Margaret Bean’s husband’s name was Zenas, but scarcely anybody knew it, and he had almost forgotten it himself through never being addressed by it. Margaret herself spoke of her husband as “Him,” but she never called him anything, except sometimes “You.” However, he always knew when she meant him, and there was no need of specification.
Now he half thought she was appealing to his masculine authority from her bewildered air. He stiffened his meek old back. “Want me to go in there and order her out?”
“You! Go back in there and finish them dishes.”
Margaret Bean’s husband went back into the kitchen, and Margaret followed Madelon with a sly, determined air, to Lot’s room.
The great square northwest room was warm, but the frost had not yet melted from the window-panes. The room looked full of hard white lines of frost, and starched curtains, and high wainscoting; but the hardest white lines of all were in Lot Gordon’s face, sunken sharply in his pillows, showing between the stiff dimity slants of his bed-hangings as in a tent door. He looked already like a dead man, except for his eyes. It seemed as if the life in them could never die when they saw Madelon. She bent over him, darkening the light.
“Speak now!” said she.
Lot Gordon looked up at her.
“I tell you, speak! I will not bear this any longer. I am at the end.”
Still Lot Gordon looked up at her silently.
Then Madelon made a quick motion in the folds of her skirt, and there was the long gleam of a hunting-knife above the man in the bed. Margaret Bean, standing by the door, shrieked faintly, but she did not stir.
“I have tried everything,” said Madelon. “This is the last. Speak, or I will make your speaking of no avail. I will strike again, and this time they shall find me beside you and not Burr. My new guilt shall prove my old, and they will hang me and not him. Speak, or, before God, I will strike!”
Then Lot Gordon spoke. “I love you, Madelon,” said he.
“Say what I bid you, Lot Gordon; not that.”
“All your bidding is in that.”
“I will clear—Burr.”
Madelon slipped her knife away, and stood back. Margaret Bean slunk farther around past the bedpost. Neither of them could see her.
“On one condition,” said Lot Gordon.
“That you marry me.”
Madelon gasped. “You?”
Lot laughed faintly, stretching his ghastly mouth. “You think it is an offer of wedlock from a churchyard knight,” he said.
“What are you talking about, Lot Gordon?”
“Marry you? I am going to prison to-day for stabbing you. If you die, I die for your murder. Marriage between us? You are mad, Lot Gordon.”
Lot Gordon opened his mouth to speak, but he coughed instead. He half raised himself feebly, and his cough shook the bed. Madelon waited until he lay back, gasping.