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VI. The White Blot Henry van Dyke

Section III.

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"Mr. Falconer came back in May," continued the good lady, "as if he expected to find them. But the house was shut up and nobody knew just where they were. He seemed to be all taken aback; it was queer if he didn't know about it, intimate as he had been; but he never said anything, and made no inquiries; just seemed to be waiting, as if there was nothing else for him to do. We would have told him in a minute, if we had anything to tell. But all we could do was to guess there must have been some kind of a quarrel between him and the Judge, and if there was, he must know best about it himself.

"All summer long he kept going over to the house and wandering around in the garden. In the fall he began to paint a picture, but it was very slow painting; he would go over in the afternoon and come back long after dark, damp with the dew and fog. He kept growing paler and weaker and more silent. Some days he did not speak more than a dozen words, but always kind and pleasant. He was just dwindling away; and when the picture was almost done a fever took hold of him. The doctor said it was malaria, but it seemed to me more like a trouble in the throat, a kind of dumb misery. And one night, in the third quarter of the moon, just after the tide turned to run out, he raised up in the bed and tried to speak, but he was gone.

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"We tried to find out his relations, but there didn't seem to be any, except the Ledoux, and they were out of reach. So we sent the picture up to our cousin in Brooklyn, and it sold for about enough to pay Mr. Falconer's summer's board and the cost of his funeral. There was nothing else that he left of any value, except a few books; perhaps you would like to look at them, if you were his friend?

"I never saw any one that I seemed to know so little and like so well. It was a disappointment in love, of course, and they all said that he died of a broken heart; but I think it was because his heart was too full, and wouldn't break.

"And oh!--I forgot to tell you; a week after he was gone there was a notice in the paper that Claire Ledoux had died suddenly, on the last of August, at some place in Switzerland. Her father is still away travelling. And so the whole story is broken off and will never be finished. Will you look at the books?"

Nothing is more pathetic, to my mind, than to take up the books of one who is dead. Here is his name, with perhaps a note of the place where the volume was bought or read, and the marks on the pages that he liked best. Here are the passages that gave him pleasure, and the thoughts that entered into his life and formed it; they became part of him, but where has he carried them now?

Falconer's little library was an unstudied choice, and gave a hint of his character. There was a New Testament in French, with his name written in a slender, woman's hand; three or four volumes of stories, Cable's "Old Creole Days," Allen's "Kentucky Cardinal," Page's "In Old Virginia," and the like; "Henry Esmond" and Amiel's "Journal" and Lamartine's "Raphael"; and a few volumes of poetry, among them one of Sidney Lanier's, and one of Tennyson's earlier poems.

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The Ruling Passion
Henry van Dyke

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