Patricia paused, and laughed.
“But we were talking of Rudolph,” she said, with a touch of weariness. “Rudolph has all the virtues that a woman most admires until she attempts to live in the same house with them.”
“I thank you,” said Mr. Charteris, “for the high opinion you entertain of my moral character.” He bestowed a reproachful sigh upon her, and continued: “At any rate, Rudolph Musgrave has been an unusually lucky man—the luckiest that I know of.”
Patricia had risen as if to go. She turned her big purple eyes on him for a moment.
“You—you think so?” she queried, hesitatingly.
Afterward she spread out her hands in a helpless gesture, and laughed for no apparent reason, and sat down again.
“Why?” said Patricia.
It took Charteris fully an hour to point out all the reasons.
Patricia told him very frankly that she considered him to be talking nonsense, but she seemed quite willing to listen.
Sunset was approaching on the following afternoon when Rudolph Musgrave, fresh from Lichfield,—whither, as has been recorded, the bringing out of the July number of the Lichfield Historical Associations Quarterly Magazine had called him,—came out on the front porch at Matocton. He had arrived on the afternoon train, about an hour previously, in time to superintend little Roger’s customary evening transactions with an astounding quantity of bread and milk; and, Roger abed, his father, having dressed at once for supper, found himself ready for that meal somewhat in advance of the rest of the house-party.
Indeed, only one of them was visible at this moment—a woman, who was reading on a rustic bench some distance from the house, and whose back was turned to him. The poise of her head, however, was not unfamiliar; also, it is not everyone who has hair that is like a nimbus of thrice-polished gold.
Colonel Musgrave threw back his shoulders, and drew a deep breath. Subsequently, with a fine air of unconcern, he inspected the view from the porch, which was, in fact, quite worthy of his attention. Interesting things have happened at Matocton—many events that have been preserved in the local mythology, not always to the credit of the old Musgraves, and a few which have slipped into a modest niche in history. It was, perhaps, on these that Colonel Musgrave pondered so intently.
Once the farthingaled and red-heeled gentry came in sluggish barges to Matocton, and the broad river on which the estate faces was thick with bellying sails; since the days of railroads, one approaches the mansion through the maple-grove in the rear, and enters ignominiously by the back-door.