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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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This was the end of our hunting and fishing for that year. We spent the next two days in voyaging through a half-dozen small lakes and streams, in a farming country, on our way home. I observed that Patrick kept his souvenir pipe between his lips a good deal of the time, and puffed at vacancy. It seemed to soothe him. In his conversation he dwelt with peculiar satisfaction on the thought of the money in the cigar-box on the mantel-piece at St. Gerome. Eighteen piastres and twenty sous already! And with the addition to be made from the tobacco not smoked during the past month, it would amount to more than twenty-three piastres; and all as safe in the cigar-box as if it were in the bank at Chicoutimi! That reflection seemed to fill the empty pipe with fragrance. It was a Barmecide smoke; but the fumes of it were potent, and their invisible wreaths framed the most enchanting visions of tall towers, gray walls, glittering windows, crowds of people, regiments of soldiers, and the laughing eyes of a little boy--or was it a little girl?

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When we came out of the mouth of La Belle Riviere, the broad blue expanse of Lake St. John spread before us, calm and bright in the radiance of the sinking sun. In a curve on the left, eight miles away, sparkled the slender steeple of the church of St. Gerome. A thick column of smoke rose from somewhere in its neighbourhood. "It is on the beach," said the men; "the boys of the village accustom themselves to burn the rubbish there for a bonfire." But as our canoes danced lightly forward over the waves and came nearer to the place, it was evident that the smoke came from the village itself. It was a conflagration, but not a general one; the houses were too scattered and the day too still for a fire to spread. What could it be? Perhaps the blacksmith shop, perhaps the bakery, perhaps the old tumble-down barn of the little Tremblay? It was not a large fire, that was certain. But where was it precisely?

The question, becoming more and more anxious, was answered when we arrived at the beach. A handful of boys, eager to be the bearers of news, had spied us far off, and ran down to the shore to meet us.

"Patrique! Patrique!" they shouted in English, to make their importance as great as possible in my eyes. "Come 'ome kveek; yo' 'ouse ees hall burn'!"

"W'at!" cried Patrick. "MONJEE!" And he drove the canoe ashore, leaped out, and ran up the bank toward the village as if he were mad. The other men followed him, leaving me with the boys to unload the canoes and pull them up on the sand, where the waves would not chafe them.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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