Part 4 out of 13
forever her supremacy in America!
"But our forts far and near must be preserved in the meantime. We
must not withdraw from one foot of French territory. Quebec must
be walled, and made safe against all attack by land or water. I
therefore will join the Council in a respectful remonstrance to the
Count de Maurepas, against the inopportune despatches just received
from His Majesty. I trust the Royal Intendant will favor the
Council now with his opinion on this important matter, and I shall
be happy to have the cooperation of His Excellency in measures of
such vital consequence to the Colony and to France."
The Governor sat down, after courteously motioning the Intendant to
rise and address the Council.
The Intendant hated the mention of peace. His interests, and the
interests of his associates of the Grand Company, were all involved
in the prolongation of the war.
War enabled the Grand Company to monopolize the trade and military
expenditure of New France. The enormous fortunes its members made,
and spent with such reckless prodigality, would by peace be dried up
in their source; the yoke would be thrown off the people's neck,
trade would again free.
Bigot was far-sighted enough to see that clamors would be raised and
listened to in the leisure of peace. Prosecutions for illegal
exactions might follow, and all the support of his friends at Court
might not be able to save him and his associates from ruin--perhaps
The parliaments of Paris, Rouen, and Brittany still retained a
shadow of independence. It was only a shadow, but the fury of
Jansenism supplied the lack of political courage, and men opposed
the Court and its policy under pretence of defending the rights of
the Gallican Church and the old religion of the nation.
Bigot knew he was safe so long as the Marquise de Pompadour governed
the King and the kingdom. But Louis XV. was capricious and
unfaithful in his fancies; he had changed his mistresses, and his
policy with them, many times, and might change once more, to the
ruin of Bigot and all the dependents of La Pompadour.
Bigot's letters by the Fleur-de-Lis were calculated to alarm him.
A rival was springing up at Court to challenge La Pompadour's
supremacy: the fair and fragile Lange Vaubernier had already
attracted the King's eye, and the courtiers versed in his ways read
the incipient signs of a future favorite.
Little did the laughing Vaubernier forsee the day when, as Madame du
Barry, she would reign as Dame du Palais, after the death of La
Pompadour. Still less could she imagine that in her old age, in the
next reign, she would be dragged to the guillotine, filling the
streets of Paris with her shrieks, heard above the howlings of the
mob of the Revolution: "Give me life! life! for my repentance!
Life! to devote it to the Republic! Life! for the surrender of all
my wealth to the nation!" And death, not life, was given in answer
to her passionate pleadings.
These dark days were yet in the womb of the future, however. The
giddy Vaubernier was at this time gaily catching at the heart of the
King, but her procedure filled the mind of Bigot with anxiety: the
fall of La Pompadour would entail swift ruin upon himself and
associates. He knew it was the intrigues of this girl which had
caused La Pompadour suddenly to declare for peace in order to watch
the King more surely in his palace. Therefore the word peace and
the name of Vaubernier were equally odious to Bigot, and he was
perplexed in no small degree how to act.
Moreover, be it confessed that, although a bad man and a corrupt
statesman, Bigot was a Frenchman, proud of the national success and
glory. While robbing her treasures with one hand, he was ready with
his sword in the other to risk life and all in her defence. Bigot
was bitterly opposed to English supremacy in North America. The
loss of Louisbourg, though much his fault, stung him to the quick,
as a triumph of the national enemy; and in those final days of New
France, after the fall of Montcalm, Bigot was the last man to yield,
and when all others counselled retreat, he would not consent to the
surrender of Quebec to the English.
To-day, in the Council of War, Bigot stood up to respond to
the appeal of the Governor. He glanced his eye coolly, yet
respectfully, over the Council. His raised hand sparkled with gems,
the gifts of courtiers and favorites of the King. "Gentlemen of the
Council of War!," said he, "I approve with all my heart of the words
of His Excellency the Governor, with reference to our fortifications
and the maintenance of our frontiers. It is our duty to remonstrate,
as councillors of the King in the Colony, against the tenor of the
despatches of the Count de Maurepas. The city of Quebec, properly
fortified, will be equivalent to an army of men in the field, and
the security and defence of the whole Colony depends upon its walls.
There can be but one intelligent opinion in the Council on that
point, and that opinion should be laid before His Majesty before
this despatch be acted on.
"The pressure of the war is great upon us just now. The loss of the
fleet of the Marquis de la Jonquière has greatly interrupted our
communications with France, and Canada is left much to its own
resources. But Frenchmen! the greater the peril the greater the
glory of our defence! And I feel a lively confidence,"--Bigot
glanced proudly round the table at the brave, animated faces that
turned towards him,--"I feel a lively confidence that in the skill,
devotion, and gallantry of the officers I see around this council-
table, we shall be able to repel all our enemies, and bear the royal
flag to fresh triumphs in North America."
This timely flattery was not lost upon the susceptible minds of the
officers present, who testified their approval by vigorous tapping
on the table, and cries of "Well said, Chevalier Intendant!"
"I thank, heartily, the venerable Abbé Piquet," continued he, "for
his glorious success in converting the warlike savages of the West
from foes to fast friends of the King; and as Royal Intendant I
pledge the Abbé all my help in the establishment of his proposed
fort and mission at La Présentation, for the purpose of dividing the
power of the Iroquois."
"That is right well said, if the Devil said it!" remarked La Corne
St. Luc, to the Acadian sitting next him. "There is bell-metal in
Bigot, and he rings well if properly struck. Pity so clever a
fellow should be a knave!"
"Fine words butter no parsnips, Chevalier La Corne," replied the
Acadian, whom no eloquence could soften. "Bigot sold Louisbourg!"
This was a common but erroneous opinion in Acadia.
"Bigot butters his own parsnips well, Colonel," replied La Corne St.
Luc; "but I did not think he would have gone against the despatches!
It is the first time he ever opposed Versailles! There must be
something in the wind! A screw loose somewhere, or another woman in
the case! But hark, he is going on again!"
The Intendant, after examining some papers, entered into a detail of
the resources of the Colony, the number of men capable of bearing
arms, the munitions and material of war in the magazines, and the
relative strength of each district of the Province. He manipulated
his figures with the dexterity of an Indian juggler throwing balls;
and at the end brought out a totality of force in the Colony capable
unaided of prolonging the war for two years, against all the powers
of the English.
At the conclusion of this speech Bigot took his seat. He had made a
favorable impression upon the Council, and even his most strenuous
opponents admitted that on the whole the Intendant had spoken like
an able administrator and a true Frenchman.
Cadet and Varin supported their chief warmly. Bad as they were,
both in private life and public conduct, they lacked neither
shrewdness nor courage. They plundered their country--but were
ready to fight for it against the national enemy.
Other officers followed in succession,--men whose names were already
familiar, or destined to become glorious in New France,--La Corne,
St. Luc, Celeron de Bienville, Colonel Philibert, the Chevalier de
Beaujeu, the De Villiers, Le Gardeur de St. Pierre, and De Lery.
One and all supported that view of the despatches taken by the
Governor and the Intendant. All agreed upon the necessity of
completing the walls of Quebec and of making a determined stand at
every point of the frontier against the threatened invasion. In
case of the sudden patching up of a peace by the negotiators at Aix
La Chapelle--as really happened--on the terms of uti possidetis, it
was of vital importance that New France hold fast to every shred of
her territory, both East and West.
Long and earnest were the deliberations of the Council of War. The
reports of the commanding officers from all points of the frontier
were carefully studied. Plans of present defence and future
conquest were discussed with reference to the strength and weakness
of the Colony, and an accurate knowledge of the forces and designs
of the English obtained from the disaffected remnant of Cromwellian
republicans in New England, whose hatred to the Crown ever
outweighed their loyalty, and who kept up a traitorous correspondence,
for purposes of their own, with the governors of New France.
The lamps were lit and burned far into the night when the Council
broke up. The most part of the officers partook of a cheerful
refreshment with the Governor before they retired to their several
quarters. Only Bigot and his friends declined to sup with the
Governor: they took a polite leave, and rode away from the Château
to the Palace of the Intendant, where a more gorgeous repast and
more congenial company awaited them.
The wine flowed freely at the Intendant's table, and as the
irritating events of the day were recalled to memory, the pent-up
wrath of the Intendant broke forth. "Damn the Golden Dog and his
master both!" exclaimed he. "Philibert shall pay with his life for
the outrage of to-day, or I will lose mine! The dirt is not off my
coat yet, Cadet!" said he, as he pointed to a spatter of mud upon
his breast. "A pretty medal that for the Intendant to wear in a
Council of War!"
"Council of War!" replied Cadet, setting his goblet down with a bang
upon the polished table, after draining it to the bottom. "I would
like to go through that mob again! and I would pull an oar in the
galleys of Marseilles rather than be questioned with that air of
authority by a botanizing quack like La Galissonière! Such
villainous questions as he asked me about the state of the royal
magazines! La Galissonière had more the air of a judge cross-
examining a culprit than of a Governor asking information of a
"True, Cadet!" replied Varin, who was always a flatterer, and who at
last saved his ill-gotten wealth by the surrender of his wife as a
love-gift to the Duc de Choiseul. "We all have our own injuries to
bear. The Intendant was just showing us the spot of dirt cast upon
him by the mob; and I ask what satisfaction he has asked in the
Council for the insult."
"Ask satisfaction!" replied Cadet with a laugh. "Let him take it!
Satisfaction! We will all help him! But I say that the hair of the
dog that bit him will alone cure the bite! What I laughed at the
most was this morning at Beaumanoir, to see how coolly that whelp of
the Golden Dog, young Philibert, walked off with De Repentigny from
the very midst of all the Grand Company!"
"We shall lose our young neophyte, I doubt, Cadet! I was a fool to
let him go with Philibert!" remarked Bigot.
"Oh, I am not afraid of losing him, we hold him by a strong triple
cord, spun by the Devil. No fear of losing him!" answered Cadet,
"What do you mean, Cadet?" The Intendant took up his cup and drank
very nonchalantly, as if he thought little of Cadet's view of the
matter. "What triple cord binds De Repentigny to us?"
"His love of wine, his love of gaming, and his love of women--or
rather his love of a woman, which is the strongest strand in the
string for a young fool like him who is always chasing virtue and
"Oh! a woman has got him! eh, Cadet? Pray who is she? When once a
woman catches a fellow by the gills, he is a dead mackerel: his fate
is fixed for good or bad in this world. But who is she, Cadet?--she
must be a clever one," said Bigot, sententiously.
"So she is! and she is too clever for young De Repentigny: she has
got her pretty fingers in his gills, and can carry her fish to
whatever market she chooses!"
"Cadet! Cadet! out with it!" repeated a dozen voices. "Yes, out
with it!" repeated Bigot. "We are all companions under the rose,
and there are no secrets here about wine or women!"
"Well, I would not give a filbert for all the women born since
mother Eve!" said Cadet, flinging a nut-shell at the ceiling. "But
this is a rare one, I must confess. Now stop! Don't cry out again
'Cadet! out with it!' and I will tell you! What think you of the
fair, jolly Mademoiselle des Meloises?"
"Angélique? Is De Repentigny in love with her?" Bigot looked quite
"In love with her? He would go on all fours after her, if she
wanted him! He does almost, as it is."
Bigot placed a finger on his brow and pondered for a moment. "You
say well, Cadet; if De Repentigny has fallen in love with that girl,
he is ours forever! Angélique des Meloises never lets go her ox
until she offers him up as a burnt offering! The Honnêtes Gens will
lose one of the best trout in their stream if Angélique has the
tickling of him!"
Bigot did not seem to be quite pleased with Cadet's information.
He rose from his seat somewhat flushed and excited by this talk
respecting Angélique des Meloises. He walked up and down the room
a few turns, recovered his composure, and sat down again.
"Come, gentlemen," said he; "too much care will kill a cat! Let us
change our talk to a merrier tune; fill up, and we will drink to the
loves of De Repentigny and the fair Angélique! I am much mistaken
if we do not find in her the dea ex machinâ to help us out of our
trouble with the Honnêtes Gens!"
The glasses were filled and emptied. Cards and dice were then
called for. The company drew their chairs into a closer circle
round the table; deep play, and deeper drinking, set in. The Palais
resounded with revelry until the morning sun looked into the great
window, blushing red at the scene of drunken riot that had become
habitual in the Palace of the Intendant.
THE CHARMING JOSEPHINE.
The few words of sympathy dropped by Bigot in the secret chamber had
fallen like manna on the famine of Caroline's starving affections as
she remained on the sofa, where she had half fallen, pressing her
bosom with her hands as if a new-born thought lay there. "I am sure
he meant it!" repeated she to herself. "I feel that his words were
true, and for the moment his look and tone were those of my happy
maiden days in Acadia! I was too proud then of my fancied power,
and thought Bigot's love deserved the surrender of my very
conscience to his keeping. I forgot God in my love for him; and,
alas for me! that now is part of my punishment! I feel not the sin
of loving him! My penitence is not sincere when I can still rejoice
in his smile! Woe is me! Bigot! Bigot! unworthy as thou art, I
cannot forsake thee! I would willingly die at thy feet, only spurn
me not away, nor give to another the love that belongs to me, and
for which I have paid the price of my immortal soul!"
She relapsed into a train of bitter reflections as her thoughts
reverted to herself. Silence had been gradually creeping through
the house. The noisy debauch was at an end. There were trampings,
voices, and footfalls for a while longer, and then they died away.
Everything was still and silent as the grave. She knew the feast
was over and the guests departed; but not whether Bigot had
She sprang up as a low knock came to her door, thinking it was he,
come to bid her adieu. It was with a feeling of disappointment she
heard the voice of Dame Tremblay saying, "My Lady, may I enter?"
Caroline ran her fingers through her disordered hair, pressed her
handkerchief into her eyes, and hastily tried to obliterate every
trace of her recent agony. She bade her enter.
Dame Tremblay, shrewd as became the whilom Charming Josephine of
Lake Beauport, had a kind heart, nevertheless, under her old-
fashioned bodice. She sincerely pitied this young creature who was
passing her days in prayer and her nights in weeping, although she
might rather blame her in secret for not appreciating better the
honor of a residence at Beaumanoir and the friendship of the
"I do not think she is prettier than I, when I was the Charming
Josephine!" thought the old dame. "I did not despise Beaumanoir in
those days, and why should she now? But she will be neither maid
nor mistress here long, I am thinking!" The dame saluted the young
lady with great deference, and quietly asked if she needed her
"Oh! it is you, good dame!"--Caroline answered her own thoughts,
rather than the question,--"tell me what makes this unusual silence
in the Château?"
"The Intendant and all the guests have gone to the city, my Lady: a
great officer of the Governor's came to summon them. To be sure,
not many of them were fit to go, but after a deal of bathing and
dressing the gentlemen got off. Such a clatter of horsemen as they
rode out, I never heard before, my Lady; you must have heard them
"Yes, dame!" replied Caroline, "I heard it; and the Intendant, has
he accompanied them?"
"Yes, my Lady; the freshest and foremost cavalier of them all. Wine
and late hours never hurt the Intendant. It is for that I praise
him, for he is a gallant gentleman, who knows what politeness is to
Caroline shrank a little at the thought expressed by the dame.
"What causes you to say that?" asked she.
"I will tell, my Lady! 'Dame Tremblay!' said he, just before he
left the Château. 'Dame Tremblay'--he always calls me that when he
is formal, but sometimes when he is merry, he calls me 'Charming
Josephine,' in remembrance of my young days, concerning which he has
heard flattering stories, I dare say--"
"In heaven's name! go on, dame!" Caroline, depressed as she was,
felt the dame's garrulity like a pinch on her impatience. "What
said the Intendant to you, on leaving the Château?"
"Oh, he spoke to me of you quite feelingly--that is, bade me take
the utmost care of the poor lady in the secret chamber. I was to
give you everything you wished, and keep off all visitors, if such
were your own desire."
A train of powder does not catch fire from a spark more quickly than
Caroline's imagination from these few words of the old housekeeper.
"Did he say that, good dame? God bless you, and bless him for those
words!" Her eyes filled with tears at the thought of his
tenderness, which, although half fictitious, she wholly believed.
"Yes, dame," continued she. "It is my most earnest desire to be
secluded from all visitors. I wish to see no one but yourself.
Have you many visitors--ladies, I mean--at the Château?"
"Oh, yes! the ladies of the city are not likely to forget the
invitations to the balls and dinners of the bachelor Intendant of
New France. It is the most fashionable thing in the city, and every
lady is wild to attend them. There is one, the handsomest and
gayest of them all, who, they say, would not object even to become
the bride of the Intendant."
It was a careless shaft of the old dame's, but it went to the heart
of Caroline. "Who is she, good dame?--pray tell me!"
"Oh, my Lady, I should fear her anger, if she knew what I say! She
is the most terrible coquette in the city--worshipped by the men,
and hated, of course, by the women, who all imitate her in dress and
style as much as they possibly can, because they see it takes! But
every woman fears for either husband or lover when Angélique des
Meloises is her rival."
"Is that her name? I never heard it before, dame!" remarked
Caroline, with a shudder. She felt instinctively that the name was
one of direful omen to herself.
"Pray God you may never have reason to hear it again," replied Dame
Tremblay. "She it was who went to the mansion of Sieur Tourangeau
and with her riding-whip lashed the mark of a red cross upon the
forehead of his daughter, Cecile, scarring her forever, because she
had presumed to smile kindly upon a young officer, a handsome
fellow, Le Gardeur de Repentigny--whom any woman might be pardoned
for admiring!" added the old dame, with a natural touch of the
candor of her youth. "If Angélique takes a fancy to the Intendant,
it will be dangerous for any other woman to stand in her way!"
Caroline gave a frightened look at the dame's description of a
possible rival in the Intendant's love. "You know more of her,
dame! Tell me all! Tell me the worst I have to learn!" pleaded the
"The worst, my Lady! I fear no one can tell the worst of Angélique
des Meloises,--at least, would not dare to, although I know nothing
bad of her, except that she would like to have all the men to
herself, and so spite all the women!"
"But she must regard that young officer with more than common
affection, to have acted so savagely to Mademoiselle Tourangeau?"
Caroline, with a woman's quickness, had caught at that gleam of hope
through the darkness.
"Oh, yes, my Lady! All Quebec knows that Angélique loves the
Seigneur de Repentigny, for nothing is a secret in Quebec if more
than one person knows it, as I myself well recollect; for when I was
the Charming Josephine, my very whispers were all over the city by
the next dinner hour, and repeated at every table, as gentlemen
cracked their almonds and drank their wine in toasts to the Charming
"Pshaw! dame! Tell me about the Seigneur de Repentigny! Does
Angélique des Meloises love him, think you?" Caroline's eyes were
fixed like stars upon the dame, awaiting her reply.
"It takes women to read women, they say," replied the dame, "and
every lady in Quebec would swear that Angélique loves the Seigneur
de Repentigny; but I know that, if she can, she will marry the
Intendant, whom she has fairly bewitched with her wit and beauty,
and you know a clever woman can marry any man she pleases, if she
only goes the right way about it: men are such fools!"
Caroline grew faint. Cold drops gathered on her brow. A veil of
mist floated before her eyes. "Water! good dame water!" she
articulated, after several efforts.
Dame Tremblay ran, and got her a drink of water and such
restoratives as were at hand. The dame was profuse in words of
sympathy: she had gone through life with a light, lively spirit, as
became the Charming Josephine, but never lost the kindly heart that
was natural to her.
Caroline rallied from her faintness. "Have you seen what you tell
me, dame, or is it but the idle gossip of the city, no truth in it?
Oh, say it is the idle gossip of the city! François Bigot is not
going to marry this lady? He is not so faithless"--to me, she was
about to add, but did not.
"So faithless to her, she means, poor soul!" soliliquized the dame.
"It is but little you know my gay master if you think he values a
promise made to any woman, except to deceive her! I have seen too
many birds of that feather not to know a hawk, from beak to claw.
When I was the Charming Josephine I took the measure of men's
professions, and never was deceived but once. Men's promises are
big as clouds, and as empty and as unstable!"
"My good dame, I am sure you have a kind heart," said Caroline, in
reply to a sympathizing pressure of the hand. "But you do not know,
you cannot imagine what injustice you do the Intendant"--Caroline
hesitated and blushed--"by mentioning the report of his marriage
with that lady. Men speak untruly of him--"
"My dear Lady, it is what the women say that frightens one! The men
are angry, and won't believe it; but the women are jealous, and will
believe it even if there be nothing in it! As a faithful servant I
ought to have no eyes to watch my master, but I have not failed to
observe that the Chevalier Bigot is caught man-fashion, if not
husband-fashion, in the snares of the artful Angélique. But may I
speak my real opinion to you, my Lady?"
Caroline was eagerly watching the lips of the garrulous dame. She
started, brushed back with a stroke of her hand the thick hair that
had fallen over her ear,--"Oh, speak all your thoughts, good dame!
If your next words were to kill me, speak them!"
"My next words will not harm you, my Lady," said she, with a meaning
smile, "if you will accept the opinion of an old woman, who learned
the ways of men when she was the Charming Josephine! You must not
conclude that because the Chevalier Intendant admires, or even loves
Angélique des Meloises, he is going to marry her. That is not the
fashion of these times. Men love beauty, and marry money; love is
more plenty than matrimony, both at Paris and at Quebec, at
Versailles as well as at Beaumanoir or even at Lake Beauport, as I
learned to my cost when I was the Charming Josephine!"
Caroline blushed crimson at the remark of Dame Tremblay. Her voice
quivered with emotion. "It is sin to cheapen love like that, dame!
And yet I know we have sometimes to bury our love in our heart, with
no hope of resurrection."
"Sometimes? Almost always, my Lady! When I was the Charming
Josephine--nay, listen, Lady: my story is instructive." Caroline
composed herself to hear the dame's recital. "When I was the
Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport I began by believing that men
were angels sent for the salvation of us women. I thought that love
was a better passport than money to lead to matrimony; but I was a
fool for my fancy! I had a good score of lovers any day. The
gallants praised my beauty, and it was the envy of the city; they
flattered me for my wit,--nay, even fought duels for my favor, and
called me the Charming Josephine, but not one offered to marry me!
At twenty I ran away for love, and was forsaken. At thirty I
married for money, and was rid of all my illusions. At forty I came
as housekeeper to Beaumanoir, and have lived here comfortably ever
since I know what royal intendants are! Old Hocquart wore night-
caps in the daytime, took snuff every minute, and jilted a lady in
France because she had not the dower of a duchess to match his
hoards of wealth! The Chevalier Bigot's black eye and jolly laugh
draw after him all the girls of the city, but not one will catch
him! Angélique des Meloises is first in his favor, but I see it is
as clear as print in the eye of the Intendant that he will never
marry her--and you will prevent him, my Lady!"
"I? I prevent him!" exclaimed Caroline in amazement. "Alas! good
dame, you little know how lighter than thistledown floating on the
wind is my influence with the Intendant."
"You do yourself injustice, my Lady. Listen! I never saw a more
pitying glance fall from the eye of man than the Intendant cast upon
you one day when he saw you kneeling in your oratory unconscious of
his presence. His lips quivered, and a tear gathered under his
thick eyelashes as he silently withdrew. I heard him mutter a
blessing upon you, and curses upon La Pompadour for coming between
him and his heart's desire. I was a faithful servant and kept my
counsel. I could see, however, that the Intendant thought more of
the lovely lady of Beaumanoir than of all the ambitious demoiselles
Caroline sprang up, and casting off the deep reserve she had
maintained, threw her arms round the neck of Dame Tremblay, and
half choked with emotion, exclaimed,--
"Is that true? good, dear friend of friends! Did the Chevalier
Bigot bless me, and curse La Pompadour for coming between him and
his heart's desire! His heart's desire! but you do not know--you
cannot guess what that means, dame?"
"As if I did not know a man's heart's desire! but I am a woman, and
can guess! I was not the Charming Josephine for nothing, good
Lady!" replied the dame, smiling, as the enraptured girl laid her
fair, smooth cheek upon that of the old housekeeper.
"And did he look so pityingly as you describe, and bless me as I was
praying, unwitting of his presence?" repeated she, with a look that
searched the dame through and through.
"He did, my Lady; he looked, just then, as a man looks upon a woman
whom he really loves. I know how men look when they really love us
and when they only pretend to? No deceiving me!" added she. "When
I was the Charming Josephine--"
"Ave Maria!" said Caroline, crossing herself with deep devotion, not
heeding the dame's reminiscences of Lake Beauport. "Heaven has
heard my prayers! I can die happy!"
"Heaven forbid you should die at all, my Lady! You die? The
Intendant loves you. I see it in his face that he will never marry
Angélique des Meloises. He may indeed marry a great marchioness
with her lap full of gold and châteaux--that is, if the King
commands him: that is how the grand gentlemen of the Court marry.
They wed rank, and love beauty--the heart to one, the hand to
another. It would be my way too, were I a man and women so simple
as we all are. If a girl cannot marry for love, she will marry for
money; and if not for money, she can always marry for spite--I did,
when I was the Charming Josephine!"
"It is a shocking and sinful way, to marry without love!" said
"It is better than no way at all!" replied the dame, regretting her
remark when she saw her lady's face flush like crimson. The dame's
opinions were rather the worse for wear in her long journey through
life, and would not be adopted by a jury of prudes. "When I was the
Charming Josephine," continued she, "I had the love of half the
gallants of Quebec, but not one offered his hand. What was I to do?
'Crook a finger, or love and linger,' as they say in Alençon, where
I was born?"
"Fie, dame! Don't say such things!" said Caroline, with a shamed,
reproving look. "I would think better of the Intendant." Her
gratitude led her to imagine excuses for him. The few words
reported to her by Dame Tremblay she repeated with silently moving
lips and tender reiteration. They lingered in her ear like the
fugue of a strain of music, sung by a choir of angelic spirits.
"Those were his very words, dame?" added she again, repeating them--
not for inquiry, but for secret joy.
"His very words, my Lady! But why should the Royal Intendant not
have his heart's desire as well as that great lady in France? If
any one had forbidden my marrying the poor Sieur Tremblay, for whom
I did not care two pins, I would have had him for spite--yes, if I
had had to marry him as the crows do, on a tree-top!"
"But no one bade you or forbade you, dame! You were happy that no
one came between you and your heart's desire!" replied Caroline.
Dame Tremblay laughed out merrily at the idea. "Poor Giles Tremblay
my heart's desire! Listen, Lady, I could no more get that than you
could. When I was the Charming Josephine there was but one, out of
all my admirers, whom I really cared for, and he, poor fellow, had a
wife already! So what was I to do? I threw my line at last in
utter despair, and out of the troubled sea I drew the Sieur
Tremblay, whom I married, and soon put cosily underground with a
heavy tombstone on top of him to keep him down, with this
inscription, which you may see for yourself, my Lady, if you will,
in the churchyard where he lies:
"'Ci gît mon Giles,
Ah! qu'il est bien,
Pour son répos,
Et pour le mien!'
"Men are like my Angora tabby: stroke them smoothly and they will
purr and rub noses with you; but stroke them the wrong way and
whirr! they scratch your hands and out of the window they fly! When
I was the Charming--"
"Oh, good dame, thanks! thanks! for the comfort you have given me!"
interrupted Caroline, not caring for a fresh reminiscence of the
Charming Josephine. "Leave me, I pray. My mind is in a sad tumult.
I would fain rest. I have much to fear, but something also to hope
for now," she said, leaning back in her chair in deep and quiet
"The Château is very still now, my Lady," replied the dame, "the
servants are all worn out with long attendance and fast asleep. Let
my Lady go to her own apartments, which are bright and airy. It
will be better for her than this dull chamber."
"True, dame!" Caroline rose at the suggestion. "I like not this
secret chamber. It suited my sad mood, but now I seem to long for
air and sunshine. I will go with you to my own room."
They ascended the winding stair, and Caroline seated herself by the
window of her own chamber, overlooking the park and gardens of the
Château. The huge, sloping forest upon the mountain side, formed,
in the distance, with the blue sky above it, a landscape of beauty,
upon which her eyes lingered with a sense of freshness and delight.
Dame Tremblay left her to her musings, to go, she said, to rouse up
the lazy maids and menservants, to straighten up the confusion of
everything in the Château after the late long feast.
On the great stair she encountered M. Froumois, the Intendant's
valet, a favorite gossip of the dame's, who used to invite him into
her snug parlor, where she regaled him with tea and cake, or, if
late in the evening, with wine and nipperkins of Cognac, while he
poured into her ear stories of the gay life of Paris and the bonnes
fortunes of himself and master--for the valet in plush would have
disdained being less successful among the maids in the servants'
hall than his master in velvet in the boudoirs of their mistresses.
M. Froumois accepted the dame's invitation, and the two were
presently engaged in a melée of gossip over the sayings and doings
of fashionable society in Quebec.
The dame, holding between her thumb and finger a little china cup of
tea well laced, she called it, with Cognac, remarked,--"They fairly
run the Intendant down, Froumois: there is not a girl in the city
but laces her boots to distraction since it came out that the
Intendant admires a neat, trim ankle. I had a trim ankle myself
when I was the Charming Josephine, M. Froumois!"
"And you have yet, dame,--if I am a judge," replied Froumois,
glancing down with an air of gallantry.
"And you are accounted a judge--and ought to be a good one,
Froumois! A gentleman can't live at court as you have done, and
learn nothing of the points of a fine woman!" The good dame liked a
compliment as well as ever she had done at Lake Beauport in her hey-
day of youth and beauty.
"Why, no, dame," replied he; "one can't live at Court and learn
nothing! We study the points of fine women as we do fine statuary
in the gallery of the Louvre, only the living beauties will compel
us to see their best points if they have them!" M. Froumois looked
very critical as he took a pinch from the dame's box, which she held
out to him. Her hand and wrist were yet unexceptionable, as he
could not help remarking.
"But what think you, really, of our Quebec beauties? Are they not a
good imitation of Versailles?" asked the dame.
"A good imitation! They are the real porcelain! For beauty and
affability Versailles cannot exceed them. So says the Intendant,
and so say I!," replied the gay valet. "Why, look you, Dame
Tremblay!" continued he, extending his well-ringed fingers, "they do
give gentlemen no end of hopes here! We have only to stretch out
our ten digits and a ladybird will light on every one of them! It
was so at Versailles--it is just so here. The ladies in Quebec do
know how to appreciate a real gentleman!"
"Yes, that is what makes the ladies of Ville Marie so jealous and
angry," replied the dame; "the King's officers and all the great
catches land at Quebec first, when they come out from France, and we
take toll of them! We don't let a gentleman of them get up to Ville
Marie without a Quebec engagement tacked to his back, so that all
Ville Marie can read it, and die of pure spite! I say we, Froumois;
but you understand I speak of myself only as the Charming Josephine
of Lake Beauport. I must content myself now with telling over my
"Well dame, I don't know but you are glorious yet! But tell me,
what has got over my master to-day? Was the unknown lady unkind?
Something has angered him, I am sure!"
"I cannot tell you, Froumois: women's moods are not to be explained,
even by themselves." The dame had been sensibly touched by
Caroline's confidence in her, and she was too loyal to her sex to
repeat even to Froumois her recent conversation with Caroline.
They found plenty of other topics, however, and over the tea and
Cognac the dame and valet passed an hour of delightful gossip.
Caroline, left to the solitude of her chamber, sat silently with her
hands clasped in her lap. Her thoughts pressed inward upon her.
She looked out without seeing the fair landscape before her eyes.
Tears and sorrow she had welcomed in a spirit of bitter penitence
for her fault in loving one who no longer regarded her. "I do not
deserve any man's regard," murmured she, as she laid her soul on the
rack of self-accusation, and wrung its tenderest fibres with the
pitiless rigor of a secret inquisitor. She utterly condemned
herself while still trying to find some excuse for her unworthy
lover. At times a cold half-persuasion, fluttering like a bird in
the snow, came over her that Bigot could not be utterly base. He
could not thus forsake one who had lost all--name, fame, home, and
kindred--for his sake! She clung to the few pitying words spoken by
him as a shipwrecked sailor to the plank which chance has thrown in
his way. It might float her for a few hours, and she was grateful.
Immersed in these reflections, Caroline sat gazing at the clouds,
now transformed into royal robes of crimson and gold--the gorgeous
train of the sun filled the western horizon. She raised her pale
hands to her head, lifting the mass of dark hair from her temples.
The fevered blood, madly coursing, pulsed in her ear like the stroke
of a bell.
She remembered a sunset like this on the shores of the Bay of Minas,
where the thrush and oriole twittered their even-song before seeking
their nests, where the foliage of the trees was all ablaze with
golden fire, and a shimmering path of sunlight lay upon the still
waters like a glorious bridge leading from themselves to the bright
On that well-remembered night her heart had yielded to Bigot's
pleadings. She had leaned her head upon his bosom, and received the
kiss and gave the pledge that bound her to him forever.
The sun kept sinking--the forests on the mountain tops burst into a
bonfire of glory. Shadows went creeping up the hill-sides until the
highest crest alone flamed out as a beacon of hope to her troubled
Suddenly, like a voice from the spirit world, the faint chime of the
bells of Charlebourg floated on the evening breeze: it was the
Angelus, calling men to prayer and rest from their daily labor.
Sweetly the soft reverberation floated through the forests, up the
hill-sides, by plain and river, entering the open lattices of
Château and cottage, summoning rich and poor alike to their duty of
prayer and praise. It reminded men of the redemption of the world
by the divine miracle of the incarnation announced by Gabriel, the
angel of God, to the ear of Mary blessed among women.
The soft bells rang on. Men blessed them, and ceased from their
toils in field and forest. Mothers knelt by the cradle, and uttered
the sacred words with emotions such as only mothers feel. Children
knelt by their mothers, and learned the story of God's pity in
appearing upon earth as a little child, to save mankind from their
sins. The dark Huron setting his snares in the forest and the
fishers on the shady stream stood still. The voyageur sweeping his
canoe over the broad river suspended his oar as the solemn sound
reached him, and he repeated the angel's words and went on his way
with renewed strength.
The sweet bells came like a voice of pity and consolation to the ear
of Caroline. She knelt down, and clasping her hands, repeated the
prayer of millions,--
"'Ave Maria! gratia plena.'"
She continued kneeling, offering up prayer after prayer for God's
forgiveness, both for herself and for him who had brought her to
this pass of sin and misery. "'Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!'"
repeated she, bowing herself to the ground. "I am the chief of
sinners; who shall deliver me from this body of sin and affiction?"
The sweet bells kept ringing. They woke reminiscences of voices of
by-gone days. She heard her father's tones, not in anger as he
would speak now, but kind and loving as in her days of innocence.
She heard her mother, long dead--oh, how happily dead! for she
could not die of sorrow now over her dear child's fall. She heard
the voices of the fair companions of her youth, who would think
shame of her now; and amidst them all, the tones of the persuasive
tongue that wooed her maiden love. How changed it all seemed! and
yet, as the repetition of two or three notes of a bar of music
brings to recollection the whole melody to which it belongs, the few
kind words of Bigot, spoken that morning, swept all before them in a
drift of hope. Like a star struggling in the mist the faint voice
of an angel was heard afar off in the darkness.
The ringing of the Angelus went on. Her heart was utterly melted.
Her eyes, long parched, as a spent fountain in the burning desert,
were suddenly filled with tears. She felt no longer the agony of
the eyes that cannot weep. The blessed tears flowed quietly as the
waters of Shiloh, bringing relief to her poor soul, famishing for
one true word of affection. Long after the sweet bells ceased their
chime Caroline kept on praying for him, and long after the shades of
night had fallen over the Château of Beaumanoir.
ANGÉLIQUE DES MELOISES.
"Come and see me to-night, Le Gardeur." Angélique des Meloises drew
the bridle sharply as she halted her spirited horse in front of the
officer of the guard at the St. Louis Gate. "Come and see me to-
night: I shall be at home to no one but you. Will you come?"
Had Le Gardeur de Repentigny been ever so laggard and indifferent a
lover the touch of that pretty hand, and the glance from the dark
eye that shot fire down into his very heart, would have decided him
to obey this seductive invitation.
He held her hand as he looked up with a face radiant with joy. "I
will surely come, Angélique; but tell me--"
She interrupted him laughingly: "No; I will tell you nothing till
you come! So good-by till then."
He would fain have prolonged the interview; but she capriciously
shook the reins, and with a silvery laugh rode through the gateway
and into the city. In a few minutes she dismounted at her own home,
and giving her horse in charge of a groom, ran lightly up the broad
steps into the house.
The family mansion of the Des Meloises was a tall and rather
pretentious edifice overlooking the fashionable Rue St. Louis.
The house was, by a little artifice on the part of Angélique, empty
of visitors this evening. Even her brother, the Chevalier des
Meloises, with whom she lived, a man of high life and extreme
fashion, was to-night enjoying the more congenial society of the
officers of the Regiment de Béarn. At this moment, amid the clash
of glasses and the bubbling of wine, the excited and voluble Gascons
were discussing in one breath the war, the council, the court, the
ladies, and whatever gay topic was tossed from end to end of the
"Mademoiselle's hair has got loose and looks like a Huron's," said
her maid Lizette, as her nimble fingers reärranged the rich dark-
golden locks of Angélique, which reached to the floor as she sat
upon her fauteuil.
"No matter, Lizette; do it up à la Pompadour, and make haste. My
brain is in as great confusion as my hair. I need repose for an
hour. Remember, Lizette, I am at home to no one to-night except the
Chevalier de Repentigny."
"The Chevalier called this afternoon, Mademoiselle, and was sorry he
did not find you at home," replied Lizette, who saw the eyelashes of
her mistress quiver and droop, while a flush deepened for an instant
the roseate hue of her cheek.
"I was in the country, that accounts for it! There, my hair will
do!" said Angélique, giving a glance in the great Venetian mirror
before her. Her freshly donned robe of blue silk, edged with a foam
of snowy laces and furbelows, set off her tall figure. Her arms,
bare to the elbows, would have excited Juno's jealousy or Homer's
verse to gather efforts in praise of them. Her dainty feet,
shapely, aspiring, and full of character as her face, were
carelessly thrust forward, and upon one of them lay a flossy
spaniel, a privileged pet of his fair mistress.
The boudoir of Angélique was a nest of luxury and elegance. Its
furnishings and adornings were of the newest Parisian style. A
carpet woven in the pattern of a bed of flowers covered the floor.
Vases of Sèvres and Porcelein, filled with roses and jonquils, stood
on marble tables. Grand Venetian mirrors reflected the fair form of
their mistress from every point of view--who contemplated herself
before and behind with a feeling of perfect satisfaction and sense
of triumph over every rival.
A harpsichord occupied one corner of the room, and an elaborate
bookcase, well-filled with splendidly bound volumes, another.
Angélique had small taste for reading, yet had made some
acquaintance with the literature of the day. Her natural quick
parts and good taste enabled her to shine, even in literary
conversation. Her bright eyes looked volumes. Her silvery laugh
was wiser than the wisdom of a précieuse. Her witty repartees
covered acres of deficiencies with so much grace and tact that men
were tempted to praise her knowledge no less than her beauty.
She had a keen eye for artistic effects. She loved painting,
although her taste was sensuous and voluptuous--character is shown
in the choice of pictures as much as in that of books or of
There was a painting of Vanloo--a lot of full-blooded horses in a
field of clover; they had broken fence, and were luxuriating in the
rich, forbidden pasture. The triumph of Cleopatra over Antony, by
Le Brun, was a great favorite with Angélique, because of a fancied,
if not a real, resemblance between her own features and those of the
famous Queen of Egypt. Portraits of favorite friends, one of them
Le Gardeur de Repentigny, and a still more recent acquisition, that
of the Intendant Bigot, adorned the walls, and among them was one
distinguished for its contrast to all the rest--the likeness, in the
garb of an Ursuline, of her beautiful Aunt Marie des Meloises, who,
in a fit of caprice some years before, had suddenly forsaken the
world of fashion, and retired to a convent.
The proud beauty threw back her thick golden tresses as she scanned
her fair face and magnificent figure in the tall Venetian mirror.
She drank the intoxicating cup of self-flattery to the bottom as she
compared herself, feature by feature, with every beautiful woman she
knew in New France. The longer she looked the more she felt the
superiority of her own charms over them all. Even the portrait of
her aunt, so like her in feature, so different in expression, was
glanced at with something like triumph spiced with content.
"She was handsome as I!" cried Angélique. "She was fit to be a
queen, and made herself a nun--and all for the sake of a man! I am
fit to be a queen too, and the man who raises me nighest to a
queen's estate gets my hand! My heart?" she paused a few moments.
"Pshaw!" A slight quiver passed over her lips. "My heart must do
penance for the fault of my hand!"
Petrified by vanity and saturated with ambition, Angélique retained
under the hard crust of selfishness a solitary spark of womanly
feeling. The handsome face and figure of Le Gardeur de Repentigny
was her beau-ideal of manly perfection. His admiration flattered
her pride. His love, for she knew infallibly, with a woman's
instinct, that he loved her, touched her into a tenderness such as
she felt for no man besides. It was the nearest approach to love
her nature was capable of, and she used to listen to him with more
than complacency, while she let her hand linger in his warm clasp
while the electric fire passed from one to another and she looked
into his eyes, and spoke to him in those sweet undertones that win
man's hearts to woman's purposes.
She believed she loved Le Gardeur; but there was no depth in the
soil where a devoted passion could take firm root. Still she was a
woman keenly alive to admiration, jealous and exacting of her
suitors, never willingly letting one loose from her bonds, and with
warm passions and a cold heart was eager for the semblance of love,
although never feeling its divine reality.
The idea of a union with Le Gardeur some day, when she should tire
of the whirl of fashion, had been a pleasant fancy of Angélique.
She had no fear of losing her power over him: she held him by the
very heart-strings, and she knew it. She might procrastinate, play
false and loose, drive him to the very verge of madness by her
coquetries, but she knew she could draw him back, like a bird held
by a silken string. She could excite, if she could not feel, the
fire of a passionate love. In her heart she regarded men as beings
created for her service, amazement, and sport,--to worship her
beauty and adorn it with gifts. She took everything as her due,
giving nothing in return. Her love was an empty shell that never
held a kernel of real womanly care for any man.
Amid the sunshine of her fancied love for Le Gardeur had come a day
of eclipse for him, of fresh glory for her. The arrival of the new
Intendant, Bigot, changed the current of Angélique's ambition. His
high rank, his fabulous wealth, his connections with the court, and
his unmarried state, fanned into a flame the secret aspirations of
the proud, ambitious girl. His wit and gallantry captivated her
fancy, and her vanity was full fed by being singled out as the
special object of the Intendant's admiration.
She already indulged in dreams which regarded the Intendant himself
as but a stepping-stone to further greatness. Her vivid fancy,
conjured up scenes of royal splendor, where, introduced by the
courtly Bigot, princes and nobles would follow in her train and the
smiles of majesty itself would distinguish her in the royal halls of
Angélique felt she had power to accomplish all this could she but
open the way. The name of Bigot she regarded as the open sesame to
all greatness. "If women rule France by a right more divine than
that of kings, no woman has a better right than I!" said she, gazing
into the mirror before her. "The kingdom should be mine, and death
to all other pretenders! And what is needed after all?" thought
she, as she brushed her golden hair from her temples with a hand
firm as it was beautiful. "It is but to pull down the heart of a
man! I have done that many a time for my pleasure; I will now do it
for my profit, and for supremacy over my jealous and envious sex!"
Angélique was not one to quail when she entered the battle in
pursuit of any object of ambition or fancy. "I never saw the man
yet," said she, "whom I could not bring to my feet if I willed it!
The Chevalier Bigot would be no exception--that is, he would be no
exception"--the voice of Angélique fell into a low, hard monotone as
she finished the sentence--"were he free from the influence of that
mysterious woman at Beaumanoir, who, they say, claims the title of
wife by a token which even Bigot may not disregard! Her pleading
eyes may draw his compassion where they ought to excite his scorn.
But men are fools to woman's faults, and are often held by the very
thing women never forgive. While she crouches there like a lioness
in my path the chances are I shall never be chatelaine of
Beaumanoir--never, until she is gone!"
Angélique fell into a deep fit of musing, and murmured to herself,
"I shall never reach Bigot unless she be removed--but how to remove
Ay, that was the riddle of the Sphinx! Angélique's life, as she had
projected it, depended upon the answer to that question.
She trembled with a new feeling; a shiver ran through her veins as
if the cold breath of a spirit of evil had passed over her. A
miner, boring down into the earth, strikes a hidden stone that
brings him to a dead stand. So Angélique struck a hard, dark
thought far down in the depths of her secret soul. She drew it to
the light, and gazed on it shocked and frightened.
"I did not mean that!" cried the startled girl, crossing herself.
"Mère de Dieu! I did not conceive a wicked thought like that! I
will not! I cannot contemplate that!" She shut her eyes, pressing
both hands over them as if resolved not to look at the evil thought
that, like a spirit of darkness, came when evoked, and would not
depart when bidden. She sprang up trembling in every limb, and
supporting herself against a table, seized a gilded carafe and
poured out a full goblet of wine, which she drank. It revived her
fainting spirit. She drank another, and stood up herself again,
laughing at her own weakness.
She ran to the window, and looked out into the night. The bright
stars shone overhead; the lights in the street reassured her. The
people passing by and the sound of voices brought back her familiar
mood. She thought no more of the temptation from which she had not
prayed to be delivered, just as the daring skater forgets the depths
that underlie the thin ice over which he skims, careless as a bird
in the sunshine.
An hour more was struck by the loud clock of the Recollets. The
drums and bugles of the garrison sounded the signal for the closing
of the gates of the city and the setting of the watch for the night.
Presently the heavy tramp of the patrol was heard in the street.
Sober bourgeois walked briskly home, while belated soldiers ran
hastily to get into their quarters ere the drums ceased beating the
The sharp gallop of a horse clattered on the stony pavement, and
stopped suddenly at the door. A light step and the clink of a
scabbard rang on the steps. A familiar rap followed. Angélique,
with the infallible intuition of a woman who recognizes the knock
and foostep of her lover from ten thousand others, sprang up and met
Le Gardeur de Repentigny as he entered the boudoir. She received
him with warmth, even fondness, for she was proud of Le Gardeur and
loved him in her secret heart beyond all the rest of her admirers.
"Welcome, Le Gardeur!" exclaimed she, giving both hands in his: "I
knew you would come; you are welcome as the returned prodigal!"
"Dear Angélique!" repeated he, after kissing her hands with fervor,
"the prodigal was sure to return, he could not live longer on the
dry husks of mere recollections."
"So he rose, and came to the house that is full and overflowing with
welcome for him! It is good of you to come, Le Gardeur! why have
you stayed so long away?" Angélique in the joy of his presence
forgot for the moment her meditated infidelity.
A swift stroke of her hand swept aside her flowing skirts to clear a
place for him upon the sofa, where he sat down beside her.
"This is kind of you, Angélique," said he, "I did not expect so much
condescension after my petulance at the Governor's ball; I was
wicked that night--forgive me."
"The fault was more mine, I doubt, Le Gardeur." Angélique
recollected how she had tormented him on that occasion by capricious
slights, while bounteous of her smiles to others. "I was angry with
you because of your too great devotion to Cecile Tourangeau."
This was not true, but Angélique had no scruple to lie to a lover.
She knew well that it was only from his vexation at her conduct that
Le Gardeur had pretended to renew some long intermitted coquetries
with the fair Cecile. "But why were you wicked at all that night?"
inquired she, with a look of sudden interest, as she caught a red
cast in his eye, that spoke of much dissipation. "You have been
ill, Le Gardeur!" But she knew he had been drinking deep and long,
to drown vexation, perhaps, over her conduct.
"I have not been ill," replied he; "shall I tell you the truth,
"Always, and all of it! The whole truth and nothing but the truth!"
Her hand rested fondly on his; no word of equivocation was possible
under that mode of putting her lover to the question. "Tell me why
you were wicked that night!"
"Because I loved you to madness, Angélique; and I saw myself thrust
from the first place in your heart, and a new idol set up in my
stead. That is the truth?"
"That is not the truth!" exclaimed she vehemently; and never will be
the truth if I know myself and you. But you don't know women, Le
Gardeur," added she, with a smile; "you don't know me, the one woman
you ought to know better than that!"
It is easy to recover affection that is not lost. Angélique knew
her power, and was not indisposed to excess in the exercise of it.
"Will you do something for me, Le Gardeur?" asked she, tapping his
fingers coquettishly with her fan.
"Will I not? Is there anything in earth, heaven, or hell,
Angélique, I would not do for you if I only could win what I covet
more than life?"
"What is that?" Angélique knew full well what he coveted more than
life; her own heart began to beat responsively to the passion she
had kindled in his. She nestled up closer to his side. "What is
that, Le Gardeur?"
"Your love, Angélique! I have no other hope in life if I miss that!
Give me your love and I will serve you with such loyalty as never
man served woman with since Adam and Eve were created."
It was a rash saying, but Le Gardeur believed it, and Angélique too.
Still she kept her aim before her. "If I give you my love," said
she, pressing her hand through his thick locks, sending from her
fingers a thousand electric fires, "will you really be my knight, my
preux chevalier, to wear my colors and fight my battles with all the
"I will, by all that is sacred in man or woman! Your will shall be
my law, Angélique; your pleasure, my conscience; you shall be to me
all reason and motive for my acts if you will but love me!"
"I do love you, Le Gardeur!" replied she, impetuously. She felt the
vital soul of this man breathing on her cheek. She knew he spoke
true, but she was incapable of measuring the height and immensity of
such a passion. She accepted his love, but she could no more
contain the fulness of his overflowing affection than the pitcher
that is held to the fountain can contain the stream that gushes
Angélique was ALMOST carried away from her purpose, however. Had
her heart asserted its rightful supremacy--that is, had nature
fashioned it larger and warmer--she had there and then thrown
herself into his arms and blessed him by the consent he sought. She
felt assured that here was the one man God had made for her, and she
was cruelly sacrificing him to a false idol of ambition and vanity.
The word he pleaded for hovered on her tongue, ready like a bird to
leap down into his bosom; but she resolutely beat it back into its
The struggle was the old one--old as the race of man. In the losing
battle between the false and true, love rarely comes out of that
conflict unshorn of life or limb. Untrue to him, she was true to
her selfish self. The thought of the Intendant and the glories of
life opening to her closed her heart, not to the pleadings of Le
Gardeur,--them she loved,--but to the granting of his prayer.
The die was cast, but she still clasped hard his hand in hers, as if
she could not let him go. "And will you do all you say, Le Gardeur--
make my will your law, my pleasure your conscience, and let me be
to you all reason and motive? Such devotion terrifies me, Le
"Try me! Ask of me the hardest thing, nay, the wickedest, that
imagination can conceive or hands do--and I would perform it for
your sake." Le Gardeur was getting beside himself. The magic power
of those dark, flashing eyes of hers was melting all the fine gold
of his nature to folly.
"Fie!" replied she, "I do not ask you to drink the sea: a small
thing would content me. My love is not so exacting as that, Le
"Does your brother need my aid?" asked he. "If he does, he shall
have it to half my fortune for your sake!" Le Gardeur was well
aware that the prodigal brother of Angélique was in a strait for
money, as was usual with him. He had lately importuned Le Gardeur,
and obtained a large sum from him.
She looked up with well-affected indignation. "How can you think
such a thing, Le Gardeur? my brother was not in my thought. It was
the Intendant I wished to ask you about,--you know him better than I."
This was not true. Angélique had studied the Intendant in mind,
person, and estate, weighing him scruple by scruple to the last
attainable atom of information. Not that she had sounded the depths
of Bigot's soul--there were regions of darkness in his character
which no eye but God's ever penetrated. Angélique felt that with
all her acuteness she did not comprehend the Intendant.
"You ask what I think of the Intendant?" asked he, surprised
somewhat at the question.
"Yes--an odd question, is it not, Le Gardeur?" and she smiled away
any surprise he experienced.
"Truly, I think him the most jovial gentleman that ever was in New
France," was the reply; "frank and open-handed to his friends,
laughing and dangerous to his foes. His wit is like his wine,
Angélique: one never tires of either, and no lavishness exhausts it.
In a word, I, like the Intendant, I like his wit ,his wine, his
friends,--some of them, that is!--but above all, I like you,
Angélique, and will be more his friend than ever for your sake,
since I have learned his generosity towards the Chevalier des
The Intendant had recently bestowed a number of valuable shares in
the Grand Company upon the brother of Angélique, making the fortune
of that extravagant young nobleman.
"I am glad you will be his friend, if only for my sake," added she,
coquettishly. "But some great friends of yours like him not. Your
sweet sister Amélie shrank like a sensitive plant at the mention of
his name, and the Lady de Tilly put on her gravest look to-day when
I spoke of the Chevalier Bigot."
Le Gardeur gave Angélique an equivocal look at mention of his
sister. "My sister Amélie is an angel in the flesh," said he. "A
man need be little less than divine to meet her full approval; and
my good aunt has heard something of the genial life of the
Intendant. One may excuse a reproving shake of her noble head."
"Colonel Philibert too! he shares in the sentiments of your aunt and
sister, to say nothing of the standing hostility of his father, the
Bourgeois," continued Angélique, provoked at Le Gardeur's want of
"Pierre Philibert! He may not like the Intendant: he has reason for
not doing so; but I stake my life upon his honor--he will never be
unjust towards the Intendant or any man." Le Gardeur could not be
drawn into a censure of his friend.
Angélique shielded adroitly the stiletto of innuendo she had drawn.
"You say right," said she, craftily; "Pierre Philibert is a
gentleman worthy of your regard. I confess I have seen no handsomer
man in New France. I have been dreaming of one like him all my
life! What a pity I saw you first, Le Gardeur!" added she, pulling
him by the hair.
"I doubt you would throw me to the fishes were Pierre my rival,
Angélique," replied he, merrily; "but I am in no danger: Pierre's
affections are, I fancy, forestalled in a quarter where I need not
be jealous of his success."
"I shall at any rate not be jealous of your sister, Le Gardeur,"
said Angélique, raising her face to his, suffused with a blush; "if
I do not give you the love you ask for it is because you have it
already; but ask no more at present from me--this, at least, is
yours," said she, kissing him twice, without prudery or hesitation.
That kiss from those adored lips sealed his fate. It was the first--
better it had been the last, better he had never been born than
have drank the poison of her lips.
"Now answer me my questions, Le Gardeur," added she, after a pause
of soft blandishments.
Le Gardeur felt her fingers playing with his hair, as, like Delilah,
she cut off the seven locks of his strength.
"There is a lady at Beaumanoir; tell me who and what she is, Le
Gardeur," said she.
He would not have hesitated to betray the gate of Heaven at her
prayer; but, as it happened, Le Gardeur could not give her the
special information she wanted as to the particular relation in
which that lady stood to the Intendant. Angélique with wonderful
coolness talked away, and laughed at the idea of the Intendant's
gallantry. But she could get no confirmation of her suspicions from
Le Gardeur. Her inquiry was for the present a failure, but she made
Le Gardeur promise to learn what he could and tell her the result of
They sat long conversing together, until the bell of the Recollets
sounded the hour of midnight. Angélique looked in the face of Le
Gardeur with a meaning smile, as she counted each stroke with her
dainty finger on his cheek. When finished, she sprang up and looked
out of the lattice at the summer night.
The stars were twinkling like living things. Charles's Wain lay
inverted in the northern horizon; Bootes had driven his sparkling
herd down the slope of the western sky. A few thick tresses of her
golden hair hung negligently over her bosom and shoulders. She
placed her arm in Le Gardeur's, hanging heavily upon him as she
directed his eyes to the starry heavens. The selfish schemes she
carried in her bosom dropped for a moment to the ground. Her feet
seemed to trample them into the dust, while she half resolved to be
to this man all that he believed her to be, a true and devoted
"Read my destiny, Le Gardeur," said she, earnestly. "You are a
Seminarist. They say the wise fathers of the Seminary study deeply
the science of the stars, and the students all become adepts in it."
"Would that my starry heaven were more propitious, Angélique,"
replied he, gaily kissing her eyes. "I care not for other skies
than these! My fate and fortune are here."
Her bosom heaved with mingled passions. The word of hope and the
word of denial struggled on her lips for mastery. Her blood
throbbed quicker than the beat of the golden pendule on the marble
table; but, like a bird, the good impulse again escaped her grasp.
"Look, Le Gardeur," said she. Her delicate finger pointed at
Perseus, who was ascending the eastern heavens: "there is my star.
Mère Malheur,--you know her,--she once said to me that that was my
natal star, which would rule my life."
Like all whose passions pilot them, Angélique believed in destiny.
Le Gardeur had sipped a few drops of the cup of astrology from the
venerable Professor Vallier. Angélique's finger pointed to the star
Algol--that strange, mutable star that changes from bright to dark
with the hours, and which some believe changes men's hearts to
"Mère Malheur lied!" exclaimed he, placing his arm round her, as if
to protect her from the baleful influence. "That cursed star never
presided over your birth, Angélique! That is the demon star Algol."
Angélique shuddered, and pressed still closer to him, as if in fear.
"Mère Malheur would not tell me the meaning of that star, but bade
me, if a saint, to watch and wait; if a sinner, to watch and pray.
What means Algol, Le Gardeur?" she half faltered.
"Nothing for you, love. A fig for all the stars in the sky! Your
bright eyes outshine them all in radiance, and overpower them in
influence. All the music of the spheres is to me discord compared
with the voice of Angélique des Meloises, whom alone I love!"
As he spoke a strain of heavenly harmony arose from the chapel of
the Convent of the Ursulines, where they were celebrating midnight
service for the safety of New France. Amid the sweet voices that
floated up on the notes of the pealing organ was clearly
distinguished that of Mère St. Borgia, the aunt of Angélique, who
led the choir of nuns. In trills and cadences of divine melody the
voice of Mère St. Borgia rose higher and higher, like a spirit
mounting the skies. The words were indistinct, but Angélique knew
them by heart. She had visited her aunt in the Convent, and had
learned the new hymn composed by her for the solemn occasion.
As they listened with quiet awe to the supplicating strain,
Angélique repeated to Le Gardeur the words of the hymn as it was
sung by the choir of nuns:
"'Soutenez, grande Reine,
Notre pauvre pays!
Il est votre domaine,
Faites fleurir nos lis!
L'Anglais sur nos frontières
Porte ses étendards;
Exauces nos prières,
Protégez nos remparts!'"
The hymn ceased. Both stood mute until the watchman cried the hour
in the silent street.
"God bless their holy prayers, and good-night and God bless you,
Angélique!" said Le Gardeur, kissing her. He departed suddenly,
leaving a gift in the hand of Lizette, who courtesied low to him
with a smile of pleasure as he passed out, while Angélique leaned
out of the window listening to his horse's hoofs until the last tap
of them died away on the stony pavement.
She threw herself upon her couch and wept silently. The soft music
had touched her feelings. Le Gardeur's love was like a load of
gold, crushing her with its weight. She could neither carry it
onward nor throw it off. She fell at length into a slumber filled
with troubled dreams. She was in a sandy wilderness, carrying a
pitcher of clear, cold water, and though dying of thirst she would
not drink, but perversely poured it upon the ground. She was
falling down into unfathomable abysses and pushed aside the only
hand stretched out to save her. She was drowning in deep water and
she saw Le Gardeur buffeting the waves to rescue her but she
wrenched herself out of his grasp. She would not be saved, and was
lost! Her couch was surrounded with indefinite shapes of embryo
She fell asleep at last. When she awoke the sun was pouring in her
windows. A fresh breeze shook the trees. The birds sang gaily in
the garden. The street was alive and stirring with people.
It was broad day. Angélique des Meloises was herself again. Her
day-dream of ambition resumed its power. Her night-dream of love
was over. Her fears vanished, her hopes were all alive, and she
began to prepare for a possible morning call from the Chevalier
Amid the ruins of the once magnificent palace of the Intendant,
massive fragments of which still remain to attest its former
greatness, there may still be traced the outline of the room where
Bigot walked restlessly up and down the morning after the Council of
War. The disturbing letters he had received from France on both
public and private affairs irritated him, while it set his fertile
brain at work to devise means at once to satisfy the Marquise de
Pompadour and to have his own way still.
The walls of his cabinet--now bare, shattered, and roofless with the
blasts of six score winters--were hung with portraits of ladies and
statesmen of the day; conspicuous among which was a fine picture
from the pencil of Vanloo of the handsome, voluptuous Marquise de
With a world of faults, that celebrated dame, who ruled France in
the name of Louis XV., made some amends by her persistent good
nature and her love for art. The painter, the architect, the
sculptor, and above all, the men of literature in France, were
objects of her sincere admiration, and her patronage of them was
generous to profusion. The picture of her in the cabinet of the
Intendant had been a work of gratitude by the great artist who
painted it, and was presented by her to Bigot as a mark of her
friendship and demi-royal favor. The cabinet itself was furnished
in a style of regal magnificence, which the Intendant carried into
all details of his living.
The Chevalier de Pean, the Secretary and confidential friend of the
Intendant, was writing at a table. He looked up now and then with a
curious glance as the figure of his chief moved to and fro with
quick turns across the room. But neither of them spoke.
Bigot would have been quite content with enriching himself and his
friends, and turning out of doors the crowd of courtly sycophants
who clamored for the plunder of the Colony. He had sense to see
that the course of policy in which he was embarked might eventually
ruin New France,--nay, having its origin in the Court, might
undermine the whole fabric of the monarchy. He consoled himself,
however, with the reflection that it could not be helped. He formed
but one link in the great chain of corruption, and one link could
not stand alone: it could only move by following those which went
before and dragging after it those that came behind. Without
debating a useless point of morals, Bigot quietly resigned himself
to the service of his masters, or rather mistresses, after he had
first served himself.
If the enormous plunder made out of the administration of the war by
the great monopoly he had established were suddenly to cease, Bigot
felt that his genius would be put to a severe test. But he had no
misgivings, because he had no scruples. He was not the man to go
under in any storm. He would light upon his feet, as he expressed
it, if the world turned upside down.
Bigot suddenly stopped in his walk. His mind had been dwelling upon
the great affairs of his Intendancy and the mad policy of the Court
of Versailles. A new thought struck him. He turned and looked
fixedly at his Secretary.
"De Pean!" said he. "We have not a sure hold of the Chevalier de
Repentigny! That young fellow plays fast and loose with us. One
who dines with me at the palace and sups with the Philiberts at the
Chien d'Or cannot be a safe partner in the Grand Company!"
"I have small confidence in him, either," replied De Pean. "Le
Gardeur has too many loose ends of respectability hanging about him
to make him a sure hold for our game."
"Just so! Cadet, Varin, and the rest of you, have only half
haltered the young colt. His training so far is no credit to you!
The way that cool bully, Colonel Philibert, walked off with him out
of Beaumanoir, was a sublime specimen of impudence. Ha! Ha! The
recollection of it has salted my meat ever since! It was admirably
performed! although, egad, I should have liked to run my sword
through Philibert's ribs! and not one of you all was man enough to
do it for me!"
"But your Excellency gave no hint, you seemed full of politeness
towards Philibert," replied De Pean, with a tone that implied he
would have done it had Bigot given the hint.
"Zounds! as if I do not know it! But it was provoking to be
flouted, so politely too, by that whelp of the Golden Dog! The
influence of that Philibert is immense over young De Repentigny.
They say he once pulled him out of the water, and is, moreover, a
suitor of the sister, a charming girl, De Pean! with no end of
money, lands, and family power. She ought to be secured as well as
her brother in the interests of the Grand Company. A good marriage
with one of our party would secure her, and none of you dare
propose, by God!"
"It is useless to think of proposing to her," replied De Pean. "I
know the proud minx. She is one of the angelic ones who regard
marriage as a thing of Heaven's arrangement. She believes God never
makes but one man for one woman, and it is her duty to marry him or
nobody. It is whispered among the knowing girls who went to school
with her at the Convent,--and the Convent girls do know everything,
and something more,--that she always cherished a secret affection
for this Philibert, and that she will marry him some day."
"Marry Satan! Such a girl as that to marry a cursed Philibert!"
Bigot was really irritated at the information. "I think," said he,
"women are ever ready to sail in the ships of Tarshish, so long as
the cargo is gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks! It speaks ill
for the boasted gallantry of the Grand Company if not one of them
can win this girl. If we could gain her over we should have no
difficulty with the brother, and the point is to secure him."
"There is but one way I can see, your Excellency." De Pean did not
appear to make his suggestion very cheerfully, but he was anxious to
please the Intendant.
"How is that?" the Intendant asked sharply. He had not the deepest
sense of De Pean's wisdom.
"We must call in woman to fight woman in the interests of the
Company," replied the Secretary.
"A good scheme if one could be got to fight and win! But do you
know any woman who can lay her fingers on Le Gardeur de Repentigny
and pull him out from among the Honnêtes Gens?"
"I do, your Excellency. I know the very one can do it," replied De
"You do! Why do you hesitate then? Have you any arrière pensée
that keeps you from telling her name at once?" asked the Intendant
"It is Mademoiselle des Meloises. She can do it, and no other woman
in New France need try!" replied De Pean.
"Why, she is a clipper, certainly! Bright eyes like hers rule the
world of fools--and of wise men, too," added Bigot in a parenthesis.
"However, all the world is caught by that bird-lime. I confess I
never made a fool of myself but a woman was at the bottom of it.
But for one who has tripped me up, I have taken sweet revenge on a
thousand. If Le Gardeur be entangled in Nerea's hair, he is safe in
our toils. Do you think Angélique is at home, De Pean?"
The Intendant looked up at the clock. It was the usual hour for
morning calls in Quebec.
"Doubtless she is at home at this hour, your Excellency," replied De
Pean. "But she likes her bed, as other pretty women do, and is
practising for the petite levée, like a duchess. I don't suppose
she is up!"
"I don't know that," replied Bigot. "A greater runagate in
petticoats there is not in the whole city! I never pass through
the streets but I see her."
"Ay, that is because she intends to meet your Excellency!" Bigot
looked sharply at De Pean. A new thought flashed in his eyes.
"What! think you she makes a point of it, De Pean?"
"I think she would not go out of the way of your Excellency." De
Pean shuffled among his papers, but his slight agitation was noticed
by the Intendant.
"Hum! is that your thought, De Pean? Looks she in this quarter?"
Bigot meditated with his hand on his chin for a moment or two. "You
think she is doubtless at home this morning?" added he.
"It was late when De Repentigny left her last night, and she would
have long and pleasant dreams after that visit, I warrant," replied
"How do you know? By St. Picot! You watch her closely, De Pean!"
"I do, your Excellency: I have reason," was the reply.
De Pean did not say what his reason for watching Angélique was;
neither did Bigot ask. The Intendant cared not to pry into the
personal matters of his friends. He had himself too much to conceal
not to respect the secrets of his associates.
"Well, De Pean! I will wait on Mademoiselle des Meloises this
morning. I will act on your suggestion, and trust I shall not find
"I hope your Excellency will not find her unreasonable, but I know
you will, for if ever the devil of contradiction was in a woman he
is in Angélique des Meloises!" replied De Pean savagely, as if he
spoke from some experience of his own.
"Well, I will try to cast out that devil by the power of a still
stronger one. Ring for my horse, De Pean!"
The Secretary obeyed and ordered the horse. "Mind, De Pean!"
continued the Intendant. "The Board of the Grand Company meet at
three for business! actual business! not a drop of wine upon the
table, and all sober! not even Cadet shall come in if he shows one
streak of the grape on his broad face. There is a storm of peace
coming over us, and it is necessary to shorten sail, take soundings,
and see where we are, or we may strike on a rock."
The Intendant left the palace attended by a couple of equerries. He
rode through the palace gate and into the city. Habitans and
citizens bowed to him out of habitual respect for their superiors.
Bigot returned their salutations with official brevity, but his dark
face broke into sunshine as he passed ladies and citizens whom he
knew as partners of the Grand Company or partizans of his own
As he rode rapidly through the streets many an ill wish followed
him, until he dismounted before the mansion of the Des Meloises.
"As I live, it is the Royal Intendant himself," screamed Lizette, as
she ran, out of breath, to inform her mistress, who was sitting
alone in the summer-house in the garden behind the mansion, a pretty
spot tastefully laid out with flower beds and statuary. A thick
hedge of privet, cut into fantastic shapes by some disciple of the
school of Lenôtre, screened it from the slopes that ran up towards
the green glacis of Cape Diamond.
Angélique looked beautiful as Hebe the golden-haired, as she sat in
the arbor this morning. Her light morning dress of softest texture
fell in graceful folds about her exquisite form. She held a Book of
Hours in her hand, but she had not once opened it since she sat
down. Her dark eyes looked not soft, nor kindly, but bright,
defiant, wanton, and even wicked in their expression, like the eyes
of an Arab steed, whipped, spurred, and brought to a desperate leap--
it may clear the wall before it, or may dash itself dead against
the stones. Such was the temper of Angélique this morning.
Hard thoughts and many respecting the Lady of Beaumanoir, fond
almost savage regret at her meditated rejection of De Repentigny,
glittering images of the royal Intendant and of the splendors of
Versailles, passed in rapid succession through her brain, forming a
phantasmagoria in which she colored everything according to her own
fancy. The words of her maid roused her in an instant.
"Admit the Intendant and show him into the garden, Lizette. Now!"
said she, "I shall end my doubts about that lady! I will test the
Intendant's sincerity,--cold, calculating woman-slayer that he is!
It shames me to contrast his half-heartedness with the perfect
adoration of my handsome Le Gardeur de Repentigny!"
The Intendant entered the garden. Angélique, with that complete
self-control which distinguishes a woman of half a heart or no heart
at all, changed her whole demeanor in a moment from gravity to
gayety. Her eyes flashed out pleasure, and her dimples went and
came, as she welcomed the Intendant to her arbor.
"A friend is never so welcome as when he comes of his own accord!"
said she, presenting her hand to the Intendant, who took it with
empressement. She made room for him on the seat beside her, dashing
her skirts aside somewhat ostentatiously.
Bigot looked at her admiringly. He thought he had never seen, in
painting, statuary, or living form, a more beautiful and fascinating
Angélique accepted his admiration as her due, feeling no thanks, but
"The Chevalier Bigot does not lose his politeness, however long he
absents himself!" said she, with a glance like a Parthian arrow well
aimed to strike home.
"I have been hunting at Beaumanoir," replied he extenuatingly; "that
must explain, not excuse, my apparent neglect." Bigot felt that he
had really been a loser by his absence.
"Hunting! indeed!" Angélique affected a touch of surprise, as if
she had not known every tittle of gossip about the gay party and all
their doings at the Château. "They say game is growing scarce near
the city, Chevalier," continued she nonchalantly, "and that a
hunting party at Beaumanoir is but a pretty metonomy for a party of
pleasure is that true?"
"Quite true, mademoiselle," replied he, laughing. "The two things
are perfectly compatible,--like a brace of lovers, all the better
for being made one."
"Very gallantly said!" retorted she, with a ripple of dangerous
laughter. "I will carry the comparison no farther. Still, I wager,
Chevalier, that the game is not worth the hunt."
"The play is always worth the candle, in my fancy," said he, with a
glance of meaning; "but there is really good game yet in Beaumanoir,
as you will confess, Mademoiselle, if you will honor our party some
day with your presence."
"Come now, Chevalier," replied she, fixing him mischievously with
her eyes, "tell me, what game do you find in the forest of
"Oh! rabbits, hares, and deer, with now and then a rough bear to try
the mettle of our chasseurs."
"What! no foxes to cheat foolish crows? no wolves to devour pretty
Red Riding Hoods straying in the forest? Come, Chevalier, there is
better game than all that," said she.
"Oh, yes!" he half surmised she was rallying him now--"plenty, but
we don't wind horns after them."
"They say," continued she, "there is much fairer game than bird or
beast in the forest of Beaumanoir, Chevalier." She went on
recklessly, "Stray lambs are picked up by intendants sometimes, and
carried tenderly to the Château! The Intendant comprehends a
gentleman's devoirs to our sex, I am sure."
Bigot understood her now, and gave an angry start. Angélique did
not shrink from the temper she had evoked.
"Heavens! how you look, Chevalier!" said she, in a tone of half
banter. "One would think I had accused you of murder instead of
saving a fair lady's life in the forest; although woman-killing is
no murder I believe, by the laws of gallantry, as read by gentlemen--
Bigot rose up with a hasty gesture of impatience and sat down again.
After all, he thought, what could this girl know about Caroline de
St. Castin? He answered her with an appearance of frankness,
deeming that to be the best policy.
"Yes, Mademoiselle, I one day found a poor suffering woman in the
forest. I took her to the Château, where she now is. Many ladies
beside her have been to Beaumanoir. Many more will yet come and go,
until I end my bachelordom and place one there in perpetuity as
'mistress of my heart and home,' as the song says."
Angélique could coquette in half-meanings with any lady of honor at
Court. "Well, Chevalier, it will be your fault not to find one fit
to place there. They walk every street of the city. But they say
this lost and found lady is a stranger?"
"To me she is--not to you, perhaps, Mademoiselle!"
The fine ear of Angélique detected the strain of hypocrisy in his
speech. It touched a sensitive nerve. She spoke boldly now.
"Some say she is your wife, Chevalier Bigot!" Angélique gave vent
to a feeling long pent-up. She who trifled with men's hearts every
day was indignant at the least symptom of repayment in kind. "They
say she is your wife or, if not your wife, she ought to be,
Chevalier,--and will be, perhaps, one of these fine days, when
you have wearied of the distressed damsels of the city."
It had been better for Bigot, better for Angélique, that these two
could have frankly understood each other. Bigot, in his sudden
admiration of the beauty of this girl, forgot that his object in
coming to see her had really been to promote a marriage, in the
interests of the Grand Company, between her and Le Gardeur. Her
witcheries had been too potent for the man of pleasure. He was
himself caught in the net he spread for another. The adroit bird-
catching of Angélique was too much for him in the beginning: Bigot's
tact and consummate heartlessness with women, might be too much for
her in the end. At the present moment he was fairly dazzled with
her beauty, spirit, and seductiveness.
"I am a simple quail," thought he, "to be caught by her piping. Par
Dieu! I am going to make a fool of myself if I do not take care!
Such a woman as this I have not found between Paris and Naples. The
man who gets her, and knows how to use her, might be Prime Minister
of France. And to fancy it--I came here to pick this sweet chestnut
out of the fire for Le Gardeur de Repentigny! François Bigot! as a
man of gallantry and fashion I am ashamed of you!"
These were his thoughts, but in words he replied, "The lady of
Beaumanoir is not my wife, perhaps never will be." Angélique's
eager question fell on very unproductive ground.
Angélique repeated the word superciliously. "'Perhaps!' 'Perhaps'
in the mouth of a woman is consent half won; in the mouth of a man I
know it has a laxer meaning. Love has nothing to say to 'perhaps':
it is will or shall, and takes no 'perhaps' though a thousand times
"And you intend to marry this treasure trove of the forest--
perhaps?" continued Angélique, tapping the ground with a daintier
foot than the Intendant had ever seen before.
"It depends much on you, Mademoiselle des Meloises," said he. "Had
you been my treasure-trove, there had been no 'perhaps' about it."
Bigot spoke bluntly, and to Angélique it sounded like sincerity.
Her dreams were accomplished. She trembled with the intensity of
her gratification, and felt no repugnance at his familiar address.
The Intendant held out his hand as he uttered the dulcet flattery,
and she placed her hand in his, but it was cold and passionless.
Her heart did not send the blood leaping into her finger-ends as
when they were held in the loving grasp of Le Gardeur.
"Angélique!" said he. It was the first time the Intendant had
called her by her name. She started. It was the unlocking of his
heart she thought, and she looked at him with a smile which she had
practised with infallible effect upon many a foolish admirer.
"Angélique, I have seen no woman like you, in New France or in Old;
you are fit to adorn a Court, and I predict you will--if--if--"
"If what, Chevalier?" Her eyes fairly blazed with vanity and
pleasure. "Cannot one adorn Courts, at least French Courts, without
"You can, if you choose to do so," replied he, looking at her
admiringly; for her whole countenance flashed intense pleasure at
"If I choose to do so? I do choose to do so! But who is to show me
the way to the Court, Chevalier? It is a long and weary distance
from New France."
"I will show you the way, if you will permit me, Angélique:
Versailles is the only fitting theatre for the display of beauty and
spirit like yours."
Angélique thoroughly believed this, and for a few moments was
dazzled and overpowered by the thought of the golden doors of her
ambition opened by the hand of the Intendant. A train of images,
full-winged and as gorgeous as birds of paradise, flashed across her
vision. La Pompadour was getting old, men said, and the King was
already casting his eyes round the circle of more youthful beauties
in his Court for a successor. "And what woman in the world,"
thought she, "could vie with Angélique des Meloises if she chose to
enter the arena to supplant La Pompadour? Nay, more! If the prize
of the King were her lot, she would outdo La Maintenon herself, and
end by sitting on the throne."
Angélique was not, however, a milkmaid to say yes before she was
asked. She knew her value, and had a natural distrust of the
Intendant's gallant speeches. Moreover, the shadow of the lady of
Beaumanoir would not wholly disappear. "Why do you say such
flattering things to me, Chevalier?" asked she. "One takes them for
earnest coming from the Royal Intendant. You should leave trifling
to the idle young men of the city, who have no business to employ
them but gallanting us women."
"Trifling! By St. Jeanne de Choisy, I was never more in earnest,
Mademoiselle!" exclaimed Bigot. "I offer you the entire devotion of
my heart." St. Jeanne de Choisy was the sobriquet in the petits
appartements for La Pompadour. Angélique knew it very well,
although Bigot thought she did not.
"Fair words are like flowers, Chevalier," replied she, "sweet to
smell and pretty to look at; but love feeds on ripe fruit. Will you
prove your devotion to me if I put it to the test?"
"Most willingly, Angélique!" Bigot thought she contemplated some
idle freak that might try his gallantry, perhaps his purse. But she
was in earnest, if he was not.
"I ask, then, the Chevalier Bigot that before he speaks to me again
of love or devotion, he shall remove that lady, whoever she may be,
from Beaumanoir!" Angélique sat erect, and looked at him with a
long, fixed look, as she said this.
"Remove that lady from Beaumanoir!" exclaimed he in complete
surprise; "surely that poor shadow does not prevent your accepting
my devotion, Angélique?"
"Yes, but it does, Chevalier! I like bold men. Most women do, but
I did not think that even the Intendant of New France was bold
enough to make love to Angélique des Meloises while he kept a wife
or mistress in stately seclusion at Beaumanoir!"
Bigot cursed the shrewishness and innate jealousy of the sex, which
would not content itself with just so much of a man's favor as he
chose to bestow, but must ever want to rule single and alone.
"Every woman is a despot," thought he, "and has no mercy upon
pretenders to her throne."
"That lady," replied he, "is neither wife nor mistress, Mademoiselle:
she sought the shelter of my roof with a claim upon the hospitality
"No doubt"--Angélique's nostril quivered with a fine disdain--"the
hospitality of Beaumanoir is as broad and comprehensive as its
master's admiration for our sex!" said she.
Bigot was not angry. He gave a loud laugh. "You women are
merciless upon each other, Mademoiselle!" said he.
"Men are more merciless to women when they beguile us with insincere
professions," replied she, rising up in well-affected indignation.
"Not so, Mademoiselle!" Bigot began to feel annoyed. "That lady is
nothing to me," said he, without rising as she had done. He kept
"But she has been! you have loved her at some time or other! and she
is now living on the scraps and leavings of former affection. I am
never deceived, Chevalier!" continued she, glancing down at him, a
wild light playing under her long eyelashes like the illumined
under-edge of a thundercloud.
"But how in St. Picot's name did you arrive at all this knowledge,
Mademoiselle?" Bigot began to see that there was nothing for it but
to comply with every caprice of this incomprehensible girl if he
would carry his point.
"Oh, nothing is easier than for a woman to divine the truth in such
matters, Chevalier," said she. "It is a sixth sense given to our
sex to protect our weakness: no man can make love to two women but
each of them knows instinctively to her finger-tips that he is doing
"Surely woman is a beautiful book written in golden letters, but in
a tongue as hard to understand as hieroglyphics of Egypt." Bigot
was quite puzzled how to proceed with this incomprehensible girl.
"Thanks for the comparison, Chevalier," replied she, with a laugh.
"It would not do for men to scrutinize us too closely, yet one woman
reads another easily as a horn-book of Troyes, which they say is so
easy that the children read it without learning."
To boldly set at defiance a man who had boasted a long career of
success was the way to rouse his pride, and determine him to
overcome her resistance. Angélique was not mistaken. Bigot saw
her resolution, and, although it was with a mental reservation to
deceive her, he promised to banish Caroline from his château.
"It was always my good fortune to be conquered in every passage of
arms with your sex, Angélique," said he, at once radiant and
submissive. "Sit down by me in token of amity."
She complied without hesitation, and sat down by him, gave him her
hand again, and replied with an arch smile, while a thousand
inimitable coquetries played about her eyes and lips, "You speak now
like an amant magnifique, Chevalier!
"'Quelque fort qu'on s'en defende,
Il y faut venir un jour!'"
"It is a bargain henceforth and forever, Angélique!" said he; "but I
am a harder man than you imagine: I give nothing for nothing, and
all for everything. Will you consent to aid me and the Grand
Company in a matter of importance?"
"Will I not? What a question, Chevalier! Most willingly I will aid
you in anything proper for a lady to do!" added she, with a touch of
"I wish you to do it, right or wrong, proper or improper, although
there is no impropriety in it. Improper becomes proper if you do
"Well, what is it, Chevalier,--this fearful test to prove my loyalty
to the Grand Company, and which makes you such a matchless
"Just this, Angélique!" replied he. "You have much influence with
the Seigneur de Repentigny?"
Angélique colored up to the eyes. "With Le Gardeur! What of him?
I can take no part against the Seigneur de Repentigny;" said she,
"Against him? For him! We fear much that he is about to fall into
the hands of the Honnêtes Gens: you can prevent it if you will,
"I have an honest regard for the Seigneur de Repentigny!" said she,
more in answer to her own feelings than to the Intendant's remark--
her cheek flushed, her fingers twitched nervously at her fan, which
she broke in her agitation and threw the pieces vehemently upon the
ground. "I have done harm enough to Le Gardeur I fear," continued
she. "I had better not interfere with him any more! Who knows what
might result?" She looked up almost warningly at the Intendant.
"I am glad to find you so sincere a friend to Le Gardeur," remarked
Bigot, craftily. "You will be glad to learn that our intention is
to elevate him to a high and lucrative office in the administration
of the Company, unless the Honnêtes Gens are before us in gaining
full possession of him."
"They shall not be before us if I can prevent it, Chevalier,"
replied she, warmly. She was indeed grateful for the implied
compliment to Le Gardeur. "No one will be better pleased at his
good fortune than myself."
"I thought so. It was partly my business to tell you of our
intentions towards Le Gardeur."
"Indeed!" replied she, in a tone of pique. "I flattered myself your
visit was all on my own account, Chevalier."
"So it was." Bigot felt himself on rather soft ground. "Your
brother, the Chevalier des Meloises, has doubtless consulted you