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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

Enter The Marquis

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Who says that thought is swift and clear in a moment like that? Who talks about the whole of a man's life passing before him in a flash of light? A flash of darkness! Thought is paralyzed, dumb. "What a fool!" "Good-bye!" "If--" That is about all it can say. And if the moment is prolonged, it says the same thing over again, stunned, bewildered, impotent. Then?--The rocking waves; the sinking boat; the roar of the fall; the swift overturn; the icy, blinding, strangling water--God!

Jean was flung shoreward. Instinctively he struck out, with the current and half across it, toward a point of rock. His foot touched bottom. He drew himself up and looked back. The canoe was sweeping past, bottom upward, Alden underneath it.

Jean thrust himself out into the stream again, still going with the current, but now away from shore. He gripped the canoe, flinging his arm over the stern. Then he got hold of the thwart and tried to turn it over. Too heavy! Groping underneath he caught Alden by the shoulder and pulled him out. They would have gone down together but for the boat.

"Hold on tight," gasped Jean, "put your arm over the canoe--the other side!"

Alden, half dazed, obeyed him. The torrent carried the dancing, slippery bark past another point. Just below it, there was a little eddy.

"Now," cried Jean; "the back-water--strike for the land!"

They touched the black, gliddery rocks. They staggered out of the water; waist-deep, knee-deep, ankle-deep; falling and rising again. They crawled up on the warm moss. . . .

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The first thing that Alden noticed was the line of bright red spots on the wing of a cedar-bird fluttering silently through the branches of the tree above him. He lay still and watched it, wondering that he had never before observed those brilliant sparks of colour on the little brown bird. Then he wondered what made his legs ache so. Then he saw Jean, dripping wet, sitting on a stone and looking down the river.

He got up painfully and went over to him. He put his hand on the man's shoulder.

"Jean, you saved my life--I thank you, Marquis!"

"M'sieu'," said Jean, springing up, "I beg you not to mention it. It was nothing. A narrow shave,--but LA BONNE CHANCE! And after all, you were right,--we got to the island! But now how to get off?"

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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