Lake Of The Dismal Swamp

Drummond's Pond, or the Lake of the Dismal Swamp, is a dark and lonely

tarn that lies in the centre of this noted Virginia morass. It is, in a

century-old tradition, the Styx of two unhappy ghosts that await the end

of time to pass its confines and enjoy the sunshine of serener worlds. A

young woman of a family that had settled near this marsh died of a fever

caused by its malarial exhalations, and was buried near the swamp. The

young man to whom she was betrothed felt her loss so keenly that for days

he neither ate nor slept, and at last broke down in mind and body. He

recovered a measure of physical health, after a time, but his reason was

hopelessly lost.

It was his hallucination that the girl was not dead, but had been exiled

to the lonely reaches of this watery wilderness. He was heard to mutter,

I'll find her, and when Death comes I'll hide her in the hollow of a

cypress until he passes on. Evading restraint, he plunged into the fen,

and for some days he wandered there, eating berries, sleeping on tussocks

of grass, with water-snakes crawling over him and poisonous plants

shedding their baneful dew on his flesh. He came to the lake at last. A

will-o'the-wisp played along the surface. 'Tis she! he cried. I see

her, standing in the light. Hastily fashioning a raft of cypress boughs

he floated it and pushed toward the centre of the pond, but the eagerness

of his efforts and the rising of a wind dismembered the frail platform,

and he fell into the black water to rise no more. But often, in the

night, is seen the wraith of a canoe, with a fire-fly lamp burning on its

prow, restlessly urged to and fro by two figures that seem to be vainly

searching for an exit from the place, and that are believed to be those

of the maiden and her lover.

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