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The Reward of Virtue
by [?]

“But no, m’sieu’,” he replied; “it is not that, most assuredly. It is something entirely different–something 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 life.

“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 agitation–a 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 unseemly conduct.

“What did you do then, Pat?” I asked.

“Certainly I put out the pipe–what could I do otherwise? But I thought that what the demoiselle Meelair has said was very strange, and not true–exactly; 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 potato–it is not filthy. And the onion? It has a strong smell; but the demoiselle Meelair she ate much of the onion–when we were not at the Island House, but in the camp.

“And the smell of the tobacco–this 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 a
re committing the murder of yourself.’ Then she tells me many things–about 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!'”