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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

Lake Of The Dismal Swamp

Title:     Lake Of The Dismal Swamp
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

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.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Lake Of The Dismal Swamp