Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Maize in Milk: A Christmas Story of the South >> Page 328

image of pageExplore Inside

Page 328

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 328MAIZE IN MILK
of a single week accorded them during the great religious holiday
of the year. And other forms, almost equally dear, and other images
quite as sweet and persuasive, had passed beneath his waking fancy,
while his real and earthly nature slept. Sweet glimpses of dear Mary
Butler, and his own fair daughter, Bessy Clinton, and vague and
indistinct forms and aspects, in innocent relationship with these, all of
which aroused the fondest hopes and the most grateful imaginings in
the fond father's bosom. It was the season when all sights and sounds
are sweet and wholesome to the heart which desires and exercises
itself in wholesome influences when, as the great bard expresses it
"The bird of dawning singeth all night long: And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad; The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallow'd and so gracious is the time."
And merrily, indeed, and with most vigorous throat, did the hundred
voices of Mrs. Openheart's poultry yard respond to each other
through the watches of that calm December night. Nor were these
the only voices whose music somehow melted in with and formed a
part of the dreams of the excellent colonel. All around the fine old
mansion house of "Maize-in-Milk," the mock-birds had made homes
for their young among the ancestral oaks and cedars. Of these, the
bold choristers had maintained immemorial possession; and, as some
of the trees spread their great limbs even up to the windows of the
dwelling, against the panes of which their leaves rattled in the gusty
night, it was easy for the Puck of the southern groves to send his
capricious music through every chamber. These had Colonel Open-
heart been long accustomed to hear, but it seemed as if, at the
approach of the season when
"a chyld was i-born,
Us for to savyn that al was forlorn,"
the voices of the birds grew more full and numerous, and a gen-
erous and glad spirit, a soul of exultation, gave new impulse to their
merriment and music. Their fitful and capricious strains formed fitting
echoes to the fancies that swarmed in the good man's visions; and