The mixed blood of two races, in which action is quick to follow impulse, surged up to Madelon’s head. She drew the hand which held the knife from under her cloak and struck. “Kiss me again, Burr Gordon, if you dare!” she cried out, and her cry was met by a groan as he fell away from her into the snow.
Madelon stood for a second looking at the dark, prostrate form as one of her Iroquois ancestors might have looked at a fallen foe before he drew his scalping-knife; then suddenly the surging of the savage blood in her ears grew faint. She fell down on her knees beside him. “Have I killed you, Burr?” she said, and bent her face down to his—and it was not Burr, but Lot Gordon!
The white, peaked face smiled up at her out of the snow. “You haven’t killed me if I die, since you took me for Burr,” whispered Lot Gordon.
“Are you much hurt?”
“I—don’t know. The knife has gone a little way into my side. It has not reached my heart, but that was hurt unto death already by life, so this matters not.”
Madelon felt along his side and hit the handle of the clasp-knife, firmly fixed.
“Don’t try to draw it out—you cannot,” said Lot, and his pain forced a groan from him. “I’ll live, if I can, till the wound is healed for the sake of your peace. I’d be content to die of it, since you gave it in vengeance for another man’s kiss, if it were not for you. But they shall never know—they shall never—know.” Lot’s voice died away in a faint murmur between his parted lips; his eyes stared up with no meaning in them at the wintry stars.
Madelon ran back on the road to the village, taking great leaps through the snow, straining her eyes ahead. Now and then she cried out hoarsely, as if she really saw some one, “Hullo! hullo!” At the curve of the road she turned a headlong corner and ran roughly against a man who was hurrying towards her; and this time it was Burr Gordon.
Burr reeled back with the shock; then his face peered into hers with fear and wonder. “Is it you?” he stammered out. “What is the matter?”
But Madelon caught his arm in a hard grip. “Come, quick!” she gasped, and pulled him along the road after her.
“What is the matter?” Burr demanded, half yielding and half resisting.
Madelon faced him suddenly as they sped along. “I met your cousin Lot just below here and he kissed me, and I took him for you and stabbed him, if you must know,” she sobbed out, dryly.
Burr gave a choking cry of horror.
“I think I—have killed him,” said she, and pulled him on faster.
“And you meant to kill me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I wish to God you had!” Burr cried out, with a sudden fierce anger at himself and her; and now he hurried on faster than she.
Lot was quite motionless when they reached him. Burr threw himself down in the snow and leaned his ear to his cousin’s heart. Madelon stood over them, panting. Suddenly a merry roulade of whistling broke the awful stillness. Two men were coming down the road whistling “Roy’s Wife of Alidivalloch” as clearly soft and sweet as flutes, accented with human gayety and mirth.