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III. A Brave Heart Henry van Dyke

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It was in one of these talks that the pendulum seemed to make its last swing and settle down to its resting-place. Prosper was telling her of the good crops of sugar that he had made from his maple grove.

"The profit will be large--more than sixty piastres--and with that I shall buy at Chicoutimi a new four-wheeler, of the finest, a veritable wedding carriage--if you--if I--'Toinette? Shall we ride together?"

His left hand clasped hers as it lay on the gate. His right arm stole over the low picket fence and went around the shoulder that leaned against the gate-post. The road was quite empty, the night already dark. He could feel her warm breath on his neck as she laughed.

"If you! If I! If what? Why so many ifs in this fine speech? Of whom is the wedding for which this new carriage is to be bought? Do you know what Raoul Vaillantcoeur has said? 'No more wedding in this parish till I have thrown the little Prosper over my shoulder!'"

As she said this, laughing, she turned closer to the fence and looked up, so that a curl on her forehead brushed against his cheek.

"BATECHE! Who told you he said that?"

"I heard him, myself."


"In the store, two nights ago. But it was not for the first time. He said it when we came from the church together, it will be four weeks to-morrow."

"What did you say to him?"

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"I told him perhaps he was mistaken. The next wedding might be after the little Prosper had measured the road with the back of the longest man in Abbeville."

The laugh had gone out of her voice now. She was speaking eagerly, and her bosom rose and fell with quick breaths. But Prosper's right arm had dropped from her shoulder, and his hand gripped the fence as he straightened up.

"'Toinette!" he cried, "that was bravely said. And I could do it. Yes, I know I could do it. But, MON DIEU, what shall I say? Three years now, he has pushed me, every one has pushed me, to fight. And you--but I cannot. I am not capable of it."

The girl's hand lay in his as cold and still as a stone. She was silent for a moment, and then asked, coldly, "Why not?"

"Why not? Because of the old friendship. Because he pulled me out of the river long ago. Because I am still his friend. Because now he hates me too much. Because it would be a black fight. Because shame and evil would come of it, whoever won. That is what I fear, 'Toinette!"

Her hand slipped suddenly away from his. She stepped back from the gate.

"TIENS! You have fear, Monsieur Leclere! Truly I had not thought of that. It is strange. For so strong a man it is a little stupid to be afraid. Good-night. I hear my father calling me. Perhaps some one in the store who wants to be served. You must tell me again what you are going to do with the new carriage. Good-night!"

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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