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Wood-Magic Henry van Dyke

The Cabin by the Rivers

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Two highways meet before the door, and a third reaches away to the southward, broad and smooth and white. But there are no travellers passing by. The snow that has fallen during the night is unbroken. The pale February sunrise makes blue shadows on it, sharp and jagged, an outline of the fir-trees on the mountain-crest quarter of, a mile away.

In summer the highways are dissolved into three wild rivers--the River of Rocks, which issues from the hills; the River of Meadows, which flows from the great lake; and the River of the Way Out, which runs down from their meeting-place to the settlements and the little world. But in winter, when the ice is firm under the snow, and the going is fine, there are no tracks upon the three broad roads except the paths of the caribou, and the footprints of the marten and the mink and the fox, and the narrow trails made by Luke Dubois on his way to and from his cabin by the rivers.

He leaned in the door-way, looking out. Behind him in the shadow, the fire was still snapping in the little stove where he had cooked his breakfast. There was a comforting smell of bacon and venison in the room; the tea-pot stood on the table half-empty. Here in the corner were his rifle and some of his traps. On the wall hung his snowshoes. Under the bunk was a pile of skins. Half-open on the bench lay the book that he had been reading the evening before, while the snow was falling. It was a book of veritable fairy-tales, which told how men had made their way in the world, and achieved great fortunes, and won success, by toiling hard at first, and then by trading and bargaining and getting ahead of other men.

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"Well," said Luke, to himself, as he stood at the door, "I could do that too. Without doubt I also am one of the men who can do things. They did not work any harder than I do. But they got better pay. I am twenty-five. For ten years I have worked hard, and what have I got for it? This!"

He stepped out into the morning, alert and vigorous, deep-chested and straight-hipped. The strength of the hills had gone into him, and his eyes were bright with health. His kingdom was spread before him. There along the River of Meadows were the haunts of the moose and the caribou where he hunted in the fall; and yonder on the burnt hills around the great lake were the places where he watched for the bears; and up beside the River of Rocks ran his line of traps, swinging back by secret ways to many a nameless pond and hidden beaver-meadow; and all along the streams, when the ice went out in the spring, the great trout would be leaping in rapid and pool. Among the peaks and valleys of that forest-clad kingdom he could find his way as easily as a merchant walks from his house to his office. The secrets of bird and beast were known to him; every season of the year brought him its own tribute; the woods were his domain, vast, inexhaustible, free.

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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