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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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"But, m'sieu'," he answered, "this is different. This is not the pipe pure and simple. It is a souvenir. It is the one you gave me two years ago on the Metabetchouan, when we got the big caribou. I could not reject this. I keep it always for the remembrance."

At this moment my hand fell upon a small, square object in the other pocket of the coat. I pulled it out. It was a cake of Virginia leaf. Without a word, I held it up, and looked at Patrick. He began to explain eagerly:

"Yes, certainly, it is the tobacco, m'sieu'; but it is not for the smoke, as you suppose. It is for the virtue, for the self-victory. I call this my little piece of temptation. See; the edges are not cut. I smell it only; and when I think how it is good, then I speak to myself, 'But the little found child will be better!' It will last a long time, this little piece of temptation; perhaps until we have the boy at our house--or maybe the girl."

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The conflict between the cake of Virginia leaf and Patrick's virtue must have been severe during the last ten days of our expedition; for we went down the Riviere des Ecorces, and that is a tough trip, and full of occasions when consolation is needed. After a long, hard day's work cutting out an abandoned portage through the woods, or tramping miles over the incredibly shaggy hills to some outlying pond for a caribou, and lugging the saddle and hind quarters back to the camp, the evening pipe, after supper, seemed to comfort the men unspeakably. If their tempers had grown a little short under stress of fatigue and hunger, now they became cheerful and good-natured again. They sat on logs before the camp-fire, their stockinged feet stretched out to the blaze, and the puffs of smoke rose from their lips like tiny salutes to the comfortable flame, or like incense burned upon the altar of gratitude and contentment.

Patrick, I noticed about this time, liked to get on the leeward side of as many pipes as possible, and as near as he could to the smokers. He said that this kept away the mosquitoes. There he would sit, with the smoke drifting full in his face, both hands in his pockets, talking about Quebec, and debating the comparative merits of a boy or a girl as an addition to his household.

But the great trial of his virtue was yet to come. The main object of our trip down the River of Barks--the terminus ad quem of the expedition, so to speak--was a bear. Now the bear as an object of the chase, at least in Canada, is one of the most illusory of phantoms. The manner of hunting is simple. It consists in walking about through the woods, or paddling along a stream, until you meet a bear; then you try to shoot him. This would seem to be, as the Rev. Mr. Leslie called his book against the deists of the eighteenth century, "A Short and Easie Method." But in point of fact there are two principal difficulties. The first is that you never find the bear when and where you are looking for him. The second is that the bear sometimes finds you when--but you shall see how it happened to us.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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