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|III. A Brave Heart||Henry van Dyke|
|Page 3 of 5||
"Not here? Why not? There is room. The cure is away. Why not here?"
"It is the house of LE BON DIEU. Can we build it in hate?"
"POLISSON! You make an excuse. Then come to Girard's, and fight there."
Again Prosper held in for a moment, and spoke three words:
"No! Not now."
"Not now? But when, you heart of a hare? Will you sneak out of it until you turn gray and die? When will you fight, little musk-rat?"
"When I have forgotten. When I am no more your friend."
Prosper picked up his trowel and went into the tower. Raoul bad- worded him and every stone of his building from foundation to cornice, and then went down the road to get a bottle of cognac.
An hour later he came back breathing out threatenings and slaughter, strongly flavoured with raw spirits. Prosper was working quietly on the top of the tower, at the side away from the road. He saw nothing until Raoul, climbing up by the ladders on the inside, leaped on the platform and rushed at him like a crazy lynx.
"Now!" he cried, "no hole to hide in here, rat! I'll squeeze the lies out of you."
He gripped Prosper by the head, thrusting one thumb into his eye, and pushing him backward on the scaffolding.
Blinded, half maddened by the pain, Prosper thought of nothing but to get free. He swung his long arm upward and landed a heavy blow on Raoul's face that dislocated the jaw; then twisting himself downward and sideways, he fell in toward the wall. Raoul plunged forward, stumbled, let go his hold, and pitched out from the tower, arms spread, clutching the air.
Forty feet straight down! A moment--or was it an eternity?--of horrible silence. Then the body struck the rough stones at the foot of the tower with a thick, soft dunt, and lay crumpled up among them, without a groan, without a movement.
When the other men, who had hurried up the ladders in terror, found Leclere, he was peering over the edge of the scaffold, wiping the blood from his eyes, trying to see down.
"I have killed him," he muttered, "my friend! He is smashed to death. I am a murderer. Let me go. I must throw myself down!"
They had hard work to hold him back. As they forced him down the ladders he trembled like a poplar.
But Vaillantcoeur was not dead. No; it was incredible--to fall forty feet and not be killed--they talk of it yet all through the valley of the Lake St. John--it was a miracle! But Vaillantcoeur had broken only a nose, a collar-bone, and two ribs--for one like him that was but a bagatelle. A good doctor from Chicoutimi, a few months of nursing, and he would be on his feet again, almost as good a man as he had ever been.
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|The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke
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