Part 8 out of 13
beguile any woman he chose, and cheat her of the price she set upon
THE BALL AT THE INTENDANT'S PALACE.
The bevy of fair girls still surrounded Bigot on the terrace stair.
Some of them stood leaning in graceful pose upon the balusters. The
wily girls knew his artistic tastes, and their pretty feet patted
time to the music, while they responded with ready glee to the
gossiping of the gay Intendant.
Amid their idle badinage Bigot inserted an artful inquiry for
suggestion, not for information, whether it was true that his friend
Le Gardeur de Repentigny, now at the Manor House of Tilly, had
become affianced to his cousin, Héloise de Lotbinière? There was a
start of surprise and great curiosity at once manifested among the
ladies, some of whom protested that it could not be true, for they
knew better in what direction Le Gardeur's inclinations pointed.
Others, more compassionate or more spiteful, with a touch of envy,
said they hoped it was true, for he had been "jilted by a young lady
in the city!" Whom they "all knew!" added one sparkling demoiselle,
giving herself a twitch and throwing a side glance which mimicked so
perfectly the manner of the lady hinted at, that all knew in a
moment she meant no other than Angélique des Meloises. They all
laughed merrily at the conceit, and agreed that Le Gardeur de
Repentigny would only serve the proud flirt right by marrying
Héloise, and showing the world how little he cared for Angélique.
"Or how much!" suggested an experienced and lively widow, Madame La
Touche. "I think his marrying Héloise de Lotbinière will only prove
the desperate condition of his feelings. He will marry her, not
because he loves her, but to spite Angélique."
The Intendant had reckoned securely on the success of his ruse: the
words were scarcely spoken before a couple of close friends of
Angélique found her out, and poured into her ears an exaggerated
story of the coming marriage of Le Gardeur with Héloise de
Angélique believed them because it seemed the natural consequence of
her own infidelity.
Her friends, who were watching her with all a woman's curiosity and
acuteness, were secretly pleased to see that their news had cut her
to the quick. They were not misled by the affected indifference and
gay laughter which veiled the resentment which was plainly visible
in her agitated bosom.
Her two friends left her to report back to their companions, with
many exaggerations and much pursing of pretty lips, how Angélique
had received their communication. They flattered themselves they
had had the pleasure of first breaking the bad tidings to her, but
they were mistaken! Angélique's far-reaching curiosity had touched
Tilly with its antennae, and she had already learned of the visit of
Héloise de Lotbinière, an old school companion of her own, to the
Manor House of Tilly.
She had scented danger afar off from that visit. She knew that
Héloise worshipped Le Gardeur, and now that Angélique had cast him
off, what more natural than that he should fall at last into her
snares--so Angélique scornfully termed the beauty and amiable
character of her rival. She was angry without reason, and she knew
it; but that made her still more angry, and with still less reason.
"Bigot!" said she, impetuously, as the Intendant rejoined her when
the half-hour had elapsed, "you asked me a question in the Castle of
St. Louis, leaning on the high gallery which overlooks the cliffs!
Do you remember it?"
"I do: one does not forget easily what one asks of a beautiful
woman, and still less the reply she makes to us," replied he,
looking at her sharply, for he guessed her drift.
"Yet you seem to have forgotten both the question and the reply,
Bigot. Shall I repeat them?" said she, with an air of affected
"Needless, Angélique! and to prove to you the strength of my memory,
which is but another name for the strength of my admiration, I will
repeat it: I asked you that night--it was a glorious night, the
bright moon shone full in our faces as we looked over the shining
river, but your eyes eclipsed all the splendor of the heavens--I
asked you to give me your love; I asked for it then, Angélique! I
ask for it now."
Angélique was pleased with the flattery, even while she knew how
hollow and conventional a thing it was.
"You said all that before, Bigot!" replied she, "and you added a
foolish speech, which I confess pleased me that night better than
now. You said that in me you had found the fair haven of your
desires, where your bark, long tossing in cross seas, and beating
against adverse winds, would cast anchor and be at rest. The phrase
sounded poetical if enigmatical, but it pleased me somehow; what did
it mean, Bigot? I have puzzled over it many times since--pray tell
Angélique turned her eyes like two blazing stars full upon him as if
to search for every trace of hidden thought that lurked in his
"I meant what I said, Angélique: that in you I had found the pearl
of price which I would rather call mine than wear a king's crown."
"You explain one enigma by another. The pearl of price lay there
before you and you picked it up! It had been the pride of its
former owner, but you found it ere it was lost. What did you with
The Intendant knew as well as she the drift of the angry tide, which
was again setting in full upon him, but he doubted not his ability
to escape. His real contempt for women was the lifeboat he trusted
in, which had carried himself and fortunes out of a hundred storms
and tempests of feminine wrath.
"I wore the precious pearl next my heart, as any gallant gentleman
should do," replied he blandly; "I would have worn it inside my
heart could I have shut it up there."
Bigot smiled in complacent self-approval at his own speech. Not so
Angélique! She was irritated by his general reference to the duty
of a gallant gentleman to the sex and not to his own special duty as
the admirer of herself.
Angélique was like an angry pantheress at this moment. The darts of
jealousy just planted by her two friends tore her side, and she felt
reckless both as to what she said and what she did. With a burst of
passion not rare in women like her, she turned her wrath full upon
him as the nearest object. She struck Bigot with her clenched hand
upon the breast, exclaiming with wild vehemence,--
"You lie! François Bigot, you never wore me next your heart,
although you said so! You wear the lady of Beaumanoir next your
heart. You have opened your heart to her after pledging it to me!
If I was the pearl of price, you have adorned her with it--my
abasement is her glory!" Angélique's tall, straight figure stood
up, magnified with fury as she uttered this.
The Intendant stepped back in surprise at the sudden attack. Had
the blow fallen upon his face, such is human nature, Bigot would
have regarded it as an unpardonable insult, but falling upon his
breast, he burst out in a loud laugh as he caught hold of her
quivering hand, which she plucked passionately away from him.
The eyes of Angélique looked dangerous and full of mischief, but
Bigot was not afraid or offended. In truth, her jealousy flattered
him, applying it wholly to himself. He was, moreover, a connoisseur
in female temper: he liked to see the storm of jealous rage, to
watch the rising of its black clouds, to witness the lightning and
the thunder, the gusts and whirlwinds of passion, followed by the
rain of angry tears, when the tears were on his account. He thought
he had never seen so beautiful a fury as Angélique was at that
Her pointed epithet, "You lie!" which would have been death for a
man to utter, made no dint on the polished armor of Bigot, although
he inly resolved that she should pay a woman's penalty for it.
He had heard that word from other pretty lips before, but it left no
mark upon a conscience that was one stain, upon a life that was one
fraud. Still his bold spirit rather liked this bold utterance from
an angry woman, when it was in his power by a word to change her
rage into the tender cooing of a dove.
Bigot was by nature a hunter of women, and preferred the excitement
of a hard chase, when the deer turns at bay and its capture gave him
a trophy to be proud of, to the dull conquest of a tame and easy
virtue, such as were most of those which had fallen in his way.
"Angélique!" said he, "this is perfect madness; what means this
burst of anger? Do you doubt the sincerity of my love for you?"
"I do, Bigot! I doubt it, and I deny it. So long as you keep a
mistress concealed at Beaumanoir, your pledge to me is false and
your love an insult."
"You are too impetuous and too imperious, Angélique! I have
promised you she shall be removed from Beaumanoir, and she shall--"
"Whither, and when?"
"To the city, and in a few days: she can live there in quiet
seclusion. I cannot be cruel to her, Angélique."
"But you can be cruel to me, Bigot, and will be, unless you exercise
the power which I know is placed in your hands by the King himself."
"What is that? to confiscate her lands and goods if she had any?"
"No, to confiscate her person! Issue a lettre de cachet and send
her over sea to the Bastile."
Bigot was irritated at this suggestion, and his irritation was
narrowly watched by Angélique.
"I would rather go to the Bastile myself!" exclaimed he; "besides,
the King alone issues lettres de cachet: it is a royal prerogative,
only to be used in matters of State."
"And matters of love, Bigot, which are matters of State in France!
Pshaw! as if I did not know that the King delegates his authority,
and gives lettres de cachet in blank to his trusted courtiers, and
even to the ladies of his Court. Did not the Marquise de Pompadour
send Mademoiselle Vaubernier to the Bastile for only smiling upon
the King? It is a small thing I ask of you, Bigot, to test your
fidelity,--you cannot refuse me, come!" added she, with a wondrous
transformation of look and manner from storm and gloom to warmth and
"I cannot and will not do it. Hark you, Angélique, I dare not do
it! Powerful as I may seem, the family of that lady is too potent
to risk the experiment upon. I would fain oblige you in this
matter, but it would be the height of madness to do so."
"Well, then, Bigot, do this, if you will not do that! Place her in
the Convent of the Ursulines: it will suit her and me both,--no
better place in the world to tame an unruly spirit. She is one of
the pious souls who will be at home there, with plenty of prayers
and penances, and plenty of sins to pray for every day."
"But I cannot force her to enter the Convent, Angélique. She will
think herself not good enough to go there; besides, the nuns
themselves would have scruples to receive her."
"Not if YOU request her admission of Mère de la Nativité: the Lady
Superior will refuse no application of yours, Bigot."
"Won't she! but she will! The Mère de la Nativité considers me a
sad reprobate, and has already, when I visited her parlor, read me a
couple of sharpest homilies on my evil ways, as she called them.
The venerable Mère de la Nativité will not carry coals, I assure
"As if I did not know her!" she replied impatiently. "Why, she
screens with all her authority that wild nephew of hers, the Sieur
Varin! Nothing irritates her like hearing a bad report of him, and
although she knows all that is said of him to be true as her
breviary, she will not admit it. The soeurs converses in the laundry
were put on bread and water with prayers for a week, only for
repeating some gossip they had heard concerning him."
"Ay! that is because the venerable Mère Superior is touchy on the
point of family,--but I am not her nephew, voilà la différance!" as
the song says.
"Well! but you are her nephew's master and patron," replied
Angélique, "and the good Mère will strain many points to oblige the
Intendant of New France for sake of the Sieur Varin. You do not
know her as I do, Bigot."
"What do you advise, Angélique?" asked he, curious to see what was
working in her brain.
"That if you will not issue a lettre de cachet, you shall place the
lady of Beaumanoir in the hands of the Mère de la Nativité with
instructions to receive her into the community after the shortest
"Very good, Angélique! But if I do not know the Mère Superior, you
do not know the lady of Beaumanoir. There are reasons why the nuns
would not and could not receive her at all,--even were she willing
to go, as I think she would be. But I will provide her a home
suited to her station in the city; only you must promise to speak to
me no more respecting her."
"I will promise no such thing, Bigot!" said Angélique, firing up
again at the failure of her crafty plan for the disposal of
Caroline, "to have her in the city will be worse than to have her at
"Are you afraid of the poor girl, Angélique,--you, with your
surpassing beauty, grace, and power over all who approach you? She
cannot touch you."
"She has touched me, and to the quick too, already," she replied,
coloring with passion. "You love that girl, François Bigot! I am
never deceived in men. You love her too well to give her up, and
still you make love to me. What am I to think?"
"Think that you women are able to upset any man's reason, and make
fools of us all to your own purposes." Bigot saw the uselessness of
argument; but she would not drop the topic.
"So you say, and so I have found it with others," replied she, "but
not with you, Bigot. But I shall have been made the fool of, unless
I carry my point in regard to this lady."
"Well, trust to me, Angélique. Hark you! there are reasons of State
connected with her. Her father has powerful friends at Court, and I
must act warily. Give me your hand; we will be friends. I will
carry out your wishes to the farthest possible stretch of my power.
I can say no more."
Angélique gave him her hand. She saw she could not carry her point
with the Intendant, and her fertile brain was now scheming another
way to accomplish her ends. She had already undergone a revulsion
of feeling, and repented having carried her resentment so far,--not
that she felt it less, but she was cunning and artful, although her
temper sometimes overturned her craft, and made wreck of her
"I am sorry I was so angry, Bigot, as to strike you with this feeble
hand." Angélique smiled as she extended her dainty fingers, which,
delicate as they were, had the strength and elasticity of steel.
"Not so feeble either, Angélique!" replied he, laughing; "few men
could plant a better blow: you hit me on the heart fairly,
He seized her hand and lifted it to his lips. Had Queen Dido
possessed that hand she would have held fast Aeneas himself when he
ran away from his engagements.
Angélique pressed the Intendant's hand with a grasp that left every
vein bloodless. "As I hold fast to you, Bigot, and hold you to your
engagements, thank God that you are not a woman! If you were, I
think I should kill you. But as you are a man, I forgive, and take
your promise of amendment. It is what foolish women always do!"
The sound of the music and the measured tread of feet in the lively
dances were now plainly heard in the pauses of their conversation.
They rose, and entered the ballroom. The music ceased, and
recommenced a new strain for the Intendant and his fair partner, and
for a time Angélique forgot her wrath in the delirious excitement of
But in the dance her exuberance of spirits overflowed like a
fountain of intoxicating wine. She cared not for things past or
future in the ecstatic joy of the present.
Her voluptuous beauty, lissomeness, and grace of movement enthralled
all eyes with admiration, as she danced with the Intendant, who was
himself no mean votary of Terpsichore. A lock of her long golden
hair broke loose and streamed in wanton disorder over her shoulders;
but she heeded it not,--carried away by the spirit of the dance, and
the triumph of present possession of the courtly Intendant. Her
dainty feet flashed under her flying robe and scarcely seemed to
touch the floor as they kept time to the swift throbbings of the
The Intendant gazed with rapture on his beautiful partner, as she
leaned upon his arm in the pauses of the dance, and thought more
than once that the world would be well lost for sake of such a
woman. It was but a passing fancy, however; the serious mood passed
away, and he was weary, long before Angélique, of the excitement and
breathless heat of a wild Polish dance, recently first heard of in
French society. He led her to a seat, and left her in the centre of
a swarm of admirers, and passed into an alcove to cool and rest
"ON WITH THE DANCE."
Bigot, a voluptuary in every sense, craved a change of pleasure. He
was never satisfied long with one, however pungent. He felt it as a
relief when Angélique went off like a laughing sprite upon the arm
of De Pean. "I am glad to get rid of the women sometimes, and feel
like a man," he said to Cadet, who sat drinking and telling stories
with hilarious laughter to two or three boon companions, and
indulging in the coarsest jests and broadest scandal about the
ladies at the ball, as they passed by the alcove where they were
The eager persistence of Angélique, in her demand for a lettre de
cachet to banish the unfortunate Caroline, had wearied and somewhat
"I would cut the throat of any man in the world for the sake of her
bright eyes," said he to himself, as she gave him a parting salute
with her handkerchief; "but she must not ask me to hurt that poor
foolish girl at Beaumanoir. No, by St. Picot! she is hurt enough
already, and I will not have Angélique tormenting her! What
merciless creatures women are to one another, Cadet!" said he,
Cadet looked up with red, inflamed eyes at the remark of Bigot. He
cared nothing for women himself, and never hesitated to show his
contempt for the whole sex.
"Merciless creatures, do you call them, Bigot! the claws of all the
cats in Caen could not match the finger-nails of a jealous woman--
still less her biting tongue."
Angélique des Meloises swept past the two in a storm of music, as if
in defiance of their sage criticisms. Her hand rested on the
shoulder of the Chevalier de Pean. She had an object which made her
endure it, and her dissimulation was perfect. Her eyes transfixed
his with their dazzling look. Her lips were wreathed in smiles; she
talked continually as she danced, and with an inconsistency which
did not seem strange in her, was lamenting the absence from the ball
of Le Gardeur de Repentigny.
"Chevalier," said she, in reply to some gallantry of her partner,
"most women take pride in making sacrifices of themselves; I prefer
to sacrifice my admirers. I like a man, not in the measure of what
I do for him, but what he will do for me. Is not that a candid
avowal, Chevalier? You like frankness, you know."
Frankness and the Chevalier de Pean were unknown quantities
together; but he was desperately smitten, and would bear any amount
of snubbing from Angélique.
"You have something in your mind you wish me to do," replied he,
eagerly. "I would poison my grandmother, if you asked me, for the
reward you could give me."
"Yes, I have something in my mind, Chevalier, but not concerning
your grandmother. Tell me why you allowed Le Gardeur de Repentigny
to leave the city?"
"I did not allow him to leave the city," said he, twitching his ugly
features, for he disliked the interest she expressed in Le Gardeur.
"I would fain have kept him here if I could. The Intendant, too,
had desperate need of him. It was his sister and Colonel Philibert
who spirited him away from us."
"Well, a ball in Quebec is not worth twisting a curl for in the
absence of Le Gardeur de Repentigny!" replied she. "You shall
promise me to bring him back to the city, Chevalier, or I will dance
with you no more."
Angélique laughed so gaily as she said this that a stranger would
have interpreted her words as all jest.
"She means it, nevertheless," thought the Chevalier. "I will
promise my best endeavor, Mademoiselle," said he, setting hard his
teeth, with a grimace of dissatisfaction which did not escape the
eye of Angélique; "moreover, the Intendant desires his return on
affairs of the Grand Company, and has sent more than one message to
him already, to urge his return."
"A fig for the Grand Company! Remember, it is I desire his return;
and it is my command, not the Intendant's, which you are bound, as a
gallant gentleman, to obey." Angélique would have no divided
allegiance, and the man who claimed her favors must give himself up,
body and soul, without thought of redemption.
She felt very reckless and very wilful at this moment. The laughter
on her lips was the ebullition of a hot and angry heart, not the
play of a joyous, happy spirit. Bigot's refusal of a lettre de
cachet had stung her pride to the quick, and excited a feeling of
resentment which found its expression in the wish for the return of
"Why do you desire the return of Le Gardeur?" asked De Pean,
hesitatingly. Angélique was often too frank by half, and
questioners got from her more than they liked to hear.
"Because he was my first admirer, and I never forget a true friend,
Chevalier," replied she, with an undertone of fond regret in her
"But he will not be your last admirer," replied De Pean, with what
he considered a seductive leer, which made her laugh at him. "In
the kingdom of love, as in the kingdom of heaven, the last shall be
first and the first last. May I be the last, Mademoiselle?"
"You will certainly be the last, De Pean; I promise that."
Angélique laughed provokingly. She saw the eye of the Intendant
watching her. She began to think he remained longer in the society
of Cadet than was due to herself.
"Thanks, Mademoiselle," said De Pean, hardly knowing whether her
laugh was affirmative or negative; "but I envy Le Gardeur his
Angélique's love for Le Gardeur was the only key which ever unlocked
her real feelings. When the fox praised the raven's voice and
prevailed on her to sing, he did not more surely make her drop the
envied morsel out of her mouth than did Angélique drop the
mystification she had worn so coquettishly before De Pean.
"Tell me, De Pean," said she, "is it true or not that Le Gardeur de
Repentigny is consoling himself among the woods of Tilly with a fair
cousin of his, Héloise de Lotbinière?"
De Pean had his revenge, and he took it. "It is true; and no
wonder," said he. "They say Héloise is, without exception, the
sweetest girl in New France, if not one of the handsomest."
"Without exception!" echoed she, scornfully. "The women will not
believe that, at any rate, Chevalier. I do not believe it, for
one." And she laughed in the consciousness of beauty. "Do you
"No, that were impossible," replied he, "while Angélique des
Meloises chooses to contest the palm of beauty."
"I contest no palm with her, Chevalier; but I give you this rosebud
for your gallant speech. But tell me, what does Le Gardeur think of
this wonderful beauty? Is there any talk of marriage?"
"There is, of course, much talk of an alliance." De Pean lied, and
the truth had been better for him.
Angélique started as if stung by a wasp. The dance ceased for her,
and she hastened to a seat. "De Pean," said she, "you promised to
bring Le Gardeur forthwith back to the city; will you do it?"
"I will bring him back, dead or alive, if you desire it; but I must
have time. That uncompromising Colonel Philibert is with him. His
sister, too, clings to him like a good angel to the skirt of a
sinner. Since you desire it,"--De Pean spoke it with bitterness,--
"Le Gardeur shall come back, but I doubt if it will be for his
benefit or yours, Mademoiselle."
"What do you mean, De Pean?" asked she, abruptly, her dark eyes
alight with eager curiosity, not unmingled with apprehension. "Why
do you doubt it will not be for his benefit or mine? Who is to harm
"Nay, he will only harm himself, Angélique. And, by St. Picot! he
will have ample scope for doing it in this city. He has no other
enemy but himself." De Pean felt that she was making an ox of him
to draw the plough of her scheming.
"Are you sure of that, De Pean?" demanded she, sharply.
"Quite sure. Are not all the associates of the Grand Company his
fastest friends? Not one of them will hurt him, I am sure."
"Chevalier de Pean!" said she, noticing the slight shrug he gave
when he said this, "you say Le Gardeur has no enemy but himself; if
so, I hope to save him from himself, nothing more. Therefore I want
him back to the city."
De Pean glanced towards Bigot. "Pardon me, Mademoiselle. Did the
Intendant never speak to you of Le Gardeur's abrupt departure?"
"Never! He has spoken to you, though. What did he say?" asked she,
with eager curiosity.
"He said that you might have detained him had you wished, and he
blamed you for his departure."
De Pean had a suspicion that Angélique had really been instrumental
in withdrawing Le Gardeur from the clutches of himself and
associates; but in this he erred. Angélique loved Le Gardeur, at
least for her own sake if not for his, and would have preferred he
should risk all the dangers of the city to avoid what she deemed the
still greater dangers of the country,--and the greatest of these, in
her opinion, was the fair face of Héloise de Lotbinière. While,
from motives of ambition, Angélique refused to marry him herself,
she could not bear the thought of another getting the man whom she
De Pean was fairly puzzled by her caprices: he could not fathom, but
he dared not oppose them.
At this moment Bigot, who had waited for the conclusion of a game of
cards, rejoined the group where she sat.
Angélique drew in her robe and made room for him beside her, and was
presently laughing and talking as free from care, apparently, as an
oriole warbling on a summer spray. De Pean courteously withdrew,
leaving her alone with the Intendant.
Bigot was charmed for the moment into oblivion of the lady who sat
in her secluded chamber at Beaumanoir. He forgot his late quarrel
with Angélique in admiration of her beauty. The pleasure he took in
her presence shed a livelier glow of light across his features. She
observed it, and a renewed hope of triumph lifted her into still
higher flights of gaiety.
"Angélique," said he, offering his arm to conduct her to the
gorgeous buffet, which stood loaded with golden dishes of fruit,
vases of flowers, and the choicest confectionery, with wine fit for
a feast of Cyprus, "you are happy to-night, are you not? But
perfect bliss is only obtained by a judicious mixture of earth and
heaven: pledge me gaily now in this golden wine, Angélique, and ask
me what favor you will."
"And you will grant it?" asked she, turning her eyes upon him
"Like the king in the fairy tale, even to my daughter and half of my
kingdom," replied he, gaily.
"Thanks for half the kingdom, Chevalier," laughed she, "but I would
prefer the father to the daughter." Angélique gave him a look of
ineffable meaning. "I do not desire a king to-night, however.
Grant me the lettre de cachet, and then--"
"And then what, Angélique?" He ventured to take her hand, which
seemed to tempt the approach of his.
"You shall have your reward. I ask you for a lettre de cachet, that
is all." She suffered her hand to remain in his.
"I cannot," he replied sharply to her urgent repetition. "Ask her
banishment from Beaumanoir, her life if you like, but a lettre de
cachet to send her to the Bastile I cannot and will not give!"
"But I ask it, nevertheless!" replied the wilful, passionate girl.
"There is no merit in your love if it fears risk or brooks denial!
You ask me to make sacrifices, and will not lift your finger to
remove that stumbling-block out of my way! A fig for such love,
Chevalier Bigot! If I were a man, there is nothing in earth,
heaven, or hell I would not do for the woman I loved!"
Angélique fixed her blazing eyes full upon him, but magnetic as was
their fire, they drew no satisfying reply. "Who in heaven's name is
this lady of Beaumanoir of whom you are so careful or so afraid?"
"I cannot tell you, Angélique," said he, quite irritated. "She may
be a runaway nun, or the wife of the man in the iron mask, or--"
"Or any other fiction you please to tell me in the stead of truth,
and which proves your love to be the greatest fiction of all!"
"Do not be so angry, Angélique," said he, soothingly, seeing the
need of calming down this impetuous spirit, which he was driving
beyond all bounds. But he had carelessly dropped a word which she
picked up eagerly and treasured in her bosom. "Her life! He said
he would give me her life! Did he mean it?" thought she, absorbed
in this new idea.
Angélique had clutched the word with a feeling of terrible import.
It was not the first time the thought had flashed its lurid light
across her mind. It had seemed of comparatively light import when
it was only the suggestion of her own wild resentment. It seemed a
word of terrible power heard from the lips of Bigot, yet Angélique
knew well he did not in the least seriously mean what he said.
"It is but his deceit and flattery," she said to herself, "an idle
phrase to cozen a woman. I will not ask him to explain it, I shall
interpret it in my own way! Bigot has said words he understood not
himself; it is for me to give them form and meaning."
She grew quiet under these reflections, and bent her head in seeming
acquiescence to the Intendant's decision. The calmness was apparent
"You are a true woman, Angélique," said he, "but no politician: you
have never heard thunder at Versailles. Would that I dared to grant
your request. I offer you my homage and all else I have to give you
to half my kingdom."
Angélique's eyes flashed fire. "It is a fairy tale after all!"
exclaimed she; "you will not grant the lettre de cachet?"
"As I told you before, I dare not grant that, Angélique; anything
"You dare not! You, the boldest Intendant ever sent to New France,
and say you dare not! A man who is worth the name dare do anything
in the world for a woman if he loves her, and for such a man a true
woman will kiss the ground he walks on, and die at his feet if need
be!" Angélique's thoughts reverted for a moment to Le Gardeur, not
to Bigot, as she said this, and thought how he would do it for her
sake if she asked him.
"My God, Angélique, you drive this matter hard, but I like you
better so than when you are in your silkiest humor."
"Bigot, it were better you had granted my request." Angélique
clenched her fingers hard together, and a cruel expression lit her
eyes for a moment. It was like the glance of a lynx seeking a
hidden treasure in the ground: it penetrated the thick walls of
Beaumanoir! She suppressed her anger, however, lest Bigot should
guess the dark imaginings and half-formed resolution which brooded
in her mind.
With her inimitable power of transformation she put on her air of
gaiety again and exclaimed,--"Pshaw! let it go, Bigot. I am really
no politician, as you say; I am only a woman almost stifled with the
heat and closeness of this horrid ballroom. Thank God, day is
dawning in the great eastern window yonder; the dancers are
beginning to depart! My brother is waiting for me, I see, so
I must leave you, Chevalier."
"Do not depart just now, Angélique! Wait until breakfast, which
will be prepared for the latest guests."
"Thanks, Chevalier," said she, "I cannot wait. It has been a gay
and delightful ball--to them who enjoyed it."
"Among whom you were one, I hope," replied Bigot.
"Yes, I only wanted one thing to be perfectly happy, and that I
could not get, so I must console myself," said she, with an air of
Bigot looked at her and laughed, but he would not ask what it was
she lacked. He did not want a scene, and feared to excite her wrath
by mention again of the lettre de cachet.
"Let me accompany you to the carriage, Angélique," said he, handing
her cloak and assisting her to put it on.
"Willingly, Chevalier," replied she coquettishly, "but the Chevalier
de Pean will accompany me to the door of the dressing-room. I
promised him." She had not, but she beckoned with her finger to
him. She had a last injunction for De Pean which she cared not that
the Intendant should hear.
De Pean was reconciled by this manoevre; he came, and Angélique and
he tripped off together. "Mind, De Pean, what I asked you about Le
Gardeur!" said she in an emphatic whisper.
"I will not forget," replied he, with a twinge of jealousy. "Le
Gardeur shall come back in a few days or De Pean has lost his
influence and cunning."
Angélique gave him a sharp glance of approval, but made no further
remark. A crowd of voluble ladies were all telling over the
incidents of the ball, as exciting as any incidents of flood and
field, while they arranged themselves for departure.
The ball was fast thinning out. The fair daughters of Quebec, with
disordered hair and drooping wreaths, loose sandals, and dresses
looped and pinned to hide chance rents or other accidents of a long
night's dancing, were retiring to their rooms, or issuing from them
hooded and mantled, attended by obsequious cavaliers to accompany
The musicians, tired out and half asleep, drew their bows slowly
across their violins; the very music was steeped in weariness. The
lamps grew dim in the rays of morning, which struggled through the
high windows, while, mingling with the last strains of good-night
and bon répos, came a noise of wheels and the loud shouts of valets
and coachmen out in the fresh air, who crowded round the doors of
the Palace to convey home the gay revellers who had that night
graced the splendid halls of the Intendant.
Bigot stood at the door bowing farewell and thanks to the fair
company when the tall, queenly figure of Angélique came down leaning
on the arm of the Chevalier de Pean. Bigot tendered her his arm,
which she at once accepted, and he accompanied her to her carriage.
She bowed graciously to the Intendant and De Pean, on her departure,
but no sooner had she driven off, than, throwing herself back in her
carriage, heedless of the presence of her brother, who accompanied
her home, she sank into a silent train of thoughts from which she
was roused with a start when the carriage drew up sharply at the
door of their own home.
Angélique scarcely noticed her brother, except to bid him good-night
when she left him in the vestibule of the mansion. Gathering her
gay robes in her jewelled hand, she darted up the broad stairs to
her own apartment, the same in which she had received Le Gardeur on
that memorable night in which she crossed the Rubicon of her fate.
There was a fixedness in her look and a recklessness in her step
that showed anger and determination. It struck Lizette with a sort
of awe, so that, for once, she did not dare to accost her young
mistress with her usual freedom. The maid opened the door and
closed it again without offering a word, waiting in the anteroom
until a summons should come from her mistress.
Lizette observed that she had thrown herself into a fauteuil, after
hastily casting off her mantle, which lay at her feet. Her long
hair hung loose over her shoulders as it parted from all its combs
and fastenings. She held her hands clasped hard across her
forehead, and stared with fixed eyes upon the fire which burned low
on the hearth, flickering in the depths of the antique fireplace,
and occasionally sending a flash through the room which lit up the
pictures on the wall, seeming to give them life and movement, as if
they, too, would gladly have tempted Angélique to better thoughts.
But she noticed them not, and would not at that moment have endured
to look at them.
Angélique had forbidden the lamps to be lighted: it suited her mood
to sit in the half-obscure room, and in truth her thoughts were hard
and cruel, fit only to be brooded over in darkness and alone. She
clenched her hands, and raising them above her head, muttered an
oath between her teeth, exclaiming,--
"Par Dieu! It must be done! It must be done!" She stopped
suddenly when she had said that. "What must be done?" asked she
sharply of herself, and laughed a mocking laugh. "He gave me her
life! He did not mean it! No! The Intendant was treating me like a
petted child. He offered me her life while he refused me a lettre
de cachet! The gift was only upon his false lips, not in his heart!
But Bigot shall keep that promise in spite of himself. There is no
This was a new world Angélique suddenly found herself in. A world
of guilty thoughts and unresisted temptations, a chaotic world where
black, unscalable rocks, like a circle of the Inferno, hemmed her in
on every side, while devils whispered in her ears the words which
gave shape and substance to her secret wishes for the death of her
"rival," as she regarded the poor sick girl at Beaumanoir.
How was she to accomplish it? To one unpractised in actual deeds
of wickedness, it was a question not easy to be answered, and a
thousand frightful forms of evil, stalking shapes of death came and
went before her imagination, and she clutched first at one, then at
another of the dire suggestions that came in crowds that overwhelmed
her power of choice.
In despair to find an answer to the question, "What must be done?"
she rose suddenly and rang the bell. The door opened, and the
smiling face and clear eye of Lizette looked in. It was Angélique's
last chance, but it was lost. It was not Lizette she had rung for.
Her resolution was taken.
"My dear mistress!" exclaimed Lizette, "I feared you had fallen
asleep. It is almost day! May I now assist you to undress for
bed?" Voluble Lizette did not always wait to be first spoken to by
"No, Lizette, I was not asleep; I do not want to undress; I have
much to do. I have writing to do before I retire; send Fanchon
Dodier here." Angélique had a forecast that it was necessary to
deceive Lizette, who, without a word, but in no serene humor, went
to summon Fanchon to wait on her mistress.
Fanchon presently came in with a sort of triumph glittering in her
black eye. She had noticed the ill humor of Lizette, but had not
the slightest idea why she had been summoned to wait on Angélique
instead of her own maid. She esteemed it quite an honor, however.
"Fanchon Dodier!" said she, "I have lost my jewels at the ball; I
cannot rest until I find them; you are quicker-witted than Lizette:
tell me what to do to find them, and I will give you a dress fit for
Angélique with innate craft knew that her question would bring forth
the hoped-for reply.
Fanchon's eyes dilated with pleasure at such a mark of confidence.
"Yes, my Lady," replied she, "if I had lost my jewels I should know
what to do. But ladies who can read and write and who have the
wisest gentlemen to give them counsel do not need to seek advice
where poor habitan girls go when in trouble and perplexity."
"And where is that, Fanchon? Where would you go if in trouble and
"My Lady, if I had lost all my jewels,"--Fanchon's keen eye noticed
that Angélique had lost none of hers, but she made no remark on it,--
"if I had lost all mine, I should go see my aunt Josephte Dodier.
She is the wisest woman in all St. Valier; if she cannot tell you
all you wish to know, nobody can."
"What! Dame Josephte Dodier, whom they call La Corriveau? Is she
Angélique knew very well she was. But it was her cue to pretend
ignorance in order to impose on Fanchon.
"Yes, ill-natured people call her La Corriveau, but she is my aunt,
nevertheless. She is married to my uncle Louis Dodier, but is a
lady, by right of her mother, who came from France, and was once
familiar with all the great dames of the Court. It was a great
secret why her mother left France and came to St. Valier; but I
never knew what it was. People used to shake their heads and cross
themselves when speaking of her, as they do now when speaking of
Aunt Josephte, whom they call La Corriveau; but they tremble when
she looks at them with her black, evil eye, as they call it. She is
a terrible woman, is Aunt Josephte! but oh, Mademoiselle, she can
tell you things past, present, and to come! If she rails at the
world, it is because she knows every wicked thing that is done in
it, and the world rails at her in return; but people are afraid of
her all the same."
"But is it not wicked? Is it not forbidden by the Church to consult
a woman like her, a sorcière?" Angélique took a sort of perverse
merit to herself for arguing against her own resolution.
"Yes, my Lady! but although forbidden by the Church, the girls all
consult her, nevertheless, in their losses and crosses; and many of
the men, too, for she does know what is to happen, and how to do
things, does Aunt Josephte. If the clergy cannot tell a poor girl
about her sweetheart, and how to keep him in hand, why should she
not go and consult La Corriveau, who can?"
"Fanchon, I would not care to consult your aunt. People would laugh
at my consulting La Corriveau, like a simple habitan girl; what
would the world say?"
"But the world need not know, my Lady. Aunt Josephte knows secrets,
they say, that would ruin, burn, and hang half the ladies of Paris.
She learned those terrible secrets from her mother, but she keeps
them safe in those close lips of hers. Not the faintest whisper of
one of them has ever been heard by her nearest neighbor. Indeed,
she has no gossips, and makes no friends, and wants none. Aunt
Josephte is a safe confidante, my Lady, if you wish to consult her."
"I have heard she is clever, supernatural, terrible, this aunt of
yours! But I could not go to St. Valier for advice and help; I
could not conceal my movements like a plain habitan girl."
"No, my Lady," continued Fanchon, "it is not fitting that you should
go to Aunt Josephte. I will bring Aunt Josephte here to you. She
will be charmed to come to the city and serve a lady like you."
"Well,--no! it is not well, but ill! but I want to recover my
jewels, so go for your aunt, and bring her back with you. And mind,
Fanchon!" said Angélique, lifting a warning finger, "if you utter
one word of your errand to man or beast, or to the very trees of the
wayside, I will cut out your tongue, Fanchon Dodier!"
Fanchon trembled and grew pale at the fierce look of her mistress.
"I will go, my Lady, and I will keep silent as a fish!" faltered the
maid. "Shall I go immediately?"
"Immediately if you will! It is almost day, and you have far to go.
I will send old Gujon the butler to order an Indian canoe for you.
I will not have Canadian boatmen to row you to St. Valier: they
would talk you out of all your errand before you were half-way
there. You shall go to St. Valier by water, and return with La
Corriveau by land. Do you understand? Bring her in to-night, and
not before midnight. I will leave the door ajar for you to enter
without noise; you will show her at once to my apartment, Fanchon!
Be wary, and do not delay, and say not a word to mortal!"
"I will not, my Lady. Not a mouse shall hear us come in!" replied
Fanchon, quite proud now of the secret understanding between herself
and her mistress.
"And again mind that loose tongue of yours! Remember, Fanchon, I
will cut it out as sure as you live if you betray me."
"Yes, my Lady!" Fanchon's tongue felt somewhat paralyzed under the
threat of Angélique, and she bit it painfully as if to remind it of
"You may go now," said Angélique. "Here is money for you. Give
this piece of gold to La Corriveau as an earnest that I want her.
The canotiers of the St. Lawrence will also require double fare for
bringing La Corriveau over the ferry."
"No, they rarely venture to charge her anything at all, my Lady,"
replied Fanchon; "to be sure it is not for love, but they are afraid
of her. And yet Antoine La Chance, the boatman, says she is equal
to a Bishop for stirring up piety; and more Ave Marias are repeated
when she is in his boat, than are said by the whole parish on
"I ought to say my Ave Marias, too!" replied Angélique, as Fanchon
left the apartment, "but my mouth is parched and burns up the words
of prayer like a furnace; but that is nothing to the fire in my
heart! That girl, Fanchon Dodier, is not to be trusted, but I have
no other messenger to send for La Corriveau. I must be wary with
her, too, and make her suggest the thing I would have done. My Lady
of Beaumanoir!" she apostrophized in a hard monotone, "your fate
does not depend on the Intendant, as you fondly imagine. Better had
he issued the lettre de cachet than for you to fall into the hands
of La Corriveau!"
Daylight now shot into the windows, and the bright rays of the
rising sun streamed full in the face of Angélique. She saw herself
reflected in the large Venetian mirror. Her countenance looked
pale, stern, and fixed as marble. The fire in her eyes startled her
with its unearthly glow. She trembled and turned away from her
mirror, and crept to her couch like a guilty thing, with a feeling
as if she was old, haggard, and doomed to shame for the sake of this
Intendant, who cared not for her, or he would not have driven her to
such desperate and wicked courses as never fell to the lot of a
"C'est sa faute! C'est sa faute!" exclaimed she, clasping her hands
passionately together. "If she dies, it is his fault, not mine! I
prayed him to banish her, and he would not! C'est sa faute! C'est
sa faute!" Repeating these words Angélique fell into a feverish
slumber, broken by frightful dreams which lasted far on into the
The long reign of Louis XIV., full of glories and misfortunes for
France, was marked towards its close by a portentous sign indicative
of corrupt manners and a falling state. Among these, the crimes of
secret poisoning suddenly attained a magnitude which filled the
whole nation with terror and alarm.
Antonio Exili, an Italian, like many other alchemists of that
period, had spent years in search of the philosopher's stone and the
elixir of life. His vain experiments to transmute the baser metals
into gold reduced him to poverty and want. His quest after these
secrets had led him to study deeply the nature and composition of
poisons and their antidotes. He had visited the great universities
and other schools of the continent, finishing his scientific studies
under a famous German chemist named Glaser. But the terrible secret
of the agua tofana and of the poudre de succession, Exili learned
from Beatrice Spara, a Sicilian, with whom he had a liaison, one of
those inscrutable beings of the gentle sex whose lust for pleasure
or power is only equalled by the atrocities they are willing to
perpetrate upon all who stand in the way of their desires or their
To Beatrice Spara, the secret of this subtle preparation had come
down like an evil inheritance from the ancient Candidas and Saganas
of imperial Rome. In the proud palaces of the Borgias, of the
Orsinis, the Scaligers, the Borroméos, the art of poisoning was
preserved among the last resorts of Machiavellian statecraft; and
not only in palaces, but in streets of Italian cities, in solitary
towers and dark recesses of the Apennines, were still to be found
the lost children of science, skilful compounders of poisons, at
once fatal and subtle in their operation,--poisons which left not
the least trace of their presence in the bodies of their victims,
but put on the appearance of other and more natural causes of death.
Exili, to escape the vengeance of Beatrice Spara, to whom he had
proved a faithless lover, fled from Naples, and brought his deadly
knowledge to Paris, where he soon found congenial spirits to work
with him in preparing the deadly poudre de succession, and the
colorless drops of the aqua tofana.
With all his crafty caution, Exili fell at last under suspicion of
the police for tampering in these forbidden arts. He was arrested,
and thrown into the Bastile, where he became the occupant of the
same cell with Gaudin de St. Croix, a young nobleman of the Court,
the lover of the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, for an intrigue with
whom the Count had been imprisoned. St. Croix learned from Exili,
in the Bastile, the secret of the poudre de succession.
The two men were at last liberated for want of proof of the charges
against them. St. Croix set up a laboratory in his own house, and
at once proceeded to experiment upon the terrible secrets learned
from Exili, and which he revealed to his fair, frail mistress, who,
mad to make herself his wife, saw in these a means to remove every
obstacle out of the way. She poisoned her husband, her father,
her brother, and at last, carried away by a mania for murder,
administered on all sides the fatal poudre de succession, which
brought death to house, palace, and hospital, and filled the
capital, nay, the whole kingdom, with suspicion and terror.
This fatal poison history describes as either a light and almost
impalpable powder, tasteless, colorless, and inodorous, or a liquid
clear as a dewdrop, when in the form of the aqua tofana. It was
capable of causing death either instantaneously or by slow and
lingering decline at the end of a definite number of days, weeks,
or even months, as was desired. Death was not less sure because
deferred, and it could be made to assume the appearance of dumb
paralysis, wasting atrophy, or burning fever, at the discretion of
the compounder of the fatal poison.
The ordinary effect of the aqua tofana was immediate death. The
poudre de succession was more slow in killing. It produced in its
pure form a burning heat, like that of a fiery furnace in the chest,
the flames of which, as they consumed the patient, darted out of his
eyes, the only part of the body which seemed to be alive, while the
rest was little more than a dead corpse.
Upon the introduction of this terrible poison into France, Death,
like an invisible spirit of evil, glided silently about the kingdom,
creeping into the closest family circles, seizing everywhere on its
helpless victims. The nearest and dearest relationships of life
were no longer the safe guardians of the domestic hearth. The man
who to-day appeared in the glow of health dropped to-morrow and died
the next day. No skill of the physician was able to save him, or to
detect the true cause of his death, attributing it usually to the
false appearances of disease which it was made to assume.
The victims of the poudre de succession were counted by thousands.
The possession of wealth, a lucrative office, a fair young wife, or
a coveted husband, were sufficient reasons for sudden death to cut
off the holder of these envied blessings. A terrible mistrust
pervaded all classes of society. The husband trembled before his
wife, the wife before her husband, father and son, brother and
sister,--kindred and friends, of all degrees, looked askance and
with suspicious eyes upon one another.
In Paris the terror lasted long. Society was for a while broken up
by cruel suspicions. The meat upon the table remained uneaten, the
wine undrank, men and women procured their own provisions in the
market, and cooked and ate them in their own apartments. Yet was
every precaution in vain. The fatal dust scattered upon the pillow,
or a bouquet sprinkled with the aqua tofana, looking bright and
innocent as God's dew upon the flowers, transmitted death without a
warning of danger. Nay, to crown all summit of wickedness, the
bread in the hospitals of the sick, the meagre tables of the
convent, the consecrated host administered by the priest, and the
sacramental wine which he drank himself, all in turn were poisoned,
polluted, damned, by the unseen presence of the manna of St.
Nicholas, as the populace mockingly called the poudre de succession.
The Court took the alarm when a gilded vial of the aqua tofana was
found one day upon the table of the Duchesse de la Vallière, having
been placed there by the hand of some secret rival, in order to cast
suspicion upon the unhappy Louise, and hasten her fall, already
The star of Montespan was rising bright in the east, and that of La
Vallière was setting in clouds and darkness in the west. But the
King never distrusted for a moment the truth of La Vallière, the
only woman who ever loved him for his own sake, and he knew it even
while he allowed her to be supplanted by another infinitely less
worthy--one whose hour of triumph came when she saw the broken-
hearted Louise throw aside the velvet and brocade of the Court and
put on the sackcloth of the barefooted and repentant Carmelite.
The King burned with indignation at the insult offered to his
mistress, and was still more alarmed to find the new mysterious
death creeping into the corridors of his palace. He hastily
constituted the terrible Chambre Ardente, a court of supreme
criminal jurisdiction, and commissioned it to search out, try, and
burn, without appeal, all poisoners and secret assassins in the
La Regnie, a man of Rhadamanthean justice, as hard of heart as he
was subtle and suspicious, was long baffled, and to his unutterable
rage, set at naught by the indefatigable poisoners who kept all
France awake on its pillows.
History records how Gaudin de St. Croix, the disciple of Exili,
while working in his secret laboratory at the sublimation of the
deadly poison, accidentally dropped the mask of glass which
protected his face. He inhaled the noxious fumes and fell dead by
the side of his crucibles. This event gave Desgrais, captain of the
police of Paris, a clue to the horrors which had so long baffled his
The correspondence of St. Croix was seized. His connection with the
Marchioness de Brinvilliers and his relations with Exili were
discovered. Exili was thrown a second time into the Bastile. The
Marchioness was arrested, and put upon her trial before the Chambre
Ardente, where, as recorded in the narrative of her confessor,
Pirol, her ravishing beauty of feature, blue eyes, snow-white skin,
and gentle demeanor won a strong sympathy from the fickle populace
of Paris, in whose eyes her charms of person and manner pleaded hard
to extenuate her unparalleled crimes.
But no power of beauty or fascination of look could move the stern
La Regnie from his judgment. She was pronounced guilty of the death
of her husband, and sentenced first to be tortured and then beheaded
and her body burnt on the Place de Grève, a sentence which was
carried out to the letter. The ashes of the fairest and most wicked
dame of the Court of Lous XIV. were scattered to the four corners of
the city which had been the scene of her unparalleled crimes. The
arch-poisoner Exili was also tried, and condemned to be burnt. The
tumbril that bore him to execution was stopped on its way by the
furious rabble, and he was torn in pieces by them.
For a short time the kingdom breathed freely in fancied security;
but soon the epidemic of sudden as well as lingering deaths from
poison broke out again on all sides. The fatal tree of the
knowledge of evil, seemingly cut down with Exili and St. Croix, had
sprouted afresh, like a upas that could not be destroyed.
The poisoners became more numerous than ever. Following the track
of St. Croix and La Brinvilliers, they carried on the war against
humanity without relaxation. Chief of these was a reputed witch and
fortune-teller named La Voisin, who had studied the infernal secret
under Exili and borne a daughter to the false Italian.
With La Voisin were associated two priests, Le Sage and Le
Vigoureux, who lived with her, and assisted her in her necromantic
exhibitions, which were visited, believed in, and richly rewarded
by some of the foremost people of the Court. These necromantic
exhibitions were in reality a cover to darker crimes.
It was long the popular belief in France, that Cardinal Bonzy got
from La Voisin the means of ridding himself of sundry persons who
stood in the way of his ecclesiastical preferment, or to whom he had
to pay pensions in his quality of Archbishop of Narbonne. The
Duchesse de Bouillon and the Countess of Soissons, mother of the
famous Prince Eugene, were also accused of trafficking with that
terrible woman, and were banished from the kingdom in consequence,
while a royal duke, François de Montmorency, was also suspected of
dealings with La Voisin.
The Chambre Ardente struck right and left. Desgrais, chief of the
police, by a crafty ruse, penetrated into the secret circle of La
Voisin, and she, with a crowd of associates, perished in the fires
of the Place de Grève. She left an ill-starred daughter, Marie
Exili, to the blank charity of the streets of Paris, and the
possession of many of the frightful secrets of her mother and of her
Marie Exili clung to Paris. She grew up beautiful and profligate;
she coined her rare Italian charms, first into gold and velvet, then
into silver and brocade, and at last into copper and rags. When her
charms faded entirely, she began to practise the forbidden arts of
her mother and father, but without their boldness or long impunity.
She was soon suspected, but receiving timely warning of her danger,
from a high patroness at Court, Marie fled to New France in the
disguise of a paysanne, one of a cargo of unmarried women sent out
to the colony on matrimonial venture, as the custom then was, to
furnish wives for the colonists. Her sole possession was an antique
cabinet with its contents, the only remnant saved from the fortune
of her father, Exili.
Marie Exili landed in New France, cursing the Old World which she
had left behind, and bringing as bitter a hatred of the New, which
received her without a shadow of suspicion that under her modest
peasant's garb was concealed the daughter and inheritrix of the
black arts of Antonio Exili and of the sorceress La Voisin.
Marie Exili kept her secret well. She played the ingénue to
perfection. Her straight figure and black eyes having drawn a
second glance from the Sieur Corriveau, a rich habitan of St.
Valier, who was looking for a servant among the crowd of paysannes
who had just arrived from France, he could not escape from the power
of their fascination.
He took Marie Exili home with him, and installed her in his
household, where his wife soon died of some inexplicable disease
which baffled the knowledge of both the doctor and the curate, the
two wisest men in the parish. The Sieur Corriveau ended his
widowhood by marrying Marie Exili, and soon died himself, leaving
his whole fortune and one daughter, the image of her mother, to
Marie Exili, ever in dread of the perquisitions of Desgrais, kept
very quiet in her secluded home on the St. Lawrence, guarding her
secret with a life-long apprehension, and but occasionally and in
the darkest ways practising her deadly skill. She found some
compensation and relief for her suppressed passions in the clinging
sympathy of her daughter, Marie Josephte dit La Corriveau, who
worshipped all that was evil in her mother, and in spite of an
occasional reluctance, springing from some maternal instinct, drew
from her every secret of her life. She made herself mistress of the
whole formula of poisoning as taught by her grandfather Exili, and
of the arts of sorcery practised by her wicked grandmother, La
As La Corriveau listened to the tale of the burning of her
grandmother on the Place de Grève, her own soul seemed bathed in the
flames which rose from the faggots, and which to her perverted
reason appeared as the fires of cruel injustice, calling for revenge
upon the whole race of the oppressors of her family, as she regarded
the punishers of their crimes.
With such a parentage, and such dark secrets brooding in her bosom,
Marie Josephte, or, as she was commonly called, La Corriveau, had
nothing in common with the simple peasantry among whom she lived.
Years passed over her, youth fled, and La Corriveau still sat in her
house, eating her heart out, silent and solitary. After the death
of her mother, some whispers of hidden treasures known only to
herself, a rumor which she had cunningly set afloat, excited the
cupidity of Louis Dodier, a simple habitan of St. Valier, and drew
him into a marriage with her.
It was a barren union. No child followed, with God's grace in its
little hands, to create a mother's feelings and soften the callous
heart of La Corriveau. She cursed her lot that it was so, and her
dry bosom became an arid spot of desert, tenanted by satyrs and
dragons, by every evil passion of a woman without conscience and
void of love.
But La Corriveau had inherited the sharp intellect and Italian
dissimulation of Antonio Exili: she was astute enough to throw a
veil of hypocrisy over the evil eyes which shot like a glance of
death from under the thick black eyebrows.
Her craft was equal to her malice. An occasional deed of alms, done
not for charity's sake, but for ostentation; an adroit deal of
cards, or a horoscope cast to flatter a foolish girl; a word of
sympathy, hollow as a water bubble, but colored with iridescent
prettiness, averted suspicion from the darker traits of her
If she was hated, she was also feared by her neighbors, and although
the sign of the cross was made upon the chair whereon she had sat in
a neighbor's house, her visits were not unwelcome, and in the manor-
house, as in the cabin of the woodman, La Corriveau was received,
consulted, rewarded, and oftener thanked than cursed, by her witless
There was something sublime in the satanic pride with which she
carried with her the terrible secrets of her race, which in her own
mind made her the superior of every one around her, and whom she
regarded as living only by her permission or forbearance.
For human love other than as a degraded menial, to make men the
slaves of her mercenary schemes, La Corriveau cared nothing. She
never felt it, never inspired it. She looked down upon all her sex
as the filth of creation and, like herself, incapable of a chaste
feeling or a pure thought. Every better instinct of her nature had
gone out like the flame of a lamp whose oil is exhausted; love of
money remained as dregs at the bottom of her heart. A deep grudge
against mankind, and a secret pleasure in the misfortunes of others,
especially of her own sex, were her ruling passions.
Her mother, Marie Exili, had died in her bed, warning her daughter
not to dabble in the forbidden arts which she had taught her, but to
cling to her husband and live an honest life as the only means of
dying a more hopeful death than her ancestors.
La Corriveau heard much, but heeded little. The blood of Antonio
Exili and of La Voisin beat too vigorously in her veins to be tamed
down by the feeble whispers of a dying woman who had been weak
enough to give way at last. The death of her mother left La
Corriveau free to follow her own will. The Italian subtlety of her
race made her secret and cautious. She had few personal affronts to
avenge, and few temptations in the simple community where she lived
to practise more than the ordinary arts of a rural fortune-teller,
keeping in impenetrable shadow the darker side of her character as a
born sorceress and poisoner.
Fanchon Dodier, in obedience to the order of her mistress, started
early in the day to bear the message entrusted to her for La
Corriveau. She did not cross the river and take the king's highway,
the rough though well-travelled road on the south shore which led to
St. Valier. Angélique was crafty enough amid her impulsiveness to
see that it were better for Fanchon to go down by water and return
by land: it lessened observation, and might be important one day to
baffle inquiry. La Corriveau would serve her for money, but for
money also she might betray her. Angélique resolved to secure her
silence by making her the perpetrator of whatever scheme of
wickedness she might devise against the unsuspecting lady of
Beaumanoir. As for Fanchon, she need know nothing more than
Angélique told her as to the object of her mission to her terrible
In pursuance of this design, Angélique had already sent for a couple
of Indian canoemen to embark Fanchon at the quay of the Friponne and
convey her to St. Valier.
Half-civilized and wholly-demoralized red men were always to be
found on the beach of Stadacona, as they still called the Batture of
the St. Charles, lounging about in blankets, smoking, playing dice,
or drinking pints or quarts,--as fortune favored them, or a
passenger wanted conveyance in their bark canoes, which they managed
with a dexterity unsurpassed by any boatman that ever put oar or
paddle in water, salt or fresh.
These rough fellows were safe and trusty in their profession.
Fanchon knew them slightly, and felt no fear whatever in seating
herself upon the bear skin which carpeted the bottom of their canoe.
They pushed off at once from the shore, with scarcely a word of
reply to her voluble directions and gesticulations as they went
speeding their canoe down the stream. The turning tide bore them
lightly on its bosom, and they chanted a wild, monotonous refrain as
their paddles flashed and dipped alternately in stream and sunshine;
"Ah! ah! Tenaouich tenaga!
Tenaouich tenaga, ouich ka!"
"They are singing about me, no doubt," said Fanchon to herself. "I
do not care what people say, they cannot be Christians who speak
such a heathenish jargon as that: it is enough to sink the canoe;
but I will repeat my paternosters and my Ave Marias, seeing they
will not converse with me, and I will pray good St. Anne to give me
a safe passage to St. Valier." In which pious occupation, as the
boatmen continued their savage song without paying her any
attention, Fanchon, with many interruptions of worldly thoughts,
spent the rest of the time she was in the Indian canoe.
Down past the green hills of the south shore the boatmen steadily
plied their paddles, and kept singing their wild Indian chant. The
wooded slopes of Orleans basked in sunshine as they overlooked the
broad channel through which the canoe sped, and long before meridian
the little bark was turned in to shore and pulled up on the beach of
Fanchon leaped out without assistance, wetting a foot in so doing,
which somewhat discomposed the good humor she had shown during the
voyage. Her Indian boatmen offered her no help, considering that
women were made to serve men and help themselves, and not to be
waited upon by them.
"Not that I wanted to touch one of their savage hands," muttered
Fanchon, "but they might have offered one assistance! Look there,"
continued she, pulling aside her skirt and showing a very trim foot
wet up to the ankle; "they ought to know the difference between
their red squaws and the white girls of the city. If they are not
worth politeness, WE are. But Indians are only fit to kill
Christians or be killed by them; and you might as well courtesy
to a bear in the briers as to an Indian anywhere."
The boatmen looked at her foot with supreme indifference, and taking
out their pipes, seated themselves on the edge of their canoe, and
began to smoke.
"You may return to the city," said she, addressing them sharply; "I
pray to the bon Dieu to strike you white;--it is vain to look for
manners from an Indian! I shall remain in St. Valier, and not
return with you."
"Marry me, be my squaw, Ania?" replied one of the boatmen, with a
grim smile; "the bon Dieu will strike out papooses white, and teach
them manners like palefaces."
"Ugh! not for all the King's money. What! marry a red Indian, and
carry his pack like Fifine Perotte? I would die first! You are
bold indeed, Paul La Crosse, to mention such a thing to me. Go back
to the city! I would not trust myself again in your canoe. It
required courage to do so at all, but Mademoiselle selected you for
my boatmen, not I. I wonder she did so, when the brothers Ballou,
and the prettiest fellows in town, were idle on the Batture."
"Ania is niece to the old medicine-woman in the stone wigwam at St.
Valier; going to see her, eh?" asked the other boatman, with a
slight display of curiosity.
"Yes, I am going to visit my aunt Dodier; why should I not? She has
crocks of gold buried in the house, I can tell you that, Pierre
"Going to get some from La Corriveau, eh? crocks of gold, eh?" said
Paul La Crosse.
"La Corriveau has medicines, too! get some, eh?" asked Pierre
"I am going neither for gold nor medicines, but to see my aunt, if
it concerns you to know, Pierre Ceinture! which it does not!"
"Mademoiselle des Meloises pay her to go, eh? not going back ever,
eh?" asked the other Indian.
"Mind your own affairs, Paul La Crosse, and I will mind mine!
Mademoiselle des Meloises paid you to bring me to St. Valier, not to
ask me impertinences. That is enough for you!" Here is your fare;
now you can return to the Sault au Matelot, and drink yourselves
blind with the money!"
"Very good, that!" replied the Indian. "I like to drink myself
blind, will do it to-night! Like to see me, eh?" Better that than
go see La Corriveau! The habitans say she talks with the Devil, and
makes the sickness settle like a fog upon the wigwams of the red
men. They say she can make palefaces die by looking at them! But
Indians are too hard to kill with a look! Fire-water and gun and
tomahawk, and fever in the wigwams, only make the Indians die."
"Good that something can make you die, for your ill manners! look at
my stocking!" replied Fanchon, with warmth. "If I tell La Corriveau
what you say of her there will be trouble in your wigwam, Pierre
"Do not do that, Ania!" replied the Indian, crossing himself
earnestly; "do not tell La Corriveau, or she will make an image of
wax and call it Pierre Ceinture, and she will melt it away before a
slow fire, and as it melts my flesh and bones will melt away, too!
Do not tell her, Fanchon Dodier!" The Indian had picked up this
piece of superstition from the white habitans, and, like them,
thoroughly believed in the supernatural powers of La Corriveau.
"Well, leave me! get back to the city, and tell Mademoiselle I
arrived safe at St. Valier," replied Fanchon, turning to leave them.
The Indians were somewhat taken down by the airs of Fanchon, and
they stood in awe of the far-reaching power of her aunt, from the
spell of whose witchcraft they firmly believed no hiding-place, even
in the deepest woods, could protect them. Merely nodding a farewell
to Fanchon, the Indians silently pushed their canoe into the stream,
and, embarking, returned to the city by the way they came.
A fine breezy upland lay before Fanchon Dodier. Cultivated fields
of corn, and meadows ran down to the shore. A row of white
cottages, forming a loosely connected street, clustered into
something like a village at the point where the parish church stood,
at the intersection of two or three roads, one of which, a narrow
green track, but little worn by the carts of the habitans, led to
the stone house of La Corriveau, the chimney of which was just
visible as you lost sight of the village spire.
In a deep hollow, out of sight of the village church, almost out of
hearing of its little bell, stood the house of La Corriveau, a
square, heavy structure of stone, inconvenient and gloomy, with
narrow windows and an uninviting door. The pine forest touched it
on one side, a brawling stream twisted itself like a live snake
half round it on the other. A plot of green grass, ill kept and
deformed, with noxious weeds, dock, fennel, thistle, and foul
stramonium, was surrounded by a rough wall of loose stones, forming
the lawn, such as it was, where, under a tree, seated in an
armchair, was a solitary woman, whom Fanchon recognized as her aunt,
Marie Josephte Dodier, surnamed La Corriveau.
La Corriveau, in feature and person, took after her grand-sire
Exili. She was tall and straight, of a swarthy complexion, black-
haired, and intensely black-eyed. She was not uncomely of feature,
nay, had been handsome, nor was her look at first sight forbidding,
especially if she did not turn upon you those small basilisk eyes of
hers, full of fire and glare as the eyes of a rattlesnake. But
truly those thin, cruel lips of hers never smiled spontaneously, or
affected to smile upon you unless she had an object to gain by
assuming a disguise as foreign to her as light to an angel of
La Corriveau was dressed in a robe of soft brown stuff, shaped with
a degree of taste and style beyond the garb of her class. Neatness
in dress was the one virtue she had inherited from her mother. Her
feet were small and well-shod, like a lady's, as the envious
neighbors used to say. She never in her life would wear the sabots
of the peasant women, nor go barefoot, as many of them did, about
the house. La Corriveau was vain of her feet, which would have made
her fortune, as she thought with bitterness, anywhere but in St.
She sat musing in her chair, not noticing the presence of her niece,
who stood for a moment looking and hesitating before accosting her.
Her countenance bore, when she was alone, an expression of malignity
which made Fanchon shudder. A quick, unconscious twitching of the
fingers accompanied her thoughts, as if this weird woman was playing
a game of mora with the evil genius that waited on her. Her
grandsire Exili had the same nervous twitching of his fingers, and
the vulgar accused him of playing at mora with the Devil, who ever
accompanied him, they believed.
The lips of La Corriveau moved in unison with her thoughts. She
was giving expression to her habitual contempt for her sex as she
crooned over, in a sufficiently audible voice to reach the ear of
Fanchon, a hateful song of Jean Le Meung on women:
"'Toutes vous êtes, serez ou futes,
De fait ou de volonté putes!'"
"It is not nice to say that, Aunt Marie!" exclaimed Fanchon, coming
forward and embracing La Corriveau, who gave a start on seeing her
niece so unexpectedly before her. "It is not nice, and it is not
"But it is true, Fanchon Dodier! if it be not nice. There is
nothing nice to be said of our sex, except by foolish men! Women
know one another better! But," continued she, scrutinizing her
niece with her keen black eyes, which seemed to pierce her through
and through, "what ill wind or Satan's errand has brought you to St.
Valier to-day, Fanchon?"
"No ill wind, nor ill errand either, I hope, aunt. I come by
command of my mistress to ask you to go to the city: she is biting
her nails off with impatience to see you on some business."
"And who is your mistress, who dares to ask La Corriveau to go to
the city at her bidding?"
"Do not be angry, aunt," replied Fanchon, soothingly. "It was I
counselled her to send for you, and I offered to fetch you. My
mistress is a high lady, who expects to be still higher,--
Mademoiselle des Meloises!
"Mademoiselle Angélique des Meloises,--one hears enough of her! a
high lady indeed! who will be low enough at last! A minx as vain as
she is pretty, who would marry all the men in New France, and kill
all the women, if she could have her way! What in the name of the
Sabbat does she want with La Corriveau?"
"She did not call you names, aunt, and please do not say such things
of her, for you will frighten me away before I tell my errand.
Mademoiselle Angélique sent this piece of gold as earnest-money to
prove that she wants your counsel and advice in an important
Fanchon untied the corner of her handkerchief, and took from it
a broad shining louis d'or. She placed it in the hand of La
Corriveau, whose long fingers clutched it like the talons of a
harpy. Of all the evil passions of this woman, the greed for money
was the most ravenous.
"It is long since I got a piece of gold like that to cross my hand
with, Fanchon!" said she, looking at it admiringly and spitting on
it for good luck.
"There are plenty more where it came from, aunt," replied Fanchon.
"Mademoiselle could fill your apron with gold every day of the week
if she would: she is to marry the Intendant!"
"Marry the Intendant! ah, indeed! that is why she sends for me so
urgently! I see! Marry the Intendant! She will bestow a pot of
gold on La Corriveau to accomplish that match!"
"Maybe she would, aunt; I would, myself. But it is not that she
wishes to consult you about just now. She lost her jewels at the
ball, and wants your help to find them."
"Lost her jewels, eh? Did she say you were to tell me that she had
lost her jewels, Fanchon?"
"Yes, aunt, that is what she wants to consult you about," replied
Fanchon, with simplicity. But the keen perception of La Corriveau
saw that a second purpose lay behind it.
"A likely tale!" muttered she, "that so rich a lady would send for
La Corriveau from St. Valier to find a few jewels! But it will do.
I will go with you to the city: I cannot refuse an invitation like
that. Gold fetches any woman, Fanchon. It fetches me always. It
will fetch you, too, some day, if you are lucky enough to give it
"I wish it would fetch me now, aunt; but poor girls who live by
service and wages have small chance to be sent for in that way! We
are glad to get the empty hand without the money. Men are so scarce
with this cruel war, that they might easily have a wife to each
finger, were it allowed by the law. I heard Dame Tremblay say--and
I thought her very right--the Church does not half consider our
condition and necessities."
"Dame Tremblay! the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport! She who
would have been a witch, and could not: Satan would not have her!"
exclaimed La Corriveau, scornfully. "Is she still housekeeper and
bedmaker at Beaumanoir?"
Fanchon was honest enough to feel rather indignant at this speech.
"Don't speak so of her, aunt; she is not bad. Although I ran away
from her, and took service with Mademoiselle des Meloises, I will
not speak ill of her."
"Why did you run away from Beaumanoir?" asked La Corriveau.
Fanchon reflected a moment upon the mystery of the lady of
Beaumanoir, and something checked her tongue, as if it were not
safe to tell all she knew to her aunt, who would, moreover, be
sure to find out from Angélique herself as much as her mistress
wished her to know.
"I did not like Dame Tremblay, aunt," replied she; I preferred to
live with Mademoiselle Angélique. She is a lady, a beauty, who
dresses to surpass any picture in the book of modes from Paris,
which I often looked at on her dressing-table. She allowed me to
imitate them, or wear her cast-off dresses, which were better than
any other ladies' new ones. I have one of them on. Look, aunt!"
Fanchon spread out very complacently the skirt of a pretty blue robe
La Corriveau nodded her head in a sort of silent approval, and
remarked,--"She is free-handed enough! She gives what costs her
nothing, and takes all she can get, and is, after all, a trollop,
like the rest of us, Fanchon, who would be very good if there were
neither men nor money nor fine clothes in the world, to tempt poor
"You do say such nasty things, aunt!" exclaimed Fanchon, flashing
with indignation. "I will hear no more! I am going into the house
to see dear old Uncle Dodier, who has been looking through the
window at me for ten minutes past, and dared not come out to speak
to me. You are too hard on poor old Uncle Dodier, aunt," said
Fanchon, boldly. "If you cannot be kind to him, why did you marry
"Why, I wanted a husband, and he wanted my money, that was all; and
I got my bargain, and his too, Fanchon!" and the woman laughed
"I thought people married to be happy, aunt," replied the girl,
"Happy! such folly. Satan yokes people together to bring more
sinners into the world, and supply fresh fuel for his fires."
"My mistress thinks there is no happiness like a good match,"
remarked Fanchon; "and I think so, too, aunt. I shall never wait
the second time of asking, I assure you, aunt."
"You are a fool, Fanchon," said La Corriveau; "but your mistress
deserves to wear the ring of Cleopatra, and to become the mother of
witches and harlots for all time. Why did she really send for me?"
The girl crossed herself, and exclaimed, "God forbid, aunt! my
mistress is not like that!"
La Corriveau spat at the mention of the sacred name. "But it is in
her, Fanchon. It is in all of us! If she is not so already, she
will be. But go into the house and see your foolish uncle, while I
go prepare for my visit. We will set out at once, Fanchon, for
business like that of Angélique des Meloises cannot wait."
Fanchon walked into the house to see her uncle Dodier. When she was
gone, the countenance of La Corriveau put on a dark and terrible
expression. Her black eyes looked downwards, seeming to penetrate
the very earth, and to reflect in their glittering orbits the fires
of the underworld.
She stood for a few moments, buried in deep thought, with her arms
tightly folded across her breast. Her fingers moved nervously, as
they kept time with the quick motions of her foot, which beat the
"It is for death, and no lost jewels, that girl sends for me!"
muttered La Corriveau through her teeth, which flashed white and
cruel between her thin lips. "She has a rival in her love for the
Intendant, and she will lovingly, by my help, feed her with the
manna of St. Nicholas! Angélique des Meloises has boldness, craft,
and falseness for twenty women, and can keep secrets like a nun.
She is rich and ambitious, and would poison half the world rather
than miss the thing she sets her mind on. She is a girl after my
own heart, and worth the risk I run with her. Her riches would be
endless should she succeed in her designs; and with her in my power,
nothing she has would henceforth be her own,--but mine! mine!
Besides," added La Corriveau, her thoughts flashing back to the fate
which had overtaken her progenitors, Exili and La Voisin, "I may
need help myself, some day, to plead with the Intendant on my own
A strange thrill ran through the veins of La Corriveau, but she
instantly threw it off. "I know what she wants," added she. "I
will take it with me. I am safe in trusting her with the secret of
Beatrice Spara. That girl is worthy of it as Brinvilliers herself."
La Corriveau entered her own apartment. She locked the door behind
her, drew a bunch of keys from her bosom, and turned towards a
cabinet of singular shape and Italian workmanship which stood in a
corner of the apartment. It was an antique piece of furniture, made
of some dark oriental wood, carved over with fantastic figures from
Etruscan designs by the cunning hand of an old Italian workman, who
knew well how to make secret drawers and invisible concealments for
things dangerous and forbidden.
It had once belonged to Antonio Exili, who had caused it to be made,
ostensibly for the safe-keeping of his cabalistic formulas and
alchemic preparations, when searching for the philosopher's stone
and the elixir of life, really for the concealment of the subtle
drugs out of which his alembics distilled the aqua tofana and his
crucibles prepared the poudre de succession.
In the most secret place of all were deposited, ready for use, a few
vials of the crystal liquid, every single drop of which contained
the life of a man, and which, administered in due proportion of time
and measure, killed and left no sign, numbering its victim's days,
hours, and minutes, exactly according to the will and malignity of
La Corriveau took out the vials, and placed them carefully in a
casket of ebony not larger than a woman's hand. In it was a number
of small flaskets, each filled with pills like grains of mustard-
seed, the essence and quintessence of various poisons, that put on
the appearance of natural diseases, and which, mixed in due
proportion with the aqua tofana, covered the foulest murders with
the lawful ensigns of the angel of death.
In that box of ebony was the sublimated dust of deadly nightshade,
which kindles the red fires of fever and rots the roots of the
tongue. There was the fetid powder of stramonium, that grips the
lungs like an asthma; and quinia, that shakes its victims like the
cold hand of the miasma of the Pontine marshes. The essence of
poppies, ten times sublimated, a few grains of which bring on the
stupor of apoplexy; and the sardonic plant, that kills its victim
with the frightful laughter of madness on his countenance.
The knowledge of these and many more cursed herbs, once known to
Medea in the Colchian land, and transplanted to Greece and Rome with
the enchantments of their use, had been handed, by a long succession
of sorcerers and poisoners, down to Exili and Beatrice Spara, until
they came into the possession of La Corriveau, the legitimate
inheritrix of this lore of hell.
Before closing the cabinet, La Corriveau opened one more secret
drawer, and took out, with a hesitating hand, as if uncertain
whether to do so or no, a glittering stiletto, sharp and cruel to
see. She felt the point of it mechanically with her thumb; and, as
if fascinated by the touch, placed it under her robe. "I may have
need of it," muttered she, "either to save myself OR to make sure of
my work on another. Beatrice Spara was the daughter of a Sicilian
bravo, and she liked this poignard better than even the poisoned
La Corriveau rose up now, well satisfied with her foresight and
preparation. She placed the ebony casket carefully in her bosom,
cherishing it like an only child, as she walked out of the room with
her quiet, tiger-like tread. Her look into the future was pleasant
to her at this moment. There was the prospect of an ample reward
for her trouble and risk, and the anticipated pleasure of practising
her skill upon one whose position she regarded as similar to that of
the great dames of the Court, whom Exili and La Voisin had poisoned
during the high carnival of death, in the days of Louis XIV.
She was now ready, and waited impatiently to depart.
The goodman Dodier brought the calèche to the door. It was a
substantial, two-wheeled vehicle, with a curious arrangement of
springs, made out of the elastic wood of the hickory. The horse,
a stout Norman pony, well harnessed, sleek and glossy, was lightly
held by the hand of the goodman, who patted it kindly as an old
friend; and the pony, in some sort, after an equine fashion,
returned the affection of its master.
La Corriveau, with an agility hardly to be expected from her years,
seated herself beside Fanchon in the calèche, and giving her willing
horse a sharp cut with the lash for spite, not for need,--goodman
Dodier said, only to anger him,--they set off at a rapid pace, and
were soon out of sight at the turn of the dark pine-woods, on their
way to the city of Quebec.
Angélique des Meloises had remained all day in her house, counting
the hours as they flew by, laden with the fate of her unsuspecting
rival at Beaumanoir.
Night had now closed in; the lamps were lit, the fire again burned
red upon the hearth. Her door was inexorably shut against all
visitors. Lizette had been sent away until the morrow; Angélique
sat alone and expectant of the arrival of La Corriveau.
The gay dress in which she had outshone all her sex at the ball on
the previous night lay still in a heap upon the floor, where last
night she had thrown it aside, like the robe of innocence which once
invested her. Her face was beautiful, but cruel, and in its
expression terrible as Medea's brooding over her vengeance sworn
against Creusa for her sin with Jason. She sat in a careless
dishabille, with one white arm partly bare. Her long golden locks
flowed loosely down her back and touched the floor, as she sat on
her chair and watched and waited for the coming footsteps of La
Corriveau. Her lips were compressed with a terrible resolution; her
eyes glanced red as they alternately reflected the glow of the fire
within them and of the fire without. Her hands were clasped
nervously together, with a grip like iron, and lay in her lap, while
her dainty foot marked the rhythm of the tragical thoughts that
swept like a song of doom through her soul.
The few compunctious feelings which struggled up into her mind were
instantly overborne by the passionate reflection that the lady of
Beaumanoir must die! "I must, or she must--one or other! We cannot
both live and marry this man!" exclaimed she, passionately. "Has it
come to this: which of us shall be the wife, which the mistress? By
God, I would kill him too, if I thought he hesitated in his choice;
but he shall soon have no choice but one! Her death be on her own
head and on Bigot's--not on mine!"
And the wretched girl strove to throw the guilt of the sin she
premeditated upon her victim, upon the Intendant, upon fate, and,
with a last subterfuge to hide the enormity of it from her own eyes,
upon La Corriveau, whom she would lead on to suggest the crime and
commit it!--a course which Angélique tried to believe would be more
venial than if it were suggested by herself! less heinous in her own
eyes, and less wicked in the sight of God.
"Why did that mysterious woman go to Beaumanoir and place herself in
the path of Angélique des Meloises?" exclaimed she angrily. "Why
did Bigot reject my earnest prayer, for it was earnest, for a lettre
de cachet to send her unharmed away out of New France?"
Then Angélique sat and listened without moving for a long time. The
clock ticked loud and warningly. There was a sighing of the wind
about the windows, as if it sought admittance to reason and
remonstrate with her. A cricket sang his monotonous song on the
hearth. In the wainscot of the room a deathwatch ticked its doleful
omen. The dog in the courtyard howled plaintively as the hour of
midnight sounded upon the Convent bell, close by. The bell had
scarcely ceased ere she was startled by a slight creaking like the
opening of a door, followed by a whispering and the rustle of a
woman's garments, as of one approaching with cautious steps up the
stair. A thrill of expectation, not unmingled with fear, shot
through the breast of Angélique. She sprang up, exclaiming to
herself, "She is come, and all the demons that wait on murder
come with her into my chamber!" A knock followed on the door.
Angélique, very agitated in spite of her fierce efforts to appear
calm, bade them come in.
Fanchon opened the door, and, with a courtesy to her mistress,
ushered in La Corriveau, who walked straight into the room and stood
face to face with Angélique.
The eyes of the two women instantly met in a searching glance that
took in the whole look, bearing, dress, and almost the very thoughts
of each other. In that one glance each knew and understood the
other, and could trust each other in evil, if not in good.
And there was trust between them. The evil spirits that possessed
each of their hearts shook hands together, and a silent league was
sworn to in their souls before a word was spoken.
And yet how unlike to human eye were these two women!--how like in
God's eye, that sees the heart and reads the Spirit, of what manner
it is! Angélique, radiant in the bloom of youth and beauty, her
golden hair floating about her like a cloud of glory round a
daughter of the sun, with her womanly perfections which made the
world seem brighter for such a revelation of completeness in every
external charm; La Corriveau, stern, dark, angular, her fine-cut
features crossed with thin lines of cruelty and cunning, no mercy in
her eyes, still less on her lips, and none at all in her heart, cold
to every humane feeling, and warming only to wickedness and avarice:
still these women recognized each other as kindred spirits, crafty
and void of conscience in the accomplishment of their ends.
Had fate exchanged the outward circumstances of their lives, each
might have been the other easily and naturally. The proud beauty
had nothing in her heart better than La Corriveau, and the witch of
St. Valier, if born in luxury and endowed with beauty and wealth,
would have rivalled Angélique in seductiveness, and hardly fallen
below her in ambition and power.
La Corriveau saluted Angélique, who made a sign to Fanchon to
retire. The girl obeyed somewhat reluctantly. She had hoped to be
present at the interview between her aunt and her mistress, for her
curiosity was greatly excited, and she now suspected there was more
in this visit than she had been told.
Angélique invited La Corriveau to remove her cloak and broad hat.
Seating her in her own luxurious chair, she sat down beside her, and
began the conversation with the usual platitudes and commonplaces of
the time, dwelling longer upon them than need was, as if she
hesitated or feared to bring up the real subject of this midnight
"My Lady is fair to look on. All women will admit that; all men
swear to it!" said La Corriveau, in a harsh voice that grated
ominously, like the door of hell which she was opening with this
commencement of her business.
Angélique replied only with a smile. A compliment from La Corriveau
even was not wasted upon her; but just now she was on the brink of
an abyss of explanation, looking down into the dark pit, resolved,
yet hesitating to make the plunge.
"No witch or witchery but your own charms is needed, Mademoiselle,"
continued La Corriveau, falling into the tone of flattery she often
used towards her dupes, "to make what fortune you will in this
world; what pearl ever fished out of the sea could add a grace to
this wondrous hair of yours? Permit me to touch it, Mademoiselle!"
La Corriveau took hold of a thick tress, and held it up to the light
of the lamp, where it shone like gold. Angélique shrank back as
from the touch of fire. She withdrew her hair with a jerk from the
hand of La Corriveau. A shudder passed through her from head to
foot. It was the last parting effort of her good genius to save
"Do not touch it!" said she quickly; "I have set my life and soul on
a desperate venture, but my hair--I have devoted it to our Lady of
St. Foye; it is hers, not mine! Do not touch it, Dame Dodier."
Angélique was thinking of a vow she had once made before the shrine
of the little church of Lorette. "My hair is the one thing
belonging to me that I will keep pure," continued she; "so do not be
angry with me," she added, apologetically.
"I am not angry," replied La Corriveau, with a sneer. "I am used to
strange humors in people who ask my aid; they always fall out with
themselves before they fall in with La Corriveau."
"Do you know why I have sent for you at this hour, good Dame
Dodier?" asked Angélique, abruptly.
"Call me La Corriveau; I am not good Dame Dodier. Mine is an ill
name, and I like it best, and so should you, Mademoiselle, for the
business you sent me for is not what people who say their prayers
call good. It was to find your lost jewels that Fanchon Dodier
summoned me to your abode, was it not?" La Corriveau uttered this
with a suppressed smile of incredulity.
"Ah! I bade Fanchon tell you that in order to deceive her, not you!
But you know better, La Corriveau! It was not for the sake of
paltry jewels I desired you to come to the city to see me at this
hour of midnight."
"I conjectured as much!" replied La Corriveau, with a sardonic smile
which showed her small teeth, white, even, and cruel as those of a
wildcat. "The jewel you have lost is the heart of your lover, and
you thought La Corriveau had a charm to win it back; was not that
Angélique sat upright, gazing boldly into the eyes of her visitor.
"Yes, it was that and more than that I summoned you for. Can you
not guess? You are wise, La Corriveau, you know a woman's desire
better than she dare avow it to herself!"
"Ah!" replied La Corriveau, returning her scrutiny with the eyes of
a basilisk; a green light flashed out of their dark depths. "You
have a lover, and you have a rival, too! A woman more potent than
yourself, in spite of your beauty and your fascinations, has caught
the eye and entangled the affections of the man you love, and you
ask my counsel how to win him back and how to triumph over your
rival. Is it not for that you have summoned La Corriveau?"
"Yes, it is that, and still more than that!" replied Angélique,
clenching her hands hard together, and gazing earnestly at the fire
with a look of merciless triumph at what she saw there reflected
from her own thoughts distinctly as if she looked at her own face in
"It is all that, and still more than that,--cannot you guess yet why
I have summoned you here?" continued Angélique, rising and laying
her left hand firmly upon the shoulder of La Corriveau, as she bent
her head and whispered with terrible distinctness in her ear.
La Corriveau heard her whisper and looked up eagerly. "Yes, I know
now, Mademoiselle,--you would kill your rival! There is death in
your eye, in your voice, in your heart, but not in your hand! You
would kill the woman who robs you of your lover, and you have sent
for La Corriveau to help you in the good work! It is a good work in
the eyes of a woman to kill her rival! but why should I do that to
please you? What do I care for your lover, Angélique des Meloises?"
Angélique was startled to hear from the lips of another, words which
gave free expression to her own secret thoughts. A denial was on
her lips, but the lie remained unspoken. She trembled before La
Corriveau, but her resolution was unchanged.
"It was not only to please me, but to profit yourself that I sent
for you!" Angélique replied eagerly, like one trying to outstrip her
conscience and prevent it from overtaking her sin. "Hark you! you
love gold, La Corriveau! I will give you all you crave in return
for your help,--for help me you shall! you will never repent of it
if you do; you will never cease to regret it if you do not! I will
make you rich, La Corrivean! or else, by God! do you hear? I swear
it! I will have you burnt for a witch, and your ashes strewn all
over St. Valier!"
La Corriveau spat contemptuously upon the floor at the holy name.
"You are a fool, Angélique des Meloises, to speak thus to me! Do