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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

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"Ah'll get heem in Kebeck," answered Jacques, passing his hand lightly over the instrument, as he always did when any one spoke of it. "Vair' nice VIOLON, hein? W'at you t'ink? Ma h'ole teacher, to de College, he was gif' me dat VIOLON, w'en Ah was gone away to de woods."

"I want to know! Were you in the College? What'd you go off to the woods for?"

"Ah'll get tire' fraum dat teachin'--read, read, read, h'all taim'. Ah'll not lak' dat so moch. Rader be out-door--run aroun'--paddle de CANOT--go wid de boys in de woods--mek' dem dance at ma MUSIQUE. A-a-ah! Dat was fon! P'raps you t'ink dat not good, hem? You t'ink Jacques one beeg fool, Ah suppose?"

"I dunno," said Serena, declining to commit herself, but pressing on gently, as women do, to the point she had in view when she began the talk. "Dunno's you're any more foolish than a man that keeps on doin' what he don't like. But what made you come away from the boys in the woods and travel down this way?"

A shade passed over the face of Jacques. He turned away from the lamp and bent over the violin on his knees, fingering the strings nervously. Then he spoke, in a changed, shaken voice.

"Ah'l tole you somet'ing, Ma'amselle Serene. You ma frien'. Don' you h'ask me dat reason of it no more. Dat's somet'ing vair' bad, bad, bad. Ah can't nevair tole dat--nevair."

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There was something in the way he said it that gave a check to her gentle curiosity and turned it into pity. A man with a secret in his life? It was a new element in her experience; like a chapter in a book. She was lady enough at heart to respect his silence. She kept away from the forbidden ground. But the knowledge that it was there gave a new interest to Jacques and his music. She embroidered some strange romances around that secret while she sat in the kitchen sewing.

Other people at Bytown were less forbearing. They tried their best to find out something about Fiddlin' Jack's past, but he was not communicative. He talked about Canada. All Canadians do. But about himself? No.

If the questions became too pressing, he would try to play himself away from his inquisitors with new tunes. If that did not succeed, he would take the violin under his arm and slip quickly out of the room. And if you had followed him at such a time, you would have heard him drawing strange, melancholy music from the instrument, sitting alone in the barn, or in the darkness of his own room in the garret.

Once, and only once, he seemed to come near betraying himself. This was how it happened.

There was a party at Moody's one night, and Bull Corey had come down from the Upper Lake and filled himself up with whiskey.

Bull was an ugly-tempered fellow. The more he drank, up to a certain point, the steadier he got on his legs, and the more necessary it seemed for him to fight somebody. The tide of his pugnacity that night took a straight set toward Fiddlin' Jack.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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