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


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The guides were a little restless under the idle regime of our lazy camp, and urged us to set out upon some adventure. Ferdinand was like the uncouth swain in Lycidas. Sitting upon the bundles of camp equipage on the shore, and crying,--

"To-morrow to fresh woods and pastures new,"

he led us forth to seek the famous fishing grounds on Lake Kenogami.

We skirted the eastern end of Lake St. John in our two canoes, and pushed up La Belle Riviere to Hebertville, where all the children turned out to follow our procession through the village. It was like the train that tagged after the Pied Piper of Hamelin. We embarked again, surrounded by an admiring throng, at the bridge where the main street crossed a little stream, and paddled up it, through a score of back yards and a stretch of reedy meadows, where the wild and tame ducks fed together, tempting the sportsman to sins of ignorance. We crossed the placid Lac Vert, and after a carry of a mile along the high-road toward Chicoutimi, turned down a steep hill and pitched our tents on a crescent of silver sand, with the long, fair water of Kenogami before us.

It is amazing to see how quickly these woodsmen can make a camp. Each one knew precisely his share of the enterprise. One sprang to chop a dry spruce log into fuel for a quick fire, and fell a harder tree to keep us warm through the night. Another stripped a pile of boughs from a balsam for the beds. Another cut the tent-poles from a neighbouring thicket. Another unrolled the bundles and made ready the cooking utensils. As if by magic, the miracle of the camp was accomplished.--

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    "The bed was made, the room was fit,
    By punctual eve the stars were lit"--

but Greygown always insists upon completing that quotation from Stevenson in her own voice; for this is the way it ends,--

    "When we put up, my ass and I,
    At God's green caravanserai."

Our permanent camp was another day's voyage down the lake, on a beach opposite the Point Ausable. There the water was contracted to a narrow strait, and in the swift current, close to the point, the great trout had fixed their spawning-bed from time immemorial. It was the first week in September, and the magnates of the lake were already assembling--the Common Councilmen and the Mayor and the whole Committee of Seventy. There were giants in that place, rolling lazily about, and chasing each other on the surface of the water. "Look, M'sieu'!" cried Francois, in excitement, as we lay at anchor in the gray morning twilight; "one like a horse has just leaped behind us; I assure you, big like a horse!"

But the fish were shy and dour. Old Castonnier, the guardian of the lake, lived in his hut on the shore, and flogged the water, early and late, every day with his home-made flies. He was anchored in his dugout close beside us, and grinned with delight as he saw his over-educated trout refuse my best casts. "They are here, M'sieu', for you can see them," he said, by way of discouragement, "but it is difficult to take them. Do you not find it so?"

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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