Part 10 out of 13
"Mère Malheur, you feel comfortable now!" said she. "That glass of
cognac has given you a color like a peony!"
"Yes, I am very comfortable now, dame! your cognac is heavenly: it
warms without burning. That glass is the best news I have to tell
"Nay, but there is always something stirring in the city; somebody
born, married, or dead; somebody courted, won, lost, or undone;
somebody's name up, somebody's reputation down! Tell me all you
know, Mère Malheur! and then I will tell you something that will
make you glad you came to Beaumanoir to-day. Take another sip of
cognac and begin!"
"Ay, dame, that is indeed a temptation!" She took two deep sips,
and holding her glass in her hand, began with loose tongue to relate
the current gossip of the city, which was already known to Dame
Tremblay; but an ill-natured version of it from the lips of her
visitor seemed to give it a fresh seasoning and a relish which it
had not previously possessed.
"Now, Mère Malheur! I have a secret to tell you," said Dame
Tremblay, in a low, confidential tone, "a dead secret, mind you,
which you had better be burnt than reveal. There is a lady, a real
lady if I ever saw one, living in the Château here in the greatest
privacy. I and the Intendant only see her. She is beautiful and
full of sorrow as the picture of the blessed Madonna. What she is,
I may guess; but who she is, I cannot conjecture, and would give my
little finger to know!"
"Tut, dame!" replied Mère Malheur, with a touch of confidence, "I
will not believe any woman could keep a secret from you! But this
is news, indeed, you tell me! A lady in concealment here, and you
say you cannot find her out, Dame Tremblay!"
"In truth, I cannot; I have tried every artifice, but she passes all
my wit and skill. If she were a man, I would have drawn her very
teeth out with less difficulty than I have tried to extract the name
of this lady. When I was the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport, I
could wind men like a thread around which finger I liked; but this
is a tangled knot which drives me to despair to unravel it."
"What do you know about her, dame? Tell me all you suspect!" said
"Truly," replied the dame, without the least asperity, "I suspect
the poor thing, like the rest of us, is no better than she should
be; and the Intendant knows it, and Mademoiselle des Meloises knows
it too; and, to judge by her constant prayers and penitence, she
knows it herself but too well, and will not say it to me!"
"Ay, dame! but this is great news you tell me!" replied Mère
Malheur, eagerly clutching at the opportunity thus offered for the
desired interview. "But what help do you expect from me in the
Mère Malheur looked very expectant at her friend, who continued, "I
want you to see that lady under promise of secrecy, mark you!--and
look at her hands, and tell me who and what she is."
Dame Tremblay had an unlimited faith in the superstitions of her
"I will do all you wish, dame, but you must allow me to see her
alone," replied the crone, who felt she was thus opening the door
to La Corriveau.
"To be sure I will,--that is, if she will consent to be seen, for
she has in some things a spirit of her own! I am afraid to push her
too closely! The mystery of her is taking the flesh off my bones,
and I can only get sleep by taking strong possets, Mère Malheur!
Feel my elbow! Feel my knee! I have not had so sharp an elbow or
knee since Goodman Tremblay died! And he said I had the sharpest
elbow and knee in the city! But I had to punch him sometimes to
keep him in order! But set that horrid cap straight, Mère Malheur,
while I go ask her if she would like to have her fortune told. She
is not a woman if she would not like to know her fortune, for she is
in despair, I think, with all the world; and when a woman is in
despair, as I know by my own experience, she will jump at any chance
for spite, if not for love, as I did when I took the Sieur Tremblay
by your advice, Mère Malheur!"
Dame Tremblay left the old crone making hideous faces in a mirror.
She rubbed her cheeks and mouth with the corner of her apron as she
proceeded to the door of Caroline's apartment. She knocked gently,
and a low, soft voice bade her enter.
Caroline was seated on a chair by the window, knitting her sad
thoughts into a piece of work which she occasionally lifted from
her lap with a sudden start, as something broke the train of her
She was weighing over and over in her thoughts, like gold in a
scale, by grains and pennyweights, a few kind words lately spoken to
her by Bigot when he ran in to bid her adieu before departing on his
journey to Trois Rivières. They seemed a treasure inexhaustible as
she kept on repeating them to herself. The pressure of his hand had
been warmer, the tone of his voice softer, the glance of his eye
more kind, and he looked pityingly, she thought, upon her wan face
when he left her in the gallery, and with a cheery voice and a kiss
bade her take care of her health and win back the lost roses of
These words passed through her mind with unceasing repetition, and
a white border of light was visible on the edge of the dark cloud
which hung over her. "The roses of Acadia will never bloom again,"
thought she sadly. "I have watered them with salt tears too long,
and all in vain. O Bigot, I fear it is too late, too late!" Still,
his last look and last words reflected a faint ray of hope and joy
upon her pallid countenance.
Dame Tremblay entered the apartment, and while busying herself on
pretence of setting it in order, talked in her garrulous way of the
little incidents of daily life in the Château, and finished by a
mention, as if it were casual, of the arrival of the wise woman of
the city, who knew everything, who could interpret dreams, and tell,
by looking in a glass or in your hand, things past, present, and to
"A wonderful woman," Dame Tremblay said, "a perilous woman too, not
safe to deal with; but for all that, every one runs after her, and
she has a good or bad word for every person who consults her. For
my part," continued the dame, "she foretold my marriage with the
Goodman Tremblay long before it happened, and she also foretold his
death to the very month it happened. So I have reason to believe in
her as well as to be thankful!"
Caroline listened attentively to the dame's remarks. She was not
superstitious, but yet not above the beliefs of her age, while the
Indian strain in her lineage and her familiarity with the traditions
of the Abenaquis inclined her to yield more than ordinary respect to
Caroline had dreamed of riding on a coal-black horse, seated behind
the veiled figure of a man whose face she could not see, who carried
her like the wind away to the ends of the earth, and there shut her
up in a mountain for ages and ages, until a bright angel cleft the
rock, and, clasping her in his arms, bore her up to light and
liberty in the presence of the Redeemer and of all the host of
This dream lay heavy on her mind. For the veiled figure she knew
was one she loved, but who had no honest love for her. Her mind had
been brooding over the dream all day, and the announcement by Dame
Tremblay of the presence in the Château of one who was able to
interpret dreams seemed a stroke of fortune, if not an act of
She roused herself up, and with more animation than Dame Tremblay
had yet seen in her countenance, requested her to send up the
visitor, that she might ask her a question.
Mère Malheur was quickly summoned to the apartment of Caroline,
where Dame Tremblay left them alone.
The repulsive look of the old crone sent a shock through the fine,
nervous organization of the young girl. She requested Mère Malheur
to be seated, however, and in her gentle manner questioned her about
Mère Malheur was an adept in such things, and knew well how to humor
human nature, and lead it to put its own interpretations upon its
own visions and desires while giving all the credit of it to
Mère Malheur therefore interpreted the dream according to Caroline's
secret wishes. This inspired a sort of confidence, and Mère Malheur
seized the opportunity to deliver the letter from La Corriveau.
"My Lady," said she, looking carefully round the room to note if the
door was shut and no one was present, "I can tell you more than the
interpretation of your dream. I can tell who you are and why you
Caroline started with a frightened look, and stared in the face of
Mère Malheur. She faltered out at length,--"You know who I am and
why I am here? Impossible! I never saw you before."
"No, my Lady, you never saw me before, but I will convince you that
I know you. You are the daughter of the Baron de St. Castin! Is it
not so?" The old crone looked frightfully knowing as she uttered
"Mother of mercies! what shall I do?" ejaculated the alarmed girl.
"Who are you to say that?"
"I am but a messenger, my Lady. Listen! I am sent here to give you
secretly this letter from a friend who knows you better than I, and
who above all things desires an interview with you, as she has
things of the deepest import to communicate."
"A letter! Oh, what mystery is all this? A letter for me! Is it
from the Intendant?"
"No, my Lady, it is from a woman." Caroline blushed and trembled as
she took it from the old crone.
A woman! It flashed upon the mind of Caroline that the letter was
important. She opened it with trembling fingers, anticipating she
knew not what direful tidings when her eyes ran over the clear
La Corriveau had written to the effect that she was an unknown
friend, desirous of serving her in a moment of peril. The Baron de
St. Castin had traced her to New France, and had procured from the
King instructions to the Governor to search for her everywhere and
to send her to France. Other things of great import, the writer
said, she had also to communicate, if Caroline would grant her a
private interview in the Château.
There was a passage leading from the old deserted watch-tower to the
vaulted chamber, continued the letter, and the writer would without
further notice come on the following night to Beaumanoir, and knock
at the arched door of her chamber about the hour of midnight, when,
if Caroline pleased to admit her, she would gladly inform her of
very important matters relating to herself, to the Intendant, and to
the Baron de St. Castin, who was on his way out to the Colony to
conduct in person the search after his lost daughter.
The letter concluded with the information that the Intendant had
gone to Trois Rivières, whence he might not return for a week, and
that during his absence the Governor would probably order a search
for her to be made at Beaumanoir.
Caroline held the letter convulsively in her hand as she gathered
its purport rather than read it. Her face changed color, from a
deep flush of shame to the palest hue of fear, when she comprehended
its meaning and understood that her father was on his way to New
France to find out her hiding-place.
"What shall I do! Oh, what shall I do!" exclaimed she, wringing her
hands for very anguish, regardless of the presence of Mère Malheur,
who stood observing her with eyes glittering with curiosity, but
void of every mark of womanly sympathy or feeling.
"My father, my loving father!" continued Caroline, "my deeply-
injured father coming here with anger in his face to drag me from my
concealment! I shall drop dead at his feet for very shame. Oh,
that I were buried alive with mountains piled over me to hide me
from my father! What shall I do? Whither shall I go? Bigot,
Bigot, why have you forsaken me?"
Mère Malheur continued eyeing her with cold curiosity, but was ready
at the first moment to second the promptings of the evil spirit
contained in the letter.
"Mademoiselle," said she, "there is but one way to escape from the
search to be made by your father and the Governor,--take counsel of
her who sends you that friendly letter. She can offer you a safe
hiding-place until the storm blows over. Will you see her, my
"See her! I, who dare see no one! Who is she that sends me such
strange news? Is it truth? Do you know her?" continued she,
looking fixedly at Mère Malheur, as if in hope of reading on her
countenance some contradiction of the matter contained in the
"I think it is all true, my Lady," replied she, with mock humility;
"I am but a poor messenger, however, and speak not myself of things
I do not know, but she who sends me will tell you all."
"Does the Intendant know her?"
"I think he told her to watch over your safety during his absence.
She is old and your friend; will you see her?" replied Mère Malheur,
who saw the point was gained.
"Oh, yes, yes! tell her to come. Beseech her not to fail to come,
or I shall go mad. O woman, you too are old and experienced and
ought to know,--can she help me in this strait, think you?"
exclaimed Caroline, clasping her hands in a gesture of entreaty.
"No one is more able to help you," said the crone; "she can counsel
you what to do, and if need be find means to conceal you from the
search that will be made for you."
"Haste, then, and bid her come to-morrow night! Why not tonight?"
Caroline was all nervous impatience. "I will wait her coming in the
vaulted chamber; I will watch for her as one in the valley of death
watches for the angel of deliverance. Bid her come, and at midnight
to-morrow she shall find the door of the secret chamber open to
The eagerness of the ill-fated girl to see La Corriveau outran every
calculation of Mère Malheur. It was in vain and useless for her to
speak further on the subject; Caroline would say no more. Her
thoughts ran violently in the direction suggested by the artful
letter. She would see La Corriveau to-morrow night, and would make
no more avowals to Mère Malheur, she said to herself.
Seeing no more was to be got out of her, the crone bade her a formal
farewell, looking at her curiously as she did so, and wondering in
her mind if she should ever see her again. For the old creature had
a shrewd suspicion that La Corriveau had not told her all her
intentions with respect to this singular girl.
Caroline returned her salute, still holding the letter in her hand.
She sat down to peruse it again, and observed not Mère Malheur's
equivocal glance as she turned her eyes for the last time upon the
innocent girl, doomed to receive the midnight visit from La
"There is death in the pot!" the crone muttered as she went out,--
"La Corriveau comes not here on her own errand either! That girl is
too beautiful to live, and to some one her death is worth gold! It
will go hard, but La Corriveau shall share with me the reward of the
work of tomorrow night!"
In the long gallery she encountered Dame Tremblay "ready to eat her
up," as she told La Corriveau afterwards, in the eagerness of her
curiosity to learn the result of her interview with Caroline.
Mère Malheur was wary, and accustomed to fence with words. It was
necessary to tell a long tale of circumstances to Dame Tremblay, but
not necessary nor desirable to tell the truth. The old crone
therefore, as soon as she had seated herself in the easy chair of
the housekeeper and refreshed herself by twice accepting the dame's
pressing invitation to tea and cognac, related with uplifted hands
and shaking head a narrative of bold lies regarding what had really
passed during her interview with Caroline.
"But who is she, Mère Malheur? Did she tell you her name? Did she
show you her palm?"
"Both, dame, both! She is a girl of Ville Marie who has run away
from her parents for love of the gallant Intendant, and is in hiding
from them. They wanted to put her into the Convent to cure her of
love. The Convent always cures love, dame, beyond the power of
philtres to revive it!" and the old crone laughed inwardly to
herself, as if she doubted her own saying.
Eager to return to La Corriveau with the account of her successful
interview with Caroline, she bade Dame Tremblay a hasty but formal
farewell, and with her crutched stick in her hand trudged stoutly
back to the city.
Mère Malheur, while the sun was yet high, reached her cottage under
the rock, where La Corriveau was eagerly expecting her at the
window. The moment she entered, the masculine voice of La Corriveau
was heard asking loudly,--
"Have you seen her, Mère Malheur? Did you give her the letter?
Never mind your hat! tell me before you take it off!" The old crone
was tugging at the strings, and La Corriveau came to help her.
"Yes! she took your letter," replied she, impatiently. "She took my
story like spring water. Go at the stroke of twelve to-morrow night
and she will let you in, Dame Dodier; but will she let you out
again, eh?" The crone stood with her hat in her hand, and looked
with a wicked glance at La Corriveau.
"If she will let me in, I shall let myself out, Mère Malheur,"
replied Corriveau in a low tone. "But why do you ask that?"
"Because I read mischief in your eye and see it twitching in your
thumb, and you do not ask me to share your secret! Is it so bad as
that, Dame Dodier?"
"Pshaw! you are sharing it! wait and you will see your share of it!
But tell me, Mère Malheur, how does she look, this mysterious lady
of the Château?" La Corriveau sat down, and placed her long, thin
hand on the arm of the old crone.
"Like one doomed to die, because she is too good to live. Sorrow is
a bad pasture for a young creature like her to feed on, Dame
Dodier!" was the answer, but it did not change a muscle on the face
of La Corriveau.
"Ay! but there are worse pastures than sorrow for young creatures
like her, and she has found one of them," she replied, coldly.
"Well! as we make our bed so must we lie on it, Dame Dodier,--that
is what I always tell the silly young things who come to me asking
their fortunes; and the proverb pleases them. They always think the
bridal bed must be soft and well made, at any rate."
"They are fools! better make their death-bed than their bridal bed!
But I must see this piece of perfection of yours to-morrow night,
dame! The Intendant returns in two days, and he might remove her.
Did she tell you about him?"
"No! Bigot is a devil more powerful than the one we serve, dame. I
"Tut! I fear neither devil nor man. It was to be at the hour of
twelve! Did you not say at the hour of twelve, Mère Malheur?"
"Yes! go in by the vaulted passage and knock at the secret door.
She will admit you. But what will you do with her, Dame Dodier? Is
she doomed? Could you not be gentle with her, dame?"
There was a fall in the voice of Mère Malheur,--an intonation partly
due to fear of consequences, partly to a fibre of pity which--dry
and disused--something in the look of Caroline had stirred like a
dead leaf quivering in the wind.
"Tut! has she melted your old dry heart to pity, Mère Malheur! Ha,
ha! who would have thought that! and yet I remember she made a soft
fool of me for a minute in the wood of St. Valier!" La Corriveau
spoke in a hard tone, as if in reproving Mère Malheur she was also
"She is unlike any other woman I ever saw," replied the crone,
ashamed of her unwonted sympathy. "The devil is clean out of her
as he is out of a church."
"You are a fool, Mère Malheur! Out of a church, quotha!" and La
Corriveau laughed a loud laugh; "why I go to church myself, and
whisper my prayers backwards to keep on terms with the devil, who
stands nodding behind the altar to every one of my petitions,--that
is more than some people get in return for their prayers," added
"I pray backwards in church too, dame, but I could never get sight
of him there, as you do: something always blinds me!" and the two
old sinners laughed together at the thought of the devil's litanies
they recited in the church.
"But how to get to Beaumanoir? I shall have to walk, as you did,
Mère Malheur. It is a vile road, and I must take the byway through
the forest. It were worth my life to be seen on this visit," said
La Corriveau, conning on her fingers the difficulties of the by-
path, which she was well acquainted with, however.
"There is a moon after nine, by which hour you can reach the wood of
Beaumanoir," observed the crone. "Are you sure you know the way,
"As well as the way into my gown! I know an Indian canotier who
will ferry me across to Beauport, and say nothing. I dare not allow
that prying knave, Jean Le Nocher, or his sharp wife, to mark my
"Well thought of, Dame Dodier; you are of a craft and subtlety to
cheat Satan himself at a game of hide and seek!" The crone looked
with genuine admiration, almost worship, at La Corriveau as she said
this; "but I doubt he will find both of us at last, dame, when we
have got into our last corner."
"Well, vogue la galère!" exclaimed La Corriveau, starting up. "Let
it go as it will! I shall walk to Beaumanoir, and I shall fancy I
wear golden garters and silver slippers to make the way easy and
pleasant. But you must be hungry, Mère, with your long tramp. I
have a supper prepared for you, so come and eat in the devil's name,
or I shall be tempted to say grace in nomine Domini, and choke you."
The two women went to a small table and sat down to a plentiful meal
of such things as formed the dainties of persons of their rank of
life. Upon the table stood the dish of sweetmeats which the
thievish maidservant had brought to Mère Malheur with the groom's
story of the conversation between Bigot and Varin, a story which,
could Angélique have got hold of it, would have stopped at once her
frightful plot to kill the unhappy Caroline.
"I were a fool to tell her that story of the groom's," muttered La
Corriveau to herself, "and spoil the fairest experiment of the aqua
tofana ever made, and ruin my own fortune too! I know a trick worth
two of that," and she laughed inwardly to herself a laugh which was
repeated in hell and made merry the ghosts of Beatrice Spara, Exili,
and La Voisin.
All next day La Corriveau kept closely to the house, but she found
means to communicate to Angélique her intention to visit Beaumanoir
The news was grateful, yet strangely moving to Angélique; she
trembled and turned pale, not for truth, but for doubt and dread of
possible failure or discovery.
She sent by an unknown hand to the house of Mère Malheur a little
basket containing a bouquet of roses so beautiful and fragrant that
they might have been plucked in the garden of Eden.
La Corriveau carried the basket into an inner chamber, a small room,
the window of which never saw the sun, but opened against the close,
overhanging rock, which was so near that it might be touched by the
hand. The dark, damp wall of the cliff shed a gloomy obscurity in
the room even at midday.
The small black eyes of La Corriveau glittered like poniards as she
opened the basket, and taking out the bouquet, found attached to it
by a ribbon a silken purse containing a number of glittering pieces
of gold. She pressed the coins to her cheek, and even put them
between her lips to taste their sweetness, for money she loved
beyond all things. The passion of her soul was avarice; her
wickedness took its direction from the love of money, and scrupled
at no iniquity for the sake of it.
She placed the purse carefully in her bosom, and took up the roses,
regarding them with a strange look of admiration as she muttered,
"They are beautiful and they are sweet! men would call them
innocent! they are like her who sent them, fair without as yet; like
her who is to receive them, fair within." She stood reflecting for
a few moments, and exclaimed as she laid the bouquet upon the
"Angélique des Meloises, you send your gold and your roses to me
because you believe me to be a worse demon than yourself, but you
are worthy to be crowned tonight with these roses as queen of hell
and mistress of all the witches that ever met in Grand Sabbat at the
palace of Galienne, where Satan sits on a throne of gold!"
La Corriveau looked out of the window and saw a corner of the rock
lit up with the last ray of the setting sun. She knew it was time
to prepare for her journey. She loosened her long black and gray
elfin locks, and let them fall dishevelled over her shoulders. Her
thin, cruel lips were drawn to a rigid line, and her eyes were
filled with red fire as she drew the casket of ebony out of her
bosom and opened it with a reverential touch, as a devotee would
touch a shrine of relics. She took out a small, gilded vial of
antique shape, containing a clear, bright liquid, which, as she
shook it up, seemed filled with a million sparks of fire.
Before drawing the glass stopper of the vial, La Corriveau folded a
handkerchief carefully over her mouth and nostrils, to avoid
inhaling the volatile essence of its poisonous contents. Then,
holding the bouquet with one hand at arm's length, she sprinkled the
glowing roses with the transparent liquid from the vial which she
held in the other hand, repeating, in a low, harsh tone, the formula
of an ancient incantation, which was one of the secrets imparted to
Antonio Exili by the terrible Beatrice Spara.
La Corriveau repeated by rote, as she had learned from her mother,
the ill-omened words, hardly knowing their meaning, beyond that they
were something very potent, and very wicked, which had been handed
down through generations of poisoners and witches from the times of
Spargens avernales aquas,
Te morti devoveo, te diris ago!"'
The terrible drops of the aqua tofana glittered like dew on the
glowing flowers, taking away in a moment all their fragrance, while
leaving all their beauty unimpaired. The poison sank into the very
hearts of the roses, whence it breathed death from every petal and
every leaf, leaving them fair as she who had sent them, but fatal to
the approach of lip or nostril, fit emblems of her unpitying hate
and remorseless jealousy.
La Corriveau wrapped the bouquet in a medicated paper of silver
tissue, which prevented the escape of the volatile death, and
replacing the roses carefully in the basket, prepared for her
departure to Beaumanoir.
QUOTH THE RAVEN, "NEVERMORE!"
It was the eve of St. Michael. A quiet autumnal night brooded over
the forest of Beaumanoir. The moon, in her wane, had risen late,
and struggled feebly among the broken clouds that were gathering
slowly in the east, indicative of a storm. She shed a dim light
through the glades and thickets, just enough to discover a path
where the dark figure of a woman made her way swiftly and cautiously
towards the Château of the Intendant.
She was dressed in the ordinary costume of a peasant-woman, and
carried a small basket on her arm, which, had she opened it, would
have been found to contain a candle and a bouquet of fresh roses
carefully covered with a paper of silver tissue,--nothing more. An
honest peasant-woman would have had a rosary in her basket, but this
was no honest-peasant woman, and she had none.
The forest was very still,--it was steeped in quietness. The
rustling of the dry leaves under the feet of the woman was all she
heard, except when the low sighing of the wind, the sharp bark of a
fox, or the shriek of an owl, broke the silence for a moment, and
all was again still.
The woman looked watchfully around as she glided onwards. The path
was known to her, but not so familiarly as to prevent the necessity
of stopping every few minutes to look about her and make sure she
It was long since she had travelled that way, and she was looking
for a landmark--a gray stone that stood somewhere not far from where
she was, and near which she knew that there was a footpath that led,
not directly to the Château, but to the old deserted watch-tower of
That stone marked a spot not to be forgotten by her, for it was the
memorial of a deed of wickedness now only remembered by herself and
by God. La Corriveau cared nothing for the recollection. It was
not terrible to her, and God made no sign; but in his great book of
account, of which the life of every man and woman forms a page, it
was written down and remembered.
On the secret tablets of our memory, which is the book of our life,
every thought, word, and deed, good or evil, is written down
indelibly and forever; and the invisible pen goes on writing day
after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, every thought, even
the idlest, every fancy the most evanescent: nothing is left out of
our book of life which will be our record in judgment! When that
book is opened and no secrets are hid, what son or daughter of Adam
is there who will not need to say, "God be merciful?"
La Corriveau came suddenly upon the gray stone. It startled her,
for its rude contour, standing up in the pale moonlight, put on the
appearance of a woman. She thought she was discovered, and she
heard a noise; but another glance reassured her. She recognized the
stone, and the noise she had heard was only the scurrying of a hare
among the dry leaves.
The habitans held this spot to be haunted by the wailing spirit of a
woman in a gray robe, who had been poisoned by a jealous lover. La
Corriveau gave him sweatmeats of the manna of St. Nicholas, which
the woman ate from his hand, and fell dead at his feet in this
trysting-place, where they met for the last time. The man fled to
the forest, haunted by a remorseful conscience, and died a
retributive death: he fell sick, and was devoured by wolves. La
Corriveau alone of mortals held the terrible secret.
La Corriveau gave a low laugh as she saw the pale outline of the
woman resolve itself into the gray stone. "The dead come not
again!" muttered she, "and if they do she will soon have a companion
to share her midnight walks round the Château!" La Corriveau had no
conscience; she knew not remorse, and would probably have felt no
great fear had that pale spirit really appeared at that moment, to
tax her with wicked complicity in her murder.
The clock of the Château struck twelve. Its reverberations sounded
far into the night as La Corriveau emerged stealthily out of the
forest, crouching on the shady side of the high garden hedges, until
she reached the old watch-tower, which stood like a dead sentinel at
his post on the flank of the Château.
There was an open doorway, on each side of which lay a heap of
fallen stones. This was the entrance into a square room, dark and
yawning as a cavern. It was traversed by one streak of moonshine,
which struggled through a grated window set in the thick wall.
La Corriveau stood for a few moments looking intently into the
gloomy ruin; then, casting a sharp glance behind her, she entered.
Tired with her long walk through the forest, she flung herself upon
a stone seat to rest, and to collect her thoughts for the execution
of her terrible mission.
The dogs of the Château barked vehemently, as if the very air bore
some ominous taint; but La Corriveau knew she was safe: they were
shut up in the courtyard, and could not trace her to the tower. A
harsh voice or two and the sound of whips presently silenced the
barking dogs, and all was still again.
She had got into the tower unseen and unheard. "They say there is
an eye that sees everything," muttered she, "and an ear that hears
our very thoughts. If God sees and hears, he does nothing to
prevent me from accomplishing my end; and he will not interfere to-
night! No, not for all the prayers she may utter, which will not be
many more! God if there be one--lets La Corriveau live, and will
let the lady of Beaumanoir die!"
There was a winding stair of stone, narrow and tortuous, in one
corner of the tower. It led upwards to the roof and downwards to a
deep vault which was arched and groined. Its heavy, rough columns
supported the tower above, and divided the vaults beneath. These
vaults had formerly served as magazines for provisions and stores
for the use of the occupants of the Château upon occasions when they
had to retire for safety from a sudden irruption of Iroquois.
La Corriveau, after a short rest, got up with a quick, impatient
movement. She went over to an arched doorway upon which her eyes
had been fixed for several minutes. "The way is down there," she
muttered; "now for a light!"
She found the entrance to the stair open; she passed in, closing the
door behind her so that the glimmer might not be seen by any chance
stroller, and struck a light. The reputation which the tower had of
being haunted made the servants very shy of entering it, even in the
day-time; and the man was considered bold indeed who came near it
With her candle in her hand, La Corriveau descended slowly into the
gloomy vault. It was a large cavern of stone, a very habitation of
darkness, which seemed to swallow up the feeble light she carried.
It was divided into three portions, separated by rough columns.
A spring of water trickled in and trickled out of a great stone
trough, ever full and overflowing with a soft, tinkling sound, like
a clepsydra measuring the movements of eternity. The cool, fresh,
living water diffused throughout the vaults an even, mild
temperature the year round. The gardeners of the Château took
advantage of this, and used the vault as a favorite storeroom for
their crops of fruit and vegetables for winter use in the Château.
La Corriveau went resolutely forward, as one who knew what she
sought and where to find it, and presently stood in front of a
recess containing a wooden panel similar to that in the Château,
and movable in the same manner. She considered it for some moments,
muttering to herself as she held aloft the candle to inspect it
closely and find the spring by which it was moved.
La Corriveau had been carefully instructed by Mère Malheur in every
point regarding the mechanism of this door. She had no difficulty
in finding the secret of its working. A slight touch sufficed when
the right place was known. She pressed it hard with her hand; the
panel swung open, and behind it gaped a dark, narrow passage leading
to the secret chamber of Caroline.
She entered without hesitation, knowing whither it led. It was damp
and stifling. Her candle burned dimmer and dimmer in the impure air
of the long shut-up passage. There were, however, no other
obstacles in her way. The passage was unincumbered; but the low
arch, scarcely over her own height, seemed to press down upon her
as she passed along, as if to prevent her progress. The fearless,
wicked heart bore her up,--nothing worse than herself could meet
her; and she felt neither fear at what lay before her nor remorse at
what was behind.
The distance to be traversed was not far, although it seemed to her
impatience to be interminable. Mère Malheur, with her light heels,
could once run through it in a minute, to a tryst in the old tower.
La Corriveau was thrice that time in groping her way along it before
she came to a heavy, iron-ribbed door set in a deep arch, which
marked the end of the passage.
That black, forbidding door was the dividing of light from darkness,
of good from evil, of innocence from guilt. On one side of it, in a
chamber of light, sat a fair girl, confiding, generous, and deceived
only through her excess of every virtue; on the other, wickedness,
fell and artful, was approaching with stealthy footsteps through an
unseen way, and stood with hand upraised to knock, but incapable of
entering in unless that unsuspecting girl removed the bar.
As the hour of midnight approached, one sound after another died
away in the Château. Caroline, who had sat counting the hours and
watching the spectral moon as it flickered among the drifting
clouds, withdrew from the window with a trembling step, like one
going to her doom.
She descended to the secret chamber, where she had appointed to meet
her strange visitor and hear from strange lips the story that would
be told her.
She attired herself with care, as a woman will in every extremity of
life. Her dark raven hair was simply arranged, and fell in thick
masses over her neck and shoulders. She put on a robe of soft,
snow-white texture, and by an impulse she yielded to, but could not
explain, bound her waist with a black sash, like a strain of
mourning in a song of innocence. She wore no ornaments save a ring,
the love-gift of Bigot, which she never parted with, but wore with a
morbid anticipation that its promises would one day be fulfilled.
She clung to it as a talisman that would yet conjure away her
sorrows; and it did! but alas! in a way little anticipated by the
constant girl! A blast from hell was at hand to sweep away her
young life, and with it all her earthly troubles.
She took up a guitar mechanically, as it were, and as her fingers
wandered over the strings, a bar or two of the strain, sad as the
sigh of a broken heart, suggested an old ditty she had loved
formerly, when her heart was full of sunshine and happiness, when
her fancy used to indulge in the luxury of melancholic musings, as
every happy, sensitive, and imaginative girl will do as a
counterpoise to her high-wrought feelings.
In a low voice, sweet and plaintive as the breathings of an Aeolian
harp, Caroline sang her Minne-song:--
"'A linnet sat upon a thorn
At evening chime.
Its sweet refrain fell like the rain
Of summer-time when roses bloomed,
And bright above
A rainbow spanned my fairy-land
Of hope and love!
Of hope and love! O linnet, cease
Thy mocking theme!
I ne'er picked up the golden cup
In all my dream!
In all my dream I missed the prize
Should have been mine;
And dreams won't die! though fain would I,
And make no sign!'"
The lamps burned brightly, shedding a cheerful light upon the
landscapes and figures woven into the tapestry behind which was
concealed the black door that was to admit La Corriveau.
It was oppressively still. Caroline listened with mouth and ears
for some sound of approaching footsteps until her heart beat like
the swift stroke of a hammer, as it sent the blood throbbing through
her temples with a rush that almost overpowered her.
She was alone, and lonely beyond expression. Down in these thick
foundations no sound penetrated to break the terrible monotony of
the silence around her, except the dull, solemn voice of the bell
striking the hour of midnight.
Caroline had passed a sleepless night after the visit of Mère
Malheur, sometimes tossing on her solitary couch, Sometimes starting
up in terror. She rose and threw herself despairingly upon her
knees, calling on Christ to pardon her, and on the Mother of Mercies
to plead for her, sinner that she was, whose hour of shame and
punishment had come!
The mysterious letter brought by Mère Malheur, announcing that her
place of concealment was to be searched by the Governor, excited her
liveliest apprehensions. But that faded into nothingness in
comparison with the absolute terror that seized her at the thoughts
of the speedy arrival of her father in the Colony.
Caroline, overwhelmed with a sense of shame and contrition, pictured
to herself in darkest colors the anger of her father at the dishonor
she had brought upon his unsullied name.
She sat down, she rose up, she walked her solitary chamber, and
knelt passionately on the floor, covering her face with her hands,
crying to the Madonna for pity and protection.
Poor self-accuser! The hardest and most merciless wretch who ever
threw stones at a woman was pitiful in comparison with Caroline's
inexorable condemnation of herself.
Yet her fear was not on her own account. She could have kissed her
father's hand and submitted humbly to death itself, if he chose to
inflict it; but she trembled most at the thought of a meeting
between the fiery Baron and the haughty Intendant. One or the
other, or both of them, she felt instinctively, must die, should the
Baron discover that Bigot had been the cause of the ruin of his
idolized child. She trembled for both, and prayed God that she
might die in their stead and the secret of her shame never be known
to her fond father.
A dull sound, like footsteps shuffling in the dark passage behind
the arras, struck her ear; she knew her strange visitant was come.
She started up, clasping her hands hard together as she listened,
wondering who and what like she might be. She suspected no harm,--
for who could desire to harm her who had never injured a living
being? Yet there she stood on the one side of that black door of
doom, while the calamity of her life stood on the other side like a
tigress ready to spring through.
A low knock, twice repeated on the thick door behind the arras, drew
her at once to her feet. She trembled violently as she lifted up
the tapestry; something rushed through her mind telling her not to
do it. Happy had it been for her never to have opened that fatal
She hesitated for a moment, but the thought of her father and the
impending search of the Château flashed suddenly upon her mind. The
visitant, whoever she might be, professed to be a friend, and could,
she thought, have no motive to harm her.
Caroline, with a sudden impulse, pushed aside the fastening of the
door, and uttering the words, "Dieu! protège moi!" stood face to
face with La Corriveau.
The bright lamp shone full on the tall figure of the strange
visitor, and Caroline, whose fears had anticipated some uncouth
sight of terror, was surprised to see only a woman dressed in the
simple garb of a peasant, with a little basket on her arm, enter
quietly through the secret door.
The eyes of La Corriveau glared for a moment with fiendish curiosity
upon the young girl who stood before her like one of God's angels.
She measured her from head to foot, noted every fold of her white
robe, every flexure of her graceful form, and drank in the whole
beauty and innocence of her aspect with a feeling of innate spite at
aught so fair and good. On her thin, cruel lips there played a
smile as the secret thought hovered over them in an unspoken
whisper,--"She will make a pretty corpse! Brinvilliers and La
Voisin never mingled drink for a fairer victim than I will crown
with roses to-night!"
Caroline retreated a few steps, frightened and trembling, as she
encountered the glittering eyes and sinister smile of La Corriveau.
The woman observed it, and instantly changed her mien to one more
natural and sympathetic; for she comprehended fully the need of
disarming suspicion and of winning the confidence of her victim to
enable her more surely to destroy her.
Caroline, reassured by a second glance at her visitor, thought she
had been mistaken in her first impression. The peasant's dress, the
harmless basket, the quiet manner assumed by La Corriveau as she
stood in a respectful attitude as if waiting to be spoken to,
banished all fears from the mind of Caroline, and left her only
curious to know the issue of this mysterious visit.
A DEED WITHOUT A NAME.
Caroline, profoundly agitated, rested her hands on the back of a
chair for support, and regarded La Corriveau for some moments
without speaking. She tried to frame a question of some
introductory kind, but could not. But the pent-up feelings came
out at last in a gush straight from the heart.
"Did you write this?" said she, falteringly, to La Corriveau, and
holding out the letter so mysteriously placed in her hand by Mère
Malheur. "Oh, tell me, is it true?"
La Corriveau did not reply except by a sign of assent, and standing
upright waited for further question.
Caroline looked at her again wonderingly. That a simple peasant-
woman could have indited such a letter, or could have known aught
respecting her father, seemed incredible.
"In heaven's name, tell me who and what you are!" exclaimed she. "I
never saw you before!"
"You have seen me before!" replied La Corriveau quietly.
Caroline looked at her amazedly, but did not recognize her. La
Corriveau continued, "Your father is the Baron de St. Castin, and
you, lady, would rather die than endure that he should find you in
the Château of Beaumanoir. Ask me not how I know these things; you
will not deny their truth; as for myself, I pretend not to be other
than I seem."
"Your dress is that of a peasant-woman, but your language is not the
language of one. You are a lady in disguise visiting me in this
strange fashion!" said Caroline, puzzled more than ever. Her
thoughts at this instant reverted to the Intendant. "Why do you
come here in this secret manner?" asked she.
"I do not appear other than I am," replied La Corriveau evasively,
"and I come in this secret manner because I could get access to you
in no other way."
"You said that I had seen you before; I have no knowledge or
recollection of it," remarked Caroline, looking fixedly at her.
"Yes, you saw me once in the wood of St. Valier. Do you remember
the peasant-woman who was gathering mandrakes when you passed with
your Indian guides, and who gave you milk to refresh you on the
This seemed like a revelation to Caroline; she remembered the
incident and the woman. La Corriveau had carefully put on the same
dress she had worn that day.
"I do recollect!" replied Caroline, as a feeling of confidence
welled up like a living spring within her. She offered La Corriveau
her hand. "I thank you gratefully," said she; "you were indeed kind
to me that day in the forest, and I am sure you must mean kindly by
La Corriveau took the offered hand, but did not press it. She could
not for the life of her, for she had not heart to return the
pressure of a human hand. She saw her advantage, however, and kept
it through the rest of the brief interview.
"I mean you kindly, lady," replied she, softening her harsh voice as
much as she could to a tone of sympathy, "and I come to help you out
of your trouble."
For a moment that cruel smile played on her thin lips again, but she
instantly repressed it. "I am only a peasant-woman," repeated she
again, "but I bring you a little gift in my basket to show my good-
will." She put her hand in her basket, but did not withdraw it at
the moment, as Caroline, thinking little of gifts but only of her
"I am sure you mean well, but you have more important things to tell
me of than a gift. Your letter spoke of my father. What, in God's
name, have you to tell me of my father?"
La Corriveau withdrew her hand from the basket and replied, "He is
on his way to New France in search of you. He knows you are here,
"In Beaumanoir? Oh, it cannot be! No one knows I am here!"
exclaimed Caroline, clasping her hands in an impulse of alarm.
"Yes, more than you suppose, lady, else how did I know? Your father
comes with the King's letters to take you hence and return with you
to Acadia or to France." La Corriveau placed her hand in her
basket, but withdrew it again. It was not yet time.
"God help me, then!" exclaimed Caroline, shrinking with terror.
"But the Intendant; what said you of the Intendant?"
"He is ordered de par le Roi to give you up to your father, and he
will do so if you be not taken away sooner by the Governor."
Caroline was nigh fainting at these words. "Sooner! how sooner?"
asked she, faintly.
"The Governor has received orders from the King to search Beaumanoir
from roof to foundation-stone, and he may come to-morrow, lady, and
find you here."
The words of La Corriveau struck like sharp arrows into the soul of
the hapless girl.
"God help me, then!" exclaimed she, clasping her hands in agony.
"Oh, that I were dead and buried where only my Judge could find me
at the last day, for I have no hope, no claim upon man's mercy! The
world will stone me, dead or living, and alas! I deserve my fate.
It is not hard to die, but it is hard to bear the shame which will
not die with me!"
She cast her eyes despairingly upward as she uttered this, and did
not see the bitter smile return to the lips of La Corriveau, who
stood upright, cold and immovable before her, with fingers twitching
nervously, like the claws of a fury, in her little basket, while she
whispered to herself, "Is it time, is it time?" but she took not out
the bouquet yet.
Caroline came still nearer, with a sudden change of thought, and
clutching the dress of La Corriveau, cried out, "O woman, is this
all true? How can you know all this to be true of me, and you a
"I know it of a certainty, and I am come to help you. I may not
tell you by whom I know it; perhaps the Intendant himself has sent
me," replied La Corriveau, with a sudden prompting of the spirit of
evil who stood beside her. "The Intendant will hide you from this
search, if there be a sure place of concealment in New France."
The reply sent a ray of hope across the mind of the agonized girl.
She bounded with a sense of deliverance. It seemed so natural that
Bigot, so deeply concerned in her concealment, should have sent this
peasant woman to take her away, that she could not reflect at the
moment how unlikely it was, nor could she, in her excitement, read
the lie upon the cold face of La Corriveau.
She seized the explanation with the grasp of despair, as a sailor
seizes the one plank which the waves have washed within his reach,
when all else has sunk in the seas around him.
"Bigot sent you?" exclaimed Caroline, raising her hands, while her
pale face was suddenly suffused with a flush of joy. "Bigot sent
you to conduct me hence to a sure place of concealment? Oh, blessed
messenger! I believe you now." Her excited imagination outflew
even the inventions of La Corriveau. "Bigot has heard of my peril,
and sent you here at midnight to take me away to your forest home
until this search be over. Is it not so? François Bigot did not
forget me in my danger, even while he was away!"
"Yes, lady, the Intendant sent me to conduct you to St. Valier, to
hide you there in a sure retreat until the search be over," replied
La Corriveau, calmly eyeing her from head to foot.
"It is like him! He is not unkind when left to himself. It is so
like the François Bigot I once knew! But tell me, woman, what said
he further? Did you see him, did you hear him? Tell me all he said
"I saw him, lady, and heard him," replied La Corriveau, taking the
bouquet in her fingers," but he said little more than I have told
you. The Intendant is a stern man, and gives few words save
commands to those of my condition. But he bade me convey to you a
token of his love; you would know its meaning, he said. I have it
safe, lady, in this basket,--shall I give it to you?"
"A token of his love, of François Bigot's love to me! Are you a
woman and could delay giving it so long? Why gave you it not at
first? I should not have doubted you then. Oh, give it to me, and
be blessed as the welcomest messenger that ever came to Beaumanoir!"
La Corriveau held her hand a moment more in the basket. Her dark
features turned a shade paler, although not a nerve quivered as she
plucked out a parcel carefully wrapped in silver tissue. She
slipped off the cover, and held at arm's length towards the eager,
expectant girl, the fatal bouquet of roses, beautiful to see as the
fairest that ever filled the lap of Flora.
Caroline clasped it with both hands, exclaiming in a voice of
exultation, while every feature radiated with joy, "It is the gift
of God, and the return of François's love! All will yet be well!"
She pressed the glowing flowers to her lips with passionate kisses,
breathed once or twice their mortal poison, and suddenly throwing
back her head with her dark eyes fixed on vacancy, but holding the
fatal bouquet fast in her hands, fell dead at the feet of La
A weird laugh, terrible and unsuppressed, rang around the walls of
the secret chamber, where the lamps burned bright as ever; but the
glowing pictures of the tapestry never changed a feature. Was it
not strange that even those painted men should not have cried out at
the sight of so pitiless a murder?
Caroline lay amid them all, the flush of joy still on her cheek, the
smile not yet vanished from her lips. A pity for all the world,
could it have seen her; but in that lonely chamber no eye pitied
But now a more cruel thing supervened. The sight of Caroline's
lifeless form, instead of pity or remorse, roused all the innate
furies that belonged to the execrable race of La Corriveau. The
blood of generations of poisoners and assassins boiled and rioted in
her veins. The spirits of Beatrice Spara and of La Voisin inspired
her with new fury. She was at this moment like a pantheress that
has brought down her prey and stands over it to rend it in pieces.
Caroline lay dead, dead beyond all doubt, never to be resuscitated,
except in the resurrection of the just. La Corriveau bent over her
and felt her heart; it was still. No sign of breath flickered on
lip or nostril.
The poisoner knew she was dead, but something still woke her
suspicions, as with a new thought she drew back and looked again at
the beauteous form before her. Suddenly, as if to make assurance
doubly sure, she plucked the sharp Italian stiletto from her bosom,
and with a firm, heavy hand plunged it twice into the body of the
lifeless girl. "If there be life there," she said, "it too shall
die! La Corriveau leaves no work of hers half done!"
A faint trickle of blood in red threads ran down the snow-white
vestment, and that was all! The heart had forever ceased to beat,
and the blood to circulate. The golden bowl was broken and the
silver cord of life loosed forever, and yet this last indignity
would have recalled the soul of Caroline, could she have been
conscious of it. But all was well with her now; not in the sense of
the last joyous syllables she spoke in life, but in a higher, holier
sense, as when God interprets our words, and not men, all was well
with her now.
The gaunt, iron-visaged woman knelt down upon her knees, gazing with
unshrinking eyes upon the face of her victim, as if curiously
marking the effect of a successful experiment of the aqua tofana.
It was the first time she had ever dared to administer that subtle
poison in the fashion of La Borgia.
"The aqua tofana does its work like a charm!" muttered she. "That
vial was compounded by Beatrice Spara, and is worthy of her skill
and more sure than her stiletto! I was frantic to use that weapon,
for no purpose than to redden my hands with the work of a low
A few drops of blood were on the hand of La Corriveau. She wiped
them impatiently upon the garment of Caroline, where it left the
impress of her fingers upon the snowy muslin. No pity for her
pallid victim, who lay with open eyes looking dumbly upon her, no
remorse for her act touched the stony heart of La Corriveau.
The clock of the Château struck one. The solitary stroke of the
bell reverberated like an accusing voice through the house, but
failed to awaken one sleeper to a discovery of the black tragedy
that had just taken place under its roof.
That sound had often struck sadly upon the ear of Caroline, as she
prolonged her vigil of prayer through the still watches of the
night. Her ear was dull enough now to all earthly sound! But the
toll of the bell reached the ear of La Corriveau, rousing her to the
need of immediately effecting her escape, now that her task was
She sprang up and looked narrowly around the chamber. She marked
with envious malignity the luxury and magnificence of its
adornments. Upon a chair lay her own letter sent to Caroline by the
hands of Mère Malheur. La Corriveau snatched it up. It was what
she sought. She tore it in pieces and threw the fragments from her;
but with a sudden thought, as if not daring to leave even the
fragments upon the floor, she gathered them up hastily and put them
in her basket with the bouquet of roses, which she wrested from the
dead fingers of Caroline in order to carry it away and scatter the
fatal flowers in the forest.
She pulled open the drawers of the escritoire to search for money,
but finding none, was too wary to carry off aught else. The
temptation lay sore upon her to carry away the ring from the finger
of Caroline. She drew it off the pale wasted finger, but a cautious
consideration restrained her. She put it on again, and would not
"It would only lead to discovery!" muttered she. "I must take
nothing but myself and what belongs to me away from Beaumanoir, and
the sooner the better!"
La Corriveau, with her basket again upon her arm, turned to give one
last look of fiendish satisfaction at the corpse, which lay like a
dead angel slain in God's battle. The bright lamps were glaring
full upon her still beautiful but sightless eyes, which, wide open,
looked, even in death, reproachfully yet forgivingly upon their
Something startled La Corriveau in that look. She turned hastily
away, and, relighting her candle, passed through the dark archway of
the secret door, forgetting to close it after her, and retraced her
steps along the stone passage until she came to the watch-tower,
where she dashed out her light.
Creeping around the tower in the dim moonlight, she listened long
and anxiously at door and window to discover if all was still about
the Château. Not a sound was heard but the water of the little
brook gurgling in its pebbly bed, which seemed to be all that was
awake on this night of death.
La Corriveau emerged cautiously from the tower. She crept like a
guilty thing under the shadow of the hedge, and got away unperceived
by the same road she had come. She glided like a dark spectre
through the forest of Beaumanoir, and returned to the city to tell
Angélique des Meloises that the arms of the Intendant were now empty
and ready to clasp her as his bride; that her rival was dead, and
she had put herself under bonds forever to La Corriveau as the price
of innocent blood.
La Corriveau reached the city in the gray of the morning; a thick
fog lay like a winding-sheet upon the face of nature. The broad
river, the lofty rocks, every object, great and small, was hidden
To the intense satisfaction of La Corriveau, the fog concealed her
return to the house of Mère Malheur, whence, after a brief repose,
and with a command to the old crone to ask no questions yet, she
sallied forth again to carry to Angélique the welcome news that her
rival was dead.
No one observed La Corriveau as she passed, in her peasant dress,
through the misty streets, which did not admit of an object being
discerned ten paces off.
Angélique was up. She had not gone to bed that night, and sat
feverishly on the watch, expecting the arrival of La Corriveau.
She had counted the minutes of the silent hours of the night as
they passed by her in a terrible panorama. She pictured to her
imagination the successive scenes of the tragedy which was being
accomplished at Beaumanoir.
The hour of midnight culminated over her head, and looking out of
her window at the black, distant hills, in the recesses of which she
knew lay the Château, her agitation grew intense. She knew at that
hour La Corriveau must be in the presence of her victim. Would she
kill her? Was she about it now? The thought fastened on Angélique
like a wild beast, and would not let go. She thought of the
Intendant, and was filled with hope; she thought of the crime of
murder and shrunk now that it was being done.
It was in this mood she waited and watched for the return of her
bloody messenger. She heard the cautious foot on the stone steps.
She knew by a sure instinct whose it was, and rushed down to admit
They met at the door, and without a word spoken, one eager glance of
Angélique at the dark face of La Corriveau drank in the whole fatal
story. Caroline de St. Castin was dead! Her rival in the love of
the Intendant was beyond all power of rivalry now! The lofty doors
of ambitious hope stood open--what! to admit the queen of beauty and
of society? No! but a murderess, who would be forever haunted with
the fear of justice! It seemed at this moment as if the lights had
all gone out in the palaces and royal halls where her imagination
had so long run riot, and she saw only dark shadows, and heard
inarticulate sounds of strange voices babbling in her ear. It was
the unspoken words of her own troubled thoughts and the terrors
newly awakened in her soul!
Angélique seized the hand of La Corriveau, not without a shudder.
She drew her hastily up to her chamber and thrust her into a chair.
Placing both hands upon the shoulders of La Corriveau, she looked
wildly in her face, exclaiming in a half exultant, half piteous
tone, "Is it done? Is it really done? I read it in your eyes! I
know you have done the deed! Oh, La Corriveau!"
The grim countenance of the woman relaxed into a half smile of scorn
and surprise at the unexpected weakness which she instantly noted in
"Yes, it is done!" replied she, coldly, "and it is well done! But,
by the manna of St. Nicholas!" exclaimed she, starting from the
chair and drawing her gaunt figure up to its full height, while her
black eyes shot daggers, "you look, Mademoiselle, as if you repented
its being done. Do you?"
"Yes! No! No, not now!" replied Angélique, touched as with a hot
iron. "I will not repent now it is done! that were folly, needless,
dangerous, now it is done! But is she dead? Did you wait to see if
she were really dead? People look dead sometimes and are not! Tell
me truly, and conceal nothing!"
"La Corriveau does not her work by halves, Mademoiselle, neither do
you; only you talk of repentance after it is done, I do not! That
is all the difference! Be satisfied; the lady of Beaumanoir is
dead! I made doubly sure of that, and deserve a double reward from
"Reward! You shall have all you crave! But what a secret between
you and me!" Angélique looked at La Corriveau as if this thought
now struck her for the first time. She was in this woman's power.
She shivered from head to foot. "Your reward for this night's work
is here," faltered she, placing her hand over a small box. She did
not touch it, it seemed as if it would burn her. It was heavy with
pieces of gold. "They are uncounted," continued she. "Take it, it
is all yours!"
La Corriveau snatched the box off the table and held it to her
bosom. Angélique continued, in a monotonous tone, as one conning a
lesson by rote,--"Use it prudently. Do not seem to the world to
be suddenly rich: it might be inquired into. I have thought of
everything during the past night, and I remember I had to tell you
that when I gave you the gold. Use it prudently! Something else,
too, I was to tell you, but I think not of it at this moment."
"Thanks, and no thanks, Mademoiselle!" replied La Corriveau, in a
hard tone. "Thanks for the reward so fully earned. No thanks for
your faint heart that robs me of my well-earned meed of applause for
a work done so artistically and perfectly that La Brinvilliers, or
La Borgia herself, might envy me, a humble paysanne of St. Valier!"
La Corriveau looked proudly up as she said this, for she felt
herself to be anything but a humble paysanne. She nourished a
secret pride in her heart over the perfect success of her devilish
skill in poisoning.
"I give you whatever praise you desire," replied Angélique,
mechanically. "But you have not told me how it was done. Sit down
again," continued she, with a touch of her imperative manner, "and
tell me all and every incident of what you have done."
"You will not like to hear it. Better be content with the knowledge
that your rival was a dangerous and a beautiful one." Angélique
looked up at this. "Better be content to know that she is dead,
without asking any more."
"No, you shall tell me everything. I cannot rest unless I know
"Nor after you do know all will you rest!" replied La Corriveau
slightingly, for she despised the evident trepidation of Angélique.
"No matter! you shall tell me. I am calm now." Angélique made a
great effort to appear calm while she listened to the tale of
tragedy in which she had played so deep a part.
La Corriveau, observing that the gust of passion was blown over, sat
down in the chair opposite Angélique, and placing one hand on the
knee of her listener, as if to hold her fast, began the terrible
She gave Angélique a graphic, minute, and not untrue account of all
she had done at Beaumanoir, dwelling with fierce unction on the
marvellous and sudden effects of the aqua tofana, not sparing one
detail of the beauty and innocent looks of her victim; and
repeating, with a mocking laugh, the deceit she had practised upon
her with regard to the bouquet as a gift from the Intendant.
Angélique listened to the terrible tale, drinking it in with eyes,
mouth, and ears. Her countenance changed to a mask of ugliness,
wonderful in one by nature so fair to see. Cloud followed cloud
over her face and eyes as the dread recital went on, and her
imagination accompanied it with vivid pictures of every phase of
the diabolical crime.
When La Corriveau described the presentation of the bouquet as a
gift of Bigot, and the deadly sudden effect which followed its
joyous acceptance, the thoughts of Caroline in her white robe,
stricken as by a thunderbolt, shook Angélique with terrible emotion.
But when La Corriveau, coldly and with a bitter spite at her
softness, described with a sudden gesticulation and eyes piercing
her through and through, the strokes of the poniard upon the
lifeless body of her victim, Angélique sprang up, clasped her hands
together, and, with a cry of woe, fell senseless upon the floor.
"She is useless now," said La Corriveau, rising and spurning
Angélique with her foot. "I deemed she had courage to equal her
wickedness. She is but a woman after all,--doomed to be the slave
of some man through life, while aspiring to command all men! It is
not of such flesh that La Corriveau is made!"
La Corriveau stood a few moments, reflecting what was best to be
All things considered, she decided to leave Angélique to come to of
herself, while she made the best of her way back to the house of
Mère Malheur, with the intention, which she carried out, of
returning to St. Valier with her infamous reward that very day.
"LET'S TALK OF GRAVES AND WORMS AND EPITAPHS."
About the hour that La Corriveau emerged from the gloomy woods of
Beauport, on her return to the city, the night of the murder of
Caroline, two horsemen were battering at full speed on the highway
that led to Charlebourg. Their dark figures were irrecognizable in
the dim moonlight. They rode fast and silent, like men having
important business before them, which demanded haste; business which
both fully understood and cared not now to talk about.
And so it was. Bigot and Cadet, after the exchange of a few words
about the hour of midnight, suddenly left the wine, the dice, and
the gay company at the Palace, and mounting their horses, rode,
unattended by groom or valet, in the direction of Beaumanoir.
Bigot, under the mask of gaiety and indifference, had felt no little
alarm at the tenor of the royal despatch, and at the letter of the
Marquise de Pompadour concerning Caroline de St. Castin.
The proximate arrival of Caroline's father in the Colony was a
circumstance ominous of trouble. The Baron was no trifler, and
would as soon choke a prince as a beggar, to revenge an insult to
his personal honor or the honor of his house.
Bigot cared little for that, however. The Intendant was no coward,
and could brazen a thing out with any man alive. But there was one
thing which he knew he could not brazen out or fight out, or do
anything but miserably fail in, should it come to the question. He
had boldly and wilfully lied at the Governor's council-table--
sitting as the King's councillor among gentlemen of honor--when he
declared that he knew not the hiding-place of Caroline de St.
Castin. It would cover him with eternal disgrace, as a gentleman,
to be detected in such a flagrant falsehood. It would ruin him as
a courtier in the favor of the great Marquise should she discover
that, in spite of his denials of the fact, he had harbored and
concealed the missing lady in his own château.
Bigot was sorely perplexed over this turn of affairs. He uttered a
thousand curses upon all concerned in it, excepting upon Caroline
herself, for although vexed at her coming to him at all, he could
not find it in his heart to curse her. But cursing or blessing
availed nothing now. Time was pressing, and he must act.
That Caroline would be sought after in every nook and corner of the
land, he knew full well, from the character of La Corne St. Luc and
of her father. His own château would not be spared in the general
search, and he doubted if the secret chamber would remain a secret
from the keen eyes of these men. He surmised that others knew of
its existence besides himself: old servitors, and women who had
passed in and out of it in times gone by. Dame Tremblay, who did
know of it, was not to be trusted in a great temptation. She was in
heart the Charming Josephine still, and could be bribed or seduced
by any one who bid high enough for her.
Bigot had no trust whatever in human nature. He felt he had no
guarantee against a discovery, farther than interest or fear barred
the door against inquiry. He could not rely for a moment upon the
inviolability of his own house. La Corne St. Luc would demand to
search, and he, bound by his declarations of non-complicity in the
abduction of Caroline, could offer no reason for refusal without
arousing instant suspicion; and La Corne was too sagacious not to
fasten upon the remotest trace of Caroline and follow it up to a
She could not, therefore, remain longer in the Château--this was
absolute; and he must, at whatever cost and whatever risk, remove
her to a fresh place of concealment, until the storm blew over, or
some other means of escape from the present difficulty offered
themselves in the chapter of accidents.
In accordance with this design, Bigot, under pretence of business,
had gone off the very next day after the meeting of the Governor's
Council, in the direction of the Three Rivers, to arrange with a
band of Montagnais, whom he could rely upon, for the reception of
Caroline, in the disguise of an Indian girl, with instructions to
remove their wigwams immediately and take her off with them to the
wild, remote valley of the St. Maurice.
The old Indian chief, eager to oblige the Intendant, had assented
willingly to his proposal, promising the gentlest treatment of the
lady, and a silent tongue concerning her.
Bigot was impressive in his commands upon these points, and the
chief pledged his faith upon them, delighted beyond measure by the
promise of an ample supply of powder, blankets, and provisions for
his tribe, while the Intendant added an abundance of all such
delicacies as could be forwarded, for the use and comfort of the
To carry out this scheme without observation, Bigot needed the help
of a trusty friend, one whom he could thoroughly rely upon, to
convey Caroline secretly away from Beaumanoir, and place her in
the keeping of the Montagnais, as well as to see to the further
execution of his wishes for her concealment and good treatment.
Bigot had many friends,--men living on his bounty, who ought only to
have been too happy to obey his slightest wishes,--friends bound to
him by disgraceful secrets, and common interests, and pleasures.
But he could trust none of them with the secret of Caroline de St.
He felt a new and unwonted delicacy in regard to her. Her name was
dear to him, her fame even was becoming dearer. To his own surprise
it troubled him now as it had never troubled him before. He would
not have her name defiled in the mouths of such men as drank his
wine daily and nightly, and disputed the existence of any virtue in
Bigot ground his teeth as he muttered to himself that they might
make a mock of whatever other women they pleased. He himself could
out-do them all in coarse ribaldry of the sex, but they should not
make a mock and flash obscene jests at the mention of Caroline de
St. Castin! They should never learn her name. He could not trust
one of them with the secret of her removal. And yet some one of
them must perforce be entrusted with it!
He conned over the names of his associates one by one, and one by
one condemned them all as unworthy of confidence in a matter where
treachery might possibly be made more profitable than fidelity.
Bigot was false himself to the heart's core, and believed in no
He was an acute judge of men. He read their motives, their bad ones
especially, with the accuracy of a Mephistopheles, and with the same
cold contempt for every trace of virtue.
Varin was a cunning knave, he said, ambitious of the support of the
Church; communing with his aunt, the Superior of the Ursulines, whom
he deceived, and who was not without hope of himself one day rising
to be Intendant. He would place no such secret in the keeping of
Penisault was a sordid dog. He would cheat the Montagnais of his
gifts, and so discontent them with their charge. He had neither
courage nor spirit for an adventure. He was in his right place
superintending the counters of the Friponne. He despised Penisault,
while glad to use him in the basest offices of the Grand Company.
Le Mercier was a pickthank, angling after the favor of La
Pompadour,--a pretentious knave, as hollow as one of his own
mortars. He suspected him of being a spy of hers upon himself.
Le Mercier would be only too glad to send La Pompadour red-hot
information of such an important secret as that of Caroline, and she
would reward it as good service to the King and to herself.
Deschenaux was incapable of keeping a secret of any kind when he got
drunk, or in a passion, which was every day. His rapacity reached
to the very altar. He would rob a church, and was one who would
rather take by force than favor. He would strike a Montagnais who
would ask for a blanket more than he had cheated him with. He would
not trust Deschenaux.
De Pean, the quiet fox, was wanted to look after that desperate
gallant, Le Gardeur de Repentigny, who was still in the Palace, and
must be kept there by all the seductions of wine, dice, and women,
until we have done with him. De Pean was the meanest spirit of them
all. "He would kiss my foot in the morning and sell me at night for
a handful of silver," said Bigot. Villains, every one of them, who
would not scruple to advance their own interests with La Pompadour
by his betrayal in telling her such a secret as that of Caroline's.
De Repentigny had honor and truth in him, and could be entirely
trusted if he promised to serve a friend. But Bigot dared not name
to him a matter of this kind. He would spurn it, drunk as he was.
He was still in all his instincts a gentleman and a soldier. He
could only be used by Bigot through an abuse of his noblest
qualities. He dared not broach such a scheme to Le Gardeur de
Among his associates there was but one who, in spite of his brutal
manners and coarse speech, perhaps because of these, Bigot would
trust as a friend, to help him in a serious emergency like the
Cadet, the Commissary General of New France, was faithful to Bigot
as a fierce bull-dog to his master. Cadet was no hypocrite, nay, he
may have appeared to be worse than in reality he was. He was bold
and outspoken, rapacious of other men's goods, and as prodigal of
his own. Clever withal, fearless, and fit for any bold enterprise.
He ever allowed himself to be guided by the superior intellect of
Bigot, whom he regarded as the prince of good fellows, and swore by
him, profanely enough, on all occasions, as the shrewdest head and
the quickest hand to turn over money in New France.
Bigot could trust Cadet. He had only to whisper a few words in his
ear to see him jump up from the table where he was playing cards,
dash his stakes with a sweep of his hand into the lap of his
antagonist, a gift or a forfeit, he cared not which, for not
finishing the game. In three minutes Cadet was booted, with his
heavy riding-whip in his hand ready to mount his horse and accompany
Bigot "to Beaumanoir or to hell," he said, "if he wanted to go
In the short space of time, while the grooms saddled their horses,
Bigot drew Cadet aside and explained to him the situation of his
affairs, informing him, in a few words, who the lady was who lived
in such retirement in the Château, and of his denial of the fact
before the Council and Governor. He told him of the letters of the
King and of La Pompadour respecting Caroline, and of the necessity
of removing her at once far out of reach before the actual search
for her was begun.
Cadet's cynical eyes flashed in genuine sympathy with Bigot, and
he laid his heavy hand upon his shoulder and uttered a frank
exclamation of admiration at his ruse to cheat La Pompadour and
La Galissonière both.
"By St. Picot!" said he, "I would rather go without dinner for a
month than you should not have asked me, Bigot, to help you out of
this scrape. What if you did lie to that fly-catching beggar at the
Castle of St. Louis, who has not conscience to take a dishonest
stiver from a cheating Albany Dutchman! Where was the harm in it?
Better lie to him than tell the truth to La Pompadour about that
girl! Egad! Madame Fish would serve you as the Iroquois served my
fat clerk at Chouagen--make roast meat of you--if she knew it! Such
a pother about a girl! Damn the women, always, I say, Bigot! A man
is never out of hot water when he has to do with them!"
Striking Bigot's hand hard with his own, he promised; wet or dry,
through flood or fire, to ride with him to Beaumanoir, and take the
girl, or lady,--he begged the Intendant's pardon,--and by such ways
as he alone knew he would, in two days, place her safely among the
Montagnais, and order them at once, without an hour's delay, to pull
up stakes and remove their wigwams to the tuque of the St. Maurice,
where Satan himself could not find her. And the girl might remain
there for seven years without ever being heard tell of by any white
person in the Colony.
Bigot and Cadet rode rapidly forward until they came to the dark
forest, where the faint outline of road, barely visible, would have
perplexed Bigot to have kept it alone in the night. But Cadet was
born in Charlebourg; he knew every path, glade, and dingle in the
forest of Beaumanoir, and rode on without drawing bridle.
Bigot, in his fiery eagerness, had hitherto ridden foremost. Cadet
now led the way, dashing under the boughs of the great trees that
overhung the road. The tramp of their horses woke the echoes of the
woods. But they were not long in reaching the park of Beaumanoir.
They saw before them the tall chimney-stacks and the high roofs and
the white walls of the Château, looking spectral enough in the wan
moonlight,--ghostly, silent, and ominous. One light only was
visible in the porter's lodge; all else was dark, cold, and
The watchful old porter at the gate was instantly on foot to see who
came at that hour, and was surprised enough at sight of his master
and the Sieur Cadet, without retinue or even a groom to accompany
They dismounted and tied their horses outside the gate. "Run to the
Château, Marcele, without making the least noise," said Bigot.
"Call none of the servants, but rap gently at the door of Dame
Tremblay. Bid her rise instantly, without waking any one. Say the
Intendant desires to see her. I expect guests from the city."
The porter returned with the information that Dame Tremblay had got
up and was ready to receive his Excellency.
Bidding old Marcele take care of the horses, they walked across the
lawn to the Château, at the door of which stood Dame Tremblay,
hastily dressed, courtesying and trembling at this sudden summons to
receive the Intendant and Sieur Cadet.
"Good night, dame!" said Bigot, in a low tone, "conduct us instantly
to the grand gallery."
"Oh, your Excellency!" replied the dame, courtesying, "I am your
humble servant at all times, day and night, as it is my duty and my
pleasure to serve my master!"
"Well, then!" returned Bigot, impatiently, "let us go in and make no
The three, Dame Tremblay leading the way with a candle in each hand,
passed up the broad stair and into the gallery communicating with
the apartments of Caroline. The dame set her candles on the table
and stood with her hands across her apron in a submissive attitude,
waiting the orders of her master.
"Dame!" said he, "I think you are a faithful servant. I have
trusted you with much. Can I trust you with a greater matter
"Oh, your Excellency! I would die to serve so noble and generous a
master! It is a servant's duty!"
"Few servants think so, nor do I! But you have been faithful to
your charge respecting this poor lady within, have you not, dame?"
Bigot looked as if his eyes searched her very vitals.
"O Lord! O Lord!" thought the dame, turning pale. "He has heard
about the visit of that cursed Mère Malheur, and he has come to hang
me up for it in the gallery!" She stammered out in reply, "Oh, yes!
I have been faithful to my charge about the lady, your Excellency!
I have not failed wilfully or negligently in any one point, I assure
you! I have been at once careful and kind to her, as you bade me to
be, your Excellency. Indeed, I could not be otherwise to a live
angel in the house like her!"
"So I believe, dame!" said Bigot, in a tone of approval that quite
lifted her heart. This spontaneous praise of Caroline touched him
somewhat. "You have done well! Now can you keep another secret,
"A secret! and entrusted to me by your Excellency!" replied she, in
a voice of wonder at such a question. "The marble statue in the
grotto is not closer than I am, your Excellency. I was always too
fond of a secret ever to part with it! When I was the Charming
Josephine of Lake Beauport I never told, even in confession, who
they were who--"
"Tut! I will trust you, dame, better than I would have trusted the
Charming Josephine! If all tales be true, you were a gay girl,
dame, and a handsome one in those days, I have heard!" added the
Intendant, with well-planned flattery.
A smile and a look of intelligence between the dame and Bigot
followed this sally, while Cadet had much to do to keep in one of
the hearty horse-laughs he used to indulge in, and which would have
roused the whole Château.
The flattery of the Intendant quite captivated the dame. "I will go
through fire and water to serve your Excellency, if you want me,"
said she. "What shall I do to oblige your Excellency?"
"Well, dame, you must know then that the Sieur Cadet and I have come
to remove that dear lady from the Château to another place, where it
is needful for her to go for the present time; and if you are
questioned about her, mind you are to say she never was here, and
you know nothing of her!"
"I will not only say it," replied the dame with promptness, "I will
swear it until I am black in the face if you command me, your
Excellency! Poor, dear lady! may I not ask where she is going?"
"No, she will be all right! I will tell you in due time. It is
needful for people to change sometimes, you know, dame! You
comprehend that! You had to manage matters discreetly when you
were the Charming Josephine. I dare say you had to change, too,
sometimes! Every woman has an intrigue once, at least, in her
lifetime, and wants a change. But this lady is not clever like the
Charming Josephine, therefore we have to be clever for her!"
The dame laughed prudently yet knowingly at this, while Bigot
continued, "Now you understand all! Go to her chamber, dame.
Present our compliments with our regrets for disturbing her at this
hour. Tell her that the Intendant and the Sieur Cadet desire to see
her on important business."
Dame Tremblay, with a broad smile all over her countenance at her
master's jocular allusions to the Charming Josephine, left at once
to carry her message to the chamber of Caroline.
She passed out, while the two gentlemen waited in the gallery, Bigot
anxious but not doubtful of his influence to persuade the gentle
girl to leave the Château, Cadet coolly resolved that she must go,
whether she liked it or no. He would banish every woman in New
France to the tuque of the St. Maurice had he the power, in order to
rid himself and Bigot of the eternal mischief and trouble of them!
Neither Bigot nor Cadet spoke for some minutes after the departure
of the dame. They listened to her footsteps as the sound of them
died away in the distant rooms, where one door opened after another
as she passed on to the secret chamber.
"She is now at the door of Caroline!" thought Bigot, as his
imagination followed Dame Tremblay on her errand. "She is now
speaking to her. I know Caroline will make no delay to admit us."
Cadet on his side was very quiet and careless of aught save to take
the girl and get her safely away before daybreak.
A few moments of heavy silence and expectation passed over them.
The howl of a distant watch-dog was heard, and all was again still.
The low, monotonous ticking of the great clock at the head of the
gallery made the silence still more oppressive. It seemed to be
measuring off eternity, not time.
The hour, the circumstance, the brooding stillness, waited for a cry
of murder to ring through the Château, waking its sleepers and
bidding them come and see the fearful tragedy that lay in the secret
But no cry came. Fortunately for Bigot it did not! The discovery
of Caroline de St. Castin under such circumstances would have closed
his career in New France, and ruined him forever in the favor of the
Dame Tremblay returned to her master and Cadet with the information
"that the lady was not in her bedchamber, but had gone down, as was
her wont, in the still hours of the night, to pray in her oratory in
the secret chamber, where she wished never to be disturbed.
"Well, dame," replied Bigot, "you may retire to your own room. I
will go down to the secret chamber myself. These vigils are killing
her, poor girl! If your lady should be missing in the morning,
remember, dame, that you make no remark of it; she is going away to-
night with me and the Sieur Cadet and will return soon again; so be
discreet and keep your tongue well between your teeth, which, I am
glad to observe," remarked he with a smile, "are still sound and
white as ivory."
Bigot wished by such flattery to secure her fidelity, and he fully
succeeded. The compliment to her teeth was more agreeable than
would have been a purse of money. It caught the dame with a hook
there was no escape from.
Dame Tremblay courtesied very low, and smiled very broadly to show
her really good teeth, of which she was extravagantly vain. She
assured the Intendant of her perfect discretion and obedience to all
"Trust to me, your Excellency," said she with a profound courtesy.
"I never deceived a gentleman yet, except the Sieur Tremblay, and
he, good man, was none! When I was the Charming Josephine, and all
the gay gallants of the city used to flatter and spoil me, I never
deceived one of them, never! I knew that all is vanity in this
world, but my eyes and teeth were considered very fine in those
days, your Excellency."
"And are yet, dame. Zounds! Lake Beauport has had nothing to equal
them since you retired from business as a beauty. But mind my
orders, dame! keep quiet and you will please me. Good-night, dame!"
"Good-night, your Excellency! Good-night, your Honor!" replied she,
flushed with gratified vanity. She left Bigot vowing to herself
that he was the finest gentleman and the best judge of a woman in
New France! The Sieur Cadet she could not like. He never looked
pleasant on a woman, as a gentleman ought to do!
The dame left them to themselves, and went off trippingly in high
spirits to her own chamber, where she instantly ran to the mirror to
look at her teeth, and made faces in the glass like a foolish girl
in her teens.
Bigot, out of a feeling of delicacy not usual with him, bid Cadet
wait in the anteroom while he went forward to the secret chamber of
Caroline. "The sudden presence of a stranger might alarm her," he
He descended the stair and knocked softly at the door, calling in a
low tone, "Caroline! Caroline!" No answer came. He wondered at
that, for her quick ear used always to catch the first sound of his
footsteps while yet afar off.
He knocked louder, and called again her name. Alas! he might have
called forever! That voice would never make her heart flutter again
or her eyes brighten at his footstep, that sounded sweeter than any
music as she waited and watched for him, always ready to meet him at
Bigot anticipated something wrong, and with a hasty hand pushed open
the door of the secret chamber and went in. A blaze of light filled
his eyes. A white form lay upon the floor. He saw it and he saw
nothing else! She lay there with her unclosed eyes looking as the
dead only look at the living. One hand was pressed to her bosom,
the other was stretched out, holding the broken stem and a few green
leaves of the fatal bouquet which La Corriveau had not wholly
plucked from her grasp.
Bigot stood for a moment stricken dumb and transfixed with horror,
then sprang forward and knelt over her with a cry of agony. He
thought she might have fallen in a swoon. He touched her pale
forehead, her lips, her hands. He felt her heart, it did not beat;
he lifted her head to his bosom, it fell like the flower of a lily
broken on its stem, and he knew she was dead. He saw the red
streaks of blood on her snowy robe, and he knew she was murdered.
A long cry like the wail of a man in torture burst from him. It
woke more than one sleeper in the distant chambers of the Château,
making them start upon their pillows to listen for another cry, but
none came. Bigot was a man of iron; he retained self-possession
enough to recollect the danger of rousing the house.
He smothered his cries in suffocating sobs, but they reached the ear
of Cadet, who, foreboding some terrible catastrophe, rushed into the
room where the secret door stood open. The light glared up the
stair. He ran down and saw the Intendant on his knees, holding in
his arms the half raised form of a woman which he kissed and called
by name like a man distraught with grief and despair.
Cadet's coarse and immovable nature stood him in good stead at this
moment. He saw at a glance what had happened. The girl they had
come to bear away was dead! How? He knew not; but the Intendant
must not be suffered to make an alarm. There was danger of
discovery on all sides now, and the necessity of concealment was a
thousand times greater than ever. There was no time to question,
but instant help was needed. In amaze at the spectacle before him,
Cadet instantly flew to the assistance of the Intendant.
He approached Bigot without speaking a word, although his great eyes
expressed a look of sympathy never seen there before. He disengaged
the dead form of Caroline tenderly from the embrace of Bigot, and
laid it gently upon the floor, and lifting Bigot up in his stout
arms, whispered hoarsely in his ear, "Keep still, Bigot! keep still!
not one word! make no alarm! This is a dreadful business, but we
must go to another room to consider calmly, calmly, mind, what it
means and what is to be done."
"Oh, Cadet! Cadet!" moaned the Intendant, still resting on his
shoulder, "she is dead! dead! when I just wanted her to live! I
have been hard with women, but if there was one I loved it was she
who lies dead before me! Who, who has done this bloody deed to me?"
"Who has done it to her, you mean! You are not killed yet, old
friend, but will live to revenge this horrid business!" answered
Cadet with rough sympathy.
"I would give my life to restore hers!" replied Bigot despairingly.
"Oh, Cadet, you never knew what was in my heart about this girl, and
how I had resolved to make her reparation for the evil I had done
"Well, I can guess what was in your heart, Bigot. Come, old friend,
you are getting more calm, you can walk now. Let us go upstairs to
consider what is to be done about it. Damn the women! They are
man's torment whether alive or dead!"
Bigot was too much absorbed in his own tumultuous feelings to notice
Cadet's remark. He allowed himself to be led without resistance to
another room, out of sight of the murdered girl, in whose presence
Cadet knew calm council was impossible.
Cadet seated Bigot on a couch and, sitting beside him, bade him be a
man and not a fool. He tried to rouse Bigot by irritating him,
thinking, in his coarse way, that that was better than to be maudlin
over him, as he considered it, with vain expressions of sympathy.
"I would not give way so," said he, "for all the women in and out of
Paradise! and you are a man, Bigot! Remember you have brought me
here, and you have to take me safely back again, out of this den of
"Yes, Cadet," replied Bigot, rousing himself up at the sharp tone of
his friend. "I must think of your safety; I care little for my own
at this moment. Think for me."
"Well, then, I will think for you, and I think this, Bigot, that if
the Governor finds out this assassination, done in your house, and
that you and I have been here at this hour of night with the
murdered girl, by God! he will say we have alone done it, and the
world will believe it! So rouse up, I for one do not want to be
taxed with the murder of a woman, and still less to be hung
innocently for the death of one. I would not risk my little finger
for all the women alive, let alone my neck for a dead one!"
The suggestion was like a sharp probe in his flesh. It touched
Bigot to the quick. He started up on his feet. "You are right,
Cadet, it only wants that accusation to make me go mad! But my head
is not my own yet! I can think of nothing but her lying there, dead
in her loveliness and in her love! Tell me what to do, and I will
"Ay, now you talk reasonably. Now you are coming to yourself,
Bigot. We came to remove her alive from here, did we not? We must
now remove her dead. She cannot remain where she is at the risk of
certain discovery to-morrow."
"No, the secret chamber would not hide such a secret as that,"
replied Bigot, recovering his self-possession. "But how to remove
her? We cannot carry her forth without discovery." Bigot's
practical intellect was waking up to the danger of leaving the
murdered girl in the Château.
Cadet rose and paced the room with rapid strides, rubbing his
forehead, and twitching his mustache violently. "I will tell you
what we have got to do, Bigot! Par Dieu! we must bury her where she
is, down there in the vaulted chamber."
"What, bury her?" Bigot looked at him with intense surprise.
"Yes, we must bury her in that very chamber, Bigot. We must cover
up somebody's damnable work to avert suspicion from ourselves! A
pretty task for you and me, Bigot! Par Dieu! I could laugh like a
horse, if I were not afraid of being overheard."
"But who is to dig a grave for her? surely not you or I," replied
Bigot with a look of dismay.
"Yes, gentlemen as we are, you and I must do it, Bigot. Zounds! I
learned to dig and delve when I was a stripling at Charlebourg, and
in the trenches at Louisbourg, and I have not yet forgotten the
knack of it! But where to get spades, Bigot; you are master here
and ought to know."
"I, how should I know? It is terrible, Cadet, to bury her as if we
had murdered her! Is there no other way?"
"None. We are in a cahot and must get our cariole out of it as best
we can! I see plainly we two shall be taxed with this murder,
Bigot, if we let it be discovered! Besides, utter ruin awaits you
from La Pompadour if she finds out you ever had this girl at
Beaumanoir in keeping. Come! time for parley is past; where shall
we find spades? We must to work, Bigot!"
A sudden thought lighted up the eyes of the Intendant, who saw the
force of Cadet's suggestion, strange and repulsive as it was. "I
think I know," said he; "the gardeners keep their tools in the old
tower, and we can get there by the secret passage and return."
"Bravo!" exclaimed Cadet, encouragingly, "come, show the way, and we
will get the tools in a trice! I always heard there was a private
way underground to the old tower. It never stood its master in
better stead than now; perhaps never worse if it has let in the
murderer of this poor girl of yours."
Bigot rose up, very faint and weak; Cadet took his arm to support
him, and bidding him be firm and not give way again at sight of her
dead body, led him back to the chamber of death. "Let us first look
around a moment," said he, "to find, if possible, some trace of the
The lamps burned brightly, shedding a glare of light over every
object in the secret chamber.
Cadet looked narrowly round, but found little trace of the
murderers. The drawers of the escritoire stood open, with their
contents in great disorder, a circumstance which at once suggested
robbers. Cadet pointed it out to Bigot with the question:
"Kept she much money, Bigot?"