Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> Ephraim Bartlett, the Edisto Raftsman >> Page 410

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 410EPHRAIM BARTLETT
away at a group of deer, myself, in these forest pastures, and even
now you may rouse the hunt profitably in the ancient ranges. There
are a few sportsmen who still know where to seek with certainty for
the buck at the proper season. The woods, though mostly pine, have
large tracts of oak and hickory. The scrubby oak denotes a light sandy
soil, of small tenacity, and, most usually, old fields which have been
abandoned. Along the smaller water-courses, the creeks and branches,
long strips of fertile territory may be had; and the higher swamp
lands only need drainage to afford tracts of inexhaustible fertility,
equal to any Mississippi bottom. The introduction of farming culture
will find these and reclaim them, and restore the poorer regions.
A thousand stories of the Revolution, peculiar to this country,
would reward the seeker. Nor is it wanting in other sources of
interest. Traditions are abundant which belong more to the spiritual
nature of the people than their national history. The poorer classes
in the low country of the South were full of superstition. Poverty,
for that matter, usually is so, but more particularly when it dwells
in a region which is distinguished by any natural peculiarities. Thus
the highlands of Scotland cherish a faith in spectral forms that rise
in the mist and vapor of the mountain; and the Brownie is but the
grim accompaniment of a life, that, lacking somewhat in human
association, must seek its companions among the spiritual; and these
must derive their aspects from the gloomy fortunes of the seeker.
The Banshee of Ireland is but the finally speaking monitor of a
fate that has always more or less threatened the fortunes of the
declining family; and the Norwegian hunting demons are such as
are equally evoked by the sports which he pursues and the necessities
by which he is pursued himself. In the wild, deep, dark, and tangled
masses of a Carolina swamp region, where, even by daylight, mystic
shadows harbor and walk capriciously with every change of the
always doubtful sunlight, the mind sees and seeks a spiritual presence,
which, though it may sometimes oppress, always affords company.
Here, solitude, which is the source of the spiritual and contemplative,
is always to be found; and forces herself—certainly at one season of
the year upon the scattered forester and farmer. The man who
lives by pursuit of the game, the deer or turkey, will be apt to con-
jure up, in the silent, dim avenues through which he wanders, some
companion for his thought, which will, in time, become a presence to