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0105_001E I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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It made no difference whether there was a roomful of listeners, or only a couple, Fiddlin' Jack was just as glad to play. With a little, quiet audience, he loved to try the quaint, plaintive airs of the old French songs--"A la Claire Fontaine," "Un Canadien Errant," and "Isabeau s'y Promene"--and bits of simple melody from the great composers, and familiar Scotch and English ballads--things that he had picked up heaven knows where, and into which he put a world of meaning, sad and sweet.

He was at his best in this vein when he was alone with Serena in the kitchen--she with a piece of sewing in her lap, sitting beside the lamp; he in the corner by the stove, with the brown violin tucked under his chin, wandering on from one air to another, and perfectly content if she looked up now and then from her work and told him that she liked the tune.

Serena was a pretty girl, with smooth, silky hair, end eyes of the colour of the nodding harebells that blossom on the edge of the woods. She was slight and delicate. The neighbours called her sickly; and a great doctor from Philadelphia who had spent a summer at Bytown had put his ear to her chest, and looked grave, and said that she ought to winter in a mild climate. That was before people had discovered the Adirondacks as a sanitarium for consumptives.

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But the inhabitants of Bytown were not in the way of paying much attention to the theories of physicians in regard to climate. They held that if you were rugged, it was a great advantage, almost a virtue; but if you were sickly, you just had to make the best of it, and get along with the weather as well as you could.

So Serena stayed at home and adapted herself very cheerfully to the situation. She kept indoors in winter more than the other girls, and had a quieter way about her; but you would never have called her an invalid. There was only a clearer blue in her eyes, and a smoother lustre on her brown hair, and a brighter spot of red on her cheek. She was particularly fond of reading and of music. It was this that made her so glad of the arrival of the violin. The violin's master knew it, and turned to her as a sympathetic soul. I think he liked her eyes too, and the soft tones of her voice. He was a sentimentalist, this little Canadian, for all he was so merry; and love--but that comes later.

"Where'd you get your fiddle, Jack? said Serena, one night as they sat together in the kitchen.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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