The Reward of
Virtue by Henry van Dyke
When the good priest of St. Gerome christened Patrick Mullarkey, he
lent himself unconsciously to an innocent deception. To look at the
name, you would think, of course, it belonged to an Irishman; the
very appearance of it was equal to a certificate of membership in a
But in effect, from the turned-up toes of his bottes sauvages to
the ends of his black mustache, the proprietor of this name was a
FrenchmanCanadian French, you understand, and therefore even more
proud and tenacious of his race than if he had been born in Normandy.
Somewhere in his family tree there must have been a graft from the
Green Isle. A wandering lumberman from County Kerry had drifted up
the Saguenay into the Lake St. John region, and married the daughter
of a habitant, and settled down to forget his own country and his
father's house. But every visible trace of this infusion of new blood
had vanished long ago, except the name; and the name itself was
transformed on the lips of the St. Geromians. If you had heard them
speak it in their pleasant droning accent, "Patrique
Moullarque,"you would have supposed that it was made in France. To
have a guide with such a name as that was as good as being abroad.
Even when they cut it short and called him "Patte," as they usually
did, it had a very foreign sound. Everything about him was in
harmony with it; he spoke and laughed and sang and thought and felt
in Frenchthe French of two hundred years ago, the language of
Samuel de Champlain and the Sieur de Monts, touched with a strong
woodland flavour. In short, my guide, philosopher, and friend, Pat,
did not have a drop of Irish in him, unless, perhaps, it was a
certainwell, you shall judge for yourself, when you have heard this
story of his virtue, and the way it was rewarded.
It was on the shore of the Lac a la Belle Riviere, fifteen miles
back from St. Gerome, that I came into the story, and found myself,
as commonly happens in the real stories which life is always bringing
out in periodical form, somewhere about the middle of the plot. But
Patrick readily made me acquainted with what had gone before. Indeed,
it is one of life's greatest charms as a story- teller that there is
never any trouble about getting a brief resume of the argument, and
even a listener who arrives late is soon put into touch with the
course of the narrative.
We had hauled our canoes and camp-stuff over the terrible road that
leads to the lake, with much creaking and groaning of wagons, and
complaining of men, who declared that the mud grew deeper and the
hills steeper every year, and vowed their customary vow never to come
that way again. At last our tents were pitched in a green copse of
balsam trees, close beside the water. The delightful sense of peace
and freedom descended upon our souls. Prosper and Ovide were cutting
wood for the camp-fire; Francois was getting ready a brace of
partridges for supper; Patrick and I were unpacking the provisions,
arranging them conveniently for present use and future transportation.
"Here, Pat," said I, as my hand fell on a large square
parcel"here is some superfine tobacco that I got in Quebec for you
and the other men on this trip. Not like the damp stuff you had last
yeara little bad smoke and too many bad words. This is tobacco to
burn something quite particular, you understand. How does that
He had been rolling up a piece of salt pork in a cloth as I spoke,
and courteously wiped his fingers on the outside of the bundle before
he stretched out his hand to take the package of tobacco. Then he
answered, with his unfailing politeness, but more solemnly than usual:
"A thousand thanks to m'sieu'. But this year I shall not have need
of the good tobacco. It shall be for the others."
The reply was so unexpected that it almost took my breath away.
For Pat, the steady smoker, whose pipes were as invariable as the
precession of the equinoxes, to refuse his regular rations of the
soothing weed was a thing unheard of. Could he be growing proud in
his old age? Had he some secret supply of cigars concealed in his
kit, which made him scorn the golden Virginia leaf? I demanded an
"But no, m'sieu'," he replied; "it is not that, most assuredly. It
is something entirely differentsomething very serious. It is a
reformation that I commence. Does m'sieu' permit that I should
inform him of it?"
Of course I permitted, or rather, warmly encouraged, the fullest
possible unfolding of the tale; and while we sat among the bags and
boxes, and the sun settled gently down behind the sharp-pointed firs
across the lake, and the evening sky and the waveless lake glowed
with a thousand tints of deepening rose and amber, Patrick put me in
possession of the facts which had led to a moral revolution in his
"It was the Ma'm'selle Meelair, that young lady,not very young,
but active like the youngest,the one that I conducted down the
Grande Decharge to Chicoutimi last year, after you had gone away. She
said that she knew m'sieu' intimately. No doubt you have a good
remembrance of her?"
I admitted an acquaintance with the lady. She was the president of
several societies for ethical agitationa long woman, with short
hair and eyeglasses and a great thirst for tea; not very good in a
canoe, but always wanting to run the rapids and go into the dangerous
places, and talking all the time. Yes; that must have been the one.
She was not a bosom friend of mine, to speak accurately, but I
remembered her well.
"Well, then, m'sieu'," continued Patrick, "it was this demoiselle
who changed my mind about the smoking. But not in a moment, you
understand; it was a work of four days, and she spoke much.
"The first day it was at the Island House; we were trolling for
ouananiche, and she was not pleased, for she lost many of the fish. I
was smoking at the stern of the canoe, and she said that the tobacco
was a filthy weed, that it grew in the devil's garden, and that it
smelled bad, terribly bad, and that it made the air sick, and that
even the pig would not eat it."
I could imagine Patrick's dismay as he listened to this
dissertation; for in his way he was as sensitive as a woman, and he
would rather have been upset in his canoe than have exposed himself
to the reproach of offending any one of his patrons by unpleasant or
"What did you do then, Pat?" I asked.
"Certainly I put out the pipewhat could I do otherwise? But I
thought that what the demoiselle Meelair has said was very strange,
and not trueexactly; for I have often seen the tobacco grow, and it
springs up out of the ground like the wheat or the beans, and it has
beautiful leaves, broad and green, with sometimes a red flower at the
top. Does the good God cause the filthy weeds to grow like that? Are
they not all clean that He has made? The potatoit is not filthy.
And the onion? It has a strong smell; but the demoiselle Meelair she
ate much of the onionwhen we were not at the Island House, but in
"And the smell of the tobaccothis is an affair of the taste. For
me, I love it much; it is like a spice. When I come home at night to
the camp-fire, where the boys are smoking, the smell of the pipes runs
far out into the woods to salute me. It says, 'Here we are, Patrique;
come in near to the fire.' The smell of the tobacco is more sweet
than the smell of the fish. The pig loves it not, assuredly; but what
then? I am not a pig. To me it is good, good, good. Don't you find
it like that, m'sieu'?
I had to confess that in the affair of taste I sided with Patrick
rather than with the pig. "Continue," I said"continue, my boy.
Miss Miller must have said more than that to reform you."
"Truly," replied Pat. "On the second day we were making the lunch
at midday on the island below the first rapids. I smoked the pipe on
a rock apart, after the collation. Mees Meelair comes to me, and
says: 'Patrique, my man, do you comprehend that the tobacco is a
poison? You are committing the murder of yourself.' Then she tells
me many thingsabout the nicoline, I think she calls him; how he
goes into the blood and into the bones and into the hair, and how
quickly he will kill the cat. And she says, very strong, 'The men
who smoke the tobacco shall die!'"
"That must have frightened you well, Pat. I suppose you threw away
your pipe at once."
"But no, m'sieu'; this time I continue to smoke, for now it is Mees
Meelair who comes near the pipe voluntarily, and it is not my
offence. And I remember, while she is talking, the old bonhomme
Michaud St. Gerome. He is a capable man; when he was young he could
carry a barrel of flour a mile without rest, and now that he has
seventy-three years he yet keeps his force. And he smokesit is
astonishing how that old man smokes! All the day, except when he
sleeps. If the tobacco is a poison, it is a poison of the slowest
like the tea or the coffee. For the cat it is quickyes; but for
the man it is long; and I am still youngonly thirty-one.
"But the third day, m'sieu'the third day was the worst. It was a
day of sadness, a day of the bad chance. The demoiselle Meelair was
not content but that we should leap the Rapide des Cedres in canoe.
It was rough, roughall feather-white, and the big rock at the
corner boiling like a kettle. But it is the ignorant who have the
most of boldness. The demoiselle Meelair she was not solid in the
canoe. She made a jump and a loud scream. I did my possible, but
the sea was too high. We took in of the water about five buckets. We
were very wet. After that we make the camp; and while I sit by the
fire to dry my clothes I smoke for comfort.
"Mees Meelair she comes to me once more. 'Patrique,' she says with
a sad voice, 'I am sorry that a nice man, so good, so brave, is
married to a thing so bad, so sinful!' At first I am mad when I hear
this, because I think she means Angelique, my wife; but immediately
she goes on: 'You are married to the smoking. That is sinful; it is a
wicked thing. Christians do not smoke. There is none of the tobacco
in heaven. The men who use it cannot go there. Ah, Patrique, do you
wish to go to the hell with your pipe?'"
"That was a close question," I commented; "your Miss Miller is a
plain speaker. But what did you say when she asked you that?"
"I said, m'sieu'," replied Patrick, lifting his hand to his
forehead, "that I must go where the good God pleased to send me, and
that I would have much joy to go to the same place with our cure, the
Pere Morel, who is a great smoker. I am sure that the pipe of comfort
is no sin to that holy man when he returns, some cold night, from the
visiting of the sickit is not sin, not more than the soft chair and
the warm fire. It harms no one, and it makes quietness of mind. For
me, when I see m'sieu' the cure sitting at the door of the presbytere,
in the evening coolness, smoking the tobacco, very peaceful, and when
he says to me, 'Good day, Patrique; will you have a pipeful?' I cannot
think that is wickedno!"
There was a warmth of sincerity in the honest fellow's utterance
that spoke well for the character of the cure of St. Gerome. The
good word of a plain fisherman or hunter is worth more than a degree
of doctor of divinity from a learned university.
I too had grateful memories of good men, faithful, charitable,
wise, devout,men before whose virtues my heart stood uncovered and
reverent, men whose lives were sweet with self-sacrifice, and whose
words were like stars of guidance to many souls,and I had often
seen these men solacing their toils and inviting pleasant, kindly
thoughts with the pipe of peace. I wondered whether Miss Miller ever
had the good fortune to meet any of these men. They were not members
of the societies for ethical agitation, but they were profitable men
to know. Their very presence was medicinal. It breathed patience and
fidelity to duty, and a large, quiet friendliness.
"Well, then," I asked, "what did she say finally to turn you? What
was her last argument? Come, Pat, you must make it a little shorter
than she did."
"In five words, m'sieu', it was this: 'The tobacco causes the
poverty.' The fourth dayyou remind yourself of the long dead-
water below the Rapide Gervais? It was there. All the day she spoke
to me of the money that goes to the smoke. Two piastres the month.
Twenty-four the year. Three hundredyes, with the interest, more
than three hundred in ten years! Two thousand piastres in the life of
the man! But she comprehends well the arithmetic, that demoiselle
Meelair; it was enormous! The big farmer Tremblay has not more money
at the bank than that. Then she asks me if I have been at Quebec?
No. If I would love to go? Of course, yes. For two years of the
smoking we could go, the goodwife and me, to Quebec, and see the grand
city, and the shops, and the many people, and the cathedral, and
perhaps the theatre. And at the asylum of the orphans we could seek
one of the little found children to bring home with us, to be our own;
for m'sieu knows it is the sadness of our house that we have no child.
But it was not Mees Meelair who said thatno, she would not
understand that thought."
Patrick paused for a moment, and rubbed his chin reflectively.
Then he continued:
"And perhaps it seems strange to you also, m'sieu', that a poor man
should be so hungry for children. It is not so everywhere: not in
America, I hear. But it is so with us in Canada. I know not a man
so poor that he would not feel richer for a child. I know not a man
so happy that he would not feel happier with a child in the house. It
is the best thing that the good God gives to us; something to work
for; something to play with. It makes a man more gentle and more
strong. And a woman,her heart is like an empty nest, if she has not
a child. It was the darkest day that ever came to Angelique and me
when our little baby flew away, four years ago. But perhaps if we
have not one of our own, there is another somewhere, a little child of
nobody, that belongs to us, for the sake of the love of children.
Jean Boucher, my wife's cousin, at St. Joseph d'Alma, has taken two
from the asylum. Two, m'sieu', I assure you for as soon as one was
twelve years old, he said he wanted a baby, and so he went back again
and got another. That is what I should like to do."
"But, Pat," said I, "it is an expensive business, this raising of
children. You should think twice about it."
"Pardon, m'sieu'," answered Patrick; "I think a hundred times and
always the same way. It costs little more for three, or four, or
five, in the house than for two. The only thing is the money for the
journey to the city, the choice, the arrangement with the nuns. For
that one must save. And so I have thrown away the pipe. I smoke no
more. The money of the tobacco is for Quebec and for the little found
child. I have already eighteen piastres and twenty sous in the old
box of cigars on the chimney-piece at the house. This year will bring
more. The winter after the next, if we have the good chance, we go to
the city, the goodwife and me, and we come home with the little
boyor maybe the little girl. Does m'sieu' approve?"
"You are a man of virtue, Pat," said I; "and since you will not
take your share of the tobacco on this trip, it shall go to the other
men; but you shall have the money instead, to put into your box on
After supper that evening I watched him with some curiosity to see
what he would do without his pipe. He seemed restless and uneasy.
The other men sat around the fire, smoking; but Patrick was down at
the landing, fussing over one of the canoes, which had been somewhat
roughly handled on the road coming in. Then he began to tighten the
tent-ropes, and hauled at them so vigorously that he loosened two of
the stakes. Then he whittled the blade of his paddle for a while,
and cut it an inch too short. Then he went into the men's tent, and
in a few minutes the sound of snoring told that he had sought refuge
in sleep at eight o'clock, without telling a single caribou story, or
making any plans for the next day's sport.
For several days we lingered on the Lake of the Beautiful River,
trying the fishing. We explored all the favourite meeting-places of
the trout, at the mouths of the streams and in the cool spring-
holes, but we did not have remarkable success. I am bound to say
that Patrick was not at his best that year as a fisherman. He was as
ready to work, as interested, as eager, as ever; but he lacked
steadiness, persistence, patience. Some tranquillizing influence
seemed to have departed from him. That placid confidence in the
ultimate certainty of catching fish, which is one of the chief
elements of good luck, was wanting. He did not appear to be able to
sit still in the canoe. The mosquitoes troubled him terribly. He
was just as anxious as a man could be to have me take plenty of the
largest trout, but he was too much in a hurry. He even went so far
as to say that he did not think I cast the fly as well as I did
formerly, and that I was too slow in striking when the fish rose. He
was distinctly a weaker man without his pipe, but his virtuous resolve
There was one place in particular that required very cautious
angling. It was a spring-hole at the mouth of the Riviere du
Milieuan open space, about a hundred feet long and fifteen feet
wide, in the midst of the lily-pads, and surrounded on every side by
clear, shallow water. Here the great trout assembled at certain
hours of the day; but it was not easy to get them. You must come up
delicately in the canoe, and make fast to a stake at the side of the
pool, and wait a long time for the place to get quiet and the fish to
recover from their fright and come out from under the lily-pads. It
had been our custom to calm and soothe this expectant interval with
incense of the Indian weed, friendly to meditation and a foe of "Raw
haste, half-sister to delay." But this year Patrick could not endure
the waiting. After five minutes he would say:
"BUT the fishing is bad this season! There are none of the big
ones here at all. Let us try another place. It will go better at the
Riviere du Cheval, perhaps."
There was only one thing that would really keep him quiet, and that
was a conversation about Quebec. The glories of that wonderful city
entranced his thoughts. He was already floating, in imagination,
with the vast throngs of people that filled its splendid streets,
looking up at the stately houses and churches with their glittering
roofs of tin, and staring his fill at the magnificent shop-windows,
where all the luxuries of the world were displayed. He had heard
that there were more than a hundred shopsseparate shops for all
kinds of separate things: some for groceries, and some for shoes, and
some for clothes, and some for knives and axes, and some for guns, and
many shops where they sold only jewelsgold rings, and diamonds, and
forks of pure silver. Was it not so?
He pictured himself, side by side with his goodwife, in the salle a
manger of the Hotel Richelieu, ordering their dinner from a printed
bill of fare. Side by side they were walking on the Dufferin
Terrace, listening to the music of the military band. Side by side
they were watching the wonders of the play at the Theatre de l'Etoile
du Nord. Side by side they were kneeling before the gorgeous altar in
the cathedral. And then they were standing silent, side by side, in
the asylum of the orphans, looking at brown eyes and blue, at black
hair and yellow curls, at fat legs and rosy cheeks and laughing
mouths, while the Mother Superior showed off the little boys and girls
for them to choose. This affair of the choice was always a delightful
difficulty, and here his fancy loved to hang in suspense, vibrating
between rival joys.
Once, at the Riviere du Milieu, after considerable discourse upon
Quebec, there was an interval of silence, during which I succeeded in
hooking and playing a larger trout than usual. As the fish came up to
the side of the canoe, Patrick netted him deftly, exclaiming with an
abstracted air, "It is a boy, after all. I like that best."
Our camp was shifted, the second week, to the Grand Lac des Cedres;
and there we had extraordinary fortune with the trout: partly, I
conjecture, because there was only one place to fish, and so
Patrick's uneasy zeal could find no excuse for keeping me in constant
motion all around the lake. But in the matter of weather we were not
so happy. There is always a conflict in the angler's mind about the
weathera struggle between his desires as a man and his desires as a
fisherman. This time our prayers for a good fishing season were
granted at the expense of our suffering human nature. There was a
conjunction in the zodiac of the signs of Aquarius and Pisces. It
rained as easily, as suddenly, as penetratingly, as Miss Miller
talked; but in between the showers the trout were very hungry.
One day, when we were paddling home to our tents among the birch
trees, one of these unexpected storms came up; and Patrick,
thoughtful of my comfort as ever, insisted on giving me his coat to
put around my dripping shoulders. The paddling would serve instead
of a coat for him, he said; it would keep him warm to his bones. As
I slipped the garment over my back, something hard fell from one of
the pockets into the bottom of the canoe. It was a brier-wood pipe.
"Aha! Pat," I cried; "what is this? You said you had thrown all
your pipes away. How does this come in your pocket?"
"But, m'sieu'," he answered, "this is different. This is not the
pipe pure and simple. It is a souvenir. It is the one you gave me
two years ago on the Metabetchouan, when we got the big caribou. I
could not reject this. I keep it always for the remembrance."
At this moment my hand fell upon a small, square object in the
other pocket of the coat. I pulled it out. It was a cake of Virginia
leaf. Without a word, I held it up, and looked at Patrick. He began
to explain eagerly:
"Yes, certainly, it is the tobacco, m'sieu'; but it is not for the
smoke, as you suppose. It is for the virtue, for the self-victory. I
call this my little piece of temptation. See; the edges are not cut.
I smell it only; and when I think how it is good, then I speak to
myself, 'But the little found child will be better!' It will last a
long time, this little piece of temptation; perhaps until we have the
boy at our houseor maybe the girl."
The conflict between the cake of Virginia leaf and Patrick's virtue
must have been severe during the last ten days of our expedition; for
we went down the Riviere des Ecorces, and that is a tough trip, and
full of occasions when consolation is needed. After a long, hard
day's work cutting out an abandoned portage through the woods, or
tramping miles over the incredibly shaggy hills to some outlying pond
for a caribou, and lugging the saddle and hind quarters back to the
camp, the evening pipe, after supper, seemed to comfort the men
unspeakably. If their tempers had grown a little short under stress
of fatigue and hunger, now they became cheerful and good-natured
again. They sat on logs before the camp-fire, their stockinged feet
stretched out to the blaze, and the puffs of smoke rose from their
lips like tiny salutes to the comfortable flame, or like incense
burned upon the altar of gratitude and contentment.
Patrick, I noticed about this time, liked to get on the leeward
side of as many pipes as possible, and as near as he could to the
smokers. He said that this kept away the mosquitoes. There he would
sit, with the smoke drifting full in his face, both hands in his
pockets, talking about Quebec, and debating the comparative merits of
a boy or a girl as an addition to his household.
But the great trial of his virtue was yet to come. The main object
of our trip down the River of Barksthe terminus ad quem of the
expedition, so to speakwas a bear. Now the bear as an object of
the chase, at least in Canada, is one of the most illusory of
phantoms. The manner of hunting is simple. It consists in walking
about through the woods, or paddling along a stream, until you meet a
bear; then you try to shoot him. This would seem to be, as the Rev.
Mr. Leslie called his book against the deists of the eighteenth
century, "A Short and Easie Method." But in point of fact there are
two principal difficulties. The first is that you never find the
bear when and where you are looking for him. The second is that the
bear sometimes finds you whenbut you shall see how it happened to
We had hunted the whole length of the River of Barks with the
utmost pains and caution, never going out, even to pick blueberries,
without having the rifle at hand, loaded for the expected encounter.
Not one bear had we met. It seemed as if the whole ursine tribe must
have emigrated to Labrador.
At last we came to the mouth of the river, where it empties into
Lake Kenogami, in a comparatively civilized country, with several
farm-houses in full view on the opposite bank. It was not a
promising place for the chase; but the river ran down with a little
fall and a lively, cheerful rapid into the lake, and it was a capital
spot for fishing. So we left the rifle in the case, and took a canoe
and a rod, and went down, on the last afternoon, to stand on the point
of rocks at the foot of the rapid, and cast the fly.
We caught half a dozen good trout; but the sun was still hot, and
we concluded to wait awhile for the evening fishing. So we turned the
canoe bottom up among the bushes on the shore, stored the trout away
in the shade beneath it, and sat down in a convenient place among the
stones to have another chat about Quebec. We had just passed the
jewelry shops, and were preparing to go to the asylum of the orphans,
when Patrick put his hand on my shoulder with a convulsive grip, and
pointed up the stream.
There was a huge bear, like a very big, wicked, black sheep with a
pointed nose, making his way down the shore. He shambled along
lazily and unconcernedly, as if his bones were loosely tied together
in a bag of fur. It was the most indifferent and disconnected gait
that I ever saw. Nearer and nearer he sauntered, while we sat as
still as if we had been paralyzed. And the gun was in its case at
How the bear knew this I cannot tell; but know it he certainly did,
for he kept on until he reached the canoe, sniffed at it
suspiciously, thrust his sharp nose under it, and turned it over with
a crash that knocked two holes in the bottom, ate the fish, licked his
chops, stared at us for a few moments without the slightest appearance
of gratitude, made up his mind that he did not like our personal
appearance, and then loped leisurely up the mountain-side. We could
hear him cracking the underbrush long after he was lost to sight.
Patrick looked at me and sighed. I said nothing. The French
language, as far as I knew it, seemed trifling and inadequate. It
was a moment when nothing could do any good except the consolations
of philosophy, or a pipe. Patrick pulled the brier-wood from his
pocket; then he took out the cake of Virginia leaf, looked at it,
smelled it, shook his head, and put it back again. His face was as
long as his arm. He stuck the cold pipe into his mouth, and pulled
away at it for a while in silence. Then his countenance began to
clear, his mouth relaxed, he broke into a laugh.
"Sacred bear!" he cried, slapping his knee; "sacred beast of the
world! What a day of the good chance for her, HE! But she was glad,
I suppose. Perhaps she has some cubs, HE? BAJETTE!"
This was the end of our hunting and fishing for that year. We
spent the next two days in voyaging through a half-dozen small lakes
and streams, in a farming country, on our way home. I observed that
Patrick kept his souvenir pipe between his lips a good deal of the
time, and puffed at vacancy. It seemed to soothe him. In his
conversation he dwelt with peculiar satisfaction on the thought of
the money in the cigar-box on the mantel-piece at St. Gerome.
Eighteen piastres and twenty sous already! And with the addition to
be made from the tobacco not smoked during the past month, it would
amount to more than twenty-three piastres; and all as safe in the
cigar-box as if it were in the bank at Chicoutimi! That reflection
seemed to fill the empty pipe with fragrance. It was a Barmecide
smoke; but the fumes of it were potent, and their invisible wreaths
framed the most enchanting visions of tall towers, gray walls,
glittering windows, crowds of people, regiments of soldiers, and the
laughing eyes of a little boyor was it a little girl?
When we came out of the mouth of La Belle Riviere, the broad blue
expanse of Lake St. John spread before us, calm and bright in the
radiance of the sinking sun. In a curve on the left, eight miles
away, sparkled the slender steeple of the church of St. Gerome. A
thick column of smoke rose from somewhere in its neighbourhood. "It
is on the beach," said the men; "the boys of the village accustom
themselves to burn the rubbish there for a bonfire." But as our
canoes danced lightly forward over the waves and came nearer to the
place, it was evident that the smoke came from the village itself. It
was a conflagration, but not a general one; the houses were too
scattered and the day too still for a fire to spread. What could it
be? Perhaps the blacksmith shop, perhaps the bakery, perhaps the old
tumble-down barn of the little Tremblay? It was not a large fire,
that was certain. But where was it precisely?
The question, becoming more and more anxious, was answered when we
arrived at the beach. A handful of boys, eager to be the bearers of
news, had spied us far off, and ran down to the shore to meet us.
"Patrique! Patrique!" they shouted in English, to make their
importance as great as possible in my eyes. "Come 'ome kveek; yo'
'ouse ees hall burn'!"
"W'at!" cried Patrick. "MONJEE!" And he drove the canoe ashore,
leaped out, and ran up the bank toward the village as if he were mad.
The other men followed him, leaving me with the boys to unload the
canoes and pull them up on the sand, where the waves would not chafe
This took some time, and the boys helped me willingly. "Eet ees
not need to 'urry, m'sieu'," they assured me; "dat 'ouse to Patrique
Moullarque ees hall burn' seence t'ree hour. Not'ing lef' bot de
As soon as possible, however, I piled up the stuff, covered it with
one of the tents, and leaving it in charge of the steadiest of the
boys, took the road to the village and the site of the Maison
It had vanished completely: the walls of squared logs were gone;
the low, curved roof had fallen; the door-step with the morning-glory
vines climbing up beside it had sunken out of sight; nothing remained
but the dome of the clay oven at the back of the house, and a heap of
Patrick sat beside his wife on a flat stone that had formerly
supported the corner of the porch. His shoulder was close to
Angelique'sso close that it looked almost as if he must have had
his arm around her a moment before I came up. His passion and grief
had calmed themselves down now, and he was quite tranquil. In his
left hand he held the cake of Virginia leaf, in his right a knife. He
was cutting off delicate slivers of the tobacco, which he rolled
together with a circular motion between his palms. Then he pulled
his pipe from his pocket and filled the bowl with great deliberation.
"What a misfortune!" I cried. "The pretty house is gone. I am so
sorry, Patrick. And the box of money on the mantel-piece, that is
gone, too, I fearall your savings. What a terrible misfortune! How
did it happen?"
"I cannot tell," he answered rather slowly. "It is the good God.
And he has left me my Angelique. Also, m'sieu', you see"here he
went over to the pile of ashes, and pulled out a fragment of charred
wood with a live coal at the end"you see"puff, puff"he has
given me"puff, puff"a light for my pipe again"puff, puff, puff!
The fragrant, friendly smoke was pouring out now in full volume.
It enwreathed his head like drifts of cloud around the rugged top of
a mountain at sunrise. I could see that his face was spreading into a
smile of ineffable contentment.
"My faith!" said I, "how can you be so cheerful? Your house is in
ashes; your money is burned up; the voyage to Quebec, the visit to
the asylum, the little orphanhow can you give it all up so easily?"
"Well," he replied, taking the pipe from his mouth, with fingers
curling around the bowl, as if they loved to feel that it was warm
once more"well, then, it would be more hard, I suppose, to give it
up not easily. And then, for the house, we shall build a new one
this fall; the neighbours will help. And for the voyage to Quebec
without that we may be happy. And as regards the little orphan, I
will tell you frankly"here he went back to his seat upon the flat
stone, and settled himself with an air of great comfort beside his
partner"I tell you, in confidence, Angelique demands that I prepare
a particular furniture at the new house. Yes, it is a cradle; but it
is not for an orphan."
It was late in the following summer when I came back again to St.
Gerome. The golden-rods and the asters were all in bloom along the
village street; and as I walked down it the broad golden sunlight of
the short afternoon seemed to glorify the open road and the plain
square houses with a careless, homely rapture of peace. The air was
softly fragrant with the odour of balm of Gilead. A yellow warbler
sang from a little clump of elder-bushes, tinkling out his contented
song like a chime of tiny bells, "Sweetsweetsweetsweeter
There was the new house, a little farther back from the road than
the old one; and in the place where the heap of ashes had lain, a
primitive garden, with marigolds and lupines and zinnias all abloom.
And there was Patrick, sitting on the door-step, smoking his pipe in
the cool of the day. Yes; and there, on a many-coloured counterpane
spread beside him, an infant joy of the house of Mullarkey was
sucking her thumb, while her father was humming the words of an old
Veillez ma petite!
Endormez ma p'tite enfant
Jusqu'a l'age de quinze ans!
Quand elle aura quinze ans passe
Il faudra la marier
Avec un p'tit bonhomme
Que viendra de Rome.
"Hola! Patrick," I cried; "good luck to you! Is it a girl or a
"SALUT! m'sieu'," he answered, jumping up and waving his pipe. "It
is a girl AND a boy!"
Sure enough, as I entered the door, I beheld Angelique rocking the
other half of the reward of virtue in the new cradle.