The Yemassee

By William Gilmore Simms; Alexander Cowie | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXVII

"'Tie freedom that she brings him, but the pass
Is leaguered he must 'scape through. Foemen watch,
Ready to strike the hopeless fugitive."

WITH the repose to slumber of the warrior the cricket and the bee, the mock-bird and the woodpecker, all at once grew silent. A few moments only had elapsed, when, cautious in approach, they made their simultaneous appearance from the bush in the person of Matiwan. It was her skill that had charmed the spirit of the watcher into sleep, by the employment of associations so admirably adapted to the spirit of the scene. With that ingenuity which is an instinct with the Indians, she had imitated, one after another, the various agents, whose notes, duly timed, had first won, then soothed, and then relaxed and quieted the senses of the prison-keeper. She had rightly judged in the employment of her several arts. The gradual beatitude of mind and lassitude of body, brought about with inevitable certainty, when once we have lulled the guardian senses of the animal, must always precede their complete unconsciousness; and the art of the Indian, in this way, is often employed, in cases of mental excitation and disease, with a like object. The knowledge of the power of soothing, sweet sounds over the wandering mind, possessed, as the Hebrew strongly phrased it, of devils, was not confined to that people, nor to the melodious ministerings of their David. The Indian claims for it a still greater influence, when, with a single note, he bids the serpent uncoil from his purpose, and wind unharmingly away from the bosom of his victim.

She emerged from her place of concealment with a caution which marked something more of settled purpose than she had yet exhibited. She approached in the dim, flickering light, cast from the decaying torches which lay scattered without order along the ground. A few paces only divided her from the watchers, and she continued to approach, when one of them turned with a degree of restlessness which led her to apprehend that he had awakened. She sank back like a shadow, as fleet and silently,

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