Madelon glanced at the hearth, where she had laid the wood symmetrically—all ready to be kindled at a moment’s notice should Burr come. “I’ll light the fire,” said she, in a trembling voice.
“No, I can’t stop,” returned the young man. “I’ve got to go right up to the tavern. Look here, Madelon—”
“Well?” she murmured, trembling.
“I want to know if—look here, won’t you lilt for the dancing to-night, Madelon?”
Madelon’s face changed. “That’s all he came for,” she thought. She turned away from him. “You’d better get Luke Corliss to fiddle,” she said, coldly.
“We can’t. I started to go over there, and I met a man that lives next door to him, and he said it was no use, for Luke had gone down to Winfield to fiddle at a ball there.”
“I don’t feel like lilting to-night,” said Madelon.
The young man colored. “Well,” said he, in a stiff, embarrassed voice, and he turned towards the door, “we won’t have any ball to-night, that’s all,” he added.
“Well, you can go visiting instead,” returned Madelon, suddenly.
“I’d rather go a-visiting—here!” cried Burr, with a quick fervor, and he turned back and came close to her.
Madelon looked at him sharply, steeling her heart against his tender tone, but he met her gaze with passionate eyes.
“Oh, Madelon, you look so beautiful to-night!” he whispered, hoarsely. Her eyes fell before his. She made, whether she would or not, a motion towards him, and he put his arms around her. They kissed again and again, lingering upon each kiss as if it were a foothold in heaven. A great rapture of faith in her lover and his love came over Madelon. She said to herself that they had lied—they had all lied! Burr had never courted Dorothy Fair. She believed, with her whole heart and soul, that he loved her and her alone. And, indeed, she was at that time, at that minute, right and not deceived; for Burr Gordon was one of those who can encompass love in one tense only, and that the present; and they who love only in the present, hampered by no memories and no dreams, yield out love’s sweetness fully. All Burr Gordon’s soul was in his kisses and his fond eyes, and her own crept out to meet it with perfect faith.
“I will lilt for the dancing,” she whispered.
The Hautvilles were going to the ball on their wood-sled, drawn by oxen. David was to drive them, and take the team home. It was already before the door when Burr came out, and Madelon asked him to ride with them, but he refused. “I’ve got to go home first,” he said, and plunged off quickly down the old road, the short-cut to his house.
Madelon Hautville, in her red cloak and her great silk hood, stood in the midst of her brothers on the wood-sled, and the oxen drew them ponderously to the ball. The tavern was all alight. Many other sleds were drawn up before the door; indeed, certain of the young men who had not their especial sweethearts took their ox-sleds and went from door to door collecting the young women. Many a jingling load slipped along the snowy road to the tavern that night, and the ball-room filled rapidly.