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II. The Reward of Virtue Henry van Dyke

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There was a warmth of sincerity in the honest fellow's utterance that spoke well for the character of the cure of St. Gerome. The good word of a plain fisherman or hunter is worth more than a degree of doctor of divinity from a learned university.

I too had grateful memories of good men, faithful, charitable, wise, devout,--men before whose virtues my heart stood uncovered and reverent, men whose lives were sweet with self-sacrifice, and whose words were like stars of guidance to many souls,--and I had often seen these men solacing their toils and inviting pleasant, kindly thoughts with the pipe of peace. I wondered whether Miss Miller ever had the good fortune to meet any of these men. They were not members of the societies for ethical agitation, but they were profitable men to know. Their very presence was medicinal. It breathed patience and fidelity to duty, and a large, quiet friendliness.

"Well, then," I asked, "what did she say finally to turn you? What was her last argument? Come, Pat, you must make it a little shorter than she did."

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"In five words, m'sieu', it was this: 'The tobacco causes the poverty.' The fourth day--you remind yourself of the long dead- water below the Rapide Gervais? It was there. All the day she spoke to me of the money that goes to the smoke. Two piastres the month. Twenty-four the year. Three hundred--yes, with the interest, more than three hundred in ten years! Two thousand piastres in the life of the man! But she comprehends well the arithmetic, that demoiselle Meelair; it was enormous! The big farmer Tremblay has not more money at the bank than that. Then she asks me if I have been at Quebec? No. If I would love to go? Of course, yes. For two years of the smoking we could go, the goodwife and me, to Quebec, and see the grand city, and the shops, and the many people, and the cathedral, and perhaps the theatre. And at the asylum of the orphans we could seek one of the little found children to bring home with us, to be our own; for m'sieu knows it is the sadness of our house that we have no child. But it was not Mees Meelair who said that--no, she would not understand that thought."

Patrick paused for a moment, and rubbed his chin reflectively. Then he continued:

"And perhaps it seems strange to you also, m'sieu', that a poor man should be so hungry for children. It is not so everywhere: not in America, I hear. But it is so with us in Canada. I know not a man so poor that he would not feel richer for a child. I know not a man so happy that he would not feel happier with a child in the house. It is the best thing that the good God gives to us; something to work for; something to play with. It makes a man more gentle and more strong. And a woman,--her heart is like an empty nest, if she has not a child. It was the darkest day that ever came to Angelique and me when our little baby flew away, four years ago. But perhaps if we have not one of our own, there is another somewhere, a little child of nobody, that belongs to us, for the sake of the love of children. Jean Boucher, my wife's cousin, at St. Joseph d'Alma, has taken two from the asylum. Two, m'sieu', I assure you for as soon as one was twelve years old, he said he wanted a baby, and so he went back again and got another. That is what I should like to do."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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