Steadily through this storm of lawless fury has the predestined victory been drawing near! The throbbing of his enemy’s heart,—Helwyse feels it; did ever lover so rejoice in the palpitations of his mistress? O the wine of life! drunk from the cup of murder! Hear how the wretch’s voice breaks choking from his throat!—he would beg for mercy, but cannot, shall not! Keep your fingers in his throat; the other hand creeps warily downwards. Now hurl him up,—over!—
* * * * *
But with what an ugly gulp the black water swallowed his body!
A dead weight.
Was it not well done? Tempted to covet imaginary wickedness, Helwyse was ripe for real crime,—and who so worthy to suffer as the tempter?
He leaned panting against taffrail. His predominant feeling was that he had been ensnared. His judgment had been drugged, and he had been lured on to evil. An infamous conspiracy!
His breath regained, he stood upright and in a mechanical manner arranged his disordered dress. His haversack was gone,—had been torn from his shoulders and carried overboard. An awkward loss! for it contained, among other things, valuable letters and papers given him by his father; not to mention a note-book of his own, and Uncle Glyphic’s miniature. His dead enemy had carried off the proofs of his murderer’s identity!
Not till now did Helwyse become aware of an unusual tumult on the steamer. Had they seen the deed?—He stood with set teeth, one hand on the taffrail. Rather than be taken alive, he would leap over!
But it soon became evident that the nucleus of excitement was elsewhere. The “Empire State” was at a stand-still. Captain and mates were shouting to one another and at the sailors. By the flying light of the lanterns Helwyse caught glimpses of the sails and tall masts of a schooner. He began to comprehend what had happened.
“Thank God! that saves me,” he said with a sense of relaxation. Then he turned and peered fearfully into the black abyss beyond the stern. Nothing there! nothing save the heavy breathing of remorseless waves.
The statistics of things God has been thanked for,—what piquant instances would such a collection afford! Any unusual stir of emotion seems to impel a reference to something higher than the world. Only a bloodless calm appears to be secure from God’s interference. It is worthy of remark that this was the first time in Helwyse’s career—at least since his arrival at years of discretion—that he had thanked God for anything. This was not owing to his being of a specially ungrateful disposition, but to peculiar ideas upon the subject of a Supreme Being. God, he believed, was no more than the highest phase of man; and in any man of sufficient natural endowment, he saw a possible God; just as every American citizen is a possible President! What is of moment at present, however, is the fact that the young man’s first inconsistency of word with creed dates at the time his self-control forsook him on board the midnight steamer.