Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XV / The Ship of Fire >> Page 345

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Page 345

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription THE CHARRED VESSEL. 845
reappearing in the east only to resume the same fast fearful
progress toward the shore. At moments when they lost her,
they breathed freely in a relieving sigh, and cried out :
She's gone sunk at last gone now�gone for ever !'
A moment after, they would cry out in horror : --
Hell ! There she is again !'
And so the night passed.
With the dawning of the day the vessel had ceased to burn.
She was no longer illuminate. But she was there still�erect
as ever�perfect in hull, and masts, and spars, and sails, and
cordage all unconsumed� everything in its place, as if she
were just leaving port,�but everything blackened charred
to supernatural blackness terribly sable�gloomy as death --
solemn, silent, portentous, moving to and fro in a never-ceasing
progress from east to west.
" With fascinated eyes the miserable murderers watched the
dreadful spectacle all day. They ate nothing. They drank
nothing. They had no sense but in their eyes, and these had
but the one object. Every moment they watched to see the
ship go down. When they spoke, it was with this hope ; and
sometimes, when for a moment the spectre vessel receded in
the east, they cried this hope aloud in gasping accents full of a
horrid joy. But the joy changed in a moment�as she reap-
peared quite near again�to a despair more horrid.
" With the return of night the terrible fascination increased.
The sun went down in beauty; the stars came out in serene
sweetness ; the sky was without a cloud, the sea without a mur-
mur ; the winds slept upon the waves ; the trees along shore
hung motionless ; and all gradually melted mistily into the so-
ber darkness all but the blackened vessel. Suddenly, she
brightened. Suddenly, they beheld the snaky fires running tip
the cordage. They wound about the masts; they stretched
themselves over the canvass ; they glared out upon the broad
black sea with a thousand eyes of fire ; and the ship again went
to and fro, from east to west, illuminate in supernatural fire.
She bore down upon them thus, and stood off, then wore, then
pressed with all canvass toward the beach upon which they
crouched, until mortal weakness could no longer endure the
terror. The dreadful horror could no more be borne. The