When the male Hautvilles came home to dinner, on the noon of the day after Burr called, Madelon knew at once that they had all heard. They sat down to the table and ate in silence. None of them spoke a word to Madelon on the subject, but she knew they had heard. After dinner they all went out again except her father. He stood on the hearth, filling his pipe moodily, with an automatic motion of his fingers, his eyes aloof. Madelon moved about with quick, decided motions, clearing the dinner-table. David, when the tobacco was well packed in his pipe-bowl, turned his eyes mechanically upon the glowing coals on the hearth, but made no motion to light it. He looked slowly and furtively about presently at Madelon’s wedding-silk, which lay heaped in a chair with a green and gold shimmer, as of leaves and flowers. All unmoved by, and oblivious of, the splendor of woman’s gear was David Hautville usually, but this silk, radiant with the weaving of party-lights, affected him with a memory of old happiness, so vague that it was scarce more than a memory of a memory. In splendid silken raiment had Madelon’s mother gone as a bride years ago. It had been in reality widely different from this gown of Madelon’s, but still, looking at this, David Hautville’s masculine eyes saw dimly beyond it another dapple of gorgeous tints, and heard a soft rustle of silken skirts out of the past. He would not have said that this bright mass of silk in the chair made him think of his wife’s wedding-gown, but he knew by that thought it was Madelon’s. He stared at it, scowling over his great mustache. Then he looked slowly around at his daughter. She was just coming out of the pantry, and faced him as he spoke.
“I suppose this is true I’ve heard,” said he.
Madelon’s face blazed red before his eyes, but her mouth was firm and hard, and her eyes unflinching. “Yes, sir,” she replied; and she took a dish from the table and turned about, and went again into the pantry, carrying it.
David Hautville, rearing his great height before the fire, casting a long shadow over the room, stood, holding his unlighted pipe, and staring again at the wedding-silk, until his daughter returned. Then he brought his gaze to bear upon her again.
“I suppose you’ve thought over what you’re going to do, and feel it’s for the best,” said he, with a kind of stern embarrassment. David Hautville felt no resentment because his daughter had not confided her engagement to him. From his very lack of understanding of the feminine character, and his bewilderment over it, he was disposed to give his daughter a wide latitude in a matter of this kind. Not comprehending the feminine gait to matrimony, but recognizing its inevitability, he was inclined to stand silently out of the road, unless his prejudices were too violently shocked. He had also a mild respect for, and understanding of, reticence concerning one’s own affairs, and was, moreover, furtively satisfied with the match.