Part III
Chapter XVIII
 

"Molly," said Betty, the next morning, "I should like to go up to the Adirondacks alone for a few weeks. Would you mind staying here with the Colonel and Sally for another ten days and then returning with them? Sally says she will move into my room and that she and the Colonel will take you to the theatre and do everything they can to make you happy. You know the Colonel delights to be with you."

"I understand, of course, that you are going," said Mrs. Madison. "I shall not be bored, if that is what you mean. I hope you will telegraph at once, so that the house will be warmed at least a day before you arrive. I suppose you have got to a point in your affairs where you must have solitude, but I wish you had not, and I wish you would go where it is warmer."

"Oh, I shall be comfortable enough." She added in a moment, "Don't think I do not appreciate your consideration, for I do."

Then she sat down at the desk and wrote a note to Burleigh. It was a brief epistle, but she was a long while writing it. Her previous notes had been dashed off in ten minutes, and usually related to the play of the previous evening. His replies had been a curious mingling of half- offended pride and a passion which was only restrained by the fear that the lady was not yet ready for it.

Finally Betty concocted the missive to the satisfaction of her mind's diplomatic condition. She had not yet brought herself to begin any of her notes to him formally. "Dear Robert" was as yet unnatural, and "Dear Mr. Burleigh" absurd; so she ignored the convention.

"I suddenly have made up my mind to go to the Adirondacks for a month, quite alone," she wrote. "When one is going to take a tremendous step, one needs solitude that one may do a great deal of hard thinking. I don't wonder that some Catholic women go into retreat. At all events, Washington, 'the world,' even my mother, even you, who always are so kind and considerate, seem impossible to me at present; and if I am to live with some one else for the rest of my life, I must have one uninterrupted month of solitary myself. Doubtless that will do me till the end of my time! So would you mind if I asked you not even to write to me? I have enjoyed your notes so much, but I want to feel absolutely alone. Don't think this is petty egoism. It goes far deeper than that! If we ever are to understand each other I am sure I need not explain myself further.

B. M."

"It has a rather heartless ring," she thought with a sigh, "but it will intrigue him, and--who knows? As heaven is my witness, I do not. But I do know this, that unless I get away from them all and fairly inside of myself, whatever I do will seem the wrong thing and I might end by making a dramatic fool of myself."