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X. At the Sign of the Balsam Bough Henry van Dyke

At the Sign of the Balsam Bough

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Table Of Contents: Little Rivers

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"Come live with me, and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, or hills, or field,
Or woods and steepy mountains yield.

"There we will rest our sleepy heads,
And happy hearts, on balsam beds;
And every day go forth to fish
In foamy streams for ouananiche."

Old Song with a new Ending.

It has been asserted, on high philosophical authority, that woman is a problem. She is more; she is a cause of problems to others. This is not a theoretical statement. It is a fact of experience.

Every year, when the sun passes the summer solstice, the

"Two souls with but a single thought,"

of whom I am so fortunate as to be one, are summoned by that portion of our united mind which has at once the right of putting the question and of casting the deciding vote, to answer this conundrum: How can we go abroad without crossing the ocean, and abandon an interesting family of children without getting completely beyond their reach, and escape from the frying-pan of housekeeping without falling into the fire of the summer hotel? This apparently insoluble problem we usually solve by going to camp in Canada.

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It is indeed a foreign air that breathes around us as we make the harmless, friendly voyage from Point Levis to Quebec. The boy on the ferry-boat, who cajoles us into buying a copy of Le Moniteur containing last month's news, has the address of a true though diminutive Frenchman. The landlord of the quiet little inn on the outskirts of the town welcomes us with Gallic effusion as well-known guests, and rubs his hands genially before us, while he escorts us to our apartments, groping secretly in his memory to recall our names. When we walk down the steep, quaint streets to revel in the purchase of moccasins and water-proof coats and camping supplies, we read on a wall the familiar but transformed legend, L'enfant pleurs, il veut son Camphoria, and remember with joy that no infant who weeps in French can impose any responsibility upon us in these days of our renewed honeymoon.

But the true delight of the expedition begins when the tents have been set up, in the forest back of Lake St. John, and the green branches have been broken for the woodland bed, and the fire has been lit under the open sky, and, the livery of fashion being all discarded, I sit down at a log table to eat supper with my lady Greygown. Then life seems simple and amiable and well worth living. Then the uproar and confusion of the world die away from us, and we hear only the steady murmur of the river and the low voice of the wind in the tree-tops. Then time is long, and the only art that is needful for its enjoyment is short and easy. Then we taste true comfort, while we lodge with Mother Green at the Sign of the Balsam Bough.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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