“It is Lot Gordon that is making fools of you all,” said Madelon, in a hard, quiet voice.
“Did Burr Gordon say he didn’t stab him?” cried her father.
“No; he wouldn’t own it. He is trying to shield me.”
“He did it himself, and he’ll hang for it.”
“No, he won’t hang for what I did while I draw the breath of life. I’ve got the strength of ten in me. You don’t know me, if I am your daughter.” Madelon freed her bridle with a quick movement, and the mare flew forward into the barn.
David Hautville stood looking after her in utter fury and bewilderment. Her last words rang in his ears and seemed true to him. He felt as if he did not know his own daughter. This awakening and lashing into action, by the terrible pressure of circumstances, of strange ancestral traits which he had himself transmitted was beyond his simple comprehension. He shook his head with a fierce helplessness and went into the barn.
“Go in and get the supper,” he ordered, “and I’ll take care of the mare.”
As Madelon came out of the stall he grasped her roughly by the arm and peered sharply into her face. The thought seized him that she must surely not be in her right mind—that Burr’s treatment of her and his danger had turned her brain. “Be you crazy, Madelon?” he asked, in his straightforward simplicity, and there was an accent of doubt and pity in his voice.
“No, father,” she replied, “I am not crazy. Let me go.”
She broke away from him and was out of the barn door, but suddenly she turned and came running back. The sudden softness in his voice had stirred the woman in her to weakness. She went close to her father, and threw up her arms around his great neck, and clung to him, and sobbed as if she would sob her soul away, and pleaded with him as for her life.
“Father!” she cried—“father, help me! Believe me! Tell them I did it! Tell them it is true! Don’t let them hang Burr. Help me to save him, father! Don’t let them! Save him! Oh, you will save him, father? You will? Tell me, father—tell me, tell me!” Madelon’s voice rose into a wild shriek.
A sudden conviction of his solution of the matter and of his own astuteness came over David Hautville’s primitive masculine intelligence. His daughter was wellnigh distraught with her lover’s faithlessness and his awful crime and danger. She was to be watched and guarded lest she make a further spectacle of herself; but treated softly as might be, for she was naught but a woman, and liable to mischievous ailments of nerve and brain. David pressed his daughter’s dark head with his hard, tender hand against his shoulder, then forced her gently away from him.
“It’ll be all right,” said he, soothingly—“it’ll be all right. Don’t you worry.”
“Father, you will?”
“I’ll fix it all right. Don’t you worry.”
“Father, you promise?”