Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter XVI / The Wager of Battle. A Tale of the Feudal Ages. >> Page 379

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Page 379

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription THE CRY OF THE MULTITUDE. 379
swallowed up and stifled in the little cloud of vapor which now
trembled, heaving up from the mass which but a moment before
had been a breathing, a burning, an exulting spirit. A cold
horror overspread the field, followed by a husky and convulsive
cry, as from a drowning multitude. The people gazed upon each
other, and upon the awful, heap in unspeakable terror. It was
annihilation which had taken place before them. Dead was the
silence that prevailed for several minutes ; a vacant consternation
freezing up the very souls of the spectators. But the reaction
was tremendous.
Seize upon the sorcerer ! Tear him in pieces !" was the cry
from a thousand voices. This was followed by a wild rush, like
that of an incoming sea struggling to overwhelm the headlands.
The barriers were broken down, the cries swelled into a very
tempest, and the mammoth multitude rolled onward, with souls
on fire, eyes glaring with tiger fury, and hands outstretched,
clutching spasmodically at their victim. Their course had but
one centre, where the old man calmly stood. There he kept
his immovable station, calm, firm, subdued, but stately. How
will he avert his fate � how stay this ocean of souls, resolute to
overwhelm him ? I trembled � I gasped with doubt and appre-
hension. But I was spared the further contemplation of horrors
which I could no longer bear to witness, by the very intensity
of the interest which my imagination had conceived in the sub-
ject. There is a point beyond which the mortal nature can not
endure. I had reached that point, and was relieved. I awaken-
ed, and started into living consciousness, my face covered with
clammy dews, my hair upright and wet, my whole frame agita-
ted with the terrors which were due wholly to the imagination.
It would be easy, perhaps, to account for such a dream, as-
suming, as we did at the outset, that the mental faculties never
know abeyance � that the thought never sleeps. Any specula-
tion, in regard to the transition periods in English history, would
give the requisite material. From a survey of the powers of
physical manhood to those rival and superior powers which fol-
low from the birth of art and science, the step is natural enough ;
and the imagination might well delight itself by putting them in
contrast and opposition. But we have no space left for further