Dorothy, with her innocent, frightened eyes fixed upon the other girl’s passionate face, as if she were being led by her into unknown paths, put back the coverlet and thrust one little white foot out of bed. Then swiftly the black woman, who had entered the room, backed against the door as stiffly as a sentinel, darted forward, and would have thrust her mistress into bed again, making uncouth protests the while, had not Dorothy motioned her away with a gentle dignity, which was hers for use when she chose.
“Go down-stairs, if you please,” said she, “and see if my father is in his study. If he is in there, and busy over his sermon, go to the barn, and drag out the sleigh for us.”
Dorothy, white and fair as an angel, in her straight linen nightgown, stood out on the floor, in front of her great black guardian, who made again as though she would seize her and force her back, and pleaded with her in a thick drone, like an anxious bee, not to go.
“Do as I bid you!” said Dorothy, and glided past her to her dimity dressing-table, and began combing out her yellow hair.
The black woman went out, muttering.
“If my father is in his study on the north side of the house, and busy over his sermon, we can get away; otherwise we cannot,” said Dorothy, combing the thick tress over her shoulder.
Madelon went to a south window of the room and looked out. She could see the barn, and across the road, farther down, the tavern. She watched while Dorothy bound up her hair, and soon she saw the black woman run, with a low crouch of her great body like a stealthy animal, across the yard.
“Your father is in his study,” Madelon said, quickly. “I will go over to the tavern for a horse if yours is too lame.”
“He can scarce stand,” said Dorothy. Her soft voice trembled; she trembled all over—then was still with nervous rigors. Bright pink spots were on her cheeks. A certain girlish daring was there in this gentle maiden for youthful love and pleasure, else she had not stolen away that night to the ball, but very little for tragic enterprise. And, moreover, her fine sense of decorum and womanly pride had always served her mainly in the place of courage, which she lacked.
Sorely afraid was Dorothy Fair, if the truth were told, to go with this passionate girl, who had declared to her face she had done murder, to visit a man who she still half believed, with her helpless tenacity of thought, was a murderer also. The love she had hitherto felt for him was eclipsed by terror at the new image of him which her fearful fancy had conjured up and could not yet dismiss, in spite of Madelon’s assurances. She was, too, really ill, and her delicate nerves were still awry from the shock they had received the night of the ball. Parson Fair had been sternly indignant, and his daughter had quailed before him, and then had come the news concerning Burr. Sage tea, and hot foot-baths, and the doctor’s nostrums had not cured her yet. Her very spirit trembled and fluttered at this undertaking; but she could not withstand this fierce and ardent girl who upbraided her with the cowardice and distrust of her love. Instinctively she tried to raise her sentiment to the standard of the other’s and believe in Burr.