Madelon, as she knitted, ever measured the distance between her brother and herself with her great black eyes, training her nerves and muscles for what she had to do as she would have trained a bow and arrow.
Eugene turned a leaf in his Shakespeare book. Madelon made a leap, so soft and swift that it seemed like an onslaught of Silence itself, and he was smothered and wound about and entangled in folds of linen as if it had been in truth his winding-sheet. He struggled as best he might against his linen bands, and cried out as angrily as he could for the linen that bound his mouth and his eyes, but he could not release himself. Eugene was strong and lithe, but Madelon was nearly as strong as he at any time; and now the great tension of her nerves seemed to inform all her muscles with the strength of steel wire.
Eugene sat bound hard and fast to the settle, with his face swathed like a mummy’s, with only enough space clear for breath. “Let me go, or I’ll—” he threatened, in his smothered tone.
Madelon made no reply. She watched him struggle to be sure that he could not free himself. Then she went out of the room. Eugene called after her in a choke of fury, but she spoke not a word.
Up-stairs she hastened to her own chamber, and put on her red cloak and hood, and was down the stairs again, out the door, and hurrying up the road to the village. From time to time she glanced behind her to be sure that her brother had not freed himself, and was not in pursuit; then she sped on faster. The road was glare with ice, but she did not slow her pace for that. She was as sure-footed as a hare. She kept her arms close to her sides under her red cloak, and did not pause until she came out on the village street where the houses were thick. Then she went at a rapid walk, still glancing sharply behind her to see if she were followed, until she came to Parson Fair’s house. She went up the front walk, between the rows of ice-coated box, and up the stone steps under the stately columned porch, and raised the knocker and let it fall with sharp impetus. The door opened speedily a little way, and Parson Fair himself stood there, his pale, stern old face framed in the dark aperture. He bowed with gentle courtesy and bade her good-morning, and Madelon courtesied hurriedly and spoke out her errand with no preface.
“Can I see your daughter, sir?” said she.
Parson Fair looked at Madelon’s white face, touched on the cheeks and lips with feverish red, at her set mouth and desperate eyes. The story of her connection with the Gordon tragedy had not penetrated to his study, neither did he know how Burr had forsaken her for his Dorothy; but he saw something was amiss with her, although he was not well versed in the signs of a woman’s face. Parson Fair, moreover, felt somewhat of interest in this Madelon Hautville, for he had a decorously restrained passion for sweet sounds which she had often gratified. Many a Sabbath day had he sat in his beetling pulpit and striven to keep his mind fixed upon the spirit of the hymn alone, in spite of his leaping pulses, when Madelon’s great voice filled the meeting-house. It was probable that he also, notwithstanding his Christian grace, shared somewhat the popular sentiments towards these musical and Bohemian Hautvilles; yet he looked with a dignified kindness at the girl.