The red waters of
the swamp 0 grew sinister and sullen .
The tall pines lost their slimness and stood in wide blurred blotches all across the way , and a great shadowy bird arose , wheeled and melted , murmuring , into the black-green sky .
The boy 1 wearily dropped
his 1 heavy bundle and stood still , listening as the voice of crickets split the shadows and made the silence audible .
A tear wandered down
his 1 brown cheek .
They 2 were at supper now ,
he 1 whispered --
the father 3 and
old mother 4 , away back yonder beyond the night .
They 2 were far away ;
they 2 would never be as near as once
they 2 had been , for
he 1 had stepped into
the world 5 .
And the cat and
Old Billy 6 -- ah , but
the world 5 was a lonely thing , so wide and tall and empty !
And so bare , so bitter bare !
he 1 had never dreamed of
the world 5 as lonely before ;
he 1 had fared forth to beckoning hands and luring , and to the eager hum of human voices , as of some great , swelling music .
he 1 was alone ; the empty night was closing all about
here 7 in
a strange land 7 , and
he 1 was afraid .
The bundle with
his 1 earthly treasure had hung heavy and heavier on
his 1 shoulder ;
his 1 little horde of money was tightly wadded in
his 1 sock , and
the school 8 lay hidden somewhere far away in the shadows .
He 1 wondered how far
it 8 was ;
he 1 looked and harkened , starting at
his 1 own heartbeats , and fearing more and more the long dark fingers of the night .
Then of a sudden up from the darkness came music .
It was human music , but of a wildness and a weirdness that startled
the boy 1 as it fluttered and danced across the dull red waters of
the swamp 0 .
He 1 hesitated , then impelled by some strange power , left
the highway 9 and slipped into
, shrinking , yet following the song hungrily and half forgetting
the forest of
the swamp 0 10
his 1 fear .
A harsher , shriller note struck in as of many and ruder voices ; but above it flew the first sweet music , birdlike , abandoned , and
the boy 1 crept closer .
The cabin 11 crouched ragged and black at the edge of
black waters 12 .
An old chimney leaned drunkenly against
it 11 , raging with fire and smoke , while through the chinks winked red gleams of warmth and wild cheer .
With a revel of shouting and noise , the music suddenly ceased .
Hoarse staccato cries and peals of laughter shook
the old hut 11 , and as
the boy 1 stood there peering through the black trees , abruptly the door flew open and a flood of light illumined the wood .
Amid this mighty halo , as on clouds of flame ,
a girl 13 was dancing .
She 13 was black , and lithe , and tall , and willowy .
Her 13 garments twined and flew around the delicate moulding of
her 13 dark , young , half-naked limbs .
A heavy mass of hair clung motionless to
her 13 wide forehead .
Her 13 arms twirled and flickered , and body and soul seemed quivering and whirring in the poetry of
her 13 motion .
she 13 danced
she 13 sang .
He 1 heard
her 13 voice as before , fluttering like a bird 's in the full sweetness of
her 13 utter music .
It was no tune nor melody , it was just formless , boundless music .
The boy 1 forgot
himself 1 and
all the world 14 besides .
his 1 darkness was sudden light ; dazzled
he 1 crept forward , bewildered , fascinated , until with one last wild whirl
the elf-girl 13 paused .
The crimson light fell full upon the warm and velvet bronze of
her 13 face --
her 13 midnight eyes were aglow ,
her 13 full purple lips apart ,
her 13 half hid bosom panting , and all the music dead .
the boy 1 gave a gasping cry and awoke to
swamp 0 and night and fire , while a white face , drawn , red-eyed , peered outward from some hidden throng within
the cabin 11 .
" Who 's that ? " a harsh voice cried .
" Where ? "
" Who is it ? " and pale crowding faces blurred the light .
The boy 1 wheeled blindly and fled in terror stumbling through
the swamp 0 , hearing strange sounds and feeling stealthy creeping hands and arms and whispering voices .
he 1 toiled in mad haste , struggling toward
the road 9 and losing
it 9 until finally beneath the shadows of a mighty oak
he 1 sank exhausted .
he 1 lay a while trembling and at last drifted into dreamless sleep .
It was morning when
he 1 awoke and threw a startled glance upward to the twisted branches of the oak that bent above , sifting down sunshine on
his 1 brown face and close curled hair .
he 1 remembered the loneliness , the fear and wild running through the dark .
He 1 laughed in the bold courage of day and stretched
himself 1 .
he 1 bethought
him 1 again of that vision of the night -- the waving arms and flying limbs of
the girl 13 , and
her 13 great black eyes looking into the night and calling
him 1 .
He 1 could hear
her 13 now , and hear that wondrous savage music .
Had it been real ?
he 1 dreamed ?
Or had it been some witch-vision of the night , come to tempt and lure
him 1 to
his 1 undoing ?
that black and flaming cabin 11 ?
the girl 13 --
the soul that had called
him 1 24
She 13 _ must have been real ;
she 13 had to live and dance and sing ;
he 1 must again look into the mystery of
her 13 great eyes .
he 1 sat up in sudden determination , and , lo !
gazed straight into the very eyes of
his 1 dreaming .
She 13 sat not four feet from
him 1 , leaning against the great tree ,
her 13 eyes now languorously abstracted , now alert and quizzical with mischief .
She 13 seemed but half-clothed , and
her 13 warm , dark flesh peeped furtively through the rent gown ;
her 13 thick , crisp hair was frowsy and rumpled , and the long curves of
her 13 bare young arms gleamed in the morning sunshine , glowing with vigor and life .
A little mocking smile came and sat upon
her 13 lips .
you 1 run for ? "
she 13 asked , with dancing mischief in
her 13 eyes .
" Because -- "
he 1 hesitated , and
his 1 cheeks grew hot .
I 13 knows , "
she 13 said , with impish glee , laughing low music .
" Why ? "
he 1 challenged , sturdily .
You 1 was a-feared . "
He 1 bridled .
" Well ,
I 1 reckon
you 13 'd be a-feared if
you 1 was caught out in the black dark all alone . "
" Pooh ! "
she 13 scoffed and hugged
her 13 knees .
" Pooh !
I 13 've stayed out all alone heaps o ' nights . "
He 1 looked at
her 13 with a curious awe .
I 1 do n't believe
you 13 , "
he 1 asserted ; but
she 13 tossed
her 13 head and
her 13 eyes grew scornful .
" Who 's a-feared of the dark ?
I 13 love night . "
Her 13 eyes grew soft .
He 1 watched
her 13 silently , till , waking from
her 13 daydream ,
she 13 abruptly asked : " Where
you 1 from ? "
Georgia 15 . "
" Where 's that ? "
He 1 looked at
her 13 in surprise , but
she 13 seemed matter-of-fact .
It 15 's away over yonder , "
he 1 answered .
" Behind where the sun comes up ? "
" Oh , no ! "
it 15 ai n't so far , "
she 13 declared .
I 13 knows where the sun rises , and
I 13 knows where it sets . "
She 13 looked up at its gleaming splendor glinting through the leaves , and , noting its height , announced abruptly : "
I 13 ' se hungry . "
" So 'm
I 1 , " answered
the boy 1 , fumbling at
his 1 bundle ; and then , timidly : " Will
you 13 eat with
me 1 ? "
" Yes , "
she 13 said , and watched
him 1 with eager eyes .
Untying the strips of cloth ,
he 1 opened
his 1 box , and disclosed chicken and biscuits , ham and corn-bread .
She 13 clapped
her 13 hands in glee .
" Is there any water near ? "
he 1 asked .
Without a word ,
she 13 bounded up and flitted off like a brown bird , gleaming dull-golden in the sun , glancing in and out among the trees , till
she 13 paused above
a tiny black pool 16 , and then came tripping and swaying back with hands held cupwise and dripping with cool water .
" Drink , "
she 13 cried .
he 1 bent over the little hands that seemed so soft and thin .
He 1 took a deep draught ; and then to drain the last drop ,
his 1 hands touched hers and the shock of flesh first meeting flesh startled
them 17 both , while the water rained through .
their 17 eyes looked deep into each other 's -- a timid , startled gleam in hers ; a wonder in
his 1 .
she 13 said dreamily : "
We 17 ' se known
us 17 all
our 17 lives , and -- before , ai n't
we 17 ? "
He 1 hesitated .
" Ye -- es --
I 1 reckon , "
he 1 slowly returned .
And then , brightening ,
he 1 asked gayly : " And
we 17 'll be
friends 18 always , wo n't
we 17 ? "
" Yes , "
she 13 said at last , slowly and solemnly , and another brief moment
they 17 stood still .
Then the mischief danced in
her 13 eyes , and a song bubbled on
her 13 lips .
She 13 hopped to the tree .
" Come -- eat ! "
she 13 cried .
they 17 nestled together amid the big black roots of the oak , laughing and talking while
they 17 ate .
" What 's over there ? "
he 1 asked pointing northward .
's big house 19
" And yonder to the west ? "
The school 8 . "
He 1 started joyfully .
The school 8 !
school 8 ? "
" . "
Miss Smith 22
's school 8
" Yes . "
The tone was disdainful .
" Why , that 's where
I 1 'm going .
I 1 was a-feared
it 8 was a long way off ;
I 1 must have passed
it 8 in the night . "
I 13 hate it ! " cried
the girl 13 ,
her 13 lips tense .
I 1 'll be so near , "
he 1 explained .
" And why do
you 13 hate it ? "
" Yes --
you 1 'll be near , "
she 13 admitted ; " that 'll be nice ; but -- "
she 13 glanced westward , and the fierce look faded .
Soft joy crept to
her 13 face again , and
she 13 sat once more dreaming .
" Yon way 's nicest , "
she 13 said .
" Why , what 's
there 23 ? "
The swamp 0 , "
she 13 said mysteriously .
" And what 's beyond
the swamp 0 ? "
She 13 crouched beside
him 1 and whispered in eager , tense tones : " Dreams ! "
He 1 looked at
her 13 , puzzled .