THE GOLDEN DOG. (LE CHIEN D'OR.)
By William Kirby
AUTHOR'S PREFATORY NOTE.
TO THE PUBLIC:
In the year 1877 the first edition of "The Golden Dog" (Le Chien d'Or) was brought out in the United States, entirely without my knowledge or sanction. Owing to the inadequacy of the then existing copyright laws, I have been powerless to prevent its continued publication, which I understand to have been a successful and profitable undertaking for all concerned, except the author, the book having gone through many editions.
It was, consequently, a source of gratification to me when I was approached by Messrs. L. C. Page & Company, of Boston, with a request to revise "The Golden Dog," and re-publish it through them. The result is the present edition, which I have corrected and revised in the light of the latest developments in the history of Quebec, and which is the only edition offered to my readers with the sanction and approval of its author.
Niagara, Canada, May, 1897.
I. MEN OF THE OLD REGIME
II. THE WALLS OF QUEBEC
III. A CHATELAINE OF NEW FRANCE
V. THE ITINERANT NOTARY
VII. THE INTENDANT BIGOT
VIII. CAROLINE DE ST. CASTIN
IX. PIERRE PHILIBERT
X. AMELIE DE REPENTIGNY
XI. THE SOLDIER'S WELCOME
XII. THE CASTLE OF ST. LOUIS
XIII. THE CHIEN D'OR
XIV. THE COUNCIL OF WAR
XV. THE CHARMING JOSEPHINE
XVI. ANGELIQUE DES MELOISES
XVII. SPLENDIDE MENDAX
XVIII. THE MEROVINGIAN PRINCESS
XIX. PUT MONEY IN THY PURSE
XXI. SIC ITUR AD ASTRA
XXII. SO GLOZED THE TEMPTER
XXIII. SEALS OF LOVE, BUT SEALED IN VAIN
XXIV. THE HURRIED QUESTION OF DESPAIR
XXV. BETWIXT THE LAST VIOLET AND THE EARLIEST ROSE
XXVI. THE CANADIAN BOAT SONG
XXVII. CHEERFUL YESTERDAYS AND CONFIDENT TO-MORROWS
XXVIII. A DAY AT THE MANOR HOUSE
XXIX. FELICES TER ET AMPLIUS
XXX. "NO SPEECH OF SILK WILL SERVE YOUR TURN"
XXXI. THE BALL AT THE INTENDANT'S PALACE
XXXII. "ON WITH THE DANCE"
XXXIII. LA CORRIVEAU
XXXIV. WEIRD SISTERS
XXXV. "FLASKETS OF DRUGS, FULL TO THEIR WICKED LIPS"
XXXVI. THE BROAD, BLACK GATEWAY OF A LIE
XXXVII. ARRIVAL OF PIERRE PHILIBERT
XXXVIII. A WILD NIGHT INDOORS AND OUT
XXXIX. MERE MALHEUR
XL. QUOTH THE RAVEN, "NEVERMORE!"
XLI. A DEED WITHOUT A NAME
XLII. "LET'S TALK OF GRAVES AND WORMS AND EPITAPHS"
XLIII. SILK GLOVES OVER BLOODY HANDS
XLIV. THE INTENDANT'S DILEMMA
XLV. "I WILL FEED FAT THE ANCIENT GRUDGE I BEAR HIM"
XLVI. THE BOURGEOIS PHILIBERT
XLVII. A DRAWN GAME
XLVIII. "IN GOLD CLASPS LOCKS IN THE GOLDEN STORY"
XLIX. THE MARKET-PLACE ON ST. MARTIN'S DAY
L. "BLESSED THEY WHO DIE DOING THY WILL"
LI. EVIL NEWS RIDES POST
LII. THE LAMP OF REPENTIGNY
LIII. "LOVELY IN DEATH THE BEAUTEOUS RUIN LAY"
LIV. "THE MILLS OF GOD GRIND SLOWLY"
THE GOLDEN DOG.
(LE CHIEN D'OR.)
CHAPTER I. MEN OF THE OLD REGIME.
"'See Naples, and then die!' That was a proud saying, Count, which we used to hear as we cruised under lateen sails about the glorious bay that reflects from its waters the fires of Vesuvius. We believed the boast then, Count. But I say now, 'See Quebec, and live forever!' Eternity would be too short to weary me of this lovely scene—this bright Canadian morning is worthy of Eden, and the glorious landscape worthy of such a sun-rising."
Thus exclaimed a tall, fair Swedish gentleman, his blue eyes sparkling, and every feature glowing with enthusiasm, Herr Peter Kalm, to His Excellency Count de la Galissoniere, Governor of New France, as they stood together on a bastion of the ramparts of Quebec, in the year of grace 1748.
A group of French and Canadian officers, in the military uniforms of Louis XV., stood leaning on their swords, as they conversed gaily together on the broad gravelled walk at the foot of the rampart. They formed the suite in attendance upon the Governor, who was out by sunrise this morning to inspect the work done during the night by the citizens of Quebec and the habitans of the surrounding country, who had been hastily summoned to labor upon the defences of the city.
A few ecclesiastics, in black cassocks, dignitaries of the Church, mingled cheerfully in the conversation of the officers. They had accompanied the Governor, both to show their respect, and to encourage, by their presence and exhortations, the zeal of the colonists in the work of fortifying the capital.
War was then raging between old England and old France, and between New England and New France. The vast region of North America, stretching far into the interior and southwest from Canada to Louisiana, had for three years past been the scene of fierce hostilities between the rival nations, while the savage Indian tribes, ranged on the one side and on the other, steeped their moccasins in the blood of French and English colonists, who, in their turn, became as fierce, and carried on the war as relentlessly, as the savages themselves.
Louisbourg, the bulwark of New France, projecting its mailed arm boldly into the Atlantic, had been cut off by the English, who now overran Acadia, and began to threaten Quebec with invasion by sea and land. Busy rumors of approaching danger were rife in the colony, and the gallant Governor issued orders, which were enthusiastically obeyed, for the people to proceed to the walls and place the city in a state of defence, to bid defiance to the enemy.
Rolland Michel Barrin, Count de la Galissoniere, was remarkable no less for his philosophical attainments, that ranked him high among the savans of the French Academy, than for his political abilities and foresight as a statesman. He felt strongly the vital interests involved in the present war, and saw clearly what was the sole policy necessary for France to adopt in order to preserve her magnificent dominion in North America. His counsels were neither liked nor followed by the Court of Versailles, then sinking fast into the slough of corruption that marked the closing years of the reign of Louis XV.
Among the people who admired deeds more than words the Count was honored as a brave and skilful admiral, who had borne the flag of France triumphantly over the seas, and in the face of her most powerful enemies—the English and Dutch. His memorable repulse of Admiral Byng, eight years after the events here recorded,—which led to the death of that brave and unfortunate officer, who was shot by sentence of court martial to atone for that repulse,—was a glory to France, but to the Count brought after it a manly sorrow for the fate of his opponent, whose death he regarded as a cruel and unjust act, unworthy of the English nation, usually as generous and merciful as it is brave and considerate.
The Governor was already well-advanced in years. He had entered upon the winter of life, that sprinkles the head with snow that never melts, but he was still hale, ruddy, and active. Nature had, indeed, moulded him in an unpropitious hour for personal comeliness, but in compensation had seated a great heart and a graceful mind in a body low of stature, and marked by a slight deformity. His piercing eyes, luminous with intelligence and full of sympathy for everything noble and elevated, overpowered with their fascination the blemishes that a too curious scrutiny might discover upon his figure; while his mobile, handsome lips poured out the natural eloquence of clear thoughts and noble sentiments. The Count grew great while speaking: his listeners were carried away by the magic of his voice and the clearness of his intellect.
He was very happy this morning by the side of his old friend, Peter Kalm, who was paying him a most welcome visit in New France. They had been fellow-students, both at Upsal and at Paris, and loved each other with a cordiality that, like good wine, grew richer and more generous with age.
Herr Kalm, stretching out his arms as if to embrace the lovely landscape and clasp it to his bosom, exclaimed with fresh enthusiasm, "See Quebec, and live forever!"
"Dear Kalm," said the Governor, catching the fervor of his friend, as he rested his hand affectionately on his shoulder, "you are as true a lover of nature as when we sat together at the feet of Linnaeus, our glorious young master, and heard him open up for us the arcana of God's works; and we used to feel like him, too, when he thanked God for permitting him to look into his treasure-house and see the precious things of creation which he had made."
"Till men see Quebec," replied Kalm, "they will not fully realize the meaning of the term, 'God's footstool.' It is a land worth living for!"
"Not only a land to live for, but a land to die for, and happy the man who dies for it! Confess, Kalm,—thou who hast travelled in all lands,—think'st thou not it is indeed worthy of its proud title of New France?"
"It is indeed worthy," replied Kalm; "I see here a scion of the old oak of the Gauls, which, if let grow, will shelter the throne of France itself in an empire wider than Caesar wrested from Ambiotrix."
"Yes," replied the Count, kindling at the words of his friend, "it is old France transplanted, transfigured, and glorified,—where her language, religion, and laws shall be handed down to her posterity, the glory of North America as the mother-land is the glory of Europe!"
The enthusiastic Galissoniere stretched out his hands and implored a blessing upon the land entrusted to his keeping.
It was a glorious morning. The sun had just risen over the hilltops of Lauzon, throwing aside his drapery of gold, purple, and crimson. The soft haze of the summer morning was floating away into nothingness, leaving every object fresh with dew and magnified in the limpid purity of the air.
The broad St. Lawrence, far beneath their feet, was still partially veiled in a thin blue mist, pierced here and there by the tall mast of a King's ship or merchantman lying unseen at anchor; or, as the fog rolled slowly off, a swift canoe might be seen shooting out into a streak of sunshine, with the first news of the morning from the south shore.
Behind the Count and his companions rose the white glistening walls of the Hotel Dieu, and farther off the tall tower of the newly-restored Cathedral, the belfry of the Recollets, and the roofs of the ancient College of the Jesuits. An avenue of old oaks and maples shaded the walk, and in the branches of the trees a swarm of birds fluttered and sang, as if in rivalry with the gay French talk and laughter of the group of officers, who waited the return of the Governor from the bastion where he stood, showing the glories of Quebec to his friend.
The walls of the city ran along the edge of the cliff upwards as they approached the broad gallery and massive front of the Castle of St. Louis, and ascending the green slope of the broad glacis, culminated in the lofty citadel, where, streaming in the morning breeze, radiant in the sunshine, and alone in the blue sky, waved the white banner of France, the sight of which sent a thrill of joy and pride into the hearts of her faithful subjects in the New World.
The broad bay lay before them, round as a shield, and glittering like a mirror as the mist blew off its surface. Behind the sunny slopes of Orleans, which the river encircled in its arms like a giant lover his fair mistress, rose the bold, dark crests of the Laurentides, lifting their bare summits far away along the course of the ancient river, leaving imagination to wander over the wild scenery in their midst—the woods, glens, and unknown lakes and rivers that lay hid far from human ken, or known only to rude savages, wild as the beasts of chase they hunted in those strange regions.
Across the broad valley of the St. Charles, covered with green fields and ripening harvests, and dotted with quaint old homesteads, redolent with memories of Normandy and Brittany, rose a long mountain ridge covered with primeval woods, on the slope of which rose the glittering spire of Charlebourg, once a dangerous outpost of civilization. The pastoral Lairet was seen mingling its waters with the St. Charles in a little bay that preserves the name of Jacques Cartier, who with his hardy companions spent their first winter in Canada on this spot, the guests of the hospitable Donacana, lord of Quebec and of all the lands seen from its lofty cape.
Directly beneath the feet of the Governor, on a broad strip of land that lay between the beach and the precipice, stood the many-gabled Palace of the Intendant, the most magnificent structure in New France. Its long front of eight hundred feet overlooked the royal terraces and gardens, and beyond these the quays and magazines, where lay the ships of Bordeaux, St. Malo, and Havre, unloading the merchandise and luxuries of France in exchange for the more rude, but not less valuable, products of the Colony.
Between the Palace and the Basse Ville the waves at high tide washed over a shingly beach where there were already the beginnings of a street. A few rude inns displayed the sign of the fleur-de-lis or the imposing head of Louis XV. Round the doors of these inns in summer-time might always be found groups of loquacious Breton and Norman sailors in red caps and sashes, voyageurs and canoemen from the far West in half Indian costume, drinking Gascon wine and Norman cider, or the still more potent liquors filled with the fires of the Antilles. The Batture kindled into life on the arrival of the fleet from home, and in the evenings of summer, as the sun set behind the Cote a Bonhomme, the natural magnetism of companionship drew the lasses of Quebec down to the beach, where, amid old refrains of French ditties and the music of violins and tambours de Basque, they danced on the green with the jovial sailors who brought news from the old land beyond the Atlantic.
"Pardon me, gentlemen, for keeping you waiting," said the Governor, as he descended from the bastion and rejoined his suite. "I am so proud of our beautiful Quebec that I can scarcely stop showing off its charms to my friend Herr Kalm, who knows so well how to appreciate them. But," continued he, looking round admiringly on the bands of citizens and habitans who were at work strengthening every weak point in the fortifications, "my brave Canadians are busy as beavers on their dam. They are determined to keep the saucy English out of Quebec. They deserve to have the beaver for their crest, industrious fellows that they are! I am sorry I kept you waiting, however."
"We can never count the moments lost which your Excellency gives to the survey of our fair land," replied the Bishop, a grave, earnest-looking man. "Would that His Majesty himself could stand on these walls and see with his own eyes, as you do, this splendid patrimony of the crown of France. He would not dream of bartering it away in exchange for petty ends and corners of Germany and Flanders, as is rumored, my Lord."
"True words and good, my Lord Bishop," replied the Governor; "the retention of all Flanders now in the strong hands of the Marshal de Saxe would be a poor compensation for the surrender of a glorious land like this to the English."
Flying rumors of some such proposal on the part of France had reached the Colony, with wild reports arising out of the endless chaffering between the negotiators for peace, who had already assembled at Aix la Chapelle. "The fate of America will one day be decided here," continued the Governor; "I see it written upon this rock, 'Whoever rules Quebec will sway the destinies of the continent.' May our noble France be wise, and understand in time the signs of empire and of supremacy!"
The Bishop looked upwards with a sigh. "Our noble France has not yet read those tokens, or she misunderstands them. Oh, these faithful subjects of hers! Look at them, your Excellency." The Bishop pointed toward the crowd of citizens hard at work on the walls. "There is not a man of them but is ready to risk life and fortune for the honor and dominion of France, and yet they are treated by the Court with such neglect, and burdened with exactions that take from life the sweet reward of labor! They cannot do the impossible that France requires of them—fight her battles, till her fields, and see their bread taken from them by these new ordinances of the Intendant."
"Well, my Lord," replied the Governor, affecting a jocularity he did not feel, for he knew how true were the words of the Bishop, "we must all do our duty, nevertheless: if France requires impossibilities of us, we must perform them! That is the old spirit! If the skies fall upon our heads, we must, like true Gauls, hold them up on the points of our lances! What say you, Rigaud de Vaudreuil? Cannot one Canadian surround ten New Englanders?" The Governor alluded to an exploit of the gallant officer whom he turned to address.
"Probatum est, your Excellency! I once with six hundred Canadians surrounded all New England. Prayers were put up in all the churches of Boston for deliverance when we swept the Connecticut from end to end with a broom of fire."
"Brave Rigaud! France has too few like you!" remarked the Governor with a look of admiration.
Rigaud bowed, and shook his head modestly. "I trust she has ten thousand better;" but added, pointing at his fellow-officers who stood conversing at a short distance, "Marshal de Saxe has few the equals of these in his camp, my Lord Count!" And well was the compliment deserved: they were gallant men, intelligent in looks, polished in manners, and brave to a fault, and all full of that natural gaiety that sits so gracefully on a French soldier.
Most of them wore the laced coat and waistcoat, chapeau, boots, lace ruffles, sash, and rapier of the period—a martial costume befitting brave and handsome men. Their names were household words in every cottage in New France, and many of them as frequently spoken of in the English Colonies as in the streets of Quebec.
There stood the Chevalier de Beaujeu, a gentleman of Norman family, who was already famed upon the frontier, and who, seven years later, in the forests of the Monongahela, crowned a life of honor by a soldier's death on the bloody field won from the unfortunate Braddock, defeating an army ten times more numerous than his own.
Talking gayly with De Beaujeu were two gallant-looking young men of a Canadian family which, out of seven brothers, lost six slain in the service of their King—Jumonville de Villiers, who was afterwards, in defiance of a flag of truce, shot down by order of Colonel Washington, in the far-off forests of the Alleghenies, and his brother, Coulon de Villiers, who received the sword of Washington when he surrendered himself and garrison prisoners of war, at Fort Necessity, in 1754.
Coulon de Villiers imposed ignominious conditions of surrender upon Washington, but scorned to take other revenge for the death of his brother. He spared the life of Washington, who lived to become the leader and idol of his nation, which, but for the magnanimity of the noble Canadian, might have never struggled into independence.
There stood also the Sieur de Lery, the King's engineer, charged with the fortification of the Colony, a man of Vauban's genius in the art of defence. Had the schemes which he projected, and vainly urged upon the heedless Court of Versailles, been carried into effect, the conquest of New France would have been an impossibility.
Arm in arm with De Lery, in earnest conversation, walked the handsome Claude de Beauharnais,—brother of a former Governor of the Colony,—a graceful, gallant-looking soldier. De Beauharnais was the ancestor of a vigorous and beautiful race, among whose posterity was the fair Hortense de Beauharnais, who in her son, Napoleon III., seated an offshoot of Canada upon the imperial throne of France long after the abandonment of their ancient colony by the corrupt House of Bourbon.
Conspicuous among the distinguished officers by his tall, straight figure and quick movements, was the Chevalier La Corne St. Luc, supple as an Indian, and almost as dark, from exposure to the weather and incessant campaigning. He was fresh from the blood and desolation of Acadia, where France, indeed, lost her ancient colony, but St. Luc reaped a full sheaf of glory at Grand Pre, in the Bay of Minas, by the capture of an army of New Englanders. The rough old soldier was just now all smiles and gaiety, as he conversed with Monseigneur de Pontbriant, the venerable Bishop of Quebec, and Father de Berey, the Superior of the Recollets.
The Bishop, a wise ruler of his Church, was also a passionate lover of his country: the surrender of Quebec to the English broke his heart, and he died a few months after the announcement of the final cession of the Colony.
Father de Berey, a jovial monk, wearing the gray gown and sandals of the Recollets, was renowned throughout New France for his wit more than for his piety. He had once been a soldier, and he wore his gown, as he had worn his uniform, with the gallant bearing of a King's Guardsman. But the people loved him all the more for his jests, which never lacked the accompaniment of genuine charity. His sayings furnished all New France with daily food for mirth and laughter, without detracting an iota of the respect in which the Recollets were held throughout the colony.
Father Glapion, the Superior of the Jesuits, also accompanied the Bishop. His close, black soutane contrasted oddly with the gray, loose gown of the Recollet. He was a meditative, taciturn man,—seeming rather to watch the others than to join in the lively conversation that went on around him. Anything but cordiality and brotherly love reigned between the Jesuits and the Order of St. Francis, but the Superiors were too wary to manifest towards each other the mutual jealousies of their subordinates.
The long line of fortifications presented a stirring appearance that morning. The watch-fires that had illuminated the scene during the night were dying out, the red embers paling under the rays of the rising sun. From a wide circle surrounding the city the people had come in—many were accompanied by their wives and daughters—to assist in making the bulwark of the Colony impregnable against the rumored attack of the English.
The people of New France, taught by a hundred years of almost constant warfare with the English and with the savage nations on their frontiers, saw as clearly as the Governor that the key of French dominion hung inside the walls of Quebec, and that for an enemy to grasp it was to lose all they valued as subjects of the Crown of France.
CHAPTER II. THE WALLS OF QUEBEC.
Count de la Galissoniere, accompanied by his distinguished attendants, proceeded again on their round of inspection. They were everywhere saluted with heads uncovered, and welcomed by hearty greetings. The people of New France had lost none of the natural politeness and ease of their ancestors, and, as every gentleman of the Governor's suite was at once recognized, a conversation, friendly even to familiarity, ensued between them and the citizens and habitans, who worked as if they were building their very souls into the walls of the old city.
"Good morning, Sieur de St. Denis!" gaily exclaimed the Governor to a tall, courtly gentleman, who was super-intending the labor of a body of his censitaires from Beauport. "'Many hands make light work,' says the proverb. That splendid battery you are just finishing deserves to be called Beauport. What say you, my Lord Bishop?" turning to the smiling ecclesiastic. "Is it not worthy of baptism?"
"Yes, and blessing both; I give it my episcopal benediction," replied the Bishop, "and truly I think most of the earth of it is taken from the consecrated ground of the Hotel Dieu—it will stand fire!"
"Many thanks, my Lord!"—the Sieur de St. Denis bowed very low—"where the Church bars the door Satan will never enter, nor the English either! Do you hear, men?" continued he, turning to his censitaires, "my Lord Bishop christens our battery Beauport, and says it will stand fire!"
"Vive le Roi!" was the response, an exclamation that came spontaneously to the lips of all Frenchmen on every emergency of danger or emotion of joy.
A sturdy habitan came forward, and doffing his red tuque or cap, addressed the Governor: "This is a good battery, my Lord Governor, but there ought to be one as good in our village. Permit us to build one and man it, and we promise your Excellency that no Englishman shall ever get into the back door of Quebec while we have lives to defend it." The old habitan had the eye of a soldier—he had been one. The Governor knew the value of the suggestion, and at once assented to it, adding, "No better defenders of the city could be found anywhere than the brave habitans of Beauport."
The compliment was never forgotten; and years afterwards, when Wolfe besieged the city, the batteries of Beauport repelled the assault of his bravest troops, and well-nigh broke the heart of the young hero over the threatened defeat of his great undertaking, as his brave Highlanders and grenadiers lay slain by hundreds upon the beach of Beauport.
The countenances of the hardy workers were suddenly covered with smiles of welcome recognition at the sight of the well-known Superior of the Recollets.
"Good morning!" cried out a score of voices; "good morning, Father de Berey! The good wives of Beauport send you a thousand compliments. They are dying to see the good Recollets down our way again. The Gray Brothers have forsaken our parish."
"Ah!" replied the Superior, in a tone of mock severity, while his eyes overran with mirthfulness, "you are a crowd of miserable sinners who will die without benefit of clergy—only you don't know it! Who was it boiled the Easter eggs hard as agates, which you gave to my poor brother Recollets for the use of our convent? Tell me that, pray! All the salts and senna in Quebec have not sufficed to restore the digestion of my poor monks since you played that trick upon them down in your misnamed village of Beauport!"
"Pardon, Reverend Father de Berey!" replied a smiling habitan, "it was not we, but the sacrilegious canaille of St. Anne who boiled the Easter eggs! If you don't believe us, send some of the good Gray Friars down to try our love. See if they do not find everything soft for them at Beauport, from our hearts to our feather beds, to say nothing of our eggs and bacon. Our good wives are fairly melting with longing for a sight of the gray gowns of St. Francis once more in our village."
"Oh! I dare be bound the canaille of St. Anne are lost dogs like yourselves—catuli catulorum."
The habitans thought this sounded like a doxology, and some crossed themselves, amid the dubious laughter of others, who suspected Father de Berey of a clerical jest.
"Oh!" continued he, "if fat Father Ambrose, the cook of the convent, only had you, one at a time, to turn the spit for him, in place of the poor dogs of Quebec, which he has to catch as best he can, and set to work in his kitchen! but, vagabonds that you are, you are rarely set to work now on the King's corvee—all work, little play, and no pay!"
The men took his raillery in excellent part, and one, their spokesman, bowing low to the Superior, said,—"Forgive us all the same, good Father. The hard eggs of Beauport will be soft as lard compared with the iron shells we are preparing for the English breakfast when they shall appear some fine morning before Quebec."
"Ah, well, in that case I must pardon the trick you played upon Brothers Mark and Alexis; and I give you my blessing, too, on condition you send some salt to our convent to cure our fish, and save your reputations, which are very stale just now among my good Recollets."
A general laugh followed this sally, and the Reverend Superior went off merrily, as he hastened to catch up with the Governor, who had moved on to another point in the line of fortifications.
Near the gate of St. John they found a couple of ladies, encouraging by their presence and kind words a numerous party of habitans,—one an elderly lady of noble bearing and still beautiful, the rich and powerful feudal Lady of the Lordship, or Seigniory, of Tilly; the other her orphan niece, in the bloom of youth, and of surpassing loveliness, the fair Amelie de Repentigny, who had loyally accompanied her aunt to the capital with all the men of the Seigniory of Tilly, to assist in the completion of its defences.
To features which looked as if chiselled out of the purest Parian marble, just flushed with the glow of morn, and cut in those perfect lines of proportion which nature only bestows on a few chosen favorites at intervals to show the possibilities of feminine beauty, Amelie de Repentigny added a figure which, in its perfect symmetry, looked smaller than it really was, for she was a tall girl: it filled the eye and held fast the fancy with the charms of a thousand graces as she moved or stood, suggestive of the beauty of a tame fawn, that in all its movements preserves somewhat of the coyness and easy grace of its free life.
Her hair was very dark and thick, matching her deep liquid eyes, that lay for the most part so quietly and restfully beneath their long shading lashes,—eyes gentle, frank, and modest, looking tenderly on all things innocent, fearlessly on all things harmful; eyes that nevertheless noted every change of your countenance, and read unerringly your meaning more from your looks than from your words. Nothing seemed to hide itself from that pure, searching glance when she chose to look at you.
In their depths you might read the tokens of a rare and noble character—a capability of loving which, once enkindled by a worthy object, might make all things that are possible to devoted womanhood possible to this woman, who would not count her life anything either for the man she loved or the cause she espoused. Amelie de Repentigny will not yield her heart without her judgment; but when she does, it will be a royal gift—never to be recalled, never to be repented of, to the end of her life. Happy the man upon whom she shall bestow her affection! It will be his forever. Unhappy all others who may love her! She may pity, but she will listen to no voice but the one which rules her heart, to her life's end!
Both ladies were in mourning, yet dressed with elegant simplicity, befitting their rank and position in society. The Chevalier Le Gardeur de Tilly had fallen two years ago, fighting gallantly for his King and country, leaving a childless widow to manage his vast domain and succeed him as sole guardian of their orphan niece, Amelie de Repentigny, and her brother Le Gardeur, left in infancy to the care of their noble relatives, who in every respect treated them as their own, and who indeed were the legal inheritors of the Lordship of Tilly.
Only a year ago, Amelie had left the ancient Convent of the Ursulines, perfected in all the graces and accomplishments taught in the famous cloister founded by Mere Marie de l'Incarnation for the education of the daughters of New France, generation after generation of whom were trained, according to her precepts, in graces of manner as well as in the learning of the age—the latter might be forgotten; the former, never. As they became the wives and mothers of succeeding times, they have left upon their descendants an impress of politeness and urbanity that distinguishes the people of Canada to this day.
Of all the crowd of fair, eager aspirants contending for honors on the day of examination in the great school, crowns had only been awarded to Amelie and to Angelique des Meloises—two girls equal in beauty, grace, and accomplishments, but unlike in character and in destiny. The currents of their lives ran smoothly together at the beginning. How widely different was to be the ending of them!
The brother of Amelie, Le Gardeur de Repentigny, was her elder by a year—an officer in the King's service, handsome, brave, generous, devoted to his sister and aunt, but not free from some of the vices of the times prevalent among the young men of rank and fortune in the colony, who in dress, luxury, and immorality, strove to imitate the brilliant, dissolute Court of Louis XV.
Amelie passionately loved her brother, and endeavored—not without success, as is the way with women—to blind herself to his faults. She saw him seldom, however, and in her solitary musings in the far-off Manor House of Tilly, she invested him with all the perfections he did and did not possess; and turned a deaf, almost an angry ear, to tales whispered in his disparagement.
CHAPTER III. A CHATELAINE OF NEW FRANCE.
The Governor was surprised and delighted to encounter Lady de Tilly and her fair niece, both of whom were well known to and highly esteemed by him. He and the gentlemen of his suite saluted them with profound respect, not unmingled with chivalrous admiration for noble, high-spirited women.
"My honored Lady de Tilly and Mademoiselle de Repentigny," said the Governor, hat in hand, "welcome to Quebec. It does not surprise, but it does delight me beyond measure to meet you here at the head of your loyal censitaires. But it is not the first time that the ladies of the House of Tilly have turned out to defend the King's forts against his enemies."
This he said in allusion to the gallant defence of a fort on the wild Iroquois frontier by a former lady of her house.
"My Lord Count," replied the lady, with quiet dignity, "'tis no special merit of the house of Tilly to be true to its ancient fame—it could not be otherwise. But your thanks are at this time more due to these loyal habitans, who have so promptly obeyed your proclamation. It is the King's corvee to restore the walls of Quebec, and no Canadian may withhold his hand from it without disgrace."
"The Chevalier La Corne St. Luc will think us two poor women a weak accession to the garrison," added she, turning to the Chevalier and cordially offering her hand to the brave old officer, who had been the comrade in arms of her husband and the dearest friend of her family.
"Good blood never fails, my Lady," returned the Chevalier, warmly grasping her hand. "You out of place here? No! no! you are at home on the ramparts of Quebec, quite as much as in your own drawing-room at Tilly. The walls of Quebec without a Tilly and a Repentigny would be a bad omen indeed, worse than a year without a spring or a summer without roses. But where is my dear goddaughter Amelie?"
As he spoke the old soldier embraced Amelie and kissed her cheek with fatherly effusion. She was a prodigious favorite. "Welcome, Amelie!" said he, "the sight of you is like flowers in June. What a glorious time you have had, growing taller and prettier every day all the time I have been sleeping by camp-fires in the forests of Acadia! But you girls are all alike; why, I hardly knew my own pretty Agathe when I came home. The saucy minx almost kissed my eyes out—to dry the tears of joy in them, she said!"
Amelie blushed deeply at the praises bestowed upon her, yet felt glad to know that her godfather retained all his old affection. "Where is Le Gardeur?" asked he, as she took his arm and walked a few paces apart from the throng.
Amelie colored deeply, and hesitated a moment. "I do not know, godfather! We have not seen Le Gardeur since our arrival." Then after a nervous silence she added, "I have been told that he is at Beaumanoir, hunting with His Excellency the Intendant."
La Corne, seeing her embarrassment, understood the reluctance of her avowal, and sympathized with it. An angry light flashed beneath his shaggy eyelashes, but he suppressed his thoughts. He could not help remarking, however, "With the Intendant at Beaumanoir! I could have wished Le Gardeur in better company! No good can come of his intimacy with Bigot; Amelie, you must wean him from it. He should have been in the city to receive you and the Lady de Tilly."
"So he doubtless would have been, had he known of our coming. We sent word, but he was away when our messenger reached the city."
Amelie felt half ashamed, for she was conscious that she was offering something unreal to extenuate the fault of her brother—her hopes rather than her convictions.
"Well, well! goddaughter! we shall, at any rate, soon have the pleasure of seeing Le Gardeur. The Intendant himself has been summoned to attend a council of war today. Colonel Philibert left an hour ago for Beaumanoir."
Amelie gave a slight start at the name; she looked inquiringly, but did not yet ask the question that trembled on her lips.
"Thanks, godfather, for the good news of Le Gardeur's speedy return." Amelie talked on, her thoughts but little accompanying her words as she repeated to herself the name of Philibert. "Have you heard that the Intendant wishes to bestow an important and honorable post in the Palace upon Le Gardeur—my brother wrote to that effect?"
"An important and honorable post in the Palace?" The old soldier emphasized the word HONORABLE. "No, I had not heard of it,—never expect to hear of an honorable post in the company of Bigot, Cadet, Varin, De Pean, and the rest of the scoundrels of the Friponne! Pardon me, dear, I do not class Le Gardeur among them, far from it, dear deluded boy! My best hope is that Colonel Philibert will find him and bring him clean and clear out of their clutches."
The question that had trembled on her lips came out now. For her life she could not have retained it longer.
"Who is Colonel Philibert, godfather?" asked she, surprise, curiosity, and a still deeper interest marking her voice, in spite of all she could do to appear indifferent.
"Colonel Philibert?" repeated La Corne. "Why, do not you know? Who but our young Pierre Philibert; you have not forgotten him, surely, Amelie? At any rate he has not forgotten you: in many a long night by our watch-fires in the forest has Colonel Philibert passed the hours talking of Tilly and the dear friends he left there. Your brother at any rate will gratefully remember Philibert when he sees him."
Amelie blushed a little as she replied somewhat shyly, "Yes, godfather, I remember Pierre Philibert very well,—with gratitude I remember him,—but I never heard him called Colonel Philibert before."
"Oh, true! He has been so long absent. He left a simple ensign en second and returns a colonel, and has the stuff in him to make a field-marshal! He gained his rank where he won his glory—in Acadia. A noble fellow, Amelie! loving as a woman to his friends, but to his foes stern as the old Bourgeois, his father, who placed that tablet of the golden dog upon the front of his house to spite the Cardinal, they say,—the act of a bold man, let what will be the true interpretation of it."
"I hear every one speak well of the Bourgeois Philibert," remarked Amelie. "Aunt de Tilly is ever enthusiastic in his commendation. She says he is a true gentleman, although a trader."
"Why, he is noble by birth, if that be needed, and has got the King's license to trade in the Colony like some other gentlemen I wot of. He was Count Philibert in Normandy, although he is plain Bourgeois Philibert in Quebec; and a wise man he is too, for with his ships and his comptoirs and his ledgers he has traded himself into being the richest man in New France, while we, with our nobility and our swords, have fought ourselves poor, and receive nothing but contempt from the ungrateful courtiers of Versailles."
Their conversation was interrupted by a sudden rush of people, making room for the passage of the Regiment of Bearn, which composed part of the garrison of Quebec, on their march to their morning drill and guard-mounting,—bold, dashing Gascons in blue and white uniforms, tall caps, and long queues rollicking down their supple backs, seldom seen by an enemy.
Mounted officers, laced and ruffled, gaily rode in front. Subalterns with spontoons and sergeants with halberds dressed the long line of glistening bayonets. The drums and fifes made the streets ring again, while the men in full chorus, a gorge deployee, chanted the gay refrain of La Belle Canadienne in honor of the lasses of Quebec.
The Governor and his suite had already mounted their horses, and cantered off to the Esplanade to witness the review.
"Come and dine with us today," said the Lady de Tilly to La Corne St. Luc, as he too bade the ladies a courteous adieu, and got on horseback to ride after the Governor.
"Many thanks! but I fear it will be impossible, my Lady: the council of war meets at the Castle this afternoon. The hour may be deferred, however, should Colonel Philibert not chance to find the Intendant at Beaumanoir, and then I might come; but best not expect me."
A slight, conscious flush just touched the cheek of Amelie at the mention of Colonel Philibert.
"But come if possible, godfather," added she; "we hope to have Le Gardeur home this afternoon. He loves you so much, and I know you have countless things to say to him."
Amelie's trembling anxiety about her brother made her most desirous to bring the powerful influence of La Corne St. Luc to bear upon him.
Their kind old godfather was regarded with filial reverence by both. Amelie's father, dying on the battle-field, had, with his latest breath, commended the care of his children to the love and friendship of La Corne St. Luc.
"Well, Amelie, blessed are they who do not promise and still perform. I must try and meet my dear boy, so do not quite place me among the impossibles. Good-by, my Lady. Good-by, Amelie." The old soldier gaily kissed his hand and rode away.
Amelie was thoroughly surprised and agitated out of all composure by the news of the return of Pierre Philibert. She turned aside from the busy throng that surrounded her, leaving her aunt engaged in eager conversation with the Bishop and Father de Berey. She sat down in a quiet embrasure of the wall, and with one hand resting her drooping cheek, a train of reminiscences flew across her mind like a flight of pure doves suddenly startled out of a thicket.
She remembered vividly Pierre Philibert, the friend and fellow-student of her brother: he spent so many of his holidays at the old Manor-House of Tilly, when she, a still younger girl, shared their sports, wove chaplets of flowers for them, or on her shaggy pony rode with them on many a scamper through the wild woods of the Seigniory. Those summer and winter vacations of the old Seminary of Quebec used to be looked forward to by the young, lively girl as the brightest spots in the whole year, and she grew hardly to distinguish the affection she bore her brother from the regard in which she held Pierre Philibert.
A startling incident happened one day, that filled the inmates of the Manor House with terror, followed by a great joy, and which raised Pierre Philibert to the rank of an unparalleled hero in the imagination of the young girl.
Her brother was gambolling carelessly in a canoe, while she and Pierre sat on the bank watching him. The light craft suddenly upset. Le Gardeur struggled for a few moments, and sank under the blue waves that look so beautiful and are so cruel.
Amelie shrieked in the wildest terror and in helpless agony, while Philibert rushed without hesitation into the water, swam out to the spot, and dived with the agility of a beaver. He presently reappeared, bearing the inanimate body of her brother to the shore. Help was soon obtained, and, after long efforts to restore Le Gardeur to consciousness,—efforts which seemed to last an age to the despairing girl,—they at last succeeded, and Le Gardeur was restored to the arms of his family. Amelie, in a delirium of joy and gratitude, ran to Philibert, threw her arms round him, and kissed him again and again, pledging her eternal gratitude to the preserver of her brother, and vowing that she would pray for him to her life's end.
Soon after that memorable event in her young life, Pierre Philibert was sent to the great military schools in France to study the art of war with a view to entering the King's service, while Amelie was placed in the Convent of the Ursulines to be perfected in all the knowledge and accomplishments of a lady of highest rank in the Colony.
Despite the cold shade of a cloister, where the idea of a lover is forbidden to enter, the image of Pierre Philibert did intrude, and became inseparable from the recollection of her brother in the mind of Amelie. He mingled as the fairy prince in the day-dreams and bright imaginings of the young, poetic girl. She had vowed to pray for him to her life's end, and in pursuance of her vow added a golden bead to her chaplet to remind her of her duty in praying for the safety and happiness of Pierre Philibert.
But in the quiet life of the cloister, Amelie heard little of the storms of war upon the frontier and down in the far valleys of Acadia. She had not followed the career of Pierre from the military school to the camp and the battlefield, nor knew of his rapid promotion, as one of the ablest officers in the King's service, to a high command in his native Colony.
Her surprise, therefore, was extreme when she learned that the boy companion of her brother and herself was no other than the renowned Colonel Philibert, Aide-de-Camp of His Excellency the Governor-General.
There was no cause for shame in it; but her heart was suddenly illuminated by a flash of introspection. She became painfully conscious how much Pierre Philibert had occupied her thoughts for years, and now all at once she knew he was a man, and a great and noble one. She was thoroughly perplexed and half angry. She questioned herself sharply, as if running thorns into her flesh, to inquire whether she had failed in the least point of maidenly modesty and reserve in thinking so much of him; and the more she questioned herself, the more agitated she grew under her self-accusation: her temples throbbed violently; she hardly dared lift her eyes from the ground lest some one, even a stranger, she thought, might see her confusion and read its cause. "Sancta Maria," she murmured, pressing her bosom with both hands, "calm my soul with thy divine peace, for I know not what to do!"
So she sat alone in the embrasure, living a life of emotion in a few minutes; nor did she find any calm for her agitated spirits until the thought flashed upon her that she was distressing herself needlessly. It was most improbable that Colonel Philibert, after years of absence and active life in the world's great affairs, could retain any recollection of the schoolgirl of the Manor House of Tilly. She might meet him, nay, was certain to do so in the society in which both moved; but it would surely be as a stranger on his part, and she must make it so on her own.
With this empty piece of casuistry, Amelie, like others of her sex, placed a hand of steel, encased in a silken glove, upon her heart, and tyrannically suppressed its yearnings. She was a victim, with the outward show of conquest over her feelings. In the consciousness of Philibert's imagined indifference and utter forgetfulness, she could meet him now, she thought, with equanimity—nay, rather wished to do so, to make sure that she had not been guilty of weakness in regard to him. She looked up, but was glad to see her aunt still engaged in conversation with the Bishop on a topic which Amelie knew was dear to them both,—the care of the souls and bodies of the poor, in particular those for whom the Lady de Tilly felt herself responsible to God and the King.
While Amelie sat thinking over the strange chances of the morning, a sudden whirl of wheels drew her attention.
A gay caleche, drawn by two spirited horses en fleche, dashed through the gateway of St. John, and wheeling swiftly towards Amelie, suddenly halted. A young lady attired in the gayest fashion of the period, throwing the reins to the groom, sprang out of the caleche with the ease and elasticity of an antelope. She ran up the rampart to Amelie with a glad cry of recognition, repeating her name in a clear, musical voice, which Amelie at once knew belonged to no other than the gay, beautiful Angelique des Meloises. The newcomer embraced Amelie and kissed her, with warmest expressions of joy at meeting her thus unexpectedly in the city. She had learned that Lady de Tilly had returned to Quebec, she said, and she had, therefore, taken the earliest opportunity to find out her dear friend and school-fellow to tell her all the doings in the city.
"It is kind of you, Angelique," replied Amelie, returning her caress warmly, but without effusion. "We have simply come with our people to assist in the King's corvee; when that is done, we shall return to Tilly. I felt sure I should meet you, and thought I should know you again easily, which I hardly do. How you are changed—for the better, I should say, since you left off conventual cap and costume!" Amelie could not but look admiringly on the beauty of the radiant girl. "How handsome you have grown! but you were always that. We both took the crown of honor together, but you would alone take the crown of beauty, Angelique." Amelie stood off a pace or two, and looked at her friend from head to foot with honest admiration, "and would deserve to wear it too," added she.
"I like to hear you say that, Amelie; I should prefer the crown of beauty to all other crowns! You half smile at that, but I must tell the truth, if you do. But you were always a truth-teller, you know, in the convent, and I was not so! Let us cease flatteries."
Angelique felt highly flattered by the praise of Amelie, whom she had sometimes condescended to envy for her graceful figure and lovely, expressive features.
"Gentlemen often speak as you do, Amelie," continued she, "but, pshaw! they cannot judge as girls do, you know. But do you really think me beautiful? and how beautiful? Compare me to some one we know."
"I can only compare you to yourself, Angelique. You are more beautiful than any one I know," Amelie burst out in frank enthusiasm.
"But, really and truly, do you think me beautiful, not only in your eyes, but in the judgment of the world?"
Angelique brushed back her glorious hair and stared fixedly in the face of her friend, as if seeking confirmation of something in her own thoughts.
"What a strange question, Angelique! Why do you ask me in that way?"
"Because," replied she with bitterness, "I begin to doubt it. I have been praised for my good looks until I grow weary of the iteration; but I believed the lying flattery once,—as what woman would not, when it is repeated every day of her life?"
Amelie looked sufficiently puzzled. "What has come over you, Angelique? Why should you doubt your own charms? or really, have you found at last a case in which they fail you?"
Very unlikely, a man would say at first, second, or third sight of Angelique des Meloises. She was indeed a fair girl to look upon,—tall, and fashioned in nature's most voluptuous mould, perfect in the symmetry of every part, with an ease and beauty of movement not suggestive of spiritual graces, like Amelie's, but of terrestrial witcheries, like those great women of old who drew down the very gods from Olympus, and who in all ages have incited men to the noblest deeds, or tempted them to the greatest crimes.
She was beautiful of that rare type of beauty which is only reproduced once or twice in a century to realize the dreams of a Titian or a Giorgione. Her complexion was clear and radiant, as of a descendant of the Sun God. Her bright hair, if its golden ripples were shaken out, would reach to her knees. Her face was worthy of immortality by the pencil of a Titian. Her dark eyes drew with a magnetism which attracted men, in spite of themselves, whithersoever she would lead them. They were never so dangerous as when, in apparent repose, they sheathed their fascination for a moment, and suddenly shot a backward glance, like a Parthian arrow, from under their long eyelashes, that left a wound to be sighed over for many a day.
The spoiled and petted child of the brave, careless Renaud d'Avesne des Meloises, of an ancient family in the Nivernois, Angelique grew up a motherless girl, clever above most of her companions, conscious of superior charms, always admired and flattered, and, since she left the Convent, worshipped as the idol of the gay gallants of the city, and the despair and envy of her own sex. She was a born sovereign of men, and she felt it. It was her divine right to be preferred. She trod the earth with dainty feet, and a step aspiring as that of the fair Louise de La Valliere when she danced in the royal ballet in the forest of Fontainebleau and stole a king's heart by the flashes of her pretty feet. Angelique had been indulged by her father in every caprice, and in the gay world inhaled the incense of adulation until she regarded it as her right, and resented passionately when it was withheld.
She was not by nature bad, although vain, selfish, and aspiring. Her footstool was the hearts of men, and upon it she set hard her beautiful feet, indifferent to the anguish caused by her capricious tyranny. She was cold and calculating under the warm passions of a voluptuous nature. Although many might believe they had won the favor, none felt sure they had gained the love of this fair, capricious girl.
CHAPTER IV. CONFIDENCES.
Angelique took the arm of Amelie in her old, familiar schoolgirl way, and led her to the sunny corner of a bastion where lay a dismounted cannon.
The girls sat down upon the old gun. Angelique held Amelie by both hands, as if hesitating how to express something she wished to say. Still, when Angelique did speak, it was plain to Amelie that she had other things on her mind than what her tongue gave loose to.
"Now we are quite alone, Amelie," said she, "we can talk as we used to do in our school-days. You have not been in the city during the whole summer, and have missed all its gaieties?"
"I was well content. How beautiful the country looks from here!" replied Amelie. "How much pleasanter to be in it, revelling among the flowers and under the trees! I like to touch the country as well as to look at it from a distance, as you do in Quebec."
"Well, I never care for the country if I can only get enough of the city. Quebec was never so gay as it has been this year. The Royal Roussillon, and the freshly arrived regiments of Bearn and Ponthieu, have turned the heads of all Quebec,—of the girls, that is. Gallants have been plenty as bilberries in August. And you may be sure I got my share, Amelie." Angelique laughed aloud at some secret reminiscences of her summer campaign.
"It is well that I did not come to the city, Angelique, to get my head turned like the rest; but now that I am here, suppose I should mercifully try to heal some of the hearts you have broken!"
"I hope you won't try. Those bright eyes of yours would heal too effectually the wounds made by mine, and that is not what I desire," replied Angelique, laughing.
"No! then your heart is more cruel than your eyes. But, tell me, who have been your victims this year, Angelique?"
"Well, to be frank, Amelie, I have tried my fascinations upon the King's officers very impartially, and with fair success. There have been three duels, two deaths, and one captain of the Royal Roussillon turned cordelier for my sake. Is that not a fair return for my labor?"
"You are shocking as ever, Angelique! I do not believe you feel proud of such triumphs," exclaimed Amelie.
"Proud, no! I am not proud of conquering men. That is easy! My triumphs are over the women! And the way to triumph over them is to subdue the men. You know my old rival at school, the haughty Francoise de Lantagnac: I owed her a grudge, and she has put on the black veil for life, instead of the white one and orange-blossoms for a day! I only meant to frighten her, however, when I stole her lover, but she took it to heart and went into the Convent. It was dangerous for her to challenge Angelique des Meloises to test the fidelity of her affianced, Julien de St. Croix."
Amelie rose up in honest indignation, her cheek burning like a coal of fire. "I know your wild talk of old, Angelique, but I will not believe you are so wicked as to make deadly sport of our holiest affections."
"Ah, if you knew men as I do, Amelie, you would think it no sin to punish them for their perjuries."
"No, I don't know men," replied Amelie, "but I think a noble man is, after God, the worthiest object of a woman's devotion. We were better dead than finding amusement in the pain of those who love us; pray what became of Julien de St. Croix after you broke up his intended marriage with poor Francoise?"
"Oh! I threw him to the fishes! What did I care for him? It was mainly to punish Francoise's presumption that I showed my power and made him fight that desperate duel with Captain Le Franc."
"O Angelique, how could you be so unutterably wicked?"
"Wicked? It was not my fault, you know, that he was killed. He was my champion, and ought to have come off victor. I wore a black ribbon for him a full half-year, and had the credit of being devoted to his memory; I had my triumph in that if in nothing else."
"Your triumph! for shame, Angelique! I will not listen to you: you profane the very name of love by uttering such sentiments. The gift of so much beauty was for blessing, not for pain. St. Mary pray for you, Angelique: you need her prayers!" Amelie rose up suddenly.
"Nay, do not get angry and go off that way, Amelie," ejaculated Angelique. "I will do penance for my triumphs by relating my defeats, and my special failure of all, which I know you will rejoice to hear."
"I, Angelique? What have your triumphs or failures to do with me? No, I care not to hear." Angelique held her half forcibly by the scarf.
"But you will care when I tell you that I met an old and valued friend of yours last night at the Castle—the new Aide-de-Camp of the Governor, Colonel Philibert. I think I have heard you speak of Pierre Philibert in the Convent, Amelie?"
Amelie felt the net thrown over her by the skilful retiaria. She stood stock-still in mute surprise, with averted eye and deeply blushing cheek, fighting desperately with the confusion she feared to let Angelique detect. But that keen-sighted girl saw too clearly—she had caught her fast as a bird is caught by the fowler.
"Yes, I met with a double defeat last night," continued Angelique.
"Indeed! pray, from whom?" Amelie's curiosity, though not usually a troublesome quality, was by this time fairly roused.
Angelique saw her drift, and played with her anxiety for a few moments.
"My first rebuff was from that gentlemanly philosopher from Sweden, a great friend of the Governor, you know. But, alas, I might as well have tried to fascinate an iceberg! I do not believe that he knew, after a half-hour's conversation with me, whether I was man or woman. That was defeat number one."
"And what was number two?" Amelie was now thoroughly interested in Angelique's gossip.
"I left the dry, unappreciative philosopher, and devoted myself to charm the handsome Colonel Philibert. He was all wit and courtesy, but my failure was even more signal with him than with the cold Swede."
Amelie's eyes gave a sparkle of joy, which did not escape Angelique, but she pretended not to see it. "How was that? Tell me, pray, how you failed with Colonel Philibert?"
"My cause of failure would not be a lesson for you, Amelie. Listen! I got a speedy introduction to Colonel Philibert, who, I confess, is one of the handsomest men I ever saw. I was bent on attracting him."
"For shame, Angelique! How could you confess to aught so unwomanly!" There was a warmth in Amelie's tone that was less noticed by herself than by her companion.
"Well, it is my way of conquering the King's army. I shot my whole quiver of arrows at Colonel Philibert, but, to my chagrin, hit not a vital part! He parried every one, and returned them broken at my feet. His persistent questioning about yourself, as soon as he discovered we had been school companions at the Convent, quite foiled me. He was full of interest about you, and all that concerned you, but cared not a fig about me!"
"What could Colonel Philibert have to ask you about me?" Amelie unconsciously drew closer to her companion, and even clasped her arm by an involuntary movement which did not escape her friend.
"Why, he asked everything a gentleman could, with proper respect, ask about a lady."
"And what did you say?"
"Oh, not half enough to content him. I confess I felt piqued that he only looked on me as a sort of pythoness to solve enigmas about you. I had a grim satisfaction in leaving his curiosity irritated, but not satisfied. I praised your beauty, goodness, and cleverness up to the skies, however. I was not untrue to old friendship, Amelie!" Angelique kissed her friend on the cheek, who silently allowed what, in her indignation a few moments ago, she would have refused.
"But what said Colonel Philibert of himself? Never mind about me."
"Oh, impatient that you are! He said nothing of himself. He was absorbed in my stories concerning you. I told him as pretty a fable as La Fontaine related of the Avare qui avait perdu son tresor! I said you were a beautiful chatelaine besieged by an army of lovers, but the knight errant Fortunatus had alone won your favor, and would receive your hand! The brave Colonel! I could see he winced at this. His steel cuirass was not invulnerable. I drew blood, which is more than you would have dared to do, Amelie! But I discovered the truth hidden in his heart. He is in love with you, Amelie de Repentigny!"
"Mad girl! How could you? How dare you speak so of me? What must Colonel Philibert think?"
"Think? He thinks you must be the most perfect of your sex! Why, his mind was made up about you, Amelie, before he said a word to me. Indeed, he only just wanted to enjoy the supernal pleasure of hearing me sing the praises of Amelie De Repentigny to the tune composed by himself."
"Which you seem to have done, Angelique!"
"As musically as Mere St. Borgia when singing vespers in the Ursulines," was Angelique's flippant reply.
Amelie knew how useless it was to expostulate. She swallowed her mingled pleasure and vexation salt with tears she could not help. She changed the subject by a violent wrench, and asked Angelique when she had last seen Le Gardeur.
"At the Intendant's levee the other day. How like you he is, too, only less amiable!"
Angelique did not respond readily to her friend's question about her brother.
"Less amiable? that is not like my brother. Why do you think him less amiable than me?"
"Because he got angry with me at the ball given in honor of the arrival of the Intendant, and I have not been able to restore him to perfect good humor with me since."
"Oh, then Le Gardeur completes the trio of those who are proof against your fascinations?" Amelie was secretly glad to hear of the displeasure of Le Gardeur with Angelique.
"Not at all, I hope, Amelie. I don't place Le Gardeur in the same category with my other admirers. But he got offended because I seemed to neglect him a little to cultivate this gay new Intendant. Do you know him?"
"No; nor wish to! I have heard much said to his disadvantage. The Chevalier La Corne St. Luc has openly expressed his dislike of the Intendant for something that happened in Acadia."
"Oh, the Chevalier La Corne is always so decided in his likes and dislikes: one must either be very good or very bad to satisfy him!" replied Angelique with a scornful pout of her lips.
"Don't speak ill of my godfather, Angelique; better be profane on any other topic: you know my ideal of manly virtues is the Chevalier La Corne," replied Amelie.
"Well, I won't pull down your idol, then! I respect the brave old soldier, too; but could wish him with the army in Flanders!"
"Thousands of estimable people augur ill from the accession of the Intendant Bigot in New France, besides the Chevalier La Corne," Amelie said after a pause. She disliked censuring even the Intendant.
"Yes," replied Angelique, "the Honnetes Gens do, who think themselves bound to oppose the Intendant, because he uses the royal authority in a regal way, and makes every one, high and low, do their devoir to Church and State."
"While he does his devoir to none! But I am no politician, Angelique. But when so many good people call the Intendant a bad man, it behooves one to be circumspect in 'cultivating him,' as you call it."
"Well, he is rich enough to pay for all the broken pots: they say he amassed untold wealth in Acadia, Amelie!"
"And lost the province for the king!" retorted Amelie, with all the asperity her gentle but patriotic spirit was capable of. "Some say he sold the country."
"I don't care!" replied the reckless beauty, "he is like Joseph in Egypt, next to Pharaoh in authority. He can shoe his horses with gold! I wish he would shoe me with golden slippers—I would wear them, Amelie!"
Angelique stamped her dainty foot upon the ground, as if in fancy she already had them on.
"It is shocking if you mean it!" remarked Amelie pityingly, for she felt Angelique was speaking her genuine thoughts. "But is it true that the Intendant is really as dissolute as rumor says?"
"I don't care if it be true: he is noble, gallant, polite, rich, and all-powerful at Court. He is reported to be prime favorite of the Marquise de Pompadour. What more do I want?" replied Angelique warmly.
Amelie knew enough by report of the French Court to cause her to shrink instinctively, as from a repulsive insect, at the name of the mistress of Louis XV. She trembled at the thought of Angelique's infatuation, or perversity, in suffering herself to be attracted by the glitter of the vices of the Royal Intendant.
"Angelique!" exclaimed she, "I have heard things of the Intendant that would make me tremble for you, were you in earnest."
"But I am in earnest! I mean to win and wear the Intendant of New France, to show my superiority over the whole bevy of beauties competing for his hand. There is not a girl in Quebec but would run away with him tomorrow."
"Fie, Angelique! such a libel upon our sex! You know better. But you cannot love him?"
"Love him? No!" Angelique repeated the denial scornfully. "Love him! I never thought of love and him together! He is not handsome, like your brother Le Gardeur, who is my beau-ideal of a man I could love; nor has the intellect and nobility of Colonel Philibert, who is my model of a heroic man. I could love such men as them. But my ambition would not be content with less than a governor or royal intendant in New France. In old France I would not put up with less than the King himself!"
Angelique laughed at her own extravagance, but she believed in it all the same. Amelie, though shocked at her wildness, could not help smiling at her folly.
"Have you done raving?" said she; "I have no right to question your selection of a lover or doubt your power, Angelique. But are you sure there exists no insurmountable obstacle to oppose these high aspirations? It is whispered that the Intendant has a wife, whom he keeps in the seclusion of Beaumanoir. Is that true?"
The words burnt like fire. Angelique's eyes flashed out daggers. She clenched her delicate hands until her nails drew blood from her velvet palms. Her frame quivered with suppressed passion. She grasped her companion fiercely by the arm, exclaiming,—"You have hit the secret now, Amelie! It was to speak of that I sought you out this morning, for I know you are wise, discreet, and every way better than I. It is all true what I have said, and more too, Amelie. Listen! The Intendant has made love to me with pointed gallantry that could have no other meaning but that he honorably sought my hand. He has made me talked of and hated by my own sex, who envied his preference of me. I was living in the most gorgeous of fool's paradises, when a bird brought to my ear the astounding news that a woman, beautiful as Diana, had been found in the forest of Beaumanoir by some Hurons of Lorette, who were out hunting with the Intendant. She was accompanied by a few Indians of a strange tribe, the Abenaquais of Acadia. The woman was utterly exhausted by fatigue, and lay asleep on a couch of dry leaves under a tree, when the astonished Hurons led the Intendant to the spot where she lay.
"Don't interrupt me, Amelie; I see you are amazed, but let me go on!" She held the hands of her companion firmly in her lap as she proceeded:
"The Intendant was startled out of all composure at the apparition of the sleeping lady. He spoke eagerly to the Abenaquais in their own tongue, which was unintelligible to the Hurons. When he had listened to a few words of their explanation, he ran hastily to the lady, kissed her, called her by name, 'Caroline!' She woke up suddenly, and recognizing the Intendant, embraced him, crying 'Francois! 'Francois!' and fainted in his arms.
"The Chevalier was profoundly agitated, blessing and banning, in the same breath, the fortune that had led her to him. He gave her wine, restored her to consciousness, talked with her long, and sometimes angrily; but to no avail, for the woman, in accents of despair, exclaimed in French, which the Hurons understood, that the Intendant might kill and bury her there, but she would never, never return home any more."
Angelique scarcely took breath as she continued her eager recital.
"The Intendant, overpowered either by love of her or fear of her, ceased his remonstrances. He gave some pieces of gold to the Abenaquais, and dismissed them. The strange Indians kissed her on both hands as they would a queen, and with many adieus vanished into the forest. The lady, attended by Bigot, remained seated under the tree till nightfall, when he conducted her secretly to the Chateau, where she still remains in perfect seclusion in a secret chamber, they say, and has been seen by none save one or two of the Intendant's most intimate companions."
"Heavens! what a tale of romance! How learned you all this, Angelique?" exclaimed Amelie, who had listened with breathless attention to the narrative.
"Oh, partly from a hint from a Huron girl, and the rest from the Intendant's Secretary. Men cannot keep secrets that women are interested in knowing! I could make De Pean talk the Intendant's head off his shoulders, if I had him an hour in my confessional. But all my ingenuity could not extract from him what he did not know—who that mysterious lady is, her name and family."
"Could the Huron hunters give no guess?" asked Amelie, thoroughly interested in Angelique's story.
"No. They learned by signs, however, from the Abenaquais, that she was a lady of a noble family in Acadia which had mingled its patrician blood with that of the native chiefs and possessors of the soil. The Abenaquais were chary of their information, however: they would only say she was a great white lady, and as good as any saint in the calendar."
"I would give five years of my life to know who and what that woman is!" Angelique added, as she leaned over the parapet, gazing intently at the great forest that lay beyond Charlebourg, in which was concealed the Chateau of Beaumanoir.
"It is a strange mystery. But I would not seek to unravel it, Angelique," remarked Amelie, "I feel there is sin in it. Do not touch it: it will only bring mischief upon you if you do!"
"Mischief! So be it! But I will know the worst! The Intendant is deceiving me! Woe be to him and her if I am to be their intended victim! Will you not assist me, Amelie, to discover the truth of this secret?"
"I? how can I? I pity you, Angelique, but it were better to leave this Intendant to his own devices."
"You can very easily help me if you will. Le Gardeur must know this secret. He must have seen the woman—but he is angry with me, for—for—slighting him—as he thinks—but he was wrong. I could not avow to him my jealousy in this matter. He told me just enough to madden me, and angrily refused to tell the rest when he saw me so infatuated—he called it—over other people's love affairs. Oh, Amelie, Le Gardeur will tell you all if you ask him!"
"And I repeat it to you, Angelique, I cannot question Le Gardeur on such a hateful topic. At any rate I need time to reflect, and will pray to be guided right."
"Oh, pray not at all! If you pray you will never aid me! I know you will say the end is wicked and the means dishonorable. But find out I will—and speedily! It will only be the price of another dance with the Chevalier de Pean, to discover all I want. What fools men are when they believe we love them for their sakes and not for our own!"
Amelie, pitying the wild humors, as she regarded them, of her old school companion, took her arm to walk to and fro in the bastion, but was not sorry to see her aunt and the Bishop and Father de Berey approaching.
"Quick," said she to Angelique, "smooth your hair, and compose your looks. Here comes my aunt and the Bishop—Father de Berey too!"
Angelique prepared at once to meet them, and with her wonderful power of adaptation transformed herself in a moment into a merry creature, all light and gaiety. She saluted the Lady de Tilly and the reverend Bishop in the frankest manner, and at once accepted an interchange of wit and laughter with Father de Berey.
"She could not remain long, however, in the Church's company," she said, "she had her morning calls to finish." She kissed the cheek of Amelie and the hand of the Lady de Tilly, and with a coquettish courtesy to the gentlemen, leaped nimbly into her caleche, whirled round her spirited horses like a practised charioteer, and drove with rapid pace down the crowded street of St. John, the observed of all observers, the admiration of the men and the envy of the women as she flashed by.
Amelie and the Lady de Tilly, having seen a plenteous meal distributed among their people, proceeded to their city home—their seigniorial residence, when they chose to live in the capital.
CHAPTER V. THE ITINERANT NOTARY.
Master Jean Le Nocher the sturdy ferryman's patience had been severely tried for a few days back, passing the troops of habitans over the St. Charles to the city of Quebec. Being on the King's corvee, they claimed the privilege of all persons in the royal service: they travelled toll-free, and paid Jean with a nod or a jest in place of the small coin which that worthy used to exact on ordinary occasions.
This morning had begun auspiciously for Jean's temper however. A King's officer, on a gray charger, had just crossed the ferry; and without claiming the exemption from toll which was the right of all wearing the King's uniform, the officer had paid Jean more than his fee in solid coin and rode on his way, after a few kind words to the ferryman and a polite salute to his wife Babet, who stood courtesying at the door of their cottage.
"A noble gentleman that, and a real one!" exclaimed Jean, to his buxom, pretty wife, "and as generous as a prince! See what he has given me." Jean flipped up a piece of silver admiringly, and then threw it into the apron of Babet, which she spread out to catch it.
Babet rubbed the silver piece caressingly between her fingers and upon her cheek. "It is easy to see that handsome officer is from the Castle," said Babet, "and not from the Palace—and so nice-looking he is too, with such a sparkle in his eye and a pleasant smile on his mouth. He is as good as he looks, or I am no judge of men."
"And you are an excellent judge of men, I know, Babet," he replied, "or you would never have taken me!" Jean chuckled richly over his own wit, which Babet nodded lively approval to. "Yes, I know a hawk from a handsaw," replied Babet, "and a woman who is as wise as that will never mistake a gentleman, Jean! I have not seen a handsomer officer than that in seven years!"
"He is a pretty fellow enough, I dare say, Babet; who can he be? He rides like a field-marshal too, and that gray horse has ginger in his heels!" remarked Jean, as the officer was riding at a rapid gallop up the long, white road of Charlebourg. "He is going to Beaumanoir, belike, to see the Royal Intendant, who has not returned yet from his hunting party."
"Whither they went three days ago, to enjoy themselves in the chase and drink themselves blind in the Chateau while everybody else is summoned to the city to work upon the walls!" replied Babet, scornfully. "I'll be bound that officer has gone to order the gay gallants of the Friponne back to the city to take their share of work with honest people."
"Ah! the Friponne! The Friponne!" ejaculated Jean. "The foul fiend fly away with the Friponne! My ferryboat is laden every day with the curses of the habitans returning from the Friponne, where they cheat worse than a Basque pedler, and without a grain of his politeness!"
The Friponne, as it was styled in popular parlance, was the immense magazine established by the Grand Company of Traders in New France. It claimed a monopoly in the purchase and sale of all imports and exports in the Colony. Its privileges were based upon royal ordinances and decrees of the Intendant, and its rights enforced in the most arbitrary manner—and to the prejudice of every other mercantile interest in the Colony. As a natural consequence it was cordially hated, and richly deserved the maledictions which generally accompanied the mention of the Friponne—the swindle—a rough and ready epithet which sufficiently indicated the feeling of the people whom it at once cheated and oppressed.
"They say, Jean," continued Babet, her mind running in a very practical and womanly way upon the price of commodities and good bargains, "they say, Jean, that the Bourgeois Philibert will not give in like the other merchants. He sets the Intendant at defiance, and continues to buy and sell in his own comptoir as he has always done, in spite of the Friponne."
"Yes, Babet! that is what they say. But I would rather he stood in his own shoes than I in them if he is to fight this Intendant—who is a Tartar, they say."
"Pshaw, Jean! you have less courage than a woman. All the women are on the side of the good Bourgeois: he is an honest merchant—sells cheap, and cheats nobody!" Babet looked down very complacently upon her new gown, which had been purchased at a great bargain at the magazine of the Bourgeois. She felt rather the more inclined to take this view of the question inasmuch as Jean had grumbled, just a little—he would not do more—at his wife's vanity in buying a gay dress of French fabric, like a city dame, while all the women of the parish were wearing homespun,—grogram, or linsey-woolsey,—whether at church or market.
Jean had not the heart to say another word to Babet about the French gown. In truth, he thought she looked very pretty in it, better than in grogram or in linsey-woolsey, although at double the cost. He only winked knowingly at Babet, and went on to speaking of the Bourgeois.
"They say the King has long hands, but this Intendant has claws longer than Satan. There will be trouble by and by at the Golden Dog—mark that, Babet! It was only the other day the Intendant was conversing with the Sieur Cadet as they crossed the ferry. They forgot me, or thought I did not hear them; but I had my ears open, as I always have. I heard something said, and I hope no harm, will come to the good Bourgeois, that is all!"
"I don't know where Christian folk would deal if anything happened him," said Babet, reflectively. "We always get civility and good pennyworths at the Golden Dog. Some of the lying cheats of the Friponne talked in my hearing one day about his being a Huguenot. But how can that be, Jean, when he gives the best weight and the longest measure of any merchant in Quebec? Religion is a just yard wand, that is my belief, Jean!"
Jean rubbed his head with a perplexed air. "I do not know whether he be a Huguenot, nor what a Huguenot is. The Cure one day said he was a Jansenist on all fours, which I suppose is the same thing, Babet—and it does not concern either you or me. But a merchant who is a gentleman and kind to poor folk, and gives just measure and honest weight, speaks truth and harms nobody, is Christian enough for me. A bishop could not trade more honestly; and the word of the Bourgeois is as reliable as a king's."
"The Cure may call the Bourgeois what he likes," replied Babet, "but there is not another Christian in the city if the good Bourgeois be not one; and next the Church there is not a house in Quebec better known or better liked by all the habitans, than the Golden Dog; and such bargains too, as one gets there!"
"Ay, Babet! a good bargain settles many a knotty point with a woman."
"And with a man too, if he is wise enough to let his wife do his marketing, as you do, Jean! But whom have we here?" Babet set her arms akimbo and gazed.
A number of hardy fellows came down towards the ferry to seek a passage.
"They are honest habitans of St. Anne," replied Jean. "I know them; they too are on the King's corvee, and travel free, every man of them! So I must cry Vive le Roi! and pass them over to the city. It is like a holiday when one works for nothing!"
Jean stepped nimbly into his boat, followed by the rough country fellows, who amused themselves by joking at Jean Le Nocher's increasing trade and the need of putting on an extra boat these stirring times. Jean put a good face upon it, laughed, and retorted their quips, and plying his oars, stoutly performed his part in the King's corvee by safely landing them on the other shore.
Meantime the officer who had lately crossed the ferry rode rapidly up the long, straight highway that led up on the side of the mountain to a cluster of white cottages and an old church, surmounted by a belfry whose sweet bells were ringing melodiously in the fresh air of the morning.
The sun was pouring a flood of golden light over the landscape. The still glittering dewdrops hung upon the trees, shrubs, and long points of grass by the wayside. All were dressed with jewels to greet the rising king of day.
The wide, open fields of meadow, and corn-fields, ripening for harvest, stretched far away, unbroken by hedge or fence. Slight ditches or banks of turf, covered with nests of violets, ferns, and wild flowers of every hue, separated contiguous fields. No other division seemed necessary in the mutual good neighborhood that prevailed among the colonists, whose fashion of agriculture had been brought, with many hardy virtues, from the old plains of Normandy.
White-walled, red-roofed cottages, or more substantial farmhouses, stood conspicuously in the green fields, or peered out of embowering orchards. Their casements were open to catch the balmy air, while in not a few the sound of clattering hoofs on the hard road drew fair faces to the window or door, to look inquisitively after the officer wearing the white plume in his military chapeau, as he dashed by on the gallant gray.
Those who caught sight of him saw a man worth seeing—tall, deep-chested, and erect. His Norman features, without being perfect, were handsome and manly. Steel-blue eyes, solidly set under a broad forehead, looked out searchingly yet kindly, while his well-formed chin and firm lips gave an air of resolution to his whole look that accorded perfectly with the brave, loyal character of Colonel Philibert. He wore the royal uniform. His auburn hair he wore tied with a black ribbon. His good taste discarded perukes and powder, although very much in fashion in those days.
It was long since he had travelled on the highway of Charlebourg, and he thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the road he traversed. But behind him, as he knew, lay a magnificent spectacle, the sight of the great promontory of Quebec, crowned with its glorious fortifications and replete with the proudest memories of North America. More than once the young soldier turned his steed, and halted a moment or two to survey the scene with enthusiastic admiration. It was his native city, and the thought that it was threatened by the national enemy roused, like an insult offered to the mother that bore him. He rode onward, more than ever impatient of delay, and not till he passed a cluster of elm trees which reminded him of an adventure of his youth, did the sudden heat pass away, caused by the thought of the threatened invasion.
Under these trees he remembered that he and his school companion, Le Gardeur de Repentigny, had once taken refuge during a violent storm. The tree they stood under was shattered by a thunderbolt. They were both stunned for a few minutes, and knew they had had a narrow escape from death. Neither of them ever forgot it.
A train of thoughts never long absent from the mind of Philibert started up vividly at the sight of these trees. His memory flew back to Le Gardeur and the Manor House of Tilly, and the fair young girl who captivated his boyish fancy and filled his youth with dreams of glorious achievements to win her smiles and do her honor. Among a thousand pictures of her hung up in his mind and secretly worshipped he loved that which presented her likeness on that day when he saved her brother's life and she kissed him in a passion of joy and gratitude, vowing she would pray for him to the end of her life.
The imagination of Pierre Philibert had revelled in the romantic visions that haunt every boy destined to prominence, visions kindled by the eye of woman and the hope of love.
The world is ruled by such dreams, dreams of impassioned hearts, and improvisations of warm lips, not by cold words linked in chains of iron sequence,—by love, not by logic. The heart with its passions, not the understanding with its reasoning, sways, in the long run, the actions of mankind.
Pierre Philibert possessed that rich gift of nature, a creative imagination, in addition to the solid judgment of a man of sense, schooled by experience and used to the considerations and responsibilities of weighty affairs.
His love for Amelie de Repentigny had grown in secret. Its roots reached down to the very depths of his being. It mingled, consciously or unconsciously, with all his motives and plans of life, and yet his hopes were not sanguine. Years of absence, he remembered, work forgetfulness. New ties and associations might have wiped out the memory of him in the mind of a young girl fresh to society and its delights. He experienced a disappointment in not finding her in the city upon his return a few days ago, and the state of the Colony and the stress of military duty had so far prevented his renewing his acquaintance with the Manor House of Tilly.
The old-fashioned hostelry of the Couronne de France, with its high-pitched roof, pointed gables, and broad gallery, stood directly opposite the rustic church and tall belfry of Charlebourg, not as a rival, but as a sort of adjunct to the sacred edifice. The sign of the crown, bright with gilding, swung from the low, projecting arm of a maple-tree, thick with shade and rustling with the beautiful leaves of the emblem of Canada. A few rustic seats under the cool maple were usually occupied, toward the close of the day, or about the ringing of the Angelus, by a little gathering of parishioners from the village, talking over the news of the day, the progress of the war, the ordinances of the Intendant, or the exactions of the Friponne.
On Sundays, after Mass and Vespers, the habitans of all parts of the extended parish naturally met and talked over the affairs of the Fabrique—the value of tithes for the year, the abundance of Easter eggs, and the weight of the first salmon of the season, which was always presented to the Cure with the first-fruits of the field, to ensure the blessing of plenty for the rest of the year.
The Reverend Cure frequently mingled in these discussions. Seated in his accustomed armchair, under the shade of the maple in summer, and in winter by the warm fireside, he defended, ex cathedra, the rights of the Church, and good-humoredly decided all controversies. He found his parishioners more amenable to good advice over a mug of Norman cider and a pipe of native tobacco, under the sign of the Crown of France, than when he lectured them in his best and most learned style from the pulpit.
This morning, however, all was very quiet round the old inn. The birds were singing, and the bees humming in the pleasant sunshine. The house looked clean and tidy, and no one was to be seen except three persons bending over a table, with their heads close together, deeply absorbed in whatever business they were engaged in. Two of these persons were Dame Bedard, the sharp landlady of the Crown of France, and her no less sharp and pretty daughter, Zoe. The third person of the trio was an old, alert-looking little man, writing at the table as if for very life. He wore a tattered black robe, shortened at the knees to facilitate walking, a frizzled wig, looking as if it had been dressed with a currycomb, a pair of black breeches, well-patched with various colors; and gamaches of brown leather, such as the habitans wore, completed his odd attire, and formed the professional costume of Master Pothier dit Robin, the travelling notary, one of that not unuseful order of itinerants of the law which flourished under the old regime in New France.
Upon the table near him stood a black bottle, an empty trencher, and a thick scatter of crumbs, showing that the old notary had despatched a hearty breakfast before commencing his present work of the pen.
A hairy knapsack lay open upon the table near his elbow, disclosing some bundles of dirty papers tied up with red tape, a tattered volume or two of the "Coutume de Paris," and little more than the covers of an odd tome of Pothier, his great namesake and prime authority in the law. Some linen, dirty and ragged as his law papers, was crammed into his knapsack with them. But that was neither here nor there in the estimation of the habitans, so long as his law smelt strong in the nostrils of their opponents in litigation. They rather prided themselves upon the roughness of their travelling notary.