Madelon Hautville gathered her red cloak about her, and Mrs. Gordon arose as she would have done when any caller was about to take leave. It would scarcely have seemed out of keeping with her manner had she politely invited Madelon to call again. However, her quiet voice was somewhat unsteady and hoarse when she spoke to Madelon on the threshold of the outer door, although the words were still gently formal. “I am grateful to you for the interest you take in my son,” she said; “I hope you will not excite yourself so much that you will be ill.”
“I will die if that can save him,” answered Madelon Hautville, and went down the snowy steps over the terraces.
Elvira Gordon, when she had closed the door, drew the bolt softly. Truth was, she thought the girl had gone mad through grief and love for her son. Believing, as she did, that the love was all unsought and unreturned, and being also shocked in all her delicate decorum by such unmaidenly violence and self-betrayal, she regarded Madelon with a strange mixture of scorn and sympathy and fear.
Moreover, not one word did she believe of Madelon’s assertion that she herself was guilty. “She is accusing herself to save my son,” thought Elvira Gordon, and her heart seemed to leap after the girl with half-shamed gratitude, in spite of her astonishment and terror, as she watched her go out of the yard and across the road to Lot Gordon’s house. Mrs. Gordon stood at one of the narrow lights beside her front door and watched until Madelon entered the opposite house; then she went hastily through her fine sitting-room to her own bedroom, and there went down on her knees, and all her icy constraint melted into a very passion of weeping and prayer. Those placidly folded hands of hers clutched at the poor mother-bosom in the fury of her grief; those placid-lidded eyes welled over with scalding tears; that calmly set mouth was convulsed like a wailing child’s, and all the rigorous lines of her whole body were relaxed into overborne curves of agony. “Oh, my son, my son, my son!” lamented Elvira Gordon. “Have mercy, have mercy, O Father in heaven! Let him be proved innocent! Let Lot Gordon live! Oh, my son!”
Elvira Gordon had the stern pride of justice of a Brutus. She would not without proof discover even to the passionate pleading of her own heart that she believed her son innocent, but believe it she did. Every breath she drew was a prayer that Lot Gordon might yet speak and clear Burr. This morning she had some slight hope that that might come to pass, for the sick man had passed a comfortable night except for his old enemy, the cough.
“It’s my belief,” Margaret Bean had told Elvira, when she had sped across the road in the early morning to inquire, “that it’s his old trouble that’s going to kill him when he does die instead of anything else.”
“Has he spoken yet?” asked Elvira, eagerly.
“No, he ain’t; but there’s none so still as them that won’t speak.” Margaret Bean nodded shrewdly at Elvira. Her voice was weak and hoarse as if from a cold or much calling, but there was sharp emphasis in it. She gave a curious impression of spirit subdued and tearfully rasped, like her face, yet never lacking.