The metaphor set him off at a tangent. He wondered if this Patricia person could not (tactfully) be induced to take her bath after breakfast, as Agatha did? after he had his? Why, confound the girl, he was not responsible for there being only one bathroom in the house! It was necessary for him to have his bath and be at the Library by nine o’clock. This interloper must be made to understand as much.
The colonel reached the Library undecided as to whether Miss Stapylton had better breakfast in her room, or if it would be entirely proper for her to come to the table in one of those fluffy lace-trimmed garments such as Agatha affected at the day’s beginning?
The question was a nice one. It was not as though servants were willing to be bothered with carrying trays to people’s rooms; he knew what Agatha had to say upon that subject. It was not as though he were the chit’s first cousin, either. He almost wished himself in the decline of life, and free to treat the girl paternally.
And so he fretted all that afternoon.
* * * * *
Then, too, he reflected that it would be very awkward if Agatha should be unwell while this Patricia person was in the house. Agatha in her normal state was of course the kindliest and cheeriest gentlewoman in the universe, but any physical illness appeared to transform her nature disastrously. She had her “attacks,” she “felt badly” very often nowadays, poor dear; and how was a Patricia person to be expected to make allowances for the fact that at such times poor Agatha was unavoidably a little cross and pessimistic?
Yet Colonel Musgrave strolled into his garden, later, with a tolerable affectation of unconcern. Women, after all, he assured himself, were necessary for the perpetuation of the species; and, resolving for the future to view these weakly, big-hipped and slope-shouldered makeshifts of Nature’s with larger tolerance, he cocked his hat at a devil-may-carish angle, and strode up the walk, whistling jauntily and having, it must be confessed, to the unprejudiced observer very much the air of a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
“At worst,” he was reflecting, “I can make love to her. They, as a rule, take kindlily enough to that; and in the exercise of hospitality a host must go to all lengths to divert his guests. Failure is not permitted....”
Then She came to him.
She came to him across the trim, cool lawn, leisurely, yet with a resilient tread that attested the vigor of her slim young body. She was all in white, diaphanous, ethereal, quite incredibly incredible; but as she passed through the long shadows of the garden—fire-new, from the heart of the sunset, Rudolph Musgrave would have sworn to you,—the lacy folds and furbelows and semi-transparencies that clothed her were now tinged with gold, and now, as a hedge or flower-bed screened her from the horizontal rays, were softened into multitudinous graduations of grays and mauves and violets.