“Do you mean—” she began; then stopped, and questioned him with her eyes again. She was seized with the belief, which filled her at once with agony and an impulse of fierce protection like that of a mother defending her young with her own wounded bosom, that Burr had had a falling out with Dorothy.
“Oh, Madelon!” Burr said again, and then he could say no more for very shame and honor. He had run out, indeed, in a half-frenzy.
“She shall not play you false!” Madelon cried out. “Dorothy Fair shall keep her word with you.”
Burr looked at her, bewildered.
“Marry her at once,” Madelon cried, with a quick rush of her words—“at once. Do you hear me, Burr Gordon? It’s all the way to do with a girl like that. Do you hear me?”
“Yes, I hear you,” Burr said, slowly, as if he were stunned.
“Dorothy Fair shall keep her promise to you—I will make her. She shall marry you whenever you say. I will go this very day and see her.”
“There is no need for you to do that, Madelon. I will marry her at once, as you advise. I think she will be willing,” Burr said, slowly and coldly. Then he left her without another word, and went up his terraces with his back bent like an old man’s. He was holding hard to his heart the surety that Madelon no longer cared for him, for it is scarcely within the imagination of either man or woman that one can love and yet give away. But by the time he entered the house his spirit had awakened within him, and he made a proud resolve that since Madelon so advised and was herself to marry that he would marry Dorothy Fair as soon as she should be willing.
As for Madelon, she went home with her mind diverted from her own unhappiness by Burr’s, and, in spite of his assurance, might have gone to visit her righteous anger upon Dorothy had she not heard that very night that Burr and Parson Fair’s daughter were to be married in a month’s time.
The next day Lot sent again for her, and she obeyed, with her proud sense of duty to her future husband, although every step she took towards him carried her farther away. His conduct began to puzzle her more than ever. Again he sent her to the desk drawer, and this time for a roll of precious rose-colored satin stuff, fit for a queen’s gown; but she would have none of that either, although he pleaded with her to take it. When she started to go away he called her back, and called her back, and when she came had nothing to say, until she lost patience and went home.
And the day after that he sent again, and there was a great carved comb for her in the desk drawer, and some rose-colored satin shoes; but she thrust them back indignantly. “Understand once for all, Lot Gordon,” said she, “you I will take, as I would take my death, because I have pledged my word; but your presents I will not take.”