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Little Rivers Henry van Dyke

VI. The Ristigouche from a Horse-Yacht

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It must be confessed that the horse-yacht as a vehicle of travel is not remarkable in point of speed. Three miles an hour is not a very rapid rate of motion. But then, if you are not in a hurry, why should you care to make haste?

The wild desire to be forever racing against old Father Time is one of the kill-joys of modern life. That ancient traveller is sure to beat you in the long run, and as long as you are trying to rival him, he will make your life a burden. But if you will only acknowledge his superiority and profess that you do not approve of racing after all, he will settle down quietly beside you and jog along like the most companionable of creatures. That is a pleasant pilgrimage in which the journey itself is part of the destination.

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As soon as one learns to regard the horse-yacht as a sort of moving house, it appears admirable. There is no dust or smoke, no rumble of wheels, or shriek of whistles. You are gliding along steadily through an ever-green world; skirting the silent hills; passing from one side of the river to the other when the horses have to swim the current to find a good foothold on the bank. You are on the water, but not at its mercy, for your craft is not disturbed by the heaving of rude waves, and the serene inhabitants do not say "I am sick." There is room enough to move about without falling overboard. You may sleep, or read, or write in your cabin, or sit upon the floating piazza in an arm-chair and smoke the pipe of peace, while the cool breeze blows in your face and the musical waves go singing down to the sea.

There was one feature about the boat, which commended itself very strongly to my mind. It was possible to stand upon the forward deck and do a little trout-fishing in motion. By watching your chance, when the corner of a good pool was within easy reach, you could send out a hasty line and cajole a sea-trout from his hiding-place. It is true that the tow-ropes and the post made the back cast a little awkward; and the wind sometimes blew the flies up on the roof of the cabin; but then, with patience and a short line the thing could be done. I remember a pair of good trout that rose together just as we were going through a boiling rapid; and it tried the strength of my split-bamboo rod to bring those fish to the net against the current and the motion of the boat.

When nightfall approached we let go the anchor (to wit, a rope tied to a large stone on the shore), ate our dinner "with gladness and singleness of heart" like the early Christians, and slept the sleep of the just, lulled by the murmuring of the waters, and defended from the insidious attacks of the mosquito by the breeze blowing down the river and the impregnable curtains over our beds. At daybreak, long before Favonius and I had finished our dreams, we were under way again; and when the trampling of the horses on some rocky shore wakened us, we could see the steep hills gliding past the windows and hear the rapids dashing against the side of the boat, and it seemed as if we were still dreaming.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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