Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Mellichampe: A Legend of the Santee >> Chapter XLVIII: Remorse >> Page 402

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Page 402

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription 402 MELLICHAMPE.
tered and tremblingly through the leaves, that complained in
the cool wind of evening that fitfully stole among them. The
moon was just rising, and gave but feeble light. The heavy
trees seemed to dance before his eyes ; huge shadows stalked
gloomily between them, and, shuddering with bitter thoughts
and terrifying fancies, the stout woodman, for a few moments,
was unmanned.
I can bear it no longer," he cried aloud, in his disquiet.
I can bear it no longer."
With the words he picked up his rifle, which lay upon the
spot where he had lain himself. He felt for the knife in his
belt, and, finding that his equipment was complete, he moved
away with the haste of one who has fully resolved ; saddled
his horse, which he mounted with all speed ; and, barely
replying to the several challenges of the sentinels, he darted
forth upon the well-known road. The relentless spur left the
steed no breathing moment. The thoughts of the trooper flew
faster than he could drive his horse ; and, though going at the
utmost extent of his powers, the impatient trooper chafed that
the animal went so slowly.
The well-known swamp entrance was in sight ; the cane-
brake was passed; and there, rising up in dreadful silence,
white and ghostlike in its aspect under the increasing bright-
ness of the moonlight, stood the tall cypress in which his
victim was buried. The steed of the trooper wag stopped
suddenly so suddenly that he almost fell back upon his
haunches. .His rider alighted ; but for some moments, frozen
to the spot, be dared not approach the object before him.
The awful stillness of the scene appalled him. He strove to
listen : he would have given worlds to have heard a groan
a moan� a sigh, however slight, from the cavernous body of
that tree. A curse�ay, though the wretch within had again
cursed his mother�would have been grateful to the senses
and the heart of him who now stood gazing upon it in horror
and in silence, but with the motionlessness of a statue.
He recovered strength at last sufficient to advance. He
reached the tree. The wedges which secured his prisoner
had been undisturbed. He put his ear to the rough bark of