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The Bridge House
by [?]

It stood on a wide wall between two small bridges. These were approaches to the big covered bridge spanning the main channel of the Madawaska River, and when swelled by the spring thaws and rains, the two flanking channels divided at the foundations of the house, and rustled away through the narrow paths of the small bridges to the rapids. You could stand at any window in the House and watch the ugly, rushing current, gorged with logs, come battering at the wall, jostle between the piers, and race on to the rocks and the dam and the slide beyond. You stepped from the front door upon the wall, which was a road between the bridges, and from the back door into the river itself.

The House had once been a tavern. It looked a wayfarer, like its patrons the river-drivers, with whom it was most popular. You felt that it had no part in the career of the village on either side, but was like a rock in a channel, at which a swimmer caught or a vagrant fish loitered.

Pierre knew the place, when, of a night in the springtime or early summer, throngs of river-drivers and their bosses sauntered at its doors, or hung over the railing of the wall, as they talked and smoked.

The glory of the Bridge House suddenly declined. That was because Finley, the owner, a rich man, came to hate the place–his brother’s blood stained the barroom floor. He would have destroyed the house but that John Rupert, the beggared gentleman came to him, and wished to rent it for a dwelling.

Mr. Rupert was old, and had been miserably poor for many years, but he had a breeding and a manner superior to anyone at Bamber’s Boom. He was too old for a labourer, he had no art or craftsmanship; his little money was gone in foolish speculations, and he was dependent on his granddaughter’s slight earnings from music teaching and needlework. But he rented an acre of ground from Finley, and grew vegetables; he gathered driftwood from the river for his winter fire, and made up the accounts of the storekeeper occasionally. Yet it was merely keeping off starvation. He was not popular. He had no tongue for the meaningless village talk. People held him in a kind of awe, and yet they felt a mean satisfaction when they saw him shouldering driftwood, and piling it on the shore to be dragged away–the last resort of the poor, for which they blush.

When Mr. Rupert asked for the House, Finley knew the chances were he would not get the rental; yet, because he was sorry for the old man, he gave it to him at a low rate. He closed up the bar-room, however, and it was never opened afterwards.

So it was that Mr. Rupert and Judith, his granddaughter, came to live there. Judith was a blithe, lissome creature, who had never known comfort or riches: they were taken from her grandfather before she was born, and her father and mother both died when she was a little child. But she had been taught by her grandmother, when she lived, and by her grandfather, and she had felt the graces of refined life. Withal, she had a singular sympathy for the rude, strong life of the river. She was glad when they came to live at the Bridge House, and shamed too: glad because they could live apart from the other villagers; shamed because it exposed her to the curiosity of those who visited the House, thinking it was still a tavern. But that was only for a time.

One night Jules Brydon, the young river-boss, camped with his men at Bamber’s Boom. He was of parents Scotch and French, and the amalgamation of races in him made a striking product. He was cool and indomitable, yet hearty and joyous. It was exciting to watch him at the head of his men, breaking up a jam of logs, and it was a delight to hear him of an evening as he sang: