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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section II.

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Bull began with musical criticisms. The fiddling did not suit him at all. It was too quick, or else it was too slow. He failed to perceive how any one could tolerate such music even in the infernal regions, and he expressed himself in plain words to that effect. In fact, he damned the performance without even the faintest praise.

But the majority of the audience gave him no support. On the contrary, they told him to shut up. And Jack fiddled along cheerfully.

Then Bull returned to the attack, after having fortified himself in the bar-room. And now he took national grounds. The French were, in his opinion, a most despicable race. They were not a patch on the noble American race. They talked too much, and their language was ridiculous. They had a condemned, fool habit of taking off their hats when they spoke to a lady. They ate frogs.

Having delivered himself of these sentiments in a loud voice, much to the interruption of the music, he marched over to the table on which Fiddlin' Jack was sitting, and grabbed the violin from his hands.

"Gimme that dam' fiddle," he cried, "till I see if there's a frog in it."

Jacques leaped from the table, transported with rage. His face was convulsed. His eyes blazed. He snatched a carving-knife from the dresser behind him, and sprang at Corey.

"TORT DIEU!" he shrieked, "MON VIOLON! Ah'll keel you, beast!"

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But he could not reach the enemy. Bill Moody's long arms were flung around the struggling fiddler, and a pair of brawny guides had Corey pinned by the elbows, hustling him backward. Half a dozen men thrust themselves between the would-be combatants. There was a dead silence, a scuffling of feet on the bare floor; then the danger was past, and a tumult of talk burst forth.

But a strange alteration had passed over Jacques. He trembled. He turned white. Tears poured down his cheeks. As Moody let him go, he dropped on his knees, hid his face in his hands, and prayed in his own tongue.

"My God, it is here again! Was it not enough that I must be tempted once before? Must I have the madness yet another time? My God, show the mercy toward me, for the Blessed Virgin's sake. I am a sinner, but not the second time; for the love of Jesus, not the second time! Ave Maria, gratia plena, ora pro me!"

The others did not understand what he was saying. Indeed, they paid little attention to him. They saw he was frightened, and thought it was with fear. They were already discussing what ought to be done about the fracas.

It was plain that Bull Corey, whose liquor had now taken effect suddenly, and made him as limp as a strip of cedar bark, must be thrown out of the door, and left to cool off on the beach. But what to do with Fiddlin' Jack for his attempt at knifing--a detested crime? He might have gone at Bull with a gun, or with a club, or with a chair, or with any recognized weapon. But with a carving- knife! That was a serious offence. Arrest him, and send him to jail at the Forks? Take him out, and duck him in the lake? Lick him, and drive him out of the town?

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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