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The Spirit of the Border

Chapter 4.
As the rafts drifted with the current the voyagers saw the settlers on the landing-place
diminish until they had faded from indistinct figures to mere black specks against the
green background. Then came the last wave of a white scarf, faintly in the distance, and
at length the dark outline of the fort was all that remained to their regretful gaze. Quickly
that, too, disappeared behind the green hill, which, with its bold front, forces the river to
take a wide turn.
The Ohio, winding in its course between high, wooded bluffs, rolled on and on into the
wilderness.
Beautiful as was the ever-changing scenery, rugged gray-faced cliffs on one side
contrasting with green-clad hills on the other, there hovered over land and water
something more striking than beauty. Above all hung a still atmosphere of calmness--of
loneliness.
And this penetrating solitude marred somewhat the pleasure which might have been
found in the picturesque scenery, and caused the voyagers, to whom this country was
new, to take less interest in the gaily-feathered birds and stealthy animals that were to be
seen on the way. By the forms of wild life along the banks of the river, this strange
intruder on their peace was regarded with attention. The birds and beasts evinced little
fear of the floating rafts. The sandhill crane, stalking along the shore, lifted his long neck
as the unfamiliar thing came floating by, and then stood still and silent as a statue until
the rafts disappeared from view. Blue-herons feeding along the bars, saw the unusual
spectacle, and, uttering surprised "booms," they spread wide wings and lumbered away
along the shore. The crows circled above the voyagers, cawing in not unfriendly
excitement. Smaller birds alighted on the raised poles, and several--a robin, a catbird and
a little brown wren--ventured with hesitating boldness to peck at the crumbs the girls
threw to them. Deer waded knee-deep in the shallow water, and, lifting their heads,
instantly became motionless and absorbed. Occasionally a buffalo appeared on a level
stretch of bank, and, tossing his huge head, seemed inclined to resent the coming of this
stranger into his domain.
All day the rafts drifted steadily and swiftly down the river, presenting to the little party
ever-varying pictures of densely wooded hills, of jutting, broken cliffs with scant
evergreen growth; of long reaches of sandy bar that glistened golden in the sunlight, and
over all the flight and call of wildfowl, the flitting of woodland songsters, and now and
then the whistle and bellow of the horned watchers in the forest.
The intense blue of the vault above began to pale, and low down in the west a few fleecy
clouds, gorgeously golden for a fleeting instant, then crimson-crowned for another,
shaded and darkened as the setting sun sank behind the hills. Presently the red rays
disappeared, a pink glow suffused the heavens, and at last, as gray twilight stole down
 
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