Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XV / The Ship of Fire >> Page 344

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Page 344

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 344 SOUTHWARD HO
of fire,�fire alight�of a fierce red flame like that of an August
sunset�but fire that would not consume the thing of which it
seemed to have become the essential life !
What a wonder ! what a spectacle ! To the murderers, the
finger of God was present. He was present, beholding all, and
his judgment of fire was already begun.
For a moment every arm was paralyzed. The boats drifted
idly on the waters. The oars dipped and dragged through
the seas, undirected by the stroke, until the husky but harsh
voice of the captain startled them into consciousness. He was
a hardened sinner, but he too felt the terror. He was simply
the first to recover from his paralysis.
Hell yawns ! It is hell we see ! Pull for dear life, men
pull for shore.'
And they obeyed ; and, fast as they fled, stoutly as they
pulled for land, they looked back with horror and consternation
at the sight that terrible spectacle behind them�a ship all
fire that would not burn �a fire that would neither destroy its
object, nor perish itself, nor give out concealing smokes, shrouding
the form with blackness, shrouding the dreadful secret which
they themselves had lighted up for the inspection of Heaven.
Was God, in truth, presiding over that bloody deck ? Was he
then penetrating the secrets of that murderous hold ? Did bell
really yawn upon them with its Sulphurous fires ! Strange,
indeed, and most terrific spectacle !
They reached the land before the dawn of day. They
drew their boats on shore upon a lonely waste, a few miles only
from human habitations, but in a region utterly wild and savage.
They had strength only to reach the land and draw the boats
on shore in safety. Then they sank down, incapable of further
effort, and gazed with vacant eyes upon the illuminated beacon
of their hellish deeds. There was a God there was a hell!
They read both truths, for the first time clearly, in that awful
picture of judgment.
All night thus did the ship continue to glow with unconsnming
brightness. The mortal fires had been extinguished in the super-
natural. And thus articulately limned in phosphoric brightness,
the fatal ship sped to and fro, now passing forward to the shore
upon which they crouched now suddenly lost to sight, and