away a deal of money that evening, with something which to him was dearer. Had you attempted to condole with him he would not have understood you.
“But what would you have had a gentleman do, sir?” Colonel Musgrave would have said, in real perplexity.
Besides, it was, in fact, not sorrow that he felt, rather it was contentment, when he remembered the girl’s present happiness; and what alone depressed the colonel’s courtly affability toward the universe at large was the queer, horrible new sense of being somehow out of touch with yesterday’s so comfortable world, of being out-moded, of being almost old.
“Eh, well!” he said; “I am of a certain age undoubtedly.”
By an odd turn the colonel thought of how his friends of his own class and generation had honestly admired the after-dinner speech which he had made that evening. And he smiled, but very tenderly, because they were all men and women whom he loved.
“The most of us have known each other for a long while. The most of us, in fact, are of a certain age.... I think no people ever met the sorry problem that we faced. For we were born the masters of a leisured, ordered world; and by a tragic quirk of destiny were thrust into a quite new planet, where we were for a while the inferiors, and after that just the competitors of yesterday’s slaves.
“We couldn’t meet the new conditions. Oh, for the love of heaven, let us be frank, and confess that we have not met them as things practical go. We hadn’t the training for it. A man who has not been taught to swim may rationally be excused for preferring to sit upon the bank; and should he elect to ornament his idleness with protestations that he is self-evidently an excellent swimmer, because once upon a time his progenitors were the only people in the world who had the slightest conception of how to perform a natatorial masterpiece, the thing is simply human nature. Talking chokes nobody, worse luck.