Madelon moved quietly away from her father’s roughly tender hand. “I thought maybe the Widow Scoville would be willing to come here and live,” said she. “She’s a good cook and a good housekeeper. I’m going to see her about it.”
“Well, we’ll see,” said David Hautville, huskily—“we’ll see.” He turned away, and looked irresolutely at the shelf whereon his pipe lay, at the wedding-silk on the chair, at his great boots in the corner at the outer door, then at his bass-viol leaning in the corner which the dresser formed against the wall, and a light of decision flashed into his eyes.
He drew his old arm-chair nearer the fire, carried the viol over to it, set it between his knees, flung an arm around its neck and began to play. His great chest heaved tenderly over it; its sweetly sonorous voice spoke to his soul. Here was the friend who vexed David Hautville with no problems of character or sex, but filled his simple understanding without appeal. These chords in which the viol spoke were from the foundations of things, like the spring-time and the harvest and the frosts; they abided eternally through all the vain speculations of life, and sounded above the grave. No imagination of a great artist had David Hautville, but his music was to him like his woodcraft. He traced out the chords and the harmonies with the same fervor that he followed the course of a stream or climbed a mountain-path. A great player was he, although the power of creation was not in him, for he fingered his viol with the ardor of a soul set in its favorite way of all others. As David Hautville played his great resonant viol he forgot all about his own perplexity and his daughter’s love-troubles; but she, listening as she worked, did not forget.
Madelon, swept around with these sweet waves of sounds, never once had her memory of her own misery submerged. A strange double consciousness she had, as she listened, of her senses and her soul. All her nerves lapsed involuntarily into delight at the sounds they loved, and all her soul wept above all melodies and harmonies in her ears. The spirit of an artist had Madelon, and could, had she wished, have made the songs she sung; and for that very reason music could never carry her away from her own self.
She finished her household tasks and sat down again to sew upon her wedding-gown. After a while her father ceased playing, and leaned his viol tenderly back in its corner, pulled on his great boots, put on his leather jacket and his fur cap, lighted his pipe, shouldered his gun, and set out with his eyes full of the abstraction of one who follows alone a different path.