There was a hush over the assembly so complete that it seemed as if the very personalities of the listeners were drawn back from self-consciousness to give free scope for sound. When Burr spoke, everybody heard.
“The marriage between Dorothy Fair and myself is broken off,” was all he said. Then he went out of the room as proudly as if his bride had been by his side, through the entry to the study. Parson Fair and his mother were there. “They know it,” he announced, quite calmly; then he took his fine wedding-hat from the table.
“Where are you going?” his mother demanded, quickly.
“To walk a little way.” Burr turned to Parson Fair. “I beg you not to feel that you must deal severely with your daughter for this,” he said, “for she does not deserve it. She was justified in asking what she did, and in feeling distrust that I did not answer.”
“If a wife’s faith cannot survive her husband’s silence, then is she no true spouse, and ’twas the part of a man not to answer,” said this Parson Fair, who had all his life followed in most roads the lead of his womankind, and not known it, so much state had he been allowed in his captivity.
“She was justified,” said Burr, “and I beg you, sir, not to visit any displeasure upon her. I have not at any time been worthy of her, although God knows had she not cast me off, and did not this last, with what I remember now of her manner for the last few weeks, make me sure that her heart is no longer mine, I would have lived my life for her, as best I could; and will now, should she say the word.”
With that, Burr Gordon thrust on his wedding-hat, and was out of the study and out of the south door of the house.
In the yard was drawn up in state, behind the five white horses, the grand old Gordon coach, which had not been used before since the death of Lot’s father. Lot had insisted upon furnishing the coach and the horses for his cousin’s wedding. The man who stood by the horses’ heads looked up at Burr in a dazed way when he came out of the house and spoke to him.
“When my mother is ready you can take her home, Silas,” said Burr. “Then drive over to my cousin’s, and put up the coach and the horses.”
The man gasped and looked at him. “Do you hear what I say?” said Burr, shortly.
The man gave an affirmative grunt, and strove to speak, but Burr cut him short. “Look out for that bad place in the road, before you get to the bridge,” he said, and went on out of the yard. The road was suddenly full of departing wedding-guests, fluttering along with shrill clatter of persistently individual notes, like a flock of birds.
Burr, out of the yard, passed along through their midst with a hasty yet dignified pace. He said to himself that he would not seem to be running away. He looked neither to the right nor left, except to avoid collisions with silken and muslin petticoats, yet he was conscious of the hush of voices as he passed, and knew that they all recognized him in the broad moonlight.