Part 7 out of 13
The Lady de Tilly duly appreciated this compliment of her faithful
censitaires, and would sooner have stripped her park of half its
live trees than have removed that dead pole, with its withered
crown, from the place of honor in front of her mansion.
The revels of May in New France, the king and queen of St. Philip,
the rejoicings of a frank, loyal peasantry--illiterate in books but
not unlearned in the art of life,--have wholly disappeared before
the levelling spirit of the nineteenth century.
The celebration of the day of St. Philip has been superseded by the
festival of St. John the Baptist, at a season of the year when green
leaves and blooming flowers give the possibility of arches and
garlands in honor of the Canadian summer.
Felix Beaudoin with a wave of his hand scattered the bevy of maid
servants who stood chattering as they gazed upon the new arrivals.
The experience of Felix told him that everything had of course gone
wrong during his absence from the Manor House, and that nothing
could be fit for his mistress's reception until he had set all to
rights again himself.
The worthy majordomo was in a state of perspiration lest he should
not get into the house before his mistress and don his livery to
meet her at the door with his white wand and everything en régle,
just as if nothing had interrupted their usual course of
The Lady de Tilly knew the weakness of her faithful old servitor,
and although she smiled to herself, she would not hurt his feelings
by entering the house before he was ready at his post to receive
her. She continued walking about the lawn conversing with Amélie,
Pierre, and Le Gardeur, until she saw old Felix with his wand and
livery standing at the door, when, taking Pierre's arm, she led the
way into the house.
The folding doors were open, and Felix with his wand walked before
his lady and her companions into the mansion. They entered without
delay, for the day had been warm, and the ladies were weary after
sitting several hours in a canoe, a mode of travelling which admits
of very little change of position in the voyagers.
The interior of the Manor House of Tilly presented the appearance of
an old French château. A large hall with antique furniture occupied
the center of the house, used occasionally as a court of justice
when the Seigneur de Tilly exercised his judicial office for the
trial of offenders, which was very rarely, thanks to the good morals
of the people, or held a cour plenière of his vassals, on affairs of
the seigniory for apportioning the corvées for road-making and
bridge-building, and, not the least important by any means, for the
annual feast to his censitaires on the day of St. Michael de Thury.
From this hall, passages led into apartments and suites of rooms
arranged for use, comfort, and hospitality. The rooms were of all
sizes, panelled, tapestried, and furnished in a style of splendor
suited to the wealth and dignity of the Seigneurs of Tilly. A stair
of oak, broad enough for a section of grenadiers to march up it
abreast, led to the upper chambers, bedrooms, and boudoirs, which
looked out of old mullioned windows upon the lawn and gardens that
surrounded the house, affording picturesque glimpses of water,
hills, and forests far enough off for contemplation, and yet near
enough to be accessible by a short ride from the mansion.
Pierre Philibert was startled at the strange familiarity of
everything he saw: the passages and all their intricacies, where he,
Le Gardeur, and Amélie had hid and found one another with cries of
delight,--he knew where they all led to; the rooms with their
antique and stately furniture, the paintings on the wall, before
which he had stood and gazed, wondering if the world was as fair as
those landscapes of sunny France and Italy and why the men and women
of the house of Tilly, whose portraits hung upon the walls, looked
at him so kindly with those dark eyes of theirs, which seemed to
follow him everywhere, and he imagined they even smiled when their
lips were illumined by a ray of sunshine. Pierre looked at them
again with a strange interest,--they were like the faces of living
friends who welcomed him back to Tilly after years of absence.
Pierre entered a well-remembered apartment which he knew to be the
favorite sitting-room of the Lady de Tilly. He walked hastily
across it to look at a picture upon the wall which he recognized
again with a flush of pleasure.
It was the portrait of Amélie painted by himself during his last
visit to Tilly. The young artist, full of enthusiasm, had put his
whole soul into the work, until he was himself startled at the vivid
likeness which almost unconsciously flowed from his pencil. He had
caught the divine upward expression of her eyes, as she turned her
head to listen to him, and left upon the canvas the very smile he
had seen upon her lips. Those dark eyes of hers had haunted his
memory forever after. To his imagination that picture had become
almost a living thing. It was as a voice of his own that returned
to his ear as the voice of Amélie. In the painting of that portrait
Pierre had the first revelation of a consciousness of his deep love
which became in the end the master passion of his life.
He stood for some minutes contemplating this portrait, so different
from her in age now, yet so like in look and expression. He turned
suddenly and saw Amélie; she had silently stepped up behind him, and
her features in a glow of pleasure took on the very look of the
Pierre started. He looked again, and saw every feature of the girl
of twelve looking through the transparent countenance of the perfect
woman of twenty. It was a moment of blissful revelation, for he
felt an assurance at that moment that Amélie was the same to him now
as in their days of youthful companionship. "How like it is to you
yet, Amélie!" said he; "it is more true than I knew how to make it!"
"That sounds like a paradox, Pierre Philibert!" replied she, with a
smile. "But it means, I suppose, that you painted a universal
portrait of me which will be like through all my seven ages. Such a
picture might be true of the soul, Pierre, had you painted that, but
I have outgrown the picture of my person."
"I could imagine nothing fairer than that portrait! In soul and
body it is all true, Amélie."
"Flatterer that you are!" said she, laughing. "I could almost wish
that portrait would walk out of its frame to thank you for the care
you bestowed upon its foolish little original."
"My care was more than rewarded! I find in that picture my beau-
ideal of the beauty of life, which, belonging to the soul, is true
to all ages."
"The girl of twelve would have thanked you more enthusiastically for
that remark, Pierre, than I dare do," replied she.
"The thanks are due from me, not from you, Amélie! I became your
debtor for a life-long obligation when without genius I could do
impossibilities. You taught me that paradox when you let me paint
Amélie glanced quickly up at him. A slight color came and went on
her cheek. "Would that I could do impossibilities," said she, "to
thank you sufficiently for your kindness to Le Gardeur and all of us
in coming to Tilly at this time.
"It would be a novelty, almost a relief, to put Pierre Philibert
under some obligation to us for we all owe him, would it not, Le
Gardeur?" continued she, clasping the arm of her brother, who just
now came into the room. "We will discharge a portion of our debt to
Pierre for this welcome visit by a day on the lake,--we will make up
a water-party. What say you, brother? The gentlemen shall light
fires, the ladies shall make tea, and we will have guitars and
songs, and maybe a dance, brother! and then a glorious return home
by moonlight! What say you to my programme, Le Gardeur de
Repentigny? What say you, Pierre Philibert?"
"It is a good programme, sister, but leave me out of it. I shall
only mar the pleasure of the rest; I will not go to the lake. I
have been trying ever since my return home to recognize Tilly;
everything looks to me in an eclipse, and nothing bright as it once
was, not even you, Amélie. Your smile has a curious touch of
sadness in it which does not escape my eyes; accursed as they have
been of late, seeing things they ought not to see, yet I can see
that, and I know it, too; I have given you cause to be sad, sister."
"Hush, brother! it is a sin against your dear eyes to speak of them
thus! Tilly is as bright and joyous as ever. As for my smiles, if
you detect in them one trace of that sadness you talk about, I shall
grow as melancholy as yourself, and for as little cause. Come! you
shall confess before three days, brother, if you will only help me
to be gay, that your sister has the lightest heart in New France."
CHEERFUL YESTERDAYS AND CONFIDENT TO-MORROWS.
The ladies retired to their several rooms, and after a general
rearranging of toilets descended to the great parlor, where they
were joined by Messire La Lande, the curé of the parish, a
benevolent, rosy old priest, and several ladies from the
neighborhood, with two or three old gentlemen of a military air
and manner, retired officers of the army who enjoyed their pensions
and kept up their respectability at a cheaper rate in the country
than they could do in the city.
Felix Beaudoin had for the last two hours kept the cooks in hot
water. He was now superintending the laying of the table, resolved
that, notwithstanding his long absence from home, the dinner should
be a marvellous success.
Amélie was very beautiful to-day. Her face was aglow with pure air
and exercise, and she felt happy in the apparent contentment of her
brother, whom she met with Pierre on the broad terrace of the Manor
She was dressed with exquisite neatness, yet plainly. An antique
cross of gold formed her only adornment except her own charms. That
cross she had put on in honor of Pierre Philibert. He recognized it
with delight as a birthday gift to Amélie which he had himself given
her during their days of juvenile companionship, on one of his
holiday visits to Tilly.
She was conscious of his recognition of it,--it brought a flush to
her cheek. "It is in honor of your visit, Pierre," said she,
frankly, "that I wear your gift. Old friendship lasts well with me,
does it not? But you will find more old friends than me at Tilly
who have not forgotten you."
"I am already richer than Croesus, if friendship count as riches,
Amélie. The hare had many friends, but none at last; I am more
fortunate in possessing one friend worth a million."
"Nay, you have the million too, if good wishes count in your favor,
Pierre, you are richer"--the bell in the turret of the château began
to ring for dinner, drowning her voice somewhat.
"Thanks to the old bell for cutting short the compliment, Pierre,"
continued she, laughing; "you don't know what you have lost! but in
compensation you shall be my cavalier, and escort me to the dining-
She took the arm of Pierre, and in a merry mood, which brought back
sweet memories of the past, their voices echoed again along the old
corridors of the Manor House as they proceeded to the great dining-
room, where the rest of the company were assembling.
The dinner was rather a stately affair, owing to the determination
of Felix Beaudoin to do especial honor to the return home of the
family. How the company ate, talked, and drank at the hospitable
table need not be recorded here. The good Curé's face, under the
joint influence of good humor and good cheer, was full as a harvest
moon. He rose at last, folded his hands, and slowly repeated
"agimus gratias." After dinner the company withdrew to the
brilliantly lighted drawing-room, where conversation, music, and a
few games of cards for such as liked them, filled up a couple of
The Lady de Tilly, seated beside Pierre Philibert on the sofa,
conversed with him in a pleasant strain, while the Curé, with a
couple of old dowagers in turbans, and an old veteran officer of the
colonial marine, long stranded on a lee shore, formed a quartette at
These were steady enthusiasts of whist and piquet, such as are only
to be found in small country circles where society is scarce and
amusements few. They had met as partners or antagonists, and
played, laughed, and wrangled over sixpenny stakes and odd tricks
and honors, every week for a quarter of a century, and would
willingly have gone on playing till the day of judgment without a
change of partners if they could have trumped death and won the odd
trick of him.
Pierre recollected having seen these same old friends seated at the
same card-table during his earliest visits to the Manor House. He
recalled the fact to the Lady de Tilly, who laughed and said her old
friends had lived so long in the company of the kings and queens
that formed the paste-board Court of the Kingdom of Cocagne that
they could relish no meaner amusement than one which royalty,
although mad, had the credit of introducing.
Amélie devoted herself to the task of cheering her somewhat moody
brother. She sat beside him, resting her hand with sisterly
affection upon his shoulder, while in a low, sweet voice she talked
to him, adroitly touching those topics only which she knew awoke
pleasurable associations in his mind. Her words were sweet as manna
and full of womanly tenderness and sympathy, skilfully wrapped in a
strain of gaiety like a bridal veil which covers the tears of the
Pierre Philibert's eyes involuntarily turned towards her, and his
ears caught much of what she said. He was astonished at the grace
and perfection of her language; it seemed to him like a strain of
music filled with every melody of earth and heaven, surpassing poets
in beauty of diction, philosophers in truth,--and in purity of
affection, all the saints and sweetest women of whom he had ever
Her beauty, her vivacity, her modest reticences, and her delicate
tact in addressing the captious spirit of Le Gardeur, filled Pierre
with admiration. He could at that moment have knelt at her feet
and worshipped in her the realization of every image which his
imagination had ever formed of a perfect woman.
Now and then she played on the harp for Le Gardeur the airs which
she knew he liked best. His sombre mood yielded to her fond
exertions, and she had the reward of drawing at last a smile from
his eyes as well as from his lips. The last she knew might be
simulated, the former she felt was real, for the smile of the eye
is the flash of the joy kindled in the glad heart.
Le Gardeur was not dull nor ungrateful; he read clearly enough the
loving purpose of his sister. His brow cleared up under her
sunshine. He smiled, he laughed; and Amélie had the exquisite joy
of believing she had gained a victory over the dark spirit that had
taken possession of his soul, although the hollow laugh struck the
ear of Pierre Philibert with a more uncertain sound than that which
fluttered the fond hopes of Amélie.
Amélie looked towards Pierre, and saw his eyes fixed upon her with
that look which fills every woman with an emotion almost painful in
its excess of pleasure when first she meets it--that unmistakable
glance from the eyes of a man who, she is proud to perceive, has
singled her out from all other women for his love and homage.
Her face became of a deep glow in spite of her efforts to look calm
and cold; she feared Pierre might have misinterpreted her vivacity
of speech and manner. Sudden distrust of herself came over her in
his presence,--the flow of her conversation was embarrassed, and
To extricate herself from her momentary confusion, which she was
very conscious had not escaped the observation of Pierre,--and the
thought of that confused her still more,--she rose and went to the
harpsichord, to recover her composure by singing a sweet song of
her own composition, written in the soft dialect of Provence, the
Languedoc, full of the sweet sadness of a tender, impassioned love.
Her voice, tremulous in its power, flowed in a thousand harmonies on
the enraptured ears of her listeners. Even the veteran card-players
left a game of whist unfinished, to cluster round the angelic
Pierre Philibert sat like one in a trance. He loved music, and
understood it passing well. He had heard all the rare voices which
Paris prided itself in the possession of, but he thought he had
never known what music was till now. His heart throbbed in sympathy
with every inflection of the voice of Amélie, which went through him
like a sweet spell of enchantment. It was the voice of a
disembodied spirit singing in the language of earth, which changed
at last into a benediction and good-night for the parting guests,
who, at an earlier hour than usual, out of consideration for the
fatigue of their hosts, took their leave of the Manor House and its
The family, as families will do upon the departure of their guests,
drew up in a narrower circle round the fire, that blessed circle of
freedom and confidence which belongs only to happy households. The
novelty of the situation kept up the interest of the day, and they
sat and conversed until a late hour.
The Lady de Tilly reclined comfortably in her fauteuil looking with
good-natured complacency upon the little group beside her. Amélie,
sitting on a stool, reclined her head against the bosom of her aunt,
whose arm embraced her closely and lovingly as she listened with
absorbing interest to an animated conversation between her aunt and
The Lady de Tilly drew Pierre out to talk of his travels, his
studies, and his military career, of which he spoke frankly and
modestly. His high principles won her admiration; the chivalry and
loyalty of his character, mingled with the humanity of the true
soldier, touched a chord in her own heart, stirring within her the
sympathies of a nature akin to his.
The presence of Pierre Philibert, so unforeseen at the old Manor
House, seemed to Amélie the work of Providence for a good and great
end--the reformation of her brother. If she dared to think of
herself in connection with him it was with fear and trembling, as a
saint on earth receives a beatific vision that may only be realized
Amélie, with peculiar tact, sought to entangle Le Gardeur's thoughts
in an elaborate cobweb of occupations rivalling that of Arachne,
which she had woven to catch every leisure hour of his, so as to
leave him no time to brood over the pleasures of the Palace of the
Intendant or the charms of Angélique des Meloises.
There were golden threads too in the network in which she hoped to
entangle him: long rides to the neighboring seigniories, where
bright eyes and laughing lips were ready to expel every shadow of
care from the most dejected of men, much more from a handsome
gallant like Le Gardeur de Repentigny, whose presence at any of
these old manors put their fair inmates at once in holiday trim and
in holiday humor; there were shorter walks through the park and
domain of Tilly, where she intended to botanize and sketch, and even
fish and hunt with Le Gardeur and Pierre, although, sooth to say,
Amélie's share in hunting would only be to ride her sure-footed pony
and look at her companions; there were visits to friends far and
near, and visits in return to the Manor House, and a grand excursion
of all to the lake of Tilly in boats,--they would colonize its
little island for a day, set up tents, make a governor and
intendant, perhaps a king and queen, and forget the world till
their return home.
This elaborate scheme secured the approbation of the Lady de Tilly,
who had, in truth, contributed part of it. Le Gardeur said he was a
poor fly whom they were resolved to catch and pin to the wall of a
château en Espagne, but he would enter the web without a buzz of
opposition on condition that Pierre would join him. So it was all
Amélie did not venture again that night to encounter the eyes of
Pierre Philibert,--she needed more courage than she felt just now to
do that; but in secret she blessed him, and treasured those fond
looks of his in her heart, never to be forgotten any more. When she
retired to her own chamber and was alone, she threw herself in
passionate abandonment before the altar in her little oratory, which
she had crowned with flowers to mark her gladness. She poured out
her pure soul in invocations of blessings upon Pierre Philibert and
upon her brother and all the house. The golden head of her rosary
lingered long in her loving fingers that night, as she repeated over
and over her accustomed prayers for his safety and welfare.
The sun rose gloriously next morning over the green woods and still
greener meadows of Tilly. The atmosphere was soft and pure; it had
been washed clean of all its impurities by a few showers in the
night. Every object seemed nearer and clearer to the eye, while the
delicious odor of fresh flowers filled the whole air with fragrance.
The trees, rocks, waters, and green slopes stood out with marvellous
precision of outline, as if cut with a keen knife. No fringe of
haze surrounded them, as in a drought or as in the evening when the
air is filled with the shimmering of the day dust which follows the
sun's chariot in his course round the world.
Every object, great and small, seemed magnified to welcome Pierre
Philibert, who was up betimes this morning and out in the pure air
viewing the old familiar scenes.
With what delight he recognized each favorite spot! There was the
cluster of trees which crowned a promontory overlooking the St.
Lawrence where he and Le Gardeur had stormed the eagle's nest. In
that sweep of forest the deer used to browse and the fawns crouch in
the long ferns. Upon yonder breezy hill they used to sit and count
the sails turning alternately bright and dark as the vessels tacked
up the broad river. There was a stretch of green lawn, still green
as it was in his memory--how everlasting are God's colors! There he
had taught Amélie to ride, and, holding fast, ran by her side,
keeping pace with her flying Indian pony. How beautiful and fresh
the picture of her remained in his memory!--the soft white dress she
wore, her black hair streaming over her shoulders, her dark eyes
flashing delight, her merry laugh rivalling the trill of the
blackbird which flew over their heads chattering for very joy.
Before him lay the pretty brook with its rustic bridge reflecting
itself in the clear water as in a mirror. That path along the bank
led down to the willows where the big mossy stones lay in the stream
and the silvery salmon and speckled trout lay fanning the water
gently with their fins as they contemplated their shadows on the
smooth, sandy bottom.
Pierre Philibert sat down on a stone by the side of the brook and
watched the shoals of minnows move about in little battalions,
wheeling like soldiers to the right or left at a wave of the hand.
But his thoughts were running in a circle of questions and enigmas
for which he found neither end nor answer.
For the hundredth time Pierre proposed to himself the tormenting
enigma, harder, he thought, to solve than any problem of
mathematics,--for it was the riddle of his life: "What thoughts are
truly in the heart of Amélie de Repentigny respecting me? Does she
recollect me only as her brother's companion, who may possibly have
some claim upon her friendship, but none upon her love?" His
imagination pictured every look she had given him since his return.
Not all! Oh, Pierre Philibert! the looks you would have given
worlds to catch, you were unconscious of! Every word she had
spoken, the soft inflection of every syllable of her silvery voice
lingered in his ear. He had caught meanings where perhaps no
meaning was, and missed the key to others which he knew were there--
never, perhaps, to be revealed to him. But although he questioned
in the name of love, and found many divine echoes in her words,
imperceptible to every ear but his own, he could not wholly solve
the riddle of his life. Still he hoped.
"If love creates love, as some say it does," thought he, "Amélie de
Repentigny cannot be indifferent to a passion which governs every
impulse of my being! But is there any especial merit in loving her
whom all the world cannot help admiring equally with myself? I am
presumptuous to think so!--and more presumptuous still to expect,
after so many years of separation and forgetfulness, that her heart,
so loving and so sympathetic, has not already bestowed its affection
upon some one more fortunate than me."
While Pierre tormented himself with these sharp thorns of doubt,--
and of hopes painful as doubts,--little did he think what a brave,
loving spirit was hid under the silken vesture of Amélie de
Repentigny, and how hard was her struggle to conceal from his eyes
those tender regards, which, with over-delicacy, she accounted
censurable because they were wholly spontaneous.
He little thought how entirely his image had filled her heart during
those years when she dreamed of him in the quiet cloister, living in
a world of bright imaginings of her own; how she had prayed for his
safety and welfare as she would have prayed for the soul of one
dead,--never thinking, or even hoping, to see him again.
Pierre had become to her as one of the disembodied saints or angels
whose pictures looked down from the wall of the Convent chapel--the
bright angel of the Annunciation or the youthful Baptist proclaiming
the way of the Lord. Now that Pierre Philibert was alive in the
flesh,--a man, beautiful, brave, honorable, and worthy of any
woman's love,--Amélie was frightened. She had not looked for that,
and yet it had come upon her. And, although trembling, she was glad
and proud to find she had been remembered by the brave youth, who
recognized in the perfect woman the girl he had so ardently loved as
Did he love her still? Woman's heart is quicker to apprehend all
possibilities than man's. She had caught a look once or twice in
the eyes of Pierre Philibert which thrilled the inmost fibres of her
being; she had detected his ardent admiration. Was she offended?
Far from it! And although her cheek had flushed deeply red, and her
pulses throbbed hard at the sudden consciousness that Pierre
Philibert admired, nay, more,--she could not conceal it from
herself,--she knew that night that he loved her! She would not have
foregone that moment of revelation for all that the world had to
She would gladly at that moment of discovery have fled to her own
apartment and cried for joy, but she dared not; she trembled lest
his eyes, if she looked up, should discover the secret of her own.
She had an overpowering consciousness that she stood upon the brink
of her fate; that ere long that look of his would be followed by
words--blessed, hoped-for words, from the lips of Pierre Philibert!
words which would be the pledge and assurance to her of that love
which was hereafter to be the joy--it might be the despair, but in
any case the all in all of her life forever.
Amélie had not yet realized the truth that love is the strength, not
the weakness of woman; and that the boldness of the man is rank
cowardice in comparison with the bravery she is capable of, and the
sacrifices she will make for the sake of the man who has won her
God locks up in a golden casket of modesty the yearnings of a
woman's heart; but when the hand in which he has placed the key that
opens it calls forth her glorified affections, they come out like
the strong angels, and hold back the winds that blow from the four
corners of the earth that they may not hurt the man whose forehead
is sealed with the kiss of her acknowledged love.
A DAY AT THE MANOR HOUSE.
Amélie, after a night of wakefulness and wrestling with a tumult of
new thoughts and emotions,--no longer dreams, but realities of
life,--dressed herself in a light morning costume, which, simple as
it was, bore the touch of her graceful hand and perfect taste. With
a broad-brimmed straw hat set upon her dark tresses, which were
knotted with careless care in a blue ribbon, she descended the steps
of the Manor House. There was a deep bloom upon her cheeks, and her
eyes looked like fountains of light and gladness, running over to
bless all beholders.
She inquired of Felix Beaudoin of her brother. The old majordomo,
with a significant look, informed her that Monsieur Le Gardeur had
just ordered his horse to ride to the village. He had first called
for a decanter of Cognac, and when it was brought to him he suddenly
thrust it back and would not taste it. "He would not drink even
Jove's nectar in the Manor House, he said; but would go down to the
village, where Satan mixed the drink for thirsty souls like his!
Poor Le Gardeur!" continued Felix, "you must not let him go to the
village this morning, mademoiselle!"
Amélie was startled at this information. She hastened at once to
seek her brother, whom she found walking impatiently in the garden,
slashing the heads off the poppies and dahlias within reach of his
riding-whip. He was equipped for a ride, and waited the coming of
the groom with his horse.
Amélie ran up, and clasping his arms with both hands as she looked
up in his face with a smile, exclaimed, "Do not go to the village
yet, Le Gardeur! Wait for us!"
"Not go to the village yet, Amélie?" replied he; "why not? I shall
return for breakfast, although I have no appetite. I thought a ride
to the village would give me one."
"Wait until after breakfast, brother, when we will all go with you
to meet our friends who come this morning to Tilly,--our cousin
Héloise de Lotbinière is coming to see you and Pierre Philibert; you
must be there to welcome her,--gallants are too scarce to allow her
to spare the handsomest of all, my own brother!"
Amélie divined truly from Le Gardeur's restless eyes and haggard
look that a fierce conflict was going on in his breast between duty
and desire,--whether he should remain at home, or go to the village
to plunge again into the sea of dissipation out of which he had just
been drawn to land half-drowned and utterly desperate.
Amélie resolved not to leave his side, but to cleave to him, and
inch by inch to fight the demons which possessed him until she got
Le Gardeur looked fondly in the face of Amélie. He read her
thoughts, and was very conscious why she wished him not to go to the
village. His feelings gave way before her love and tenderness. He
suddenly embraced her and kissed her cheeks, while the tears stood
welling in his eyes. "I am not worthy of you, Amélie," said he; "so
much sisterly care is lost on me!"
"Oh, say not that, brother," replied she, kissing him fondly in
return. "I would give my life to save you, O my brother!"
Amélie was greatly moved, and for a time unable to speak further;
she laid her head on his shoulder, and sobbed audibly. Her love
gained the victory where remonstrance and opposition would have lost
"You have won the day, Amélie!" said he; "I will not go to the
village except with you. You are the best and truest girl in all
Christendom! Why is there no other like you? If there were, this
curse had not come upon me, nor this trial upon you, Amélie! You
are my good angel, and I will try, oh, so faithfully try, to be
guided by you! If you fail, you will at least have done all and
more than your duty towards your erring brother."
"Le Brun!" cried he to the groom who had brought his horse, and to
whom he threw the whip which had made such havoc among the flowers,
"lead Black Caesar to the stable again! and hark you! when I bid you
bring him out in the early morning another time, lead him to me
unbridled and unsaddled, with only a halter on his head, that I may
ride as a clown, not as a gentleman!"
Le Brun stared at this speech, and finally regarded it as a capital
joke, or else, as he whispered to his fellow-grooms in the stable,
he believed his young master had gone mad.
"Pierre Philibert," continued Amélie, "is down at the salmon pool.
Let us join him, Le Gardeur, and bid him good morning once more at
Amélie, overjoyed at her victory, tripped gaily by the side of her
brother, and presently two friendly hands, the hands of Pierre
Philibert, were extended to greet her and Le Gardeur.
The hand of Amélie was retained for a moment in that of Pierre
Philibert, sending the blood to her cheeks. There is a magnetic
touch in loving fingers which is never mistaken, though their
contact be but for a second of time: it anticipates the strong grasp
of love which will ere long embrace body and soul in adamantine
chains of a union not to be broken even by death.
If Pierre Philibert retained the hand of Amélie for one second
longer than mere friendship required of him, no one perceived it but
God and themselves. Pierre felt it like a revelation--the hand of
Amélie yielding timidly, but not unwillingly, to his manly grasp.
He looked in her face. Her eyes were averted, and she withdrew her
hand quietly but gently, as not upbraiding him.
That moment of time flashed a new influence upon both their lives:
it was the silent recognition that each was henceforth conscious of
the special regard of the other.
There are moments which contain the whole quintessence of our
lives,--our loves, our hopes, our failures, in one concentrated drop
of happiness or misery. We look behind us and see that our whole
past has led up to that infinitesimal fraction of time which is the
consummation of the past in the present, the end of the old and the
beginning of the new. We look forward from the vantage ground of
the present, and the world of a new revelation lies before us.
Pierre Philibert was conscious from that moment that Amélie de
Repentigny was not indifferent to him,--nay, he had a ground of hope
that in time she would listen to his pleadings, and at last bestow
on him the gift of her priceless love.
His hopes were sure hopes, although he did not dare to give himself
the sweet assurance of it, nor did Amélie herself as yet suspect how
far her heart was irrevocably wedded to Pierre Philibert.
Deep as was the impression of that moment upon both of them, neither
Philibert nor Amélie yielded to its influence more than to lapse
into a momentary silence, which was relieved by Le Gardeur, who,
suspecting not the cause,--nay, thinking it was on his account that
his companions were so unaccountably grave and still, kindly
endeavored to force the conversation upon a number of interesting
topics, and directed the attention of Philibert to various points of
the landscape which suggested reminiscences of his former visits to
The equilibrium of conversation was restored, and the three, sitting
down on a long, flat stone, a boulder which had dropped millions of
years before out of an iceberg as it sailed slowly over the glacial
ocean which then covered the place of New France, commenced to talk
over Amélie's programme of the previous night, the amusements she
had planned for the week, the friends in all quarters they were to
visit, and the friends from all quarters they were to receive at the
Manor House. These topics formed a source of fruitful comment, as
conversation on our friends always does. If the sun shone hot and
fierce at noontide in the dog-days, they would enjoy the cool shade
of the arbors with books and conversation; they would ride in the
forest, or embark in their canoes for a row up the bright little
river; there would be dinners and diversions for the day, music and
dancing for the night.
The spirits of the inmates of the Manor House could not help but be
kept up by these expedients, and Amélie flattered herself that she
would quite succeed in dissipating the gloomy thoughts which
occupied the mind of Le Gardeur.
They sat on the stone by the brook-side for an hour, conversing
pleasantly while they watched the speckled trout dart like silver
arrows spotted with blood in the clear pool.
Le Gardeur strove to be gay, and teased Amélie in playfully
criticizing her programme, and, half in earnest, half in jest,
arguing for the superior attractions of the Palace of the Intendant
to those of the Manor House of Tilly. He saw the water standing in
her eyes, when a consciousness of what must be her feelings seized
him; he drew her to his side, asked her forgiveness, and wished fire
were set to the Palace and himself in the midst of it! He deserved
it for wounding, even in jest, the heart of the best and noblest
sister in the world.
"I am not wounded, dear Le Gardeur," replied she, softly; "I knew
you were only in jest. My foolish heart is so sensitive to all
mention of the Palace and its occupants in connection with you, that
I could not even take in jest what was so like truth."
"Forgive me, I will never mention the Palace to you again, Amélie,
except to repeat the malediction I have bestowed upon it a thousand
times an hour since I returned to Tilly."
"My own brave brother!" exclaimed she, embracing him, "now I am
The shrill notes of a bugle were heard sounding a military call to
breakfast. It was the special privilege of an old servitor of the
family, who had been a trumpeter in the troop of the Seigneur of
Tilly, to summon the family of the Manor House in that manner to
breakfast only. The old trumpeter had solicited long to be allowed
to sound the reveille at break of day, but the good Lady de Tilly
had too much regard for the repose of the inmates of her house to
consent to any such untimely waking of them from their morning
The old, familiar call was recognized by Philibert, who reminded
Amélie of a day when Aeolus (the ancient trumpeter bore that windy
sobriquet) had accompanied them on a long ramble in the forest,--
how, the day being warm, the old man fell asleep under a comfortable
shade, while the three children straggled off into the depths of the
woods, where they were speedily lost.
"I remember it like yesterday, Pierre," exclaimed Amélie, sparkling
at the reminiscence; "I recollect how I wept and wrung my hands,
tired out, hungry, and forlorn, with my dress in tatters, and one
shoe left in a miry place! I recollect, moreover, that my
protectors were in almost as bad a plight as myself, yet they
chivalrously carried the little maiden by turns, or together made a
queen's chair for me with their locked hands, until we all broke
down together and sat crying at the foot of a tree, reminding one
another of the babes in the wood, and recounting stories of bears
which had devoured lost naughty children in the forest. I remember
how we all knelt down at last and recited our prayers until suddenly
we heard the bugle-call of Aeolus sounding close by us. The poor old
man, wild with rapture at having found us, kissed and shook us so
violently that we almost wished ourselves lost in the forest again."
The recollection of this adventure was very pleasing to Pierre. He
recalled every incident of it perfectly, and all three of them
seemed for a while transported back into the fairy-land of their
The bugle-call of old Aeolus again sounded, and the three friends
rose and proceeded towards the house.
The little brook--it had never looked so bright before to Amélie--
sparkled with joy like her own eyes. The orioles and blackbirds
warbled in the bushes, and the insects which love warmth and
sunshine chirmed and chirruped among the ferns and branches as
Amélie, Pierre, and Le Gardeur walked home along the green footpath
under the avenue of elms that led to the château.
The Lady de Tilly received them with many pleasant words. Leading
them into the breakfast-room, she congratulated Le Gardeur upon the
satisfaction it afforded her to see her dear children, so she called
them, once more seated round her board in health and happiness.
Amélie colored slightly, and looked at her aunt as if questioning
whether she included Philibert among her children.
The Lady de Tilly guessed her thought, but pretending not to, bade
Felix proceed with the breakfast, and turned the conversation to
topics more general. "The Iroquois," she said, "had left the
Chaudière and gone further eastward; the news had just been brought
in by messengers to the Seigniory, and it was probable, nay, certain
that they would not be heard of again. Therefore Le Gardeur and
Pierre Philibert were under no necessity of leaving the Manor to
search for the savages, but could arrange with Amélie for as much
enjoyment as they could crowd into these summer days."
"It is all arranged, aunt!" replied Amélie. "We have held a cour
plenière this morning, and made a code of laws for our Kingdom of
Cocagne during the next eight days. It needs only the consent of
our suzeraine lady to be at once acted upon."
"And your suzeraine lady gives her consent without further
questioning, Amélie! although I confess you have an admirable way of
carrying your point, Amélie," said her aunt, laughing; "you resolve
first what you will do, and ask my approbation after."
"Yes, aunt, that is our way in the kingdom of pleasure! And we
begin this morning: Le Gardeur and Pierre will ride to the village
to meet our cousin Héloise, from Lotbinière."
"But you will accompany us, Amélie!" exclaimed Le Gardeur. "I will
not go else,--it was a bargain!"
"Oh, I did not count myself for anything but an embarrassment! of
course I shall go with you, Le Gardeur, but our cousin Héloise de
Lotbinière is coming to see you, not me. She lost her heart,"
remarked she, turning to Pierre, "when she was last here, at the
feast of St. John, and is coming to seek it again."
"Ah! how was that, Amélie?" asked Philibert. "I remember the lovely
face, the chestnut curls, and bright black eyes of Héloise de
Lotbinière. And has hers really gone the way of all hearts?"
"Of all good hearts, Pierre,--but you shall hear if you will be good
and listen. She saw the portraits of you and Le Gardeur, one day,
hung in the boudoir of my aunt. Héloise professed that she admired
both until she could not tell which she liked best, and left me to
"Ah! and which of us did you give to the fair Héloise?" demanded
Philibert with a sudden interest.
"Not the Abélard she wanted, you may be sure, Pierre," exclaimed Le
Gardeur; "she gave me, and kept you! It was a case of clear
"No, brother, not so!" replied Amélie, hastily. "Héloise had tried
the charm of the three caskets with the three names without result,
and at last watched in the church porch, on the eve of St. John, to
see the shade of her destined lover pass by, and lo, Héloise vowed
she saw me, and no one else, pass into the church!"
"Ah! I suppose it was you? It is no rare thing for you to visit the
shrine of our Lady on the eve of St. John. Pierre Philibert, do you
recollect? Oh, not as I do, dear friend," continued Le Gardeur with
a sudden change of voice, which was now filled with emotion: "it was
on the day of St. John you saved my poor worthless life. We are not
ungrateful! She has kept the eve of St. John in the church ever
since, in commemoration of that event."
"Brother, we have much to thank Heaven for!" replied Amélie,
blushing deeply at his words, "and I trust we shall never be
ungrateful for its favor and protection."
Amélie shied from a compliment like a young colt at its own shadow.
She avoided further reference to the subject broached by Le Gardeur
by saying,--"It was I whom Héloise saw pass into the church. I
never explained the mystery to her, and she is not sure yet whether
it was my wraith or myself who gave her that fright on St. John's
eve. But I claimed her heart as one authorized to take it, and if
I could not marry her myself I claimed the right to give her to
whomsoever I pleased, and I gave her to you, Le Gardeur, but you
would not accept the sweetest girl in New France!"
"Thanks, Amélie," replied he, laughing, yet wincing. "Héloise is
indeed all you say, the sweetest girl in New France! But she was
too angelic for Le Gardeur de Repentigny. Pshaw! you make me say
foolish things, Amélie. But in penance for my slight, I will be
doubly attentive to my fair cousin de Lotbinière to-day. I will at
once order the horses and we will ride down to the village to meet
Arrayed in a simple riding-dress of dark blue, which became her as
did everything else which she wore,--Amélie's very attire seemed
instinct with the living graces and charms of its wearer,--she
mounted her horse, accepting the aid of Philibert to do so, although
when alone she usually sprang to the saddle herself, saluting the
Lady de Tilly, who waved her hand to them from the lawn. The three
friends slowly cantered down the broad avenue of the park towards
the village of Tilly.
Amélie rode well. The exercise and the pure air brought the fresh
color to her face, and her eyes sparkled with animation as she
conversed gaily with her brother and Philibert.
They speedily reached the village, where they met Héloise de
Lotbinière, who, rushing to Amélie, kissed her with effusion, and as
she greeted Le Gardeur looked up as if she would not have refused a
warmer salutation than the kind shake of the hand with which he
received her. She welcomed Philibert with glad surprise,
recognizing him at once, and giving a glance at Amélie which
expressed an ocean of unspoken meaning and sympathy.
Héloise was beautiful, gay, spirited, full of good humor and
sensibility. Her heart had long been devoted to Le Gardeur, but
never meeting with any response to her shy advances, which were like
the wheeling of a dove round and round its wished-for mate, she had
long concluded with a sigh that for her the soul of Le Gardeur was
insensible to any touch of a warmer regard than sprang from the most
Amélie saw and understood all this; she loved Héloise, and in her
quiet way had tried to awaken a kinder feeling for her in the heart
of her brother. As one fights fire with fire in the great
conflagrations of the prairies, Amélie hoped also to combat the
influence of Angélique des Meloises by raising up a potent rival in
the fair Héloise de Lotbinière but she soon found how futile were
her endeavors. The heart of Le Gardeur was wedded to the idol of
his fancy, and no woman on earth could win him away from Angélique.
Amélie comforted Héloise by the gift of her whole confidence and
sympathy. The poor disappointed girl accepted the decree of fate,
known to no other but Amélie, while in revenge upon herself--a thing
not rare in proud, sensitive natures--she appeared in society more
gay, more radiant and full of mirth than ever before. Héloise hid
the asp in her bosom, but so long as its bite was unseen she laughed
cruelly at the pain of it, and deceived, as she thought, the eyes of
the world as to her suffering.
The arrival of Héloise de Lotbinière was followed by that of a crowd
of other visitors, who came to the Manor House to pay their respects
to the family on their return home, and especially to greet Le
Gardeur and Colonel Philibert, who was well remembered, and whom the
busy tongues of gossip already set down as a suitor for the hand of
the young chatelaine.
The report of what was said by so many whispering friends was
quickly carried to the ear of Amélie by some of her light-hearted
companions. She blushed at the accusation, and gently denied all
knowledge of it, laughing as a woman will laugh who carries a hidden
joy or a hidden sorrow in her heart, neither of which she cares to
reveal to the world's eye. Amélie listened to the pleasant tale
with secret complaisance, for, despite her tremor and confusion, it
was pleasant to hear that Pierre Philibert loved her, and was
considered a suitor for her hand. It was sweet to know that the
world believed she was his choice.
She threaded every one of these precious words, like a chaplet of
pearls upon the strings of her heart,--contemplating them, counting
them over and over in secret, with a joy known only to herself and
to God, whom she prayed to guide her right whatever might happen.
That something would happen ere long she felt a premonition, which
at times made her grave in the midst of her hopes and anticipations.
The days passed gaily at Tilly. Amélie carried out the elaborate
programme which she had arranged for the amusement of Le Gardeur as
well as for the pleasures of her guests.
Every day brought a change and a fresh enjoyment. The mornings were
devoted by the gentlemen to hunting, fishing, and other sport; by
the ladies to reading, music, drawing, needlework, or the arrangements
of dress and ornaments. In the afternoons all met together, and
the social evening was spent either at the Manor House or some
neighboring mansion. The hospitality of all was alike: a profusion
of social feeling formed, at that day, a marked characteristic of
the people of New France.
The Lady de Tilly spent an hour or two each day with her trusty land
steward, or bailli, Master Coté, in attending to the multifarious
business of her Seigniory. The feudal law of New France imposed
great duties and much labor upon the lords of the manor, by giving
them an interest in every man's estate, and making them participators
in every transfer of land throughout a wide district of country. A
person who acquired, by purchase or otherwise, the lands of a
censitaire, or vassal, was held to perform foi et hommage for the
lands so acquired, and to acquit all other feudal dues owing by the
original holder to his seigneur.
It was during one of these fair summer days at Tilly that Sieur
Tranchelot, having acquired the farm of the Bocage, a strip of land
a furlong wide and a league in depth, with a pleasant frontage on
the broad St. Lawrence, the new censitaire came as in duty bound to
render foi et hommage for the same to the lady of the Manor of
Tilly, according to the law and custom of the Seigniory.
At the hour of noon, Lady de Tilly, with Le Gardeur, Amélie, and
Pierre Philibert, in full dress, stood on a dais in the great hall;
Master Coté sat at a table on the floor in front, with his great
clasped book of record open before him. A drawn sword lay upon the
table, and a cup of wine stood by the side of it.
When all was arranged, three loud knocks were heard on the great
door, and the Sieur Tranchelot, dressed in his holiday costume, but
bareheaded and without sword or spurs,--not being gentilhomme he was
not entitled to wear them,--entered the door, which was ceremoniously
opened for him by the majordomo. He was gravely led up to the dais,
where stood the lady of the Manor, by the steward bearing his wand
The worthy censitaire knelt down before the lady, and repeating her
name three times, pronounced the formula of foi et hommage
prescribed by the law, as owing to the lords of the Manor of Tilly.
"My Lady de Tilly! My Lady de Tilly! My Lady de Tilly! I render
you fealty and homage due to you on account of my lands of the
Bocage, which belong to me by virtue of the deed executed by the
Sieur Marcel before the worthy notary Jean Pothier dit Robin, on the
day of Palms, 1748, and I avow my willingness to acquit the
seigniorial and feudal cens et rentes, and all other lawful dues,
whensoever payable by me; beseeching you to be my good liege lady,
and to admit me to the said fealty and homage."
The lady accepted the homage of Sieur Tranchelot, graciously
remitted the lods et ventes,--the fines payable to the seigneur,--
gave him the cup of wine to drink when he rose to his feet, and
ordered him to be generously entertained by her majordomo, and sent
back to the Bocage rejoicing.
So the days passed by in alternation of business and pastime, but
all made a pleasure for the agreeable inmates of the Manor House.
Philibert gave himself up to the delirium of enchantment which the
presence of Amélie threw over him. He never tired of watching the
fresh developments of her gloriously-endowed nature. Her beauty,
rare as it was, grew day by day upon his wonder and admiration, as
he saw how fully it corresponded to the innate grace and nobility of
She was so fresh of thought, so free from all affectation, so gentle
and winning in all her ways, and, sooth to say, so happy in the
admiration of Philibert, which she was very conscious of now. It
darted from his eyes at every look, although no word of it had yet
passed his lips. The radiance of her spirits flashed like sunbeams
through every part of the old Manor House.
Amélie was carried away in a flood of new emotion; she tried once
or twice to be discreetly angry with herself for admitting so
unreservedly the pleasure she felt in Pierre's admiration; she
placed her soul on a rack of self-questioning torture, and every
inquisition she made of her heart returned the self-same answer:
she loved Pierre Philibert!
It was in vain she accused herself of possible impropriety: that it
was bold, unmaidenly, censurable, nay, perhaps sinful, to give her
heart before it had been asked for; but if she had to die for it,
she could not conceal the truth, that she loved Pierre Philibert!
"I ought to be angry with myself," said she. "I try to be so, but I
"Why?" Amélie solved the query as every true woman does, who asks
herself why she loves one man rather than another. "Because he has
chosen me out in preference to all others, to be the treasure-keeper
of his affections! I am proud," continued Amélie, "that he gives
his love to me, to me! unworthy as I am of such preference. I am no
better than others." Amélie was a true woman: proud as an empress
before other men, she was humble and lowly as the Madonna in the
presence of him whom she felt was, by right of love, lord and master
of her affections.
Amélie could not overcome a feeling of tremor in the presence of
Pierre since she made this discovery. Her cheek warmed with an
incipient flush when his ardent eyes glanced at her too eloquently.
She knew what was in his heart, and once or twice, when casually
alone with Philibert, she saw his lips quivering under a hard
restraint to keep in the words, the dear words, she thought, which
would one day burst forth in a flood of passionate eloquence,
overwhelming all denial, and make her his own forever.
Time and tide, which come to all once in our lives, as the poet
says, and which must be taken at their flood to lead to fortune,
came at length to Amélie de Repentigny.
It came suddenly and in an unlooked-for hour, the great question of
questions to her as to every woman.
The hour of birth and the hour of death are in God's hand, but the
hour when a woman, yielding to the strong enfolding arm of a man who
loves her, falters forth an avowal of her love, and plights her
troth, and vows to be one with him till death, God leaves that
question to be decided by her own heart. His blessing rests upon
her choice, if pure love guides and reason enlightens affection.
His curse infallibly follows every faithless pledge where no heart
is, every union that is not the marriage of love and truth. These
alone can be married, and where these are absent there is no
marriage at all in the face of Heaven, and but the simulation of one
on earth, an unequal yoking, which, if man will not sunder, God will
at last, where there is neither marriage nor giving in marriage, but
all are as his angels.
The day appointed for the long-planned excursion to the beautiful
Lake of Tilly came round. A numerous and cheerful water-party left
the Manor House in the bright, cool morning to spend the day
gipsying in the shady woods and quiet recesses of the little lake.
They were all there: Amélie's invitation to her young friends far
and near had been eagerly accepted. Half a dozen boats and canoes,
filled with light-hearted companions and with ample provisions for
the day, shot up the narrow river, and after a rapid and merry
voyage, disembarked their passengers and were drawn up on the shores
and islands of the lake.
That bright morning was followed by a sunny day of blue skies, warm
yet breezy. The old oaks wove a carpet of shadows, changing the
pattern of its tissue every hour upon the leaf-strewn floor of the
forest. The fresh pines shed their resinous perfume on every side
in the still shade, but out in the sunshine the birds sang merrily
The groups of merrymakers spent a glorious day of pleasure by the
side of the clear, smooth lake, fishing and junketing on shore, or
paddling their birch canoes over its waters among the little islands
which dotted its surface.
Day was fast fading away into a soft twilight; the shadows which had
been drawing out longer and longer as the sun declined, lay now in
all their length, like bands stretched over the greensward. The
breeze went down with the sun, and the smooth surface of the lake
lay like a sheet of molten gold reflecting the parting glories of
the day that still lit up the western sky.
A few stars began to twinkle here and there--they were not destined
to shine brilliantly to-night, for they would ere long be eclipsed
by the splendor of the full moon, which was just at hand, rising in
a hemisphere of light, which stood like a royal pavilion on the
eastern horizon. From it in a few minutes would emerge the queen
of heaven, and mildly replace the vanishing glory of the day.
The company, after a repast under the trees, rose full of life and
merriment and rearranged themselves into little groups and couples
as chance or inclination led them. They trooped down to the beach
to embark in their canoes for a last joyous cruise round the lake
and its fairy islands, by moonlight, before returning home.
Amid a shower of lively conversation and laughter, the ladies seated
themselves in the light canoes, which danced like corks upon the
water. The gentlemen took the paddles, and, expert as Indians in
the use of them, swept out over the surface of the lake, which was
now all aglow with the bright crimson of sunset.
In the bow of one of the canoes sat the Arion of Tilly, Jean de La
Marche; a flute or two accompanied his violin, and a guitar tinkled
sweetly under the fingers of Héloise de Lotbinière. They played an
old air, while Jean led the chorus in splendid voice:
"'Nous irons sur l'eau,
Nous y prom-promener,
Nous irons jouer dans l'isle.'"
The voices of all united in the song as the canoes swept away around
a little promontory, crowned with three pine-trees, which stood up
in the blaze of the setting sun like the three children in the fiery
furnace, or the sacred bush that burned and was not consumed.
Faint and fainter, the echoes repeated the receding harmony, until
at last they died away. A solemn silence succeeded. A languor like
that of the lotus-eaters crept over the face of nature and softened
the heart to unwonted tenderness. It was the hour of gentle
thoughts, of low spoken confidences, and love between young and
sympathizing souls, who alone with themselves and God confess their
mutual love and invoke his blessing upon it.
FELICES TER ET AMPLIUS.
Amélie, by accident or by contrivance of her fair companions,--girls
are so wily and sympathetic with each other,--had been left seated
by the side of Philibert, on the twisted roots of a gigantic oak
forming a rude but simple chair fit to enthrone the king of the
forest and his dryad queen. No sound came to break the quiet of
the evening hour save the monotonous plaint of a whippoorwill in a
distant brake, and the ceaseless chirm of insects among the leafy
boughs and down in the ferns that clustered on the knolls round
Philibert let fall upon his knee the book which he had been reading.
His voice faltered, he could not continue without emotion the
touching tale of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini. Amélie's eyes were
suffused with tears of pity, for her heart had beat time to the
music of Dante's immortal verse as it dropped in measured cadence
from the lips of Philibert.
She had read the pathetic story before, but never comprehended until
now the weakness which is the strength of love. Oh, blessed paradox
of a woman's heart! And how truly the Commedia, which is justly
called Divine, unlocks the secret chambers of the human soul.
"Read no more, Pierre," said she, "that book is too terrible in its
beauty and in its sadness! I think it was written by a disembodied
spirit who had seen all worlds, knew all hearts, and shared in all
sufferings. It sounds to me like the sad voice of a prophet of
"Amélie," replied he, "believe you there are women faithful and true
as Francesca da Rimini? She would not forsake Paolo even in the
gloomy regions of despair. Believe you that there are such women?"
Amélie looked at him with a quick, confident glance. A deep flush
covered her cheek, and her breath went and came rapidly; she knew
what to answer, but she thought it might seem overbold to answer
such a question. A second thought decided her, however. Pierre
Philibert would ask her no question to which she might not answer,
she said to herself.
Amélie replied to him slowly, but undoubtingly: "I think there are
such women, Pierre," replied she, "women who would never, even in
the regions of despair, forsake the man whom they truly love, no,
not for all the terrors recorded in that awful book of Dante!"
"It is a blessed truth, Amélie," replied he, eagerly; and he
thought, but did not say it, "Such a woman you are; the man who
gets your love gets that which neither earth nor heaven nor hell
can take away."
He continued aloud, "The love of such a woman is truly given away,
Amélie; no one can merit it! It is a woman's grace, not man's
"I know not," said she; "it is not hard to give away God's gifts:
love should be given freely as God gives it to us. It has no value
except as the bounty of the heart, and looks for no reward but in
its own acceptance."
"Amélie!" exclaimed he, passionately, turning full towards her; but
her eyes remained fixed upon the ground. "The gift of such a
woman's love has been the dream, the ambition of my life! I may
never find it, or having found it may never be worthy of it; and yet
I must find it or die! I must find it where alone I seek it--there
or nowhere! Can you help me for friendship's sake--for love's sake,
Amélie de Repentigny, to find that one treasure that is precious as
life, which is life itself to the heart of Pierre Philibert?"
He took hold of her passive hands. They trembled in his, but she
offered not to withdraw them. Indeed, she hardly noticed the act in
the tide of emotion which was surging in her bosom. Her heart moved
with a wild yearning to tell him that he had found the treasure he
sought,--that a love as strong and as devoted as that of Francesca
da Rimini was her own free gift to him.
She tried to answer him, but could not. Her hand still remained
fast locked in his. He held to it as a drowning man holds to the
hand that is stretched to save him.
Philibert knew at that moment that the hour of his fate was come.
He would never let go that hand again till he called it his own, or
received from it a sign to be gone forever from the presence of
Amélie de Repentigny.
The soft twilight grew deeper and deeper every moment, changing the
rosy hues of the west into a pale ashen gray, over which hung the
lamp of love,--the evening star, which shines so brightly and sets
so soon,--and ever the sooner as it hastens to become again the
morning star of a brighter day.
The shadow of the broad, spreading tree fell darker round the rustic
seat where sat these two--as myriads have sat before and since,
working out the problems of their lives, and beginning to comprehend
each other, as they await with a thrill of anticipation the moment
of mutual confidence and fond confession.
Pierre Philibert sat some minutes without speaking. He could
have sat so forever, gazing with rapture upon her half-averted
countenance, which beamed with such a divine beauty, all aglow with
the happy consciousness of his ardent admiration, that it seemed the
face of a seraph; and in his heart, if not on his knees, he bent in
worship, almost idolatrous, at her feet.
And yet he trembled, this strong man who had faced death in every
form but this! He trembled by the side of this gentle girl,--but it
was for joy, not for fear. Perfect love casts out fear, and he had
no fear now for Amélie's love, although she had not yet dared to
look at him. But her little hand lay unreprovingly in his,--
nestling like a timid bird which loved to be there, and sought not
to escape. He pressed it gently to his heart; he felt by its
magnetic touch, by that dumb alphabet of love, more eloquent than
spoken words, that he had won the heart of Amélie de Repentigny.
"Pierre," said she,--she wanted to say it was time to rejoin their
companions, but the words would not come. Her face was still half-
averted, and suffused with an unseen blush, as she felt his strong
arm round her; and his breath, how sweet it seemed, fanning her
cheek. She had no power, no will to resist him, as he drew her
close, still closer to his heart.
She trembled, but was happy. No eye saw but God's through the
blessed twilight; and "God will not reprove Pierre Philibert for
loving me," thought she, "and why should I?" She tried, or
simulated, an attempt at soft reproof, as a woman will who fears she
may be thought too fond and too easily won, at the very moment she
is ready to fall down and kiss the feet of the man before her.
"Pierre," said she, "it is time we rejoin our companions; they will
remark our absence. We will go."
But she still sat there, and made no effort to go. A gossamer
thread could have held her there forever, and how could she put
aside the strong arm that was mightier than her own will?
Pierre spoke now; the feelings so long pent up burst forth in a
torrent that swept away every bond of restraint but that of love's
He placed his hand tenderly on her cheek, and turned her glowing
face full towards him. Still she dared not look up. She knew well
what he was going to say. She might control her words, but not her
tell-tale eyes. She felt a wild joy flashing and leaping in her
bosom, which no art could conceal, should she look up at this moment
in the face of Pierre Philibert.
"Amélie," said he, after a pause, "turn those dear eyes, and see and
believe in the truth of mine! No words can express how much I do
She gave a start of joy,--not of surprise, for she knew he loved
her. But the avowal of Pierre Philibert's love lifted at once the
veil from her own feelings. She raised her dark, impassioned eyes
to his, and their souls met and embraced in one look both of
recognition and bliss. She spake not, but unconsciously nestled
closer to his breast, faltering out some inarticulate words of
"Amélie," continued he, straining her still harder to his heart,
"your love is all I ask of Heaven and of you. Give me that. I must
have it, or live henceforth a man forlorn in the wide world. Oh,
say, darling, can you, do you care for me?"
"Yes, indeed I do!" replied she, laying her arm over his neck, as if
drawing him towards her with a timid movement, while he stooped and
kissed her sweet mouth and eyes in an ecstasy of passionate joy.
She abandoned herself for a moment to her excess of bliss. "Kiss
me, darling!" said he; and she kissed him more than once, to express
her own great love and assure him that it was all his own.
They sat in silence for some minutes; her cheek lay upon his, as
she breathed his name with many fond, faltering expressions of
He felt her tears upon his face. "You weep, Amélie," said he,
starting up and looking at her cheeks and eyes suffused with
"I do," said she, "but it is for joy! Oh, Pierre Philibert, I am so
happy! Let me weep now; I will laugh soon. Forgive me if I have
confessed too readily how much I love you."
"Forgive you! 'tis I need forgiveness; impetuous that I am to have
forced this confession from you to-night. Those blessed words,
'Yes, indeed I do,'--God's finger has written them on my heart
forever. Never will I forsake the dear lips which spake them, nor
fail in all loving duty and affection to you, my Amélie, to the end
of my life."
"Of both our lives, Pierre," replied she; "I can imagine no life,
only death, separated from you. In thought you have always been
with me from the beginning; my life and yours are henceforth one."
He gave a start of joy, "And you loved me before, Amélie!" exclaimed
"Ever and always; but irrevocably since that day of terror and joy
when you saved the life of Le Gardeur, and I vowed to pray for you
to the end of my life."
"And during these long years in the Convent, Amélie,--when we seemed
utterly forgotten to each other?"
"You were not forgotten by me, Pierre! I prayed for you then,--
earnest prayers for your safety and happiness, never hoping for
more; least of all anticipating such a moment of bliss as the
present. Oh, my Pierre, do not think me bold! You give me the
right to love you without shame by the avowal of your love to me."
"Amélie!" exclaimed he, kissing her in an ecstasy of joy and
admiration, "what have I done--what can I ever do, to merit or
recompense such condescension as your dear words express?"
"Love me, Pierre! Always love me! That is my reward. That is all
I ask, all my utmost imagination could desire."
"And this little hand, Amélie, will be forever mine?"
"Forever, Pierre, and the heart along with it."
He raised her hand reverently to his lips and kissed it. "Let it
not be long," said he. "Life is too short to curtail one hour of
happiness from the years full of trouble which are most men's lot."
"But not our lot, Pierre; not ours. With you I forbode no more
trouble in this life, and eternal joy in the next."
She looked at him, and her eyes seemed to dilate with joy. Her hand
crept timidly up to his thick locks; she fondly brushed them aside
from his broad forehead, which she pressed down to her lips and
"Tell my aunt and Le Gardeur when we return home," continued she.
"They love you, and will be glad--nay, overjoyed, to know that I am
to be your--your--"
"My wife!---Amélie, thrice blessed words! Oh, say my wife!"
"Yes, your wife, Pierre! Your true and loving wife forever."
"Forever! Yes. Love like ours is imperishable as the essence of
the soul itself, and partakes of the immortality of God, being of
him and from him. The Lady de Tilly shall find me a worthy son, and
Le Gardeur a true and faithful brother."
"And you, Pierre! Oh, say it; that blessed word has not sounded yet
in my ear--what shall I call you?" And she looked in his eyes,
drawing his soul from its inmost depths by the magnetism of her
"Your husband,--your true and loving husband, as you are my wife,
"God be praised!" murmured she in his ear. "Yes, my HUSBAND! The
blessed Virgin has heard my prayers." And she pressed him in a fond
embrace, while tears of joy flowed from her eyes. "I am indeed
The words hardly left her lips when a sudden crash of thunder rolled
over their heads and went pealing down the lake and among the
islands, while a black cloud suddenly eclipsed the moon, shedding
darkness over the landscape, which had just begun to brighten in her
Amélie was startled, frightened, clinging hard to the breast of
Pierre, as her natural protector. She trembled and shook as the
angry reverberations rolled away in the distant forests. "Oh,
Pierre!" exclaimed she, "what is that? It is as if a dreadful voice
came between us, forbidding our union! But nothing shall ever do
that now, shall it? Oh, my love!"
"Nothing, Amélie. Be comforted," replied he. "It is but a thunder-
storm coming up. It will send Le Gardeur and all our gay companions
quickly back to us, and we shall return home an hour sooner, that is
all. Heaven cannot frown on our union, darling."
"I should love you all the same, Pierre," whispered she. Amélie was
not hard to persuade; she was neither weak nor superstitious beyond
her age and sex. But she had not much time to indulge in alarms.
In a few minutes the sound of voices was heard; the dip and splash
of hasty paddles followed, and the fleet of canoes came rushing into
shore like a flock of water-fowl seeking shelter in bay or inlet
from a storm.
There was a hasty preparation on all sides for departure. The camp-
fires were trampled out lest they should kindle a conflagration in
the forest. The baskets were tossed into one of the large canoes.
Philibert and Amélie embarked in that of Le Gardeur, not without
many arch smiles and pretended regrets on the part of some of the
young ladies for having left them on their last round of the lake.
The clouds kept gathering in the south, and there was no time for
parley. The canoes were headed down the stream, the paddles were
plied vigorously: it was a race to keep ahead of the coming storm,
and they did not quite win it.
The black clouds came rolling over the horizon in still blacker
masses, lower and lower, lashing the very earth with their angry
skirts, which were rent and split with vivid flashes of lightning.
The rising wind almost overpowered with its roaring the thunder that
pealed momentarily nearer and nearer. The rain came down in broad,
heavy splashes, followed by a fierce, pitiless hail, as if Heaven's
anger was pursuing them.
Amélie clung to Philibert. She thought of Francesca da Rimini
clinging to Paolo amidst the tempest of wind and the moving
darkness, and uttered tremblingly the words, "Oh, Pierre! what an
omen. Shall it be said of us as of them, 'Amor condusse noi ad una
morte'?" ("Love has conducted us into one death.")
"God grant we may one day say so," replied he, pressing her to his
bosom, "when we have earned it by a long life of mutual love and
devotion. But now cheer up, darling; we are home."
The canoes pushed madly to the bank. The startled holiday party
sprang out; servants were there to help them. All ran across the
lawn under the wildly-tossing trees, and in a few moments, before
the storm could overtake them with its greatest fury, they reached
the Manor House, and were safe under the protection of its strong
and hospitable roof.
"NO SPEECH OF SILK WILL SERVE YOUR TURN."
Angélique des Meloises was duly informed, through the sharp
espionage of Lizette, as to what had become of Le Gardeur after that
memorable night of conflict between love and ambition, when she
rejected the offer of his hand and gave herself up to the illusions
of her imagination.
She was sorry, yet flattered, at Lizette's account of his conduct at
the Taverne de Menut; for, although pleased to think that Le Gardeur
loved her to the point of self-destruction, she honestly pitied him,
and felt, or thought she felt, that she could sacrifice anything
except herself for his sake.
Angélique pondered in her own strange, fitful way over Le Gardeur.
She had no thought of losing him wholly. She would continue to hold
him in her silken string, and keep him under the spell of her
fascinations. She still admired him,--nay, loved him, she thought.
She could not help doing so; and if she could not help it, where
was the blame? She would not, to be sure, sacrifice for him the
brilliant hopes which danced before her imagination like fire-flies
in a summer night--for no man in the world would she do that! The
Royal Intendant was the mark she aimed at. She was ready to go
through fire and water to reach that goal of her ambition. But if
she gave the Intendant her hand it was enough; it was all she could
give him, but not the smallest corner of her heart, which she
acknowledged to herself belonged only to Le Gardeur de Repentigny.
While bent on accomplishing this scheme by every means in her power,
and which involved necessarily the ruin of Le Gardeur, she took a
sort of perverse pride in enumerating the hundred points of personal
and moral superiority possessed by him over the Intendant and all
others of her admirers. If she sacrificed her love to her ambition,
hating herself while she did so, it was a sort of satisfaction to
think that Le Gardeur's sacrifice was not less complete than her
own; and she rather felt pleased with the reflection that his heart
would be broken, and no other woman would ever fill that place in
his affections which she had once occupied.
The days that elapsed after their final interview were days of
vexation to Angélique. She was angry with herself, almost; angry
with Le Gardeur that he had taken her at her word, and still more
angry that she did not reap the immediate reward of her treachery
against her own heart. She was like a spoiled and wilful child
which will neither have a thing nor let it go. She would discard
her lover and still retain his love! and felt irritated and even
jealous when she heard of his departure to Tilly with his sister,
who had thus, apparently, more influence to take him away from the
city than Angélique had to keep him there.
But her mind was especially worked upon almost to madness by the
ardent professions of love, with the careful avoidance of any
proposal of marriage, on the part of the Intendant. She had
received his daily visits with a determination to please and
fascinate him. She had dressed herself with elaborate care, and no
woman in New France equalled Angélique in the perfection of her
attire. She studied his tastes in her conversation and demeanor,
which were free beyond even her wont, because she saw that a manner
bold and unconstrained took best with him. Angélique's free style
was the most perfect piece of acting in the world. She laughed
loudly at his wit, and heard without blushes his double entendres
and coarse jests, not less coarse because spoken in the polished
dialect of Paris. She stood it all, but with no more result than is
left by a brilliant display of fireworks after it is over. She
could read in the eager looks and manner of the Intendant that she
had fixed his admiration and stirred his passions, but she knew by a
no less sure intuition that she had not, with all her blandishments,
suggested to his mind one serious thought of marriage.
In vain she reverted to the subject of matrimony, in apparent jest
but secret earnest. The Intendant, quick-witted as herself, would
accept the challenge, talk with her and caracole on the topic which
she had caparisoned so gaily for him, and amid compliments and
pleasantries, ride away from the point, she knew not whither! Then
Angélique would be angry after his departure, and swear,--she could
swear shockingly for a lady when she was angry!--and vow she would
marry Le Gardeur after all; but her pride was stung, not her love.
No man had ever defeated her when she chose to subdue him, neither
should this proud Intendant! So Angélique collected her scattered
forces again, and laid closer siege to Bigot than ever.
The great ball at the Palais had been the object of absorbing
interest to the fashionable society of the Capital for many weeks.
It came on at last, turning the heads of half the city with its
Angélique shone the acknowledged queen of the Intendant's ball.
Her natural grace and beauty, set off by the exquisite taste and
richness of her attire, threw into eclipse the fairest of her
rivals. If there was one present who, in admiration of her own
charms, claimed for herself the first place, she freely conceded to
Angélique the second. But Angélique feared no rival there. Her
only fear was at Beaumanoir. She was profoundly conscious of her
own superiority to all present, while she relished the envy and
jealousy which it created. She cared but little what the women
thought of her, and boldly challenging the homage of the men,
obtained it as her rightful due.
Still, under the gay smiles and lively badinage which she showered
on all around as she moved through the brilliant throng, Angélique
felt a bitter spirit of discontent rankling in her bosom. She was
angry, and she knew why, and still more angry because upon herself
lay the blame! Not that she blamed herself for having rejected Le
Gardeur: she had done that deliberately and for a price; but the
price was not yet paid, and she had, sometimes, qualms of doubt
whether it would ever be paid!
She who had had her own way with all men, now encountered a man who
spoke and looked like one who had had his own way with all women,
and who meant to have his own way with her!
She gazed often upon the face of Bigot, and the more she looked the
more inscrutable it appeared to her. She tried to sound the depths
of his thoughts, but her inquiry was like the dropping of a stone
into the bottomless pit of that deep cavern of the dark and bloody
ground talked of by adventurous voyageurs from the Far West.
That Bigot admired her beyond all other women at the ball, was
visible enough from the marked attention which he lavished upon her
and the courtly flatteries that flowed like honey from his lips.
She also read her preëminence in his favor from the jealous eyes of
a host of rivals who watched her every movement. But Angélique felt
that the admiration of the Intendant was not of that kind which had
driven so many men mad for her sake. She knew Bigot would never go
mad for her, much as he was fascinated! and why? why?
Angélique, while listening to his honeyed flatteries as he led her
gaily through the ballroom, asked herself again and again, why did
he carefully avoid the one topic that filled her thoughts, or spoke
of it only in his mocking manner, which tortured her to madness with
doubt and perplexity?
As she leaned on the arm of the courtly Intendant, laughing like one
possessed with the very spirit of gaiety at his sallies and jests,
her mind was torn with bitter comparisons as she remembered Le
Gardeur, his handsome face and his transparent admiration, so full
of love and ready for any sacrifice for her sake,--and she had cast
it all away for this inscrutable voluptuary, a man who had no
respect for women, but who admired her person, condescended to be
pleased with it, and affected to be caught by the lures she held out
to him, but which she felt would be of no more avail to hold him
fast than the threads which a spider throws from bush to bush on a
summer morn will hold fast a bird which flies athwart them!
The gayest of the gay to all outward appearance, Angélique missed
sorely the presence of Le Gardeur, and she resented his absence from
the ball as a slight and a wrong to her sovereignty, which never
released a lover from his allegiance.
The fair demoiselles at the ball, less resolutely ambitious than
Angélique, found by degrees, in the devotion of other cavaliers,
ample compensation for only so much of the Intendant's favor as he
liberally bestowed on all the sex; but that did not content
Angélique: she looked with sharpest eyes of inquisition upon the
bright glances which now and then shot across the room where she sat
by the side of Bigot, apparently steeped in happiness, but with a
serpent biting at her heart, for she felt that Bigot was really
unimpressible as a stone under her most subtle manipulation.
Her thoughts ran in a round of ceaseless repetition of the question:
"Why can I not subdue François Bigot as I have subdued every other
man who exposed his weak side to my power?" and Angélique pressed
her foot hard upon the floor as the answer returned ever the same:
"The heart of the Intendant is away at Beaumanoir! That pale,
pensive lady" (Angélique used a more coarse and emphatic word)
"stands between him and me like a spectre as she is, and obstructs
the path I have sacrificed so much to enter!"
"I cannot endure the heat of the ballroom, Bigot!" said Angélique;
"I will dance no more to-night! I would rather sit and catch
fireflies on the terrace than chase forever without overtaking it
the bird that has escaped from my bosom!"
The Intendant, ever attentive to her wishes, offered his arm to lead
her into the pleached walks of the illuminated garden. Angélique
rose, gathered up her rich train, and with an air of royal coquetry
took his arm and accompanied the Intendant on a promenade down the
grand alley of roses.
"What favorite bird has escaped from your bosom, Angélique?" asked
the Intendant, who had, however, a shrewd guess of the meaning of
"The pleasure I had in anticipation of this ball! The bird has
flown, I know not where or how. I have no pleasure here at all!"
exclaimed she, petulantly, although she knew the ball had been
really got up mainly for her own pleasure.
"And yet Momus himself might have been your father, and Euphrosyne
your mother, Angélique," replied Bigot, "to judge by your gaiety to-
night. If you have no pleasure, it is because you have given it all
away to others! But I have caught the bird you lost, let me restore
it to your bosom pray!" He laid his hand lightly and caressingly
upon her arm. Her bosom was beating wildly; she removed his hand,
and held it firmly grasped in her own.
"Chevalier!" said she, "the pleasure of a king is in the loyalty of
his subjects, the pleasure of a woman in the fidelity of her lover!"
She was going to say more, but stopped. But she gave him a glance
which insinuated more than all she left unsaid.
Bigot smiled to himself. "Angélique is jealous!" thought he, but
he only remarked, "That is an aphorism which I believe with all my
heart! If the pleasure of a woman be in the fidelity of her lover,
I know no one who should be more happy than Angélique des Meloises!
No lady in New France has a right to claim greater devotion from a
lover, and no one receives it!"
"But I have no faith in the fidelity of my lover! and I am not
happy, Chevalier! far from it!" replied she, with one of those
impulsive speeches that seemed frankness itself, but in this woman
were artful to a degree.
"Why so?" replied he; "pleasure will never leave you, Angélique,
unless you wilfully chase it away from your side! All women envy
your beauty, all men struggle to obtain your smiles. For myself, I
would gather all the joys and treasures of the world, and lay them
at your feet, would you let me!
"I do not hinder you, Chevalier!" she replied, with a laugh of
incredulity, "but you do not do it! It is only your politeness to
say that. I have told you that the pleasure of a woman is in the
fidelity of her lover; tell me now, Chevalier, what is the highest
pleasure of a man?"
"The beauty and condescension of his mistress,--at least, I know
none greater." Bigot looked at her as if his speech ought to
receive acknowledgement on the spot.
"And it is your politeness to say that, also, Chevalier!" replied
she very coolly.
"I wish I could say of your condescension, Angélique, what I have
said of your beauty: François Bigot would then feel the highest
pleasure of a man." The Intendant only half knew the woman he was
seeking to deceive. She got angry.
Angélique looked up with a scornful flash. "My condescension,
Chevalier? to what have I not condescended on the faith of your
solemn promise that the lady of Beaumanoir should not remain under
your roof? She is still there, Chevalier, in spite of your
Bigot was on the point of denying the fact, but there was sharpness
in Angélique's tone, and clearness of all doubt in her eyes. He saw
he would gain nothing by denial.
"She knows the whole secret, I do believe!" muttered he. "Argus
with his hundred eyes was a blind man compared to a woman's two eyes
sharpened by jealousy."
"The lady of Beaumanoir accuses me of no sin that I repent of!"
replied he. "True! I promised to send her away, and so I will; but
she is a woman, a lady, who has claims upon me for gentle usage. If
it were your case, Angélique--"
Angélique quitted his arm and stood confronting him, flaming with
indignation. She did not let him finish his sentence: "If it were
my case, Bigot! as if that could ever be my case, and you alive to
speak of it!"
Bigot stepped backwards. He was not sure but a poniard glittered in
the clenched hand of Angélique. It was but the flash of her diamond
rings as she lifted it suddenly. She almost struck him.
"Do not blame me for infidelities committed before I knew you,
Angélique!" said he, seizing her hand, which he held forcibly in
his, in spite of her efforts to wrench it away.
"It is my nature to worship beauty at every shrine. I have ever
done so until I found the concentration of all my divinities in you.
I could not, if I would, be unfaithful to you, Angélique des
Meloises!" Bigot was a firm believer in the classical faith that
Jove laughs at lovers' perjuries.
"You mock me, Bigot!" replied she. "You are the only man who has
ever dared to do so twice."
"When did I mock you twice, Angélique?" asked he, with an air of
"Now! and when you pledged yourself to remove the lady of Beaumanoir
from your house! I admire your courage, Bigot, in playing false
with me and still hoping to win! But never speak to me more of love
while that pale spectre haunts the secret chambers of the Château!"
"She shall be removed, Angélique, since you insist upon it," replied
he, secretly irritated; "but where is the harm? I pledge my faith
she shall not stand in the way of my love for you."
"Better she were dead than do so!" whispered Angélique to herself.
"It is my due, Bigot!" replied she aloud, "you know what I have
given up for your sake!"
"Yes! I know you have banished Le Gardeur de Repentigny when it had
been better to keep him securely in the ranks of the Grand Company.
Why did you refuse to marry him, Angélique?"
The question fairly choked her with anger. "Why did I refuse to
marry him? François Bigot! Do you ask me seriously that question?
Did you not tell me of your own love, and all but offer me your
hand, giving me to understand--miserable sinner that you are, or as
you think me to be--that you pledged your own faith to me, as first
in your choice, and I have done that which I had better have been
dead and buried with the heaviest pyramid of Egypt on top of me,
buried without hope of resurrection, than have done?"
Bigot, accustomed as he was to woman's upbraidings, scarcely knew
what to reply to this passionate outburst. He had spoken to her
words of love, plenty of them, but the idea of marriage had not
flashed across his mind for a moment,--not a word of that had
escaped his lips. He had as little guessed the height of
Angélique's ambition as she the depths of his craft and wickedness,
and yet there was a wonderful similarity between the characters of
both,--the same bold, defiant spirit, the same inordinate ambition,
the same void of principle in selecting means to ends,--only the one
fascinated with the lures of love, the other by the charms of wit,
the temptations of money, or effected his purposes by the rough
application of force.
"You call me rightly a miserable sinner," said he, half smiling, as
one not very miserable although a sinner. "If love of fair women
be a sin, I am one of the greatest of sinners; and in your fair
presence, Angélique, I am sinning at this moment enough to sink a
shipload of saints and angels!"
"You have sunk me in my own and the world's estimation, if you mean
what you say, Bigot!" replied she, unconsciously tearing in strips
the fan she held in her hand. "You love all women too well ever to
be capable of fixing your heart upon one!" A tear, of vexation
perhaps, stood in her angry eye as she said this, and her cheek
twitched with fierce emotion.
"Come, Angélique!" said he, soothingly, "some of our guests have
entered this alley. Let us walk down to the terrace. The moon is
shining bright over the broad river, and I will swear to you by St.
Picaut, my patron, whom I never deceive, that my love for all
womankind has not hindered me from fixing my supreme affection upon
Angélique allowed him to press her hand, which he did with fervor.
She almost believed his words. She could scarcely imagine another
woman seriously preferred to herself, when she chose to flatter a
man with a belief of her own preference for him.
They walked down a long alley brilliantly illuminated with lamps of
Bohemian glass, which shone like the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds
which grew upon the trees in the garden of Aladdin.
At every angle of the geometrically-cut paths of hard-beaten sea-
shells, white as snow, stood the statue of a faun, a nymph, or
dryad, in Parian marble, holding a torch, which illuminated a great
vase running over with fresh, blooming flowers, presenting a vista
of royal magnificence which bore testimony to the wealth and
splendid tastes of the Intendant.
The garden walks were not deserted: their beauty drew out many a
couple who sauntered merrily, or lovingly, down the pleached
avenues, which looked like the corridors of a gorgeously-decorated
Bigot and Angélique moved among the guests, receiving, as they
passed, obsequious salutations, which to Angélique seemed a
foretaste of royalty. She had seen the gardens of the palace many
times before, but never illuminated as now. The sight of them so
grandly decorated filled her with admiration of their owner, and she
resolved that, cost what it would, the homage paid to her to-night,
as the partner of the Intendant, should become hers by right on his
hearthstone as the first lady in New France.
Angélique threw back her veil that all might see her, that the women
might envy and the men admire her, as she leaned confidingly on the
arm of Bigot, looking up in his face with that wonderful smile of
hers which had brought so many men to ruin at her feet, and talking
with such enchantment as no woman could talk but Angélique des
Well understanding that her only road to success was to completely
fascinate the Intendant, she bent herself to the task with such
power of witchery and such simulation of real passion, that Bigot,
wary and experienced gladiator as he was in the arena of love, was
more than once brought to the brink of a proposal for her hand.
She watched every movement of his features, at these critical
moments when he seemed just falling into the snares so artfully
set for him. When she caught his eyes glowing with passionate
admiration, she shyly affected to withdraw hers from his gaze,
turning on him at times flashes of her dark eyes which electrified
every nerve of his sensuous nature. She felt the pressure of his
hand, the changed and softened inflections of his voice, she knew
the words of her fate were trembling on his lips, and yet they did
not come! The shadow of that pale hand at Beaumanoir, weak and
delicate as it was, seemed to lay itself upon his lips when about to
speak to her, and snatch away the words which Angélique, trembling
with anticipation, was ready to barter away body and soul to hear
In a shady passage through a thick greenery where the lights were
dimmer and no one was near, she allowed his arm for a moment to
encircle her yielding form, and she knew by his quick breath that
the words were moulded in his thoughts, and were on the point to
rush forth in a torrent of speech. Still they came not, and Bigot
again, to her unutterable disgust, shied off like a full-blooded
horse which starts suddenly away from some object by the wayside and
throws his rider headlong on the ground. So again were dashed the
ardent expectations of Angélique.
She listened to the gallant and gay speeches of Bigot, which seemed
to flutter like birds round her, but never lit on the ground where
she had spread her net like a crafty fowler as she was, until she
went almost mad with suppressed anger and passionate excitement.
But she kept on replying with badinage light as his own, and with
laughter so soft and silvery that it seemed a gentle dew from
Heaven, instead of the drift and flying foam of the storm that was
raging in her bosom.
She read and re-read glimpses of his hidden thoughts that went and
came like faces in a dream, and she saw in her imagination the dark,
pleading eyes and pale face of the lady of Beaumanoir. It came now
like a revelation, confirming a thousand suspicions that Bigot loved
that pale, sad face too well ever to marry Angélique des Meloises
while its possessor lived at Beaumanoir,--or while she lived at all!
And it came to that! In this walk with Bigot round the glorious
garden, with God's flowers shedding fragrance around them; with
God's stars shining overhead above all the glitter and illusion of
the thousand lamps, Angélique repeated to herself the terrific
words, "Bigot loves that pale, sad face too well ever to marry me
while its possessor lives at Beaumanoir--or while she lives at all!"
The thought haunted her! It would not leave her! She leaned
heavily upon his arm as she swept like a queen of Cyprus through the
flower-bordered walks, brushing the roses and lilies with her proud
train, and treading, with as dainty a foot as ever bewitched human
eye, the white paths that led back to the grand terrace of the
Her fevered imagination played tricks in keeping with her fear: more
than once she fancied she saw the shadowy form of a beautiful woman
walking on the other side of Bigot next his heart! It was the form
of Caroline bearing a child in one arm, and claiming, by that
supreme appeal to a man's heart, the first place in his affections.
The figure sometimes vanished, sometimes reappeared in the same
place, and once and the last time assumed the figure and look of Our
Lady of St. Foye, triumphant after a thousand sufferings, and still
ever bearing the face and look of the lady of Beaumanoir.
Emerging at last from the dim avenue into the full light, where a
fountain sent up showers of sparkling crystals, the figure vanished,
and Angélique sat down on a quaintly-carved seat under a mountain-
ash, very tired, and profoundly vexed at all things and with
A servant in gorgeous livery brought a message from the ballroom to
He was summoned for a dance, but he would not leave Angélique, he
said. But Angélique begged for a short rest: it was so pleasant in
the garden. She would remain by the fountain. She liked its
sparkling and splashing, it refreshed her; the Intendant could come
for her in half an hour; she wanted to be alone; she felt in a hard,
unamiable mood, she said, and he only made her worse by stopping
with her when others wanted him, and he wanted others!
The Intendant protested, in terms of the warmest gallantry, that he
would not leave her; but seeing Angélique really desired at the
present moment to be alone, and reflecting that he was himself
sacrificing too much for the sake of one goddess, while a hundred
others were adorned and waiting for his offerings, he promised in
half an hour to return for her to this spot by the fountain, and
proceeded towards the Palace.
Angélique sat watching the play and sparkle of the fountain, which
she compared to her own vain exertions to fascinate the Intendant,
and thought that her efforts had been just as brilliant, and just as
She was sadly perplexed. There was a depth in Bigot's character
which she could not fathom, a bottomless abyss into which she was
falling and could not save herself. Whichever way she turned the
eidolon of Caroline met her as a bar to all further progress in her
design upon the Intendant.
The dim half-vision of Caroline which she had seen in the pleached
walk, she knew was only the shadow and projection of her own
thoughts, a brooding fancy which she had unconsciously conjured up
into the form of her hated rival. The addition of the child was the
creation of the deep and jealous imaginings which had often crossed
her mind. She thought of that yet unborn pledge of a once mutual
affection as the secret spell by which Caroline, pale and feeble as
she was, still held the heart of the Intendant in some sort of
"It is that vile, weak thing!" said she bitterly and angrily to
herself, "which is stronger than I. It is by that she excites his
pity, and pity draws after it the renewal of his love. If the hope
of what is not yet be so potent with Bigot, what will not the
reality prove ere long? The annihilation of all my brilliant
anticipations! I have drawn a blank in life's lottery, by the
rejection of Le Gardeur for his sake! It is the hand of that
shadowy babe which plucks away the words of proposal from the lips
of Bigot, which gives his love to its vile mother, and leaves to me
the mere ashes of his passion, words which mean nothing, which will
never mean anything but insult to Angélique des Meloises, so long as
that woman lives to claim the hand which but for her would be mine!"
Dark fancies fluttered across the mind of Angélique during the
absence of the Intendant. They came like a flight of birds of evil
omen, ravens, choughs, and owls, the embodiments of wicked thoughts.
But such thoughts suited her mood, and she neither chid nor banished
them, but let them light and brood, and hatch fresh mischief in her
She looked up to see who was laughing so merrily while she was so
angry and so sad, and beheld the Intendant jesting and toying with a
cluster of laughing girls who had caught him at the turn of the
broad stair of the terrace. They kept him there in utter oblivion
of Angélique! Not that she cared for his presence at that moment,
or felt angry, as she would have done at a neglect of Le Gardeur,
but it was one proof among a thousand others that, gallant and gay
as he was among the throng of fair guests who were flattering and
tempting him on every side, not one of them, herself included, could
feel sure she had made an impression lasting longer than the present
moment upon the heart of the Intendant.
But Bigot had neither forgotten Angélique nor himself. His wily
spirit was contriving how best to give an impetus to his intrigue
with her without committing himself to any promise of marriage. He
resolved to bring this beautiful but exacting girl wholly under his
power. He comprehended fully that Angélique was prepared to accept
his hand at any moment, nay, almost demanded it; but the price of
marriage was what Bigot would not, dared not pay, and as a true
courtier of the period he believed thoroughly in his ability to