The colonel spoke with emphasis, and flung away his cigarette, and took up his hat to go.
And then, “I suppose,” said Miss Musgrave, absently, “you will be falling in love with her, just as you did with Anne Charteris and Aline Van Orden and all those other minxes. I would like to see you married, Rudolph, only I couldn’t stand your having a wife.”
“I! I!” sputtered the colonel. “I think you must be out of your head! I fall in love with that chit! Good Lord, Agatha, you are positively idiotic!”
And the colonel turned on his heel, and walked stiffly through the garden. But, when half-way down the path, he wheeled about and came back.
“I beg your pardon, Agatha,” he said, contritely, “it was not my intention to be discourteous. But somehow—somehow, dear, I don’t quite see the necessity for my falling in love with anybody, so long as I have you.”
And Miss Musgrave, you may be sure, forgave him promptly; and afterward—with a bit of pride and an infinity of love in her kind, homely face,—her eyes followed him out of the garden on his way to open the Library. And she decided in her heart that she had the dearest and best and handsomest brother in the universe, and that she must remember to tell him, accidentally, how becoming his new hat was. And then, at some unspoken thought, she smiled, wistfully.
“She would be a very lucky girl if he did,” said Miss Musgrave, apropos of nothing in particular; and tossed her grizzly head.
“An earl, indeed!” said Miss Musgrave
And this is how it came about:
Patricia Vartrey (a second cousin once removed of Colonel Rudolph Musgrave’s), as the older inhabitants of Lichfield will volubly attest, was always a person who did peculiar things. The list of her eccentricities is far too lengthy here to be enumerated; but she began it by being born with red hair—Titian reds and auburns were undiscovered euphemisms in those days—and, in Lichfield, this is not regarded as precisely a lady-like thing to do; and she ended it, as far as Lichfield was concerned, by eloping with what Lichfield in its horror could only describe, with conscious inadequacy, as “a quite unheard-of person.”
Indisputably the man was well-to-do already; and from this nightmarish topsy-turvidom of Reconstruction the fellow visibly was plucking wealth. Also young Stapylton was well enough to look at, too, as Lichfield flurriedly conceded.
But it was equally undeniable that he had made his money through a series of commercial speculations distinguished both by shiftiness and daring, and that the man himself had been until the War a wholly negligible “poor white” person,—an overseer, indeed, for “Wild Will” Musgrave, Colonel Musgrave’s father, who was of course the same Lieutenant-Colonel William Sebastian Musgrave, C.S.A., that met his death at Gettysburg.