All this Eben saw in the few minutes that he stood there. His hands were clenched hard, and his eyes were filled with the fire of hatred. There was the man who had come between him and the girl he loved. He was but a short distance away, so acting upon the wild impulse of the instant he stooped down, and finding a stone lying right at his feet, he took careful aim, and hurled it with his full force through the window, straight at the head of his enemy. The sudden crash was followed instantly by a cry of pain, and then all was still. With fast-beating heart Eben looked, expecting to see Hampton stretched upon the floor. Great was his horror to behold the girl lying there instead, her deathly-white face stained with blood. With a startled cry as of a wild beast in agony, he turned and fled along the road, down the track, and back to the refuge of the “Eb and Flo.”
MARTHA TAKES A HAND
Throughout the entire night the horror of a great dread drove all sleep from Eben’s eyes. As he lay in his bunk every sound seemed to be magnified, and he imagined that men would come for him and lead him away to trial. He felt quite sure that he had killed Jess and that he would be hung for murder. The girl’s white face with the bloodstain upon it was ever before him, and he could not shut it from his mind. And he had murdered her, the one who had meant so much to him. The thought of John Hampton filled his soul with bitterness. He was the cause of all his misery, so he reasoned. Why had not the stone hit him instead of the girl?
Some time before daylight he went out on deck. The cabin was stifling, and he felt that he would smother if he stayed there any longer. He sauntered up forward, and looked out over the water. It was a beautiful night, with a gentle wind drifting in from the west. The accustomed sounds of darkness fell upon his ears, but he paid no attention to them now. His mind was not in tune with nature’s sweet harmonies, so she brought no restful peace to his tumultuous brain. He longed to know what was taking place in the little shack in the forest. Was the girl lying there still in death? Would people know who did the deed? How would they find out? He had read about detectives searching for criminals, and following most unexpected clues. Had he left any trace behind? he wondered. No twinge of conscience troubled his soul. It was only regret that the stone had hit the wrong person. He was sorry for the girl, and for himself. His nature was as clay, full of many possibilities, and capable of being moulded by right methods into a choice vessel. But hitherto no one had understood his peculiar nature. Then when love for a noble woman did at length enter his soul, its influence was quenched by the spirit of hatred and revenge.