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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

An Alliance Of Rivals

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The impromptu part of the programme began earlier than it was advertised. Some whisper of the plan had leaked through the chinks of the wall between the shanty and the stable. When the crowd came shambling into the cabin, snickering and nudging one another, Jean and Pierre were standing by the stove at the upper end of the long table.

"Down with the canaille!" shouted Jean.

"Clean out the gang!" responded Pierre.

Brandishing long-handled frying-pans, they charged down the sides of the table. The mob wavered, turned, and were lost! Helter-skelter they fled, tumbling over one another in their haste to escape. The lamp was smashed. The benches were upset. In the smoky hall a furious din arose,--as if Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale were once more hewing their way through the castle of Carteloise. Fear fell upon the multitude, and they cried aloud grievously in their dismay. The blows of the weapons echoed mightily in the darkness, and the two knights laid about them grimly and with great joy. The door was too narrow for the flight. Some of the men crept under the lowest berths; others hid beneath the table. Two, endeavouring to escape by the windows, stuck fast, exposing a broad and undefended mark to the pursuers. Here the last strokes of the conflict were delivered.

"One for the marquis!" cried Jean, bringing down his weapon with a sounding whack.

"Two for the count!" cried Pierre, making his pan crack like the blow of a beaver's tail when he dives.

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Then they went out into the snowy night, and sat down together on the sill of the stable-door, and laughed until the tears ran down their cheeks.

"My faith!" said Jean. "That was like the ancient time. It is from the good wood that strong paddles are made,--eh, cousin?" And after that there was a friendship between the two men that could not have been cut with the sharpest axe in Quebec.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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