THE YOUNG SEIGNEUR;
WILFRID CHATEAUCLAIR [hand written: i.e. William Douw Lighthall]
WM. DRYSDALE & CO., PUBLISHERS, 232 ST. JAMES STREET, 1888.
Entered according to Act of Parliament of Canada, in the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight, by WM. DRYSDALE & CO. in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture.
The chief aim of this book is the perhaps too bold one—to map out a future for the Canadian nation, which has been hitherto drifting without any plan.
A lesser purpose of it is to make some of the atmosphere of French Canada understood by those who speak English. The writer hopes to have done some service to these brothers of ours in using as his hero one of those lofty characters which their circle has produced more than once.
The book is not a political work. It must by no means be taken for a Grit diatribe. The writer is an old-fashioned Tory and an old-fashioned Liberal: all his parties are dead, and he is at present in a universal Opposition. The party names he uses are, therefore, in any present-day application, simply typical, and the work is not a political one in any current sense.
There are those who will say his characters are untrue and impossible. To these he would answer: Everything here, apart from a few little inaccuracies, is studied from the life, and you can find item, man and date for the essential particulars.
A charge of Metaphysics will be advanced also, by a generation not too willing to think. Mon ami, what we give you of that is not very hard. If you cannot understand it, leave it out or study Emerson. The main subject of the book cannot be treated otherwise than with an attempt to ground it deeply.
If Bigotry may not impossibly be laid to the author by some, because he has drawn two or three of the characters from unusual quarters and described them freely; the many who know him will limit any phrases to the several characters as individuals.
Lastly, the book is not a novel. It consequently escapes the awful charge of being 'a novel with a purpose.' None can feel more conscious of its imperfections than the writer, or will regret more if it treads on any sensitive toes.
WILFRID CHATEAUCLAIR. Dormilliere, March, 1888.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. THE MANOIR OF DORMILLIERE 1 II. THE YOUNG SEIGNEUR 4 III. HAVILAND'S IDEA 7 IV. THE MANUSCRIPT 13 V. CONFRERIE 16 VI. ALEXANDRA 20 VII. QUINET 22 VIII. THE TOBOGGAN SLIDE 25 IX. ASSORTED ENTHUSIASMS 29 X. THE ENTHUSIASM OF SOCIAL PLEASURE 33 XI. THE CAVE 43 XII. LA MERE PATRIE 48 XIII. SOMETHING MORE OF QUINET 52 XIV. THE ENTHUSIASM OF LEADERSHIP 54 XV. THE LIFE OF LEADERSHIP 57
XVI. A POLITICAL SERMON 67 XVII. ZOTIQUE'S RECEPTION 72 XVIII. THE AMERICAN FRANCE 79 XVIII. A DISAPPEARING ORDER 86 XIX. HUMAN NATURE 88 XX. CHEZ-NOUS 91 XXI. DELIVER US FROM THE-EVIL ONE 100 XXII. THE MANUFACTORY OF REFLECTIONS 104 XXIII. THE STATESMAN'S DREAM 106 XXIV. THE INSTITUTE 109 XXV. THE CAMPAIGN PLAN 111 XXV. THE LOW-COUNTRY SUNRISE 120 XXVI. THE IDEAL STATE 126 XXVII. JOSEPHTE 134 XXVIII. GRANDMOULIN 139 XXIX. CHAMILLY 145 XXX. AN ORATION UNDER DIFFICULTIES 149 XXXI. LIBERGENT 151 XXXII. MISERICORDE 153 XXXIII. BLEUS 156 XXXIV. THE FREEMASON 158 XXXV. THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE 162 XXXVI. ZOTIQUE'S MISGIVINGS 168 XXXVII. A CRIME! 170 XXXVIII. THE PASSING OF THE HOST 173 XXXIX. THE ELECTION 175 XL. HAVILAND REFUSES 178 XLI. FIAT JUSTITIA 180
XLII. QUINET'S CONTRIBUTION 187 XLIII. HAVILAND'S PRINCIPLE 191 XLIV. DAUGHTER OF THE GODS 194 XLV. NOT THE END 199
THE YOUNG SEIGNEUR.
THE MANOIR OF DORMILLIERE.
In the year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Seventy odd, about six years after the confederation of the Provinces into the Dominion of Canada, an Ontarian went down into Quebec,—an event then almost as rare as a Quebecker entering Ontario.
"It's a queer old Province, and romantic to me," said the Montrealer with whom old Mr. Chrysler (the Ontarian) fell in on the steamer descending to Sorel, and who had been giving him the names of the villages they passed in the broad and verdant panorama of the shores of the St. Lawrence.
In truth, it is a queer, romantic Province, that ancient Province of Quebec,—ancient in store of heroic and picturesque memories, though the three centuries of its history would look foreshortened to people of Europe, and Canada herself is not yet alive to the far-reaching import of each deed and journey of the chevaliers of its early days.
Here, a hundred and thirty years after the Conquest, a million and a half of Normans and Bretons, speaking the language of France and preserving her institutions, still people the shores of the River and the Gulf. Their white cottages dot the banks like an endless string of pearls, their willows shade the hamlets and lean over the courses of brooks, their tapering parish spires nestle in the landscape of their new-world patrie.
"What is that?" exclaimed the Ontarian, suddenly, lifting his hand, his eyes brightening with an interest unwonted for a man beyond middle age.
The steamer was passing close to the shore, making for a pier some distance ahead; and, surmounting the high bank, a majestic scene arose, facing them like an apparition. It was a grey Tudor mansion of weather-stained stone, with churchy pinnacles, a strange-looking bright tin roof, and, towering around the sides and back of its grounds a lofty walk of pine trees, marshalled in dark, square, overshadowing array, out of which, as if surrounded by a guard of powerful forest spirits, the mansion looked forth like a resuscitated Elizabethan reality. Its mien seemed to say: "I am not of yesterday, and shall pass tranquilly on into the centuries to come: old traditions cluster quietly about my gables; and rest is here."
"That is the Manoir of Dormilliere," replied the Montrealer, as the steamer, whose paddles had stopped their roar, glided silently by.
Impressive was the Manoir, with its cool shades and air of erect lordliness, its solemn grey walls and pinnacled gables, the beautiful depressed arch of its front door; and its dream-like foreground of river mirroring its majestic guard of pines.
"I knew," said Chrysler, "that you had your seigniories in Quebec, and some sort of a feudal history, far back, but I never dreamed of such seats."
"O, the Seigneurs[A] have not yet altogether disappeared," returned the Montrealer. "Twenty years ago their position was feudal enough to be considered oppressive; and here and there still, over the Province, in some grove of pines or elms, or at some picturesque bend of a river, or in the shelter of some wooded hill beside the sea, the old-fashioned residence is to be descried, seated in its broad demesne with trees, gardens and capacious buildings about it, and at no great distance an old round windmill."
[Footnote A: The old French gentry or noblesse]
"Who lives in this one?"
"The Havilands. An English name but considered French;—grandfather an officer, an English captain, who married the heiress of the old D'Argentenayes, of this place."
"Mr. Haviland is the name of the person I am going to visit."
"Yes, he is an M.P."
"A fine young fellow, then. His first name is Chamilly. His father was a queer man—the Honorable Chateauguay—perhaps you've heard of him? He was of a sort of an antiquarian and genealogical turn, you know, and made a hobby of preserving old civilities and traditions, so that Dormilliere is said to be somewhat of a rum place."
The Ontarian thanked his acquaintance and got ready for landing at the pier.
THE YOUNG SEIGNEUR.
A young man stepped forward and greeted him heartily. It was the "Chamilly" Haviland of whom they had been speaking.
Mr. Chrysler and he were members together of the Dominion Parliament and the present visit was the outcome of a special purpose. "It is a pity the rest of the country does not know my people more closely," Haviland wrote in his invitation:—"If you will do my house the honor of your presence, I am sure there is much of their life to which we could introduce you."
"I am delighted you arrive at this time;" he exclaimed. "My election is coming." And he talked cheerfully and busied himself making the visitor comfortable in his drag.
As luck will have it, the enactment of one of the old local customs occurs as they sit waiting for room to drive off the pier. The rustic gathering of Lower-Canadian habitants who are crowding it with their native ponies and hay-carts and their stuff-coated, deliberate persons, is beginning to break apart as the steamer swings heavily away. The pedestrians are already stringing off along the road and each jaunty Telesphore and Jacques, the driver of a horse, leaps jovially into his cart; but all the carts are halting a moment by some curious common accord. Why is this?
Suddenly a loud voice shouts:
"MALBROUCK IS DEAD!"
A pause follows.
"It is not true" one forcibly contradicts.
"Yes, he is dead!" reiterates the first.
"It is not true!" insists the other.
"He is dead and in his bier!"
The second is incredulous:
"You but tell me that to jeer?"
But the crowd who have been smiling gleefully over the proceedings, affect to resign themselves to the bad news of Malbrouck's death, and all altogether groan in hoarse bass mockery:
"CA VA MA-A-A-L!!"[B]
Every one immediately dashes off in all haste, whips crack, wheels fly, and shouting, racing and singing along all the roads, the country-folk rattle away to their homes. Our two turn their wheels towards the Manor-house, gleefully amused.
[Footnote B: That is bad!]
"Who is Malbrouck?" Chrysler enquired.
"Marlborough. That must have been originally enacted in the French camps that fought him in Flanders. I fancy the soldiers of Montcalm shouting it at night among their tents here as they held the country against the English."
They drove along looking about the country and conversing. Chrysler breathed in the fresh draughts which swept across the wide stretches of river-view that lay open in bird-like perspective from the crest of the terraces on which the Dormilliere cote, or countryside, was perched, and along which the road ran.
"Come up, my little buds!" the young man cried in French, to a pair of baby girls who, holding each others' hands, were crowding on the edge of the ditch-weeds, out of the wheels' way.
"Houp-la!" he cried, helping the laughing little things up one after the other by their hands, and then whipping forward. "How much, are you going to give me for this? Do you think we drive people for nothing, eh?" The children nestled themselves down with beaming faces. "Tell me, bidoux,"[C] he laughed again, "What are you going to give me?"
[Footnote C: Bidoux is a term of endearment for children.]
Both hung their heads. One of them quickly threw her arms up around his neck and, kissing him, said, "I will pay you this way," and the other began to follow suit.
"Stop, stop, my dears. You must not stifle your seigneur," he cried in the highest glee, returning their embraces.
One of our poets claims that there is something of earthliness in the kisses of all but children:—
"But in a little child's warm kiss Is naught but heaven above, So sweet it is, so pure it is, So full of faith and love."
So it seemed to Chrysler as he saw this first of the relations between the young Seigneur and his people.
"GRAND MASTER.—O, if you knew what our astrologers say of the coming age and of our age, that has in it more history within a hundred years than all the world had in four thousand years before." —CAMPANELLA—The City of the Sun.
When they arrived before the Manor House front, Mr. Chrysler could almost believe himself in some ancestral place in Europe, the pinnacles clustered with such a tranquil grace and the walk of pines surrounding the place seemed to frown with such cool, dark shades.
Within, he found it a comfortable mingling of ancient family portraits and hanging swords strung around the walls, elaborate, ornate old mantel ornaments, an immense carved fireplace, and such modern conveniences as Eastlake Cabinets, student's lamps and electric bell. In a distant corner of the large united dining and drawing-room, the evidently favorite object was a full-size cast of the Apollo Belvedere.
Chamilly introduced him respectfully to his grandmother, Madame Bois-Hebert, an aged, quiet lady, with dark eyes.
In the expressive face of the young man could be traced a resemblance to hers, and the grace of form and movement which his firmer limbs and greater activity gave him, were evidently something like what the dignity of mien and carriage that were still left her by age had once been.
He was tall and had a handsome make, and kindly, generous face. The features of his countenance were marked ones, denoting clear intelligent opinions; and his hair, moustache and young beard, of jet black, contrasted well with the color which enriched his brunet cheek. Whether it was due to a happy chance or to the surroundings of his life, or whether descent from superior races has something in it, existence had been generous to him in attractions.
When Madame withdrew, after the tea, he gave Mr. Chrysler a chair by the fireplace in the drawing-room end of the apartment, for it was a cool evening, and saying:—"Do you mind this? It is a liking of mine," stepped over to the lamps and turned them down, throwing the light of the burning wood upon the pictures and objets d'art which adorned the apartment.
The great cast of Apollo, though in shadow, stood out against a background of deep red hangings in its corner and attracted the older gentleman's remarks.
"I have arranged the surroundings to recall my first impression of him in the Vatican Galleries," said the other. "I was wandering among that riches of fine statues and had begun to feel it an embarras, as our own phrase goes, when I came into a chamber and saw in the midst of it this most beautiful of the deities rising lightly before me, looking ahead after the arrow he has shot."
"You have been in Italy, then?"
"I have, Sir," he answered, "I have had my Italian days like Longfellow;" and, looking into the fire, he continued low, almost to himself:—
"... Land of the Madonna: How beautiful it is! It seems a garden Of Paradise ... Long years ago I wandered as a youth among its bowers And never from my heart has faded quite Its memory, that like a summer sunset, Encircles with a ring of purple light All the horizon of my youth."
As Chrysler regarded him then and heard this free expression of feeling he could not but feel that Haviland was a foreigner, different from the British peoples.
"And yet," mused Haviland, in a moment again, "Have we not a more than Italy in this beautiful country of our own?"
After weighing his companion in thought for a few moments longer, according to a habit of his, the elder man recollected another matter:—
"You have resigned your seat in the Dominion House to enter the Provincial. Why is that?"
"A new turn has arrived in affairs, sir. The Honorable Genest's fever has broken him down. He cannot fill a place where activity is needed. Until the fever, he was an influence, you know, in the Dominion House, while I was in the Local. After it, he arranged that we should exchange seats, as the Legislature has latterly been so quiet. Lately, however, Picault's corruptionists, whom we thought crushed, have made another assault for the moneys, bullied, lied, and bribed, weighed their silver to the Iscariots, and edged Genest out of his seat."
"Who is their man here?"
"Libergent, lawyer. The election was annulled for frauds, but by moving the heavens and earth of the Courts they saved Libergent from disqualification, and now he appears again against us. Our cause calls for energetic action, in the Legislature, so Genest and I are changing places back again."
"I hope you will not be lost to us long?"
"No longer than I can help. The national work will never cease to attract me. Is it not sublime this nation-making?—that this generation, and particularly a few individuals like you, sir, and myself should be honored by Heaven with the task of founding a people! It is as grand as the nebulous making of stars!"
The seigneur's manner was full of enthusiasm.
"I can't see it as you young men do," Chrysler said, in an inflection suggestive of regret. "What may we effect beyond trying to keep Government pure and prudent, and we are often powerless to do even that? Nor can we form the future character of the people much, but must leave that to themselves, don't you think?"
"A partial truth," he returned, meditatively,—"a great one too. When I go into the country among the farmers, I often think: 'The people are the true nation-makers.'"—
"And Providence has apparently designed it," the old man proceeded in his gentle strain, "to be our modest lot to follow the lead of other lands more developed and better situated. Where do you discover anything striking in the outlook?"
"I do not care for a thing because it is striking; but I care for a great thing if it is really great. Do not think me too daring if I suggest for a moment that Canada should aim to lead the nations instead of being led. I believe that she can do it, if she only has enough persistence. A people should plain for a thousand years and be willing to wait centuries. Still, merely to lead is very subordinate in my view: a nation should only exist, and will only exist permanently, if it has a reason of existence. France has hers in the needs of the inhabitants of a vast plain; local Britain in those of an island; with Israel it was religion; with Imperial Rome, organised civilization; Panhellenism had the mission of intellect; Canada too, to exist, must have a good reason why her people shall live and act together."
"What then is our 'reason of existence?'"
"It must be an aim, a work," he said soberly.
The elder man was surprised. "My dear Haviland," he exclaimed, "Are you sure you are practical?"
"I think I am practical, Mr. Chrysler," Haviland replied firmly. "I have that objection so thoroughly in mind, that I would not expose my news to an ordinary man. It is because you are broad, liberal and willing to-examine matters in a large aspect, and that I think that in a large aspect I shall be justified, as at least not unreasonable, that I open my heart to you. Believe me, I am not unpractical, but only seeking a higher plane of practicality."
"But how do you propose to get the people to follow this aim?"
"If they were shown a sensible reason why they ought to be a nation," said he with calm distinctness,—"a reason more simple and great than any that could be advanced against it—it is all they would require. I propose a clear ideal for them—a vision of what Canada ought to be and do; towards which they can look, and feel that every move of progress adds a definite stage to a definite and really worthy edifice."
"The-oretical" Chrysler murmured slowly, shaking his head.
"For a man, but not for a People!" the young Member cried.
Both were silent some moments. The elder looked up at last "What sort of Ideal would you offer them?"
"Simply Ideal Canada, and the vista of her proper national work, the highest she might be, and the best she might perform, situated as she is, all time being given and the utmost stretch of aims. As Plato's mind's eye saw his Republic, Bacon his New Atlantis, More his Utopia; so let us see before and above us the Ideal Canada, and boldly aim at the programme of doing something in the world."
"Can you show me anything special that we can do in the world?" the old man asked. His caution was wavering a little. "It is not impossible I may be with you," he added.
The Ontarian, in fact, did not object in a spirit of cavil. He did so apparently neither to doubt nor to believe, but simply to enquire, for in life he was a business man. His father had left him large lumber interests to preserve, and the responsibility had framed his prudence. He took the same kind of care in examining the joints of Haviland's scheme as he would have exacted about the pegging or chains of a timber crib which was going to run a rapid.
"Why, here for instance," answered Haviland, "are great problems at our threshold:—Independence, Imperial Federation, both of them bearing on all advance in civilized organizations,—Unification of Races—development of our vast and peculiar areas. Education, too, Foreign Trade, Land, the Classes—press upon our attention."
"You would have us awake to some such new sense of our situation as Germany did in Goethe's day?"
"I pray for no long-haired enthusiasts. We have business different from altering the names of the Latin divinities into Teutonic gutturals."
"The country itself will see to that. We have the fear of the nations round about in our eyes," grimly said Chrysler; then he added: "I have never known you as well as I wish, Haviland. You speak of this work as if you had some definite system of it, while all the notions I have ever met or formed of such a thing have been partial or vague."
Chamilly stood up and the firelight shone brightly and softly upon his flushed cheek; the dark portraits on the walls seemed to look out upon him as if they lived, and the statue of Apollo to rise and associate its dignity with his.
"I have a system," he said. "I almost feel like saying a commission of revelation. The reason, sir, why I asked you here was that you, my venerated friend, might understand my ideas and sympathize with them, and help me."
"I will ask you to read a manuscript, of which you will find the first half in your room. The remainder is not written yet"
Pierre, the butler, brought in coffee and they talked more quietly of other subjects.
"When yellow-locked and crystal-eyed, I dreamed green woods among * * * * * O, then the earth was young"
—ISABELLA VALANCEY CRAWFORD.
When Chrysler went up to his bedchamber he found the following on a table between two candles:—
BOOK OF ENTHUSIASMS.
Narrative of Chamilly d'Argentenaye Haviland.
At the Friars' School at Dormilliere, racing with gleeful playmates around the shady playground, or glibly reciting frequent "Paters" and "Ave Marias," other ideas of life scarce ever entered my head; till one day my father spoke, out of his calm silence, to my grandmother; and with the last of his two or three sentences, "I don't destine him for a Thibetan prayer-mill," (she had fondly intended me for the priesthood) he sat down to a letter, the result of which was that I found myself in a week at the Royal Grammar School at Montreal. Here, where the great city appeared a wilderness of palaces and the large School an almost universe of youthful Crichtons whose superiorities seemed to me the greater because I knew little of their English tongue, the contrasts with my rural Dormilliere were so striking and continual that I was set thinking by almost every occurrence.
A French boy is nothing if not imaginative. The time seemed to me a momentous epoch big with the question: "What path shall I follow?"
I admired the prize boys who were so clever and famous. I took a prize myself, and felt heaven in the clapping.
I admired those equally who were skilled at athletics. I saw a tournament of sports and envied the sparkling cups and medals.
These,—to be a brilliant man of learning and an athlete—seemed to me the two great careers of existence!
The first step, out of a number that were to come, towards a great discovery, was thus unconsciously by me taken. What is greater than Life? what discovery is more momentous than of its profound meaning? Anything I am or may do is the outcome of this one discovery I later made, which seems to me the very Secret of the World.
* * * * *
But hold:—there is a memory in my earlier recollection, more fixed than the trees—they were poplars—of the Friars' School playground. I leaped into a seat beside my father in the carriage one day, and we drove back far into the country. Green and pleasant all the landscape we passed. Or did it pass us, I was thinking in my weird little mind? We arrived at length at wide gates and drove up an avenue, lined by stately trees and running between broad grain fields, which led to a court shaded with leafy giants of elms and cobbled in an antique fashion; and under the woof of boughs and leaves overhead ran a very long old country-house, cottage-built. Surpassingly peaceful, and secluded was its air. It had oblique-angle-faced, shingled gables, and many windows with thin-ribbed blinds; and a high bit of gallery. On one hand near it, under the hugest of the trees was a cool, white, well-house of stone, like a little tower. I remember vividly the red-stained door of that. On the other hand, a short distance off, commenced the capacious pile of the barns. Close at the back of the house ran a long wooded hill.
It was the ancient Manoir of Esneval—the Maison Blanche.—one of the relics of a feudal time. As we drove in and our wheels stopped, a little exquisite girl stood on the gallery, looking. Her child's face eyed us with wonder but courage for a few moments; then she ran within and, to the pang and regret of my heart, she appeared no more.
The little, brave face of the Manoir d'Esneval haunted me, child as I was, for years.
McGill University sits among her grounds upon the beginning of the slope of Mount Royal which lifts its foliage-foaming crest above it like an immense surge just about to break and bury the grey halls, the verdant Campus and the lovely secluded corner of brookside park. It owes its foundation to a public-spirited gentleman merchant of other days, the Honorable James McGill, whose portrait, in queue and ruffles, is brought forth in state at Founder's Festival, and who in the days of the Honorable Hudson's Bay Co.'s prime, stored his merchandize in the stout old blue warehouses[D] by the Place Jacques-Cartier, and thought out his far-sighted gifts to the country in the retirement of this pretty manor by the Mountain.
[Footnote D: NOTE—Now turned into the restaurant called the "Chateau de Ramezay," and soon probably to be demolished.]
To that little corner of brookside park it was often my custom to withdraw in the evenings. The trees, little and great, were my companions, and the sky looked down like a friend, between their leaves. One night, at summer's close, when the dark blue of the sky was unusually deep and luminous, and the moon only a tender crescent of light, I lay on the grass in the darkness, under my favorite tree, an oak, among whose boughs the almost imperceptible moonbeams rioted. I was hidden by the shadows of a little grove just in front of me. The path passed between, about a couple of yards away. Every stroller seemed to have gone, and I had, I thought, the peace of the surroundings to myself.
All were not yet gone, however, it seemed. The peculiar echo of steps on the hard sandy path indicated someone approaching. A shadow of a form just appeared in the darkness along the path, and turning off, disappeared for a moment into the dark grove. A deep sigh of despair surprised me. I lay still, and in a moment the form came partly between me and a glimmering of the moonlight between the branches. It was apparently a man, at least. I strained my attention and kept perfectly still. There was something extraordinary about the movements of the shadow.
Suddenly, it stepped forward a stride, I saw an arm go up to the head, both these became exposed in a open space of moonlight, and a glimmer reached me from something in the hand. Like a flash it came across me that I was in the presence of the extraordinary act of suicide. The glimmer was from the barrel and mountings of a revolver! Those glintings were unmistakable.
I would have leaped up and sprung into the midst of the scene at once had not something else been plain at the same moment, which startled me and froze my blood.
The arm, the face, were those of my classmate Quinet! An involuntary start of mine rustled a fallen dry branch, and the snap of a dry twig of it seemed to dissolve his determination; the hand dropped, he sprang off—and rushed quickly away in the darkness.
Quinet,—the life of this strange fellow always was extraordinary. There were several of our French-Canadians in college and they differed in some general respects from the English, but this striking-colored compatriot of mine, with his dark-red-brown hair, and dark-red-brown eyes set in his yellow complexion, was even from them a separated figure. He was fearfully clever: thought himself neglected: brooded upon it. His strange face and strange writings sometimes published, had often fastened themselves upon me. Now it was undoubtedly my duty to save him.
I followed him to his home, went up to his room and confronted him with the whole story,—myself more agitated than he was. I remember his passionate state:—"Haviland, do not wonder at me. Mankind are the key to the universe; and I am sick of a world of turkey-cocks. To speak frankly is to be proscribed; to be kind to the unfortunate is to lose standing; to think deeply brings the reputation of a fool. No one understands me. They do not understand me, the imbeciles!—Coglioni!" cried he fiercely, grinding the Corsican cry in his teeth and rising to walk about. "As Napoleon the Great despised them so do I, Quinet. They never but made one wretched who had genius in him. And I have it, and dare to say that in their faces. The weapon for neglect is contempt! If the wretched shallow world can make me miserable, they can never at least take away the delight of my superiority. I, who would have sympathized with and helped them and given my talents for them, shall look down with but scorn. Yes, I delight in these proud expressions, I am not ashamed of testifying, and one day I shall assert myself and make them bow to me, and shall hate them, and persecute them, and anatomize them for the derision of each other!"
His conduct might have seemed completely lunatical to an Englishman. It was strange in any case. But to me it was his physique that was wrong, and I should see that all was put right. "Stick to me, Quinet," said I to him as soothingly as possible, "and I will always stick to you. Soyons amis, bon marin, 'Be we friends, good sailor;' and sail over every sea fearlessly. Neither of us is understood, perhaps because our critics do not understand themselves."
"Be it so," he said, dejectedly resigning himself.
His odd colour and eyes gave a kind of unearthly tone to the interview. I met him a few days later in almost as great a depression again.
"It's these English. I hate them. It is necessary that I should kill one."
"My dearest misanthrope," I replied, "what you need is some horse-riding."
Maintenant que la belle saison etale les splendeurs de sa robe.
Listen! A note is struck which, with an old magic, transforms the world! In the dying beauty of an autumntide, Love Divine, last and most potent of the goddesses, came walking through the woods and diffused the mystery of heaven over the forest paths, the trees, the streets of the town; and she melted into a sweet and noble human face—a face I caught but for a moment clearly on one of our galloping rides, Quinet's and mine; yet it remained and still looks upon me in the holy of holies of my heart's inner chapel.
"What a rare autumn! What perfect foliage! What cool weather!" Quinet had wakened up beyond my expectations, and soon we were racing along, laughing and shouting repartees at each other. We reined in at last to a walk.
"Mehercle, be Charon propitious to thee when thy soul meets him at the river in Hades," he cried. "Be he propitious to thee, Chamilly, for making me a horseman!"
Then the memorable picture;—we speeding along that bit of road in the Park, the Mountain-side towering precipitously above us on the left and sloping below us in groves on the right; our horses galloping faster and faster; our dash into a bold rocky cutting; our consternation!—a young maiden picking up autumn leaves within two yards before our galloping horses! Near by, I remember quite clearly now her companion, and not far off the carriage with golden-bay horses.
"Stop!" I shouted.
Even as I shouted, I was already past her, and the brush of Quinet's horse flying as near on the other side of her, snatched off her bouquet of autumn leaves and strewed them in a cloud. Thank God only that we had not gone over her! The peril was frightful. My horse had had his head down and I could not pull him up.
But what excited me most was the courage of the girl. She started; but rose straight and firm, facing us as we charged. Even in that instant, I could see changes of pallor and color leap across her brow and cheek—could see them as if with supernatural vividness. Yet her eyes lighted proudly, her form held itself erect, and her clear features triumphed with the lines as if of a superior race. She could only be compared, standing there, to an angel guarding Paradise! How fair she was! And the face was the face of the little girl of the Manoir of Esneval!
After the agitations of our apologies I retained just enough of my wits about me to enquire her name. "Alexandra Grant," she said gracefully enough. Ah yes, I recollected—the Grants, within a generation, had bought the Esneval Seigniory, and its Manor-house.
Now a little more of Quinet. Small, gaunt and strange-looking, I pitied him because he was a victim of our stupid educational wrecking systems. His was too fine an organization to have been exposed to the blunders of the scholastic managers; for his course had exhibited signs of no less than the genius he had claimed. Most of his years of study had been spent as a precocious youth in that great Seminary of the Sulpician Fathers, the College de Montreal. The close system of the seminaries, however, being meant for developing priests, is apt to produce two opposite poles of young men—the Ultramontane and the Red Radical. Of the bravest and keenest of the latter Quinet was. If newspapers were forbidden to be brought into the College: he had a regular supply of the most liberal. If all books but those first submitted to approval were tabu: Quinet was thrice caught reading Voltaire. If criticism of any of the doctrines of Catholic piety was a sin to be expiated hardly even by months of penance: there was nothing sacred to his inquiries, from the authority of the Popes of Avignon to the stigma miracle of the Seraphic St. Francis. He was an enfant terrible; Revolutionist Rousseau had infected him; Victor Hugo the Excommunicate was his literary idol; hidden and forbidden sweets made their way by subterranean passages to his appetite; he was the leader of a group who might some day give trouble to the Reverend gentlemen who managed the "nation Canadienne." And yet, "What a declaimer of Cicero and Bossuet! I love him," exclaimed the professor of Rhetoric, in the black-robed consultations. "His meridians do me credit!" cried the astronomical Father.
No—he was far too promising a youth to estrange by the expulsion without ceremony which any vulgar transgressor would have got for the little finger of his offences. The record ended at length with the student himself, towards the approach of his graduation, when an article appeared in that unpardonable sheet La Lanterne du Progres, acutely describing and discussing the defects of the system of Seminary education, making a flippant allusion to a circular of His Grace the Archbishop, who prided himself on his style; and signed openly with the boy's name at the bottom!
Imagine the severe faces of the outraged gowned, the avoidance aghast by terrified playmates—the council with closed doors, his disappearance into the mysterious Office to confront the Directeur alone, and the interview with him at white-heat strain beginning mildly: "My son" and ending with icy distinctness: "Then, sir, Go!"
He did go. He came to the Grammar School during my last session there, and at the end of it swept away the whole of the prizes, with the Dux Medal of the school, notwithstanding his imperfect knowledge of English, and was head in every subject, except good conduct and punctuality.
At this he nearly killed himself. Proceeding, he carried off the highest scholarship among the Matriculants at the University, where his classical papers were said to be perfect. All through these two years and a half of College progress since, he had been astonishing us with similar terrible application and results. Professors encouraged, friends applauded, we wondered at and admired him. We did not envy him, however, for he became, as I commenced by saying, a pitiable wreck. Look at him as he stoops upon the horse!
* * * * *
Good old Father St. Esprit—oldest and humblest of the Order in the College—who was his friend, and whom everybody, and especially Quinet, venerated, took a private word with him before he departed from that institution.
"My son," said he, "I see the quality of thy mind, and that the Church of God will not be able to contain thee. Thou mayst wander, poor child; yet carry thou at least in thy heart ever love of what thou seest to be good, and respect for what is venerated by another. Put this word away in thy soul in memory of thy friend the Pere St. Esprit."
THE TOBOGGAN SLIDE.
"What is there in this blossom-hour should knit An omen in with every simple word?"
—ISABELLA VALANCEY CRAWFORD.
During the next few days I could do nothing of interest to me but make prudent enquiries about Alexandra Grant. I remember an answer of Little Steele's "Ah—That is a beautiful girl!"
"You were beautiful, Alexandra!"
I caught glimpses of her on the street and in her carriage; memory marks the spots by a glow of light; they are my holy places. I saw her open her purse for a blind man begging on a church step. I watched her turn and speak politely to a ragged newsgirl. One day, when Quinet and I, coming down from College and seeing a little boy fall on the path, threw away our books and set him on his feet, it was her face of approval that beamed out of a carriage window on the opposite side of the street.
I was introduced to her at the Mackenzie's, at a toboggan party given for Lockhart, the son, my friend.
Shall I ever forget our slide on the toboggan hill and my emotions in that simple question, "Will you slide with me?"
I was already far into a grande passion,—foolish and desperate.
She assented, stepped over to my toboggan kindly, sat down and placed her feet under its curled front. The crown of the hill about us was illumined by a circle of Chinese lanterns, and the moon, rising in the East, reflected a dim light on the fields of snow. I lifted the toboggan, gave the little run and leaped on at the end of the cushion, with my foot out behind to steer. Immediately we shot down the first descent, and as I straightened the course of the quick-flying leaf of maple wood, I felt it correspond as if intelligently. The second descent spurred our rate to an electric speed. As I bent forward, the snow flying against my face, the sound of sliding growing louder and shriller, and my foot demanding a sterner pressure to steer, a surge of exhilarating emotions suddenly rushed over me, and a thought cried "This is Alexandra! Alexandra whom you love."
"Alexandra!" my heart returned, "I am so near you!" Her two thick golden plaits of hair fell just before my eyes. She was sitting calm and straight. The toboggan shot on like a flash, and the drift beat fiercely in my eyes. But why should I heed? Away! Away! Leave everything behind us and speed thou out with me, love, into some region where I can reveal to thee alone this earnest soul which thou has awakened into such devotion!
Yet lo, our race slackening, the moment was even then over, and having carried us straight as an arrow, the toboggan undulated gracefully like a serpent over a little rising in the path and came to a stand. She rose. The light of the rising moon just enabled me to still catch the threaded yellow of her hair and the translucent complexion.
One had been following us closely. "Permit me—this next is ours, Miss Grant," he said, hastening eagerly forward to her, and I saw it was Quinet.
I marked the deference which every one, old and young, paid to her, and at the house afterwards I looked on while a boisterous knot were teaching her euchre.
"Change your ace," whispered Annie Lockhart, that pretty gambler.
"But," she replied aloud in her frank, innocent manner, "Wouldn't that be wrong?"
The words came to me with the force of an oracle.
"Let me bow my head," I thought, "My patron! My angel!" and as I looked upon her, passionate reverence overpowered me.
"What am I that I dare to love you and raise my eyes towards your pure light? I am not worthy to love you!"
"And you are so beautiful!"
As my meditations were pouring along in this absorbed way, a friend of ours, Grace Carter, a girl of the light, subtly graceful English type and a gay confidence of leadership, came across the room.
"O Mr. Haviland," she cried, "I've been watching your dolorous expression till I determined to learn how you do it!"
I half smiled at her, helplessly.
"It is thoroughly fifth-act. The young man looks that way when he marches around in the limelight moonlight contemplating the approach of the catastrophe. But what have you to do with catastrophes? Off the stage men only have that desperate look when they are in love. I trust you are safe, Mr. Haviland."
She looked so arch that I could not help a laugh, though the effect jarred on my mood.
"You will find me dull, I am afraid," I answered.
"That's of no consequence. Self-education is my mission. Believe me, I thirst for this knack of lugubriousness."
I would have resented the trifling at that moment from almost any person but Grace. She divined my discomfort, veered her questioning to College affairs, and detailed to me some amusing information on dances and engagements, to which I listened with what attention I could. But my eyes persisted in resting oftener and oftener on Alexandra, and some bread baked by her and Annie,—a triumph of amateur housekeeping—being passed by the latter in pieces among the cake, I imagined that it tasted like the sacrament, and utterly lost track of what the merry girl was saying. She left me to flood out her spirits on a friend who was rising to go; whereupon I recollected myself.
Behold Quinet, poor fellow, Quinet is too earnest for Society. Some supercilious young creature has cut him to the quick for commencing a historical remark. Smarting under his rebuke he withdraws a step or two. A kind voice accosts him; it is Alexandra. "Come here and speak to me, Mr. Quinet. You always talk what is worth while." "To talk of what is worth while makes enemies," he answered bitterly: "I am thinking of giving it up." "You should not do that," she said. "If I were a man I would think of nothing but the highest things."
The night's sleep was broken by visions of her, as I had just seen her, so near, so fair. I tried to force my imagination into snatches of remembrance of her face as colored and clear-outlined as the reality—bearing the noble expression it had worn when she said "Would not that be wrong?"
How I sank into self-contempt by comparison!
I wonder if Englishmen feel the passion of love as we French do.
"I love her, I love her," was my burning ejaculation. "Yet how dare I love her! I am unworthy to stand in her presence! There is only left for me to purify and burn and subdue my heart until it is completely worthy of her holy sight. Worthy of her! And what is worthy of her?"
Again her presence passed before me and a voice seemed to cry "The highest things!"
Thenceforth "The highest things" should be my search, and nothing less. My ambitions had advanced a second step.
"Ici bas tous les lilas meurent; Tous les chants des oiseaux sont courts; Je cherche aux etes qui demeurent Toujours."
And now of the influences which shaped that quest of "the highest things." There were the conversations in our Secret Society, the "Centre-Seekers." Picture a winter's eve, a cosy fire, a weird hall, and a group whose initiation oath was simply "I promise to be sincere."
"There is the solution of Epicurus," remarks Holyoake, our Agnostic; "Pleasure, at least, is real. Wrap yourself in it, for you can do no better. Contentment is but one pleasure, as Salvation is another, and even sensuality may be best to you."
"How about the man who lives for his children?" asked young Fred. Lyle, whose ruddy face was made brighter by the fire glow.
"He has his enjoyment reflected from theirs."
"What do you think of the friend in 'Vanity Fair,' who helps his rival?"
"One of the fools," replied Holyoake, with an air of settling the matter.
"I can't believe it that way," he said thoughtfully.
One member was Lome Riddle; a big bluff chap with a promising moustache, encouraged by private, tuition. "Come along there, Haviland," he exclaimed, "a nob like you should be one of the 'boys!'" These fellows don't know what life is—but to think of a man of muscle going back on us!
"Kick not against the prigs, Riddle!" cried Little Steele in facetious delight.
"Riddle, Riddle, thou art but a poor Philistine."
"A man of Gath," contributed another.
"The Philistine has his uses. He is the successful of Evolution," pronounced Holyoake.
"The future will see methods better than Evolution," answered Brether, our great firm Scotchman.
"If so, they will be of it," retorted the Agnostic.
"Now just kindly let up on that a little." Riddle continued, "you fellows are too confounded theoretical for me. What's the good of going round congesting your cerebrums about problems you can't settle? I say let a fellow go it while he's young—moderately you know—and when he is old he will not regret the same. You fellows swot, and I sit in the orchestra chairs. You read your digestions to rack and ruin—or else you've got to be so mighty careful,—while I put in a fine gourmand's dinner every day, attended with the comforts of civilization. I dance while you are working up unsuccessful essays. The world owes nothing to fellows who do that. If you're fools enough to want to benefit the world, turn your minds to steam engines and telegraphs, that cheapen dinners and save us running, and I'll give you my blessing in spare moments when I've nothing to do. I take a kind of melancholy interest in this institution, you know, but honestly upon my word, I hate your rational style, and I wouldn't for the world go round like a walking problem and have the fellows call me 'Forlorne Riddle.' The place where I enjoy myself most,—our private theatrical club,—is called the 'Inconsistents' on that principle. We don't care about being correct. We know we have the prettiest girls and chummiest fellows in town, and we're all right."
"Of course if a fellow's legs are so crooked that he can't dance or appear in a play, he has got to solace himself with billiards or eating, or some of the elegant accomplishments like playing the guitar. That's my system. There's philosophy in it too, by jove! I've done lots of philosophy by the smoke of a cigarette. It's philosophy properly tamed, in evening dress. It's philosophy made into a good Churchman, and Tory!"
"La morale de la cigarette!" suggested Quinet.
After all was not the highest thing simply to live the natural life of the time and place?
"I refuse that," I cried to myself, "I ask a Permanent, an Eternal!"
* * * * *
In speculative Philosophy I sought it, urged by the saying reported of Confucius:
"The Master said: 'I seek an all-pervading Unity,'" and much useless labor did I spend upon the profound work of the monarch of modern thinkers—Immanuel Kant.
In a depression at the end of this labor I finally threw my books aside.
It was afternoon, dull and dusty: a thunderstorm was brewing. I walked to the Square. What is that carriage with golden-bay horses?—that fresh image of loveliness—so calm—serene in queenly peace—the spiritual eyes! "Alexandra, I am miserable; elevate and purify my hopes with a smile, when I need thy presence—ma belle Anglaise"—No, she looks coldly and drives on in her equipage without even a recognition.—Is anything wrong?—I am deeply dispirited.—Another street—she passes again without bowing—not even looking this time.
Wretched Haviland!—Where is mercy and what is left for me in the world?—I will rebel about this.—I will give up trying to seek the best, and turn away from Alexandra.
At dinner that night, my grandmother said "You must go to Picault's ball, my dear;" and my grave, oracular father added: "Yes, you shall go among our people now. I am about to send you to France."
The prospect of that journey, to which it had been my joy at other times to look forward, affected me little in my disturbed condition.
THE ENTHUSIASM OF SOCIAL PLEASURE.
Grace Carter came over on the way to the ball, and when I descended I found her entertaining my grandmother, while a young man named Chinic, teaming with good nature and compliments, sat near her and rising with the rest grasped me by the hand as I entered. Grace too, smiling, held out her hand. As we went to the door my grandmother delivered me over to her, saying playfully: "Chamilly will be in your charge this evening. He is melancholy. C'est a toi de le guerir."
"I will be his sister of Charity!" she cried merrily and pressed my arm. I laughed. It was not so undelightful to be taken into the companionship of a graceful girl.
As we whirled along in the carriage, the half-moon in the dark blue sky, making heavy shadows on the trees and mansions, lit her cheek and Greek-knotted hair on the side next me with a glamour so that her head and shoulders shone softly in it like a bust of Venus.
Picault's was an extensive family mansion of sandstone, built thirty years before for one of the wealthiest merchants of Montreal. It was on a corner.
One end rose into a rococo tower, lit then with the curious kind of clearness produced by a half-moon's light. In the centre, before the hospital door, projected a pillared portico, under which our carriage drove, and at the other end lurked the shades of a massive gate-way with cobbled road leading through. The carriage-road past the front was bordered by lilacs in bloom—on the one side, as we went through, all shadows, on the other faintly colored, mingling their fragrance with that of huge rose-bushes.
The doors were thrown open, and we saw a great staircase in a wide hall hung with colored lights, and entering passed into one of the most lavish of interiors. As I looked around the dressing-room to which Chinic and myself were shown and saw the windows stacked with tropical plants, the colored candles set about the walls in silver sconces; the bijou paintings and the graceful carving of the furniture; the deep blending of tints and shades in the carpets, curtains and ornaments, I felt another new experience—the sensation of luxury—and dropping back in an easy chair, asked my companion:
"Chinic, what does Picault do?"
"Ma foi, I do not pretend to say," replied the young Frenchman, half turning towards me from the mirror where he was brushing his hair." Suffice it he is a millionaire, and I get summoned to drink his wine. Some say he is in politics, others that he deals with stocks; for me it is enough that he deals with the dance and good table. Is it not magnificent to so live? I would sell my soul for fifteen years of it."
The remark set me thinking a moment, but it only complicated the charm of delivering oneself over to sensations.
We met Grace at the head of the staircase. She had never looked more Venus-like than in this fairy glow, with a plant-filled window behind her, opening out into the summer darkness. The music of a waltz of Strauss was rising from below, and I felt a wonderful thrill as she again took my arm.
Our respects being paid to the hostess, Madame Picault, Grace gave me a couple of dances on her card, and introducing me to a slender young girl, with pretty eyes, and two very long, crisp plaits of hair, went off on the arm of some one else.
As my father's plan of education had taken me hitherto wholly into English society, so far as into any, the unique feeling of being a stranger to my own race came with full force upon me for a moment and I stood silent beside the pretty eyes and looked at the scene. The walls were a perfect gallery of sublime landscapes, and small pictures heavily set; four royal chandeliers threw illumination over a maze of flowered trains and flushed complexions, moving through a stately "Lancers," under a ceiling of dark paintings, divided as if framed, by heavy gilded mouldings, like the ceiling of a Venetian Palace.
"Is it not gay—that scene there!" I exclaimed.
"It is charming, Monsieur," said the pretty eyes. "Montreal is altogether charming."
"Ah, you come from Quebec, Mademoiselle?"
"No, Monsieur, from New Orleans," she replied confidingly.
Now the Louisiana French are very interesting to us French of Canada. Once we formed parts of one continuous Empire, though now divided by many thousands of miles, and their fate is naturally a bond of strong sympathy to us.
"We have there only the Carnival," she continued with the winning prettiness of a child. "That is in the spring, and the young men dress up for three or four days and throw bon-bons and flowers at us. When the carnival is over, they present the young ladies with the jewels they have worn?"
"And the ladies return them smiles more prized than jewels?"
She looked up at me in fresh-natured delight.
"Monsieur, you must come to New Orleans sometime, during the season of the Carnival."
"I shall most certainly if you will assure me the ladies of New Orleans are all of one kind."
"You are pleased to jest, sir. But judge from my sister. Is she not handsome?"
Her sister,—a Southern beauty, the sensation just then of Montreal,—was truly a noble type. The pretty one watched my rising admiration.
"What do you think of her?"
"She is wonderful.—And she is your sister?"
"My married sister, Monsieur. She is on her way to France. I will tell you a little romance about her. Last year she came to Montreal with our father, and they were delighted with it. She used to say she would not marry a Frenchman; nor a blonde. Above all she detested Paris, and declared she would never live there. While she was here she left her portrait with Mde. De Rheims as a souvenir. Soon a young officer in the army of France comes out and visits Mde. De Rheims and sees the picture of my sister. He was struck with it, declared he would see the original, travelled straight to New Orleans, and has married my sister. See him there—he is a blonde and he is taking her to Paris."
"How strange that is! Montreal is a dangerous place for the ladies of your family."
She glanced at me with sly pleasure.
"But we are not dangerous to Montreal, sir."
"Ah non, ma'm'selle."
Then this was my first type to begin on, of our French society world. Were they all like her? I watched the ladies and gentlemen who stood and sat chatting about, and saw that everyone else too made an art of charming. Grace also. She frequently passed, and I could catch her silvery French sentences and cheerful laugh.
As a partner now took away my little Southern friend, I caught Chinic on the wing, got introduced once more, and found myself careering in a galop down the room with a large-looking girl—Mlle. Sylphe—whose activity was out of proportion to her figure, though in more harmony with her name. Her build was commanding, she was of dark complexion and hair, in manner demure, alluring with great power by the instrumentality of lustrous eyes, though secretly, I felt, like the tigress itself in cruelty to her victims. She was a magnificent figure, and gave me a merry dance. After it, she set about explaining the meaning of her garland decorations and the language of flowers, the Convent school at Sault-au-Recollet, dinner parties, and the young men of her acquaintance.
"You seem very fond of society?" I advanced.
"I adore society—it is my dream. I waltz, you see. I know it is wrong, and the church forbids it; but—I do not dance in Lent. After all," shrugging her shoulders, "we can confess, you know, and when we are old it will suffice to repent and be devout. I shall begin to be excessively devout," (toying with a jet cross on her necklace)—"the day I find my first grey hair."
"You have then a number of years to waltz."
Her dark eyes looked over my face as a possible conquest.
"I tremble when I think it is not for ever. But look at my aunt's and that of Madame de Rheims!"
These ladies were indeed distinguished by their hair; but I suspect that it was not the mere fact of its greyness to which she wished to draw my attention—rather it was to the manner in which they wore it, brushed up high and away from their foreheads, like dowagers of yore. Standing in a corner together very much each other's counterpart, both a trifle too dignified, they were obviously proud leaders of society. She watched my shades of expression, and cried:
"There is my favorite quadrille—La la-la-la-la-la-a-la," softly humming and nodding her head, an action not common among the English.
"Pardon me, sir, your name is Mr. 'Aviland, I believe," interrupted a young man with a close-cut, very thick, very black beard, and the waxed ends of his moustache fiercely turned up.
"Our Sovereign Lady De Rheims requests the pleasure of your conversation."
On turning to Mlle. Sylphe to make my excuses, she smiled, saying with a regretful grimace: "Obeissez."
Mde. De Rheims stood with Mde. Fee, the aunt of Mile. Sylphe, near the musicians, receiving and surveying her subjects,—a woman of majestic presence. Nodding dismissal to the fierce moustache, she acknowledged my deep bow with a slight but gracious inclination.
"Madame Fee, permit me to introduce Monsieur Chamilly Haviland, a D'Argentenaye of Dormilliere,—and the last. My child, your attractions have been too exclusively of the 'West End.' You have lived among the English; enter now into my society." Mde. Fee smiled, and Mde. de Rheims taking a look at me continued: "The stock is incomparable out of France. Remember, my child, that your ancestors were grande noblesse," haughtily raising her head. A novel feeling of distinction was added to my swelling current of new pleasures.
A ruddy, simply-dressed, black-haired lady, but of natural and cultured manner, was now received by her with much cordiality, and I had an opportunity to survey the whole concourse and continue my observations. Brought up as I had been for the last few years, I found my own people markedly foreign,—not so much in any obtrusive respect as in that general atmosphere to which we often apply the term.
In the first place there was the language—not patois as of habitants and barbers, nor the mode of the occasional caller at our house, whose pronunciation seemed an individual exception; but an entire assemblage holding intercourse in dainty Parisian, exquisite as the famous dialect of the Brahmans. There was the graceful compliment, the antithetic description, the witty repartee. One could say the poetical or sententious without being insulted by a stare. Some of the ladies were beautiful, some were not, but they had for the most part a quite ideal degree of grace and many of them a kind of dignity not too often elsewhere found. Every person laughed and was happy through the homely cotillion that was proceeding. The feelings of the young seemed to issue and mingle in sympathy, with a freedom naturally delightful to my peculiar nature, and the triumphant strains of music excited my pulses.
Mde. De Rheims touched my arm and pointed individuals by name. "That strong young man is a d'Irumberry—the pale one, a Le Ber—that young girl's mother is a Guay de Boisbriant. Do not look at her partner, he is some canaille."
There was, true enough, some difference. The descendants of gentry were on the average marked with at least physical endowments quite distinctly above the rest of the race. But there was a ridiculous side, for I recognized some about whom my grandmother was used to make merry, such as the youth who could "trace his ancestry five ways to Charles the Fat," and the stout-built brothers in whose family there was a rule "never to strike a man twice to knock him down.". My grandmother said that "those who could not knock him down kept the tradition by not striking him once!"
Mde. De Rheims now introduced me to two people simultaneously—Sir Georges Mondelet, Chief-Justice, and the ruddy lady, Mde. Fauteux of Quebec. The Chief Justice was of that good old type, at sight of which the word gentil-homme springs naturally to one's lips He was small in figure, but his features were clearly cut, and the falling of the cheeks and deepening of lines produced by approach of age, had but imparted to them an increased, repose. His clear gaze and fine balance of expression denoted that remarkable common sense and personal honor for which I divined his judgments and conduct must be respected. His smile was charming, and displayed a set of well-preserved teeth. The few words he spoke to me were not remarkable. They were simple and kind like his movements.
To Mde. Fauteux I offered my arm, and conducted her into the large conservatory opening off the parlors, where we walked.
"Is it not a great privilege, Monsieur, to be an Englishman?" she began with polite banter. "You are the conquerors, the millionaires; yours are the palaces, and the high and honorable places! But you, Monsieur, you are not too proud to patronize our little receptions."
"Pardon me, Madame, I am not English."
"Is that true? But you have the air."
"There is no air I could prefer to that of a man like Sir Georges Mondelet."
"Nor I too, in seriousness. That is the true French gentleman. He cares little even for his title, and prefers to be called Mr. Mondelet, holding his judicial office in greater esteem. I once heard him say in joke, 'that there could be many Knights but only one Chief Justice.'"
"That is true," I said.
"Yes, it is true," she echoed. "Law is a noble philosophy, and its profession the most brilliant of the highways to fame."
"Do you know," she continued, "that we inherit our law from the Romans. This beautiful system, this philosophic justice of our Province, is the imperial legacy bequeathed us by that Empire in which we once took our share as rulers of the world—the shadow of the mighty wings under which our ancestors reposed. We all have Roman, blood in our veins. Do you see that face there?—that is a Roman face. Our Church speaks Latin, and looks to the city of Caesar. Our own speech is a Latin tongue. The classics of our young men's study are still those that were current on the Forum. Our law is Roman law."
If the gaiety of the French world had satisfied me, what was not my wonder and joy at discovering in it a reflective side; and for half an hour I remained in a leafy alcove listening to her refined converse,—dealing with books like "Corinne," and "La Chaumiere Indienne,"—La Fontaine, Moliere, Montesquieu,—and especially interesting me in the society which moved around us, which as she touched it with her wand of history and eloquence, acquired an inconceivable interest for me, and I was for the first time proud of being a French-Canadian.
In the midst of these excitements, as I stood so listening, and now joined by two others,—
"Chamilly, my brother, I have come for you," suddenly broke in Grace; and stood before me all radiance, dropping somebody's arm. Excusing myself, I took her in charge and we moved gaily off. Waltzing with her was so easy that it made me feel my own motion graceful; the swirl of mingled feelings impelled me to recognize how superior she was in other things, and to proudly set her off against each lovely or dignified or sprightly figure there; and when the music closed abruptly, we started laughing together for the conservatory of which I have spoken, at the end of the vast rooms. This conservatory ended in a circular enlargement divided into several nooks or bowers, and we wandered into one in which the moonlight came faintly on our faces through the glass and the vines.
Again the Greek head with the light upon it!
Strains of other music floated in. Every sense was enraptured.
"Let Alexandra go!" I thought. "Let me live as my people have discovered how to live."
"Mon cher, am I tending you faithfully."
"Charmingly, my sister."
She laughed at the way I said it, because I spoke with perfect resignation.
The thread running through all my other experiences of the evening had been admiration of Grace. Pleased as I was with this society, I had compared her with each of the best members of it, to her advantage. She had in her young way, the dignity of Madame de Rheims; all the gracefulness of the Southern girl with the pretty eyes; beauty as striking, though not the same as that girl's sister; the gaiety of Chinic; and now I was to find that she was apparently as cultured as Mde. Fauteux. For she did talk seriously and brightly about books and languages and artistic subjects:
"I would abhor beyond everything a life of fashionable vanity. My desire for life is to always keep progressing."
Whilst she talked I was reflecting, and mechanically looking around at the divisions into nooks.
"Don't you think this arrangement inviting, Chamilly? It has a history. An engagement has taken place in each of these alcoves except one."
I looked around at them again; then asked:
"Which is the one?"
"The alcove we are in, mon frere."
I glanced at her, the moonlight still falling brokenly-upon the Venus head, and could see a crimson blush sweep over her countenance and her eyelids droop.
"Grace," I said—agitatedly, "Will you give me more of your evening after the next dance you promised?"
"Take from then to the end!—three dances that I have kept for you especially; I wish they were longer. But I am ashamed to sit here after what I have happened to say."
A whirl of rapid thoughts made it some time till I could regain presence of mind, and I found my eyes following her feverishly into the weavings of another waltz, and was roused by the "Salut, Monsieur," of a quiet man who did not know me, but turned out from his remarks, to be Picault, the owner of the mansion. His observations were general and of a kind of a conciliatory tone, and seemed to be each uttered after grave deliberation. There was a prudence and respectability and an air of inoffensiveness about his manner which indicated the quiet merchant of means. He spoke of Madame De Rheims with great respect, and drew my attention to quondam Mlle. Alvarez, the New Orleans beauty, as though her presence was a marked honor to his house; and hearing that I was not acquainted with her, he insisted on an introduction and I found myself leading her into the alcove Grace and I had left. She spoke first of New Orleans, where English, she said, was taking the place of our language, and I gathered that the latter was becoming gradually confined to a limited circle. There was a French quarter apart from the American city, though in its midst.
"The fate of your people should make you intensely French," said I.
"Monsieur has an English descent, to judge by his name. Well then, I will say something I say at home. I do not admire Frenchmen."
"But Mlle.—your patriotism!"
"I am not very French," she said haughtily, "My father is the son of a Spanish Minister."
"But why do you disapprove of the French? As to me, I find them excessively attractive."
"It is because I know them well," she said gaily. "My husband is the only Frenchman I would have married. Their quest is self-gratification, to which they sacrifice no matter what. I despise them."—She laughed mock-heroically,—"Take now your Englishman! Let him love a Frenchwoman, for it is only a Frenchwoman who can return such love! Domestic, silent, energetic,—he adores, protects, provides, and yet accomplishes ambitions. This is because he sacrifices none of such things to the Myself, who is the god of Frenchmen!"
These words seemed of more importance to me than the beautiful speaker could have thought. I had almost committed my soul; was it to a cup of Comus, to a fatal household of Circe?
The lady smilingly glided away with her husband.
Then new characteristics seemed in face of race patriotism, to dawn as I looked at those passing around. I imagined each facial expression thoughtless, heartless, jaded or disgusted. I had taken the beautiful Creole's cynical words seriously, and thought I saw the search for self-gratification everywhere.
Instead of striking a balance of impressions, I passed for the time from the extreme of admiration to the extreme of criticism, and at last turned into the supper room to think. A dapper man of sanguine complexion and grey moustache and hair, a cynical gentleman-of-leisure and old-established visitor at my grandmother's, was taking wine there, and he addressed me familiarly. I began to question him about several people:
"Who is that man with the mass of locks and the queer beard?"
"That," replied he like a showman, "is the Honorable Grandmoulin, the National Liar, Premier Minister of the Province, and First Juggler of its finances:—a profligate in public in the name of the Church—in secret in the name of Free-Thought—beau diseur—demagogue of the rabble and chieftain of the Cave."
He lifted his glass of ruby liquid and faced me across it. "You may not know, my simple Ali Baba, that the Government of this Province is the private property of Forty Thieves."
"What are these thieves—this Cave?—I do not understand what you mean, sir."
"Chevaliers of the highway my child," (he had just enough in him to make him free of speech), "who obtain office through the credulity of Jean Baptiste the industrious Beaver, who, like Jacques in France, bears everything. Jean Baptiste labors. It is the duty of Jean Baptiste to believe everything he is told. Monsieur of the Forty and Company must live upon something. Tsha! The Beavers were created to sweat—to load up their pack mules and be plundered. Quebec is the cave of the Forty,—and plunder is their sesame."
"But how does such a man come to be received into society?" exclaimed I, disturbed.
The answer was prompt.
"He is successful."
Reason only too obvious. It staggered me to watch the man receiving and being greeted.
Presently I asked again: "Are more of them present?" "Assuredly. Like devils they fly in swarms: like the Apostles they never travel less than two—one to preach you the relics and the other to pick the pocket in the tails of your coat. The man with the Oriental beard there looks respectable, does he not? Tell me,—does he not?"
"It is true."
"He is the honest-man-figure-head and book-keeper of the Cave. This fellow near us," (gesturing towards a scraggy-looking little man), "has got himself appointed a judge and once securely off the raft, poses as a little tyrant to young advocates, on the Kamouraska Bench."
"What does our host, Mr. Picault do?" I said, to change the subject.
What was my surprise when he answered:
"Picault is the Arch Devil—the organizer of the Cave—the man who manipulates the Government for the profit of his accomplices. When they require money the Province calls a loan; it is members of the Cave who negociate it, exacting a secret commission which is itself a fortune. The loan is expended," he went on, marking each step of his narration by appropriate gestures of his right forefinger, as one who is expounding a science, "on salaries to the Cave supporters, who are appointed to ingenious sinecures. Vast contracts are given at extravagant prices to persons who pay a large share to our friends. Then the works, such as railways, are sold,—if possible to Picault, or through him in the same manner. And finally, by this system no burden is left upon the Treasury except the loan to be paid. Between this and all sorts of minor applications of the principle, though they have not long begun, the end is clear;—yet the electorate persists in being duped by these ruffians. Men cherish their prejudices," he closed oracularly. "Men cherish their prejudices with more care than their interests."
"Until, he began to control the politicans," he immediately resumed, "Picault was a bankrupt financier. Now he is nominally a banker with millions. Once bribed or scandalized, your politician is broken in; and Picault's favourite maxim is 'You can buy the Pope, and pay less for a Cardinal.'"
"I want to get out of this house!" I cried, no longer able to retain my indignation, "Am I a thief to associate with these criminals?"
"My young man," said he, holding me quiet by the shoulder. "Accept the good points of Picault and drink your lemonade. The chieftain of fools is ever a knave; he has been tempted by the ignorance of the people."
Such feelings of contempt and determination nevertheless took possession of me that the relish of Picault's magnificence and the charms of his assembly soured to very repulsion.
Indignation above all with my own self took possession of me; for this circle was what I was to have exchanged for the world of Alexandra.
Must I endure to be detained here till the time of my appointment with Grace? I went up to her to tell her abruptly I must go—what reason to give I knew not—and as I looked into those trustful, believing eyes and flushed face, feelings of desperate abandon for an instant almost overcame me. But natural resolution increased with the antagonism, "I must leave, Grace," said I, shortly and fiercely. "I cannot tell you the reason. Good night."
Next morning my father sent me to France with Quinet.
LA MERE PATRIE.
"Et pour la France un chant sacre s'eleve; Qu'il brille pur, le ciel de nos aieux!" —F.X. GARNEAU.
"Chamilly! Chamilly! This is the soil of our forefathers!" Quinet and I stood at last on the shores of France. We trod it with veneration, and looked around with joy. It was the sea-port of Dieppe, whose picturesque mediaeval Gothic houses ranged their tall gables before us. Hence my ancestor had sailed to the wild new Canada two centuries before.—O enchanted land!
"Behold the Middle Ages!"—cried Quinet again, looking at the Gothic houses—"of which we have heard and read."
"Is it not strange!"—I exclaimed—"Yes, this is the old Patrie.—Is it possible to believe ourselves here?—Stamp and see if the ground is real!"
"There is a blouse!—a paysan, as in the pictures—he wears the cap! he has the wooden shoes!"
"It is our brother—the Frenchman!"
There was more nevertheless. Celestial angels,—I too have been in heaven. I have been a French Canadian in Paris!
Dieppe was the first note of the music, the noble and quaint Cathedral of Rouen and our railway glimpses of rural Normandy were the prelude. At last our pilgrim feet were in the Beautiful City. O much we wandered in its Avenues, with throbbing delight and love towards every face, that first memorable day. This river is the Seine! that Palace so proud and rich, the world-renowned Louvre. What is yon great carved front with twin towers—that pile with the light of morning melting its spires and roofs and flying buttresses as they rise into it—that world of clustered mediaeval saints in stone, beautiful, pointed-arched portals and unapproached and unapproachable dignity—from which the edifices of the City seem to stand afar off and leave it alone, and which wears not the air of to-day or yesterday?—Notre Dame de Paris, O vast monument of French art, recorder of chivalric ages, all the generations have had recourse to thine aisles and the heart of Paris beats within thee as the hearts of Quinet and this d'Argentenaye beat under the ribs of their human breasts.
Paris knew and loved us. The fountains and great trees of the Tuilleries Gardens were palatial for us; the Champs Elysees laughed to us as we moved through their groves; the Arch de l'Etoile had a voice to us grandly of the victories of our race; the Bois de Boulogne was gay with happy groups and glistening equipages.
How well they do everything in Paris! When shall the streets of Montreal be so smooth, the houses so artistically built, when shall living be reduced to such system of neatness and saving?
Quinet betook himself much to the obscure cheese shops and cafes in the quarters of the people, and ate and chatted with such villains that I called him "The Communard." He, on the other hand, called me "Le Grand Marquis," because I made use of some relatives who were among the nobility.
Between us we missed little. On the one hand the heart of the masses affected us. Once we bought bread of a struggling baker hard by the famous abbey of St. Denis. We asked for a cup of water to drink with it,—"But Messieurs will not drink water!" he cried, and rushed in his generosity for his poor bottle of wine.—My French-Canadian countrymen, that was a trait of yours!
I remember too,—when my shoe hurt me and I limped badly one evening along the Avenue of the Bois,—the numbers of men and women who said to one another: "O, le pauvre jeune homme." Ye world-wide Pharisees, erring Paris cannot be so deeply wicked while its heart flows so much goodness!
But the enthusiasms will run away with my story. Resolutely, revenons.
While Quinet, the positive pole of our expedition, was ever edging our march towards his Bastille Column and his cut-throat Quartier Montmartre, I, the negative; drew it a little into more polished circles where wit and talent sparkled. The Vicomte D'Haberville, a French d'Argentenaye, took us to a reception—not too proud of us I daresay, for the gloss of his shoes and the magnificence of his cravat outshone us as the sleek skin of a race-horse does a country filly. Especially did he eye Quinet a little coldly, so that I could scarcely persuade the proud fellow to come.
To the astonishment of the Vicomte, however, Quinet was the attraction of the evening. Taine and Thiers were there, and fired by a remark from one of these his famous men, the young Radical had ventured a clever saying.
Thiers looked at him a sharp glance as he heard the accent:
"Vous etes des Provinces, monsieur?"
"No, sir—from New France."
"We had once,—in America—a colony of the name," replied the statesman, reflecting.
"France has it still. It is a colony of hearts!"
Quinet awakened interest; was inquired into and drawn out, and we were invited to a dozen of the most interesting salons of the capital.
O but those Parisians are clever! Why is it they are so much more brilliant than we? Perhaps because there intellect is honored.
Quickly, through these surroundings, our knowledges and tastes advanced—Quinet's verging to the path of social science—mine to an artistic sense which suddenly unfolded into life and became my chief delight. The enthusiasm for Paris gradually led me to another offer by Life of a Highest Thing. To say it shortly—the salons led to a pleasure in the artistic, the society of artists to a growing appreciation of fine works of skill, and these, to Italy and Rome.
Do you desire to rest eyes upon the noblest products of the hand of man? Go into the Land of Romance as we did, and wander among its castled hill-tops, its ruins of Empire, its cathedrals in the skill of whose exhaustless grandeurs Divinity breathes through genius. Meditate in reverence before the famous masterpieces of antiquity—the Venus of Milo—the silent agony of the Laocoon, the Hyperion Belvedere. Learn from Canova's pure marble, and Raphael's Chambers, and from Titian, and Tintoret, and the astonishing galaxies of intellect that shine in their constellations in the sky of the true Renaissance.
Then you may say as I did, "At length, I am finding something great and best. The beautiful is the whole that mankind can directly apprehend, and as for other things hoped for, symbolism is the true outlet for his soul. Art is the union of this beauty and symbolism. No aspiration exists but can be expressed in pleasing forms."
Does man desire God, he paints—O how raptly!—a saint; does he feel after immortality, he sculptures an ever-young Apollo. Looking to them, he has faith, as of an oracle, in their emblematic truth, and through them instructs the world.
Art seemed to me then the Highest Thing.
SOMETHING MORE OF QUINET?
One evening as we sat on the Pincian Hill, in the semi-tropical garden, overlooking the domes and towers of the Imperial City, Quinet broke our silence, and surprised me by saying abruptly:
"Let us go to England."
"Let us go; I wish to go."
"But what is your press about England. I thought you hated the English."
"I do not hate the English. Among whom are there more amiable friends, more beautiful women. I am seized with a wish to see that great people in their country."
"You hated them some time ago."
"In the present tense, that verb has with me the peculiarity of parsing itself negatively."
I reflected a little on this change of opinion in Quinet, and its possible causes, till he again broke out abruptly:
"Miss Carter gave me a message for you."
The recollection of my conduct at Picault's sent a pang through me.
"What is it?" I said. The tropical plants around us brought up vividly those at the ball.
"I did not ask her,"—his voice was curious—"what it meant, but she desired me to say for her; 'I beg you to write me why you left the ball.'"
"So you do her page-work," I returned, for I thought I could now divine the reason of his change towards the English. "Pretty work for a grown knight! If you know her so well, you know the picturesque groves of St. Helen's Island where she lives. Why stop at page-work? One would think with an enchanted isle, and an enchanting maiden, the Chevalier would find his proper occupation."
Quinet changed aspect. "Do you not then admire her?" he advanced quickly, with uncontrollable feeling.
"Not admire Grace Carter!" said I, for I felt as if I had done her injustice when I last left her,—"Yet no more than a friend, Quinet."
"Is that the fact?" he cried, springing up—"I thought it was she you were in love with! I heard you were in one of Picault's alcoves together."
THE ENTHUSIASM OF LEADERSHIP.
"Dans quelle terre a borderez-vous qui vous soit plus chere que celle ou vous etes ne?" —PAUL ET VIRGINIE.
When I reached home my father took me to Dormilliere. "The purpose is very special," he said, so gravely that I trusted his wisdom and hastily despatching to Alexandra a brooch of Roman mosaic, which I had bought for her in Italy, I left with him.
Life had another offer now to extend to me—Dormilliere, and the power thereof. As we approached the pier, and I beheld its three green terraces one over another; the grove of pines on the hill-top above the terraces; and cottages, white, red and grey, appearing among the pines;—dear home unvisited so long;—and the spires of the Church in the sky glinting the light of the setting sun, and on the shore and pier familiar faces of old men and young men changed; boys grown into stalwart fellows, and babes into boys and girls; many quiet visions of youth rose and mingled with my thoughts, and this spell began its working, as those of Society and Art had done.
"V'la Monseigneur!" called out Pierre, our coachman, on the pier, the lineaments of whose face half seemed a memory suddenly grown vivid and real.—"Mon Dieu!" he cried laughing and crying, as he looked at me closely, "It's M'sieu Chamilly! My dear child, it was painful to have you absent so long. Why did you not come even to see us?—Please give me your hand again. But how you are loaded! Come, where is your valise? Let me do something for you, M'sieu Chamilly."
"V'la M'sieu Chamilly!" the shouts went up.
"It's the young Seigneur! the young Seigneur!" spread among the villagers,—they welcomed, they addressed us, the kind spirit of French Canadians took us to itself, and I was drawn to my people, as I had not been even during the conversation of the delightful Madame Fauteux. My father received them with both hands and all sorts of gay remarks, "How do you like this, Chamilly?" he laughed, with the satisfaction of an Archduke returned to his dominions.
"Are you come to fish, Monsieur?" asked Pierre, in affectionate garrulity, as he took up the reins.
"No, good Pierre, I do not know what I am coming for."
"You will troll as formerly? Our magnificent maskinonge are polite as guests for a wedding. Yesterday I took one of ninety-seven pounds!"
The good hearted fellow kept talking as we drove.
One familiar scene after another! The village street of which I knew every doorstep. Ah!—a new wayside across in front of Widow Priedieu's—and the gay mast before the Captain Martinet's—the blacksmith's dusty shop—the inn-keepers' poles holding out their oval hotel-signs—the merry little cocked house where they had that famous jollification immortalized in the song:
"Au grand bal chez Boule."
But my friends! my friends!—to see my old friends was the great enjoyment. "Hola," deliberate Pierre; and you three Jeans—gros Jean, grand Jean and petit Jean; "Monsieur le Notaire, bon jour!" the faces at the panes and the heads at the door!
And lo, the gardens,—the broad fields so generous of harvest—the Manoir trees in the distance!
And as of yore,—driving up the road those merrymen in the carts singing that well remembered "En roulant":
"Le fils du roi s'en va chassant En roulant, ma boule."[E]
And with sympathetic exhilaration, I swing into the old life again on the current of the jovial chorus:
"En roulant, ma boule roulant: En roulant, ma boule!"
[Footnote E: "The Dauphin forth a hunting goes. Roll, roll on, my rolling ball." —OLD CHANSON.]
THE LIFE OF LEADERSHIP.
.... "Pourvu qu'ils vivent noblement et ne fassent aucun acte derogeant a noblesse."
PATENTS OF NOBLESSE.
"Light the lamps," my father ordered.
Tardif, the butler, did so with alacrity.
"Tardif, thou canst withdraw," added my father.
"Oui, monseigneur," replied Tardif, bowing respectfully, and went.
The room and its antiquated splendors looked ancestral to me. Its size struck me. It was larger than any in our town house. The family portraits and furniture revived lifelong memories. We had a fine collection of forefathers.
"Chamilly"—began my father, walking up before the picture of one who was to me childhood's holy dream. He stopped for some moments, gazing up to her face with intense affection, and then turning to me, said in a broken voice—"Never forget your mother."
"No, sir," I replied, bending my head.
In a moment he went on to the other portraits, and his manner altered to more of pride.
"Your grandfather, the Honorable Chateauguay, this. This is his Lady, your grandmother. Here is her father, a LeGardeur de Repentigny. There is the old Marshal in armor. Here is Louise d'Argentenaye, of the time of Henry IV., who married a Montcalm. Here is the Count d'Argentenaye in armor." And thus he took me about on a singular round, and informed me concerning the whole gallery.
He stopped at an old, solid wood cabinet, with spiral legs, bent over and opened it with a key.
"Now," thought I, "these mysteries are going to be explained."
"This is a dress sword," he went on, "worn in France, at the court of Louis XIII. It was worn by one of your forefathers. Here are two decorations—Crosses of St. Louis—what beautiful little things they are. They belong to two of us who were Chevaliers."
I was only still more mystified.
"Come into the office, my son," said he, leading me into a room used for collecting the feudal rents and other business.
"It is coming now," I exclaimed to myself.
My father lifted out an iron box, ornamented with our arms in color, and handed to me a parchment, having an immense wax seal, which I took and read.
Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, Councillor of the King in his Councils of the State and Privy Council, Governor and Lieutenant-General of His Majesty in Canada, Acadia, and other countries of Septentrional France. To All Those who shall see these present letters: HIS MAJESTY having at all times sought to act with "zeal proper to the just title of Eldest Son of the Church, has passed into this Country good number of his subjects, Officers of his troops in the Regiment of Carignan and others, whereof the most part desiring to attach themselves to the country by founding Estates and Seigniories proportionate to their force; and the Sieur JEAN CHAMILIE D'ARGENTENAY, Lieutenant of the Company of D'Ormilliere, having prayed us to grant him some such: WE, in consideration of the good, useful, and praiseworthy services he has rendered to His Majesty as well in Old France as New, do concede to the said Sieur Jean Chamilie D'Argentenay, the Extent of Lands which shall be found on the River St. Lawrence from those of Sieur Simon de la Lande to those heretofore granted to the Sieur de Bois-Hebert, to enjoy said land en Fief et Seigneurie at charge of the Faith and Homage, the said Sieur Jean Chamilie D'Argentenay his heirs and representatives shall he held to render at Our Castle of St. Louis at Quebec.
I laid down the parchment.
"This is the original grant of the seigniory?"
"Yes," he replied with animation, "The 'HIS MAJESTY' there is the Grand Monarque himself! De Frontenac is the Great Count, and that Jean Chamilly D'Argentenaye, cadet of the Chamillys of Rouen, is our first predecessor on these lands."
Taking a large genealogical tree out of the box, and spreading it on the table, he showed me my descent. "The Honorable Chateauguay drew this up at the time of my marriage," he began.
"The whole tree is mine then?" I ventured, surveying it.
"Yes," he cried, "and these are brave and honorable names! The wish of my heart has been that you preserve their record. See: the first marriage is a Mlle. Boucher de Boucherville, whose father, Pierre, Governor of Three Rivers, was so honest and wise in the perilous early course of the Colony! Madeline de Vercheres, heroic holder of the fort surprised by Iroquois, is near her. See! we date from the fourteenth century, and are allied with the Montaignes, Grammonts, Sullys, La Rochefoucaulds. Here is Le Moyne d'Iberville, and there De Hertel, brave and able,—a Juchereau du Chesnay; a Joybert de Soulanges. Down here is De Salaberry, the Leonidas of Lower Canada. There behold Philippe de Gaspe, who wrote 'Les Anciens Canadiens;' there Gaspard Joly, the Knight of Lotbiniere.—But you can inform yourself about these names. They will be useful in your enterprises by raising you above the reproach of being an adventurer. Seat yourself over there."
"My father," thought I to myself, "you and your pride are both very much out of date," but I obeyed him and seated myself where he indicated.
"The reason why I have brought you here, is to tell you, that it has always been intended that you should in some way, succeed in these properties. Before you developed, it was not possible to predict exactly how you might do it; but within the last few years you have surpassed our hopes; and I have no trepidation in putting before you my views of your future position. You may think I am strong in health, but I shall soon pass away."
My heart suddenly started.
"And you will find yourself here with revenues ample for the moderate purposes of a gentleman. You may live in the country, or in the city, as you please; but my desire is that you should live here, and continue in the paths of your grandfather and myself: for he was a just Englishman, and taught me that no one must take without an equivalent; and that a landlord owed duties to his people, of the value of the moneys they paid him. Formerly the lord gave his vassals armed protection for their rents: now there is nothing to which the law forces him; thus his returns must be fixed by his sense of duty."