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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

A Happy Ending Which Is Also A Beginning

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That was a pretty prelude to a wedding festival. They were all at their wit's end. While the doctor scratched their arms, they discussed the situation, excitedly and with desperation. Jean was the first to stop chattering and begin to think.

"There is that old cabane of Poulin's up the road. It is empty these three years. But there is a good spring of water. One could patch the roof at one end and put up a stove."

"Good!" said the doctor. "But some one to take care of him? It will be a long job, and a bad one."

"I am going to do that," said Jean; "it is my place. This gentleman cannot be left to die in the road. Le bon Dieu did not send him here for that. The head of the family"--here he stopped a moment and looked at Pierre, who was silent--"must take the heavy end of the job, and I am ready for it."

"Good!" said the doctor again. But Alma was crying in the corner of the room.

Four weeks, five weeks, six weeks the vigil in the cabane lasted. The last patches of snow disappeared from the fields one night, as if winter had picked up its rags and vanished. The willows along the brook turned yellow; the grass greened around the spring. Scarlet buds flamed on the swamp maples. A tender mist of foliage spread over the woodlands. The chokecherries burst into a glory of white blossoms. The bluebirds came back, fluting love-songs; and the robins, carolling ballads of joy; and the blackbirds, creaking merrily.

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The priest came once and saw the sick man, but everything was going well. It was not necessary to run any extra risks. Every week after that he came and leaned on the fence, talking with Jean in the doorway. When he went away he always lifted three fingers--so--you know the sign? It is a very pleasant one, and it did Jean's heart good.

Pierre kept the cabane well supplied with provisions, leaving them just inside of the gate. But with the milk it was necessary to be a little careful; so the can was kept in a place by itself, under the out-of-door oven, in the shade. And beside this can Jean would find, every day, something particular,--a blossom of the red geranium that bloomed in the farmhouse window, a piece of cake with plums in it, a bunch of trailing arbutus,--once it was a little bit of blue ribbon, tied in a certain square knot--so--perhaps you know that sign too? That did Jean's heart good also.

But what kind of conversation was there in the cabane when the sick man's delirium had passed and he knew what had happened to him? Not much at first, for the man was too weak. After he began to get stronger, he was thinking a great deal, fighting with himself. In the end he came out pretty well--for a lawyer of his kind. Perhaps he was desirous to leave the man whom he had deceived, and who had nursed him back from death, some fragment, as much as possible, of the dream that brightened his life. Perhaps he was only anxious to save as much as he could of his own reputation. At all events, this is what he did.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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