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The Men of the Last Frontier

A DEEP SLOW-FLOWING RIVER; SILENT, SMOOTH AS molten glass; on either bank a forest, dark, shadowy and mysterious.

The face of Nature as it was since the Beginning; all creation down the eons of unmeasured time, brooding in ineffable calm, infinite majesty, and a breathless and unutterable silence.

So it has lain for countless ages, dreaming, dwelling on the memories of untold tales no longer remembered, wise with the wisdom of uncounted years of waiting.

Overhead an eagle manoeuvres in the eye of the sun, and in the shadows on the shore an otter lies asleep.

Far-off in midstream appears a tiny dot, growing larger and larger as it approaches, and presently a bark canoe, yellow as an autumn leaf, and floating as lightly, speeds by. The sun glints sharply at regular intervals on paddles swung with swift and tireless strokes, by six brown, high-featured savages. Eagle feathers bob in unison, copper-hued backs bend and sway, driving forward the fragile craft, high of prow and stern, with a leaping undulation that is the poetry of motion.

In the centre stands a white man, bedizened with the remnants of the lace and ruffles of the courts of Europe. His cheeks are hollow and his frame gaunt. His skin is streaked with blood from the bites of myriad flies, but he recks not of it; his burning gaze is fixed ahead: Westward, Westward, from whence the river flows.

A few minutes and the bump and swish of paddles become inaudible. The canoe diminishes again to a speck and disappears into the unknown. And the tiny waves of its passing find their way to shore, and so die.

The two wild creatures stare in idle curiosity, and return each to his occupation: the eagle to his undisturbed soaring, the otter to his interrupted sleeping: and little know that, for a moment, they have gazed on History.

And so, unostentatiously, without pomp or ceremony, all unknown to the teeming millions of the Eastern Hemisphere, the long closed portals of the Western World swing open.

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