The First Blow

IwassopleasedathavinggiventhesliptoLongJohnthatIbegantoenjoymyselfandlookaroundmewithsomeinterestonthestrangelandthatIwasin.

Ihadcrossedamarshytractfullofwillows,bulrushes,andodd,outlandish,swampytrees;andIhadnowcomeoutupontheskirtsofanopenpieceofundulating,sandycountry,aboutamilelong,dottedwithafewpinesandagreatnumberofcontortedtrees,notunliketheoakingrowth,butpaleinthefoliage,likewillows.Onthefarsideoftheopenstoodoneofthehills,withtwoquaint,craggypeaksshiningvividlyinthesun.

Inowfeltforthefirsttimethejoyofexploration.Theislewasuninhabited;myshipmatesIhadleftbehind,andnothinglivedinfrontofmebutdumbbrutesandfowls.Iturnedhitherandthitheramongthetrees.Hereandtherewerefloweringplants,unknowntome;hereandthereIsawsnakes,andoneraisedhisheadfromaledgeofrockandhissedatmewithanoisenotunlikethespinningofatop.LittledidIsupposethathewasadeadlyenemyandthatthenoisewasthefamousrattle.

ThenIcametoalongthicketoftheseoakliketreeslive,orevergreen,oaks,Iheardafterwardstheyshouldbecalledwhichgrewlowalongthesandlikebrambles,theboughscuriouslytwisted,thefoliagecompact,likethatch.Thethicketstretcheddownfromthetopofoneofthesandyknolls,spreadingandgrowingtallerasitwent,untilitreachedthemarginofthebroad,reedyfen,throughwhichthenearestofthelittleriverssoakeditswayintotheanchorage.Themarshwassteaminginthestrongsun,andtheoutlineoftheSpy-glasstrembledthroughthehaze.

Allatoncetherebegantogoasortofbustleamongthebulrushes;awildduckflewupwithaquack,anotherfollowed,andsoonoverthewholesurfaceofthemarshagreatcloudofbirdshungscreamingandcirclingintheair.

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