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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section IV.

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He was still the favourite musician of the county-side, in great request at parties and weddings; but he had extended the sphere of his influence a little. He was not willing to go to church, though there were now several to choose from; but a young minister of liberal views who had come to take charge of the new Episcopal chapel had persuaded Jacques into the Sunday-school, to lead the children's singing with his violin. He did it so well that the school became the most popular in the village. It was much pleasanter to sing than to listen to long addresses.

Jacques grew old gracefully, but he certainly grew old rapidly. His beard was white; his shoulders were stooping; he suffered a good deal in damp days from rheumatism--fortunately not in his hands, but in his legs. One spring there was a long spell of abominable weather, just between freezing and thawing. He caught a heavy cold and took to his bed. Hose came over to look after him.

For a few days the old fiddler kept up his courage, and would sit up in the bed trying to play; then his strength and his spirit seemed to fail together. He grew silent and indifferent. When Hose came in he would find Jacques with his face turned to the wall, where there was a tiny brass crucifix hanging below the violin, and his lips moving quietly.

"Don't ye want the fiddle, Jack? I 'd like ter hear some o' them old-time tunes ag'in."

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But the artifice failed. Jacques shook his head. His mind seemed to turn back to the time of his first arrival in the village, and beyond it. When he spoke at all, it was of something connected with this early time.

"Dat was bad taim' when I near keel Bull Corey, hein?"

Hose nodded gravely.

"Dat was beeg storm, dat night when I come to Bytown. You remember dat?"

Yes, Hose remembered it very well. It was a real old-fashioned storm.

"Ah, but befo dose taim', dere was wuss taim' dan dat--in Canada. Nobody don' know 'bout dat. I lak to tell you, 'Ose, but I can't. No, it is not possible to tell dat, nevair!"

It came into Hose's mind that the case was serious. Jack was going to die. He never went to church, but perhaps the Sunday-school might count for something. He was only a Frenchman, after all, and Frenchmen had their own ways of doing things. He certainly ought to see some kind of a preacher before he went out of the wilderness. There was a Canadian priest in town that week, who had come down to see about getting up a church for the French people who worked in the mills. Perhaps Jack would like to talk with him.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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