“No, Dick, it can’t be; you are already so worn out that we should have been obliged to halt for you if Jones hadn’t broken down. It can’t be that you would think of leaving a fellow-soldier in such extremity as this, Dick? I know you better.”
“But I don’t know him. I have no interest in him. With you I’ll face any danger—I’ll die without a word; but to stay here in this awful place, with the black pools of water, like great dead eyes, glaring in their hideous light” (the pine-torch flaring in the wind filled the glade with vast ogreish shadows, as the clustering bushes were swayed in the night air) “and these hideous night-cries—O Jack, I can’t—I can’t—I must go!”
“But the horses and the need of some one that can come back in case anything befalls me. I am disappointed in you, Dick. I am shocked; you are not the man of courage and honor I thought you.”
“O my God, go—go—I will stay; but, Jack, if you find me dead, tell—tell—Rosa—that—that—” He gasped and sank down sobbing against the gnarled tree that crossed the mound above Jones’s head.
“I will tell Rosa that you were the man she believed you were when the trial came,” and with this Jack and Barney, with a flaming torch, set forward hastily through the fantastic curtain of foliage and night, which shut in the glimmering vista of specters, dark, sinister, and menacing.
To say that night is a time of terror is a commonplace. Night is not terrible of itself. It is like the ocean—peace and repose if there be no storm. But of all terrors there are none, outside a guilty mind, so benumbing as night in the unknown. It does not lessen the horror of darkness that fear makes use of the imagination for its agencies. Fancy, intuition, and the train that follows the inner vision, these make of night a phantasmagoria, compared to which Milton’s inferno is a place of comparative repose.
If you would realize the wondrous necromancy of the sun, pass a night in some primeval forest, untouched by the hand of man. Until he stands in the awful silence of the midnight wood, or upon some vast waste of nature, no man can figure to himself the varied shapes the mind can give to terrors based upon the mysterious noises of nature, and the goblin motions of inanimate things. The lover thinking of his lass welcomes the night and the rapturous walks among well-known scenes and kindly objects. With glimmering lamps in the foliage and the not distant sounds of daily life, even the woods have nothing fearful to the meditative or the distraught. But in flight, with fear as a garment that can not be laid aside, the somber forms of the forest are more terrible than an army with banners, as a haunted house is a more unnerving dread than burglars or any form of night marauders. It was at night that the mutinous sailors of Columbus broke into decisive revolt; it was at night that the iron band of Cortes lost heart, and were routed on the lakes of Mexico; it was at night that the resolution of Brutus failed before the disaster at Philippi.