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The Reward of Virtue
by [?]

“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 smokes–it 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 quick–yes; but for the man it is long; and I am still young–only 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, rough–all 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 sick–it 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 wicked–no!”

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.