Maria stirred. The snoring of the sleeping negroes penetrated the dividing wall. He thought he heard a rasping on the shingles outside which could not be accounted for by wind or water, and rose to his feet, that instant facing Dr. Dunlap in the window.
Dr. Dunlap had one leg across the low sill. The two men stood breathless. Maria saw the intruder. She sat up, articulating his name. At that piteous sound, betraying him to her brother, the cowardly impulse of many days’ growth carried Dr. Dunlap’s hand like a flash to his pocket. He fired his pistol directly into Rice’s breast, and dropped back through the window to the boat he had taken from the priest.
The screams of women and the terrified outcry of slaves filled the attic. Rice threw his arms above his head, and sunk downward. In the midst of the smoke Peggy knelt by him, and lifted his head and shoulders. The night wind blew upon them, and she could discern his dilated eyes and piteous amazement.
“Dr. Dunlap has shot me,” he said to her. “I don’t know why he did it.” And his face fell against her bosom as he died.
The moonlight shone in through both windows and the lantern glimmered. The choking smell of gunpowder spread from room to room. Two of the slave men sprung across the sill to pursue Dr. Dunlap, but they could do nothing. They could see him paddling away from the house, and giving himself up to the current; a desperate man, whose fate was from that hour unknown. Night and the paralysis which the flood laid upon human action favored him. Did a still pitying soul bend above his wild-eyed and reckless plunging through whirls of water, comprehending that he had been startled into assassination; that the deed was, like the result of his marriage, a tragedy he did not foresee? Some men are made for strong domestic ties, yet run with brutal precipitation into the loneliness of evil.
A desire to get out of the flood-bound tavern, an unreasonable impulse to see Angelique Saucier and perhaps be of use to her, a mistakenly silent entering of the house which he hardly knew how to approach,—these were the conditions which put him in the way of his crime. The old journey of Cain was already begun while Angelique was robbing her great-grand-aunt’s bed of pillows to put under Rice Jones. The aged woman had gone into her shell of sleep, and the muffled shot, the confusion and wailing, did not wake her. Wachique and another slave lifted the body and laid it on the quickly spread couch of pillows.
Nobody thought of Maria. She lay quite still, and made no sound in that flurry of terror.
“He is badly hurt,” said Angelique. “Lizette, bring linen, the first your hand touches; and you, Achille, open his vest and find the wound quickly.”
“But it’s no use, ma’amselle,” whispered Wachique, lifting her eyes.