Nobody would live there any more. The negroes said the place was haunted: on wild nights one might hear there the sound of a shot, the baying of a hound; and see Jake running for the swamp.
THE PURPLE HEIGHTS
Emma Campbell had one of her contrary fits, and when Emma was contrary, the best thing to do was to keep out of her way. Her “palate was down,” her temper was up; she’d had trouble with the Young Sons and Daughters of Zion, in her church, and hot words with a deacon who said that when he passed the cup Emma Campbell lapped up nearly all the communion wine, which was something no lady ought to do. And Cassius had taken unto himself a fourth spouse, and, without taking Emma into his confidence, had gotten her to wash and iron his wedding-shirt for him. So Emma’s “palate was down,” and not even three toothpicks and two spoons in her hair had been able to get it up. Peter, therefore, took a holiday. He filled his pockets with bread, and set out with no particular destination in mind.
At a turn in the Riverton Road he met the Red Admiral.
He stopped, reflectively. He hadn’t seen the Admiral in some time, and it pleased him to be led by that gay adventurer now. The Admiral flitted down the Riverton Road, and Peter ran gaily after him. He led the boy a fine chase across fields, and out on the road again, and then down a lane, and along the river, and through the pines, and finally to the River Swamp woods. Peter came fleet-footed to Neptune’s old cabin, raced round it, and then stopped, in utter confusion and astonishment. On the back steps, with an umbrella beside her, and an easel in front of her, sat a young woman so busy getting a bit of the swamp upon her canvas that she didn’t hear or see Peter until he was upon her. Then she looked up, with her paint-brush in her hand.
“Hello!” said she, in the friendliest fashion, “where did you come from?”
She was a big girl, blue as to eyes, brown as to hair, and with a fresh-colored, good-humored face. Her glance was singularly clear and direct, and her smile so comradely that Peter took an instantaneous liking to her. He wondered what on earth she meant by coming here, to this lonely place, all by herself. But she was making a picture, and his interest was more in that than in the painter.
“May I look at it, please?” he asked politely. He smiled at her, and Peter had a mighty taking smile of his own.
“Of course you may!” said the lady, genially. Hands behind his back, Peter stared at the canvas. Then he stepped back yet farther, lifted one hand, and squinted through the fingers. The young lady regarded him with growing interest.
“Well, what do you think of it?” she asked.
The young woman wasn’t a quick worker, but she was a careful one, and very exact. Unfinished though it was, the picture showed that; and it showed, too, a lack of something vital; there was no spontaneity in it.