“I did do it!” returned Madelon, fiercely, turning to him.
“I guess you don’t want your beau hung.”
“I tell you I killed this man. I am the one to be hung!”
The sheriff turned to David Hautville. “Guess you’d better take your gal home,” he said, his red, bristling cheeks broad with laughter. “Guess she’s kind of off her balance, she feels so bad about her beau.”
David’s black eyes flashed haughtily at Jonas Hapgood, who straightened his face suddenly. He deigned not a word to him, but he turned to his daughter with a stern air. “Whether it is one way, or whether it is the other way,” said he, “we go neither by staying here. Come home.”
“I won’t go!”
David looked sharply at his daughter’s face. Jonas Hapgood’s doubt was over him too. He wondered, with a great spasm of wrath, if she could be accusing herself to shield this man who had played her false.
He grasped her arm again. “Come,” he said, “I’ll have no more of this,” and Madelon went out with her father. Full of spirit as she was, she had always been strangely docile with him. He had ruled all his children with a firm hand from their youth up, and tuned their wills to suit his ear as he did his viol strings.
“I’ll have no foolery,” he said to her, gruffly, when they were out on the road. “I’ll have no putting yourself in the wrong to save a man that’s given you the go-by. If ye be fooling me, ye can stop it now if you’re a daughter of mine.” He shook his head fiercely at her.
But Madelon answered him with a burst of wrath that equalled his own. “I stabbed him because I took him for the man who jilted me a-trying to kiss me, with Dorothy Fair’s kiss on his lips. Me!” she cried; and she raised her hand as if she would have struck again had Burr Gordon and his false lips been there.
Her father looked at her gloomily, then strode on with his eyes on the snowy ground. He was still in doubt. David Hautville had that primitive order of mind which distrusts and holds in contempt that which it cannot clearly comprehend, and he could not comprehend womankind. His sons were to him as words of one syllable in straight lines; his daughter was written in compound and involved sentences, as her mother had been before her. Fond and proud of Madelon as he was, and in spite of his stern anxiety, her word had not the weight with him that one of his son’s would have had. It was as if he had visions of endless twistings and complexities which might give it the lie, and rob it, at all events, of its direct force.
Indeed, Madelon strengthened this doubt by crying out passionately all at once, as they went on: “Father, you must believe me! I tell you I did it! I—don’t let them hang him! Father!” All Madelon’s proud fierceness was gone for a moment. She looked up at her father, choking with great sobs.