Paul stopped in a little open space, and looked around all the circle of the forest. Everywhere it was the same-just the curving wall of red and brown, and beyond, the blue sky, flecked with tiny clouds of white. The wilderness was full of beauty, charged with the glory of peace and silence, and there was naught to indicate that man had ever come. The leaves rippled a little in the gentle west wind, and the crisping grass bowed before it; but Paul saw no living being, save himself, in the vast, empty world. The boy was troubled and, despite his life in the woods, he had full right to be. This was the great haunted forest of Kain-tuck-ee, where the red man made his most desperate stand, and none ever knew when or whence danger would come. Moreover, he was lost, and the forest told him nothing; he was not like his friend, Henry Ware, born to the forest, the heir to all the primeval instincts, alive to every sight and sound, and able to read the slightest warning the wilderness might give. Paul Cotter was a student, a lover of books, and a coming statesman. Fate, it seemed, had chosen that he and Henry Ware should go hand in hand, but for different tasks.
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A blizzard was blowing wildly over the American prairies one winter day in the earlier part of the present century. Fresh, free and straight, it came from the realms of Jack Frost, and cold-bitterly cold-like the bergs on the Arctic seas, to which it had but recently said farewell. Snow, fine as dust and sharp as needles, was caught up bodily by the wind in great masses-here in snaky coils, there in whirling eddies, elsewhere in rolling clouds; but these had barely time to assume indefinite forms when they were furiously scattered and swept away as by the besom of destruction, while earth and sky commingled in a smother of whitey-grey.
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