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the most prolific and versatile writers of the day,' and whatever comes from his pen is characterized by earnestness and sincerity. “In all that he has written, his excellencies are unborrowed: their merits are the development of original native germs, without any apparent aid from models. His thoughts, his diction, his arrangement, are his own; he reminds you of no other author; even in the lesser graces of literary execution, he combines language after no pattern set by other authors, however beautiful."?
Mr. Simms now resides on his plantation at Midway, a town about seventy miles southwest of Charleston.
THE MAIDEN AND THE RATTLESNAKE.
“He does not come,-he does not come," she murmured, as she stood contemplating the thick copse spreading before her, and forming the barrier which terminated the beautiful range of oaks which constituted the grove. How beautiful was the green and garniture of that little copse of wood! The leaves were thick, and the grass around lay folded over and over in bunches, with here and there a wild flower gleaming from its green and making of it a beautiful carpet of the richest and most various texture. A small tree rose from the centre of a clump around which a wild grape gadded luxuriantly; and, with an incoherent sense of what she saw, she lingered before the little cluster, seeming to survey that which, though it seemed to fix her eye, yet failed to fill her thought. Her mind wandered,-her soul was far away; and the objects in her vision were far other than those which occupied her imagination. Things grew indistinct beneath her eye. The eye rather slept than saw. The musing spirit had given holiday to the ordinary senses, and took no heed of the forms that rose, and floated, or glided away, before them. In this way, the leaf detached made no impression upon the sight that was yet bent upon it; she saw not the bird, though it whirled, untroubled by a fear, in wanton circles around her head,-and the black snake, with the rapidity of an arrow, darted over her path without arousing a single terror in the form that otherwise would have shivered at its mere appearance. And yet, though thus indistinct
1 In Roorbach's “ Bibliotheca Americana” is a list of his works, comprising fifty-three volumes of poetry, fiction, history, and biography. Mr. Simms cannot expect that in this "fast age" all his works can be generally read; but if he, or if some friend for bim, would make a selection from his prose and poetry, to be coinprised in five or six volumes, it would be a very choice contribution to our literature, and one which posterity "would not willingly let die."
2 “ Homes of American Authors.”
3 From Yemassee, a Romance of Carolina. The heroine, Bess Matthews, is in the woods, waiting the coming of her lover.
were all things around her to the musing mind of the maiden, her eye was yet singularly fixed,—fastened, as it were, to a single spot, gathered and controlled by a single object, and glazed, apparently, beneath a curious fascination.
Before the maiden rose a little clump of bushes,-bright tangled leaves flaunting wide in glossiest green, with vines trailing over them, thickly decked with blue and crimson flowers. Her eye communed vacantly with these; fastened by a star-like shining glance,-a subtle ray, that shot out from the circle of green leaves, seeming to be their very eye,—and sending out a fluid lustre that seemed to stream across the space between, and find its way into her own eyes. Very piercing and beautiful was that subtle brightness, of the sweetest, strangest power. And now the leaves quivered and seemed to float away, only to return, and the vines waved and swung around in fantastic mazes, unfolding ever-changing varieties of form and color to her gaze; but the star-like eye was ever steadfast, bright and gorgeous gleaming in their midst, and still fastened, with strange fondness, upon her
How beautiful, with wondrous intensity, did it gleam, and dilate, growing larger and more lustrous with every ray which it sent forth ! And her own glance became intense, fixed also; but, with a dreaming sense that conjured up the wildest fancies, terribly beautiful, that took her soul away from her, and wrapt it about as with a spell. She would have fled, she would have flown; but she had not power to move.
The will was wanting to her flight. She felt that she could have bent forward to pluck the gem-like thing from the bosom of the leaf in which it seemed to grow, and which it irradiated with its bright white gleam; but ever as she aimed to stretch forth her hand and bend forward, she heard a rush of wings and a shrill scream from the tree above her, ---such a scream as the mock-bird makes, when, angrily, it raises its dusky crest and flaps its wings furiously against its slender sides. Such a scream seemed like a warning, and, though yet unawakened to full consciousness, it startled her and forbade her effort. More than once, in her survey of this strange object, had she heard that shrill note, and still had it carried to her ear the same note of warning, and to her mind the same vague consciousness of an evil presence. But the star-like eye was yet upon her own,-a small, bright eye, quick like that of a bird, now steady in its place and observant seemingly only of hers, now darting forward with all the clustering leaves about it, and shooting up towards her, as if wooing her to seize. At another moment, riveted to the vine which lay around it, it would whirl round and round, dazzlingly bright and beautiful, even as a torch waving hurriedly by night in the hands of some playful boy; but, in all this time, the glance was never taken from her own : there it grew, fixed,-a very principle of light,--and such a light,-a subtle, burning, piercing, fascinating gleam, such as gathers in vapor above the old grave, and binds us as we look, shooting, darting directly into her eye, dazzling her gaze, defeating its sense of discrimination, and confusing strangely that of perception. She felt dizzy; for, as she looked, a cloud of colors, bright, gay, various colors, floated and hung like so much drapery around the single object that had so secured her attention and spellbound her feet. Her limbs felt momently more and more insecure,-her blood grew cold, and she seemed to feel the gradual freeze of vein by vein throughout her person.
At that moment a rustling was heard in the branches of the tree beside her, and the bird, which had repeatedly uttered a single cry above her, as it were of warning, flew away from his station with a scream more piercing than ever. This movement had the effect, for which it really seemed intended, of bringing back to her a portion of the consciousness she seemed so totally to have been deprived of before. She strove to move from before the beautiful but terrible presence, but for a while she strove in vain.
The rich, star-like glance still riveted her own, and the subtle fascination kept her bound. The mental energies, however, with the moment of their greatest trial, now gathered suddenly to her aid; and, with a desperate effort, but with a feeling still of most annoying uncertainty and dread, she succeeded partially in the attempt, and threw her arms backwards, her hands grasping the neighboring tree, feeble, tottering, and depending upon it for that support which her own limbs almost entirely denied her. With her movement, however, came the full development of the powerful spell and dreadful mystery before her. As her feet receded, though but a single pace, to the tree against which she now rested, the audibly-articulated ring, like that of a watch when wound up with the verge broken, announced the nature of that splendid yet dangerous presence, in the form of the monstrous rattlesnake, now but a few feet before her, lying coiled at the bottom of a beautiful shrub, with which, to her dreaming eye, many of its own glorious hues had become associated. She was at length conscious enough to perceive and to feel all her danger; but terror had denied her the strength necessary to fly from her dreadful enemy. There still the eye glared beautifully bright and piercing upon her own; and, seemingly in a spirit of sport, the insidious reptile slowly unwound himself from his coil, but only to gather himself up again into his muscular rings, his great flat head rising in the midst, and slowly nodding, as it were, towards her, the eye still peering deeply into her own ;—the rattle still slightly ringing at intervals, and giving forth that paralyzing sound, which, once heard, is remembered forever.
The reptile all this while appeared to be conscious of, and to sport with, while seeking to excite, her terrors. Now, with its flat head, distended mouth, and curving neck, would it dart forward its long form towards her,-its fåtal teeth, unfolding on either side of its upper jaw, seeming to threaten her with instantaneous death, while its powerful eye shot forth glances of that fatal power of fascination, malignantly bright, which, by paralyzing, with a novel form of terror and of beauty, may readily account for the spell it possesses of binding the feet of the timid, and denying to fear even the privilege of flight. Could she have fled! She felt the necessity ; but the power of her limbs was gone! and there still it lay, coiling and uncoiling, its arching neck glittering like a ring of brazed copper, bright and lurid; and the dreadful beauty of its eye still fastened, eagerly contemplating the victim, while the pendulous rattle still rang the deathnote, as if to prepare the conscious mind for the fate which is momently approaching to the blow. Meanwhile the stillness became death-like with all surrounding objects. The bird had gone with its scream and rush. The breeze was silent. The vines ceased to wave. The leaves faintly quivered on their stems. The serpent once more lay still; but the eye was never once turned away from the victim. Its corded muscles are all in coil. They have but to unclasp suddenly, and the dreadful folds will be upon her, its full length, and the fatal teeth will strike, and the deadly venom which they secrete will mingle with the life-blood in her veins.
The terrified damsel, her full consciousness restored, but not her strength, feels all the danger. She sees that the sport of the terrible reptile is at an end. She cannot now mistake the horrid expression of its eye. She strives to scream, but the voice dies away, a feeble gurgling in her throat. Her tongue is paralyzed; her lips are sealed; once more she strives for flight, but her limbs refuse their office. She has nothing left of life but its fearful consciousness. It is in her despair that, a last effort, she succeeds to scream, a single wild cry, forced from her by the accumulated agony; she sinks down upon the grass before her enemy, —her eyes, however, still open, and still looking upon those which he directs forever upon them. She sees him approach,—now advancing, now receding,—now swelling in every part with something of anger, while his neck is arched beautifully like that of a wild horse under the curb; until, at length, tired as it were of play, like the cat with its victim, she sees the neck growing larger and becoming completely bronzed as about to strike,--the huge jaws unclosing almost directly above her, the long tubulated fang, charged with venom, protruding from the cavernous mouth, .-and she sees no more! Insensibility came to her aid, and she lay almost lifeless under the very folds of the monster.
In that moment the copse parted,—and an arrow, piercing the monster through and through the neck, bore his head forward to the ground, alongside of the maiden, while his spiral extremities, now unfolding in his own agony, were actually, in part, writhing upon her person. The arrow came from the fugitive Occonestoga, who had fortunately reached the spot, in season, on his way to the Block House. He rushed from the copse as the snake fell, and, with a stick, fearlessly approached him where he lay tossing in agony upon the grass. Seeing him advance, the courageous reptile made an effort to regain his coil, shaking the fearful rattle violently at every evolution which he took for that purpose; but the arrow, completely passing through his neck, opposed an unyielding obstacle to the endeavor; and, finding it hopeless, and seeing the new enemy about to assault him, with something of the spirit of the white man under like circumstances, he turned desperately round, and striking his charged fangs, so that they were riveted in the wound they made, into a susceptible part of his own body, he threw himself over with a single convulsion, and, a moment after, lay dead beside the utterly unconscious maiden."
SONG OF THE ZEPHYR SPIRIT.
I have come from the deeps where the sea-maiden twines,
In her bowers of amber, her garlands of shells;
And weaves for thy coming the subtlest of spells;
And the strain as it rose hath been murmur'd for thee;
And her couch, in the coral-grove, deep in the sea.
Where all may be found that is joyous and bright, -
And the soul lives in dreams of a lasting delight!
Wouldst thou dwell with the maiden now pining for thee?
For her mansions of coral, far down in the sea.
The song of her nymphs shall persuade thee to sleep,
Nor suffer the sea-snake beside thee to creep;
1“ The power of the rattlesnake to fascinate is a frequent faith among tho superstitious of the Southern country-people. Of this capacity in reference to birds and insects, frogs, and the smaller reptiles, there is indeed little question. Its power over persons is not so well authenticated, although numberless instances of this sort are given by persons of very excellent veracity. The above is almost literally worded after a verbal narrative furnished the author by an old lady, who never dreamed, herself, of doubting the narration."