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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

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But the sportsman carries nothing, except perhaps his gun, or his rod, or his photographic camera; and so for him the portage is only a pleasant opportunity to stretch his legs, cramped by sitting in the canoe, and to renew his acquaintance with the pretty things that are in the woods.

We sauntered along the trail, Damon and I, as if school were out and would never keep again. How fresh and tonic the forest seemed as we plunged into its bath of shade. There were our old friends the cedars, with their roots twisted across the path; and the white birches, so trim in youth and so shaggy in age; and the sociable spruces and balsams, crowding close together, and interlacing their arms overhead. There were the little springs, trickling through the moss; and the slippery logs laid across the marshy places; and the fallen trees, cut in two and pushed aside,--for this was a much-travelled portage.

Around the open spaces, the tall meadow-rue stood dressed in robes of fairy white and green. The blue banners of the fleur-de-lis were planted beside the springs. In shady corners, deeper in the wood, the fragrant pyrola lifted its scape of clustering bells, like a lily of the valley wandered to the forest. When we came to the end of the portage, a perfume like that of cyclamens in Tyrolean meadows welcomed us, and searching among the loose grasses by the water-side we found the exquisite purple spikes of the lesser fringed orchis, loveliest and most ethereal of all the woodland flowers save one. And what one is that? Ah, my friend, it is your own particular favourite, the flower, by whatever name you call it, that you plucked long ago when you were walking in the forest with your sweetheart,--

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    "Im wunderschonen Monat Mai
    Als alle Knospen sprangen."

We launched our canoes again on the great pool at the foot of the first fall,--a broad sweep of water a mile long and half a mile wide, full of eddies and strong currents, and covered with drifting foam. There was the old campground on the point, where I had tented so often with my lady Greygown, fishing for ouananiche, the famous land-locked salmon of Lake St. John. And there were the big fish, showing their back fins as they circled lazily around in the eddies, as if they were waiting to play with us. But the goal of our day's journey was miles away, and we swept along with the stream, now through a rush of quick water, boiling and foaming, now through a still place like a lake, now through

    "Fairy crowds
    Of islands, that together lie,
    As quietly as spots of sky
    Among the evening clouds."

The beauty of the shores was infinitely varied, and unspoiled by any sign of the presence of man. We met no company except a few king-fishers, and a pair of gulls who had come up from the sea to spend the summer, and a large flock of wild ducks, which the guides call "Betseys," as if they were all of the gentler sex. In such a big family of girls we supposed that a few would not be missed, and Damon bagged two of the tenderest for our supper.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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