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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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We had hunted the whole length of the River of Barks with the utmost pains and caution, never going out, even to pick blueberries, without having the rifle at hand, loaded for the expected encounter. Not one bear had we met. It seemed as if the whole ursine tribe must have emigrated to Labrador.

At last we came to the mouth of the river, where it empties into Lake Kenogami, in a comparatively civilized country, with several farm-houses in full view on the opposite bank. It was not a promising place for the chase; but the river ran down with a little fall and a lively, cheerful rapid into the lake, and it was a capital spot for fishing. So we left the rifle in the case, and took a canoe and a rod, and went down, on the last afternoon, to stand on the point of rocks at the foot of the rapid, and cast the fly.

We caught half a dozen good trout; but the sun was still hot, and we concluded to wait awhile for the evening fishing. So we turned the canoe bottom up among the bushes on the shore, stored the trout away in the shade beneath it, and sat down in a convenient place among the stones to have another chat about Quebec. We had just passed the jewelry shops, and were preparing to go to the asylum of the orphans, when Patrick put his hand on my shoulder with a convulsive grip, and pointed up the stream.

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There was a huge bear, like a very big, wicked, black sheep with a pointed nose, making his way down the shore. He shambled along lazily and unconcernedly, as if his bones were loosely tied together in a bag of fur. It was the most indifferent and disconnected gait that I ever saw. Nearer and nearer he sauntered, while we sat as still as if we had been paralyzed. And the gun was in its case at the tent!

How the bear knew this I cannot tell; but know it he certainly did, for he kept on until he reached the canoe, sniffed at it suspiciously, thrust his sharp nose under it, and turned it over with a crash that knocked two holes in the bottom, ate the fish, licked his chops, stared at us for a few moments without the slightest appearance of gratitude, made up his mind that he did not like our personal appearance, and then loped leisurely up the mountain-side. We could hear him cracking the underbrush long after he was lost to sight.

Patrick looked at me and sighed. I said nothing. The French language, as far as I knew it, seemed trifling and inadequate. It was a moment when nothing could do any good except the consolations of philosophy, or a pipe. Patrick pulled the brier-wood from his pocket; then he took out the cake of Virginia leaf, looked at it, smelled it, shook his head, and put it back again. His face was as long as his arm. He stuck the cold pipe into his mouth, and pulled away at it for a while in silence. Then his countenance began to clear, his mouth relaxed, he broke into a laugh.

"Sacred bear!" he cried, slapping his knee; "sacred beast of the world! What a day of the good chance for her, HE! But she was glad, I suppose. Perhaps she has some cubs, HE? BAJETTE!"

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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