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to huddle and cast shadows. The house stood silent as a ship becalmed in an ocean of stillness. The children set out running. In the stable-yard the big bloodhound came out of his kennel and barked. Eugénie spoke to him and he relapsed into amiability and manifested willingness to join the expedition. This could not be permitted, so by threatening pantomime, they sought to impress upon him that his escort would be superfluous. Old Neptune, however, scented diversion, and with tail a-wag set them gayly at defiance. "He'll spoil everythingbarking and making a fuss," fretted Eugénie. "How can we creep easy with him bouncing about like a bear?"

Then Chance, never without resources, produced a biscuit, intended for her own refreshment, and toted the dog back to his kennel and chained him.

In the cotton-field the pods were beginning to burst for the picking. The plants looked like branching candelabra, with snow in the candle-cups instead of tapers. In a few days the entire field would be foam-crested with the fleece. The familiar place looked mysterious and alien in the moonlight: the children scuttled along between the rows like rabbits.

The swamp seemed more mysterious still, weird and unaccountably different. The track, used for carting out cypress shingles, was narrow, but well defined. On either hand was swamp-ooze, set with tussocks and saw-grass, and beyond cane-brakes and heavier jungle.

The moonlight fell clear until the path entered the swamp when a screen seemed to interpose and break the light into patches. The atmosphere grew dense with moisture and the exhalations of dank, decaying vegetation. The jungle thickened; bay trees, magnolias and cypress mingled with the canes and were matted with a dark entanglement of creepers. Overhead the branches pushed close and waved spectral, trailing dependencies of moss. The silence was so intense that the children could count their own heart-beats. They pressed close together, holding hands, and scurried along, impressed by the loneliness, and becoming conscious of the awe which, with children, is the ante-chamber of terror.

"It'll be light in the clearing," Eugénie promised. "It's big and open. The moon can shine good. And there'll be fires. Tom told about fires."

Chance made no rejoinder. The adventure was beginning to pall on her.

Momentarily, the silence seemed to deepen and expand. Not a breath stirred, not a twig creaked. The very owls and insects were voiceless. Even the tree-toads and alligators had given over grunting and booming and were wrapped in slumber. Eugénie began to whistle, trilling out her notes like a mocking-bird.

"You better heish makin' dat fuss," snapped her companion. "Folks comin' 'long behin' hear you an' ketch we-all.” "So they will," acquiesced Eugénie, desisting. "I forgot." The idea of other humanity abroad made her more cheerful. Her spirits rose, and she made a succession of jumps, dragging Chance after her.

"Do you reckon there'll be many folks at the clearing, Chancie?" she queried.

"Dunno," was the cross retort.

"What do you think?"

But instead of considering the question Chance leapt nimbly into the air shrieking, “Oh, Lawdy! oh, Lawdy!" and began to run with all her might. Eugénie, frightened out of her wits, raced after, but the little negro was going at full speed, and it was fully five minutes before she caught up.

"What was it?" she gasped.

"A snake," Chance gasped back. "I trod plumb on his back. He wiggled bof' sides o' my foot an' his ole tail hit 'gin my leg. Oh! Lawdy! I'se so skeered!" then viciously, “I tole you to keep out'n dis pisen snaky ole place. I tole you!" Her voice trailed off into a whimper.

"Did he bite you?" whimpered Eugénie, in turn. "Let's go home, Chancie. I'm 'fraid! I don't like it out here. It's so lonesome. Let's go home."

"I ses so too," sobbed Chance. "But how we-all gwine git by dat snake? He done quirl up by now an' he mout strike we-all passin'. He quirled soon as I hopped off'n him." Can't we run fast and jump when he get to the place?" Eugénie suggested.

"Whar's de place?"

The pertinence of this query reduced Eugénie to helplessness. She knew no more than Chance did how far they had

run. The moonlight had waned perceptibly; soon it would vanish altogether. She glanced skyward in desperation and sobbed under her breath.

From somewhere, close at hand, came a scratching, rasping sound, as of claws against wood. An opossum was scrambling down a cypress trunk and grunting as he came. The children clung together in an agony of terror, their teeth chattered and their flesh stirred on their bones. To their quickened imaginations the sounds were invested with awful significance. The only explanation of them which presented itself was that a monstrous bear, or a grim and grisly wolf was at hand ravening for their blood. They cowered with trembling legs and extremities of ice. Their teeth chattered audibly.

"Let's pray," suggested Eugénie in desperation, feeling that something must be done to relieve the situation.

"Tain't no use," moaned Chance. "Dat varmint gwine crack we-all's bones befo' we fetch amen. Gawd ain't in no sich place as dis nohow. Dis de debbil's hole, dis is. Gawd ain't got no business here."

Through the swamp suddenly pealed the eldritch mirth. of a great laughing owl, beginning with a high note, like a shriek, and trailing into a prolonged demoniac chuckling. To the horror-stricken children the laughter seemed omnipresent, in the air, in the jungle to right and left, above and around them. They shrieked in unison. "It's a har'nt! It's a har'nt!" and their hair lifted itself.

"Run!" breathed Eugénie, veering in her tracks.

The hideous hilarity broke forth again, multiplied by the echoes into all pervasive ghastliness. The children stood not on the order of their going. Helter-skelter, pell-mell, now one, now the other in the lead, they raced back the way they had come, sobbing and stumbling in the semi-darkness and to themselves, seeming to run with weighted feet. They forgot the snake, they even forgot the newer terror of five minutes back, everything was submerged by an overwhelming superstitious dread of some awful, invisible presence which mocked them. with laughter and, for aught they could tell, might race at their heels with clutching hands and eyes of evil.

Back through the cypress belt, back through the jungles

and cane-brakes, out into the open, where saw-grass and lilypads bordered the track, the children sped like hunted things. They were breathless and spent but they dared not stop. The moonlight was gone, the starlight might follow, and darkness descend upon the world before they could get through the big gate and across the cotton-field.

What was that moving among the cotton, like a jack-o'lantern leaping, flickering and dancing? What sound was it booming like a bell, full, sonorous. Heaven defend them! What monster was this bounding towards them? Cut off front and rear, desperate and demoralized, the terrified children fell in a heap and huddled together, while old Neptune bounded nearer and nearer, his trailing note changing into a quick bark of exultation.

Mammy Mystic, Millie, and black Stephen, the latter's husband, hurried up and bent over the children with wonderment, questions, and keen words of rebuke. What were they doing out of their beds at that hour of the night? And where had they been?

"We wanted to see the Voudou," sobbed Eugénie, clinging to Mammy Mystic. "We went in the swamp like Tom Thurrow and a haunt chased us out."

The child, wild with terror and excitement, trembled like a leaf, and Mammy Mystic lifted her in her arms, soothing her with soft Creole mother-words. She had come home from Toinette's earlier than she had expected and discovered the absence of the children. After searching the house for them she had run straight to her daughter's cabin, leaving Mrs. Philip all unnerved and hysterical, to rouse up Millie and Steve for the search. Old Neptune was a blood-hound of the old breed, and a rare trailer, so they had taken him along.

Mrs. Philip was exceedingly annoyed and, when the judge returned the following day, complained of Eugénie in unmeasured terms. If the child were allowed to run wild without rebuke there was no telling what mischief and danger she might get into. The judge himself was troubled, and laid upon Eugénie, and also upon the servants, strict orders that there should be no more such adventures. When questioned as to her motive for embarking on such an expedition, Eugénie curled her arms around her father's neck and coaxed and

evaded. All her instincts were secretive, so she held back the true reason and declared instead that she had gone for a frolic and to frighten Chance.


From 'Oblivion.' Copyright, Henry Holt and Company, and used here by permission of the publishers.

"LIKE a thief in the night." The simile is hackneyed, but it will serve, for so the water came. The overplus of spring, rivulet, and brook, with the accumulated wash of the mountain-sides, had swelled the river to a mighty torrent which poured itself through the valley in a perfect flood. From hillside to hillside the water went with a current in the middle like a mill-race. The rail-road bridge was still standing, but the water had swept around both ends, isolating it like a scrap of wire fence in the middle of a prairie. Against it, on the upper side, a huge hammock had formed, and it was only a question of moments, and a few more logs and trees, ere the whole structure must give way; so impotent is iron, and cunning handiwork, against the power of such agents of destruction as weight and water.

All the villagers, men, women, children, and dogs, were abroad upon the hillside, wondering, gazing, commenting, and questioning. The railway-track was seven feet under water, and the river was still rising.

"Thar goes Rideout's sto'," remarked Knapp, the carpenter, "startin' out down country on er v'yage o' diskivery. Look how well she holds together; every log an' plank in place as solid as the day I j'ined 'em." The speaker paused to regard his handiwork with pride. "Thar she swings out into the current-bound for Tennessee. I call that a good squar' lead."

"Ther depot's 'bout followin' suit," observed Thrasher fishing in his pocket for a twist of home-made tobacco, and helping himself to a liberal "chaw."

The depot building moved slightly, lifted, turned slowly with a waltzing motion, and drifted off down stream. Telegraph-posts followed, washed up and falling like trees with a sullen splash. A stack or two of rough food, straw and fodder came sailing by, bowing and bending with the motion of the

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