“Yes, I have,” answered Madelon, calmly.
“How soon were you calculating—” asked her father, pressing the tobacco harder into the pipe-bowl, and casting a meditative eye at the coals.
“He said a month—that was three weeks ago Monday. To-day is Wednesday.” Madelon Hautville spoke with her proud chin raised, and her eyes as compelling as a queen’s; but in spite of herself there came into her voice the tone of one who counts the days to death.
Her father looked at her sharply. She turned again towards her task at the table. “Well, Lot Gordon can give ye a good home,” said he. “His health ain’t very good, that’s the most I see about it. But he may last a number of years yet—folks in consumption do sometimes; and I hear he’s gettin’ over that cut he give himself. I suppose he did that because he thought you wouldn’t have him.”
Madelon, moving about the table, did not say a word.
“It must have been that,” said David Hautville. “I suppose he thought you favored—” he was about to speak Burr’s name; then he stopped short. He was usually one to plunge upon dangerous ground, but this time something stopped him—perhaps a look in his daughter’s face. He laid his pipe carefully on the mantel-shelf, went over to Madelon, and laid a heavily tender hand on her shoulder.
“D’ye want any money to buy your wedding-fixings with?” he said, in a half-whisper.
“I’ve got all I want,” replied Madelon, wincing as if he had struck her.
“Because I’ve sold some skins, lately, and wood.” David plunged a hand into his pocket, and began to pull out a leather pouch jingling with coins.
“I’ve got all the money I want, father,” said Madelon, catching her breath a little, but keeping her face steady. Could her father have understood, if she had told him, the pretty maiden providence, almost like one of the primal instincts, which had led her to save, year after year, little sums from her small earnings, towards her wedding-outfit? Could he, with his powerful masculine grasp of the large woes of life, have sensed this lesser one, and fairly known the piteous struggle it cost Madelon to spend her poor little wealth, which was to have furnished adornment for her bridal happiness with her lover, for such a purpose as this? Had she turned upon him then and there, and told him that she hated Lot Gordon, and would rather lie down in her grave than be his wife, he might have grasped that indeed, although not in her full sense of it, for the same sense of misery of that kind comes not to a man and a woman; but the other he would have puzzled over and solved it by his one sweeping solution of all feminine problems—by femininity itself.
However, he continued to stand beside his daughter, looking at her across that great gulf of original conceptions of things which love itself can never quite bridge. Tears came into his keen black eyes, and his voice was hoarse when he spoke again. “Well, Madelon,” said David Hautville, with a firmer laying on of his heavy hand on his daughter’s shoulder, “ye’ve been a good daughter and sister, and we’re all of us glad you’ve got over this last foolishness, and we don’t lay it up against ye, and—we’ll all miss ye when ye’re gone.”