The man was destined to remember that utterance—and, with the recollection, to laugh not altogether in either scorn or merriment.
PART FOUR — APPRECIATION
“You have chosen; and I cry content
And cry your pardon also, and am reproved
In that I took you for a woman I loved
Odd centuries ago, and would undo
That curious error. Nay, your eyes are blue,
Your speech is gracious, but you are not she,
And I am older—and changed how utterly!—
I am no longer I, you are not you.
“Time, destined as we thought but
And guerdon love like ours, finds you beset
With joys and griefs I neither share nor mend
Who am a stranger; and we two are met
Nor wholly glad nor sorry; and the end
Of too much laughter is a faint regret.”
R.E. TOWNSEND. Sonnets for Elena.
Next morning Rudolph Musgrave found the world no longer an impassioned place, but simply a familiar habitation,—no longer the wrestling-ground of big emotions, indeed, but undoubtedly a spot, whatever were its other pretensions to praise, wherein one was at home. He breakfasted on ham and eggs, in a state of tolerable equanimity; and mildly wondered at himself for doing it.
The colonel was deep in a heraldic design and was whistling through his teeth when Patricia came into the Library. He looked up, with the outlines of a frown vanishing like pencilings under the india-rubber of professional courtesy,—for he was denoting or at the moment, which is fussy work, as it consists exclusively of dots.
Then his chair scraped audibly upon the floor as he pushed it from him. It occurred to Rudolph Musgrave after an interval that he was still half-way between sitting and standing, and that his mouth was open....
He could hear a huckster outside on Regis Avenue. The colonel never forgot the man was crying “Fresh oranges!”
“He kissed me, Olaf. Yes, I let him kiss me, even after he had asked me if he could. No sensible girl would ever do that, of course. And then I knew—”
Patricia was horribly frightened.
“And afterwards the jackass-fool made matters worse by calling me ’his darling.’ There is no more hateful word in the English language than ‘darling.’ It sounds like castor-oil tastes, or a snail looks after you have put salt on him.”
The colonel deliberated this information; and he appeared to understand.
“So Parkinson has gone the way of Pevensey,—. and of I wonder how many others? Well, may Heaven be very gracious to us both!” he said. “For I am going to do it.”
Then composedly he took up the telephone upon his desk and called Roger Stapylton.