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  Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

VI. The Ristigouche from a Horse-Yacht

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Dr. Paley was ardently attached to this amusement; so much so that when the Bishop of Durham inquired of him when one of his most important works would be finished, he said, with great simplicity and good humour, 'My Lord, I shall work steadily at it when the fly-fishing season is over.'--SIR HUMPHRY DAVY: Salmonia.

The boundary line between the Province of Quebec and New Brunswick, for a considerable part of its course, resembles the name of the poet Keats; it is "writ in water." But like his fame, it is water that never fails,--the limpid current of the river Ristigouche.

The railway crawls over it on a long bridge at Metapedia, and you are dropped in the darkness somewhere between midnight and dawn. When you open your window-shutters the next morning, you see that the village is a disconsolate hamlet, scattered along the track as if it had been shaken by chance from an open freight-car; it consists of twenty houses, three shops, and a discouraged church perched upon a little hillock like a solitary mourner on the anxious seat. The one comfortable and prosperous feature in the countenance of Metapedia is the house of the Ristigouche Salmon Club--an old-fashioned mansion, with broad, white piazza, looking over rich meadow-lands. Here it was that I found my friend Favonius, president of solemn societies, pillar of church and state, ingenuously arrayed in gray knickerbockers, a flannel shirt, and a soft hat, waiting to take me on his horse-yacht for a voyage up the river.

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Have you ever seen a horse-yacht? Sometimes it is called a scow; but that sounds common. Sometimes it is called a house-boat; but that is too English. What does it profit a man to have a whole dictionary full of language at his service, unless he can invent a new and suggestive name for his friend's pleasure-craft? The foundation of the horse-yacht--if a thing that floats may be called fundamental--is a flat-bottomed boat, some fifty feet long and ten feet wide, with a draft of about eight inches. The deck is open for fifteen feet aft of the place where the bowsprit ought to be; behind that it is completely covered by a house, cabin, cottage, or whatever you choose to call it, with straight sides and a peaked roof of a very early Gothic pattern. Looking in at the door you see, first of all, two cots, one on either side of the passage; then an open space with a dining-table, a stove, and some chairs; beyond that a pantry with shelves, and a great chest for provisions. A door at the back opens into the kitchen, and from that another door opens into a sleeping-room for the boatmen. A huge wooden tiller curves over the stern of the boat, and the helmsman stands upon the kitchen-roof. Two canoes are floating behind, holding back, at the end of their long tow-ropes, as if reluctant to follow so clumsy a leader. This is an accurate description of the horse-yacht. If necessary it could be sworn to before a notary public. But I am perfectly sure that you might read this page through without skipping a word, and if you had never seen the creature with your own eyes, you would have no idea how absurd it looks and how comfortable it is.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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