Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Maize in Milk: A Christmas Story of the South >> Page 334

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Page 334

Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 334MAIZE IN MILK
the face of the father, and brightened benevolently in his large blue
eye; the white teeth of Bedford, the Superlative, never displayed
their massive outlines more conspicuously than while riding along
with the boys, responding to their eager inquiries; and they, the
lads, their young souls spoke out only in shout and caracole, in
impatient question that stayed for no reply, and in the expression of
an exulting confidence in the joys of the day, which nature herself
seemed to counsel and encourage. The autumn still lingered among
the tree tops in robes of saffron and purple; and the life which
animated them beside, showed itself momently in groups of squirrels,
white, black and gray, which, darting from tree to tree, seemed really
only to sport themselves for the amusement of the cavalcade and the
annoyance of the dogs. Sometimes a covey of partridges flushed up
from the brown and half-withered foliage along the track, and a
couple of great turkey-hawks might be seen to rise sweeping the
air over the open fields in wide circles, with keen eye bent upon the
long grasses in which the rabbit might be supposed to have slept the
previous night. The track pursued by the party, though a narrow,
was a sufficiently open one. Made studiously circuitous, it was a good
two miles to the river, and every fifty or hundred yards afforded
some pleasant or picturesque changes to the eye. Now they skirted
a hill upon whose brow sits a crown of the noblest pines, green,
towering and magnificent; and now they wind along a copse of bays,
a thicket, whose leaves suffer only enough from the winter's frost as
to give forth those sweets of which none of the persuasions of the
summer could beguile a single breath. A uniform dark green over-
spreads this region, save here and there where a great gum-tree,
rising in the midst, shakes a head of glorious yellow aloft in lonely
majesty. And now they pass into the levels of the swamp, through
some choice cotton fields, in which, however, Colonel Openheart
sees but little promise, during the present season, of realizing the
usual bountiful returns. They are already nearly stripped of fruit
the white pods which commonly sprinkled these fields, as if strewn
with blossoms of the dogwood, until the last of January, being quite
beyond his power to pick until that period, show now but a scattered
whiteness here and there, which rather mocks than satisfies the sight.
"Bad business here, Bedford, this season."
"Monstrous bad ! " says Bedford, with a closing of the lips and a
lugubrious shaking of the head. "Monstrous bad, sir; but such a