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I. A Lover of Music Henry van Dyke

Section IV.

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His face lighted up at the proposal. He asked to have the room tidied up, and a clean shirt put on him, and the violin laid open in its case on a table beside the bed, and a few other preparations made for the visit. Then the visitor came, a tall, friendly, quiet- looking man about Jacques's age, with a smooth face and a long black cassock. The door was shut, and they were left alone together.

"I am comforted that you are come, mon pere," said the sick man, "for I have the heavy heart. There is a secret that I have kept for many years. Sometimes I had almost forgotten that it must be told at the last; but now it is the time to speak. I have a sin to confess--a sin of the most grievous, of the most unpardonable."

The listener soothed him with gracious words; spoke of the mercy that waits for all the penitent; urged him to open his heart without delay.

"Well, then, mon pere, it is this that makes me fear to die. Long since, in Canada, before I came to this place, I have killed a man. It was--"

The voice stopped. The little round clock on the window-sill ticked very distinctly and rapidly, as if it were in a hurry.

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"I will speak as short as I can. It was in the camp of 'Poleon Gautier, on the river St. Maurice. The big Baptiste Lacombe, that crazy boy who wants always to fight, he mocks me when I play, he snatches my violin, he goes to break him on the stove. There is a knife in my belt. I spring to Baptiste. I see no more what it is that I do. I cut him in the neck--once, twice. The blood flies out. He falls down. He cries, 'I die.' I grab my violin from the floor, quick; then I run to the woods. No one can catch me. A blanket, the axe, some food, I get from a hiding-place down the river. Then I travel, travel, travel through the woods, how many days I know not, till I come here. No one knows me. I give myself the name Tremblay. I make the music for them. With my violin I live. I am happy. I forget. But it all returns to me--now--at the last. I have murdered. Is there a forgiveness for me, mon pere?"

The priest's face had changed very swiftly at the mention of the camp on the St. Maurice. As the story went on, he grew strangely excited. His lips twitched. His hands trembled. At the end he sank on his knees, close by the bed, and looked into the countenance of the sick man, searching it as a forester searches in the undergrowth for a lost trail. Then his eyes lighted up as he found it.

"My son," said he, clasping the old fiddler's hand in his own, "you are Jacques Dellaire. And I--do you know me now?--I am Baptiste Lacombe. See those two scars upon my neck. But it was not death. You have not murdered. You have given the stroke that changed my heart. Your sin is forgiven--AND MINE ALSO--by the mercy of God!"

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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