Anne broke off short. “Was I being inadequate again? I am sorry, but with children you never know what a cold may lead to, and I really do not believe it good for him to sit in this damp grass.”
“Sonnikins,” said Rudolph Musgrave, “you had better climb up into my lap, before you and I are Podsnapped from the universe by the only embodiment of common-sense just now within our reach.”
He patted the boy’s head and latterly resumed: “I am afraid of you, Anne. Whenever I am imagining vain things or stitching romantic possibilities, like embroideries, about the fabric of my past, I always find the real you in my path, as undeniable as a gas-bill. I don’t believe you ever dare to think, because there is no telling what it might lead to. You are simply unassailably armored by the courage of other people’s convictions.”
Her candid eyes met his over the boy’s bright head. “And what in the world are you talking about?”
“I am lamenting. I am rending the air and beating my breast on account of your obstinate preference for being always in the right. I do wish you would endeavor to impersonate a human being a trifle more convincingly——”
But the great gong, booming out for luncheon, interrupted him at this point, and Colonel Musgrave was never permitted to finish his complaint against Anne’s unimaginativeness.
On that same Sunday morning, while Anne Charteris and Rudolph Musgrave contended with little Roger’s boredom on the lawn before Matocton, Patricia and Charteris met by accident on the seventh terrace of the gardens. Patricia had mentioned casually at the breakfast-table that she intended to spend the forenoon on this terrace unsabbatically making notes for a paper on “The Symbolism of Dante,” which she was to read before the Lichfield Woman’s Club in October; but Mr. Charteris had not overheard her.
He was seated on the front porch, working out a somewhat difficult point in his new book, when it had first occurred to him that this particular terrace would be an inspiring and appropriate place in which to think the matter over, undisturbed, he said. And it was impossible he should have known that anyone was there, as the seventh terrace happens to be the only one that, being planted with beech-trees, is completely screened from observation. From the house, you cannot see anything that happens there.
It was a curious accident, though. It really seemed, now that Patricia had put an ending to their meetings in the maple-grove, Fate was conspiring to bring them together.
However, as Mr. Charteris pointed out, there could be no possible objection to this conspiracy, since they had decided that their friendship was to be of a purely platonic nature. It was a severe trial to him, he confessed, to be forced to put aside certain dreams he had had of the future—mad dreams, perhaps, but such as had seemed very dear and very plausible to his impractical artistic temperament.