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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

An Alliance Of Rivals

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But through all the voluble talk, somehow or other, the two men were drawing closer together. Pierre felt Jean's force of character, his air of natural leadership, his bonhommie. He thought, "It was a shame for that lawyer to trick such a fine fellow with the story that he was the heir of the family." Jean, for his part, was impressed by Pierre's simplicity and firmness of conviction. He thought, "What a mean thing for that lawyer to fool such an innocent as this into supposing himself the inheritor of the title." What never occurred to either of them was the idea that the lawyer had deceived them both. That was not to be dreamed of. To admit such a thought would have seemed to them like throwing away something of great value which they had just found. The family name, the papers, the links of the genealogy which had been so convincingly set forth,--all this had made an impression on their imagination, stronger than any logical argument. But which was the marquis? That was the question.

"Look here," said Jean at last, "of what value is it that we fight? We are cousins. You think I am wrong. I think you are wrong. But one of us must be right. Who can tell? There will certainly be something for both of us. Blood is stronger than currant juice. Let us work together and help each other. You come home with me when this job is done. The lawyer returns to St. Gedeon in the spring. He will know. We can see him together. If he has fooled you, you can do what you like to him. When--PARDON, I mean if--I get the title, I will do the fair thing by you. You shall do the same by me. Is it a bargain?"

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On this basis the compact was made. The camp was much amazed, not to say disgusted, because there was no fight. Well-meaning efforts were made at intervals through the winter to bring on a crisis. But nothing came of it. The rival claimants had pooled their stock. They acknowledged the tie of blood, and ignored the clash of interests. Together they faced the fire of jokes and stood off the crowd; Pierre frowning and belligerent, Jean smiling and scornful. Practically, they bossed the camp. They were the only men who always shaved on Sunday morning. This was regarded as foppish.

The popular disappointment deepened into a general sense of injury. In March, when the cut of timber was finished and the logs were all hauled to the edge of the river, to lie there until the ice should break and the "drive" begin, the time arrived for the camp to close. The last night, under the inspiration drawn from sundry bottles which had been smuggled in to celebrate the occasion, a plan was concocted in the stables to humble "the nobility" with a grand display of humour. Jean was to be crowned as marquis with a bridle and blinders:

Pierre was to be anointed as count, with a dipperful of harness-oil; after that the fun would be impromptu.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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