“I know nothing about the knife,” repeated Madelon, “but Burr Gordon did not kill his cousin.”
“He was there, and it was his knife,” said Dorothy. There was now a curious indignation in her manner. It was almost as if she preferred to believe her lover guilty of murder rather than unduly solicitous for her rival.
Madelon Hautville turned upon her with a kind of fierce solemnity. “Dorothy Fair,” said she, “look at me!” and the soft, blue-eyed face, full of that gentle unyielding which is the firmest of all, looked up at her from the pillows—“Dorothy Fair, did that man, who’s locked up over there in jail in New Salem, for a crime he’s innocent of, ever kiss you?”
Madelon’s face seemed to wax stiff and white. She looked like one who bared her breast for a mortal hurt as she spoke. Dorothy went pink to the roots of her yellow hair and the frill on her nightgown. She made an angry shamed motion of her head, which might have signified anything.
“And you can believe this thing of him after that!” said Madelon, with a look of despairing scorn. “He has kissed you, Dorothy Fair, and you can think he has committed a murder!”
Dorothy gasped. “They said—” she began again.
“They said! Are you a woman, Dorothy Fair, and don’t you know that the man you love enough to let him kiss you should do no wrong in your eyes, or else it’s a shame to you, and you should kill him to wipe it out?” Dorothy shrank away from her in the bed, her frightened blue eyes staring at her over her shoulder. “My God! don’t you know,” said Madelon, “the man you love is yourself? When you believe in his guilt you believe in your own; when you strike him for it you strike yourself. Don’t you know that, Dorothy Fair?”
Dorothy looked at her, all white and trembling. She gave a half-sob. Suddenly Madelon’s tone changed. “Don’t be afraid,” said she. “I’m different from you. I don’t wonder he liked you better. It’s no blame to him. I know you care about him. You don’t believe he did it.”
“I don’t know,” sobbed Dorothy. The door opened a crack, and the black woman’s watchful eyes appeared.
“Oh, you do know, you do know! I tell you, I did it—I! Can’t you believe me? I’m a wicked woman, and I love anybody I love in a different way from any that a woman as good as you are can. I did it, Dorothy, and not Burr! He mustn’t suffer for it. We must see him, you and I together! Don’t you believe me?”
“I don’t—know,” sobbed Dorothy. The dark face appeared quite fully in the door. Madelon cast a quick glance about the room. Dorothy’s pretty Bible, with a blue-silk-ribbon marker hanging from it, lay on her dimity dressing-table. Madelon sprang across and got it. The black woman stood in the doorway, muttering to herself. She looked all ready to spring to Dorothy’s defence. Madelon did not notice her at all. She went close to Dorothy, put the Bible on the bed, and laid her right hand upon it.