Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
Colonel Rudolph Musgrave, family head of the Musgraves of Matocton in Litchfield, was forty years old in 1896. He was a consummate Southern gentleman: an aristocrat, a scholar, a lover, and an indifferent businessman. A bachelor, he lived with his sister Miss Agatha, who let nothing interfere with his comfort. His small income from his position as librarian of the Litchfield Historical Society was augmented by his genealogical research for people who were trying to establish a pedigree. The brother and sister lived quite comfortably on his earnings.
Both, however, had inherited Musgrave weaknesses. She tippled, and he fell in love with many women. The Colonel had a streak of chivalry in his nature which prompted him to make gallant gestures of renunciation for the sake of the lady in question. His most recent act of chivalry, which had provided Litchfield with amusing gossip, occurred when he had been overheard by Anne Charteris—whom he had loved and lost to the selfish novelist, John Charteris—while he was reprimanding her husband for getting Mrs. Pendomer pregnant. Anne, who blindly worshipped her husband, had misunderstood the situation, and she had supposed that Musgrave was the guilty party. Musgrave had accepted the blame in order to save Anne from learning that her husband was a philanderer. Privately, Musgrave delighted in the episode.
The Musgraves were visited by Patricia Stapylton, the twenty-one-year-old daughter of a second...
(The entire section is 1143 words.)
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