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The Reward of Virtue
by [?]


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 Fenian society

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 Frenchman–Canadian 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 French–the 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 certain–well, 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 year–a little bad smoke and too many bad words. This is tobacco to burn– something quite particular, you understand. How does that please you?”

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 explanation.