Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XV / The Ship of Fire >> Page 346

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 346

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 346 SOUTIIWARD HO
murderers fled from the shore fled to the cover of the forest,
and buried themselves in the vast interior.
According to tradition, the penally of blood has never been
fully paid ; and tree rule of retributive justice requires that the
avenging fates and furies shall hang about the lives of the crim-
inals and their children, unless expiated by superior virtues in
the progeny, and through the atoning mercies of the Savior.
Hence the continued reappearance, year after year, of the Ship
of Fire. The immediate criminals seem to have gone free.
At all events, tradition tells us nothing of their peculiar pains
and penalties. Doubtlessly, Eternal justice followed on their
footsteps. Their lives were haunted by terror and remorse.
Horrid aspects crowded upon their souls in dreaming hours and
in solitude. They lived on their ill-gotten spoils to little profit ;
and, according to the story, each year brought them down, as
by a fearful necessity, to the seashore, at the very period when
the spectre ship made her fiery progress along the coast. This
spectacle, which they were doomed to endure, kept alive and
for ever green in their souls the terrible memory of their crime.
They have all met the common destiny of earth�are all dead ;
for the period of their evil deed extends back long beyond the
usual limit of human life. Their descendants still enjoy the
fruits of their crime, and hence the still-recurring spectacle of the
Ship of Fire, which, according to the tradition, must continue to
reappear, on the spot consecrated by the crime, until the last de-
scendant of that bloody crew shall have expiated, by a death of
shame and agony, the bloody offences of his miserable ancestor."
Our North-Carolinian paused.
" Have you ever seen this Ship of Fire ?" was the question
of one of the ladies.
I have seen something like it� something so utterly unac-
countable otherwise, under the circumstances, that I have been
reluctantly compelled to account for the mystery by a reference
to the tradition."
This was said somewhat hesitatingly. The Alabamian touched
the narrator on the shoulder
" I do not censure your credulity, my dear young Turpentine,
nor will I question your belief in any way; but suffer me to coun-
sel, that, whatever you may believe, you never permit yourself to
eive a certificate of the fact. No affidavies, if you are wise."