The next morning Madelon came down-stairs as usual and prepared breakfast. When it was ready the family sat up to the table and ate silently and swiftly. No one addressed a word to Madelon. After breakfast David and his son Abner put on their leather jackets and their fur caps, and set forth for the woods with their axes, but Eugene lounged gracefully over to the hearth and sat down on the settle, and began reading his Shakespeare book. Eugene was the only one of the Hautvilles who ever read books. He studied faithfully the few in the house—the Shakespeare, the Pilgrim’s Progress, Milton, and Gulliver’s Travels. The others wondered at him. They could not understand how any one who could handle a gun or a musical instrument could lay finger on a book. “Made-up things,” said Abner once, with a scornful motion towards Shakespeare.
“No more made-up than fugue,” retorted Eugene, hotly; but they all cried out on him.
This morning Madelon cast one quick glance at him as he sauntered over to the settle with his book. Then she did not look his way again. She worked quietly, setting the kitchen to rights.
The day was very cold; the light in the room was dim and white, the windows were coated so thickly with the hoar-frost. Eugene kept stirring the fire and adding sticks as he read.
Finally, Madelon had finished her work in the kitchen, and went up-stairs. Then Eugene arose reluctantly, went out into the cold entry, and stood by the door with his book in hand. Madelon, passing across the landing above, looked down and saw him standing there, and knew that what she suspected was true—that her brother was mounting guard over her lest she leave the house.
She finished her work in the chamber, and came down-stairs with some knitting-work in hand. She seated herself quietly in her own cushioned rocking-chair, and fell to work with yarn and clicking needles, like any peaceful housewife. She knitted and Eugene read, bending his handsome dark face, smiling with pleasure, over his Shakespeare book. This fierce winter day he was reading “A Midsummer-Night’s Dream,” and letting his fancy revel with Shakespeare’s fairies in an enchanted summer wood. He was, however, alert as a watch-dog. He could at an instant’s warning leave that delicate and dainty crew and those flowery shores, and intercept his sister, should she attempt to pass him and escape from the house.
Still, his alertness all came to naught, for Madelon, like some fleeing fox, took a sudden turn which no canny hunter could have anticipated. She sat somewhat away from the hearth and well at Eugene’s back. He would have asked her why she did not draw nearer the fire and if she were not cold had he not feared to encounter a sulky humor. He could not see the lengths of linen cloth, which she herself had spun and woven, lying in a great heap on the floor, half at her back, half under her petticoats. However, could he have seen it he would have thought of it merely as some mysterious domestic and feminine proceeding about which he neither knew nor cared to know anything.