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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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The wedding was at the Sportsmen's Retreat, and Jacques was there, of course. There was nothing of the disconsolate lover about him. The noun he might have confessed to, in a confidential moment of intercourse with his violin; but the adjective was not in his line.

The strongest impulse in his nature was to be a giver of entertaininent, a source of joy in others, a recognized element of delight in the little world where he moved. He had the artistic temperament in its most primitive and naive form. Nothing pleased him so much as the act of pleasing. Music was the means which Nature had given him to fulfil this desire. He played, as you might say, out of a certain kind of selfishness, because he enjoyed making other people happy. He was selfish enough, in his way, to want the pleasure of making everybody feel the same delight that he felt in the clear tones, the merry cadences, the tender and caressing flow of his violin. That was consolation. That was power. That was success.

And especially was he selfish enough to want to feel his ability to give Serena a pleasure at her wedding--a pleasure that nobody else could give her. When she asked him to play, he consented gladly. Never had he drawn the bow across the strings with a more magical touch. The wedding guests danced as if they were enchanted. The big bridegroom came up and clapped him on the back, with the nearest approach to a gesture of affection that backwoods etiquette allows between men.

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"Jack, you're the boss fiddler o' this hull county. Have a drink now? I guess you 're mighty dry."

"MERCI, NON," said Jacques. "I drink only de museek dis night. Eef I drink two t'ings, I get dronk."

In between the dances, and while the supper was going on, he played quieter tunes--ballads and songs that he knew Serena liked. After supper came the final reel; and when that was wound up, with immense hilarity, the company ran out to the side door of the tavern to shout a noisy farewell to the bridal buggy, as it drove down the road toward the house with the white palings. When they came back, the fiddler was gone. He had slipped away to the little cabin with the curved roof.

All night long he sat there playing in the dark. Every tune that he had ever known came back to him--grave and merry, light and sad. He played them over and over again, passing round and round among them as a leaf on a stream follows the eddies, now backward, now forward, and returning most frequently to an echo of a certain theme from Chopin--you remember the NOCTURNE IN G MINOR, the second one? He did not know who Chopin was. Perhaps he did not even know the name of the music. But the air had fallen upon his ear somewhere, and had stayed in his memory; and now it seemed to say something to him that had an especial meaning.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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