“You will marry Dorothy Fair,” Madelon said, in such a tone of calm assertion that he quailed before it.
“Then you—are satisfied to—marry Lot— It is your wish?”
“Oh, my God!” said Burr, and went out, while Madelon took another stitch in her wedding-gown.
However the tale of Madelon’s and Lot’s engagement had found mouth—whether Margaret Bean had vented her knowledge when it grew too big for her or not—it was scarce one day before the whole village was agape with it. With that tendency of the human mind born of involuntary self-knowledge which leads it to suspect a selfish motive in all untoward actions, many gave unhesitatingly a reason for Madelon’s choice.
The women nodded astutely at each other, and the men exchanged shrewd affirmative grunts. “She’s goin’ to marry Lot to pay off Burr,” they all agreed. “She’ll get all the money.”
Madelon herself had never thought of that. She had never considered the fact that her marriage with Lot would rob Burr of his prospective wealth; and, if she had, she would have dismissed the thought as of no moment. Capacity for revenge of that sort was not in her; even the imagination of it was lacking. She would simply have resolved to give the property to Burr if she should outlive Lot, and she would have carried out her resolution. Consciously, perhaps, this consideration was no more evident to her father and her brothers than to herself. The Hautvilles were not mercenary, and retaliation, involving personal profit at the expense of an enemy, was not of their code. They did have, however, a consideration no less selfish, in a way, and no less acute when they heard the news. One and all thought, “Now Madelon will be cleared of all suspicion that she may have brought upon herself. Nobody will believe that Lot Gordon would marry a girl who attempted his life. Every hint of disgrace will be removed from her and us all by this marriage.”
Louis, when he heard the news, gave an involuntary glance at his own hands at the thought of Madelon’s crimsoned ones, to which he had tried to blind his memory. “Well, maybe it’s the best thing that could happen,” he said, grimly, but his wonder over it was great. He knew well enough, however he tried to hide the knowledge from himself, that Madelon’s story had been true. He looked at his brother Richard, and Richard looked back at him; and one’s knowledge for once faced the other’s boldly in their utter astonishment. Then they nodded at each other in a stern understanding of assent. It was best their sister should cover her crime and avert the disgrace, which she had seemed to hang over all of them, in that way.