Over among them somewhere lay the blue lake. He could already hear the murmur of its whispering shores, the roar of its circling forests, for the trees followed on and over through some low defile as if loath to lose the hills themselves, rising to heaven in virgin smoothness of cloud-shadowed verdure.
The sun had gone behind them in splendid panoply of fire when he came down into the sheltered woods, and through them to a wondrous meadow, beautiful as the fields of Paradise, sloping, to the shore beyond where waters blue as the sky above sent back the pageantry of light.
Here were the signs of tillage and cultivation, and even now a long dark strip attested the spring’s new work, sending forth on the evening air the sweet scent of fresh-turned earth.
Beyond, across the field, in the edge of the farther woods, thin blue smoke curled peacefully up from the pointed tops of some forty native lodges, while nearer the lake there stood two cabins, one old and solid with a look of having faced the elements for years, the other staring in its newness. Indian ponies grazed at the clearing’s edge or drank of the rippling waters on the pebbly beach, and a plough lay in the last furrow.
The stranger stood in amaze and gazed on the scene before him.
While he looked women came from the cabins and passed blithely about at evening tasks, and one went to the lake with a vessel for water. He could see its gleam in the reflection of the gorgeous light.
Thin and high came the sound of a voice singing, the ring of an axe somewhere in the wood beyond the cabins, and peace ineffable seemed to lie upon this blessed place. Here truly was Arcadia.
Long he stood in the fringe of the forest and looked eagerly among the distant figures for one, taller than all the rest, clad in plain dark garments, whose regal head should catch the dying glow, but strain as he might, he saw no familiar form, could not detect the free and swinging step.
Now that the goal of his hope was so near, within the very grasp of his hand, a strange timidity fell upon him, and he shrank from crossing the open field.
Rather would he follow the circling wood and come out at the upper end by the lake, going down along the shore to the cabins.
Keeping well within the trees, giants of the wild nursed in this cradle of sun and water, he bore to the north and ever his eager eyes peered between the bolls at the distant habitat.
He had gone but short space when, suddenly, he stopped, drawn up by sight of what lay in his path.
He had pierced a thicket of hanging vines, too eager to go around, and come abruptly upon some pagan shrine, some savage Holy of Holies.
And yet not wholly savage, for the signs of the red man and the white were strangely blended.
In the centre of the open space within the hanging wall of the vines,— perfect sylvan temple,—there lay a mounded grave, covered from head to foot with articles he knew at once to be the gifts of Indians to some great chief gone to the shadowy hunting-grounds. Rich they were, these gifts, in workmanship and carving, though mean and poor in quality, showing that great love had attended their giving, though the givers themselves must be a meagre people.