Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XV / The Ship of Fire >> Page 343

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Page 343

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription THE BURNING VESSEL. 343

tiles�the pirates proceeded to set the vessel on fire, as the
safe mode for concealing all the proofs of their crime. They
launched their boats. It was midnight. The night was calm
and very beautiful the stars looking down with serene eyes,
as innocently and unconsciously, as if there were no guilt, and
shame, and murder, anywhere visible ; as if Death had not yet
been born anywhere among the sons of men. No voices in the
winds, no wail along the sea, arose to startle the secret con-
sciences of the bloody-handed wretches, fresh from their cruel
sacrifice. They worked as if Law and Love both presided
gratefully over their labors ; and, with jest and laughter, and
perhaps song, they cheerily toiled away, until their ill-gotten
spoils were all safely transferred to the stowage of the boats.
They then set the condemned vessel on fire
" That fatal nark, Built in th' eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark ;'
and plied their prows in the direction of that shore, from the
opening harbor of which they had withheld their longing vic-
tims. The fire, fed by tar and other combustible matter, seized
instantly on every portion of the fabric. The pirates had made
their arrangements for its destruction, in such a way as to leave
no sort of doubt that the ship would be utterly destroyed. She
was herself sufficiently old and combustible. The flames rose
triumphantly in air, licking aloft with great, red, rolling tongues,
far above the maintop, darting out to the prow, climbing along
spar and shaft, from stem to stern, from keel to bulwark, involv-
ing the whole mass in inextinguishable fire. The pirates looked
with satisfied eyes upon their work. Not the deluge now should
arrest the conflagration. The deep should engulf its embers !
"Vain hope ! The Providence still sees, though the stars
prove erring watchers. Suddenly, as the receding criminals
looked back, the ship had ceased to blaze! The masts, and
spars, and sails, and cordage, still all alight, bright in fiery
beauty, perfect in every lineament, no longer raged with the
fire. The flames hissed and spread no longer. The fiery
tongues no longer ascended like hissing serpents commissioned
to destroy. They seemed each to sleep, long lines of red-hot
glow, streaks of fire, shrouds of fire, sails of fire, hull and masts