Then Madelon turned to them all. “I am not going to be married to-morrow,” she said, and her face flushed red. “I had better tell you. I am not going to be married for a month.” She strove to control her voice, but in spite of herself it rang exultantly at the last.
Louis and Richard exchanged one look with a sudden turn of white faces. David stared hard and perplexedly at his daughter. “What’s that ye say?” he asked, after a second’s pause.
“I am not going to be married for another month.”
“Lot isn’t as well as he was.”
“What’s the matter? That cut he got?”
“No, I guess not. I think it’s his cough.” Madelon paled and shivered, and turned away as she spoke, for the horror of her deed and the forced pity came over her again.
Her father caught her by the arm as she would have gone out of the room.
“Look ye here,” he said, “is this the whole truth of it? We’ve got a right to know. Be ye going to marry him in a month’s time?”
Madelon looked at him proudly. “I am going to marry him in a month’s time, and I am not afraid to face all the truth in the world. Let me go, father.”
When she was gone the father and sons stood staring at one another. There was on all their faces an under meaning to which not one would give tongue.
Richard jostled Louis’s shoulder. “Suppose—” he whispered, looking at him with dismayed and suspicious eyes.
“Hush up!” returned Louis, roughly, and swung across to the shelf for his candle.
“If I thought—” began David, with force; then stopped, shaking his old head. The male Hautvilles went out, one after the other, their candles flaring up in their grimly silent faces. They were capable of concerted action without speech, and had evolved one purpose of going to bed with no more parley about Lot Gordon and Madelon that night. Brave as these men were, not one of them dared set foot squarely upon the dangerous ground which two of them knew, and three suspected, and look another in the face with the consciousness of his whereabouts in his eyes.
Truly afraid were they all, with that subtle cowardice which lurks sometimes in the bravest souls, of one another’s knowledge and suspicions, as they filed up the creaking wooden stairs.
Richard looked at Louis in a terrified sidelong way when they were safe in their room with the door shut. “Hush up!” Louis whispered again, roughly, as if Richard had spoken. The two brothers were not to sleep much that night, each being tormented by anxiety lest Lot Gordon had resolved to stand by their sister no longer, and let disgrace fall upon her head; but neither would speak.
The candles flashed athwart the dark window-spaces of the Hautville chambers, and one by one went out. The house was dark and still, with all the sweet voices and stringed instruments at rest. Yet so full of sonorous harmony had it been not long since that one might well fancy that it would still, to an attentive ear, reverberate with sweet sounds in all its hollows, like a shell.