“He’s a rascal, that’s what he is!” said Richard. “If he hadn’t treated you so, it wouldn’t ever have happened.”
“He did it to save me,” said Madelon, as if to herself; “it’s worth all I’m going to do to save him.” She sat down again, and took up her wedding-dress, and resumed sewing. Richard stood looking at her a minute; then he got his gun off the hooks where he kept it, put on his fur cap, and went out.
Madelon sat and sewed, in a broad slant of wintry sunshine, for an hour longer. Then a shadow passed suddenly athwart the floor, the door opened, and Burr Gordon was in the room. He came straight across to her, but she sat still and drew her needle through her wedding-silk.
“Madelon!” he cried out, “is this true that I have just heard? Madelon!”—Burr Gordon’s handsome face was white as death, and he breathed hard, as if he had been running—“Madelon! tell me, for God’s sake, is it—true?”
“Yes,” said Madelon. She took another stitch. The self-restraint of her New England mother was upon her then. Burr Gordon, betrothed to Dorothy Fair, loving her not, yet still noble enough and kind enough to have perilled his life to save hers, should know nothing of the greater sacrifice she was making for him.
“You are going to marry—Lot?”
“Oh, my God!”
Burr Gordon stood a moment looking at the girl sewing the breadths of shining silk. Then he went over to the settle and sat down there and bent over, leaning his head on his hands. He knew no more at that moment of Madelon’s mind than an utter stranger.
It well might be, he thought, that she no longer cared for him. It was not long since she had seemed to, but women, he had always heard, were fickle, and he had so treated her that it might have turned any woman’s heart cold. And his cousin Lot had the family wealth, and if she married him she would inherit it, and not he. What could he say to her, sewing so calmly upon her wedding-dress, seemingly in utter acquiescence and content with her fate? Could he take another step without going deeper into the slough of shame and distress where it seemed to him he already stood? And there was Dorothy.
Madelon never glanced at him as she sewed. Presently he arose and went over to her again. “Madelon,” he said, hesitatingly, coloring red, “tell me you do not have any hard feelings towards me? I know I deserve it.”
“You deserve nothing; it is I,” she said, in a low voice.
“I know what you did to save my life,” she said. Her voice gave out a rich thrill, like a musical tone, as she spoke. She bent lower over her work.
“That was nothing. Madelon”—he paused a moment; she was silent—“Madelon, tell me. Are you—are you satisfied—with this step you are going to take?”
“There is nothing I can do? You know I would do—anything to— You know if you wished—I would do whatever you said.”