Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Mellichampe: A Legend of the Santee >> Chapter XLVI: The Signal >> Page 383

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Page 383

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription THE SIGNAL. 383 with his well known-whistle. It may be scarce necessary to
say, that the faithful inferior found no less gratification in this
sad office than did the youth to whom it taught the unrelaxing,
though as yet ineffectual, watchfulness of a friend.
The dexterity of Witherspoon admirably sorted with his
fidelity and courage. Fearlessly did he penetrate the nearest
points to which he might approach, without certainty of being
seen, of the camp of his enemy. The frequent exercise of his
faculties as a woodman, a native ease and self-confidence, and
a heart too much interested in a single object to feel any scru-
ples or fear any danger, prompted him to a degree of hardi-
hood which, in a less admirable scout, would have been child-
ish audacity ; but it was in him the result of a calm conviction
of his own readiness of resource, and of his general ability to
meet emergencies. He knew himself as well as his enemy,
and relied upon his own sense of superiority. This confidence,
however, seduced him into no incautiousness. He timed his
movements with a just reference to all the circumstances of
his situation; chose his route and designed his purpose well
before entering upon it ; and, this done, dashed forward with
the boldness of the tiger, and the light, scarce perceptible foot-
step of the wild turkey in April.
It was night when, after making a circuit around Barsfield's
position, and scanning it carefully on every side, he reached a
copse at the head of the avenue, where, on a previous occa-
sion, we found himself and Mellichampe concealed. It was an
old haunt, and he threw himself on the grass and mused list-
lessly, like one who, after long strifes and a heating exercise
abroad, comes home to the repose and permitted freedoms of
his own fireside and family. The camp-fires were sprinkled
about the woods before him, looking dimly enough in contrast
with the pale but brighter gleams of the now ascending moon.
The house in which Mellichampe was confined stood a little
beyond, but as yet undistinguishable. The scout lay and
mused upon the fate and probable fortunes of his friend, and
his thoughts, breaking through the bounds. of his own restrain-
ing consciousness, were framed into words upon his lips.with-
out his own volition.