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

Under The White Birches.

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But there was still bloom enough to give that festal air without which the most abundant feast seems coarse and vulgar. The pale gold of the loosestrife had faded, but the deeper yellow of the goldenrod had begun to take its place. The blue banners of the fleur-de-lis had vanished from beside the springs, but the purple of the asters was appearing. Closed gentians kept their secret inviolate, and bluebells trembled above the rocks. The quaint pinkish-white flowers of the turtle-head showed in wet places, and instead of the lilac racemes of the purple-fringed orchis, which had disappeared with midsummer, we found now the slender braided spikes of the lady's-tresses, latest and lowliest of the orchids, pale and pure as nuns of the forest, and exhaling a celestial fragrance. There is a secret pleasure in finding these delicate flowers in the rough heart of the wilderness. It is like discovering the veins of poetry in the character of a guide or a lumberman. And to be able to call the plants by name makes them a hundredfold more sweet and intimate. Naming things is one of the oldest and simplest of human pastimes. Children play at it with their dolls and toy animals. In fact, it was the first game ever played on earth, for the Creator who planted the garden eastward in Eden knew well what would please the childish heart of man, when He brought all the new-made creatures to Adam, "to see what he would call them."

Our rustic bouquet graced the table under the white-birches, while we sat by the fire and watched our four men at the work of the camp--Joseph and Raoul chopping wood in the distance; Francois slicing juicy rashers from the flitch of bacon; and Ferdinand, the chef, heating the frying-pan in preparation for supper.

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"Have you ever thought," said Greygown, in a contented tone of voice, "that this is the only period of our existence when we attain to the luxury of a French cook?"

"And one with the grand manner, too," I replied, "for he never fails to ask what it is that madame desires to eat to-day, as if the larder of Lucullus were at his disposal, though he knows well enough that the only choice lies between broiled fish and fried fish, or bacon with eggs and a rice omelet. But I like the fiction of a lordly ordering of the repast. How much better it is than having to eat what is flung before you at a summer boarding-house by a scornful waitress!"

"Another thing that pleases me," continued my lady, "is the unbreakableness of the dishes. There are no nicks in the edges of the best plates here; and, oh! it is a happy thing to have a home without bric-a-brac. There is nothing here that needs to be dusted."

"And no engagements for to-morrow," I ejaculated. "Dishes that can't be broken, and plans that can--that's the ideal of housekeeping."

"And then," added my philosopher in skirts, "it is certainly refreshing to get away from all one's relations for a little while."

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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