Part 9 out of 13
you know who and what I am? You are a poor butterfly to flutter
your gay wings against La Corriveau; but still I like your spirit!
women like you are rare. The blood of Exili could not have spoken
bolder than you do; you want the life of a woman who has kindled the
hell-fire of jealousy in your heart, and you want me to tell you how
to get your revenge!"
"I do want you to do it, La Corriveau, and your reward shall be
great!" answered Angélique with a burst of impatience. She could
beat about the bush no longer.
"To kill a woman or a man were of itself a pleasure even without the
profit," replied La Corriveau, doggedly. "But why should I run
myself into danger for you, Mademoiselle des Meloises? Have you
gold enough to balance the risk?"
Angélique had now fairly overleaped all barriers of reserve. "I
will give you more than your eyes ever beheld, if you will serve me
in this matter, Dame Dodier!"
"Perhaps so, but I am getting old and trust neither man nor woman.
Give a pledge of your good faith, before you speak one word farther
to me on this business, Mademoiselle des Meloises." La Corriveau
held out her double hands significantly.
"A pledge? that is gold you want!" replied Angélique. "Yes, La
Corriveau; I will bind you to me with chains of gold; you shall have
it uncounted, as I get it,--gold enough to make you the richest
woman in St. Valier, the richest peasant-woman in New France."
"I am no peasant-woman," replied La Corriveau, with a touch of
pride, "I come of a race ancient and terrible as the Roman Caesars!
But pshaw! what have you to do with that? Give me the pledge of
your good faith and I will help you."
Angélique rose instantly, and, opening the drawer of an escritoire,
took out a long silken purse filled with louis d'or, which peeped
and glittered through the interstices of the net-work. She gave it
with the air of one who cared nothing for money.
La Corriveau extended both hands eagerly, clutching as with the
claws of a harpy. She pressed the purse to her thin bloodless lips,
and touched with the ends of her bony fingers the edges of the
bright coin visible through the silken net.
"This is indeed a rare earnest-penny!" exclaimed La Corriveau. "I
will do your whole bidding, Mademoiselle; only I must do it in my
own way. I have guessed aright the nature of your trouble and the
remedy you seek. But I cannot guess the name of your false lover,
nor that of the woman whose doom is sealed from this hour."
"I will not tell you the name of my lover," replied Angélique. She
was reluctant to mention the name of Bigot as her lover. The idea
was hateful to her. "The name of the woman I cannot tell you, even
if I would," added she.
"How, Mademoiselle? you put the death-mark upon one you do not
"I do not know her name. Nevertheless, La Corriveau, that gold, and
ten times as much, are yours, if you relieve me of the torment of
knowing that the secret chamber of Beaumanoir contains a woman whose
life is death to all my hopes, and disappointment to all my plans.
The mention of Beaumanoir startled La Corriveau.
"The lady of Beaumanoir!" she exclaimed, "whom the Abenaquis brought
in from Acadia? I saw that lady in the woods of St. Valier, when I
was gathering mandrakes one summer day. She asked me for some water
in God's name. I cursed her silently, but I gave her milk. I had
no water. She thanked me. Oh, how she thanked me! nobody ever
before thanked La Corriveau so sweetly as she did! I, even I, bade
her a good journey, when she started on afresh with her Indian
guides, after asking me the distance and direction of Beaumanoir."
This unexpected touch of sympathy surprised and revolted Angélique a
"You know her then! That is rare fortune, La Corriveau," said she;
"she will remember you, you will have less difficulty in gaining
access to her and winning her confidence."
La Corriveau clapped her hands, laughing a strange laugh, that
sounded as if it came from a deep well.
"Know her? That is all I know; she thanked me sweetly. I said so,
did I not? but I cursed her in my heart when she was gone. I saw
she was both beautiful and good,--two things I hate."
"Do you call her beautiful? I care not whether she be good, that
will avail nothing with him; but is she beautiful, La Corriveau? Is
she fairer than I, think you?"
La Corriveau looked at Angélique intently and laughed. "Fairer than
you? Listen! It was as if I had seen a vision. She was very
beautiful, and very sad. I could wish it were another than she, for
oh, she spoke to me the sweetest I was ever spoken to since I came
into the world."
Angélique ground her teeth with anger. "What did you do, La
Corriveau? Did you not wish her dead? Did you think the Intendant
or any man could not help loving her to the rejection of any other
woman in the world? What did you do?"
"Do? I went on picking my mandrakes in the forest, and waited for
you to send for La Corriveau. You desire to punish the Intendant
for his treachery in forsaking you for one more beautiful and
It was but a bold guess of La Corriveau, but she had divined the
truth. The Intendant Bigot was the man who was playing false with
Her words filled up the measure of Angélique's jealous hate, and
confirmed her terrible resolution. Jealousy is never so omnipotent
as when its rank suspicions are fed and watered by the tales of
"There can be but one life between her and me!" replied the vehement
girl; "Angélique des Meloises would die a thousand deaths rather
than live to feed on the crumbs of any man's love while another
woman feasts at his table. I sent for you, La Corriveau, to take my
gold and kill that woman!"
"Kill that woman! It is easily said, Mademoiselle; but I will not
forsake you, were she the Madonna herself! I hate her for her
goodness, as you hate her for her beauty. Lay another purse by the
side of this, and in thrice three days there shall be weeping in the
Château of Beaumanoir, and no one shall know who has killed the
cuckquean of the Chevalier Intendant!"
Angélique sprang up with a cry of exultation, like a pantheress
seizing her prey. She clasped La Corriveau in her arms and kissed
her dark, withered cheek, exclaiming, "Yes, that is her name! His
cuckquean she is; his wife she is not and never shall be!--Thanks, a
million golden thanks, La Corriveau, if you fulfil your prophecy!
In thrice three days from this hour, was it not that you said?"
"Understand me!" said La Corriveau, "I serve you for your money, not
for your liking! but I have my own joy in making my hand felt in a
world which I hate and which hates me!" La Corriveau held out her
hands as if the ends of her fingers were trickling poison. "Death
drops on whomsoever I send it," said she, "so secretly and so subtly
that the very spirits of air cannot detect the trace of the aqua
Angélique listened with amaze, yet trembled with eagerness to hear
more. "What! La Corriveau, have you the secret of the aqua tofana,
which the world believes was burnt with its possessors two
generations ago, on the Place de Grève?"
"Such secrets never die," replied the poisoner; "they are too
precious! Few men, still fewer women, are there who would not
listen at the door of hell to learn them. The king in his palace,
the lady in her tapestried chamber, the nun in her cell, the very
beggar on the street, would stand on a pavement of fire to read the
tablets which record the secret of the aqua tofana. Let me see your
hand," added she abruptly, speaking to Angélique.
Angélique held out her hand; La Corriveau seized it. She looked
intently upon the slender fingers and oval palm. "There is evil
enough in these long, sharp spatulae of yours," said she, "to ruin
the world. You are worthy to be the inheritrix of all I know.
These fingers would pick fruit off the forbidden tree for men to eat
and die! The tempter only is needed, and he is never far off!
Angélique des Meloises, I may one day teach you the grand secret;
meantime I will show you that I possess it."
"FLASKETS OF DRUGS, FULL TO THEIR WICKED LIPS."
La Corriveau took the ebony casket from her bosom and laid it
solemnly on the table. "Do not cross yourself," she exclaimed
angrily as she saw Angélique mechanically make the sacred sign.
"There can come no blessings here. There is death enough in that
casket to kill every man and woman in New France."
Angélique fastened her gaze upon the casket as if she would have
drawn out the secret of its contents by the very magnetism of her
eyes. She laid her hand upon it caressingly, yet tremblingly--
eager, yet fearful, to see its contents.
"Open it!" cried La Corriveau, "press the spring, and you will see
such a casket of jewels as queens might envy. It was the wedding-
gift of Beatrice Spara, and once belonged to the house of Borgia--
Lucrezia Borgia had it from her terrible father; and he, from the
prince of demons!"
Angélique pressed the little spring,--the lid flew open, and there
flashed from it a light which for the moment dazzled her eyes with
its brilliancy. She thrust the casket from her in alarm, and
retreated a few steps, imagining she smelt the odor of some deadly
"I dare not approach it," said she. "Its glittering terrifies me;
its odor sickens me."
"Tush! it is your weak imagination!" replied La Corriveau; "your
sickly conscience frightens you! You will need to cast off both to
rid Beaumanoir of the presence of your rival! The aqua tofana in
the hands of a coward is a gift as fatal to its possessor as to its
Angélique with a strong effort tried to master her fear, but could
not. She would not again handle the casket.
La Corriveau looked at her as if suspecting this display of
weakness. She then drew the casket to herself and took out a vial,
gilt and chased with strange symbols. It was not larger than the
little finger of a delicate girl. Its contents glittered like a
diamond in the sunshine.
La Corriveau shook it up, and immediately the liquid was filled with
a million sparks of fire. It was the aqua tofana undiluted by
mercy, instantaneous in its effect, and not medicable by any
antidote. Once administered, there was no more hope for its victim
than for the souls of the damned who have received the final
judgment. One drop of that bright water upon the tongue of a Titan
would blast him like Jove's thunderbolt, would shrivel him up to a
black, unsightly cinder!
This was the poison of anger and revenge that would not wait for
time, and braved the world's justice. With that vial La Borgia
killed her guests at the fatal banquet in her palace, and Beatrice
Spara in her fury destroyed the fair Milanese who had stolen from
her the heart of Antonio Exili.
This terrible water was rarely used alone by the poisoners; but it
formed the basis of a hundred slower potions which ambition, fear,
avarice, or hypocrisy mingled with the element of time, and colored
with the various hues and aspects of natural disease.
Angélique sat down and leaned towards La Corriveau, supporting her
chin on the palms of her hands as she bent eagerly over the table,
drinking in every word as the hot sand of the desert drinks in the
water poured upon it. "What is that?" said she, pointing to a vial
as white as milk and seemingly as harmless.
"That," replied La Corriveau, "is the milk of mercy. It brings on
painless consumption and decay. It eats the life out of a man while
the moon empties and fills once or twice. His friends say he dies
of quick decline, and so he does! ha! ha!--when his enemy wills it!
The strong man becomes a skeleton, and blooming maidens sink into
their graves blighted and bloodless, with white lips and hearts
that cease gradually to beat, men know not why. Neither saint nor
sacrament can arrest the doom of the milk of mercy."
"This vial," continued she, lifting up another from the casket and
replacing the first, licking her thin lips with profound
satisfaction as she did so,--"this contains the acrid venom that
grips the heart like the claws of a tiger, and the man drops down
dead at the time appointed. Fools say he died of the visitation of
God. The visitation of God!" repeated she in an accent of scorn,
and the foul witch spat as she pronounced the sacred name. "Leo in
his sign ripens the deadly nuts of the East, which kill when God
will not kill. He who has this vial for a possession is the lord of
life." She replaced it tenderly. It was a favorite vial of La
"This one," continued she, taking up another, "strikes with the dead
palsy; and this kindles the slow, inextinguishable fires of typhus.
Here is one that dissolves all the juices of the body, and the blood
of a man's veins runs into a lake of dropsy. "This," taking up a
green vial, "contains the quintessence of mandrakes distilled in the
alembic when Scorpio rules the hour. Whoever takes this liquid"--La
Corriveau shook it up lovingly--"dies of torments incurable as the
foul disease of lust which it simulates and provokes."
There was one vial which contained a black liquid like oil. "It is
a relic of the past," said she, "an heir-loom from the Untori, the
ointers of Milan. With that oil they spread death through the
doomed city, anointing its doors and thresholds with the plague
until the people died."
The terrible tale of the anointers of Milan has, since the days of
La Corriveau, been written in choice Italian by Manzoni, in whose
wonderful book he that will may read it.
"This vial," continued the witch, "contains innumerable griefs, that
wait upon the pillows of rejected and heartbroken lovers, and the
wisest physician is mocked with lying appearances of disease that
defy his skill and make a fool of his wisdom."
"Oh, say no more!" exclaimed Angélique, shocked and terrified.
However inordinate in her desires, she was dainty in her ways. "It
is like a Sabbat of witches to hear you talk, La Corriveau!" cried
she, "I will have none of those foul things which you propose. My
rival shall die like a lady! I will not feast like a vampire on her
dead body, nor shall you. You have other vials in the casket of
better hue and flavor. What is this?" continued Angélique, taking
out a rose-tinted and curiously-twisted bottle sealed on the top
with the mystic pentagon. "This looks prettier, and may be not less
sure than the milk of mercy in its effect. What is it?"
"Ha! ha!" laughed the woman with her weirdest laugh. "Your wisdom
is but folly, Angélique des Meloises! You would kill, and still
spare your enemy! That was the smelling-bottle of La Brinvilliers,
who took it with her to the great ball at the Hôtel de Ville, where
she secretly sprinkled a few drops of it upon the handkerchief of
the fair Louise Gauthier, who, the moment she put it to her
nostrils, fell dead upon the floor. She died and gave no sign, and
no man knew how or why! But she was the rival of Brinvilliers for
the love of Gaudin de St. Croix, and in that she resembles the lady
of Beaumanoir, as you do La Brinvilliers!"
"And she got her reward! I would have done the same thing for the
same reason! What more have you to relate of this most precious
vial of your casket?" asked Angélique.
"That its virtue is unimpaired. Three drops sprinkled upon a
bouquet of flowers, and its odor breathed by man or woman, causes a
sudden swoon from which there is no awakening more in this world.
People feel no pain, but die smiling as if angels had kissed away
their breath. Is it not a precious toy, Mademoiselle?"
"Oh, blessed vial!" exclaimed Angélique, pressing it to her lips,
"thou art my good angel to kiss away the breath of the lady of
Beaumanoir! She shall sleep on roses, La Corriveau, and you shall
make her bed!"
"It is a sweet death, befitting one who dies for love, or is killed
by the jealousy of a dainty rival," replied the witch; "but I like
best those draughts which are most bitter and not less sure."
"The lady of Beaumanoir will not be harder to kill than Louise
Gauthier," replied Angélique, watching the glitter of the vial in
the lamplight. "She is unknown even to the servants of the Château;
nor will the Intendant himself dare to make public either her life
or death in his house."
"Are you sure, Mademoiselle, that the Intendant will not dare to
make public the death of that woman in the Château?" asked La
Corriveau, with intense eagerness; that consideration was an
important link of the chain which she was forging.
"Sure? yes, I am sure by a hundred tokens!" said Angélique, with an
air of triumph. "He dare not even banish her for my sake, lest the
secret of her concealment at Beaumanoir become known. We can safely
risk his displeasure, even should he suspect that I have cut the
knot he knew not how to untie."
"You are a bold girl!" exclaimed La Corriveau, looking on her
admiringly, "you are worthy to wear the crown of Cleopatra, the
queen of all the gypsies and enchantresses. I shall have less fear
now to do your bidding, for you have a stronger spirit than mine to
"'Tis well, La Corriveau! Let this vial of Brinvilliers bring me
the good fortune I crave, and I will fill your lap with gold. If
the lady of Beaumanoir shall find death in a bouquet of flowers, let
them be roses!"
"But how and where to find roses? they have ceased blooming," said
La Corriveau, hating Angélique's sentiment, and glad to find an
objection to it.
"Not for her, La Corriveau; fate is kinder than you think!"
Angélique threw back a rich curtain and disclosed a recess filled
with pots of blooming roses and flowers of various hues. "The roses
are blooming here which will form the bouquet of Beaumanoir."
"You are of rare ingenuity, Mademoiselle," replied La Corriveau,
admiringly. "If Satan prompts you not, it is because he can teach
you nothing either in love or stratagem."
"Love!" replied Angélique quickly, "do not name that! No! I have
sacrificed all love, or I should not be taking counsel of La
Angélique's thoughts flashed back upon Le Gardeur for one regretful
moment. "No, it is not love," continued she, "but the duplicity of
a man before whom I have lowered my pride. It is the vengeance I
have vowed upon a woman for whose sake I am trifled with! It is
that prompts me to this deed! But no matter, shut up the casket, La
Corriveau; we will talk now of how and when this thing is to be
The witch shut up her infernal casket of ebony, leaving the vial of
Brinvilliers shining like a ruby in the lamplight upon the polished
The two women sat down, their foreheads almost touching together,
with their eyes flashing in lurid sympathy as they eagerly discussed
the position of things in the Château. The apartments of Caroline,
the hours of rest and activity, were all well known to Angélique,
who had adroitly fished out every fact from the unsuspecting Fanchon
Dodier, as had also La Corriveau.
It was known to Angélique that the Intendant would be absent from
the city for some days, in consequence of the news from France.
The unfortunate Caroline would be deprived of the protection of his
The two women sat long arranging and planning their diabolical
scheme. There was no smile upon the cheek of Angélique now. Her
dimples, which drove men mad, had disappeared. Her lips, made to
distil words sweeter than honey of Hybla, were now drawn together in
hard lines like La Corriveau's,--they were cruel and untouched by a
single trace of mercy.
The hours struck unheeded on the clock in the room, as it ticked
louder and louder like a conscious monitor beside them. Its slow
finger had marked each wicked thought, and recorded for all time
each murderous word as it passed their cruel lips.
La Corriveau held the casket in her lap with an air of satisfaction,
and sat with eyes fixed on Angélique, who was now silent.
"Water the roses well, Mademoiselle," said she; "in three days I
shall be here for a bouquet, and in less than thrice three days I
promise you there shall be a dirge sung for the lady of Beaumanoir."
"Only let it be done soon and surely," replied Angélique,--her very
tone grew harsh,--"but talk no more of it; your voice sounds like a
cry from a dark gallery that leads to hell. Would it were done! I
could then shut up the memory of it in a tomb of silence, forever,
forever, and wash my hands of a deed done by you, not me!"
"A deed done by you, not me!" She repeated the words, as if
repeating them made them true. She would shut up the memory of her
crime forever; she reflected not that the guilt is in the evil
intent, and the sin the same before God even if the deed be never
Angélique was already an eager sophist. She knew better than the
wretched creature whom she had bribed with money, how intensely
wicked was the thing she was tempting her to do; but her jealousy
maddened her, and her ambition could not let her halt in her course.
There was one thought which still tormented her "What would the
Intendant think? What would he say should he suspect her of the
murder of Caroline?" She feared his scrutinizing investigation;
but, trusting in her power, she risked his suspicions, nay,
remembering his words, made him in her own mind an accessory in
If she remembered Le Gardeur de Repentigny at all at this moment, it
was only to strangle the thought of him. She shied like a horse on
the brink of a precipice when the thought of Le Gardeur intruded
itself. Rising suddenly, she bade La Corriveau be gone about her
business, lest she should be tempted to change her mind.
La Corriveau laughed at the last struggle of dying conscience, and
bade Angélique go to bed. It was two hours past midnight, and she
would bid Fanchon let her depart to the house of an old crone in the
city who would give her a bed and a blessing in the devil's name.
Angélique, weary and agitated, bade her be gone in the devil's name,
if she preferred a curse to a blessing. The witch, with a mocking
laugh, rose and took her departure for the night.
Fanchon, weary of waiting, had fallen asleep. She roused herself,
offering to accompany her aunt in hopes of learning something of her
interview with her mistress. All she got was a whisper that the
jewels were found. La Corriveau passed out into the darkness, and
plodded her way to the house of her friend, where she resolved to
stay until she accomplished the secret and cruel deed she had
undertaken to perform.
THE BROAD, BLACK GATEWAY OF A LIE.
The Count de la Galissonière was seated in his cabinet a week after
the arrival of La Corriveau on her fatal errand. It was a plain,
comfortable apartment he sat in, hung with arras, and adorned with
maps and pictures. It was there he held his daily sittings for the
ordinary despatch of business with a few such councillors as the
occasion required to be present.
The table was loaded with letters, memorandums, and bundles of
papers tied up in official style. Despatches of royal ministers,
bearing the broad seal of France. Reports from officers of posts
far and near in New France lay mingled together with silvery strips
of the inner bark of the birch, painted with hieroglyphics, giving
accounts of war parties on the eastern frontier and in the far west,
signed by the totems of Indian chiefs in alliance with France.
There was a newly-arrived parcel of letters from the bold,
enterprising Sieur de Verendrye, who was exploring the distant
waters of the Saskatchewan and the land of the Blackfeet, and many a
missive from missionaries, giving account of wild regions which
remain yet almost a terra incognita to the government which rules
At the Governor's elbow sat his friend Bishop Pontbriand with a
secretary immersed in papers. In front of him was the Intendant
with Varin, Penisault, and D'Estèbe. On one side of the table, La
Corne St. Luc was examining some Indian despatches with Rigaud de
Vaudreuil; Claude Beauharnais and the venerable Abbé Piquet
overlooking with deep interest the rude pictorial despatches in the
hands of La Corne. Two gentlemen of the law, in furred gowns and
bands, stood waiting at one end of the room, with books under their
arms and budgets of papers in their hands ready to argue before the
Council some knotty point of controversy arising out of the
concession of certain fiefs and jurisdictions granted under the
feudal laws of the Colony.
The Intendant, although personally at variance with several of the
gentlemen sitting at the council table, did not let that fact be
visible on his countenance, nor allow it to interfere with the
despatch of public business.
The Intendant was gay and easy to-day, as was his wont, wholly
unsuspecting the foul treason that was plotting by the woman he
admired against the woman he loved. His opinions were sometimes
loftily expressed, but always courteously as well as firmly.
Bigot never drooped a feather in face of his enemies, public or
private, but laughed and jested with all at table in the exuberance
of a spirit which cared for no one, and only reined itself in when
it was politic to flatter his patrons and patronesses at Versailles.
The business of the Council had begun. The mass of papers which lay
at the left hand of the Governor were opened and read seriatim by
his secretary, and debated, referred, decided upon, or judgment
postponed, as the case seemed best to the Council.
The Count was a man of method and despatch, clear-headed and
singularly free from prejudice, ambiguity, or hesitation. He was
honest and frank in council, as he was gallant on the quarter-deck.
The Intendant was not a whit behind him in point of ability and
knowledge of the political affairs of the colony, and surpassed him
in influence at the court of Louis XV., but less frank, for he had
much to conceal, and kept authority in his own hands as far as he
Disliking each other profoundly from the total divergence of their
characters, opinions, and habits, the Governor and Intendant still
met courteously at the council-table, and not without a certain
respect for the rare talents which each recognized in the other.
Many of the papers lying before them were on subjects relating to
the internal administration of the Colony,--petitions of the people
suffering from the exactions of the commissaries of the army,
remonstrances against the late decrees of the Intendant, and arrêts
of the high court of justice confirming the right of the Grand
Company to exercise certain new monopolies of trade.
The discussions were earnest, and sometimes warm, on these important
questions. La Corne St. Luc assailed the new regulations of the
Intendant in no measured terms of denunciation, in which he was
supported by Rigaud de Vaudreuil and the Chevalier de Beauharnais.
But Bigot, without condescending to the trouble of defending the
ordinances on any sound principle of public policy, which he knew to
be useless and impossible with the clever men sitting at the table,
contented himself with a cold smile at the honest warmth of La Corne
St. Luc, and simply bade his secretary read the orders and
despatches from Versailles, in the name of the royal ministers, and
approved of by the King himself in a Lit de Justice which had
justified every act done by him in favor of the Grand Company.
The Governor, trammelled on all sides by the powers conferred upon
the Intendant, felt unable to exercise the authority he needed to
vindicate the cause of right and justice in the colony. His own
instructions confirmed the pretensions of the Intendant, and of the
Grand Company. The utmost he could do in behalf of the true
interests of the people and of the King, as opposed to the herd of
greedy courtiers and selfish beauties who surrounded him, was to
soften the deadening blows they dealt upon the trade and resources
of the Colony.
A decree authorizing the issue of an unlimited quantity of paper
bills, the predecessors of the assignats of the mother country, was
strongly advocated by Bigot, who supported his views with a degree
of financial sophistry which showed that he had effectively mastered
the science of delusion and fraud of which Law had been the great
teacher in France, and the Mississippi scheme, the prototype of the
Grand Company, the great exemplar.
La Corne St. Luc opposed the measure forcibly. "He wanted no paper
lies," he said, "to cheat the husbandman of his corn and the laborer
of his hire. If the gold and silver had all to be sent to France to
pamper the luxuries of a swarm of idlers at the Court, they could
buy and sell as they had done in the early days of the Colony, with
beaver skins for livres, and muskrat skins for sous. These paper
bills," continued he, "had been tried on a small scale by the
Intendant Hoquart, and on a small scale had robbed and impoverished
the Colony. If this new Mississippi scheme propounded by new
Laws,"--and here La Corne glanced boldly at the Intendant,--"is to
be enforced on the scale proposed, there will not be left in the
Colony one piece of silver to rub against another. It will totally
beggar New France, and may in the end bankrupt the royal treasury of
France itself if called on to redeem them."
The discussion rolled on for an hour. The Count listened in silent
approbation to the arguments of the gentlemen opposing the measure,
but he had received private imperative instructions from the King to
aid the Intendant in the issue of the new paper money. The Count
reluctantly sanctioned a decree which filled New France with
worthless assignats, the non-redemption of which completed the
misery of the Colony and aided materially in its final subjugation
by the English.
The pile of papers upon the table gradually diminished as they were
opened and disposed of. The Council itself was getting weary of a
long sitting, and showed an evident wish for its adjournment. The
gentlemen of the law did not get a hearing of their case that day,
but were well content to have it postponed, because a postponement
meant new fees and increased costs for their clients. The lawyers
of Old France, whom LaFontaine depicts in his lively fable as
swallowing the oyster and handing to each litigant an empty shell,
did not differ in any essential point from their brothers of the
long robe in New France, and differed nothing at all in the length
of their bills and the sharpness of their practice.
The breaking up of the Council was deferred by the Secretary opening
a package sealed with the royal seal, and which contained other
sealed papers marked SPECIAL for His Excellency the Governor. The
Secretary handed them to the Count, who read over the contents with
deep interest and a changing countenance. He laid them down and
took them up again, perused them a second time, and passed them over
to the Intendant, who read them with a start of surprise and a
sudden frown on his dark eyebrows. But he instantly suppressed it,
biting his nether lip, however, with anger which he could not wholly
He pushed the papers back to the Count with a nonchalant air, as of
a man who had quite made up his mind about them, saying in a
"The commands of Madame la Marquise de Pompadour shall be complied
with," said he. "I will order strict search to be made for the
missing demoiselle, who, I suspect, will be found in some camp or
fort, sharing the couch of some lively fellow who has won favor in
her bright eyes."
Bigot saw danger in these despatches, and in the look of the
Governor, who would be sure to exercise the utmost diligence in
carrying out the commands of the court in this matter.
Bigot for a few moments seemed lost in reflection. He looked round
the table, and, seeing many eyes fixed upon him, spoke boldly,
almost with a tone of defiance.
"Pray explain to the councillors the nature of this despatch, your
Excellency!" said he to the Count. "What it contains is not
surprising to any one who knows the fickle sex, and no gentleman can
avoid feeling for the noble Baron de St. Castin!"
"And for his daughter, too, Chevalier!" replied the Governor. "It
is only through their virtues that such women are lost. But it is
the strangest tale I have heard in New France!"
The gentlemen seated at the table looked at the Governor in some
surprise. La Corne St. Luc, hearing the name of the Baron de St.
Castin, exclaimed, "What, in God's name, your Excellency,--what is
there in that despatch affecting my old friend and companion in
arms, the Baron de St. Castin?"
"I had better explain," replied the Count; "it is no secret in
France, and will not long be a secret here.
"This letter, gentlemen," continued he, addressing the councillors,
and holding it open in his hand, "is a pathetic appeal from the
Baron de St. Castin, whom you all know, urging me by every
consideration of friendship, honor, and public duty, to aid in
finding his daughter, Caroline de St. Castin, who has been abducted
from her home in Acadia, and who, after a long and vain search for
her by her father in France, where it was thought she might have
gone, has been traced to this Colony, where it is said she is living
concealed under some strange alias or low disguise.
"The other despatch," continued the Governor, "is from the Marquise
de Pompadour, affirming the same thing, and commanding the most
rigorous search to be made for Mademoiselle de St. Castin. In
language hardly official, the Marquise threatens to make stockfish,
that is her phrase, of whosoever has had a hand in either the
abduction or the concealment of the missing lady."
The attention of every gentleman at the table was roused by the
words of the Count. But La Corne St. Luc could not repress his
feelings. He sprang up, striking the table with the palm of his
hand until it sounded like the shot of a petronel.
"By St. Christopher the Strong!" exclaimed he, "I would cheerfully
have lost a limb rather than heard such a tale told by my dear old
friend and comrade, about that angelic child of his, whom I have
carried in my arms like a lamb of God many and many a time!
"You know, gentlemen, what befell her!" The old soldier looked as
if he could annihilate the Intendant with the lightning of his eyes.
"I affirm and will maintain that no saint in heaven was holier in
her purity than she was in her fall! Chevalier Bigot, it is for you
to answer these despatches! This is your work! If Caroline de St.
Castin be lost, you know where to find her!"
Bigot started up in a rage mingled with fear, not of La Corne St.
Luc, but lest the secret of Caroline's concealment at Beaumanoir
should become known. The furious letter of La Pompadour repressed
the prompting of his audacious spirit to acknowledge the deed openly
and defy the consequences, as he would have done at any less price
than the loss of the favor of his powerful and jealous patroness.
The broad, black gateway of a lie stood open to receive him, and
angry as he was at the words of St. Luc, Bigot took refuge in it--
"Chevalier La Corne!" said he, with a tremendous effort at self-
control, "I do not affect to misunderstand your words, and in time
and place will make you account for them! but I will say, for the
contentment of His Excellency and of the other gentlemen at the
council-table, that whatever in times past have been my relations
with the daughter of the Baron de St. Castin, and I do not deny
having shown her many courtesies, her abduction was not my work, and
if she be lost, I do not know where to find her!"
"Upon your word as a gentleman," interrogated the Governor, "will
you declare you know not where she is to be found?"
"Upon my word as a gentleman!" The Intendant's face was suffused
with passion. "You have no right to ask that! Neither shall you,
Count de La Galissonière! But I will myself answer the despatch of
Madame la Marquise de Pompadour! I know no more, perhaps less, than
yourself or the Chevalier La Corne St. Luc, where to look for the
daughter of the Baron de St. Castin; and I proclaim here that I am
ready to cross swords with the first gentleman who shall dare
breathe a syllable of doubt against the word of François Bigot!"
Varin and Penisault exchanged a rapid glance, partly of doubt,
partly of surprise. They knew well, for Bigot had not concealed
from his intimate associates the fact that a strange lady, whose
name they had not heard, was living in the secret chambers of the
Château of Beaumanoir. Bigot never told any who she was or whence
she came. Whatever suspicion they might entertain in their own
minds, they were too wary to express it. On the contrary, Varin,
ever more ready with a lie than Bigot, confirmed with a loud oath
the statement of the Intendant.
La Corne St. Luc looked like a baffled lion as Rigaud de Vaudreuil,
with the familiarity of an old friend, laid his hand over his mouth,
and would not let him speak. Rigaud feared the coming challenge,
and whispered audibly in the ear of St. Luc,--
"Count a hundred before you speak, La Corne! The Intendant is to be
taken on his word just at present, like any other gentleman! Fight
for fact, not for fancy! Be prudent, La Corne! we know nothing to
the contrary of what Bigot swears to!"
"But I doubt much to the contrary, Rigaud!" replied La Corne, with
accent of scorn and incredulity.
The old soldier chafed hard under the bit, but his suspicions were
not facts. He felt that he had no solid grounds upon which to
accuse the Intendant in the special matter referred to in the
letters. He was, moreover, although hot in temperament, soon master
of himself, and used to the hardest discipline of self-control.
"I was, perhaps, over hasty, Rigaud!" replied La Corne St. Luc,
recovering his composure; but when I think of Bigot in the past, how
can I but mistrust him in the present? However, be the girl above
ground or under ground, I will, par Dieu, not leave a stone unturned
in New France until I find the lost child of my old friend! La
Corne St. Luc pledges himself to that, and he never broke his word!"
He spoke the last words audibly, and looked hard at the Intendant.
Bigot cursed him twenty times over between his teeth, for he knew La
Corne's indomitable energy and sagacity, that was never at fault in
finding or forcing a way to whatever he was in search of. It would
not be long before he would discover the presence of a strange lady
at Beaumanoir, thought Bigot, and just as certain would he be to
find out that she was the lost daughter of the Baron de St. Castin.
The good Bishop rose up when the dispute waxed warmest between the
Intendant and La Corne St. Luc. His heart was eager to allay the
strife; but his shrewd knowledge of human nature, and manifold
experience of human quarrels, taught him that between two such men
the intercession of a priest would not, at that moment, be of any
avail. Their own notions of honor and self-respect would alone
be able to restrain them from rushing into unseemly excesses of
language and act; so the good Bishop stood with folded arms looking
on, and silently praying for an opportunity to remind them of the
seventh holy beatitude, "Beati pacifici!"
Bigot felt acutely the difficulty of the position he had been placed
in by the act of La Pompadour, in sending her despatch to the
Governor instead of to himself. "Why had she done that?" said he
savagely to himself. "Had she suspected him?"
Bigot could not but conclude that La Pompadour suspected him in this
matter. He saw clearly that she would not trust the search after
this girl to him, because she knew that Caroline de St. Castin had
formerly drawn aside his heart, and that he would have married her
but for the interference of the royal mistress. Whatever might have
been done before in the way of sending Caroline back to Acadia, it
could not be done now, after he had boldly lied before the Governor
and the honorable Council.
One thing seemed absolutely necessary, however. The presence of
Caroline at Beaumanoir must be kept secret at all hazards, until--
until,--and even Bigot, for once, was ashamed of the thoughts which
rushed into his mind,--until he could send her far into the
wilderness, among savage tribes, to remain there until the search
for her was over and the affair forgotten.
This was his first thought. But to send her away into the
wilderness was not easy. A matter which in France would excite the
gossip and curiosity of a league or two of neighborhood would be
carried on the tongues of Indians and voyageurs in the wilds of
North America for thousands of miles. To send her away without
discovery seemed difficult. To retain her at Beaumanoir in face of
the search which he knew would be made by the Governor and the
indomitable La Corne St. Luc, was impossible. The quandary
oppressed him. He saw no escape from the dilemma; but, to the
credit of Bigot be it said, that not for a moment did he entertain
a thought of doing injury to the hapless Caroline, or of taking
advantage of her lonely condition to add to her distress, merely to
He fell into a train of sober reflections unusual to him at any
time, and scarcely paid any attention to the discussion of affairs
at the council-table for the rest of the sitting. He rose hastily
at last, despairing to find any outlet of escape from the
difficulties which surrounded him in this unlucky affair.
With His Excellency's consent, he said, they would do no more
business that day. He was tired, and would rise. Dinner was ready
at the Palace, where he had some wine of the golden plant of Ay-Ay,
which he would match against the best in the Castle of St. Louis, if
His Excellency and the other gentlemen would honor him with their
The Council, out of respect to the Intendant, rose at once. The
despatches were shoved back to the secretaries, and for the present
forgotten in a buzz of lively conversation, in which no man shone to
greater advantage than Bigot.
"It is but a fast-day, your Reverence," said he, accosting the Abbé
Piquot, "but if you will come and say grace over my graceless table,
I will take it kindly of you. You owe me a visit, you know, and I
owe you thanks for the way in which you looked reproof, without
speaking it, upon my dispute with the Chevalier La Corne. It was
better than words, and showed that you know the world we live in as
well as the world you teach us to live for hereafter."
The Abbé was charmed with the affability of Bigot, and nourishing
some hope of enlisting him heartily in behalf of his favorite scheme
of Indian policy, left the Castle in his company. The Intendant
also invited the Procureur du Roi and the other gentlemen of the
law, who found it both politic, profitable, and pleasant to dine at
the bountiful and splendid table of the Palace.
The Governor, with three or four most intimate friends, the Bishop,
La Corne St. Luc, Rigaud de Vaudreuil, and the Chevalier de
Beauharnais, remained in the room, conversing earnestly together on
the affair of Caroline de St. Castin, which awoke in all of them a
feeling of deepest pity for the young lady, and of sympathy for the
distress of her father. They were lost in conjectures as to the
quarter in which a search for her might be successful.
"There is not a fort, camp, house, or wigwam, there is not a hole or
hollow tree in New France where that poor broken-hearted girl may
have taken refuge, or been hid by her seducer, but I will find her
out," exclaimed La Corne St. Luc. "Poor girl! poor hapless girl!
How can I blame her? Like Magdalene, if she sinned much, it was
because she loved much, and cursed be either man or woman who will
cast a stone at her!"
"La Corne," replied the Governor, "the spirit of chivalry will not
wholly pass away while you remain to teach by your example the duty
of brave men to fair women. Stay and dine with me, and we will
consider this matter thoroughly! Nay, I will not have an excuse to-
day. My old friend, Peter Kalm, will dine with us too; he is a
philosopher as perfectly as you are a soldier! So stay, and we will
have something better than tobacco-smoke to our wine to-day!"
"The tobacco-smoke is not bad either, your Excellency!" replied La
Corne, who was an inveterate smoker. "I like your Swedish friend.
He cracks nuts of wisdom with such a grave air that I feel like a
boy sitting at his feet, glad to pick up a kernel now and then. My
practical philosophy is sometimes at fault, to be sure, in trying to
fit his theories but I feel that I ought to believe many things
which I do not understand."
The Count took his arm familiarly, and, followed by the other
gentlemen, proceeded to the dining-hall, where his table was spread
in a style which, if less luxurious than the Intendant's, left
nothing to be desired by guests who were content with plenty of good
cheer, admirable cooking, adroit service, and perfect hospitality.
ARRIVAL OF PIERRE PHILIBERT.
Dinner at the table of the Count de la Galissonière was not a
dull affair of mere eating and drinking. The conversation and
sprightliness of the host fed the minds of his guests as generously
as his bread strengthened their hearts, or his wine, in the
Psalmist's words, made their faces to shine. Men were they, every
one of them possessed of a sound mind in a sound body; and both were
well feasted at this hospitable table.
The dishes were despatched in a leisurely and orderly manner, as
became men who knew the value of both soul and body, and sacrificed
neither to the other. When the cloth was drawn, and the wine-flasks
glittered ruby and golden upon the polished board, the old butler
came in, bearing upon a tray a large silver box of tobacco, with
pipes and stoppers and a wax candle burning, ready to light them, as
then the fashion was in companies composed exclusively of gentlemen.
He placed the materials for smoking upon the table as reverently as
a priest places his biretta upon the altar,--for the old butler did
himself dearly love the Indian weed, and delighted to smell the
perfume of it as it rose in clouds over his master's table.
"This is a bachelors' banquet, gentlemen," said the Governor,
filling a pipe to the brim. "We will take fair advantage of the
absence of ladies to-day, and offer incense to the good Manitou who
first gave tobacco for the solace of mankind."
The gentlemen were all, as it chanced, honest smokers. Each one
took a pipe from the stand and followed the Governor's example,
except Peter Kalm, who, more philosophically, carried his pipe with
him--a huge meerschaum, clouded like a sunset on the Baltic. He
filled it deliberately with tobacco, pressed it down with his finger
and thumb, and leaning back in his easy chair after lighting it,
began to blow such a cloud as the portly Burgomaster of Stockholm
might have envied on a grand council night in the old Raadhus of the
city of the Goths.
They were a goodly group of men, whose frank, loyal eyes looked
openly at each other across the hospitable table. None of them but
had travelled farther than Ulysses, and, like him, had seen strange
cities and observed many minds of men, and was as deeply read in the
book of human experience as ever the crafty king of Ithaca.
The event of the afternoon--the reading of the royal despatches--had
somewhat dashed the spirits of the councillors, for they saw clearly
the drift of events which was sweeping New France out of the lap of
her mother country, unless her policy were totally changed and the
hour of need brought forth a man capable of saving France herself
and her faithful and imperilled colonies.
"Hark!" exclaimed the Bishop, lifting his hand, "the Angelus is
ringing from tower and belfry, and thousands of knees are bending
with the simplicity of little children in prayer, without one
thought of theology or philosophy. Every prayer rising from a
sincere heart, asking pardon for the past and grace for the future,
is heard by our Father in heaven; think you not it is so, Herr
The sad foreboding of colonists like La Corne St. Luc did not
prevent the desperate struggle that was made for the preservation of
French dominion in the next war. Like brave and loyal men, they did
their duty to God and their country, preferring death and ruin in a
lost cause to surrendering the flag which was the symbol of their
native land. The spirit, if not the words, of the old English
loyalist was in them:
"For loyalty is still the same,
Whether it win or lose the game;
True as the dial to the sun,
Although it be not shone upon."
New France, after gathering a harvest of glory such as America had
never seen reaped before, fell at last, through the neglect of her
mother country. But she dragged down the nation in her fall, and
France would now give the apple of her eye for the recovery, never
to be, of "the acres of snow" which La Pompadour so scornfully
abandoned to the English.
These considerations lay in the lap of the future, however; they
troubled not the present time and company. The glasses were again
replenished with wine or watered, as the case might be, for the
Count de la Galissonière and Herr Kalm kept Horatian time and
measure, drinking only three cups to the Graces, while La Corne St.
Luc and Rigaud de Vaudreuil drank nine full cups to the Muses,
fearing not the enemy that steals away men's brains. Their heads
were helmeted with triple brass, and impenetrable to the heaviest
blows of the thyrsus of Bacchus. They drank with impunity, as if
garlanded with parsley, and while commending the Bishop, who would
drink naught save pure water, they rallied gaily Claude Beauharnais,
who would not drink at all.
In the midst of a cheerful concert of merriment, the door of the
cabinet opened, and the servant in waiting announced the entrance of
All rose to welcome him. Pierre looked anxious and somewhat
discomposed, but the warm grasp of the hands of so many true friends
made him glad for the moment.
"Why, Pierre!" exclaimed the Count, "I hope no ill wind has blown
you to the city so unexpectedly! You are heartily welcome, however,
and we will call every wind good that blows our friends back to us
"It is a cursed wind that blows me back to-day," replied Philibert,
sitting down with an air of disquiet.
"Why, what is the matter, Pierre?" asked the Count. "My honored
Lady de Tilly and her lovely niece, are they well?"
"Well, your Excellency, but sorely troubled. The devil has tempted
Le Gardeur again, and he has fallen. He is back to the city, wild
as a savage and beyond all control."
"Good God! it will break his sister's heart," said the Governor,
sympathizingly. "That girl would give her life for her brother. I
feel for her; I feel for you, too, Pierre." Philibert felt the
tight clasp of the Governor's hand as he said this. He understood
well its meaning. "And not less do I pity the unhappy youth who is
the cause of such grief to his friends," continued he.
"Yes, your Excellency, Le Gardeur is to be pitied, as well as
blamed. He has been tried and tempted beyond human strength."
La Corne St. Luc had risen, and was pacing the floor with impatient
strides. "Pierre Philibert!" exclaimed he, "where is the poor lad?
He must be sought for and saved yet. What demons have assailed him
now? Was it the serpent of strong drink, that bites men mad, or the
legion of fiends that rattle the dice-box in their ears? Or was it
the last temptation, which never fails when all else has been tried
in vain--a woman?"
"It was all three combined. The Chevalier de Pean visited Tilly on
business of the Intendant--in reality, I suspect, to open a
communication with Le Gardeur, for he brought him a message from a
lady you wot of, which drove him wild with excitement. A hundred
men could not have restrained Le Gardeur after that. He became
infatuated with De Pean, and drank and gambled all night and all day
with him at the village inn, threatening annihilation to all who
interfered with him. Today he suddenly left Tilly, and has come
with De Pean to the city."
"De Pean!" exclaimed La Corne, "the spotted snake! A fit tool for
the Intendant's lies and villainy! I am convinced he went not on
his own errand to Tilly. Bigot is at the bottom of this foul
conspiracy to ruin the noblest lad in the Colony."
"It may be," replied Philibert, "but the Intendant alone would have
had no power to lure him back. It was the message of that artful
siren which has drawn Le Gardeur de Repentigny again into the
whirlpool of destruction."
"Aye, but Bigot set her on him, like a retriever, to bring back the
game!" replied La Corne, fully convinced of the truth of his
"It may be," answered Philibert; "but my impression is that she has
influenced the Intendant, rather than he her, in this matter."
The Bishop listened with warm interest to the account of Philibert.
He looked a gentle reproof, but did not utter it, at La Corne St.
Luc and Philibert, for their outspoken denunciation of the
Intendant. He knew--none knew better--how deserved it was; but his
ecclesiastical rank placed him at the apex of all parties in the
Colony, and taught him prudence in expressing or hearing opinions of
the King's representatives in the Colony.
"But what have you done, Pierre Philibert," asked the Bishop, "since
your arrival? Have you seen Le Gardeur?"
"No, my Lord; I followed him and the Chevalier to the city. They
have gone to the Palace, whither I went and got admittance to the
cabinet of the Intendant. He received me in his politest and
blandest manner. I asked an interview with Le Gardeur. Bigot told
me that my friend unfortunately at that moment was unfit to be seen,
and had refused himself to all his city friends. I partly believed
him, for I heard the voice of Le Gardeur in a distant room, amid a
babble of tongues and the rattle of dice. I sent him a card with a
few kind words, and received it back with an insult--deep and
damning--scrawled upon it. It was not written, however, in the
hand of Le Gardeur, although signed by his name. Read that, your
Excellency," said he, throwing a card to the Count. "I will not
repeat the foul expressions it contains. Tell Pierre Philibert what
he should do to save his honor and save his friend. Poor, wild,
infatuated Le Gardeur never wrote that--never! They have made him
sign his name to he knew not what."
"And, by St. Martin!" exclaimed La Corne, who looked at the card,
"some of them shall bite dust for that! As for Le Gardeur, poor
boy, overlook his fault--pity him, forgive him. He is not so much
to blame, Pierre, as those plundering thieves of the Friponne, who
shall find that La Corne St. Luc's sword is longer by half an ell
than is good for some of their stomachs!"
"Forbear, dear friends," said the Bishop; "it is not the way of
Christians to talk thus."
"But it is the way of gentlemen!" replied La Corne, impatiently,
"and I always hold that a true gentleman is a true Christian. But
you do your duty, my Lord Bishop, in reproving us, and I honor you
for it, although I may not promise obedience. David fought a duel
with Goliath, and was honored by God and man for it, was he not?"
"But he fought it not in his own quarrel, La Corne," replied the
Bishop gently; "Goliath had defied the armies of the living God, and
David fought for his king, not for himself."
"Confiteor! my Lord Bishop, but the logic of the heart is often
truer than the logic of the head, and the sword has no raison
d'être, except in purging the world of scoundrels."
"I will go home now; I will see your Excellency again on this
matter," said Pierre, rising to depart.
"Do, Pierre! my utmost services are at your command," said the
Governor, as the guests all rose too. It was very late.
The hour of departure had arrived; the company all rose, and
courteously bidding their host good-night, proceeded to their
several homes, leaving him alone with his friend Kalm.
They two at once passed into a little museum of minerals, plants,
birds, and animals, where they sat down, eager as two boy-students.
The world, its battles, and its politics were utterly forgotten, as
they conversed far into the night and examined, with the delight of
new discoverers, the beauty and variety of nature's forms that exist
in the New World.
A WILD NIGHT INDOORS AND OUT.
The Chevalier de Pean had been but too successful in his errand of
mischief to the Manor House of Tilly.
A few days had sufficed for this accomplished ambassador of Bigot to
tempt Le Gardeur to his ruin, and to triumph in his fall.
Upon his arrival at the Seigniory, De Pean had chosen to take up
his quarters at the village inn, in preference to accepting the
proffered hospitality of the Lady de Tilly, whom, however, he had
frequently to see, having been craftily commissioned by Bigot with
the settlement of some important matters of business relating to her
Seigniory, as a pretext to visit the Manor House and linger in the
village long enough to renew his old familiarity with Le Gardeur.
The visits of De Pean to the Manor House were politely but not
cordially received. It was only by reason of the business he came
upon that he was received at all. Nevertheless he paid his court
to the ladies of the Manor, as a gentleman anxious to remove their
prejudices and win their good opinion.
He once, and but once, essayed to approach Amélie with gallantry,
a hair-breadth only beyond the rigid boundary-line of ordinary
politeness, when he received a repulse so quick, so unspoken and
invisible, that he could not tell in what it consisted, yet he felt
it like a sudden paralysis of his powers of pleasing. He cared not
again to encounter the quick glance of contempt and aversion which
for an instant flashed in the eyes of Amélie when she caught the
drift of his untimely admiration.
A woman is never so Rhadamanthean in her justice, and so quick in
her execution of it, as when she is proud and happy in her love for
another man: she is then indignant at every suggestion implying any
doubt of the strength, purity, and absoluteness of her devotion.
De Pean ground his teeth in silent wrath at this quiet but
unequivocal repulse, and vowed a bitter vow that Amélie should ere
long repent in sackcloth and ashes for the wound inflicted upon his
vanity and still more upon his cupidity.
One of the day-dreams of his fancy was broken, never to return. The
immense fortune and high rank of the young Chatelaine de Repentigny
had excited the cupidity of De Pean for some time, and although the
voluptuous beauty of Angélique fastened his eyes, he would willingly
have sacrificed her for the reversion of the lordships of Tilly and
De Pean's soul was too small to bear with equanimity the annihilation
of his cherished hopes. As he looked down upon his white hands, his
delicate feet, and irreproachable dress and manner, he seemed not to
comprehend that a true woman like Amélie cares nothing for these
things in comparison with a manly nature that seeks a woman for her
own sake by love, and in love, and not by the accessories of wealth
and position. For such a one she would go barefoot if need were,
while golden slippers would not tempt her to walk with the other.
Amélie's beau-ideal of manhood was embodied in Pierre Philibert, and
the greatest king in Christendom would have wooed in vain at her
feet, much less an empty pretender like the Chevalier de Pean.
"I would not have treated any gentleman so rudely," said Amélie in
confidence to Héloise de Lotbinière when they had retired to the
privacy of their bedchamber. "No woman is justified in showing
scorn of any man's love, if it be honest and true; but the Chevalier
de Pean is false to the heart's core, and his presumption woke such
an aversion in my heart, that I fear my eyes showed less than
ordinary politeness to his unexpected advances."
"You were too gentle, not too harsh, Amélie," replied Héloise, with
her arm round her friend. "Had I been the object of his hateful
addresses, I should have repaid him in his own false coin: I would
have led him on to the brink of the precipice of a confession and an
offer, and then I would have dropped him as one drops a stone into
the deep pool of the Chaudière."
"You were always more bold than I, Héloise; I could not do that for
the world," replied Amélie. "I would not willingly offend even the
Chevalier de Pean. Moreover, I fear him, and I need not tell you
why, darling. That man possesses a power over my dear brother that
makes me tremble, and in my anxiety for Le Gardeur I may have
lingered, as I did yesterday, too long in the parlor when in company
with the Chevalier de Pean, who, mistaking my motive, may have
supposed that I hated not his presence so much as I truly did!"
"Amélie, your fears are my own!" exclaimed Héloise, pressing Amélie
to her side. "I must, I will tell you. O loved sister of mine,--
let me call you so!--to you alone I dare acknowledge my hopeless
love for Le Gardeur, and my deep and abiding interest in his
"Nay, do not say hopeless, Héloise!" replied Amélie, kissing her
fondly. "Le Gardeur is not insensible to your beauty and goodness.
He is too like myself not to love you."
"Alas, Amélie! I know it is all in vain. I have neither beauty nor
other attractions in his eyes. He left me yesterday to converse
with the Chevalier de Pean on the subject of Angélique des Meloises,
and I saw, by the agitation of his manner, the flush upon his cheek,
and the eagerness of his questioning, that he cared more for
Angélique, notwithstanding her reported engagement with the
Intendant, than he did for a thousand Héloises de Lotbinière!"
The poor girl, overpowered by the recollection, hid her face upon
the shoulder of Amélie, and sobbed as if her very heart were
breaking,--as in truth it was.
Amélie, so happy and secure in her own affection, comforted Héloise
with her tears and caresses, but it was only by picturing in her
imagination her own state, should she be so hapless as to lose the
love of Pierre Philibert, that she could realize the depth of misery
and abandonment which filled the bosom of her fair companion.
She was, moreover, struck to the heart by the words of Héloise
regarding the eagerness of her brother to get word of Angélique.
"The Chevalier de Pean might have brought a message, perhaps a love-
token from Angélique to Le Gardeur to draw him back to the city,"
thought she. If so, she felt instinctively that all their efforts
to redeem him would be in vain, and that neither sister's love nor
Pierre's remonstrances would avail to prevent his return. He was
the slave of the lamp and Angélique its possessor.
"Heaven forbid, Héloise!" she said faintly; "Le Gardeur is lost if
he return to the city now! Twice lost--lost as a gentleman, lost as
the lover of a woman who cares for him only as a pastime and as a
foil to her ambitious designs upon the Intendant! Poor Le Gardeur!
what happiness might not be his in the love of a woman noble-minded
as himself! What happiness were he yours, O darling Héloise!" She
kissed her pallid cheeks, wet with tears, which lay by hers on the
same pillow, and both remained silently brooding over the thoughts
which spring from love and sorrow.
"Happiness can never be mine, Amélie," said Héloise, after a lapse
of several minutes. "I have long feared it, now I know it. Le
Gardeur loves Angélique; he is wholly hers, and not one little
corner of his heart is left for poor Héloise to nestle in! I did
not ask much, Amélie, but I have not retained the little interest I
believed was once mine! He has thrown the whole treasure of his
life at her feet. After playing with it, she will spurn it for a
more ambitious alliance! Oh, Amélie!" exclaimed she with vivacity,
"I could be wicked! Heaven forgive me! I could be cruel and
without pity to save Le Gardeur from the wiles of such a woman!"
The night was a stormy one; the east wind, which had lain in a dead
lull through the early hours of the evening, rose in all its
strength at the turn of the tide. It came bounding like the distant
thud of a cannon. It roared and rattled against the windows and
casements of the Manor House, sounding a deep bass in the long
chimneys and howling like souls in torment amid the distant woods.
The rain swept down in torrents, as if the windows of heaven were
opened to wash away the world's defilements. The stout walls of the
Manor House were immovable as rocks, but the wind and the rain and
the noise of the storm struck an awe into the two girls. They crept
closer together in their bed; they dared not separate for the night.
The storm seemed too much the reflex of the agitation of their own
minds, and they lay clasped in each other's arms, mingling their
tears and prayers for Le Gardeur until the gray dawn looked over the
eastern hill and they slept.
The Chevalier de Pean was faithful to the mission upon which he had
been despatched to Tilly. He disliked intensely the return of Le
Gardeur to renew his old ties with Angélique. But it was his fate,
his cursed crook, he called it, ever to be overborne by some woman
or other, and he resolved that Le Gardeur should pay for it with his
money, and be so flooded by wine and debauchery that Angélique
herself would repent that she had ever invited his return.
That she would not marry Le Gardeur was plain enough to De Pean,
who knew her ambitious views regarding the Intendant; and that the
Intendant would not marry her was equally a certainty to him,
although it did not prevent De Pean's entertaining an intense
jealousy of Bigot.
Despite discouraging prospects, he found a consolation in the
reflection that, failing his own vain efforts to please Amélie de
Repentigny for sake of her wealth, the woman he most loved for sake
of her beauty and spirit would yet drop like a golden fleece into
his arms, either through spite at her false lover or through love of
himself. De Pean cared little which, for it was the person, not the
inclination of Angélique, that carried away captive the admiration
of the Chevalier de Pean.
The better to accomplish his crafty design of abducting Le Gardeur,
De Pean had taken up his lodging at the village inn. He knew that
in the polite hospitalities of the Manor House he could find few
opportunities to work upon the susceptible nature of Le Gardeur;
that too many loving eyes would there watch over his safety, and
that he was himself suspected, and his presence only tolerated on
account of the business which had ostensibly brought him there. At
the inn he would be free to work out his schemes, sure of success if
by any means and on any pretence he could draw Le Gardeur thither
and rouse into life and fury the sleeping serpents of his old
propensities,--the love of gaming, the love of wine, and the love
Could Le Gardeur be persuaded to drink a full measure to the bright
eyes of Angélique des Meloises, and could he, when the fire was
kindled, be tempted once more to take in hand the box more fatal
than that of Pandora and place fortune on the turn of a die, De Pean
knew well that no power on earth could stop the conflagration of
every good resolution and every virtuous principle in his mind.
Neither aunt nor sister nor friends could withhold him then! He
would return to the city, where the Grand Company had a use to make
of him which he would never understand until it was too late for
aught but repentance.
De Pean pondered long upon a few words he had one day heard drop
from the lips of Bigot, which meant more, much more, than they
seemed to imply, and they flitted long through his memory like bats
in a room seeking an outlet into the night, ominous of some deed of
De Pean imagined that he had found a way to revenge himself on Le
Gardeur and Amélie--each for thwarting him in a scheme of love or
fortune. He brooded long and malignantly how to hatch the plot
which he fancied was his own, but which had really been conceived in
the deeper brain of Bigot, whose few seemingly harmless words had
dropped into the ear of De Pean, casually as it were, but which
Bigot knew would take root and grow in the congenial soul of his
secretary and one day bring forth terrible fruit.
The next day was wet and autumnal, with a sweeping east wind which
blew raw and gustily over the dark grass and drooping trees that
edged the muddy lane of the village of Tilly.
At the few houses in the village everything was quiet, except at the
old-fashioned inn, with its low, covered gallery and swinging sign
of the Tilly Arms.
There, flitting round the door, or occasionally peering through the
windows of the tap-room, with pipes in their mouths and perchance a
tankard in their hands, were seen the elders of the village,
boatmen, and habitans, making use, or good excuse, of a rainy day
for a social gathering in the dry, snug chimney-corner of the Tilly
In the warmest corner of all, his face aglow with firelight and good
liquor, sat Master Pothier dit Robin, with his gown tucked up to his
waist as he toasted his legs and old gamashes in the genial warmth
of a bright fire.
He leaned back his head and twirled his thumbs for a few minutes
without speaking or listening to the babble around him, which had
now turned upon the war and the latest sweep of the royal
commissaries for corn and cattle. "Did you say, Jean La Marche,"
said he, "that Le Gardeur de Repentigny was playing dice and
drinking hot wine with the Chevalier de Pean and two big dogs of the
"I did." Jean spoke with a choking sensation. "Our young Seigneur
has broken out again wilder than ever, and is neither to hold nor
bind any longer!"
"Ay!" replied Master Pothier reflectively, "the best bond I could
draw would not bind him more than a spider's thread! They are
stiff-necked as bulls, these De Repentignys, and will bear no yoke
but what they put on of themselves! Poor lad! Do they know at the
Manor House that he is here drinking and dicing with the Chevalier
"No! Else all the rain in heaven would not have prevented his being
looked after by Mademoiselle Amélie and my Lady," answered Jean.
"His friend, Pierre Philibert, who is now a great officer of the
King, went last night to Batiscan, on some matter of the army, as
his groom told me. Had he been here, Le Gardeur would not have
spent the day at the Tilly Arms, as we poor habitans do when it is
washing-day at home."
"Pierre Philibert!" Master Pothier rubbed his hands at this
reminder, "I remember him, Jean! A hero like St. Denis! It was he
who walked into the Château of the Intendant and brought off young
De Repentigny as a cat does her kitten."
"What, in his mouth, Master Pothier?"
"None of your quips, Jean; keep cool!" Master Pothier's own face
grew red. "Never ring the coin that is a gift, and do not stretch
my comparisons like your own wit to a bare thread. If I had said in
his mouth, what then? It was by word of mouth, I warrant you, that
he carried him away from Beaumanoir. Pity he is not here to take
him away from the Tilly Arms!"
The sound of voices, the rattle and clash of the dice-box in the
distant parlor, reached his ear amidst the laughter and gabble of
the common room. The night was a hard one in the little inn.
In proportion as the common room of the inn grew quiet by the
departure of its guests, the parlor occupied by the gentlemen became
more noisy and distinct in its confusion. The song, the laugh, the
jest, and jingle of glasses mingled with the perpetual rattle of
dice or the thumps which accompanied the play of successful cards.
Paul Gaillard, the host, a timid little fellow not used to such high
imperious guests, only ventured to look into the parlor when
summoned for more wine. He was a born censitaire of the house of
Tilly, and felt shame and pity as he beheld the dishevelled figure
of his young Seigneur shaking the dice-box and defying one and all
to another cast for love, liquor, or whole handfuls of uncounted
Paul Gaillard had ventured once to whisper something to Le Gardeur
about sending his calèche to the Manor House, hoping that his
youthful master would consent to be driven home. But his proposal
was met by a wild laugh from Le Gardeur and a good-humored expulsion
from the room.
He dared not again interfere, but contented himself with waiting
until break of day to send a message to the Lady de Tilly informing
her of the sad plight of his young master.
De Pean, with a great object in view, had summoned Le Mercier and
Emeric de Lantagnac from the city,--potent topers and hard players,--
to assist him in his desperate game for the soul, body, and fortune
of Le Gardeur de Repentigny.
They came willingly. The Intendant had laughingly wished them bon
voyage and a speedy return with his friend Le Gardeur, giving them
no other intimation of his wishes; nor could they surmise that he
had any other object in view than the pleasure of again meeting a
pleasant companion of his table and a sharer of their pleasures.
De Pean had no difficulty in enticing Le Gardeur down to the village
inn, where he had arranged that he should meet, by mere accident, as
it were, his old city friends.
The bold, generous nature of Le Gardeur, who neither suspected nor
feared any evil, greeted them with warmth. They were jovial
fellows, he knew, who would be affronted if he refused to drink a
cup of wine with them. They talked of the gossip of the city, its
coteries and pleasant scandals, and of the beauty and splendor of
the queen of society--Angélique des Meloises.
Le Gardeur, with a painful sense of his last interview with
Angélique, and never for a moment forgetting her reiterated words,
"I love you, Le Gardeur, but I will not marry you," kept silent
whenever she was named, but talked with an air of cheerfulness on
every other topic.
His one glass of wine was soon followed by another. He was pressed
with such cordiality that he could not refuse. The fire was
rekindled, at first with a faint glow upon his cheek and a sparkle
in his eye; but the table soon overflowed with wine, mirth, and
laughter. He drank without reflection, and soon spoke with warmth
and looseness from all restraint.
De Pean, resolved to excite Le Gardeur to the utmost, would not
cease alluding to Angélique. He recurred again and again to the
splendor of her charms and the fascination of her ways. He watched
the effect of his speech upon the countenance of Le Gardeur, keenly
observant of every expression of interest excited by the mention of
"We will drink to her bright eyes," exclaimed De Pean, filling his
glass until it ran over, "first in beauty and worthy to be first in
place in New France--yea, or Old France either! and he is a heathen
who will not drink this toast!"
"Le Gardeur will not drink it! Neither would I, in his place,"
replied Emeric de Lantagnac, too drunk now to mind what he said.
"I would drink to the bright eyes of no woman who had played me the
trick Angélique has played upon Le Gardeur!"
"What trick has she played upon me?" repeated Le Gardeur, with a
touch of anger.
"Why, she has jilted you, and now flies at higher game, and nothing
but a prince of the blood will satisfy her!"
"Does she say that, or do you invent it?" Le Gardeur was almost
choking with angry feelings. Emeric cared little what he said,
drunk or sober. He replied gravely,--
"Oh, all the women in the city say she said it! But you know, Le
Gardeur, women will lie of one another faster than a man can count a
hundred by tens."
De Pean, while enjoying the vexation of Le Gardeur, feared that the
banter of Emeric might have an ill effect on his scheme. "I do not
believe it, Le Gardeur;" said he, "Angélique is too true a woman to
say what she means to every jealous rival. The women hope she has
jilted you. That counts one more chance for them, you know! Is not
that feminine arithmetic, Le Mercier?" asked he.
"It is at the Friponne," replied Le Mercier, laughing. "But the man
who becomes debtor to Angélique des Meloises will never, if I know
her, be discharged out of her books, even if he pay his debt."
"Ay, they say she never lets a lover go, or a friend either,"
replied De Pean. "I have proof to convince Le Gardeur that
Angélique has not jilted him. Emeric reports women's tattle,
Le Gardeur was thoroughly roused. "Par Dieu!" exclaimed he, "my
affairs are well talked over in the city, I think! Who gave man or
woman the right to talk of me thus?"
"No one gave them the right. But the women claim it indefeasibly
from Eve, who commenced talking of Adam's affairs with Satan the
first time her man's back was turned."
"Pshaw! Angélique des Meloises is as sensible as she is beautiful:
she never said that! No, par Dieu! she never said to a man or woman
that she had jilted me, or gave reason for others to say so!"
Le Gardeur in his vexation poured out with nervous hand a large
glass of pure brandy and drank it down. It had an instant effect.
His forehead flushed, and his eyes dilated with fresh fire. "She
never said that!" repeated he fiercely. "I would swear it on my
mother's head, she never did! and would kill any man who would dare
affirm it of her!"
"Right! the way to win a woman is never to give her up," answered De
Pean. "Hark you, Le Gardeur, all the city knows that she favored
you more than any of the rest of her legion of admirers. Why are
you moping away your time here at Tilly when you ought to be running
down your game in the city?"
"My Atalanta is too fleet of foot for me, De Pean," replied Le
Gardeur. "I have given up the chase. I have not the luck of
"That is, she is too fast!" said De Pean mockingly. "But have you
thrown a golden apple at her feet to stop your runaway nymph?"
"I have thrown myself at her feet, De Pean! and in vain," said Le
Gardeur, gulping down another cup of brandy.
De Pean watched the effect of the deep potations which Le Gardeur
now poured down to quench the rising fires kindled in his breast.
"Come here, Le Gardeur," said he; "I have a message for you which I
would not deliver before, lest you might be angry."
De Pean led him into a recess of the room. "You are wanted in the
city," whispered he. "Angélique sent this little note by me. She
put it in my hand as I was embarking for Tilly, and blushed redder
than a rose as she did so. I promised to deliver it safely to you."
It was a note quaintly folded in a style Le Gardeur recognized well,
inviting him to return to the city. Its language was a mixture of
light persiflage and tantalizing coquetry,--she was dying of the
dullness of the city! The late ball at the Palace had been a
failure, lacking the presence of Le Gardeur! Her house was forlorn
without the visits of her dear friend, and she wanted his trusty
counsel in an affair of the last importance to her welfare and
"That girl loves you, and you may have her for the asking!"
continued De Pean, as Le Gardeur sat crumpling the letter up in his
hand. De Pean watched his countenance with the eye of a basilisk.
"Do you think so?" asked Le Gardeur eagerly. "But no, I have no
more faith in woman; she does not mean it!"
"But if she does mean it, would you go, Le Gardeur?"
"Would I go?" replied he, excitedly. "Yes, I would go to the lowest
pit in hell for her! But why are you taunting me, De Pean!"
"I taunt you? Read her note again! She wants your trusty counsel
in an affair of the last importance to her welfare and happiness.
You know what is the affair of last importance to a woman! Will you
refuse her now, Le Gardeur?"
"No, par Dieu! I can refuse her nothing; no, not if she asked me
for my head, although I know it is but mockery."
"Never mind! Then you will return with us to the city? We start at
"Yes, I will go with you, De Pean; you have made me drunk, and I am
willing to stay drunk till I leave Amélie and my aunt and Héloise,
up at the Manor House. Pierre Philibert, he will be angry that I
leave him, but he can follow, and they can all follow! I hate
myself for it, De Pean! But Angélique des Meloises is to me more
than creature or Creator. It is a sin to love a woman as I love
her, De Pean!"
De Pean fairly writhed before the spirit he evoked. He was not so
sure of his game but that it might yet be lost. He knew Angélique's
passionate impulses, and he thought that no woman could resist such
devotion as that of Le Gardeur.
He kept down his feelings, however. He saw that Le Gardeur was ripe
for ruin. They returned to the table and drank still more freely.
Dice and cards were resumed; fresh challenges were thrown out;
Emeric and Le Mercier were already deep in a game; money was pushed
to and fro. The contagion fastened like a plague upon Le Gardeur,
who sat down at the table, drew forth a full purse, and pulling up
every anchor of restraint, set sail on the flood-tide of drinking
and gaming which lasted without ceasing until break of day.
De Pean never for a moment lost sight of his scheme for the
abduction of Le Gardeur. He got ready for departure, and with a
drunken rush and a broken song the four gallants, with unwashed
faces and disordered clothes, staggered into their canoe and with a
shout bade the boatmen start.
The hardy canotiers were ready for departure. They headed their
long canoes down the flowing river, dashed their paddles into the
water just silvered with the rays of the rising sun, and shot down
stream towards the city of Quebec.
De Pean, elate with his success, did not let the gaiety of the party
flag for a moment during their return. They drank, sang, and talked
balderdash and indecencies in a way to bring a look of disgust upon
the cheeks of the rough boatmen.
Much less sober than when they left Tilly, the riotous party reached
the capital. The canotiers with rapid strokes of the paddle passed
the high cliffs and guarded walls, and made for the quay of the
Friponne, De Pean forcing silence upon his companions as they passed
the Sault au Matelot, where a crowd of idle boatmen hailed them with
volleys of raillery, which only ceased when the canoe was near
enough for them to see whom it contained. They were instantly
silent. The rigorous search made by order of the Intendant after
the late rioters, and the summary punishment inflicted upon all who
had been convicted, had inspired a careful avoidance of offence
toward Bigot and the high officers of his staff.
De Pean landed quietly, few caring to turn their heads too often
towards him. Le Gardeur, wholly under his control, staggered out of
the canoe, and, taking his arm, was dragged rather than led up to
the Palace, where Bigot greeted the party with loud welcome.
Apartments were assigned to Le Gardeur, as to a most honored guest
in the Palace. Le Gardeur de Repentigny was finally and wholly in
the power of the Intendant.
Bigot looked triumphant, and congratulated De Pean on the success of
his mission. "We will keep him now!" said he. "Le Gardeur must
never draw a sober breath again until we have done with him!"
De Pean looked knowingly at Bigot; "I understand," said he; "Emeric
and Le Mercier will drink him blind, and Cadet, Varin, and the rest
of us will rattle the dice like hail. We must pluck the pigeon to
his last feather before he will feel desperate enough to play your
"As you like, De Pean, about that," replied Bigot; "only mind that
he does not leave the Palace. His friends will run after him. That
accursed Philibert will be here; on your life, do not let him see
him! Hark you! When he comes, make Le Gardeur affront him by some
offensive reply to his inquiry. You can do it."
De Pean took the hint, and acted upon it by forging that infamous
card in the name of Le Gardeur, and sending it as his reply to
La Corriveau, eager to commence her work of wickedness, took up her
abode at the house of her ancient friend, Mère Malheur, whither she
went on the night of her first interview with Angélique.
It was a small house, built of uncut stones, with rough stone steps
and lintels, a peaked roof, and low overhanging eaves, hiding itself
under the shadow of the cliff, so closely that it seemed to form a
part of the rock itself.
Its sole inmate, an old crone who had reached the last degree of
woman's ugliness and woman's heartlessness,--Mère Malheur--sold
fair winds to superstitious sailors and good luck to hunters and
voyageurs. She was not a little suspected of dabbling in other
forbidden things. Half believing in her own impostures, she
regarded La Corriveau with a feeling akin to worship, who in return
for this devotion imparted to her a few secrets of minor importance
in her diabolic arts.
La Corriveau was ever a welcome guest at the house of Mère Malheur,
who feasted her lavishly, and served her obsequiously, but did not
press with undue curiosity to learn her business in the city. The
two women understood one another well enough not to pry too closely
into each other's secrets.
On this occasion La Corriveau was more than usually reserved, and
while Mère Malheur eagerly detailed to her all the doings and
undoings that had happened in her circle of acquaintance, she got
little information in return. She shrewdly concluded that La
Corriveau had business on hand which would not bear to be spoken of.
"When you need my help, ask for it without scruple, Dame Dodier,"
said the old crone. "I see you have something on hand that may need
my aid. I would go into the fire to serve you, although I would not
burn my finger for any other woman in the world, and you know it."
"Yes, I know it, Mère Malheur," La Corriveau spoke with an air of
superiority, "and you say rightly: I have something on hand which I
cannot accomplish alone, and I need your help, although I cannot
tell you yet how or against whom."
"Is it a woman or a man? I will only ask that question, Dame
Dodier," said the crone, turning upon her a pair of green,
"It is a woman, and so of course you will help me. Our sex for the
bottom of all mischief, Mère Malheur! I do not know what women are
made for except to plague one another for the sake of worthless
The old crone laughed a hideous laugh, and playfully pushed her long
fingers into the ribs of La Corriveau. "Made for! quotha! men's
temptation, to be sure, and the beginning of all mischief!"
"Pretty temptations you and I are, Mère Malheur!" replied La
Corriveau, with a scornful laugh.
"Well, we were pretty temptations once! I will never give up that!
You must own, Dame Dodier, we were both pretty temptations once!"
"Pshaw! I wish I had been a man, for my part," replied La
Corriveau, impetuously. "It was a spiteful cross of fate to make
me a woman!"
"But, Dame Dodier, I like to be a woman, I do. A man cannot be half
as wicked as a woman, especially if she be young and pretty," said
the old woman, laughing till the tears ran out of her bleared eyes.
"Nay, that is true, Mère Malheur; the fairest women in the world are
ever the worst! fair and false! fair and false! they are always so.
Not one better than another. Satan's mark is upon all of us!" La
Corriveau looked an incarnation of Hecate as she uttered this
calumny upon her sex.
"Ay, I have his mark on my knee, Dame Dodier," replied the crone.
"See here! It was pricked once in the high court of Arras, but the
fool judge decided that it was a mole, and not a witch-mark! I
escaped a red gown that time, however. I laughed at his stupidity,
and bewitched him for it in earnest. I was young and pretty then!
He died in a year, and Satan sat on his grave in the shape of a
black cat until his friends set a cross over it. I like to be a
woman, I do, it is so easy to be wicked, and so nice! I always tell
the girls that, and they give me twice as much as if I had told them
to be good and nice, as they call it! Pshaw! Nice! If only men
knew us as we really are!"
"Well, I do not like women, Mère Malheur," replied La Corriveau;
"they sneer at you and me and call us witch and sorceress, and they
will lie, steal, kill, and do worse themselves for the sake of one
man to-day, and cast him off for sake of another to-morrow! Wise
Solomon found only one good woman in a thousand; the wisest man now
finds not one in a worldful! It were better all of us were dead,
Mère Malheur; but pour me out a glass of wine, for I am tired of
tramping in the dark to the house of that gay lady I told you of."
Mère Malheur poured out a glass of choice Beaume from a dame-jeanne
which she had received from a roguish sailor, who had stolen it from
"But you have not told me who she is, Dame Dodier," replied Mère
Malheur, refilling the glass of La Corriveau.
"Nor will I yet. She is fit to be your mistress and mine, whoever
she is; but I shall not go again to see her."
And La Corriveau did not again visit the house of Angélique. She
had received from her precise information respecting the movements
of the Intendant. He had gone to the Trois Rivières on urgent
affairs, and might be absent for a week.
Angélique had received from Varin, in reply to her eager question
for news, a short, falsified account of the proceedings in the
Council relative to Caroline and of Bigot's indignant denial of all
knowledge of her.
Varin, as a member of the Council, dared not reveal the truth, but
would give his familiars half-hints, or tell to others elaborate
lies, when pressed for information. He did not, in this case, even
hint at the fact that a search was to be made for Caroline. Had he
done so, Angélique would herself have given secret information to
the Governor to order the search of Beaumanoir, and thus got her
rival out of the way without trouble, risk, or crime.
But it was not to be. The little word that would have set her
active spirit on fire to aid in the search for Caroline was not
spoken, and her thoughts remained immovably fixed upon her death.
But if Angélique had been misled by Varin as to what had passed at
the Council, Mère Malheur, through her intercourse with a servant of
Varin, had learned the truth. An eavesdropping groom had overheard
his master and the Intendant conversing on the letters of the Baron
and La Pompadour. The man told his sweetheart, who, coming with
some stolen sweetmeats to Mère Malheur, told her, who in turn was
not long in imparting what she had heard to La Corriveau.
La Corriveau did not fail to see that, should Angélique discover
that her rival was to be searched for, and taken to France if found,
she would at once change her mind, and Caroline would be got rid of
without need of her interference. But La Corriveau had got her hand
in the dish. She was not one to lose her promised reward or miss
the chance of so cursed a deed by any untimely avowal of what she
So Angélique was doomed to remain in ignorance until too late. She
became the dupe of her own passions and the dupe of La Corriveau,
who carefully concealed from her a secret so important.
Bigot's denial in the Council weighed nothing with her. She felt
certain that the lady was no other than Caroline de St. Castin.
Angélique was acute enough to perceive that Bigot's bold assertion
that he knew nothing of her bound him in a chain of obligation never
to confess afterwards aught to the contrary. She eagerly persuaded
herself that he would not regret to hear that Caroline had died by
some sudden and, to appearance, natural death, and thus relieved him
of a danger, and her of an obstacle to her marriage.
Without making a full confidant of Mère Malheur, La Corriveau
resolved to make use of her in carrying out her diabolical scheme.
Mère Malheur had once been a servant at Beaumanoir. She knew the
house, and in her heyday of youth and levity had often smuggled
herself in and out by the subterranean passage which connected the
solitary watchtower with the vaults of the Château. Mère Malheur
knew Dame Tremblay, who, as the Charming Josephine, had often
consulted her upon the perplexities of a heart divided among too
The memory of that fragrant period of her life was the freshest and
pleasantest of all Dame Tremblay's experience. It was like the odor
of new-mown hay, telling of early summer and frolics in the green
fields. She liked nothing better than to talk it all over in her
snug room with Mère Malheur, as they sat opposite one another at her
little table, each with a cup of tea in her hand, well laced with
brandy, which was a favorite weakness of them both.
Dame Tremblay was, in private, neither nice nor squeamish as to the
nature of her gossip. She and the old fortune-teller, when out of
sight of the rest of the servants, had always a dish of the choicest
scandal fresh from the city.
La Corriveau resolved to send Mère Malheur to Beaumanoir, under the
pretence of paying a visit to Dame Tremblay, in order to open a way
of communication between herself and Caroline. She had learned
enough during her brief interview with Caroline in the forest of St.
Valier, and from what she now heard respecting the Baron de St.
Castin, to convince her that this was no other than his missing
"If Caroline could only be induced to admit La Corriveau into her
secret chamber and take her into her confidence, the rest--all the
rest," muttered the hag to herself, with terrible emphasis, "would
be easy, and my reward sure. But that reward shall be measured in
my own bushel, not in yours, Mademoiselle des Meloises, when the
deed is done!"
La Corriveau knew the power such a secret would enable her to
exercise over Angélique. She already regarded the half of her
reputed riches as her own. "Neither she nor the Intendant will ever
dare neglect me after that!" said she. "When once Angélique shall
be linked in with me by a secret compact of blood, the fortune of La
Corriveau is made. If the death of this girl be the elixir of life
to you, it shall be the touchstone of fortune forever to La
Mère Malheur was next day despatched on a visit to her old gossip,
Dame Tremblay. She had been well tutored on every point, what to
say and how to demean herself. She bore a letter to Caroline,
written in the Italian hand of La Corriveau, who had learned to
write well from her mother, Marie Exili.
The mere possession of the art of writing was a rarity in those days
in the class among whom she lived. La Corriveau's ability to write
at all was a circumstance as remarkable to her illiterate neighbors
as the possession of the black art which they ascribed to her, and
not without a strong suspicion that it had the same origin.
Mère Malheur, in anticipation of a cup of tea and brandy with Dame
Tremblay, had dressed herself with some appearance of smartness in a
clean striped gown of linsey. A peaked Artois hat surmounted a
broad-frilled cap, which left visible some tresses of coarse gray
hair and a pair of silver ear-rings, which dangled with every motion
of her head. Her shoes displayed broad buckles of brass, and her
short petticoat showed a pair of stout ankles enclosed in red
clocked stockings. She carried a crutched stick in her hand, by
help of which she proceeded vigorously on her journey.
Starting in the morning, she trudged out of the city towards the
ferry of Jean Le Nocher, who carefully crossed himself and his boat
too as he took Mère Malheur on board. He wafted her over in a
hurry, as something to be got rid of as quickly as possible.
Mère Malheur tramped on, like a heavy gnome, through the fallen and
flying leaves of the woods of Beaumanoir, caring nothing for the
golden, hazy sky, the soft, balmy air, or the varicolored leaves--
scarlet, yellow, and brown, of every shade and tinge--that hung upon
the autumnal trees.
A frosty night or two had ushered in the summer of St. Martin, as it
was called by the habitans,--the Indian summer,--that brief time of
glory and enchantment which visits us like a gaudy herald to
announce the approach of the Winter King. It is Nature's last
rejoicing in the sunshine and the open air, like the splendor and
gaiety of a maiden devoted to the cloister, who for a few weeks is
allowed to flutter like a bird of paradise amid the pleasures and
gaieties of the world, and then comes the end. Her locks of pride
are shorn off; she veils her beauty, and kneels a nun on the cold
stones of her passionless cell, out of which, even with repentance,
there comes no deliverance.
Mère Malheur's arrival at Beaumanoir was speedily known to all the
servants of the Château. She did not often visit them, but when she
did there was a hurried recital of an Ave or two to avert any harm,
followed by a patronizing welcome and a rummage for small coins to
cross her hand withal in return for her solutions of the grave
questions of love, jealousy, money, and marriage, which fermented
secretly or openly in the bosoms of all of them. They were but
human beings, food for imposture, and preyed on by deceivers. The
visit of Mère Malheur was an event of interest in both kitchen and
laundry of the Château.
Dame Tremblay had the first claim, however, upon this singular
visitor. She met her at the back door of the Château, and with a
face beaming with smiles, and dropping all dignity, exclaimed,--
"Mère Malheur, upon my life! Welcome, you wicked old soul! you
surely knew I wanted to see you! come in and rest! you must be
tired, unless you came on a broom! ha! ha! come to my room and never
This last remark was made for the benefit of the servants who stood
peeping at every door and corner, not daring to speak to the old
woman in the presence of the housekeeper, but knowing that their
time would come, they had patience.
The housekeeper, giving them a severe look, proceeded to her own
snug apartment, followed by the crone, whom she seated in her
easiest chair and proceeded to refresh with a glass of cognac, which
was swallowed with much relish and wiping of lips, accompanied by a
little artificial cough. Dame Tremblay kept a carafe of it in her
room to raise the temperature of her low spirits and vapors to
summer heat, not that she drank, far from it, but she liked to sip
a little for her stomach's sake.
"It is only a thimbleful I take now and then," she said. "When I
was the Charming Josephine I used to kiss the cups I presented to
the young gallants, and I took no more than a fly! but they always
drank bumpers from the cup I kissed!" The old dame looked grave as
she shook her head and remarked, "But we cannot be always young and
handsome, can we, Mère Malheur?"
"No, dame, but we can be jolly and fat, and that is what we are!
You don't quaff life by thimblefuls, and you only want a stout offer
to show the world that you can trip as briskly to church yet as any
girl in New France!"
The humor of the old crone convulsed Dame Tremblay with laughter, as
if some invisible fingers were tickling her wildly under the
She composed herself at last, and drawing her chair close to that of
Mère Malheur, looked her inquiringly in the face and asked, "What is
Dame Tremblay was endowed with more than the ordinary curiosity of
her sex. She knew more news of city and country than any one else,
and she dispensed it as freely as she gathered. She never let her
stock of gossip run low, and never allowed man or woman to come to
speak with her without pumping them dry of all they knew. A secret
in anybody's possession set her wild to possess it, and she gave no
rest to her inordinate curiosity until she had fished it out of even
the muddiest waters.
The mystery that hung around Caroline was a source of perpetual
irritation to the nerves of Dame Tremblay. She had tried as far as
she dared by hint and suggestion to draw from the lady some
reference to her name and family, but in vain. Caroline would avow
nothing, and Dame Tremblay, completely baffled by a failure of
ordinary means to find out the secret, bethought herself of her old
resource in case of perplexity, Mère Malheur.
For several days she had been brooding over this mode of satisfying
her curiosity, when the unexpected visit of Mère Malheur set aside
all further hesitation about disobeying the Intendant's orders not
to inquire or allow any other person to make inquisition respecting