Part 2 out of 13
intend to let Dame La Chance control the children any more than Zoë
"I have made you tutrice perpetuelle, as we say in the court, and
here it is," said he, placing the tip of his finger on a certain
line in the document.
Zoë looked down and blushed to her finger-ends. She presently
rallied, and said with some spirit,--"Never mind them, Master
Pothier! Don't put them in the contract! Let Antoine have
something to say about them. He would take me without a dower, I
know, and time enough to remind him about children when they come."
"Take you without dower! Zoë Bédard! you must be mad!" exclaimed
the dame, in great heat. "No girl in New France can marry without a
dower, if it be only a pot and a bedstead! You forget, too, that
the dower is given, not so much for you, as to keep up the credit of
the family. As well be married without a ring! Without a dower,
"Or without a contract written by a notary, signed, sealed, and
delivered!" chimed in Master Pothier.
"Yes, Master Pothier, and I have promised Zoë a three-days wedding,
which will make her the envy of all the parish of Charlebourg. The
seigneur has consented to give her away in place of her poor defunct
father; and when he does that he is sure to stand godfather for all
the children, with a present for every one of them! I shall invite
you too, Master Pothier!"
Zoë affected not to hear her mother's remark, although she knew it
all by heart, for it had been dinned into her ears twenty times a
day for weeks, and sooth to say, she liked to hear it, and fully
appreciated the honors to come from the patronage of the seigneur.
Master Pothier pricked up his ears till they fairly raised his wig,
at the prospect of a three days wedding at the Crown of France. He
began an elaborate reply, when a horse's tramp broke in upon them
and Colonel Philibert wheeled up to the door of the hostelry.
Master Pothier, seeing an officer in the King's uniform, rose on the
instant and saluted him with a profound bow, while Dame Bédard and
Zoë, standing side by side, dropped their lowest courtesy to the
handsome gentleman, as, with woman's glance, they saw in a moment he
Philibert returned their salute courteously, as he halted his horse
in front of Dame Bédard. "Madame!" said he, "I thought I knew all
roads about Charlebourg, but I have either forgotten or they have
changed the road through the forest to Beaumanoir. It is surely
altered from what it was."
"Your Honor is right," answered Dame Bédard, "the Intendant has
opened a new road through the forest." Zoë took the opportunity,
while the officer looked at her mother, to examine his features,
dress, and equipments, from head to foot, and thought him the
handsomest officer she had ever seen.
"I thought it must be so," replied Philibert; "you are the landlady
of the Crown of France, I presume?" Dame Bédard carried it on her
face as plainly marked as the royal emblem on the sign over her
"Yes, your Honor, I am Widow Bédard, at your service, and, I hope,
keep as good a hostelry as your Honor will find in the Colony. Will
your Honor alight and take a cup of wine, such as I keep for guests
"Thanks, Madame Bédard, I am in haste: I must find the way to
Beaumanoir. Can you not furnish me a guide, for I like not to lose
time by missing my way?"
"A guide, sir! The men are all in the city on the King's corvée;
Zoë could show you the way easily enough." Zoë twitched her
mother's arm nervously, as a hint not to say too much. She felt
flattered and fluttered too, at the thought of guiding the strange,
handsome gentleman through the forest, and already the question
shot through her fancy, "What might come of it? Such things have
happened in stories!" Poor Zoë! she was for a few seconds
unfaithful to the memory of Antoine La Chance. But Dame Bédard
settled all surmises by turning to Master Pothier, who stood stiff
and upright as became a limb of the law. "Here is Master Pothier,
your Honor, who knows every highway and byway in ten seigniories.
He will guide your Honor to Beaumanoir."
"As easy as take a fee or enter a process, your Honor," remarked
Master Pothier, whose odd figure had several times drawn the
criticizing eye of Colonel Philibert.
"A fee! ah! you belong to the law, then, my good friend? I have
known many advocates--" but Philibert stopped; he was too good-
natured to finish his sentence.
"You never saw one like me, your Honor was going to say? True, you
never did. I am Master Pothier dit Robin, the poor travelling
notary, at your Honor's service, ready to draw you a bond, frame an
acte of convention matrimoniale, or write your last will and
testament, with any notary in New France. I can, moreover, guide
your Honor to Beaumanoir as easy as drink your health in a cup of
Philibert could not but smile at the travelling notary, and thinking
to himself, "too much Cognac at the end of that nose of yours, my
friend!" which, indeed, looked fiery as Bardolph's, with hardly a
spot for a fly to rest his foot upon without burning.
"But how will you go, friend?" asked Philibert, looking down at
Master Pothier's gamaches; "you don't look like a fast walker."
"Oh, your Honor," interrupted Dame Bédard, impatiently, for Zoë had
been twitching her hard to let her go. "Master Pothier can ride the
old sorrel nag that stands in the stable eating his head off for
want of hire. Of course your Honor will pay livery?"
"Why, certainly, Madame, and glad to do so! So Master Pothier make
haste, get the sorrel nag, and let us be off."
"I will be back in the snap of a pen, or in the time Dame Bédard can
draw that cup of Cognac, your Honor."
"Master Pothier is quite a personage, I see," remarked Philibert, as
the old notary shuffled off to saddle the nag.
"Oh, quite, your Honor. He is the sharpest notary, they say, that
travels the road. When he gets people into law they never can get
out. He is so clever, everybody says! Why, he assures me that even
the Intendant consults him sometimes as they sit eating and drinking
half the night together in the buttery at the Château!"
"Really! I must be careful what I say," replied Philibert,
laughing, "or I shall get into hot water! But here he comes."
As he spoke, Master Pothier came up, mounted on a raw-boned nag,
lank as the remains of a twenty-years lawsuit. Zoë, at a hint from
the Colonel, handed him a cup of Cognac, which he quaffed without
breathing, smacking his lips emphatically after it. He called out
to the landlady,--"Take care of my knapsack, dame! You had better
burn the house than lose my papers! Adieu, Zoë! study over the
marriage contract till I return, and I shall be sure of a good
dinner from your pretty hands."
They set off at a round trot. Colonel Philibert, impatient to reach
Beaumanoir, spurred on for a while, hardly noticing the absurd
figure of his guide, whose legs stuck out like a pair of compasses
beneath his tattered gown, his shaking head threatening dislodgment
to hat and wig, while his elbows churned at every jolt, making play
with the shuffling gait of his spavined and wall-eyed nag.
They rode on in silence. A little beyond the village of Charlebourg
they suddenly turned into the forest of Beaumanoir, where a well-
beaten track, practicable both for carriages and horses, gave
indications that the resort of visitors to the Château was neither
small nor seldom.
The sun's rays scarcely penetrated the sea of verdure overhead.
The ground was thickly strewn with leaves, the memorials of past
summers; and the dark green pines breathed out a resinous odor,
fresh and invigorating to the passing rider.
Colonel Philibert, while his thoughts were for the most part fixed
on the public dangers which led to this hasty visit of his to the
Château of Beaumanoir, had still an eye for the beauty of the
forest, and not a squirrel leaping, nor a bird fluttering among the
branches, escaped his notice as he passed by. Still he rode on
rapidly, and having got fairly into the road, soon outstripped his
"A crooked road this to Beaumanoir," remarked he at length, drawing
bridle to allow Master Pothier to rejoin him. "It is as mazy as the
law. I am fortunate, I am sure, in having a sharp notary like you
to conduct me through it."
"Conduct you! Your Honor is leading me! But the road to Beaumanoir
is as intricate as the best case ever drawn up by an itinerant
"You seldom ride, Master Pothier?" said Philibert, observing his
guide jolting with an audible grunt at every step of his awkward
"Ride, your Honor! N--no! Dame Bédard shall call me plaisant Robin
if she ever tempts me again to mount her livery horse--'if fools
only carried cruppers!' as Panurge says."
"Why, Master Pothier?" Philibert began to be amused at his odd
"Why? Then I should be able to walk to-morrow--that is all! This
nag will finish me. Hunc! hanc! hoc! He is fit to be Satan's tutor
at the seminary! Hoc! hanc! hunc! I have not declined my pronouns
since I left my accidence at the High School of Tours--not till to-
day. Hunc! hanc! hoc! I shall be jolted to jelly! Hunc! hanc!
Philibert laughed at the classical reminiscences of his guide; but,
fearing that Pothier might fall off his horse, which he straddled
like a hay-fork, he stopped to allow the worthy notary to recover
his breath and temper.
"I hope the world appreciates your learning and talent, and that it
uses you more gently than that horse of yours," remarked he.
"Oh, your Honor! it is kind of you to rein up by the way. I find no
fault with the world if it find none with me. My philosophy is
this, that the world is as men make it."
"As the old saying is,--
"'To lend, or to spend, or to give in,
'Tis a very good world that we live in;
But to borrow, or beg, or get a man's own,
'Tis the very worst world that ever was known.'
And you consider yourself in the latter category, Master Pothier?"
Philibert spoke doubtingly, for a more self-complacent face than his
companion's he never saw--every wrinkle trembled with mirth; eyes,
cheeks, chin, and brows surrounded that jolly red nose of his like a
group of gay boys round a bonfire.
"Oh, I am content, your Honor! We notaries are privileged to wear
furred cloaks in the Palais de Justice, and black robes in the
country when we can get them! Look here at my robe of dignity!" He
held up the tattered tail of his gown with a ludicrous air. "The
profession of notary is meat, drink, and lodging: every man's house
is free to me--his bed and board I share, and there is neither
wedding, christening, nor funeral, in ten parishes that can go on
without me. Governors and intendants flourish and fall, but Jean
Pothier dit Robin, the itinerant notary, lives merrily: men may do
without bread, but they will not live without law--at least, in this
noble, litigious New France of ours."
"Your profession seems quite indispensable, then!" remarked
"Indispensable! I should think so! Without proper actes the world
would soon come to an end, as did Adam's happiness in Eden, for want
of a notary."
"A notary, Master Pothier?"
"Yes, your Honor. It is clear that Adam lost his first estate de
usis et fructibus in the Garden of Eden, simply because there was no
notary to draw up for him an indefeasable lease. Why, he had not
even a bail à chaptal (a chattel mortgage) over the beasts he had
"Ah!" replied Philibert, smiling, "I thought Adam lost his estate
through a cunning notary who persuaded his wife to break the lease
he held; and poor Adam lost possession because he could not find a
second notary to defend his title."
"Hum! that might be; but judgment went by default, as I have read.
It would be different now; there are notaries, in New France and
Old, capable of beating Lucifer himself in a process for either
soul, body, or estate! But, thank fortune, we are out of this thick
The travellers had reached the other verge of the forest of
Beaumanoir. A broad plain dotted with clumps of fair trees lay
spread out in a royal domain, overlooked by a steep, wooded
mountain. A silvery brook crossed by a rustic bridge ran through
the park. In the centre was a huge cluster of gardens and
patriarchal trees, out of the midst of which rose the steep roof,
chimneys, and gilded vanes, flashing in the sun, of the Château of
The Château was a long, heavy structure of stone, gabled and pointed
in the style of the preceding century--strong enough for defence,
and elegant enough for the abode of the Royal Intendant of New
France. It had been built, some four-score years previously, by
the Intendant Jean Talon, as a quiet retreat when tired with the
importunities of friends or the persecution of enemies, or disgusted
with the cold indifference of the Court to his statesmanlike plans
for the colonization of New France.
A short distance from the Château rose a tower of rough masonry--
crenellated on top, and loopholed on the sides--which had been built
as a place of defence and refuge during the Indian wars of the
preceding century. Often had the prowling bands of Iroquois turned
away baffled and dismayed at the sight of the little fortalice
surmounted by a culverin or two, which used to give the alarm of
invasion to the colonists on the slopes of Bourg Royal, and to the
dwellers along the wild banks of the Montmorency.
The tower was now disused and partly dilapidated, but many wonderful
tales existed among the neighboring habitans of a secret passage
that communicated with the vaults of the Château; but no one had
ever seen the passage--still less been bold enough to explore it had
they found it, for it was guarded by a loup-garou that was the
terror of children, old and young, as they crowded close together
round the blazing fire on winter nights, and repeated old legends of
Brittany and Normandy, altered to fit the wild scenes of the New
Colonel Philibert and Master Pothier rode up the broad avenue that
led to the Château, and halted at the main gate--set in a lofty
hedge of evergreens cut into fantastic shapes, after the fashion of
the Luxembourg. Within the gate a vast and glowing garden was seen--
all squares, circles, and polygons. The beds were laden with
flowers shedding delicious odors on the morning air as it floated
by, while the ear was soothed by the hum of bees and the songs of
birds revelling in the bright sunshine.
Above the hedge appeared the tops of heavily-laden fruit-trees
brought from France and planted by Talon--cherries red as the lips
of Breton maidens, plums of Gascony, Norman apples, with pears from
the glorious valleys of the Rhone. The bending branches were just
transmuting their green unripeness into scarlet, gold, and purple--
the imperial colors of Nature when crowned for the festival of
A lofty dove-cote, surmounted by a glittering vane, turning and
flashing with every shift of the wind, stood near the Château.
It was the home of a whole colony of snow-white pigeons, which
fluttered in and out of it, wheeled in circles round the tall
chimney-stacks, or strutted, cooing and bowing together, on the
high roof of the Château, a picture of innocence and happiness.
But neither happiness nor innocence was suggested by the look of the
Château itself, as it stood bathed in bright sunshine. Its great
doors were close-shut in the face of all the beauty of the world
without. Its mullioned windows, that should have stood wide open to
let in the radiance and freshness of morning, were closely blinded,
like eyes wickedly shut against God's light that beat upon them,
vainly seeking entrance.
Outside all was still: the song of birds and the rustle of leaves
alone met the ear. Neither man nor beast was stirring to challenge
Colonel Philibert's approach, but long ere he reached the door of
the Château, a din of voices within, a wild medley of shouts, song,
and laughter, a clatter of wine-cups, and pealing notes of violins
struck him with amazement and disgust. He distinguished drunken
voices singing snatches of bacchanalian songs, while now and then
stentorian mouths called for fresh brimmers, and new toasts were
drunk with uproarious applause.
The Château seemed a very pandemonium of riot and revelry, that
prolonged the night into the day, and defied the very order of
nature by its audacious disregard of all decency of time, place, and
"In God's name, what means all this, Master Pothier?" exclaimed
Philibert, as they hastily dismounted and, tying their horses to a
tree, entered the broad walk that led to the terrace.
"That concert going on, your Honor?"--Master Pothier shook his head
to express disapproval, and smiled to express his inborn sympathy
with feasting and good-fellowship--"that, your Honor, is the heel of
the hunt, the hanging up of the antlers of the stag by the gay
chasseurs who are visiting the Intendant!"
"A hunting party, you mean? To think that men could stand such
brutishness, even to please the Intendant!"
"Stand! your Honor. I wager my gown that most of the chasseurs are
lying under the table by this time, although by the noise they make
it must be allowed there are some burly fellows upon their legs yet,
who keep the wine flowing like the cow of Montmorency."
"'Tis horrible! 'tis damnable!" Philibert grew pale with passion
and struck his thigh with his palm, as was his wont when very angry.
"Rioting in drunkenness when the Colony demands the cool head, the
strong arm, and the true heart of every man among us! Oh, my
country! my dear country! what fate is thine to expect when men
like these are thy rulers?"
"Your Honor must be a stranger in New France or you would not
express such hasty, honest sentiments upon the Intendant's
hospitality. It is not the fashion, except among plain-spoken
habitans, who always talk downright Norman." Master Pothier looked
approvingly at Colonel Philibert, who, listening with indignant
ears, scarcely heeded his guide.
"That is a jolly song, your Honor," continued Pothier, waving one
hand in cadence to a ditty in praise of wine, which a loud voice was
heard singing in the Château, accompanied by a rousing chorus which
startled the very pigeons on the roof and chimney-stacks. Colonel
Philibert recognized the song as one he had heard in the Quartier
Latin, during his student life in Paris--he fancied he recognized
the voice also:
"'Pour des vins de prix
Vendons tous nos livres!
C'est pen d'être gris,
Amis, soyons ivres!
A roar of voices and a clash of glasses followed the refrain.
Master Pothier's eyes winked and blinked in sympathy. The old
notary stood on tiptoe, with outspread palms, as with ore rotundo
he threw in a few notes of his own to fill up the chorus.
Philibert cast upon his guide a look of scorn, biting his lip
angrily. "Go," said he, "knock at the door--it needs God's thunder
to break in upon that infamous orgie. Say that Colonel Philibert
brings orders from His Excellency the Governor to the Chevalier
"And be served with a writ of ejectment! Pardon me! Be not angry,
sir," pleaded Pothier supplicatingly, "I dare not knock at the door
when they are at the devil's mass inside. The valets! I know them
all! They would duck me in the brook, or drag me into the hall to
make sport for the Philistines. And I am not much of a Samson, your
Honor. I could not pull the Château down upon their heads--I wish I
Master Pothier's fears did not appear ill-grounded to Philibert as a
fresh burst of drunken uproar assailed his ears. "Wait my return,"
said he, "I will knock on the door myself." He left his guide, ran
up the broad stone steps, and knocked loudly upon the door again and
again! He tried it at last, and to his surprise found it unlatched;
he pushed it open, no servitor appearing to admit him. Colonel
Philibert went boldly in. A blaze of light almost dazzled his eyes.
The Château was lit up with lamps and candelabra in every part. The
bright rays of the sun beat in vain for admittance upon the closed
doors and blinded windows, but the splendor of midnight oil pervaded
the interior of the stately mansion, making an artificial night that
prolonged the wild orgies of the Intendant into the hours of day.
THE INTENDANT BIGOT.
The Château of Beaumanoir had, since the advent of the Intendant
Bigot, been the scene of many a festive revelry that matched, in
bacchanalian frenzy, the wild orgies of the Regency and the present
debaucheries of Croisy and the petits appartements of Versailles.
Its splendor, its luxury, its riotous feasts lasting without
intermission sometimes for days, were the themes of wonder and
disgust to the unsophisticated people of New France, and of endless
comparison between the extravagance of the Royal Intendant and the
simple manners and inflexible morals of the Governor-General.
The great hall of the Château, the scene of the gorgeous feasts of
the Intendant, was brilliantly illuminated with silver lamps,
glowing like globes of sunlight as they hung from the lofty ceiling,
upon which was painted a fresco of the apotheosis of Louis XIV.,
where the Grand Monarque was surrounded by a cloud of Condés,
Orléanois, and Bourbons, of near and more remote consanguinity. At
the head of the room hung a full-length portrait of Marquise de
Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV., and the friend and patroness
of the Intendant Bigot; her bold, voluptuous beauty seemed well
fitted to be the presiding genius of his house. The walls bore many
other paintings of artistic and historic value. The King and Queen;
the dark-eyed Montespan; the crafty Maintenon; and the pensive
beauty of Louise de la Vallière, the only mistress of Louis XIV. who
loved him for his own sake, and whose portrait, copied from this
picture, may still be seen in the chapel of the Ursulines of Quebec,
where the fair Louise is represented as St. Thais kneeling at prayer
among the nuns.
The table in the great hall, a masterpiece of workmanship, was made
of a dark Canadian wood then newly introduced, and stretched the
length of the hall. A massive gold epergne of choicest Italian art,
the gift of La Pompadour, stood on the centre of the table. It
represented Bacchus enthroned on a tun of wine, presenting flowing
cups to a dance of fauns and satyrs.
Silver cups of Venetian sculpture and goblets of Bohemian
manufacture sparkled like stars upon the brilliant table, brimming
over with the gold and ruby vintages of France and Spain; or lay
overturned amid pools of wine that ran down upon the velvet carpet.
Dishes of Parmesan cheese, caviare, and other provocatives to thirst
stood upon the table, amid vases of flowers and baskets of the
choicest fruits of the Antilles.
Round this magnificent table sat a score or more of revellers--in
the garb of gentlemen, but all in disorder and soiled with wine;
their countenances were inflamed, their eyes red and fiery, their
tongues loose and loquacious. Here and there a vacant or overturned
chair showed where a guest had fallen in the debauch and been
carried off by the valets, who in gorgeous liveries waited on the
table. A band of musicians sat up in a gallery at the end of the
hall, and filled the pauses of the riotous feast with the ravishing
strains of Lulli and Destouches.
At the head of the table, first in place as in rank, sat François
Bigot, Intendant of New France. His low, well-set figure, dark
hair, small, keen black eyes, and swarthy features full of fire and
animation, bespoke his Gascon blood. His countenance was far from
comely,--nay, when in repose, even ugly and repulsive,--but his eyes
were magnets that drew men's looks towards him, for in them lay the
force of a powerful will and a depth and subtlety of intellect that
made men fear, if they could not love him. Yet when he chose--and
it was his usual mood--to exercise his blandishments on men, he
rarely failed to captivate them, while his pleasant wit, courtly
ways, and natural gallantry towards women, exercised with the
polished seductiveness he had learned in the Court of Louis XV.,
made François Bigot the most plausible and dangerous man in New
He was fond of wine and music, passionately addicted to gambling,
and devoted to the pleasant vices that were rampant in the Court of
France, finely educated, able in the conduct of affairs, and fertile
in expedients to accomplish his ends. François Bigot might have
saved New France, had he been honest as he was clever; but he was
unprincipled and corrupt: no conscience checked his ambition or his
love of pleasure. He ruined New France for the sake of himself and
his patroness and the crowd of courtiers and frail beauties who
surrounded the King, whose arts and influence kept him in his high
office despite all the efforts of the Honnêtes Gens, the good and
true men of the Colony, to remove him.
He had already ruined and lost the ancient Colony of Acadia, through
his defrauds and malversations as Chief Commissary of the Army, and
instead of trial and punishment, had lately been exalted to the
higher and still more important office of Royal Intendant of New
On the right of the Intendant sat his bosom friend, the Sieur Cadet,
a large, sensual man, with twinkling gray eyes, thick nose, and full
red lips. His broad face, flushed with wine, glowed like the
harvest moon rising above the horizon. Cadet had, it was said, been
a butcher in Quebec. He was now, for the misfortune of his country,
Chief Commissary of the Army and a close confederate of the
On the left of the Intendant sat his Secretary, De Pean, crafty
and unscrupulous, a parasite, too, who flattered his master and
ministered to his pleasures. De Pean was a military man, and not a
bad soldier in the field; but he loved gain better than glory, and
amassed an enormous fortune out of the impoverishment of his
Le Mercier, too, was there, Commandant of Artillery, a brave
officer, but a bad man; Varin, a proud, arrogant libertine,
Commissary of Montreal, who outdid Bigot in rapine and Cadet in
coarseness; De Breard, Comptroller of the Marine, a worthy associate
of Penisault, whose pinched features and cunning leer were in
keeping with his important office of chief manager of the Friponne.
Perrault, D'Estebe, Morin, and Vergor, all creatures of the
Intendant, swelled the roll of infamy, as partners of the Grand
Company of Associates trading in New France, as their charter named
them--the "Grand Company of Thieves," as the people in their plain
Norman called them who robbed them in the King's name and, under
pretence of maintaining the war, passed the most arbitrary decrees,
the only object of which was to enrich themselves and their higher
patrons at the Court of Versailles.
The rest of the company seated round the table comprised a number of
dissolute seigneurs and gallants of fashion about town--men of great
wants and great extravagance, just the class so quaintly described
by Charlevoix, a quarter of a century previous, as "gentlemen
thoroughly versed in the most elegant and agreeable modes of
spending money, but greatly at a loss how to obtain it."
Among the gay young seigneurs who had been drawn into the vortex of
Bigot's splendid dissipation, was the brave, handsome Le Gardeur de
Repentigny--a captain of the Royal Marine, a Colonial corps recently
embodied at Quebec. In general form and feature Le Gardeur was a
manly reflex of his beautiful sister Amélie, but his countenance was
marred with traces of debauchery. His face was inflamed, and his
dark eyes, so like his sister's, by nature tender and true, were now
glittering with the adder tongues of the cursed wine-serpent.
Taking the cue from Bigot, Le Gardeur responded madly to the
challenges to drink from all around him. Wine was now flooding
every brain, and the table was one scene of riotous debauch.
"Fill up again, Le Gardeur!" exclaimed the Intendant, with a loud
and still clear voice; "the lying clock says it is day--broad day,
but neither cock crows nor day dawns in the Château of Beaumanoir,
save at the will of its master and his merry guests! Fill up,
companions all! The lamplight in the wine-cup is brighter than the
clearest sun that ever shone!"
"Bravo Bigot! name your toast, and we will pledge it till the seven
stars count fourteen!" replied Le Gardeur, looking hazily at the
great clock in the hall. "I see four clocks in the room, and every
one of them lies if it says it is day!"
"You are mending, Le Gardeur de Repentigny! You are worthy to
belong to the Grand Company! But you shall have my toast. We have
drank it twenty times already, but it will stand drinking twenty
times more. It is the best prologue to wine ever devised by wit of
"And the best epilogue too, Bigot!" interjected Varin, visibly
drunk; "but let us have the toast, my cup is waiting."
"Well, fill up all, then; and we will drink the health, wealth, and
love by stealth, of the jolliest dame in sunny France--The Marquise
"La Pompadour! La Pompadour!" Every tongue repeated the name, the
goblets were drained to the bottoms, and a thunder of applause and
clattering of glasses followed the toast of the mistress of Louis
XV., who was the special protectress of the Grand Company,--a goodly
share of whose profits in the monopoly of trade in New France was
thrown into the lap of the powerful favorite.
"Come, Varin! your turn now!" cried Bigot, turning to the Commissary;
"a toast for Ville Marie! Merry Montreal! where they eat like rats
of Poitou, and drink till they ring the fire-bells, as the Bordelais
did to welcome the collectors of the gabelle. The Montrealers have
not rung the fire-bells yet against you, Varin, but they will by and
Varin filled his cup with an unsteady hand until it ran over, and
propping his body against the table as he stood up, replied, "A
toast for Ville Marie! and our friends in need!--The blue caps of
the Richelieu!" This was in allusion to a recent ordinance of the
Intendant, authorizing him to seize all the corn in store at
Montreal and in the surrounding country--under pretence of supplying
the army, and really to secure the monopoly of it for the Grand
The toast was drunk, amid rapturous applause. "Well said, Varin!"
exclaimed Bigot; "that toast implied both business and pleasure: the
business was to sweep out the granges of the farmers; the pleasure
is to drink in honor of your success."
"My foragers sweep clean!" said Varin, resuming his seat, and
looking under his hand to steady his gaze. "Better brooms were
never made in Besançon. The country is swept as clean as a ball-
room. Your Excellency and the Marquise might lead the dance over
it, and not a straw lie in your way!"
"And did you manage it without a fight, Varin?" asked the Sieur
d'Estebe, with a half sneer.
"Fight! Why fight? The habitans will never resist the King's name.
We conjure the devil down with that. When we skin our eels we don't
begin at the tail! If we did, the habitans would be like the eels
of Mélun--cry out before they were hurt. No! no! D'Estebe! We are
more polite in Ville Marie. We tell them the King's troops need the
corn. They doff their caps, and with tears in their eyes, say,
'Monsieur le Commissaire, the King can have all we possess, and
ourselves too, if he will only save Canada from the Bostonnais.'
This is better than stealing the honey and killing the bees that
made it, D'Estebe!"
"But what became of the families of the habitans after this swoop of
your foragers?" asked the Seigneur de Beauce, a country gentleman
who retained a few honorable ideas floating on top of the wine he
"Oh! the families--that is, the women and children, for we took the
men for the army. You see, De Beauce," replied Varin, with a
mocking air, as he crossed his thumbs like a peasant of Languedoc
when he wishes to inspire belief in his words, "the families have to
do what the gentlemen of Beauce practise in times of scarcity--
breakfast by gaping! or they can eat wind, like the people of
Poitou: it will make them spit clean!"
De Beauce was irritated at the mocking sign and the proverbial
allusion to the gaping of the people of Beauce. He started up in
wrath, and striking his fist on the table, "Monsieur Varin!" cried
he, "do not cross your thumbs at me, or I will cut them off! Let me
tell you the gentlemen of Beauce do not breakfast on gaping, but
have plenty of corn to stuff even a Commissary of Montreal!"
The Sieur Le Mercier, at a sign from Bigot, interposed to stop the
rising quarrel. "Don't mind Varin," said he, whispering to De
Beauce; "he is drunk, and a row will anger the Intendant. Wait, and
by and by you shall toast Varin as the chief baker of Pharoah, who
got hanged because he stole the King's corn."
"As he deserves to be, for his insult to the gentlemen of Beauce,"
insinuated Bigot, leaning over to his angry guest, at the same time
winking good-humoredly to Varin. "Come, now, De Beauce, friends
all, amantium irae, you know--which is Latin for love--and I will
sing you a stave in praise of this good wine, which is better than
Bacchus ever drank." The Intendant rose up, and holding a brimming
glass in his hand, chanted in full, musical voice a favorite ditty
of the day, as a ready mode of restoring harmony among the company:
"'Amis! dans ma bouteille,
Voilà le vin de France!
C'est le bon vin qui danse ici,
C'est le bon vin qui danse.
Gai lon la!
Vive la lirette!
Il y en aura!'
Vivent les Filettes! The girls of Quebec--first in beauty, last in
love, and nowhere in scorn of a gallant worthy of them!" continued
Bigot. "What say you, De Pean? Are you not prepared to toast the
belles of Quebec?"
"That I am, your Excellency!" De Pean was unsteady upon his feet,
as he rose to respond to the Intendant's challenge. He pot-
valiantly drew his sword, and laid it on the table. "I will call on
the honorable company to drink this toast on their knees, and there
is my sword to cut the legs off any gentleman who will not kneel
down and drink a full cup to the bright eyes of the belle of Quebec--
The incomparable Angélique des Meloises!"
The toast suited their mood. Every one filled up his cup in honor
of a beauty so universally admired.
"Kneel down, all," cried the Intendant, "or De Pean will hamstring
us!" All knelt down with a clash--some of them unable to rise
again. "We will drink to the Angélique charms of the fair Des
Meloises. Come now, all together!--as the jolly Dutchmen of Albany
say, 'Upp seys over!'"
Such of the company as were able resumed their seats amid great
laughter and confusion, when the Sieur Deschenaux, a reckless young
gallant, ablaze with wine and excitement, stood up, leaning against
the table. His fingers dabbled in his wine-cup as he addressed
them, but he did not notice it.
"We have drunk with all the honors," said he, "to the bright eyes of
the belle of Quebec. I call on every gentleman now, to drink to the
still brighter eyes of the belle of New France!"
"Who is she? Name! name!" shouted a dozen voices; "who is the belle
of New France?"
"Who is she? Why, who can she be but the fair Angélique, whom we
have just honored?" replied De Pean, hotly, jealous of any
precedence in that quarter.
"Tut!" cried Deschenaux, "you compare glowworms with evening stars,
when you pretend to match Angélique des Meloises with the lady I
propose to honor! I call for full brimmers--cardinal's hats--in
honor of the belle of New France--the fair Amélie de Repentigny!"
Le Gardeur de Repentigny was sitting leaning on his elbow, his
face beaming with jollity, as he waited, with a full cup, for
Deschenaux's toast. But no sooner did he hear the name of his
sister from those lips than he sprang up as though a serpent had
bit him. He hurled his goblet at the head of Deschenaux with a
fierce imprecation, and drew his sword as he rushed towards him.
"A thousand lightnings strike you! How dare you pollute that holy
name, Deschenaux? Retract that toast instantly, or you shall drink
it in blood--retract, I say!"
The guests rose to their feet in terrible uproar. Le Gardeur
struggled violently to break through a number of those who
interposed between him and Deschenaux, who, roused to frenzy by the
insult from Le Gardeur, had also drawn his sword, and stood ready to
receive the assault of his antagonist.
The Intendant, whose courage and presence of mind never forsook him,
pulled Deschenaux down upon his seat and held fast his sword arm,
shouting in his ear,--
"Are you mad, Deschenaux? You knew she was his sister, and how he
worships her! Retract the toast--it was inopportune! Besides,
recollect we want to win over De Repentigny to the Grand Company!"
Deschenaux struggled for a minute, but the influence of the
Intendant was all-powerful over him. He gave way. "Damn De
Repentigny," said he, "I only meant to do honor to the pretty witch.
Who would have expected him to take it up in that manner?"
"Any one who knows him; besides," continued the Intendant, "if you
must toast his sister, wait till we get him body and soul made over
to the Grand Company, and then he will care no more for his sister's
fame than you do for yours."
"But the insult! He has drawn blood with the goblet," said
Deschenaux, wiping his forehead with his fingers; "I cannot pardon
"Tut, tut; fight him another day. But you shall not fight here!
Cadet and Le Mercier have pinned the young Bayard, I see; so you
have a chance to do the honorable; Deschenaux; go to him, retract
the toast, and say you had forgotten the fair lady was his sister."
Deschenaux swallowed his wrath, rose up, and sheathed his sword.
Taking the Intendant by the arm, he went up to Le Gardeur, who was
still trying to advance. Deschenaux held up his hand deprecatingly.
"Le Gardeur," said he, with an air of apparent contrition, "I was
wrong to offer that toast. I had forgotten the fair lady was your
sister. I retract the toast, since it is disagreeable to you,
although all would have been proud to drink it."
Le Gardeur was as hard to appease as he was easy to excite to anger.
He still held his drawn sword in his hand.
"Come!" cried Bigot, "you are as hard to please as Villiers Vendôme,
whom the King himself could not satisfy. Deschenaux says he is
sorry. A gentleman cannot say more; so shake hands and be friends,
Impervious to threats, and often to reason, Le Gardeur could not
resist an appeal to his generosity.
He sheathed his sword, and held out his hand with frank forgiveness.
"Your apology is ample, Sieur Deschenaux. I am satisfied you meant
no affront to my sister! It is my weak point, messieurs," continued
he, looking firmly at the company, ready to break out had he
detected the shadow of a sneer upon any one's countenance. "I honor
her as I do the queen of heaven. Neither of their names ought to be
"Well said! Le Gardeur," exclaimed the Intendant. "That's right,
shake hands, and be friends again. Blessed are quarrels that lead
to reconciliation and the washing out of feuds in wine. Take your
There was a general scramble back to the table. Bigot stood up in
"Valets!" cried he, "bring in now the largest cups! We will drink a
toast five fathoms deep, in water of life strong enough to melt
Cleopatra's pearls, and to a jollier dame than Egypt's queen. But
first we will make Le Gardeur de Repentigny free of the guild of
noble partners of the company of adventurers trading in New France."
The valets flew in and out. In a few moments the table was
replenished with huge drinking-cups, silver flagons, and all the
heavy impedimenta of the army of Bacchus.
"You are willing to become one of us, and enter the jolly guild of
the Grand Company?" exclaimed the Intendant, taking Le Gardeur by
"Yes, I am a stranger, and you may take me in. I claim admission,"
replied Le Gardeur with drunken gravity, "and by St. Pigot! I will
be true to the guild!"
Bigot kissed him on both cheeks. "By the boot of St. Benoit! you
speak like the King of Yvetot. Le Gardeur de Repentigny, you are
fit to wear fur in the Court of Burgundy."
"You can measure my foot, Bigot," replied Le Gardeur, "and satisfy
the company that I am able to wear the boot of St. Benoit."
"By jolly St. Chinon! and you shall wear it, Le Gardeur," exclaimed
Bigot, handing him a quart flagon of wine, which Le Gardeur drank
without drawing breath. "That boot fits," shouted the Intendant
exultingly; "now for the chant! I will lead. Stop the breath of
any one who will not join in the chorus."
The Intendant in great voice led off a macaronic verse of Molière,
that had often made merry the orgies of Versailles:
"'Bene, bene, bene, respondere!
Dignus, dignus es, entrare
In nostro laeto corpore!'"
A tintamarre of voices and a jingle of glasses accompanied the
violins and tambours de Basque as the company stood up and sang the
song, winding up with a grand burst at the chorus:
"'Vivat! vivat! vivat! cent fois vivat!
Novus socius qui tam bene parlat!
Mille mille annis et manget et bibat,
Fripet et friponnat!'"
Hands were shaken all round, congratulations, embracings, and filthy
kisses showered upon Le Gardeur to honor his admission as a partner
of the Grand Company.
"And now," continued Bigot, "we will drink a draught long as the
bell rope of Notre Dame. Fill up brimmers of the quintessence of
the grape, and drain them dry in honor of the Friponne!"
The name was electric. It was, in the country, a word of
opprobrium, but at Beaumanoir it was laughed at with true Gallic
nonchalance. Indeed, to show their scorn of public opinion, the
Grand Company had lately launched a new ship upon the Great Lakes to
carry on the fur trade, and had appropriately and mockingly named
her, "La Friponne."
The toast of La Friponne was drunk with applause, followed by a wild
The Sieur Morin had been a merchant in Bordeaux whose bond was held
in as little value as his word. He had lately removed to New
France, transferred the bulk of his merchandise to the Friponne,
and become an active agent of the Grand Company.
"La Friponne!" cried he; "I have drunk success to her with all my
heart and throat; but I say she will never wear a night-cap and
sleep quietly in our arms until we muzzle the Golden Dog that barks
by night and by day in the Rue Buade."
"That is true, Morin!", interrupted Varin. "The Grand Company will
never know peace until we send the Bourgeois, his master, back to
the Bastille. The Golden Dog is--"
"Damn the Golden Dog!" exclaimed Bigot, passionately. "Why do you
utter his name, Varin, to sour our wine? I hope one day to pull
down the Dog, as well as the whole kennel of the insolent
Bourgeois." Then, as was his wont, concealing his feelings under a
mocking gibe, "Varin," said he, "they say that it is your marrow
bone the Golden Dog is gnawing--ha! ha! ha!"
"More people believe it is your Excellency's!" Varin knew he was
right, but aware of Bigot's touchiness on that point, added, as is
the wont of panders to great men, "It is either yours or the
"Let it be the Cardinal's, then! He is still in purgatory, and
there will wait the arrival of the Bourgeois, to balance accounts
Bigot hated the Bourgeois Philibert as one hates the man he has
injured. Bigot had been instrumental in his banishment years ago
from France, when the bold Norman count defended the persecuted
Jansenists in the Parliament of Rouen. The Intendant hated him now
for his wealth and prosperity in New France. But his wrath turned
to fury when he saw the tablet of the Golden Dog, with its taunting
inscription, glaring upon the front of the magazine in the Rue
Buade. Bigot felt the full meaning and significance of the words
that burned into his soul, and for which he hoped one day to be
"Confusion to the whole litter of the Golden Dog, and that is the
party of the Honnêtes Gens!" cried he. "But for that canting savant
who plays the Governor here, I would pull down the sign and hang its
master up in its stead to-morrow!"
The company now grew still more hilarious and noisy in their cups.
Few paid attention to what the Intendant was saying. But De
Repentigny heard him utter the words, "Oh, for men who dare do men's
deeds!" He caught the eye of De Repentigny, and added, "But we are
all cowards in the Grand Company, and are afraid of the Bourgeois."
The wine was bubbling in the brain of Le Gardeur. He scarcely knew
what the Intendant said, but he caught the last words.
"Whom do you call cowards, Chevalier? I have joined the Grand
Company. If the rest are cowards, I am not: I stand ready to pluck
the peruke off the head of any man in New France, and carry it on my
sword to the Place d' Armes, where I will challenge all the world to
come and take it!"
"Pish! that is nothing! give me man's work. I want to see the
partner in the Grand Company who dare pull down the Golden Dog."
"I dare! and I dare!" exclaimed a dozen voices at once in response
to the appeal of the Intendant, who craftily meant his challenge to
ensnare only Le Gardeur.
"And I dare; and I will, too, if you wish it, Chevalier!" shouted Le
Gardeur, mad with wine, and quite oblivious of the thousand claims
of the father of his friend, Pierre Philibert, upon him.
"I take you at your word, Le Gardeur! and bind your honor to it in
the presence of all these gentlemen," said Bigot with a look of
"When shall it be done--to-day?" Le Gardeur seemed ready to pluck
the moon from the sky in his present state of ecstasy.
"Why, no, not to-day; not before the pear is ripe will we pluck it!
Your word of honor will keep till then?"
Bigot was in great glee over the success of his stratagem to entrap
"It will keep a thousand years!" replied Le Gardeur, amid a fresh
outburst of merriment round the board which culminated in a
shameless song, fit only for a revel of satyrs.
The Sieur Cadet lolled lazily in his chair, his eyes blinking with a
sleepy leer. "We are getting stupidly drunk. Bigot," said he; "we
want something new to rouse us all to fresh life. Will you let me
offer a toast?"
"Go on, Cadet! offer what toast you please. There is nothing in
heaven, hell, or upon earth that I won't drink to for your sake."
"I want you to drink it on your knees, Bigot! pledge me that, and
fill your biggest cup."
"We will drink it on all fours if you like! come, out with your
toast, Cadet; you are as long over it as Father Glapion's sermon in
Lent! and it will be as interesting, I dare say!"
"Well, Chevalier, the Grand Company, after toasting all the beauties
of Quebec, desire to drink the health of the fair mistress of
Beaumanoir, and in her presence too!" said Cadet with owlish
Bigot started; drunk and reckless as he was, he did not like his
secret to be divulged. He was angry with Cadet for referring to it
in the presence of so many who knew not that a strange lady was
residing at Beaumanoir. He was too thoroughly a libertine of the
period to feel any moral compunction for any excess he committed.
He was habitually more ready to glory over his conquests, than to
deny or extenuate them. But in this case he had, to the surprise of
Cadet, been very reticent, and shy of speaking of this lady even to
"They say she is a miracle of beauty, Bigot!" continued Cadet, "and
that you are so jealous of the charms of your belle Gabrielle that
you are afraid to show her to your best friends."
"My belle Gabrielle is at liberty to go where she pleases, Cadet!"
Bigot saw the absurdity of anger, but he felt it, nevertheless.
"She chooses not to leave her bower, to look even on you, Cadet! I
warrant you she has not slept all night, listening to your infernal
"Then, I hope you will allow us to go and beg pardon on our knees
for disturbing her rest. What say the good company?"
"Agreed, agreed!" was the general response, and all pressed the
Intendant vociferously to allow them to see the fair mistress of
Varin, however, proposed that she should be brought into the hall.
"Send her to us, O King," cried he; "we are nobles of Persia, and
this is Shushan the palace, where we carouse according to the law of
the Medes, seven days at a stretch. Let the King bring in Queen
Vashti, to show her beauty to the princes and nobles of his court!"
Bigot, too full of wine to weigh scruples, yielded to the wish of
his boon companions. He rose from his chair, which in his absence
was taken by Cadet. "Mind!" said he, "if I bring her in, you shall
show her every respect."
"We will kiss the dust of her feet," answered Cadet, "and consider
you the greatest king of a feast in New France or Old."
Bigot, without further parley, passed out of the hall, traversed a
long corridor and entered an anteroom, where he found Dame Tremblay,
the old housekeeper, dozing on her chair. He roused her up, and
bade her go to the inner chamber to summon her mistress.
The housekeeper rose in a moment at the voice of the Intendant. She
was a comely dame, with a ruddy cheek, and an eye in her head that
looked inquisitively at her master as she arranged her cap and threw
back her rather gay ribbons.
"I want your mistress up in the great hall! Go summon her at once,"
repeated the Intendant.
The housekeeper courtesied, but pressed her lips together as if to
prevent them from speaking in remonstrance. She went at once on her
CAROLINE DE ST. CASTIN.
Dame Tremblay entered the suite of apartments and returned in a few
moments, saying that her lady was not there, but had gone down to
the secret chamber, to be, she supposed, more out of hearing of the
noise, which had disturbed her so much.
"I will go find her then," replied the Intendant; "you may return to
your own room, dame."
He walked across the drawing-room to one of the gorgeous panels that
decorated the wall, and touched a hidden spring. A door flew open,
disclosing a stair heavily carpeted that led down to the huge
vaulted foundations of the Château.
He descended the stair with hasty though unsteady steps. It led to
a spacious room, lighted with a gorgeous lamp that hung pendant in
silver chains from the frescoed ceiling. The walls were richly
tapestried with products of the looms of the Gobelins, representing
the plains of Italy filled with sunshine, where groves, temples, and
colonnades were pictured in endless vistas of beauty. The furniture
of the chamber was of regal magnificence. Nothing that luxury could
desire, or art furnish, had been spared in its adornment. On a sofa
lay a guitar, and beside it a scarf and a dainty glove fit for the
hand of the fairy queen.
The Intendant looked eagerly round, as he entered this bright
chamber of his fancy, but saw not its expected occupant. A recess
in the deep wall at the farthest side of the room contained an
oratory with an altar and a crucifix upon it. The recess was partly
in the shade. But the eyes of the Intendant discerned clearly
enough the kneeling, or rather the prostrate, figure of Caroline de
St. Castin. Her hands were clasped beneath her head, which was
bowed to the ground. Her long, black hair lay dishevelled over her
back, as she lay in her white robe like the Angel of Sorrow, weeping
and crying from the depths of her broken heart, "Lamb of God, that
taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me!" She was so
absorbed in her grief that she did not notice the entrance of the
Bigot stood still for a moment, stricken with awe at the spectacle
of this lovely woman weeping by herself in the secret chamber. A
look of something like pity stole into his eyes; he called her by
name, ran to her, assisted her to rise, which she did, slowly
turning towards him that weeping, Madonna-like face which haunts the
ruins of Beaumanoir to this day.
She was of medium stature, slender and lissome, looking taller
than she really was. Her features were chiselled with exquisite
delicacy; her hair of a raven blackness, and eyes of that dark
lustre which reappears for generations in the descendants of
Europeans who have mingled their blood with that of the aborigines
of the forest. The Indian eye is preserved as an heirloom, long
after all memory of the red stain has vanished from the traditions
of the family. Her complexion was pale, naturally of a rich olive,
but now, through sorrow, of a wan and bloodless hue--still very
beautiful, and more appealing than the rosiest complexion.
Caroline de St. Castin was an Acadienne of ancient and noble family,
whose head and founder, the Baron de St. Castin, had married the
beautiful daughter of the high chief of the Abenaquais.
Her father's house, one of the most considerable in the Colony, had
been the resort of the royal officers, civil and military, serving
in Acadia. Caroline, the only daughter of the noble house, had been
reared in all the refinements and luxuries of the period, as became
her rank and position both in France and her native Province.
In an evil hour for her happiness this beautiful and accomplished
girl met the Chevalier Bigot, who as Chief Commissary of the Army,
was one of the foremost of the royal officers in Acadia.
His ready wit and graceful manners pleased and flattered the
susceptible girl, not used to the seductions of the polished
courtesies of the mother-land of France. She was of a joyous
temper--gay, frank, and confiding. Her father, immersed in public
affairs, left her much to herself, nor, had he known it, would he
have disapproved of the gallant courtesies of the Chevalier Bigot.
For the Baron had the soul of honor, and dreamt every gentleman as
well as himself possessed it.
Bigot, to do him justice, felt as sincere a regard for this
beautiful, amiable girl as his nature was capable of entertaining.
In rank and fortune she was more than his equal, and left to
himself, he would willingly have married her. Before he learned
that his project of a marriage in the Colony was scouted at Court he
had already offered his love to Caroline de St. Castin, and won
easily the gentle heart that was but too well disposed to receive
Her trust went with her love. Earth was never so green, nor air so
sweet, nor skies so bright and azure, as those of Caroline's wooing,
on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Minas. She loved this man
with a passion that filled with ecstasy her whole being. She
trusted his promises as she would have trusted God's. She loved him
better than she loved herself--better than she loved God, or God's
law; and counted as a gain every loss she suffered for his sake, and
for the affection she bore him.
After some months spent in her charming society, a change came over
Bigot. He received formidable missives from his great patroness at
Versailles, the Marquise de Pompadour, who had other matrimonial
designs for him. Bigot was too slavish a courtier to resent her
interference, nor was he honest enough to explain his position to
his betrothed. He deferred his marriage. The exigencies of the war
called him away. He had triumphed over a fond, confiding woman; but
he had been trained among the dissolute spirits of the Regency too
thoroughly to feel more than a passing regret for a woman whom,
probably, he loved better than any other of the victims of his
When he finally left Acadia a conquered province in the hands of the
English, he also left behind him the one true, loving heart that
believed in his honor and still prayed for his happiness.
The days of Caroline's disillusion soon came; she could not conceal
from herself that she had been basely deceived and abandoned by the
man she loved so ardently. She learned that Bigot had been elevated
to the high office of Intendant of New France, but felt herself as
utterly forgotten by him as the rose that had bloomed and withered
in her garden two summers ago.
Her father had been summoned to France on the loss of the Colony;
and fearing to face him on his return, Caroline suddenly left her
home and sought refuge in the forest among her far-off kindred, the
The Indians welcomed her with joy and unbounded respect, recognizing
her right to their devotion and obedience. They put upon her feet
the moccasins of their tribe, and sent her, with a trusty escort,
through the wilderness to Quebec, where she hoped to find the
Intendant, not to reproach him for his perfidy,--her gentle heart
was too much subdued for that,--but to claim his protection, and if
refused, to die at his door.
It was under such circumstances that the beautiful, highborn
Caroline de St. Castin became an inmate of Beaumanoir. She had
passed the night of this wild debauch in a vigil of prayers, tears,
and lamentations over her sad lot and over the degradation of Bigot
by the life which she now knew he led. Sometimes her maddened fancy
was ready to accuse Providence itself of cruelty and injustice;
sometimes, magnifying her own sin, she was ready to think all
earthly punishment upon herself as too light, and invoked death and
judgment as alone adequate to her fault. All night she had knelt
before the altar, asking for mercy and forgiveness,--sometimes
starting to her feet in terror, as a fresh burst of revelry came
rushing from the great hall above, and shook the door of her secret
chamber. But no one came to her help, no one looked in upon her
desolation. She deemed herself utterly forgotten and forsaken of
God and man.
Occasionally she fancied she could distinguish the voice of the
Intendant amid the drunken uproar, and she shuddered at the
infatuation which bound her very soul to this man; and yet when she
questioned her heart, she knew that, base as he was, all she had
done and suffered for him she would infallibly do again. Were her
life to live over, she would repeat the fault of loving this false,
ungrateful man. The promise of marriage had been equivalent to
marriage in her trust of him, and nothing but death could now
divorce her from him.
Hour after hour passed by, each seeming an age of suffering. Her
feelings were worked up to frenzy: she fancied she heard her
father's angry voice calling her by name, or she heard accusing
angels jeering at her fall. She sank prostrate at last, in the
abandonment of despair, calling upon God to put an end to her
Bigot raised her from the floor, with words of pity and sympathy.
She turned on him a look of gratitude which, had he been of stone,
he must have felt. But Bigot's words meant less than she fancied.
He was still too intoxicated to reflect, or to feel shame of his
"Caroline!" said he, "what do you here? This is the time to make
merry--not to pray! The honorable company in the great hall desire
to pay their respects to the lady of Beaumanoir--come with me!"
He drew her hand through his arm with a courtly grace that seldom
forsook him, even in his worst moments. Caroline looked at him
in a dazed manner, not comprehending his request. "Go with you,
François? You know I will, but where?"
"To the great hall," repeated he; "my worthy guests desire to see
you, and to pay their respects to the fair lady of Beaumanoir."
It flashed upon her mind what he wanted. Her womanly pride was
outraged as it had never been before; she withdrew her hand from his
arm with shame and terror stamped on every feature.
"Go up there! Go to show myself to your guests!" exclaimed she,
with choking accents, as she stepped back a pace from him. "Oh,
François Bigot, spare me that shame and humiliation! I am, I know,
contemptible beyond human respect, but still--God help me!--I am not
so vile as to be made a spectacle of infamy to those drunken men
whom I hear clamoring for me, even now."
"Pshaw! You think too much of the proprieties, Caroline!" Bigot
felt sensibly perplexed at the attitude she assumed. "Why! The
fairest dames of Paris, dressed as Hebes and Ganymedes, thought it a
fine jest to wait on the Regent Duke of Orleans and the Cardinal du
Bois in the gay days of the King's bachelorhood, and they do the
same now when the King gets up one of his great feasts at Choisy; so
come, sweetheart--come!" He drew her towards the door.
"Spare me, François!" Caroline knelt at his feet, clasping his
hand, and bathing it in tears--"Spare me!" cried she. "Oh, would to
God I had died ere you came to command me to do what I cannot and
will not do, François!" added she, clasping hard the hand of the
Intendant, which she fancied relaxed somewhat of its iron hardness.
"I did not come to command you, Caroline, but to bear the request of
my guests. No, I do not even ask you on my account to go up to the
great hall: it is to please my guests only." Her tears and
heartrending appeal began to sober him. Bigot had not counted on
such a scene as this.
"Oh, thanks, François, for that word! You did not come to command
my obedience in such a shameful thing: you had some small regard
left for the unfortunate Caroline. Say you will not command me to
go up there," added she, looking at him with eyes of pitiful
pleading, such as no Italian art ever portrayed on the face of the
"No," he replied, impatiently. "It was not I proposed it: it was
Cadet. He is always a fool when the wine overflows, as I am too, or
I would not have hearkened to him! Still, Caroline, I have
promised, and my guests will jeer me finely if I return without
you." He thought she hesitated a moment in her resolve at this
suggestion. "Come, for my sake, Caroline! Do up that disordered
hair; I shall be proud of you, my Caroline; there is not a lady in
New France can match you when you look yourself, my pretty Caroline!"
"François," said she, with a sad smile, "it is long since you
flattered me thus! But I will arrange my hair for you alone," added
she, blushing, as with deft fingers she twisted her raven locks into
a coronal about her head. "I would once have gone with you to the
end of the world to hear you say you were proud of me. Alas! you
can never be proud of me any more, as in the old happy days at Grand
Pré. Those few brief days of love and joy can never return--never,
Bigot stood silent, not knowing what to say or do. The change from
the bacchanalian riot in the great hall to the solemn pathos and woe
of the secret chamber sobered him rapidly. Even his obduracy gave
way at last. "Caroline," said he, taking both her hands in his, "I
will not urge you longer. I am called bad, and you think me so; but
I am not brutal. It was a promise made over the wine. Varin, the
drunken beast, called you Queen Vashti, and challenged me to show
your beauty to them; and I swore not one of their toasted beauties
could match my fair Acadienne."
"Did the Sieur Varin call me Queen Vashti? Alas! he was a truer
prophet than he knew," replied she, with ineffable sadness. "Queen
Vashti refused to obey even her king, when commanded to unveil her
face to the drunken nobles. She was deposed, and another raised to
her place. Such may be my fate, François."
"Then you will not go, Caroline?"
"No; kill me if you like, and bear my dead body into the hall, but
living, I can never show my face again before men--hardly before
you, François," added she, blushing, as she hid her tearful eyes on
"Well then, Caroline," replied, he, really admiring her spirit and
resolution, "they shall finish their carouse without seeing you.
The wine has flowed to-night in rivers, but they shall swim in it
"And tears have flowed down here," said she, sadly,--"oh, so bitter!
May you never taste their bitterness, François!"
Bigot paced the chamber with steadier steps than he had entered it.
The fumes were clearing from his brain; the song that had caught the
ear of Colonel Philibert as he approached the Château was resounding
at this moment. As it ceased Bigot heard the loud impatient
knocking of Philibert at the outer door.
"Darling!" said he, "lie down now, and compose yourself. François
Bigot is not unmindful of your sacrifices for his sake. I must
return to my guests, who are clamoring for me, or rather for you,
He kissed her cheek and turned to leave her, but she clung to his
hand as if wanting to say something more ere he went. She trembled
visibly as her low plaintive tones struck his ear.
"François! if you would forsake the companionship of those men and
purify your table of such excess, God's blessing would yet descend
upon you, and the people's love follow you! It is in your power to
be as good as you are great! I have many days wished to say this to
you, but alas, I feared you too much. I do not fear you to-day,
François, after your kind words to me."
Bigot was not impenetrable to that low voice so full of pathos and
love. But he was at a loss what to reply: strange influences were
flowing round him, carrying him out of himself. He kissed the
gentle head that reclined on his bosom. "Caroline," said he, "your
advice is wise and good as yourself. I will think of it for your
sake, if not for my own. Adieu, darling! Go, and take rest: these
cruel vigils are killing you, and I want you to live in hope of
"I will," replied she, looking up with ineffable tenderness. "I am
sure I shall rest after your kind words, François. No dew of Heaven
was ever more refreshing than the balm they bring to my weary soul.
Thanks, O my François, for them!" She kissed his lips, and Bigot
left the secret chamber a sadder and for the moment a better man
than he had ever been before.
Caroline, overcome by her emotions, threw herself on a couch,
invoking blessings upon the head of the man by whom she had been
so cruelly betrayed. But such is woman's heart--full of mercy,
compassion, and pardon for every wrong, when love pleads for
"Ha! ha!" said Cadet, as the Intendant re-entered the great hall,
which was filled with bacchanalian frenzy. "Ha! ha! His Excellency
has proposed and been rejected! The fair lady has a will of her own
and won't obey! Why, the Intendant looks as if he had come from
Quintin Corentin, where nobody gets anything he wants!"
"Silence, Cadet! don't be a fool!" replied Bigot, impatiently,
although in the Intendant's usual mood nothing too gross or too bad
could be said in his presence but he could cap it with something
"Fool, Bigot! It is you who have been the fool of a woman!" Cadet
was privileged to say anything, and he never stinted his speech.
"Confess, your Excellency! she is splay-footed as St. Pedauque of
Dijon! She dare not trip over our carpet for fear of showing her
Cadet's coarse remark excited the mirth of the Intendant. The
influences of the great hall were more powerful than those of the
secret chamber. He replied curtly, however,--"I have excused the
lady from coming, Cadet. She is ill, or she does not please to
come, or she has a private fancy of her own to nurse--any reason is
enough to excuse a lady, or for a gentleman to cease pressing her."
"Dear me!" muttered Cadet, "the wind blows fresh from a new quarter!
It is easterly, and betokens a storm!" and with drunken gravity he
commenced singing a hunting refrain of Louis XIV.:
"'Sitot qu'il voit sa Chienne
Il quitte tout pour elle."'
Bigot burst out into immoderate laughter. "Cadet," said he, "you
are, when drunk, the greatest ruffian in Christendom, and the
biggest knave when sober. Let the lady sleep in peace, while we
drink ourselves blind in her honor. Bring in brandy, valets, and we
will not look for day until midnight booms on the old clock of the
The loud knocking of Philibert in the great hall reverberated again
and again through the house. Bigot bade the valets go see who
disturbed the Château in that bold style.
"Let no one in!" added he "'tis against the rule to open the doors
when the Grand Company are met for business! Take whips, valets,
and scourge the insolent beggars away. Some miserable habitans, I
warrant, whining for the loss of their eggs and bacon taken by the
A servant returned with a card on a silver salver. "An officer in
uniform waits to see your Excellency: he brings orders from the
Governor," said he to the Intendant.
Bigot looked at the card with knitted brows; fire sparkled in his
eyes as he read the name.
"Colonel Philibert!" exclaimed he, "Aide-de-Camp of the Governor!
What the fiend brings HIM at such a time? Do you hear?" continued
he, turning to Varin. "It is your friend from Louisbourg, who was
going to put you in irons, and send you to France for trial when the
mutinous garrison threatened to surrender the place if we did not
Varin was not so intoxicated but the name of Philibert roused his
anger. He set his cup down with a bang upon the table. "I will not
taste a drop more till he is gone," said he; "curse Galissonière's
crooked neck--could he not have selected a more welcome messenger to
send to Beaumanoir? But I have got his name in my list of debtors,
and he shall pay up one day for his insolence at Louisbourg."
"Tut, tut, shut up your books! you are too mercantile for gentlemen,"
replied Bigot. "The question is, shall we allow Colonel Philibert
to bring his orders into the hall? Par Dieu! we are scarcely
But whether presentable or no, the words were scarcely spoken, when,
impatient at the delay, Philibert took advantage of the open door
and entered the great hall. He stood in utter amazement for a
moment at the scene of drunken riot which he beheld. The inflamed
faces, the confusion of tongues, the disorder, filth, and stench of
the prolonged debauch sickened him, while the sight of so many men
of rank and high office revelling at such an hour raised a feeling
of indignation which he had difficulty in keeping down while he
delivered his message to the Intendant.
Bigot, however, was too shrewd to be wanting in politeness.
"Welcome, Colonel Philibert," said he; "you are an unexpected guest,
but a welcome one! Come and taste the hospitality of Beaumanoir
before you deliver your message. Bustle, valets, bring fresh cups
and the fullest carafes for Colonel Philibert."
"Thanks for your politeness, Chevalier! Your Excellency will please
excuse me if I deliver my message at once. My time is not my own
to-day, so I will not sit down. His Excellency the Governor desires
your presence and that of the Royal Commissaries at the council of
war this afternoon. Despatches have just arrived by the Fleur-de-
Lis from home, and the council must assemble at once."
A red flush rested upon the brow of Philibert as in his mind he
measured the important business of the council with the fitness of
the men whom he summoned to attend it. He declined the offer of
wine, and stepped backward from the table, with a bow to the
Intendant and the company, and was about to depart, when a loud
voice on the further side of the table cried out,--
"It is he, by all that is sacred! Pierre Philibert! wait!" Le
Gardeur de Repentigny rushed like a storm through the hall,
upsetting chairs and guests in his advance. He ran towards Colonel
Philibert, who, not recognizing the flushed face and disordered
figure that greeted him, shrank back from his embrace.
"My God! do you not know me, Pierre?" exclaimed Le Gardeur, wounded
to the quick by the astonished look of his friend. "I am Le Gardeur
de Repentigny! O dear friend, look and recognize me!"
Philibert stood transfixed with surprise and pain, as if an arrow
had stricken his eyes. "You! you Le Gardeur de Repentigny? It is
impossible! Le Gardeur never looked like you--much less, was ever
found among people like these!" The last words were rashly spoken,
but fortunately not heard amid the hubbub in the hall, or
Philibert's life might have paid the penalty from the excited
"And yet it is true; Pierre, look at me again. I am no other than
he whom you drew out of the St. Lawrence, the only brother of
Philibert looked hard in the eyes of Le Gardeur, and doubted no
longer. He pressed his old friend to his heart, saying, in a voice
full of pathos,--
"O Le Gardeur! I recognize you now, but under what change of look
and place! Often have I forecast our meeting again, but it was in
your pure, virtuous home of Tilly, not in this place. What do you
here, Le Gardeur?"
"Forgive me, Pierre, for the shame of meeting me here." Le Gardeur
stood up like a new man in the glance of his friend; the shock
seemed to have sobered him at once. "'What do I do here?' say you,
O dear friend!" said he, glancing round the hall, "it is easier seen
than told what I do here. But by all the saints, I have finished
here for to-day! You return to the city at once, Pierre?"
"At once, Le Gardeur. The Governor awaits my return."
"Then I will return with you. My dear aunt and sister are in the
city. News of their arrival reached me here; my duty was to return
at once, but the Intendant's wine-cups were too potent for me--curse
them, for they have disgraced me in your eyes, Pierre, as well as my
Philibert started at the information that Amélie was in the city.
"Amélie in the city?" repeated he, with glad surprise, "I did not
expect to be able to salute her and the noble Lady de Tilly so
soon." His heart bounded in secret at the prospect of again seeing
this fair girl, who had filled his thoughts for so many years and
been the secret spring of so much that was noble and manly in his
"Come, Le Gardeur, let us take leave of the Intendant, and return at
once to the city, but not in that plight!" added he, smiling, as Le
Gardeur, oblivious of all but the pleasure of accompanying him,
grasped his arm to leave the great hall. "Not in that garb, Le
Gardeur! Bathe, purify, and clean yourself; I will wait outside in
the fresh air. The odor of this room stifles me!"
"You are not going to leave us, Le Gardeur!" Varin called, across
the table, "and break up good company? Wait till we finish a few
more rounds, and we will all go together."
"I have finished all the rounds for to-day, Varin, may be forever!
Colonel Philibert is my dearest friend in life; I must leave even
you to go with him, so pray excuse me."
"You are excused, Le Gardeur." Bigot spoke very courteously to him,
much as he disliked the idea of his companionship with Philibert.
"We must all return by the time the Cathedral bells chime noon.
Take one parting cup before you go, Le Gardeur, and prevail on
Colonel Philibert to do the same, or he will not praise our
hospitality, I fear."
"Not one drop more this day, were it from Jove's own poculum!" Le
Gardeur repelled the temptation more readily as he felt a twitch on
his sleeve from the hand of Philibert.
"Well, as you will, Le Gardeur; we have all had enough and over, I
dare say. Ha! ha! Colonel Philibert rather puts us to the blush,
or would were not our cheeks so well-painted in the hues of rosy
Philibert, with official courtesy, bade adieu to the Intendant and
the company. A couple of valets waited upon Le Gardeur, whom they
assisted to bathe and dress. In a short time he left the Château
almost sobered, and wholly metamorphosed into a handsome, fresh
chevalier. A perverse redness about the eyes alone remained, to
tell the tale of the last night's debauch.
Master Pothier sat on a horse-block at the door with all the gravity
of a judge, while he waited for the return of Colonel Philibert and
listened to the lively noise in the Château, the music, song, and
jingle of glass forming a sweet concert in the ears of the jolly old
"I shall not need you to guide me back, Master Pothier," said
Philibert, as he put some silver pieces in his hollow palm; "take
your fee. The cause is gained, is it not, Le Gardeur?" He glanced
triumphantly at his friend.
"Good-by, Master Pothier," said he, as he rode off with Le Gardeur.
The old notary could not keep up with them, but came jolting on
behind, well pleased to have leisure to count and jingle his coins.
Master Pothier was in that state of joyful anticipation when hope
outruns realization. He already saw himself seated in the old
armchair in the snug parlor of Dame Bédard's inn, his back to the
fire, his belly to the table, a smoking dish of roast in the middle,
an ample trencher before him with a bottle of Cognac on one flank
and a jug of Norman cider on the other, an old crony or two to eat
and drink with him, and the light foot and deft hand of pretty Zoë
Bédard to wait upon them.
This picture of perfect bliss floated before the winking eyes of
Master Pothier, and his mouth watered in anticipation of his Eden,
not of flowers and trees, but of tables, cups, and platters, with
plenty to fill them, and to empty them as well.
"A worthy gentleman and a brave officer, I warrant!" said Pothier,
as he jogged along. "He is generous as a prince, and considerate as
a bishop, fit for a judge, nay, for a chief justice! What would you
do for him, Master Pothier?" the old notary asked himself. "I
answer the interrogatory of the Court: I would draw up his marriage
contract, write his last will and testament with the greatest of
pleasure and without a fee!--and no notary in New France could do
more for him!" Pothier's imagination fell into a vision over a
consideration of his favorite text--that of the great sheet, wherein
was all manner of flesh and fowl good for food, but the tongue of
the old notary would trip at the name of Peter, and perversely say,
"Rise, Pothier; kill, and eat."
Colonel Philibert and Le Gardeur rode rapidly through the forest of
Beaumanoir, pulling up occasionally in an eager and sympathetic
exchange of questions and replies, as they recounted the events of
their lives since their separation, or recalled their school-days
and glorious holidays and rambles in the woods of Tilly--with
frequent mention of their gentle, fair companion, Amélie de
Repentigny, whose name on the lips of her brother sounded sweeter
than the chime of the bells of Charlebourg to the ear of Pierre
The bravest man in New France felt a tremor in his breast as he
asked Le Gardeur a seemingly careless question--seemingly, for, in
truth, it was vital in the last degree to his happiness, and he knew
it. He expressed a fear that Amélie would have wholly forgotten him
after so long an absence from New France.
His heart almost ceased beating as he waited the reply of Le
Gardeur, which came impetuously: "Forgotten you, Pierre Philibert?
She would forget me as soon! But for you she would have had no
brother to-day, and in her prayers she ever remembers both of us--
you by right of a sister's gratitude, me because I am unworthy of
her saintly prayers and need them all the more! O Pierre Philibert,
you do not know Amélie if you think she is one ever to forget a
friend like you!"
The heart of Philibert gave a great leap for joy. Too happy for
speech, he rode on a while in silence.
"Amélie will have changed much in appearance?" he asked, at last.
A thousand questions were crowding upon his lips.
"Changed? Oh, yes!" replied Le Gardeur, gaily. "I scarcely
recognize my little bright-eyed sister in the tall, perfect young
lady that has taken her place. But the loving heart, the pure mind,
the gentle ways, and winning smiles are the same as ever. She is
somewhat more still and thoughtful, perhaps--more strict in the
observances of religion. You will remember, I used to call her in
jest our St. Amélie: I might call her that in earnest now, Pierre,
and she would be worthy of the name!"
"God bless you, Le Gardeur!" burst out Colonel Philibert,--his voice
could not repress the emotion he felt,--"and God bless Amélie!
Think you she would care to see me to-day, Le Gardeur?" Philibert's
thoughts flew far and fast, and his desire to know more of Amélie
was a rack of suspense to him. She might, indeed, recollect the
youth Pierre Philibert, thought he, as she did a sunbeam that
gladdened long-past summers; but how could he expect her to regard
him--the full-grown man--as the same? Nay, was he not nursing a
fatal fancy in his breast that would sting him to death? for among
the gay and gallant throng about the capital was it not more than
possible that so lovely and amiable a woman had already been wooed,
and given the priceless treasure of her love to another? It was,
therefore, with no common feeling that Philibert said, "Think you
she will care to see me to-day, Le Gardeur?"
"Care to see you, Pierre Philibert? What a question! She and Aunt
de Tilly take every occasion to remind me of you, by way of example,
to shame me of my faults--and they succeed, too! I could cut off my
right hand this moment, Pierre, that it should never lift wine again
to my lips--and to have been seen by you in such company! What must
you think of me?"
"I think your regret could not surpass mine; but tell me how you
have been drawn into these rapids and taken the wrong turn, Le
Le Gardeur winced as he replied,--"Oh, I do not know. I found
myself there before I thought. It was the wit, wine, and
enchantments of Bigot, I suppose,--and the greatest temptation of
all, a woman's smiles,--that led me to take the wrong turn, as you
call it. There, you have my confession!--and I would put my sword
through any man but you, Pierre, who dared ask me to give such an
account of myself. I am ashamed of it all, Pierre Philibert!"
"Thanks, Le Gardeur, for your confidence. I hope you will outride
this storm!" He held out his hand, nervous and sinewy as that of
Mars. Le Gardeur seized it, and pressed it hard in his. "Don't you
think it is still able to rescue a friend from peril?" added
Le Gardeur caught his meaning, and gave him a look of unutterable
gratitude. "Besides this hand of mine, are there not the gentler
hands of Amélie to intercede for you with your better self?" said
"My dear sister!" interjected Le Gardeur. "I am a coward when I
think of her, and I shame to come into her pure presence."
"Take courage, Le Gardeur! There is hope where there is shame of
our faults. Be equally frank with your sister as with me, and she
will win you, in spite of yourself, from the enchantments of Bigot,
Cadet, and the still more potent smiles you speak of that led you to
take the wrong turn in life."
"I doubt it is too late, Pierre! although I know that, were every
other friend in the world to forsake me, Amélie would not! She
would not even reproach me, except by excess of affection."
Philibert looked on his friend admiringly, at this panegyric of the
woman he loved. Le Gardeur was in feature so like his sister that
Philibert at the moment caught the very face of Amélie, as it were,
looking at him through the face of her brother. "You will not
resist her pleadings, Le Gardeur,"--Philibert thought it an
impossible thing. "No guardian angel ever clung to the skirts of a
sinner as Amélie will cling to you," said he; "therefore I have
every hope of my dear friend Le Gardeur Repentigny."
The two riders emerged from the forest, and drew up for a minute in
front of the hostelry of the Crown of France, to water their horses
at the long trough before the door and inform Dame Bédard, who ran
out to greet them, that Master Pothier was following with his
ambling nag at a gentle pace, as befitted the gravity of his
"Oh! Master Pothier never fails to find his way to the Crown of
France; but won't your Honors take a cup of wine? The day is hot
and the road dusty. 'A dry rider makes a wet nag,'" added the Dame,
with a smile, as she repeated an old saying, brought over with the
rest of the butin in the ships of Cartier and Champlain.
The gentlemen bowed their thanks, and as Philibert looked up, he saw
pretty Zoë Bédard poring over a sheet of paper bearing a red seal,
and spelling out the crabbed law text of Master Pothier. Zoë, like
other girls of her class, had received a tincture of learning in the
day schools of the nuns; but, although the paper was her marriage
contract, it puzzled her greatly to pick out the few chips of plain
sense that floated in the sea of legal verbiage it contained. Zoë,
with a perfect comprehension of the claims of meum and tuum, was at
no loss, however, in arriving at a satisfactory solution of the true
merits of her matrimonial contract with honest Antoine La Chance.
She caught the eye of Philibert, and blushed to the very chin as she
huddled away the paper and returned the salute of the two handsome
gentlemen, who, having refreshed their horses, rode off at a rapid
trot down the great highway that led to the city.
Babet Le Nocher, in a new gown, short enough to reveal a pair of
shapely ankles in clocked stockings and well-clad feet that would
have been the envy of many a duchess, sat on the thwart of the boat
knitting. Her black hair was in the fashion recorded by the grave
Peter Kalm, who, in his account of New France, says, "The peasant
women all wear their hair in ringlets, and nice they look!"
"As I live!" exclaimed she to Jean, who was enjoying a pipe of
native tobacco, "here comes that handsome officer back again, and in
as great a hurry to return as he was to go up the highway!"
"Ay, ay, Babet! It is plain to see he is either on the King's
errand or his own. A fair lady awaits his return in the city, or
one has just dismissed him where he has been! Nothing like a woman
to put quicksilver in a man's shoes--eh! Babet?"
"Or foolish thoughts into their hearts, Jean!" replied she,
"And nothing more natural, Babet, if women's hearts are wise enough
in their folly to like our foolish thoughts of them. But there are
two! Who is that riding with the gentleman? Your eyes are better
than mine, Babet!"
"Of course, Jean! that is what I always tell you, but you won't
believe me--trust my eyes, and doubt your own! The other
gentleman," said she, looking fixedly, while her knitting lay still
in her lap, "the other is the young Chevalier de Repentigny. What
brings him back before the rest of the hunting party, I wonder?"
"That officer must have been to Beaumanoir, and is bringing the
young seigneur back to town," remarked Jean, puffing out a long
thread of smoke from his lips.
"Well, it must be something better than smoke, Jean!"--Babet
coughed: she never liked the pipe--"The young chevalier is always
one of the last to give up when they have one of their three days
drinking bouts up at the Château. He is going to the bad, I fear--
more's the pity! such a nice, handsome fellow, too!"
"All lies and calumny!" replied Jean, in a heat. "Le Gardeur de
Repentigny is the son of my dear old seigneur. He may get drunk,
but it will be like a gentleman if he does, and not like a carter,
Babet, or like a--"
"Boatman! Jean; but I don't include you--you have never been the
worse for drinking water since I took care of your liquor, Jean!"
"Ay, you are intoxication enough of yourself for me, Babet! Two
bright eyes like yours, a pipe and bitters, with grace before meat,
would save any Christian man in this world." Jean stood up,
politely doffing his red tuque to the gentlemen. Le Gardeur stooped
from his horse to grasp his hand, for Jean had been an old servitor
at Tilly, and the young seigneur was too noble-minded and polite to
omit a kindly notice of even the humblest of his acquaintance.
"Had a busy day, Jean, with the old ferry?" asked Le Gardeur,
"No, your Honor, but yesterday I think half the country-side crossed
over to the city on the King's corvée. The men went to work, and
the women followed to look after them, ha! ha!" Jean winked
provokingly at Babet, who took him up sharply.
"And why should not the women go after the men? I trow men are not
so plentiful in New France as they used to be before this weary war
began. It well behooves the women to take good care of all that are
"That is true as the Sunday sermon," remarked Jean. "Why, it was
only the other day I heard that great foreign gentleman, who is the
guest of His Excellency the Governor, say, sitting in this very
boat, that 'there are at this time four women to every man in New
France!' If that is true, Babet,--and you know he said it, for you
were angry enough,--a man is a prize indeed, in New France, and
women are plenty as eggs at Easter!"
"The foreign gentleman had much assurance to say it, even if it were
true: he were much better employed picking up weeds and putting them
in his book!" exclaimed Babet, hotly.
"Come! come!" cried Le Gardeur, interrupting this debate on the
population; "Providence knows the worth of Canadian women, and
cannot give us too many of them. We are in a hurry to get to the
city, Jean, so let us embark. My aunt and Amélie are in the old
home in the city; they will be glad to see you and Babet," added he,
kindly, as he got into the boat.
Babet dropped her neatest courtesy, and Jean, all alive to his duty,
pushed off his boat, bearing the two gentlemen and their horses
across the broad St. Charles to the King's Quay, where they
remounted, and riding past the huge palace of the Intendant, dashed
up the steep Côte au Chien and through the city gate, disappearing
from the eyes of Babet, who looked very admiringly after them. Her
thoughts were especially commendatory of the handsome officer in
full uniform who had been so polite and generous in the morning.
"I was afraid, Jean, you were going to blurt out about Mademoiselle
des Meloises," remarked Babet to Jean on his return; "men are so
"Leaky boats! leaky boats! Babet! no rowing them with a woman
aboard! sure to run on the bank. But what about Mademoiselle des
Meloises?" Honest Jean had passed her over the ferry an hour ago,
and been sorely tempted to inform Le Gardeur of the interesting
"What about Mademoiselle des Meloises?" Babet spoke rather sharply.
"Why, all Quebec knows that the Seigneur de Repentigny is mad in
love with her."
"And why should he not be mad in love with her if he likes?" replied
Jean; "she is a morsel fit for a king, and if Le Gardeur should lose
both his heart and his wits on her account, it is only what half the
gallants of Quebec have done."
"Oh, Jean, Jean! it is plain to see you have an eye in your head as
well as a soft place!" ejaculated Babet, recommencing her knitting
with fresh vigor, and working off the electricity that was stirring
"I had two eyes in my head when I chose you, Babet, and the soft
place was in my heart!" replied Jean, heartily. The compliment was
taken with a smile, as it deserved to be. "Look you, Babet, I would
not give this pinch of snuff," said Jean, raising his thumb and two
fingers holding a good dose of the pungent dust,--"I would not give
this pinch of snuff for any young fellow who could be indifferent to
the charms of such a pretty lass as Angélique des Meloises!"
"Well, I am glad you did not tell the Seigneur de Repentigny that
she had crossed the ferry and gone--not to look for him, I'll be
bound! I will tell you something by and by, Jean, if you will come
in and eat your dinner; I have something you like."
"What is it, Babet?" Jean was, after all, more curious about his
dinner than about the fair lady.
"Oh, something you like--that is a wife's secret: keep the stomach
of a man warm, and his heart will never grow cold. What say you to
"Bravo!" cried the gay old boatman, as he sang,
"'Ah! ah! ah! frit à l'huile,
Frit au beurre et à l'ognon!'"
and the jolly couple danced into their little cottage--no king and
queen in Christendom half so happy as they.
AMÉLIE DE REPENTIGNY.
The town house of the Lady de Tilly stood on the upper part of the
Place d'Armes, a broad, roughly-paved square. The Château of St.
Louis, with its massive buildings and high, peaked roofs, filled one
side of the square. On the other side, embowered in ancient trees
that had escaped the axe of Champlain's hardy followers, stood the
old-fashioned Monastery of the Recollets, with its high belfry and
broad shady porch, where the monks in gray gowns and sandals sat in
summer, reading their breviaries or exchanging salutations with the
passers-by, who always had a kind greeting for the brothers of St.
The mansion of the Lady de Tilly was of stone, spacious and ornate,
as became the rank and wealth of the Seigneurs de Tilly. It
overlooked the Place d'Armes and the noble gardens of the Château of
St. Louis, with a magnificent sweep of the St. Lawrence, flowing
majestically under the fortress-crowned cape and the high, wooded
hills of Lauzon, the farther side of the river closing the view.
In the recess of an ornate mullioned window, half concealed by the
rich, heavy curtains of a noble room, Amélie de Repentigny sat
alone--very quiet in look and demeanor, but no little agitated in
mind, as might be noticed in the nervous contact of her hands, which
lay in her lap clasping each other very hard, as if trying to steady
Her aunt was receiving some lady visitors in the great drawing-room.
The hum of loud feminine voices reached the ear of Amélie, but she
paid no attention, so absorbed was she in the new and strange
thoughts that had stirred in her mind since morning, when she had
learned from the Chevalier La Corne of the return to New France of
Pierre Philibert. The news had surprised her to a degree she could
not account for. Her first thought was, how fortunate for her
brother that Pierre had returned; her second, how agreeable to
herself. Why? She could not think why: she wilfully drew an
inference away from the truth that lay in her heart--it was wholly
for the sake of her brother she rejoiced in the return of his friend
and preserver. Her heart beat a little faster than usual--that was
the result of her long walk and disappointment at not meeting Le
Gardeur on her arrival yesterday. But she feared to explore her
thoughts: a rigid self-examination might discover what she
instinctively felt was deeply concealed there.
A subtile, indefinable prevision had suggested to her that Colonel
Philibert would not have failed to meet Le Gardeur at Beaumanoir,
and that he would undoubtedly accompany her brother on his return
and call to pay his respects to the Lady de Tilly and--to herself.
She felt her cheek glow at the thought, yet she was half vexed at
her own foolish fancy, as she called it. She tried to call upon
her pride, but that came very laggardly to the relief of her
Her interview, too, with Angélique des Meloises had caused her no
little disquiet. The bold avowals of Angélique with reference to
the Intendant had shocked Amélie. She knew that her brother had
given more of his thoughts to this beautiful, reckless girl than was
good for his peace, should her ambition ever run counter to his
The fond sister sighed deeply when she reflected that the woman who
had power to make prize of Le Gardeur's love was not worthy of him.
It is no rare thing for loving sisters who have to resign their
brothers to others' keeping to think so. But Amélie knew that
Angélique des Meloises was incapable of that true love which only
finds its own in the happiness of another. She was vain, selfish,
ambitious, and--what Amélie did not yet know--possessed of neither
scruple nor delicacy in attaining her objects.
It had chimed the hour of noon upon the old clock of the Recollets,
and Amélie still sat looking wistfully over the great square of the
Place d'Armes, and curiously scanning every horseman that rode
across it. A throng of people moved about the square, or passed in
and out of the great arched gateway of the Castle of St. Louis. A
bright shield, bearing the crown and fleur-de-lis, surmounted the
gate, and under it walked, with military pace, a couple of sentries,
their muskets and bayonets flashing out in the sun every time they
wheeled to return on their beat. Occasionally there was a ruffle of
drums: the whole guard turned out and presented arms, as some
officer of high rank, or ecclesiastical dignitary, passed through to
pay his respects to the Governor, or transact business at the vice-
regal court. Gentlemen on foot, with chapeaux and swords, carrying
a cloak on their shoulders; ladies in visiting dress; habitans and
their wives in unchanging costume; soldiers in uniform, and black-
gowned clergy, mingled in a moving picture of city life, which, had
not Amélie's thoughts been so preoccupied to-day, would have
afforded her great delight to look out upon.
The Lady de Tilly had rather wearied of the visit of the two ladies
of the city, Madame de Grandmaison and Madame Couillard, who had