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III. A Brave Heart Henry van Dyke

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Well, this was the first thing that put an edge on Vaillantcoeur's hunger to fight. No man likes to be chopped down by his friend, even if the friend does it for the sake of saving him from being killed by a fall on the shanty-roof. It is easy to forget that part of it. What you remember is the grin.

The second thing that made it worse was the bad chance that both of these men had to fall in love with the same girl. Of course there were other girls in the village beside Marie Antoinette Girard-- plenty of them, and good girls, too. But somehow or other, when they were beside her, neither Raoul nor Prosper cared to look at any of them, but only at 'Toinette. Her eyes were so much darker and her cheeks so much more red--bright as the berries of the mountain- ash in September. Her hair hung down to her waist on Sunday in two long braids, brown and shiny like a ripe hazelnut; and her voice when she laughed made the sound of water tumbling over little stones.

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No one knew which of the two lovers she liked best. At school it was certainly Raoul, because he was bigger and bolder. When she came back from her year in the convent at Roberval it was certainly Prosper, because he could talk better and had read more books. He had a volume of songs full of love and romance, and knew most of them by heart. But this did not last forever. 'Toinette's manners had been polished at the convent, but her ideas were still those of her own people. She never thought that knowledge of books could take the place of strength, in the real battle of life. She was a brave girl, and she felt sure in her heart that the man of the most courage must be the best man after all.

For a while she appeared to persuade herself that it was Prosper, beyond a doubt, and always took his part when the other girls laughed at him. But this was not altogether a good sign. When a girl really loves, she does not talk, she acts. The current of opinion and gossip in the village was too strong for her. By the time of the affair of the "chopping-down" at Lac des Caps, her heart was swinging to and fro like a pendulum. One week she would walk home from mass with Raoul. The next week she would loiter in the front yard on a Saturday evening and talk over the gate with Prosper, until her father called her into the shop to wait on customers.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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