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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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This took some time, and the boys helped me willingly. "Eet ees not need to 'urry, m'sieu'," they assured me; "dat 'ouse to Patrique Moullarque ees hall burn' seence t'ree hour. Not'ing lef' bot de hash."

As soon as possible, however, I piled up the stuff, covered it with one of the tents, and leaving it in charge of the steadiest of the boys, took the road to the village and the site of the Maison Mullarkey.

It had vanished completely: the walls of squared logs were gone; the low, curved roof had fallen; the door-step with the morning-glory vines climbing up beside it had sunken out of sight; nothing remained but the dome of the clay oven at the back of the house, and a heap of smouldering embers.

Patrick sat beside his wife on a flat stone that had formerly supported the corner of the porch. His shoulder was close to Angelique's--so close that it looked almost as if he must have had his arm around her a moment before I came up. His passion and grief had calmed themselves down now, and he was quite tranquil. In his left hand he held the cake of Virginia leaf, in his right a knife. He was cutting off delicate slivers of the tobacco, which he rolled together with a circular motion between his palms. Then he pulled his pipe from his pocket and filled the bowl with great deliberation.

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"What a misfortune!" I cried. "The pretty house is gone. I am so sorry, Patrick. And the box of money on the mantel-piece, that is gone, too, I fear--all your savings. What a terrible misfortune! How did it happen?"

"I cannot tell," he answered rather slowly. "It is the good God. And he has left me my Angelique. Also, m'sieu', you see"--here he went over to the pile of ashes, and pulled out a fragment of charred wood with a live coal at the end--"you see"--puff, puff--"he has given me"--puff, puff--"a light for my pipe again"--puff, puff, puff!

The fragrant, friendly smoke was pouring out now in full volume. It enwreathed his head like drifts of cloud around the rugged top of a mountain at sunrise. I could see that his face was spreading into a smile of ineffable contentment.

"My faith!" said I, "how can you be so cheerful? Your house is in ashes; your money is burned up; the voyage to Quebec, the visit to the asylum, the little orphan--how can you give it all up so easily?"

"Well," he replied, taking the pipe from his mouth, with fingers curling around the bowl, as if they loved to feel that it was warm once more--"well, then, it would be more hard, I suppose, to give it up not easily. And then, for the house, we shall build a new one this fall; the neighbours will help. And for the voyage to Quebec-- without that we may be happy. And as regards the little orphan, I will tell you frankly"--here he went back to his seat upon the flat stone, and settled himself with an air of great comfort beside his partner--"I tell you, in confidence, Angelique demands that I prepare a particular furniture at the new house. Yes, it is a cradle; but it is not for an orphan."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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