ゞthe enchanted bluff〃



the enchanted bluff- 及1何蛍

梓囚徒貧圭鮗 ○ 賜 ★ 辛酔堀貧和鍬匈梓囚徒貧議 Enter 囚辛指欺云慕朕村匈梓囚徒貧圭鮗 ● 辛指欺云匈競何

The Enchanted Bluff

We had our swim before sundown察and while we were cooking our

supper the oblique rays of light made a dazzling glare on the white

sand about us。  The translucent red ball itself sank behind the

brown stretches of cornfield as we sat down to eat察and the warm

layer of air that had rested over the water and our clean sand bar

grew fresher and smelled of the rank ironweed and sunflowers

growing on the flatter shore。  The river was brown and sluggish

like any other of the half´dozen streams that water the Nebraska

corn lands。  On one shore was an irregular line of bald clay bluffs

where a few scrub oaks with thick trunks and flat察twisted tops

threw light shadows on the long grass。  The western shore was low

and level察with cornfields that stretched to the skyline察and all

along the water's edge were little sandy coves and beaches where

slim cottonwoods and willow saplings flickered。

The turbulence of the river in springtime discouraged milling

and察beyond keeping the old red bridge in repair察the busy farmers

did not concern themselves with the stream察so the Sandtown boys

were left in undisputed possession。  In the autumn we hunted quail

through the miles of stubble and fodder land along the flat shore

and察after the winter skating season was over and the ice had gone

out察the spring freshets and flooded bottoms gave us our great

excitement of the year。  The channel was never the same for two

successive seasons。  Every spring the swollen stream undermined a

bluff to the east察or bit out a few acres of cornfield to the west

and whirled the soil away察to deposit it in spumy mud banks

somewhere else。  When the water fell low in midsummer察new sand

bars were thus exposed to dry and whiten in the August sun。

Sometimes these were banked so firmly that the fury of the next

freshet failed to unseat them察the little willow seedlings emerged

triumphantly from the yellow froth察broke into spring leaf察shot up

into summer growth察and with their mesh of roots bound together the

moist sand beneath them against the batterings of another April。 

Here and there a cottonwood soon glittered among them察quivering in

the low current of air that察even on breathless days when the dust

hung like smoke above the wagon road察trembled along the face of

the water。

It was on such an island察in the third summer of its yellow

green察that we built our watch fire察not in the thicket of dancing

willow wands察but on the level terrace of fine sand which had been

added that spring察a little new bit of world察beautifully ridged

with ripple marks察and strewn with the tiny skeletons of turtles

and fish察all as white and dry as if they had been expertly cured。 

We had been careful not to mar the freshness of the place察although

we often swam to it on summer evenings and lay on the sand to rest。

This was our last watch fire of the year察and there were

reasons why I should remember it better than any of the others。 

Next week the other boys were to file back to their old places in

the Sandtown High School察but I was to go up to the Divide to teach

my first country school in the Norwegian district。  I was already

homesick at the thought of quitting the boys with whom I had always

played察of leaving the river察and going up into a windy plain that

was all windmills and cornfields and big pastures察where there was

nothing wilful or unmanageable in the landscape察no new islands

and no chance of unfamiliar birdssuch as often followed the


Other boys came and went and used the river for fishing or

skating察but we six were sworn to the spirit of the stream察and we

were friends mainly because of the river。  There were the two

Hassler boys察Fritz and Otto察sons of the little German tailor。 

They were the youngest of us察ragged boys of ten and twelve察with

sunburned hair察weather´stained faces察and pale blue eyes。  Otto

the elder察was the best mathematician in school察and clever

at his books察but he always dropped out in the spring term as if

the river could not get on without him。  He and Fritz caught the

fat察horned catfish and sold them about the town察and they lived

so much in the water that they were as brown and sandy as the river


There was Percy Pound察a fat察freckled boy with chubby cheeks

who took half a dozen boys' story´papers and was always being kept

in for reading detective stories behind his desk。  There was Tip

Smith察destined by his freckles and red hair to be the buffoon in

all our games察though he walked like a timid little old man and had

a funny察cracked laugh。  Tip worked hard in his father's grocery

store every afternoon察and swept it out before school in the

morning。  Even his recreations were laborious。  He collected

cigarette cards and tin tobacco´tags indefatigably察and would sit

for hours humped up over a snarling little scroll´saw which he kept

in his attic。  His dearest possessions were some little pill

bottles that purported to contain grains of wheat from the Holy

Land察water from the Jordan and the Dead Sea察and earth from the

Mount of Olives。  His father had bought these dull things from a

Baptist missionary who peddled them察and Tip seemed to derive great

satisfaction from their remote origin。

The tall boy was Arthur Adams。  He had fine hazel eves that

were almost too reflective and sympathetic for a boy察and such a

pleasant voice that we all loved to hear him read aloud。  Even when

he had to read poetry aloud at school察no one ever thought of

laughing。  To be sure察he was not at school very much of the time。 

He was seventeen and should have finished the High School the year

before察but he was always off somewhere with his gun。  Arthur's

mother was dead察and his father察who was feverishly absorbed in

promoting schemes察wanted to send the boy away to school and get

him off his hands察but Arthur always begged off for another year

and promised to study。  I remember him as a tall察brown boy with an

intelligent face察always lounging among a lot of us little fellows

laughing at us oftener than with us察but such a soft察satisfied

laugh that we felt rather flattered when we provoked it。  In

after´years people said that Arthur had been given to evil ways

as a ad察and it is true that we often saw him with the gambler's

sons and with old Spanish Fanny's boy察but if he learned anything

ugly in their company he never betrayed it to us。  We would have

followed Arthur anywhere察and I am bound to say that he led us into

no worse places than the cattail marshes and the stubble fields。 

These察then察were the boys who camped with me that summer night

upon the sand bar。

After we finished our supper we beat the willow thicket for

driftwood。  By the time we had collected enough察night had fallen

and the pungent察weedy smell from the shore increased with the

coolness。  We threw ourselves down about the fire and made another

futile effort to show Percy Pound the Little Dipper。  We had tried

it often before察but he could never be got past the big one。

;You see those three big stars just below the handle察with the

bright one in the middle拭─said Otto Hassler察 that's Orion's belt

and the bright one is the clasp。;  I crawled behind Otto's shoulder

and sighted up his arm to the star that seemed perched upon the tip

of his steady forefinger。  The Hassler boys did seine´fishing at

night察and they knew a good many stars。

Percy gave up the Little Dipper and lay back on the sand察his

hands clasped under his head。  ;I can see the North Star察─he

announced察contentedly察pointing toward it with his big toe。 

;Anyone might get lost and need to know that。;

We all looked up at it。

;How do you suppose Columbus felt when his compass didn't

point north any more拭─Tip asked。

Otto shook his head。  ;My father says that there was another

North Star once察and that maybe this one won't last always。  I

wonder what would happen to us down here if anything went wrong

with it拭

Arthur chuckled。  ;I wouldn't worry察Ott。  Nothing's apt to

happen to it in your time。  Look at the Milky Way  There must be

lots of good dead Indians。;

We lay back and looked察meditating察at the dark cover of the

world。  The gurgle of the water had become heavier。  We had often

noticed a mutinous察complaining note in it at night察quit
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