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III. A Brave Heart Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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Every one was glad that Leclere bossed the raising of the tower. They admitted that he might not be brave, but he was assuredly careful. Vaillantcoeur alone grumbled, and said the work went too slowly, and even swore that the sockets for the beams were too shallow, or else too deep, it made no difference which. That BETE Prosper made trouble always by his poor work. But the friction never came to a blaze; for the cure was pottering about the tower every day and all day long, and a few words from him would make a quarrel go off in smoke.

"Softly, my boys!" he would say; "work smooth and you work fast. The logs in the river run well when they run all the same way. But when two logs cross each other, on the same rock--psst! a jam! The whole drive is hung up! Do not run crossways, my children."

The walls rose steadily, straight as a steamboat pipe--ten, twenty, thirty, forty feet; it was time to put in the two cross-girders, lay the floor of the belfry, finish off the stonework, and begin the pointed wooden spire. The cure had gone to Quebec that very day to buy the shining plates of tin for the roof, and a beautiful cross of gilt for the pinnacle.

Leclere was in front of the tower putting on his overalls. Vaillantcoeur came up, swearing mad. Three or four other workmen were standing about.

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"Look here, you Leclere," said he, "I tried one of the cross-girders yesterday afternoon and it wouldn't go. The templet on the north is crooked--crooked as your teeth. We had to let the girder down again. I suppose we must trim it off some way, to get a level bearing, and make the tower weak, just to match your sacre bad work, eh?"

"Well," said Prosper, pleasant and quiet enough, "I'm sorry for that, Raoul. Perhaps I could put that templet straight, or perhaps the girder might be a little warped and twisted, eh? What? Suppose we measure it."

Sure enough, they found the long timber was not half seasoned and had corkscrewed itself out of shape at least three inches. Vaillantcoeur sat on the sill of the doorway and did not even look at them while they were measuring. When they called out to him what they had found, he strode over to them.

"It's a dam' lie," he said, sullenly. "Prosper Leclere, you slipped the string. None of your sacre cheating! I have enough of it already. Will you fight, you cursed sneak?"

Prosper's face went gray, like the mortar in the trough. His fists clenched and the cords on his neck stood out as if they were ropes. He breathed hard. But he only said three words:

"No! Not here."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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