Brave Heart by Henry van Dyke
"That was truly his name, m'sieu'Raoul Vaillantcoeura name of
the fine sound, is it not? You like that word,a valiant heart,
it pleases you, eh! The man who calls himself by such a name as that
ought to be a brave fellow, a veritable hero? Well, perhaps. But I
know an Indian who is called Le Blanc; that means white. And a white
man who is called Lenoir; that means black. It is very droll, this
affair of the names. It is like the lottery."
Silence for a few moments, broken only by the ripple of water under
the bow of the canoe, the persistent patter of the rain all around
us, and the SLISH, SLISH of the paddle with which Ferdinand, my
Canadian voyageur, was pushing the birch-bark down the lonely length
of Lac Moise. I knew that there was one of his stories on the way.
But I must keep still to get it. A single ill-advised comment, a
word that would raise a question of morals or social philosophy,
might switch the narrative off the track into a swamp of abstract
discourse in which Ferdinand would lose himself. Presently the voice
behind me began again.
"But that word VAILLANT, m'sieu'; with us in Canada it does not
mean always the same as with you. Sometimes we use it for something
that sounds big, but does little; a gun that goes off with a terrible
crack, but shoots not straight nor far. When a man is like that he
is FANFARON, he shows off well, butwell, you shall judge for
yourself, when you hear what happened between this man Vaillantcoeur
and his friend Prosper Leclere at the building of the stone tower of
the church at Abbeville. You remind yourself of that grand church
with the tall toweryes? With permission I am going to tell you
what passed when that was made. And you shall decide whether there
was truly a brave heart in the story, or not; and if it went with the
Thus the tale began, in the vast solitude of the northern forest,
among the granite peaks of the ancient Laurentian Mountains, on a
lake that knew no human habitation save the Indian's wigwam or the
How it rained that day! The dark clouds had collapsed upon the
hills in shapeless folds. The waves of the lake were beaten flat by
the lashing strokes of the storm. Quivering sheets of watery gray
were driven before the wind; and broad curves of silver bullets
danced before them as they swept over the surface. All around the
homeless shores the evergreen trees seemed to hunch their backs and
crowd closer together in patient misery. Not a bird had the heart to
sing; only the loonstorm-loverlaughed his crazy challenge to the
elements, and mocked us with his long-drawn maniac scream.
It seemed as if we were a thousand miles from everywhere and
everybody. Cities, factories, libraries, colleges, law-courts,
theatres, palaces,what had we dreamed of these things? They were
far off, in another world. We had slipped back into a primitive
life. Ferdinand was telling me the naked story of human love and
human hate, even as it has been told from the beginning.
I cannot tell it just as he did. There was a charm in his speech
too quick for the pen: a woodland savour not to be found in any ink
for sale in the shops. I must tell it in my way, as he told it in
But at all events, nothing that makes any difference shall go into
the translation unless it was in the original. This is Ferdinand's
story. If you care for the real thing, here it is.
There were two young men in Abbeville who were easily the cocks of
the woodland walk. Their standing rested on the fact that they were
the strongest men in the parish. Strength is the thing that counts,
when people live on the edge of the wilderness. These two were well
known all through the country between Lake St. John and Chicoutimi as
men of great capacity. Either of them could shoulder a barrel of
flour and walk off with it as lightly as a common man would carry a
side of bacon. There was not a half-pound of difference between them
in ability. But there was a great difference in their looks and in
their way of doing things.
Raoul Vaillantcoeur was the biggest and the handsomest man in the
village; nearly six feet tall, straight as a fir tree, and black as a
bull-moose in December. He had natural force enough and to spare.
Whatever he did was done by sheer power of back and arm. He could
send a canoe up against the heaviest water, provided he did not get
mad and break his paddlewhich he often did. He had more muscle
than he knew how to use.
Prosper Leclere did not have so much, but he knew better how to
handle it. He never broke his paddleunless it happened to be a bad
one, and then he generally had another all ready in the canoe. He was
at least four inches shorter than Vaillantcoeur; broad shoulders, long
arms, light hair, gray eyes; not a handsome fellow, but
pleasant-looking and very quiet. What he did was done more than half
with his head.
He was the kind of a man that never needs more than one match to
light a fire.
But Vaillantcoeurwell, if the wood was wet he might use a dozen,
and when the blaze was kindled, as like as not he would throw in the
rest of the box.
Now, these two men had been friends and were changed into rivals.
At least that was the way that one of them looked at it. And most of
the people in the parish seemed to think that was the right view. It
was a strange thing, and not altogether satisfactory to the public
mind, to have two strongest men in the village. The question of
comparative standing in the community ought to be raised and settled
in the usual way. Raoul was perfectly willing, and at times (commonly
on Saturday nights) very eager. But Prosper was not.
"No," he said, one March night, when he was boiling maple-sap in
the sugar-bush with little Ovide Rossignol (who had a lyric passion
for holding the coat while another man was fighting)"no, for what
shall I fight with Raoul? As boys we have played together. Once, in
the rapids of the Belle Riviere, when I have fallen in the water, I
think he has saved my life. He was stronger, then, than me. I am
always a friend to him. If I beat him now, am I stronger? No, but
weaker. And if he beats me, what is the sense of that? Certainly I
shall not like it. What is to gain?"
Down in the store of old Girard, that night, Vaillantcoeur was
holding forth after a different fashion. He stood among the
cracker-boxes and flour-barrels, with a background of shelves laden
with bright-coloured calicoes, and a line of tin pails hanging
overhead, and stated his view of the case with vigour. He even
pulled off his coat and rolled up his shirt-sleeve to show the knotty
arguments with which he proposed to clinch his opinion.
"That Leclere," said he, "that little Prosper Leclere! He thinks
himself one of the strongesta fine fellow! But I tell you he is a
coward. If he is clever? Yes. But he is a poltroon. He knows well
that I can flatten him out like a crepe in the frying-pan. But he is
afraid. He has not as much courage as the musk-rat. You stamp on the
bank. He dives. He swims away. Bah!"
"How about that time he cut loose the jam of logs in the Rapide des
Cedres?" said old Girard from his corner.
Vaillantcoeur's black eyes sparkled and he twirled his mustache
fiercely. "SAPRIE!" he cried, "that was nothing! Any man with an
axe can cut a log. But to fightthat is another affair. That
demands the brave heart. The strong man who will not fight is a
coward. Some day I will put him through the millyou shall see what
that small Leclere is made of. SACREDAM!"
Of course, affairs had not come to this pass all at once. It was a
long history, beginning with the time when the two boys had played
together, and Raoul was twice as strong as the other, and was very
proud of it. Prosper did not care; it was all right so long as they
had a good time. But then Prosper began to do things better and
better. Raoul did not understand it; he was jealous. Why should he
not always be the leader? He had more force. Why should Prosper get
ahead? Why should he have better luck at the fishing and the hunting
and the farming? It was by some trick. There was no justice in it.
Raoul was not afraid of anything but death; and whatever he wanted,
he thought he had a right to have. But he did not know very well how
to get it. He would start to chop a log just at the spot where there
was a big knot.
He was the kind of a man that sets hare-snares on a caribou-trail,
and then curses his luck because he catches nothing.
Besides, whatever he did, he was always thinking most about beating
somebody else. But Prosper eared most for doing the thing as well as
he could. If any one else could beat himwell, what difference did
it make? He would do better the next time.
If he had a log to chop, he looked it all over for a clear place
before he began. What he wanted was, not to make the chips fly, but
to get the wood split.
You are not to suppose that the one man was a saint and a hero, and
the other a fool and a ruffian. No; that sort of thing happens only
in books. People in Abbeville were not made on that plan. They were
both plain men. But there was a difference in their hearts; and out
of that difference grew all the trouble.
It was hard on Vaillantcoeur, of course, to see Leclere going
ahead, getting rich, clearing off the mortgage on his farm, laying up
money with the notary Bergeron, who acted as banker for the parishit
was hard to look on at this, while he himself stood still, or even
slipped back a little, got into debt, had to sell a bit of the land
that his father left him. There must be some cheating about it.
But this was not the hardest morsel to swallow. The great thing
that stuck in his crop was the idea that the little Prosper, whom he
could have whipped so easily, and whom he had protected so loftily,
when they were boys, now stood just as high as he did as a capable
manperhaps even higher. Why was it that when the Price Brothers,
down at Chicoutimi, had a good lumber-job up in the woods on the
Belle Riviere, they made Leclere the boss, instead of Vaillantcoeur?
Why did the cure Villeneuve choose Prosper, and not Raoul, to steady
the strain of the biggest pole when they were setting up the derrick
for the building of the new church?
It was rough, rough! The more Raoul thought of it, the rougher it
seemed. The fact that it was a man who had once been his protege,
and still insisted on being his best friend, did not make it any
smoother. Would you have liked it any better on that account? I am
not telling you how it ought to have been, I am telling you how it
was. This isn't Vaillantcoeur's account-book; it's his story. You
must strike your balances as you go along.
And all the time, you see, he felt sure that he was a stronger man
and a braver man than Prosper. He was hungry to prove it in the only
way that he could understand. The sense of rivalry grew into a
passion of hatred, and the hatred shaped itself into a blind,
headstrong desire to fight. Everything that Prosper did well, seemed
like a challenge; every success that he had was as hard to bear as an
insult. All the more, because Prosper seemed unconscious of it. He
refused to take offence, went about his work quietly and cheerfully,
turned off hard words with a joke, went out of his way to show himself
friendly and good-natured. In reality, of course, he knew well enough
how matters stood. But he was resolved not to show that he knew, if
he could help it; and in any event, not to be one of the two that are
needed to make a quarrel.
He felt very strangely about it. There was a presentiment in his
heart that he did not dare to shake off. It seemed as if this
conflict were one that would threaten the happiness of his whole
life. He still kept his old feeling of attraction to Raoul, the
memory of the many happy days they had spent together; and though the
friendship, of course, could never again be what it had been, there
was something of it left, at least on Prosper's side. To struggle
with this man, strike at his face, try to maim and disfigure him, roll
over and over on the ground with him, like two dogs tearing each
other,the thought was hateful. His gorge rose at it. He would
never do it, unless to save his life. Then? Well, then, God must be
So it was that these two men stood against each other in Abbeville.
Just as strongly as Raoul was set to get into a fight, just so
strongly was Prosper set to keep out of one. It was a trial of
strength between two passions,the passion of friendship and the
passion of fighting.
Two or three things happened to put an edge on Raoul's hunger for
an out-and-out fight.
The first was the affair at the shanty on Lac des Caps. The wood-
choppers, like sailors, have a way of putting a new man through a few
tricks to initiate him into the camp. Leclere was bossing the job,
with a gang of ten men from St. Raymond under him. Vaillantcoeur had
just driven a team in over the snow with a load of provisions, and was
lounging around the camp as if it belonged to him. It was Sunday
afternoon, the regular time for fun, but no one dared to take hold of
him. He looked too big. He expressed his opinion of the camp.
"No fun in this shanty, HE? I suppose that little Leclere he makes
you others work, and say your prayers, and then, for the rest, you
can sleep. HE! Well, I am going to make a little fun for you, my
boys. Come, Prosper, get your hat, if you are able to climb a tree."
He snatched the hat from the table by the stove and ran out into
the snow. In front of the shanty a good-sized birch, tall, smooth,
very straight, was still standing. He went up the trunk like a bear.
But there was a dead balsam that had fallen against the birch and
lodged on the lower branches. It was barely strong enough to bear
the weight of a light man. Up this slanting ladder Prosper ran
quickly in his moccasined feet, snatched the hat from Raoul's teeth
as he swarmed up the trunk, and ran down again. As he neared the
ground, the balsam, shaken from its lodgement, cracked and fell.
Raoul was left up the tree, perched among the branches, out of
breath. Luck had set the scene for the lumberman's favourite trick.
"Chop him down! chop him down" was the cry; and a trio of axes were
twanging against the birch tree, while the other men shouted and
laughed and pelted the tree with ice to keep the prisoner from
Prosper neither shouted nor chopped, but he grinned a little as he
watched the tree quiver and shake, and heard the rain of "SACRES!"
and "MAUDITS!" that came out of the swaying top. He grinneduntil
he saw that a half-dozen more blows would fell the birch right on the
roof of the shanty.
"Are you crazy?" he cried, as he picked up an axe; "you know
nothing how to chop. You kill a man. You smash the cabane. Let go!"
He shoved one of the boys away and sent a few mighty cuts into the
side of the birch that was farthest from the cabin; then two short
cuts on the other side; the tree shivered, staggered, cracked, and
swept in a great arc toward the deep snow-drift by the brook. As the
top swung earthward, Raoul jumped clear of the crashing branches and
landed safely in the feather-bed of snow, buried up to his neck.
Nothing was to be seen of him but his head, like some new kind of
fire-worksputtering bad words.
Well, this was the first thing that put an edge on Vaillantcoeur's
hunger to fight. No man likes to be chopped down by his friend, even
if the friend does it for the sake of saving him from being killed by
a fall on the shanty-roof. It is easy to forget that part of it.
What you remember is the grin.
The second thing that made it worse was the bad chance that both of
these men had to fall in love with the same girl. Of course there
were other girls in the village beside Marie Antoinette Girard
plenty of them, and good girls, too. But somehow or other, when they
were beside her, neither Raoul nor Prosper cared to look at any of
them, but only at 'Toinette. Her eyes were so much darker and her
cheeks so much more redbright as the berries of the mountain- ash in
September. Her hair hung down to her waist on Sunday in two long
braids, brown and shiny like a ripe hazelnut; and her voice when she
laughed made the sound of water tumbling over little stones.
No one knew which of the two lovers she liked best. At school it
was certainly Raoul, because he was bigger and bolder. When she came
back from her year in the convent at Roberval it was certainly
Prosper, because he could talk better and had read more books. He
had a volume of songs full of love and romance, and knew most of them
by heart. But this did not last forever. 'Toinette's manners had
been polished at the convent, but her ideas were still those of her
own people. She never thought that knowledge of books could take the
place of strength, in the real battle of life. She was a brave girl,
and she felt sure in her heart that the man of the most courage must
be the best man after all.
For a while she appeared to persuade herself that it was Prosper,
beyond a doubt, and always took his part when the other girls laughed
at him. But this was not altogether a good sign. When a girl really
loves, she does not talk, she acts. The current of opinion and gossip
in the village was too strong for her. By the time of the affair of
the "chopping-down" at Lac des Caps, her heart was swinging to and fro
like a pendulum. One week she would walk home from mass with Raoul.
The next week she would loiter in the front yard on a Saturday
evening and talk over the gate with Prosper, until her father called
her into the shop to wait on customers.
It was in one of these talks that the pendulum seemed to make its
last swing and settle down to its resting-place. Prosper was telling
her of the good crops of sugar that he had made from his maple grove.
"The profit will be largemore than sixty piastresand with that
I shall buy at Chicoutimi a new four-wheeler, of the finest, a
veritable wedding carriageif youif I'Toinette? Shall we ride
His left hand clasped hers as it lay on the gate. His right arm
stole over the low picket fence and went around the shoulder that
leaned against the gate-post. The road was quite empty, the night
already dark. He could feel her warm breath on his neck as she
"If you! If I! If what? Why so many ifs in this fine speech? Of
whom is the wedding for which this new carriage is to be bought? Do
you know what Raoul Vaillantcoeur has said? 'No more wedding in this
parish till I have thrown the little Prosper over my shoulder!'"
As she said this, laughing, she turned closer to the fence and
looked up, so that a curl on her forehead brushed against his cheek.
"BATECHE! Who told you he said that?"
"I heard him, myself."
"In the store, two nights ago. But it was not for the first time.
He said it when we came from the church together, it will be four
"What did you say to him?"
"I told him perhaps he was mistaken. The next wedding might be
after the little Prosper had measured the road with the back of the
longest man in Abbeville."
The laugh had gone out of her voice now. She was speaking eagerly,
and her bosom rose and fell with quick breaths. But Prosper's right
arm had dropped from her shoulder, and his hand gripped the fence as
he straightened up.
"'Toinette!" he cried, "that was bravely said. And I could do it.
Yes, I know I could do it. But, MON DIEU, what shall I say? Three
years now, he has pushed me, every one has pushed me, to fight. And
youbut I cannot. I am not capable of it."
The girl's hand lay in his as cold and still as a stone. She was
silent for a moment, and then asked, coldly, "Why not?"
"Why not? Because of the old friendship. Because he pulled me out
of the river long ago. Because I am still his friend. Because now
he hates me too much. Because it would be a black fight. Because
shame and evil would come of it, whoever won. That is what I fear,
Her hand slipped suddenly away from his. She stepped back from the
"TIENS! You have fear, Monsieur Leclere! Truly I had not thought
of that. It is strange. For so strong a man it is a little stupid
to be afraid. Good-night. I hear my father calling me. Perhaps
some one in the store who wants to be served. You must tell me again
what you are going to do with the new carriage. Good-night!"
She was laughing again. But it was a different laughter. Prosper,
at the gate, did not think it sounded like the running of a brook
over the stones. No, it was more the noise of the dry branches that
knock together in the wind. He did not hear the sigh that came as
she shut the door of the house, nor see how slowly she walked through
the passage into the store.
There seemed to be a great many rainy Saturdays that spring; and in
the early summer the trade in Girard's store was so brisk that it
appeared to need all the force of the establishment to attend to it.
The gate of the front yard had no more strain put upon its hinges. It
fell into a stiff propriety of opening and shutting, at the touch of
people who understood that a gate was made merely to pass through, not
to lean upon.
That summer Vaillantcoeur had a new hata black and shiny beaver
and a new red-silk cravat. They looked fine on Corpus Christi day,
when he and 'Toinette walked together as fiancee's.
You would have thought he would have been content with that.
Proud, he certainly was. He stepped like the cure's big rooster with
the topknotalmost as far up in the air as he did along the ground;
and he held his chin high, as if he liked to look at things over his
But he was not satisfied all the way through. He thought more of
beating Prosper than of getting 'Toinette. And he was not quite sure
that he had beaten him yet.
Perhaps the girl still liked Prosper a little. Perhaps she still
thought of his romances, and his chansons, and his fine, smooth
words, and missed them. Perhaps she was too silent and dull
sometimes, when she walked with Raoul; and sometimes she laughed too
loud when he talked, more at him than with him. Perhaps those St.
Raymond fellows still remembered the way his head stuck out of that
cursed snow-drift, and joked about it, and said how clever and quick
the little Prosper was. Perhapsah, MAUDIT! a thousand times
perhaps! And only one way to settle them, the old way, the sure way,
and all the better now because 'Toinette must be on his side. She must
understand for sure that the bravest man in the parish had chosen her.
That was the summer of the building of the grand stone tower of the
church. The men of Abbeville did it themselves, with their own
hands, for the glory of God. They were keen about that, and the cure
was the keenest of them all. No sharing of that glory with workmen
from Quebec, if you please! Abbeville was only forty years old, but
they already understood the glory of God quite as well there as at
Quebec, without doubt. They could build their own tower, perfectly,
and they would. Besides, it would cost less.
Vaillantcoeur was the chief carpenter. He attended to the affair
of beams and timbers. Leclere was the chief mason. He directed the
affair of dressing the stones and laying them. That required a very
careful head, you understand, for the tower must be straight. In the
floor a little crookedness did not matter; but in the wallthat might
be serious. People have been killed by a falling tower. Of course,
if they were going into church, they would be sure of heaven. But
then thinkwhat a disgrace for Abbeville!
Every one was glad that Leclere bossed the raising of the tower.
They admitted that he might not be brave, but he was assuredly
careful. Vaillantcoeur alone grumbled, and said the work went too
slowly, and even swore that the sockets for the beams were too
shallow, or else too deep, it made no difference which. That BETE
Prosper made trouble always by his poor work. But the friction never
came to a blaze; for the cure was pottering about the tower every day
and all day long, and a few words from him would make a quarrel go off
"Softly, my boys!" he would say; "work smooth and you work fast.
The logs in the river run well when they run all the same way. But
when two logs cross each other, on the same rockpsst! a jam! The
whole drive is hung up! Do not run crossways, my children."
The walls rose steadily, straight as a steamboat pipeten, twenty,
thirty, forty feet; it was time to put in the two cross-girders, lay
the floor of the belfry, finish off the stonework, and begin the
pointed wooden spire. The cure had gone to Quebec that very day to
buy the shining plates of tin for the roof, and a beautiful cross of
gilt for the pinnacle.
Leclere was in front of the tower putting on his overalls.
Vaillantcoeur came up, swearing mad. Three or four other workmen
were standing about.
"Look here, you Leclere," said he, "I tried one of the
cross-girders yesterday afternoon and it wouldn't go. The templet on
the north is crookedcrooked as your teeth. We had to let the girder
down again. I suppose we must trim it off some way, to get a level
bearing, and make the tower weak, just to match your sacre bad work,
"Well," said Prosper, pleasant and quiet enough, "I'm sorry for
that, Raoul. Perhaps I could put that templet straight, or perhaps
the girder might be a little warped and twisted, eh? What? Suppose
we measure it."
Sure enough, they found the long timber was not half seasoned and
had corkscrewed itself out of shape at least three inches.
Vaillantcoeur sat on the sill of the doorway and did not even look at
them while they were measuring. When they called out to him what they
had found, he strode over to them.
"It's a dam' lie," he said, sullenly. "Prosper Leclere, you
slipped the string. None of your sacre cheating! I have enough of it
already. Will you fight, you cursed sneak?"
Prosper's face went gray, like the mortar in the trough. His fists
clenched and the cords on his neck stood out as if they were ropes.
He breathed hard. But he only said three words:
"No! Not here."
"Not here? Why not? There is room. The cure is away. Why not
"It is the house of LE BON DIEU. Can we build it in hate?"
"POLISSON! You make an excuse. Then come to Girard's, and fight
Again Prosper held in for a moment, and spoke three words:
"No! Not now."
"Not now? But when, you heart of a hare? Will you sneak out of it
until you turn gray and die? When will you fight, little musk-rat?"
"When I have forgotten. When I am no more your friend."
Prosper picked up his trowel and went into the tower. Raoul bad-
worded him and every stone of his building from foundation to
cornice, and then went down the road to get a bottle of cognac.
An hour later he came back breathing out threatenings and
slaughter, strongly flavoured with raw spirits. Prosper was working
quietly on the top of the tower, at the side away from the road. He
saw nothing until Raoul, climbing up by the ladders on the inside,
leaped on the platform and rushed at him like a crazy lynx.
"Now!" he cried, "no hole to hide in here, rat! I'll squeeze the
lies out of you."
He gripped Prosper by the head, thrusting one thumb into his eye,
and pushing him backward on the scaffolding.
Blinded, half maddened by the pain, Prosper thought of nothing but
to get free. He swung his long arm upward and landed a heavy blow on
Raoul's face that dislocated the jaw; then twisting himself downward
and sideways, he fell in toward the wall. Raoul plunged forward,
stumbled, let go his hold, and pitched out from the tower, arms
spread, clutching the air.
Forty feet straight down! A momentor was it an eternity?of
horrible silence. Then the body struck the rough stones at the foot
of the tower with a thick, soft dunt, and lay crumpled up among them,
without a groan, without a movement.
When the other men, who had hurried up the ladders in terror, found
Leclere, he was peering over the edge of the scaffold, wiping the
blood from his eyes, trying to see down.
"I have killed him," he muttered, "my friend! He is smashed to
death. I am a murderer. Let me go. I must throw myself down!"
They had hard work to hold him back. As they forced him down the
ladders he trembled like a poplar.
But Vaillantcoeur was not dead. No; it was incredibleto fall
forty feet and not be killedthey talk of it yet all through the
valley of the Lake St. Johnit was a miracle! But Vaillantcoeur had
broken only a nose, a collar-bone, and two ribsfor one like him that
was but a bagatelle. A good doctor from Chicoutimi, a few months of
nursing, and he would be on his feet again, almost as good a man as he
had ever been.
It was Leclere who put himself in charge of this.
"It is my affair," he said"my fault! It was not a fair place to
fight. Why did I strike? I must attend to this bad work."
"MAIS, SACRE BLEU!" they answered, "how could you help it? He
forced you. You did not want to be killed. That would be a little
"No," he persisted, "this is my affair. Girard, you know my money
is with the notary. There is plenty. Raoul has not enough, perhaps
not any. But he shall want nothingyou understandnothing! It is
my affair, all that he needsbut you shall not tell himno! That
Prosper had his way. But he did not see Vaillantcoeur after he was
carried home and put to bed in his cabin. Even if he had tried to do
so, it would have been impossible. He could not see anybody. One of
his eyes was entirely destroyed. The inflammation spread to the
other, and all through the autumn he lay in his house, drifting along
the edge of blindness, while Raoul lay in his house slowly getting
The cure went from one house to the other, but he did not carry any
messages between them. If any were sent one way they were not
received. And the other way, none were sent. Raoul did not speak of
Prosper; and if one mentioned his name, Raoul shut his mouth and made
To the cure, of course, it was a distress and a misery. To have a
hatred like this unhealed, was a blot on the parish; it was a shame,
as well as a sin. At lastit was already winter, the day before
Christmasthe cure made up his mind that he would put forth one more
"Look you, my son," he said to Prosper, "I am going this afternoon
to Raoul Vaillantcoeur to make the reconciliation. You shall give me
a word to carry to him. He shall hear it this time, I promise you.
Shall I tell him what you have done for him, how you have cared for
"No, never," said Prosper; "you shall not take that word from me.
It is nothing. It will make worse trouble. I will never send it."
"What then?" said the priest. "Shall I tell him that you forgive
"No, not that," answered Prosper, "that would be a foolish word.
What would that mean? It is not I who can forgive. I was the one
who struck hardest. It was he that fell from the tower."
"Well, then, choose the word for yourself. What shall it be?
Come, I promise you that he shall hear it. I will take with me the
notary, and the good man Girard, and the little Marie Antoinette. You
shall hear an answer. What message?"
"Mon pere," said Prosper, slowly, "you shall tell him just this.
I, Prosper Leclere, ask Raoul Vaillantcoeur that he will forgive me
for not fighting with him on the ground when he demanded it."
Yes, the message was given in precisely those words. Marie
Antoinette stood within the door, Bergeron and Girard at the foot of
the bed, and the cure spoke very clearly and firmly. Vaillantcoeur
rolled on his pillow and turned his face away. Then he sat up in
bed, grunting a little with the pain in his shoulder, which was badly
set. His black eyes snapped like the eyes of a wolverine in a corner.
"Forgive?" he said, "no, never. He is a coward. I will never
A little later in the afternoon, when the rose of sunset lay on the
snowy hills, some one knocked at the door of Leclere's house.
"ENTREZ!" he cried. "Who is there? I see not very well by this
light. Who is it?"
"It is me, said 'Toinette, her cheeks rosier than the snow outside,
"nobody but me. I have come to ask you to tell me the rest about
that new carriagedo you remember?"
The voice in the canoe behind me ceased. The rain let up. The
SLISH, SLISH of the paddle stopped. The canoe swung sideways to the
breeze. I heard the RAP, RAP, RAP of a pipe on the gunwale, and the
quick scratch of a match on the under side of the thwart.
"What are you doing, Ferdinand?"
"I go to light the pipe, m'sieu'."
"Is the story finished?"
"But yesbut noI know not, m'sieu'. As you will."
"But what did old Girard say when his daughter broke her engagement
and married a man whose eyes were spoiled?"
"He said that Leclere could see well enough to work with him in the
"And what did Vaillantcoeur say when he lost his girl?"
"He said it was a cursed shame that one could not fight a blind
"And what did 'Toinette say?"
"She said she had chosen the bravest heart in Abbeville."
"And Prosperwhat did he say?"
"M'sieu', I know not. He said it only to 'Toinette."