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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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For some weeks after the incident of the violin and the carving- knife, it looked as if a permanent cloud had settled upon the spirits of Fiddlin' Jack. He was sad and nervous; if any one touched him, or even spoke to him suddenly, he would jump like a deer. He kept out of everybody's way as much as possible, sat out in the wood-shed when he was not at work, and could not be persuaded to bring down his fiddle. He seemed in a fair way to be transformed into "the melancholy Jaques."

It was Serena who broke the spell; and she did it in a woman's way, the simplest way in the world--by taking no notice of it.

"Ain't you goin' to play for me to-night?" she asked one evening, as Jacques passed through the kitchen. Whereupon the evil spirit was exorcised, and the violin came back again to its place in the life of the house.

But there was less time for music now than there had been in the winter. As the snow vanished from the woods, and the frost leaked out of the ground, and the ice on the lake was honeycombed, breaking away from the shore, and finally going to pieces altogether in a warm southeast storm, the Sportsmen's Retreat began to prepare for business. There was a garden to be planted, and there were boats to be painted. The rotten old wharf in front of the house stood badly in need of repairs. The fiddler proved himself a Jack-of-all-trades and master of more than one.

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In the middle of May the anglers began to arrive at the Retreat--a quiet, sociable, friendly set of men, most of whom were old-time acquaintances, and familiar lovers of the woods. They belonged to the "early Adirondack period," these disciples of Walton. They were not very rich, and they did not put on much style, but they understood how to have a good time; and what they did not know about fishing was not worth knowing.

Jacques fitted into their scheme of life as a well-made reel fits the butt of a good rod. He was a steady oarsman, a lucky fisherman, with a real genius for the use of the landing-net, and a cheerful companion, who did not insist upon giving his views about artificial flies and advice about casting, on every occasion. By the end of June he found himself in steady employment as a guide.

He liked best to go with the anglers who were not too energetic, but were satisfied to fish for a few hours in the morning and again at sunset, after a long rest in the middle of the afternoon. This was just the time for the violin; and if Jacques had his way, he would take it with him, carefully tucked away in its case in the bow of the boat; and when the pipes were lit after lunch, on the shore of Round Island or at the mouth of Cold Brook, he would discourse sweet music until the declining sun drew near the tree-tops and the veery rang his silver bell for vespers. Then it was time to fish again, and the flies danced merrily over the water, and the great speckled trout leaped eagerly to catch them. For trolling all day long for lake-trout Jacques had little liking.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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