Then Madelon sat alone, sewing, setting nice stitches in her green-and-gold silk. Like other women, heretofore when she had sewn a new gown she had builded for herself air-castles of innocent vanity and love when she should be dressed in it. Now she builded no more, but sat and sewed among the ruins of all her happy maiden fancies. She had given herself no care concerning any other arrangements for her wedding than this gown—she felt even no curiosity concerning it. She left all that to Lot, as a victim leaves the details of his death to the executioner. She supposed he would send for her and tell her before long. When she heard a scraping step at the door she knew instinctively that the message had come.
Margaret Bean’s husband’s simple old face confronted her when she opened the door. The weather was moderating fast that morning. The sun had the warmth of spring, and the old man stood in a shower of rainbow drops from the melting icicles on the eaves. He handed her a letter, backed clumsily and apologetically from under the drops, then retreated carefully down the slippery path, his clumsy old joints jolting.
Madelon, back in the kitchen, stood for a second looking at the letter. Then she opened it, and read the message written in Lot Gordon’s strange poetic style:
“Madelon,—The rose waits in the garden for her lover, because he has wings and she has none. But had the rose wings and her lover none, then would she leave her garden and fly to him with her honey in her heart, for love must be found.
Enough strength of New England blood Madelon had to feel towards Lot a new impulse of scorn that he should write her thus, instead of bidding her come, simply, like a man, displaying his power over her that they both knew.
Small store of honey did she bear in her heart when she set out to obey Lot’s call. She hurried along, indeed, with her cloak flying out at either side, like red wings in the south wind, but not from eagerness to see her lover. She was in constant dread lest she meet Burr on the road; but she gained Lot’s house without seeing him or knowing that his miserable, jealous eyes watched her from an opposite window.
Burr was up in his chamber when Madelon went into his cousin’s house. Presently he went down-stairs, where his mother was, with a face so full of the helpless appeal of agony that she looked at him as she used to do when he came in hurt from play.
“What is the matter, Burr, are you sick?” she said, in her quiet voice. She was sitting in a rocking-chair in the sun with her knitting-work. She swayed on gently as she spoke, and her long, delicate fingers still slipped the yarn over the needle.
“Yes, I am sick, mother; I am sick to death,” Burr groaned out. Then he went down on the floor at his mother’s feet, and hid his face in her lap, as he had used to do when he was a child in trouble. Mrs. Gordon’s stern repose of manner had never seemed to repel any demonstration of her son’s. Now she continued to knit above his head, but he apparently felt no lack of sympathy in her.