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  Wood-Magic Henry van Dyke

The White Canoe

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"That looks just like my old canoe," said he. "Somebody must have left it adrift up the river. I wonder how it floated down here without being picked up." He put out his hand and caught it, as it touched the dock.

In the stern a good paddle of maple-wood was lying; in the middle there was a roll of blankets and a pack of camp-stuff; in the bow a rifle.

"All ready for a trip," he laughed. "Nobody going but me? Well, then, au large!" And stepping into the canoe he pushed out on the river.

The saffron and golden lights in the sky diffused themselves over the surface of the water, and spread from the bow of the canoe in deeper waves of purple and orange, as he paddled swiftly up stream. The pale yellow gas-lamps of the town faded behind him. The lumber-yards and factories and disconsolate little houses of the outskirts seemed to melt away. In a little while he was floating between dark walls of forest, through the heart of the wilderness.

The night deepened around him and the sky hung out its thousand lamps. Odours of the woods floated on the air: the spicy fragrance of the firs; the breath of hidden banks of twin-flower. Muskrats swam noiselessly in the shadows, diving with a great commotion as the canoe ran upon them suddenly. A horned owl hooted from the branch of a dead pine-tree; far back in the forest a fox barked twice. The moon crept up behind the wall of trees and touched the stream with silver.

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Presently the forest receded: the banks of the river grew broad and open; the dew glistened on the tall grass; it was surely the River of Meadows. Far ahead of him in a bend of the stream, Luke's ear caught a new sound: SLOSH, SLOSH, SLOSH, as if some heavy animal were crossing the wet meadow. Then a great splash! Luke swung the canoe into the shadow of the bank and paddled fast. As he turned the point a black bear came out of the river, and stood on the shore, shaking the water around him in glittering spray. Ping! said the rifle, and the bear fell. "Good luck!" said Luke. "I haven't forgotten how, after all. I'll take him into the canoe, and dress him up at the camp."

Yes, there was the little cabin at the meeting of the rivers. The door was padlocked, but Luke knew how to pry off one of the staples. Squirrels had made a litter on the floor, but that was soon swept out, and a fire crackled in the stove. There was tea and ham and bread in the pack in the canoe. Supper never tasted better. "One more night in the old camp," said Luke as he rolled himself in the blanket and dropped asleep in a moment.

The sun shone in at the door and woke him. "I must have a trout for breakfast," he cried, "there's one waiting for me at the mouth of Alder Brook, I suppose." So he caught up his rod from behind the door, and got into the canoe and paddled up the River of Rocks. There was the broad, dark pool, like a little lake, with a rapid running in at the head, and close beside the rapid, the mouth of the brook. He sent his fly out by the edge of the alders. There was a huge swirl on the water, and the great-grandfather of all the trout in the river was hooked. Up and down the pool he played for half an hour, until at last the fight was over, and for want of a net Luke beached him on the gravel bank at the foot of the pool.

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The Blue Flower
Henry van Dyke

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