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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

A Happy Ending Which Is Also A Beginning

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He told Jean a long story, part truth, part lie, about his investigations. The estate and the title were in the family; that was certain. Jean was the probable heir, if there was any heir; that was almost sure. The part about Pierre had been a--well, a mistake. But the trouble with the whole affair was this. A law made in the days of Napoleon limited the time for which an estate could remain unclaimed. A certain number of years, and then the government took everything. That number of years had just passed. By the old law Jean was probably a marquis with a castle. By the new law?--Frankly, he could not advise a client to incur any more expense. In fact, he intended to return the amount already paid. A hundred and ten dollars, was it not? Yes, and fifty dollars for the six weeks of nursing. VOILA, a draft on Montreal, a hundred and sixty dollars,--as good as gold! And beside that, there was the incalculable debt for this great kindness to a sick man, for which he would always be M. de la Motte's grateful debtor!

The lawyer's pock-marked face--the scars still red and angry--lit up with a curious mixed light of shrewdness and gratitude. Jean was somewhat moved. His castle was in ruins. But he remained noble--by the old law; that was something!

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A few days later the doctor pronounced it safe to move the patient. He came with a carriage to fetch him. Jean, well fumigated and dressed in a new suit of clothes, walked down the road beside them to the farm-house gate. There Alma met him with both hands. His eyes embraced her. The air of June was radiant about them. The fragrance of the woods breathed itself over the broad valley. A song sparrow poured his heart out from a blossoming lilac. The world was large, and free, and very good. And between the lovers there was nothing but a little gate.

"I understand," said the doctor, smiling, as he tightened up the reins, "I understand that there is a title in your family, M. de la Motte, in effect that you are a marquis?"

"It is true," said Jean, turning his head, "at least so I think."

"So do I," said the doctor "But you had better go in, MONSIEUR LE MARQUIS--you keep MADAME LA MARQUISE waiting."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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