Such was the tenor of Agatha’s last letter, of the last self-expression of that effigy upstairs who (you could see) knew everything and was not discontent.
Here the dead spoke, omniscient; and told you that Stanley Haggage had gone to Alabama, and that marriage brought new cares and anxieties.
“I cannot laugh,” said Rudolph Musgrave, aloud. “I know the jest deserves it. But I cannot laugh, because my upper lip seems to be made of leather and I can’t move it. And, besides, I loved Agatha to a degree which only You and I have ever known of. She never understood quite how I loved her. Oh, won’t You make her understand just how I loved her? For Agatha is dead, because You wanted her to be dead, and I have never told her how much I loved her, and now I cannot ever tell her how much I loved her. Oh, won’t You please show me that You have made her understand? or else have me struck by lightning? or do anything....?”
Nothing was done.
And afterward Rudolph Musgrave and his wife met amicably, and without reference to their last talk. Patricia wore black-and-white for some six months, and Colonel Musgrave accepted the compromise tacitly. All passed with perfect smoothness between them; and anyone in Lichfield would have told you that the Musgraves were a model couple.
She called him “Rudolph” now.
“Olaf is such a silly-sounding nickname for two old married people, you know,” Patricia estimated.
The colonel negligently said that he supposed it did sound odd.
“Only I don’t think Clarice Pendomer would care about coming,” he resumed,—for the two were discussing an uncompleted list of the people Patricia was to invite to their first house-party.
“And for heaven’s sake, why not? We always have her to everything.”
He could not tell her it was because the Charterises were to be among their guests. So he said: “Oh, well—!”
“Mrs. C.B. Pendomer, then”—Patricia wrote the name with a flourish. “Oh, you jay-bird, I’m not jealous. Everybody knows you never had any more morals than a tom-cat on the back fence. It’s a lucky thing the boy didn’t take after you, isn’t it? He doesn’t, not a bit. No, Harry Pendomer is the puniest black-haired little wretch, whereas your other son, sir, resembles his mother and is in consequence a ravishingly beautiful person of superlative charm—”
He was staring at her so oddly that she paused. So Patricia was familiar with that old scandal which linked his name with Clarice Pendomer’s! He was wondering if Patricia had married him in the belief that she was marrying a man who, appraised by any standards, had acted infamously.
“I was only thinking you had better ask Judge Allardyce, Patricia. You see, he is absolutely certain not to come—”
* * * * *
This year the Musgraves had decided not to spend the spring alone together at Matocton, as they had done the four preceding years.