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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

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"Here, Pat," said I, as my hand fell on a large square parcel--"here is some superfine tobacco that I got in Quebec for you and the other men on this trip. Not like the damp stuff you had last year--a little bad smoke and too many bad words. This is tobacco to burn-- something quite particular, you understand. How does that please you?"

He had been rolling up a piece of salt pork in a cloth as I spoke, and courteously wiped his fingers on the outside of the bundle before he stretched out his hand to take the package of tobacco. Then he answered, with his unfailing politeness, but more solemnly than usual:

"A thousand thanks to m'sieu'. But this year I shall not have need of the good tobacco. It shall be for the others."

The reply was so unexpected that it almost took my breath away. For Pat, the steady smoker, whose pipes were as invariable as the precession of the equinoxes, to refuse his regular rations of the soothing weed was a thing unheard of. Could he be growing proud in his old age? Had he some secret supply of cigars concealed in his kit, which made him scorn the golden Virginia leaf? I demanded an explanation.

"But no, m'sieu'," he replied; "it is not that, most assuredly. It is something entirely different--something very serious. It is a reformation that I commence. Does m'sieu' permit that I should inform him of it?"

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Of course I permitted, or rather, warmly encouraged, the fullest possible unfolding of the tale; and while we sat among the bags and boxes, and the sun settled gently down behind the sharp-pointed firs across the lake, and the evening sky and the waveless lake glowed with a thousand tints of deepening rose and amber, Patrick put me in possession of the facts which had led to a moral revolution in his life.

"It was the Ma'm'selle Meelair, that young lady,--not very young, but active like the youngest,--the one that I conducted down the Grande Decharge to Chicoutimi last year, after you had gone away. She said that she knew m'sieu' intimately. No doubt you have a good remembrance of her?"

I admitted an acquaintance with the lady. She was the president of several societies for ethical agitation--a long woman, with short hair and eyeglasses and a great thirst for tea; not very good in a canoe, but always wanting to run the rapids and go into the dangerous places, and talking all the time. Yes; that must have been the one. She was not a bosom friend of mine, to speak accurately, but I remembered her well.

"Well, then, m'sieu'," continued Patrick, "it was this demoiselle who changed my mind about the smoking. But not in a moment, you understand; it was a work of four days, and she spoke much.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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