from "Promise Hill"

…"You don't have to tell me if you don't want," I said sulkily.

Jessie heaved a sigh. "There was a tragedy in that house. Long ago, I suppose. Somebody died."

"Jessie, someone has died in just about any old house."

"Of course. But this wasn't an ordinary death. It was all wrong somehow… It was a young man who died, and not from illness. It shook up the whole family…"

We had come to a deep and shady passage, heavy-scented with mouldering timber and leaves. The blackbirds were very vocal down here. Among stubby tree-skeletons in a long-flooded area I saw one flit deftly, saw the red flash of his wings in a surprising patch of bright open sky. Then, instantaneously, gloom whisked him away again. If someone asked me to define "desolation" with a picture…

"Why are we going this way?" I asked. "You know the creek's gonna be too high to get over. C'mon, we'd best turn back."

Mercifully, she put up no argument. The woods were deliciously cool, but I would trade them gladly for the sun-drenched plains beyond the hills, where familiar, inhabited houses could be glimpsed in the distance.

"How do you know this stuff, Jessie? Was it something your dad told you about the place? You're not just making it up, are you?"

"No, and no!" she replied, offended. "I just kind of… saw it."

"Saw it where? You weren't even looking at the house."

"I saw it in my head, then. I was inside the house some of the time. I saw them bring the body in…"


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