* * * * *
Next day dawned cloudless, and Shalah and I spent it in a long journey along the range. We kept to the highest parts, and at every vantage-ground we scanned the glens for human traces. By this time I had found my hill legs, and could keep pace even with the Indian’s swift stride. The ridge of mountains, you must know, was not a single backbone, but broken up here and there by valleys into two and even three ranges. This made our scouting more laborious, and prevented us from getting the full value out of our high station. Mostly we kept in cover, and never showed on a skyline. But we saw nothing to prove the need of this stealth. Only the hawks wheeled, and the wild pigeons crooned; the squirrels frisked among the branches; and now and then a great deer would leap from its couch and hasten into the coverts.
But, though we got no news, that journey brought to me a revelation, for I had my glimpse of Studd’s Promised Land. It came to me early in the day, as we halted in a little glade, gay with willowherb and goldenrod, which hung on a shelf of the hills looking westwards. The first streamers of morn had gone, the mists had dried up from the valleys, and I found myself looking into a deep cleft and across at a steep pine-clad mountain. Clearly the valley was split by this mountain into two forks, and I could see only the cool depth of it and catch a gleam of broken water a mile or two below. But looking more to the north, I saw where the vale opened, and then I had a vision worthy of the name by which Studd had baptized it. An immense green pasture land ran out to the dim horizon. There were forests scattered athwart it, and single great trees, and little ridges, too, but at the height where we stood it seemed to the eye to be one verdant meadow as trim and shapely as the lawn of a garden. A noble river, the child of many hill streams, twined through it in shining links. I could see dots, which I took to be herds of wild cattle grazing, but no sign of any human dweller.
“What is it?” I asked unthinkingly.
“The Shenandoah,” Shalah said, and I never stopped to ask how he knew the name. He was gazing at the sight with hungry eyes, he whose gaze was, for usual, so passionless.
That prospect gave me a happy feeling of comfort; why, I cannot tell, except that the place looked so bright and habitable. Here was no sour wilderness, but a land made by God for cheerful human dwellings. Some day there would be orchards and gardens among those meadows, and miles of golden corn, and the smoke of hearth fires. Some day I would enter into that land of Canaan which now I saw from Pisgah. Some day—and I scarcely dared the thought—my children would call it home.
A HAWK SCREAMS IN THE EVENING