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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

An Alliance Of Rivals

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Yes, of course they got off--the next day. At the foot of the island, two miles below, there is a place where the water runs quieter, and a BATEAU can cross from the main shore. Francois was frightened when the others did not come back in the evening. He made his way around to St. Joseph d'Alma, and got a boat to come up and look for their bodies. He found them on the shore, alive and very hungry. But all that has nothing to do with the story.

Nor does it make any difference how Alden spent the rest of his summer in the woods, what kind of fishing he had, or what moved him to leave five hundred dollars with Jean when he went away. That is all padding: leave it out. The first point of interest is what Jean did with the money. A suit of clothes, a new stove, and a set of kitchen utensils for the log house opposite Grosse Ile, a trip to Quebec, a little game of "Blof Americain" in the back room of the Hotel du Nord,--that was the end of the money.

This is not a Sunday-school story. Jean was no saint. Even as a hero he had his weak points. But after his own fashion he was a pretty good kind of a marquis. He took his headache the next morning as a matter of course, and his empty pocket as a trick of fortune. With the nobility, he knew very well, such things often happen; but the nobility do not complain about it. They go ahead, as if it was a bagatelle.

Before the week was out Jean was on his way to a lumber-shanty on the St. Maurice River, to cook for a crew of thirty men all winter.

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The cook's position in camp is curious,--half menial, half superior. It is no place for a feeble man. But a cook who is strong in the back and quick with his fists can make his office much respected. Wages, forty dollars a month; duties, to keep the pea-soup kettle always hot and the bread-pan always full, to stand the jokes of the camp up to a certain point, and after that to whip two or three of the most active humourists.

Jean performed all his duties to perfect satisfaction. Naturally most of the jokes turned upon his great expectations. With two of the principal jokers he had exchanged the usual and conclusive form of repartee,--flattened them out literally. The ordinary BADINAGE he did not mind in the least; it rather pleased him.

But about the first of January a new hand came into the camp,--a big, black-haired fellow from Three Rivers, Pierre Lamotte DIT Theophile. With him it was different. There seemed to be something serious in his jests about "the marquis." It was not fun; it was mockery; always on the edge of anger. He acted as if he would be glad to make Jean ridiculous in any way.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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