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VII. A Year of Nobility Henry van Dyke

Enter The Marquis

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The camp, that June, was beside the Rapide des Cedres. A great ledge stretched across the river; the water came down in three leaps, brown above, golden at the edge, white where it fell. Below, on the left bank, there was a little cove behind a high point of rocks, a curving beach of white sand, a gentle slope of ground, a tent half hidden among the birches and balsams. Down the river, the main channel narrowed and deepened. High banks hemmed it in on the left, iron-coasted islands on the right. It was a sullen, powerful, dangerous stream. Beyond that, in mid-river, the Ile Maligne reared its wicked head, scarred, bristling with skeletons of dead trees. On either side of it, the river broke away into a long fury of rapids and falls in which no boat could live.

It was there, on the point of the island, that the most famous fishing in the river was found; and there Alden was determined to cast his fly before he went home. Ten days they had waited at the Cedars for the water to fall enough to make the passage to the island safe. At last Alden grew impatient. It was a superb morning,--sky like an immense blue gentian, air full of fragrance from a million bells of pink Linnaea, sunshine flattering the great river,--a morning when danger and death seemed incredible.

"To-day we are going to the island, Jean; the water must be low enough now."

"Not yet, m'sieu', I am sorry, but it is not yet."

Alden laughed rather unpleasantly. "I believe you are afraid. I thought you were a good canoeman--"

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"I am that," said Jean, quietly, "and therefore,--well, it is the bad canoeman who is never afraid."

"But last September you took your monsieur to the island and gave him fine fishing. Why won't you do it for me? I believe you want to keep me away from this place and save it for him."

Jean's face flushed. "M'sieu' has no reason to say that of me. I beg that he will not repeat it."

Alden laughed again. He was somewhat irritated at Jean for taking the thing so seriously, for being so obstinate. On such a morning it was absurd. At least it would do no harm to make an effort to reach the island. If it proved impossible they could give it up. "All right, Jean," he said, "I'll take it back. You are only timid, that's all. Francois here will go down with me. We can manage the canoe together. Jean can stay at home and keep the camp. Eh, Francois?"

Francois, the second guide, was a mush of vanity and good nature, with just sense enough to obey Jean's orders, and just jealousy enough to make him jump at a chance to show his independence. He would like very well to be first man for a day,--perhaps for the next trip, if he had good luck. He grinned and nodded his head-- "All ready, m'sieu'; I guess we can do it."

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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