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Title: Le chien d'or. English - The Golden Dog
Author: Kirby, William, 1817-1906
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Le chien d'or. English - The Golden Dog" ***

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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.

WILLIAM KIRBY.

Niagara, Canada, May, 1897.



CONTENTS.


CHAPTER

I. MEN OF THE OLD RÉGIME

II. THE WALLS OF QUEBEC

III. A CHATELAINE OF NEW FRANCE

IV. CONFIDENCES

V. THE ITINERANT NOTARY

VI. BEAUMANOIR

VII. THE INTENDANT BIGOT

VIII. CAROLINE DE ST. CASTIN

IX. PIERRE PHILIBERT

X. AMÉLIE 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. ANGÉLIQUE DES MELOISES

XVII. SPLENDIDE MENDAX

XVIII. THE MEROVINGIAN PRINCESS

XIX. PUT MONEY IN THY PURSE

XX. BELMONT

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. MÈRE 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 RÉGIME.


"'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 Galissonière, 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 Galissonière, 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 Galissonière 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 Hôtel 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 Côte à 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 Pré, 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 Galissonière, 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 Hôtel 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 corvée--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 Amélie 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, Amélie 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. Amélie 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, Amélie 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, Amélie had left the ancient Convent of the Ursulines,
perfected in all the graces and accomplishments taught in the famous
cloister founded by Mère 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
Amélie and to Angélique 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 Amélie, 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.

Amélie 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 corvée 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 Amélie?"

As he spoke the old soldier embraced Amélie and kissed her cheek with
fatherly effusion. She was a prodigious favorite. "Welcome, Amélie!"
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!"

Amélie 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.

Amélie 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; Amélie, 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."

Amélie 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."

Amélie 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."
Amélie 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, Amélie?
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."

Amélie 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,
Amélie! 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
Amélie. "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 Béarn, 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, à gorge deployée, 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 Amélie 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."

Amélie'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.
Amélie'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, Amélie, 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, Amélie." The old soldier gaily
kissed his hand and rode away.

Amélie 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.

Amélie 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. Amélie, 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 Amélie 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 Amélie. 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, Amélie 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, Amélie, 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 Amélie 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 Amélie sat thinking over the strange chances of the morning, a
sudden whirl of wheels drew her attention.

A gay calèche, drawn by two spirited horses en flèche, dashed through
the gateway of St. John, and wheeling swiftly towards Amélie, suddenly
halted. A young lady attired in the gayest fashion of the period,
throwing the reins to the groom, sprang out of the calèche with the ease
and elasticity of an antelope. She ran up the rampart to Amélie with a
glad cry of recognition, repeating her name in a clear, musical voice,
which Amélie at once knew belonged to no other than the gay, beautiful
Angélique des Meloises. The newcomer embraced Amélie 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, Angélique," replied Amélie, returning her caress
warmly, but without effusion. "We have simply come with our people
to assist in the King's corvée; 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!" Amélie 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,
Angélique." Amélie 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, Amélie; 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."

Angélique felt highly flattered by the praise of Amélie, whom she had
sometimes condescended to envy for her graceful figure and lovely,
expressive features.

"Gentlemen often speak as you do, Amélie," 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, Angélique. You are more beautiful
than any one I know," Amélie 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?"

Angélique 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, Angélique! 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?"

Amélie looked sufficiently puzzled. "What has come over you, Angélique?
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
Angélique 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 Amélie'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, Angélique 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 Vallière 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. Angélique 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.


Angélique took the arm of Amélie 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. Angélique held Amélie by both
hands, as if hesitating how to express something she wished to say.
Still, when Angélique did speak, it was plain to Amélie that she had
other things on her mind than what her tongue gave loose to.

"Now we are quite alone, Amélie," 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
Amélie. "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 Béarn 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, Amélie." Angélique laughed aloud at some secret reminiscences of
her summer campaign.

"It is well that I did not come to the city, Angélique, 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 Angélique, laughing.

"No! then your heart is more cruel than your eyes. But, tell me, who
have been your victims this year, Angélique?"

"Well, to be frank, Amélie, 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, Angélique! I do not believe you feel proud of
such triumphs," exclaimed Amélie.

"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 Françoise 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 Angélique des Meloises to test the fidelity of her affianced,
Julien de St. Croix."

Amélie rose up in honest indignation, her cheek burning like a coal of
fire. "I know your wild talk of old, Angélique, 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, Amélie, you would think it no sin to
punish them for their perjuries."

"No, I don't know men," replied Amélie, "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 Françoise?"

"Oh! I threw him to the fishes! What did I care for him? It was mainly
to punish Françoise's presumption that I showed my power and made him
fight that desperate duel with Captain Le Franc."

"O Angélique, 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, Angélique! 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,
Angélique: you need her prayers!" Amélie rose up suddenly.

"Nay, do not get angry and go off that way, Amélie," ejaculated
Angélique. "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, Angélique? What have your triumphs or failures to do with me? No, I
care not to hear." Angélique 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, Amélie?"

Amélie 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
Angélique 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 Angélique.

"Indeed! pray, from whom?" Amélie's curiosity, though not usually a
troublesome quality, was by this time fairly roused.

Angélique 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?" Amélie was now thoroughly interested in
Angélique'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."

Amélie's eyes gave a sparkle of joy, which did not escape Angélique,
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, Amélie. 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, Angélique! How could you confess to aught so unwomanly!"
There was a warmth in Amélie'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?" Amélie
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, Amélie!" Angélique
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 trésor! 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, Amélie! But I discovered the truth hidden in his
heart. He is in love with you, Amélie 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, Amélie, before he said a word to me. Indeed,
he only just wanted to enjoy the supernal pleasure of hearing me sing
the praises of Amélie De Repentigny to the tune composed by himself."

"Which you seem to have done, Angélique!"

"As musically as Mère St. Borgia when singing vespers in the Ursulines,"
was Angélique's flippant reply.

Amélie 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 Angélique when she had last
seen Le Gardeur.

"At the Intendant's levee the other day. How like you he is, too, only
less amiable!"

Angélique 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?" Amélie was secretly glad to hear of the displeasure
of Le Gardeur with Angélique.

"Not at all, I hope, Amélie. 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 Angélique with a scornful pout of her lips.

"Don't speak ill of my godfather, Angélique; better be profane on any
other topic: you know my ideal of manly virtues is the Chevalier La
Corne," replied Amélie.

"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," Amélie
said after a pause. She disliked censuring even the Intendant.

"Yes," replied Angélique, "the Honnêtes 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, Angélique.
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, Amélie!"

"And lost the province for the king!" retorted Amélie, 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, Amélie!"

Angélique stamped her dainty foot upon the ground, as if in fancy she
already had them on.

"It is shocking if you mean it!" remarked Amélie pityingly, for she felt
Angélique 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 Angélique warmly.

Amélie 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 Angélique's infatuation, or
perversity, in suffering herself to be attracted by the glitter of the
vices of the Royal Intendant.

"Angélique!" 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, Angélique! such a libel upon our sex! You know better. But you
cannot love him?"

"Love him? No!" Angélique 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!"

Angélique laughed at her own extravagance, but she believed in it all
the same. Amélie, 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, Angélique. 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. Angélique'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, Amélie! 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, Amélie. 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, Amélie; 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 'François! 'François!'
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."

Angélique 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 Château, 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, Angélique?"
exclaimed Amélie, 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 Amélie, thoroughly
interested in Angélique'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!"
Angélique added, as she leaned over the parapet, gazing intently at the
great forest that lay beyond Charlebourg, in which was concealed the
Château of Beaumanoir.

"It is a strange mystery. But I would not seek to unravel it,
Angélique," remarked Amélie, "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, Amélie, to discover the truth of this secret?"

"I? how can I? I pity you, Angélique, 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, Amélie,
Le Gardeur will tell you all if you ask him!"

"And I repeat it to you, Angélique, 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!"

Amélie, 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 Angélique, "smooth your hair, and compose your
looks. Here comes my aunt and the Bishop--Father de Berey too!"

Angélique 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 Amélie
and the hand of the Lady de Tilly, and with a coquettish courtesy to the
gentlemen, leaped nimbly into her calèche, 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.

Amélie 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 corvée, 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 Château 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 Curé 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 Curé 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 corvée, 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 corvée 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 Amélie 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 Curé with the first-fruits of the field, to ensure the
blessing of plenty for the rest of the year.

The Reverend Curé 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 Bédard, the sharp landlady of the Crown of France, and her no less
sharp and pretty daughter, Zoë. 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 régime 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.

The reputation of Master Pothier dit Robin was, of course, very great
among the habitans, as he travelled from parish to parish and from
seigniory to seigniory, drawing bills and hypothecations, marriage
contracts and last wills and testaments, for the peasantry, who had
a genuine Norman predilection for law and chicanery, and a respect
amounting to veneration for written documents, red tape, and
sealing-wax. Master Pothier's acuteness in picking holes in the actes of
a rival notary was only surpassed by the elaborate intricacy of his own,
which he boasted, not without reason, would puzzle the Parliament of
Paris, and confound the ingenuity of the sharpest advocates of Rouen.
Master Pothier's actes were as full of embryo disputes as a fig is full
of seeds, and usually kept all parties in hot water and litigation
for the rest of their days. If he did happen now and then to settle a
dispute between neighbors, he made ample amends for it by setting half
the rest of the parish by the ears.

Master Pothier's nose, sharp and fiery as if dipped in red ink, almost
touched the sheet of paper on the table before him, as he wrote down
from the dictation of Dame Bédard the articles of a marriage contract
between her pretty daughter, Zoë, and Antoine La Chance, the son of a
comfortable but keen widow of Beauport.

Dame Bédard had shrewdly availed herself of the presence of Master
Pothier, and in payment of a night's lodging at the Crown of France, to
have him write out the contract of marriage in the absence of Dame
La Chance, the mother of Antoine, who would, of course, object to the
insertion of certain conditions in the contract which Dame Bédard was
quite determined upon as the price of Zoë's hand and fortune.

"There! Dame Bédard!" cried Master Pothier, sticking the pen behind his
ear, after a magnificent flourish at the last word, "there is a marriage
contract fit to espouse King Solomon to the Queen of Sheba! A dowry of
a hundred livres tournoises, two cows, and a feather bed, bedstead, and
chest of linen! A donation entre vifs!"

"A what? Master Pothier, now mind! are you sure that is the right word
of the grimoire?" cried Dame Bédard, instinctively perceiving that here
lay the very point of the contract. "You know I only give on condition,
Master Pothier."

"Oh, yes! trust me, Dame Bédard. I have made it a donation entre vifs,
révocable pour cause d'ingratitude, if your future son-in-law, Antoine
la Chance, should fail in his duty to you and to Zoë."

"And he won't do his duty to Zoë, unless he does it to me, Master
Pothier. But are you sure it is strong enough? Will it hold Dame La
Chance by the foot, so that she cannot revoke her gifts although I may
revoke mine?"

"Hold Dame La Chance by the foot? It will hold her as fast as a
snapping-turtle does a frog. In proof of it, see what Ricard says, page
970; here is the book." Master Pothier opened his tattered volume, and
held it up to the dame. She shook her head.

"Thanks, I have mislaid my glasses. Do you read, please!"

"Most cheerfully, good dame! A notary must have eyes for everybody--eyes
like a cat's, to see in the dark, and power to draw them in like a
turtle, so that he may see nothing that he does not want to see."

"Oh, bless the eyes of the notary!" Dame Bédard grew impatient. "Tell me
what the book says about gifts revocable--that is what concerns me and
Zoë."

"Well, here it is, dame: 'Donations stipulated revocable at the pleasure
of the donor are null. But this condition does not apply to donations by
contract of marriage.' Bourdon also says--"

"A fig for Bourdon, and all such drones! I want my gift made revocable,
and Dame La Chance's not! I know by long experience with my dear feu
Bédard how necessary it is to hold the reins tight over the men.
Antoine is a good boy, but he will be all the better for a careful
mother-in-law's supervision."

Master Pothier rubbed the top of his wig with his forefinger.

"Are you sure, dame, that Antoine La Chance will wear the bridle
easily?"

"Assuredly! I should like to see son-in-law of mine who would not!
Besides, Antoine is in the humor just now to refuse nothing for sake of
Zoë. Have you mentioned the children, Master Pothier? I do not intend to
let Dame La Chance control the children any more than Zoë and Antoine."

"I have made you tutrice perpetuelle, as we say in the court, and here
it is," said he, placing the tip of his finger on a certain line in the
document.

Zoë looked down and blushed to her finger-ends. She presently rallied,
and said with some spirit,--"Never mind them, Master Pothier! Don't put
them in the contract! Let Antoine have something to say about them. He
would take me without a dower, I know, and time enough to remind him
about children when they come."

"Take you without dower! Zoë Bédard! you must be mad!" exclaimed the
dame, in great heat. "No girl in New France can marry without a dower,
if it be only a pot and a bedstead! You forget, too, that the dower is
given, not so much for you, as to keep up the credit of the family. As
well be married without a ring! Without a dower, indeed!"

"Or without a contract written by a notary, signed, sealed, and
delivered!" chimed in Master Pothier.

"Yes, Master Pothier, and I have promised Zoë a three-days wedding,
which will make her the envy of all the parish of Charlebourg. The
seigneur has consented to give her away in place of her poor defunct
father; and when he does that he is sure to stand godfather for all the
children, with a present for every one of them! I shall invite you too,
Master Pothier!"

Zoë affected not to hear her mother's remark, although she knew it all
by heart, for it had been dinned into her ears twenty times a day for
weeks, and sooth to say, she liked to hear it, and fully appreciated the
honors to come from the patronage of the seigneur.

Master Pothier pricked up his ears till they fairly raised his wig, at
the prospect of a three days wedding at the Crown of France. He began
an elaborate reply, when a horse's tramp broke in upon them and Colonel
Philibert wheeled up to the door of the hostelry.

Master Pothier, seeing an officer in the King's uniform, rose on the
instant and saluted him with a profound bow, while Dame Bédard and Zoë,
standing side by side, dropped their lowest courtesy to the handsome
gentleman, as, with woman's glance, they saw in a moment he was.

Philibert returned their salute courteously, as he halted his horse in
front of Dame Bédard. "Madame!" said he, "I thought I knew all roads
about Charlebourg, but I have either forgotten or they have changed the
road through the forest to Beaumanoir. It is surely altered from what it
was."

"Your Honor is right," answered Dame Bédard, "the Intendant has opened
a new road through the forest." Zoë took the opportunity, while the
officer looked at her mother, to examine his features, dress, and
equipments, from head to foot, and thought him the handsomest officer
she had ever seen.

"I thought it must be so," replied Philibert; "you are the landlady of
the Crown of France, I presume?" Dame Bédard carried it on her face as
plainly marked as the royal emblem on the sign over her head.

"Yes, your Honor, I am Widow Bédard, at your service, and, I hope, keep
as good a hostelry as your Honor will find in the Colony. Will your
Honor alight and take a cup of wine, such as I keep for guests of
quality?"

"Thanks, Madame Bédard, I am in haste: I must find the way to
Beaumanoir. Can you not furnish me a guide, for I like not to lose time
by missing my way?"

"A guide, sir! The men are all in the city on the King's corvée; Zoë
could show you the way easily enough." Zoë twitched her mother's
arm nervously, as a hint not to say too much. She felt flattered and
fluttered too, at the thought of guiding the strange, handsome gentleman
through the forest, and already the question shot through her fancy,
"What might come of it? Such things have happened in stories!" Poor Zoë!
she was for a few seconds unfaithful to the memory of Antoine La Chance.
But Dame Bédard settled all surmises by turning to Master Pothier, who
stood stiff and upright as became a limb of the law. "Here is
Master Pothier, your Honor, who knows every highway and byway in ten
seigniories. He will guide your Honor to Beaumanoir."

"As easy as take a fee or enter a process, your Honor," remarked Master
Pothier, whose odd figure had several times drawn the criticizing eye of
Colonel Philibert.

"A fee! ah! you belong to the law, then, my good friend? I have known
many advocates--" but Philibert stopped; he was too good-natured to
finish his sentence.

"You never saw one like me, your Honor was going to say? True, you never
did. I am Master Pothier dit Robin, the poor travelling notary, at your
Honor's service, ready to draw you a bond, frame an acte of convention
matrimoniale, or write your last will and testament, with any notary in
New France. I can, moreover, guide your Honor to Beaumanoir as easy as
drink your health in a cup of Cognac."

Philibert could not but smile at the travelling notary, and thinking to
himself, "too much Cognac at the end of that nose of yours, my friend!"
which, indeed, looked fiery as Bardolph's, with hardly a spot for a fly
to rest his foot upon without burning.

"But how will you go, friend?" asked Philibert, looking down at Master
Pothier's gamaches; "you don't look like a fast walker."

"Oh, your Honor," interrupted Dame Bédard, impatiently, for Zoë had
been twitching her hard to let her go. "Master Pothier can ride the old
sorrel nag that stands in the stable eating his head off for want of
hire. Of course your Honor will pay livery?"

"Why, certainly, Madame, and glad to do so! So Master Pothier make
haste, get the sorrel nag, and let us be off."

"I will be back in the snap of a pen, or in the time Dame Bédard can
draw that cup of Cognac, your Honor."

"Master Pothier is quite a personage, I see," remarked Philibert, as the
old notary shuffled off to saddle the nag.

"Oh, quite, your Honor. He is the sharpest notary, they say, that
travels the road. When he gets people into law they never can get
out. He is so clever, everybody says! Why, he assures me that even the
Intendant consults him sometimes as they sit eating and drinking half
the night together in the buttery at the Château!"

"Really! I must be careful what I say," replied Philibert, laughing, "or
I shall get into hot water! But here he comes."

As he spoke, Master Pothier came up, mounted on a raw-boned nag, lank as
the remains of a twenty-years lawsuit. Zoë, at a hint from the Colonel,
handed him a cup of Cognac, which he quaffed without breathing, smacking
his lips emphatically after it. He called out to the landlady,--"Take
care of my knapsack, dame! You had better burn the house than lose my
papers! Adieu, Zoë! study over the marriage contract till I return, and
I shall be sure of a good dinner from your pretty hands."

They set off at a round trot. Colonel Philibert, impatient to reach
Beaumanoir, spurred on for a while, hardly noticing the absurd figure
of his guide, whose legs stuck out like a pair of compasses beneath his
tattered gown, his shaking head threatening dislodgment to hat and wig,
while his elbows churned at every jolt, making play with the shuffling
gait of his spavined and wall-eyed nag.



CHAPTER VI. BEAUMANOIR.


They rode on in silence. A little beyond the village of Charlebourg
they suddenly turned into the forest of Beaumanoir, where a well-beaten
track, practicable both for carriages and horses, gave indications that
the resort of visitors to the Château was neither small nor seldom.

The sun's rays scarcely penetrated the sea of verdure overhead. The
ground was thickly strewn with leaves, the memorials of past summers;
and the dark green pines breathed out a resinous odor, fresh and
invigorating to the passing rider.

Colonel Philibert, while his thoughts were for the most part fixed on
the public dangers which led to this hasty visit of his to the Château
of Beaumanoir, had still an eye for the beauty of the forest, and not a
squirrel leaping, nor a bird fluttering among the branches, escaped his
notice as he passed by. Still he rode on rapidly, and having got fairly
into the road, soon outstripped his guide.

"A crooked road this to Beaumanoir," remarked he at length, drawing
bridle to allow Master Pothier to rejoin him. "It is as mazy as the law.
I am fortunate, I am sure, in having a sharp notary like you to conduct
me through it."

"Conduct you! Your Honor is leading me! But the road to Beaumanoir is as
intricate as the best case ever drawn up by an itinerant notary."

"You seldom ride, Master Pothier?" said Philibert, observing his guide
jolting with an audible grunt at every step of his awkward nag.

"Ride, your Honor! N--no! Dame Bédard shall call me plaisant Robin
if she ever tempts me again to mount her livery horse--'if fools only
carried cruppers!' as Panurge says."

"Why, Master Pothier?" Philibert began to be amused at his odd guide.

"Why? Then I should be able to walk to-morrow--that is all! This nag
will finish me. Hunc! hanc! hoc! He is fit to be Satan's tutor at the
seminary! Hoc! hanc! hunc! I have not declined my pronouns since I left
my accidence at the High School of Tours--not till to-day. Hunc! hanc!
hoc! I shall be jolted to jelly! Hunc! hanc! hoc!"

Philibert laughed at the classical reminiscences of his guide; but,
fearing that Pothier might fall off his horse, which he straddled like
a hay-fork, he stopped to allow the worthy notary to recover his breath
and temper.

"I hope the world appreciates your learning and talent, and that it uses
you more gently than that horse of yours," remarked he.

"Oh, your Honor! it is kind of you to rein up by the way. I find no
fault with the world if it find none with me. My philosophy is this,
that the world is as men make it."

"As the old saying is,--


    "'To lend, or to spend, or to give in,
       'Tis a very good world that we live in;
      But to borrow, or beg, or get a man's own,
       'Tis the very worst world that ever was known.'


And you consider yourself in the latter category, Master Pothier?"
Philibert spoke doubtingly, for a more self-complacent face than his
companion's he never saw--every wrinkle trembled with mirth; eyes,
cheeks, chin, and brows surrounded that jolly red nose of his like a
group of gay boys round a bonfire.

"Oh, I am content, your Honor! We notaries are privileged to wear furred
cloaks in the Palais de Justice, and black robes in the country when we
can get them! Look here at my robe of dignity!" He held up the tattered
tail of his gown with a ludicrous air. "The profession of notary is
meat, drink, and lodging: every man's house is free to me--his bed and
board I share, and there is neither wedding, christening, nor funeral,
in ten parishes that can go on without me. Governors and intendants
flourish and fall, but Jean Pothier dit Robin, the itinerant notary,
lives merrily: men may do without bread, but they will not live without
law--at least, in this noble, litigious New France of ours."

"Your profession seems quite indispensable, then!" remarked Philibert.

"Indispensable! I should think so! Without proper actes the world would
soon come to an end, as did Adam's happiness in Eden, for want of a
notary."

"A notary, Master Pothier?"

"Yes, your Honor. It is clear that Adam lost his first estate de usis et
fructibus in the Garden of Eden, simply because there was no notary to
draw up for him an indefeasable lease. Why, he had not even a bail à
chaptal (a chattel mortgage) over the beasts he had himself named!"

"Ah!" replied Philibert, smiling, "I thought Adam lost his estate
through a cunning notary who persuaded his wife to break the lease he
held; and poor Adam lost possession because he could not find a second
notary to defend his title."

"Hum! that might be; but judgment went by default, as I have read.
It would be different now; there are notaries, in New France and Old,
capable of beating Lucifer himself in a process for either soul, body,
or estate! But, thank fortune, we are out of this thick forest now."

The travellers had reached the other verge of the forest of Beaumanoir.
A broad plain dotted with clumps of fair trees lay spread out in a royal
domain, overlooked by a steep, wooded mountain. A silvery brook crossed
by a rustic bridge ran through the park. In the centre was a huge
cluster of gardens and patriarchal trees, out of the midst of which rose
the steep roof, chimneys, and gilded vanes, flashing in the sun, of the
Château of Beaumanoir.

The Château was a long, heavy structure of stone, gabled and pointed
in the style of the preceding century--strong enough for defence, and
elegant enough for the abode of the Royal Intendant of New France. It
had been built, some four-score years previously, by the Intendant Jean
Talon, as a quiet retreat when tired with the importunities of friends
or the persecution of enemies, or disgusted with the cold indifference
of the Court to his statesmanlike plans for the colonization of New
France.

A short distance from the Château rose a tower of rough
masonry--crenellated on top, and loopholed on the sides--which had been
built as a place of defence and refuge during the Indian wars of the
preceding century. Often had the prowling bands of Iroquois turned away
baffled and dismayed at the sight of the little fortalice surmounted
by a culverin or two, which used to give the alarm of invasion to the
colonists on the slopes of Bourg Royal, and to the dwellers along the
wild banks of the Montmorency.

The tower was now disused and partly dilapidated, but many wonderful
tales existed among the neighboring habitans of a secret passage that
communicated with the vaults of the Château; but no one had ever seen
the passage--still less been bold enough to explore it had they found
it, for it was guarded by a loup-garou that was the terror of children,
old and young, as they crowded close together round the blazing fire
on winter nights, and repeated old legends of Brittany and Normandy,
altered to fit the wild scenes of the New World.

Colonel Philibert and Master Pothier rode up the broad avenue that led
to the Château, and halted at the main gate--set in a lofty hedge
of evergreens cut into fantastic shapes, after the fashion of the
Luxembourg. Within the gate a vast and glowing garden was seen--all
squares, circles, and polygons. The beds were laden with flowers
shedding delicious odors on the morning air as it floated by, while the
ear was soothed by the hum of bees and the songs of birds revelling in
the bright sunshine.

Above the hedge appeared the tops of heavily-laden fruit-trees brought
from France and planted by Talon--cherries red as the lips of Breton
maidens, plums of Gascony, Norman apples, with pears from the glorious
valleys of the Rhone. The bending branches were just transmuting their
green unripeness into scarlet, gold, and purple--the imperial colors of
Nature when crowned for the festival of autumn.

A lofty dove-cote, surmounted by a glittering vane, turning and flashing
with every shift of the wind, stood near the Château. It was the home of
a whole colony of snow-white pigeons, which fluttered in and out of it,
wheeled in circles round the tall chimney-stacks, or strutted, cooing
and bowing together, on the high roof of the Château, a picture of
innocence and happiness.

But neither happiness nor innocence was suggested by the look of the
Château itself, as it stood bathed in bright sunshine. Its great doors
were close-shut in the face of all the beauty of the world without.
Its mullioned windows, that should have stood wide open to let in the
radiance and freshness of morning, were closely blinded, like eyes
wickedly shut against God's light that beat upon them, vainly seeking
entrance.

Outside all was still: the song of birds and the rustle of leaves alone
met the ear. Neither man nor beast was stirring to challenge Colonel
Philibert's approach, but long ere he reached the door of the Château,
a din of voices within, a wild medley of shouts, song, and laughter,
a clatter of wine-cups, and pealing notes of violins struck him with
amazement and disgust. He distinguished drunken voices singing snatches
of bacchanalian songs, while now and then stentorian mouths called for
fresh brimmers, and new toasts were drunk with uproarious applause.

The Château seemed a very pandemonium of riot and revelry, that
prolonged the night into the day, and defied the very order of nature by
its audacious disregard of all decency of time, place, and circumstance.

"In God's name, what means all this, Master Pothier?" exclaimed
Philibert, as they hastily dismounted and, tying their horses to a tree,
entered the broad walk that led to the terrace.

"That concert going on, your Honor?"--Master Pothier shook his head
to express disapproval, and smiled to express his inborn sympathy with
feasting and good-fellowship--"that, your Honor, is the heel of the
hunt, the hanging up of the antlers of the stag by the gay chasseurs who
are visiting the Intendant!"

"A hunting party, you mean? To think that men could stand such
brutishness, even to please the Intendant!"

"Stand! your Honor. I wager my gown that most of the chasseurs are lying
under the table by this time, although by the noise they make it must be
allowed there are some burly fellows upon their legs yet, who keep the
wine flowing like the cow of Montmorency."

"'Tis horrible! 'tis damnable!" Philibert grew pale with passion
and struck his thigh with his palm, as was his wont when very angry.
"Rioting in drunkenness when the Colony demands the cool head, the
strong arm, and the true heart of every man among us! Oh, my country! my
dear country! what fate is thine to expect when men like these are thy
rulers?"

"Your Honor must be a stranger in New France or you would not express
such hasty, honest sentiments upon the Intendant's hospitality. It is
not the fashion, except among plain-spoken habitans, who always
talk downright Norman." Master Pothier looked approvingly at Colonel
Philibert, who, listening with indignant ears, scarcely heeded his
guide.

"That is a jolly song, your Honor," continued Pothier, waving one hand
in cadence to a ditty in praise of wine, which a loud voice was heard
singing in the Château, accompanied by a rousing chorus which startled
the very pigeons on the roof and chimney-stacks. Colonel Philibert
recognized the song as one he had heard in the Quartier Latin, during
his student life in Paris--he fancied he recognized the voice also:


     "'Pour des vins de prix
       Vendons tous nos livres!
       C'est pen d'être gris,
       Amis, soyons ivres!
                    Bon.
       La Faridondaine!
                    Gai.
       La Faridondé!'"


A roar of voices and a clash of glasses followed the refrain. Master
Pothier's eyes winked and blinked in sympathy. The old notary stood
on tiptoe, with outspread palms, as with ore rotundo he threw in a few
notes of his own to fill up the chorus.

Philibert cast upon his guide a look of scorn, biting his lip angrily.
"Go," said he, "knock at the door--it needs God's thunder to break in
upon that infamous orgie. Say that Colonel Philibert brings orders from
His Excellency the Governor to the Chevalier Intendant."

"And be served with a writ of ejectment! Pardon me! Be not angry, sir,"
pleaded Pothier supplicatingly, "I dare not knock at the door when they
are at the devil's mass inside. The valets! I know them all! They would
duck me in the brook, or drag me into the hall to make sport for the
Philistines. And I am not much of a Samson, your Honor. I could not pull
the Château down upon their heads--I wish I could!"

Master Pothier's fears did not appear ill-grounded to Philibert as a
fresh burst of drunken uproar assailed his ears. "Wait my return," said
he, "I will knock on the door myself." He left his guide, ran up the
broad stone steps, and knocked loudly upon the door again and again! He
tried it at last, and to his surprise found it unlatched; he pushed it
open, no servitor appearing to admit him. Colonel Philibert went boldly
in. A blaze of light almost dazzled his eyes. The Château was lit up
with lamps and candelabra in every part. The bright rays of the sun beat
in vain for admittance upon the closed doors and blinded windows,
but the splendor of midnight oil pervaded the interior of the stately
mansion, making an artificial night that prolonged the wild orgies of
the Intendant into the hours of day.



CHAPTER VII. THE INTENDANT BIGOT.


The Château of Beaumanoir had, since the advent of the Intendant Bigot,
been the scene of many a festive revelry that matched, in bacchanalian
frenzy, the wild orgies of the Regency and the present debaucheries
of Croisy and the petits appartements of Versailles. Its splendor, its
luxury, its riotous feasts lasting without intermission sometimes for
days, were the themes of wonder and disgust to the unsophisticated
people of New France, and of endless comparison between the extravagance
of the Royal Intendant and the simple manners and inflexible morals of
the Governor-General.

The great hall of the Château, the scene of the gorgeous feasts of the
Intendant, was brilliantly illuminated with silver lamps, glowing like
globes of sunlight as they hung from the lofty ceiling, upon which
was painted a fresco of the apotheosis of Louis XIV., where the Grand
Monarque was surrounded by a cloud of Condés, Orléanois, and Bourbons,
of near and more remote consanguinity. At the head of the room hung a
full-length portrait of Marquise de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis
XV., and the friend and patroness of the Intendant Bigot; her bold,
voluptuous beauty seemed well fitted to be the presiding genius of his
house. The walls bore many other paintings of artistic and historic
value. The King and Queen; the dark-eyed Montespan; the crafty
Maintenon; and the pensive beauty of Louise de la Vallière, the only
mistress of Louis XIV. who loved him for his own sake, and whose
portrait, copied from this picture, may still be seen in the chapel of
the Ursulines of Quebec, where the fair Louise is represented as St.
Thais kneeling at prayer among the nuns.

The table in the great hall, a masterpiece of workmanship, was made of
a dark Canadian wood then newly introduced, and stretched the length of
the hall. A massive gold epergne of choicest Italian art, the gift of
La Pompadour, stood on the centre of the table. It represented Bacchus
enthroned on a tun of wine, presenting flowing cups to a dance of fauns
and satyrs.

Silver cups of Venetian sculpture and goblets of Bohemian manufacture
sparkled like stars upon the brilliant table, brimming over with the
gold and ruby vintages of France and Spain; or lay overturned amid pools
of wine that ran down upon the velvet carpet. Dishes of Parmesan cheese,
caviare, and other provocatives to thirst stood upon the table, amid
vases of flowers and baskets of the choicest fruits of the Antilles.

Round this magnificent table sat a score or more of revellers--in the
garb of gentlemen, but all in disorder and soiled with wine; their
countenances were inflamed, their eyes red and fiery, their tongues
loose and loquacious. Here and there a vacant or overturned chair showed
where a guest had fallen in the debauch and been carried off by
the valets, who in gorgeous liveries waited on the table. A band of
musicians sat up in a gallery at the end of the hall, and filled the
pauses of the riotous feast with the ravishing strains of Lulli and
Destouches.

At the head of the table, first in place as in rank, sat François Bigot,
Intendant of New France. His low, well-set figure, dark hair, small,
keen black eyes, and swarthy features full of fire and animation,
bespoke his Gascon blood. His countenance was far from comely,--nay,
when in repose, even ugly and repulsive,--but his eyes were magnets that
drew men's looks towards him, for in them lay the force of a powerful
will and a depth and subtlety of intellect that made men fear, if they
could not love him. Yet when he chose--and it was his usual mood--to
exercise his blandishments on men, he rarely failed to captivate them,
while his pleasant wit, courtly ways, and natural gallantry towards
women, exercised with the polished seductiveness he had learned in the
Court of Louis XV., made François Bigot the most plausible and dangerous
man in New France.

He was fond of wine and music, passionately addicted to gambling, and
devoted to the pleasant vices that were rampant in the Court of
France, finely educated, able in the conduct of affairs, and fertile in
expedients to accomplish his ends. François Bigot might have saved New
France, had he been honest as he was clever; but he was unprincipled and
corrupt: no conscience checked his ambition or his love of pleasure.
He ruined New France for the sake of himself and his patroness and the
crowd of courtiers and frail beauties who surrounded the King, whose
arts and influence kept him in his high office despite all the efforts
of the Honnêtes Gens, the good and true men of the Colony, to remove
him.

He had already ruined and lost the ancient Colony of Acadia, through his
defrauds and malversations as Chief Commissary of the Army, and instead
of trial and punishment, had lately been exalted to the higher and still
more important office of Royal Intendant of New France.

On the right of the Intendant sat his bosom friend, the Sieur Cadet, a
large, sensual man, with twinkling gray eyes, thick nose, and full red
lips. His broad face, flushed with wine, glowed like the harvest moon
rising above the horizon. Cadet had, it was said, been a butcher in
Quebec. He was now, for the misfortune of his country, Chief Commissary
of the Army and a close confederate of the Intendant.

On the left of the Intendant sat his Secretary, De Pean, crafty and
unscrupulous, a parasite, too, who flattered his master and ministered
to his pleasures. De Pean was a military man, and not a bad soldier in
the field; but he loved gain better than glory, and amassed an enormous
fortune out of the impoverishment of his country.

Le Mercier, too, was there, Commandant of Artillery, a brave officer,
but a bad man; Varin, a proud, arrogant libertine, Commissary of
Montreal, who outdid Bigot in rapine and Cadet in coarseness; De Breard,
Comptroller of the Marine, a worthy associate of Penisault, whose
pinched features and cunning leer were in keeping with his important
office of chief manager of the Friponne. Perrault, D'Estebe, Morin, and
Vergor, all creatures of the Intendant, swelled the roll of infamy, as
partners of the Grand Company of Associates trading in New France, as
their charter named them--the "Grand Company of Thieves," as the people
in their plain Norman called them who robbed them in the King's name
and, under pretence of maintaining the war, passed the most arbitrary
decrees, the only object of which was to enrich themselves and their
higher patrons at the Court of Versailles.

The rest of the company seated round the table comprised a number of
dissolute seigneurs and gallants of fashion about town--men of great
wants and great extravagance, just the class so quaintly described by
Charlevoix, a quarter of a century previous, as "gentlemen thoroughly
versed in the most elegant and agreeable modes of spending money, but
greatly at a loss how to obtain it."

Among the gay young seigneurs who had been drawn into the vortex of
Bigot's splendid dissipation, was the brave, handsome Le Gardeur de
Repentigny--a captain of the Royal Marine, a Colonial corps recently
embodied at Quebec. In general form and feature Le Gardeur was a manly
reflex of his beautiful sister Amélie, but his countenance was marred
with traces of debauchery. His face was inflamed, and his dark eyes, so
like his sister's, by nature tender and true, were now glittering with
the adder tongues of the cursed wine-serpent.

Taking the cue from Bigot, Le Gardeur responded madly to the challenges
to drink from all around him. Wine was now flooding every brain, and the
table was one scene of riotous debauch.

"Fill up again, Le Gardeur!" exclaimed the Intendant, with a loud and
still clear voice; "the lying clock says it is day--broad day, but
neither cock crows nor day dawns in the Château of Beaumanoir, save at
the will of its master and his merry guests! Fill up, companions all!
The lamplight in the wine-cup is brighter than the clearest sun that
ever shone!"

"Bravo Bigot! name your toast, and we will pledge it till the seven
stars count fourteen!" replied Le Gardeur, looking hazily at the great
clock in the hall. "I see four clocks in the room, and every one of them
lies if it says it is day!"

"You are mending, Le Gardeur de Repentigny! You are worthy to belong to
the Grand Company! But you shall have my toast. We have drank it twenty
times already, but it will stand drinking twenty times more. It is the
best prologue to wine ever devised by wit of man--a woman--"

"And the best epilogue too, Bigot!" interjected Varin, visibly drunk;
"but let us have the toast, my cup is waiting."

"Well, fill up all, then; and we will drink the health, wealth, and
love by stealth, of the jolliest dame in sunny France--The Marquise de
Pompadour!"

"La Pompadour! La Pompadour!" Every tongue repeated the name, the
goblets were drained to the bottoms, and a thunder of applause and
clattering of glasses followed the toast of the mistress of Louis XV.,
who was the special protectress of the Grand Company,--a goodly share of
whose profits in the monopoly of trade in New France was thrown into the
lap of the powerful favorite.

"Come, Varin! your turn now!" cried Bigot, turning to the Commissary;
"a toast for Ville Marie! Merry Montreal! where they eat like rats of
Poitou, and drink till they ring the fire-bells, as the Bordelais did to
welcome the collectors of the gabelle. The Montrealers have not rung the
fire-bells yet against you, Varin, but they will by and by!"

Varin filled his cup with an unsteady hand until it ran over, and
propping his body against the table as he stood up, replied, "A
toast for Ville Marie! and our friends in need!--The blue caps of the
Richelieu!" This was in allusion to a recent ordinance of the Intendant,
authorizing him to seize all the corn in store at Montreal and in the
surrounding country--under pretence of supplying the army, and really to
secure the monopoly of it for the Grand Company.

The toast was drunk, amid rapturous applause. "Well said, Varin!"
exclaimed Bigot; "that toast implied both business and pleasure: the
business was to sweep out the granges of the farmers; the pleasure is to
drink in honor of your success."

"My foragers sweep clean!" said Varin, resuming his seat, and looking
under his hand to steady his gaze. "Better brooms were never made in
Besançon. The country is swept as clean as a ball-room. Your Excellency
and the Marquise might lead the dance over it, and not a straw lie in
your way!"

"And did you manage it without a fight, Varin?" asked the Sieur
d'Estebe, with a half sneer.

"Fight! Why fight? The habitans will never resist the King's name. We
conjure the devil down with that. When we skin our eels we don't
begin at the tail! If we did, the habitans would be like the eels of
Mélun--cry out before they were hurt. No! no! D'Estebe! We are more
polite in Ville Marie. We tell them the King's troops need the corn.
They doff their caps, and with tears in their eyes, say, 'Monsieur le
Commissaire, the King can have all we possess, and ourselves too, if he
will only save Canada from the Bostonnais.' This is better than stealing
the honey and killing the bees that made it, D'Estebe!"

"But what became of the families of the habitans after this swoop of
your foragers?" asked the Seigneur de Beauce, a country gentleman
who retained a few honorable ideas floating on top of the wine he had
swallowed.

"Oh! the families--that is, the women and children, for we took the men
for the army. You see, De Beauce," replied Varin, with a mocking air,
as he crossed his thumbs like a peasant of Languedoc when he wishes to
inspire belief in his words, "the families have to do what the gentlemen
of Beauce practise in times of scarcity--breakfast by gaping! or they
can eat wind, like the people of Poitou: it will make them spit clean!"

De Beauce was irritated at the mocking sign and the proverbial allusion
to the gaping of the people of Beauce. He started up in wrath, and
striking his fist on the table, "Monsieur Varin!" cried he, "do not
cross your thumbs at me, or I will cut them off! Let me tell you the
gentlemen of Beauce do not breakfast on gaping, but have plenty of corn
to stuff even a Commissary of Montreal!"

The Sieur Le Mercier, at a sign from Bigot, interposed to stop the
rising quarrel. "Don't mind Varin," said he, whispering to De Beauce;
"he is drunk, and a row will anger the Intendant. Wait, and by and by
you shall toast Varin as the chief baker of Pharoah, who got hanged
because he stole the King's corn."

"As he deserves to be, for his insult to the gentlemen of Beauce,"
insinuated Bigot, leaning over to his angry guest, at the same time
winking good-humoredly to Varin. "Come, now, De Beauce, friends all,
amantium irae, you know--which is Latin for love--and I will sing you
a stave in praise of this good wine, which is better than Bacchus ever
drank." The Intendant rose up, and holding a brimming glass in his hand,
chanted in full, musical voice a favorite ditty of the day, as a ready
mode of restoring harmony among the company:


     "'Amis! dans ma bouteille,
       Voilà le vin de France!
       C'est le bon vin qui danse ici,
       C'est le bon vin qui danse.
                   Gai lon la!
                   Vive la lirette!
                   Des Filettes
                   Il y en aura!'


Vivent les Filettes! The girls of Quebec--first in beauty, last in love,
and nowhere in scorn of a gallant worthy of them!" continued Bigot.
"What say you, De Pean? Are you not prepared to toast the belles of
Quebec?"

"That I am, your Excellency!" De Pean was unsteady upon his feet, as he
rose to respond to the Intendant's challenge. He pot-valiantly drew his
sword, and laid it on the table. "I will call on the honorable company
to drink this toast on their knees, and there is my sword to cut the
legs off any gentleman who will not kneel down and drink a full cup to
the bright eyes of the belle of Quebec--The incomparable Angélique des
Meloises!"

The toast suited their mood. Every one filled up his cup in honor of a
beauty so universally admired.

"Kneel down, all," cried the Intendant, "or De Pean will hamstring us!"
All knelt down with a clash--some of them unable to rise again. "We will
drink to the Angélique charms of the fair Des Meloises. Come now, all
together!--as the jolly Dutchmen of Albany say, 'Upp seys over!'"

Such of the company as were able resumed their seats amid great laughter
and confusion, when the Sieur Deschenaux, a reckless young gallant,
ablaze with wine and excitement, stood up, leaning against the table.
His fingers dabbled in his wine-cup as he addressed them, but he did not
notice it.

"We have drunk with all the honors," said he, "to the bright eyes of the
belle of Quebec. I call on every gentleman now, to drink to the still
brighter eyes of the belle of New France!"

"Who is she? Name! name!" shouted a dozen voices; "who is the belle of
New France?"

"Who is she? Why, who can she be but the fair Angélique, whom we have
just honored?" replied De Pean, hotly, jealous of any precedence in that
quarter.

"Tut!" cried Deschenaux, "you compare glowworms with evening stars, when
you pretend to match Angélique des Meloises with the lady I propose to
honor! I call for full brimmers--cardinal's hats--in honor of the belle
of New France--the fair Amélie de Repentigny!"

Le Gardeur de Repentigny was sitting leaning on his elbow, his face
beaming with jollity, as he waited, with a full cup, for Deschenaux's
toast. But no sooner did he hear the name of his sister from those lips
than he sprang up as though a serpent had bit him. He hurled his goblet
at the head of Deschenaux with a fierce imprecation, and drew his sword
as he rushed towards him.

"A thousand lightnings strike you! How dare you pollute that holy name,
Deschenaux? Retract that toast instantly, or you shall drink it in
blood--retract, I say!"

The guests rose to their feet in terrible uproar. Le Gardeur struggled
violently to break through a number of those who interposed between him
and Deschenaux, who, roused to frenzy by the insult from Le Gardeur,
had also drawn his sword, and stood ready to receive the assault of his
antagonist.

The Intendant, whose courage and presence of mind never forsook him,
pulled Deschenaux down upon his seat and held fast his sword arm,
shouting in his ear,--

"Are you mad, Deschenaux? You knew she was his sister, and how he
worships her! Retract the toast--it was inopportune! Besides, recollect
we want to win over De Repentigny to the Grand Company!"

Deschenaux struggled for a minute, but the influence of the Intendant
was all-powerful over him. He gave way. "Damn De Repentigny," said he,
"I only meant to do honor to the pretty witch. Who would have expected
him to take it up in that manner?"

"Any one who knows him; besides," continued the Intendant, "if you must
toast his sister, wait till we get him body and soul made over to the
Grand Company, and then he will care no more for his sister's fame than
you do for yours."

"But the insult! He has drawn blood with the goblet," said Deschenaux,
wiping his forehead with his fingers; "I cannot pardon that!"

"Tut, tut; fight him another day. But you shall not fight here! Cadet
and Le Mercier have pinned the young Bayard, I see; so you have a chance
to do the honorable; Deschenaux; go to him, retract the toast, and say
you had forgotten the fair lady was his sister."

Deschenaux swallowed his wrath, rose up, and sheathed his sword. Taking
the Intendant by the arm, he went up to Le Gardeur, who was still trying
to advance. Deschenaux held up his hand deprecatingly. "Le Gardeur,"
said he, with an air of apparent contrition, "I was wrong to offer that
toast. I had forgotten the fair lady was your sister. I retract the
toast, since it is disagreeable to you, although all would have been
proud to drink it."

Le Gardeur was as hard to appease as he was easy to excite to anger. He
still held his drawn sword in his hand.

"Come!" cried Bigot, "you are as hard to please as Villiers Vendôme,
whom the King himself could not satisfy. Deschenaux says he is sorry.
A gentleman cannot say more; so shake hands and be friends, De
Repentigny."

Impervious to threats, and often to reason, Le Gardeur could not resist
an appeal to his generosity.

He sheathed his sword, and held out his hand with frank forgiveness.
"Your apology is ample, Sieur Deschenaux. I am satisfied you meant no
affront to my sister! It is my weak point, messieurs," continued he,
looking firmly at the company, ready to break out had he detected the
shadow of a sneer upon any one's countenance. "I honor her as I do the
queen of heaven. Neither of their names ought to be spoken here."

"Well said! Le Gardeur," exclaimed the Intendant. "That's right,
shake hands, and be friends again. Blessed are quarrels that lead to
reconciliation and the washing out of feuds in wine. Take your seats,
gentlemen."

There was a general scramble back to the table. Bigot stood up in
renewed force.

"Valets!" cried he, "bring in now the largest cups! We will drink
a toast five fathoms deep, in water of life strong enough to melt
Cleopatra's pearls, and to a jollier dame than Egypt's queen. But
first we will make Le Gardeur de Repentigny free of the guild of noble
partners of the company of adventurers trading in New France."

The valets flew in and out. In a few moments the table was replenished
with huge drinking-cups, silver flagons, and all the heavy impedimenta
of the army of Bacchus.

"You are willing to become one of us, and enter the jolly guild of the
Grand Company?" exclaimed the Intendant, taking Le Gardeur by the hand.

"Yes, I am a stranger, and you may take me in. I claim admission,"
replied Le Gardeur with drunken gravity, "and by St. Pigot! I will be
true to the guild!"

Bigot kissed him on both cheeks. "By the boot of St. Benoit! you speak
like the King of Yvetot. Le Gardeur de Repentigny, you are fit to wear
fur in the Court of Burgundy."

"You can measure my foot, Bigot," replied Le Gardeur, "and satisfy the
company that I am able to wear the boot of St. Benoit."

"By jolly St. Chinon! and you shall wear it, Le Gardeur," exclaimed
Bigot, handing him a quart flagon of wine, which Le Gardeur drank
without drawing breath. "That boot fits," shouted the Intendant
exultingly; "now for the chant! I will lead. Stop the breath of any one
who will not join in the chorus."

The Intendant in great voice led off a macaronic verse of Molière, that
had often made merry the orgies of Versailles:


     "'Bene, bene, bene, respondere!
       Dignus, dignus es, entrare
       In nostro laeto corpore!'"


A tintamarre of voices and a jingle of glasses accompanied the violins
and tambours de Basque as the company stood up and sang the song,
winding up with a grand burst at the chorus:


     "'Vivat! vivat! vivat! cent fois vivat!
       Novus socius qui tam bene parlat!
       Mille mille annis et manget et bibat,
       Fripet et friponnat!'"


Hands were shaken all round, congratulations, embracings, and filthy
kisses showered upon Le Gardeur to honor his admission as a partner of
the Grand Company.

"And now," continued Bigot, "we will drink a draught long as the bell
rope of Notre Dame. Fill up brimmers of the quintessence of the grape,
and drain them dry in honor of the Friponne!"

The name was electric. It was, in the country, a word of opprobrium, but
at Beaumanoir it was laughed at with true Gallic nonchalance. Indeed,
to show their scorn of public opinion, the Grand Company had lately
launched a new ship upon the Great Lakes to carry on the fur trade, and
had appropriately and mockingly named her, "La Friponne."

The toast of La Friponne was drunk with applause, followed by a wild
bacchanalian song.

The Sieur Morin had been a merchant in Bordeaux whose bond was held
in as little value as his word. He had lately removed to New France,
transferred the bulk of his merchandise to the Friponne, and become an
active agent of the Grand Company.

"La Friponne!" cried he; "I have drunk success to her with all my heart
and throat; but I say she will never wear a night-cap and sleep quietly
in our arms until we muzzle the Golden Dog that barks by night and by
day in the Rue Buade."

"That is true, Morin!", interrupted Varin. "The Grand Company will
never know peace until we send the Bourgeois, his master, back to the
Bastille. The Golden Dog is--"

"Damn the Golden Dog!" exclaimed Bigot, passionately. "Why do you utter
his name, Varin, to sour our wine? I hope one day to pull down the Dog,
as well as the whole kennel of the insolent Bourgeois." Then, as was his
wont, concealing his feelings under a mocking gibe, "Varin," said he,
"they say that it is your marrow bone the Golden Dog is gnawing--ha! ha!
ha!"

"More people believe it is your Excellency's!" Varin knew he was right,
but aware of Bigot's touchiness on that point, added, as is the wont of
panders to great men, "It is either yours or the Cardinal's."

"Let it be the Cardinal's, then! He is still in purgatory, and there
will wait the arrival of the Bourgeois, to balance accounts with him."

Bigot hated the Bourgeois Philibert as one hates the man he has injured.
Bigot had been instrumental in his banishment years ago from France,
when the bold Norman count defended the persecuted Jansenists in the
Parliament of Rouen. The Intendant hated him now for his wealth and
prosperity in New France. But his wrath turned to fury when he saw the
tablet of the Golden Dog, with its taunting inscription, glaring upon
the front of the magazine in the Rue Buade. Bigot felt the full meaning
and significance of the words that burned into his soul, and for which
he hoped one day to be revenged.

"Confusion to the whole litter of the Golden Dog, and that is the party
of the Honnêtes Gens!" cried he. "But for that canting savant who plays
the Governor here, I would pull down the sign and hang its master up in
its stead to-morrow!"

The company now grew still more hilarious and noisy in their cups. Few
paid attention to what the Intendant was saying. But De Repentigny heard
him utter the words, "Oh, for men who dare do men's deeds!" He caught
the eye of De Repentigny, and added, "But we are all cowards in the
Grand Company, and are afraid of the Bourgeois."

The wine was bubbling in the brain of Le Gardeur. He scarcely knew what
the Intendant said, but he caught the last words.

"Whom do you call cowards, Chevalier? I have joined the Grand Company.
If the rest are cowards, I am not: I stand ready to pluck the peruke off
the head of any man in New France, and carry it on my sword to the Place
d' Armes, where I will challenge all the world to come and take it!"

"Pish! that is nothing! give me man's work. I want to see the partner in
the Grand Company who dare pull down the Golden Dog."

"I dare! and I dare!" exclaimed a dozen voices at once in response to
the appeal of the Intendant, who craftily meant his challenge to ensnare
only Le Gardeur.

"And I dare; and I will, too, if you wish it, Chevalier!" shouted Le
Gardeur, mad with wine, and quite oblivious of the thousand claims of
the father of his friend, Pierre Philibert, upon him.

"I take you at your word, Le Gardeur! and bind your honor to it in the
presence of all these gentlemen," said Bigot with a look of intense
satisfaction.

"When shall it be done--to-day?" Le Gardeur seemed ready to pluck the
moon from the sky in his present state of ecstasy.

"Why, no, not to-day; not before the pear is ripe will we pluck it! Your
word of honor will keep till then?"

Bigot was in great glee over the success of his stratagem to entrap De
Repentigny.

"It will keep a thousand years!" replied Le Gardeur, amid a fresh
outburst of merriment round the board which culminated in a shameless
song, fit only for a revel of satyrs.

The Sieur Cadet lolled lazily in his chair, his eyes blinking with a
sleepy leer. "We are getting stupidly drunk. Bigot," said he; "we want
something new to rouse us all to fresh life. Will you let me offer a
toast?"

"Go on, Cadet! offer what toast you please. There is nothing in heaven,
hell, or upon earth that I won't drink to for your sake."

"I want you to drink it on your knees, Bigot! pledge me that, and fill
your biggest cup."

"We will drink it on all fours if you like! come, out with your toast,
Cadet; you are as long over it as Father Glapion's sermon in Lent! and
it will be as interesting, I dare say!"

"Well, Chevalier, the Grand Company, after toasting all the beauties of
Quebec, desire to drink the health of the fair mistress of Beaumanoir,
and in her presence too!" said Cadet with owlish gravity.

Bigot started; drunk and reckless as he was, he did not like his secret
to be divulged. He was angry with Cadet for referring to it in the
presence of so many who knew not that a strange lady was residing at
Beaumanoir. He was too thoroughly a libertine of the period to feel any
moral compunction for any excess he committed. He was habitually more
ready to glory over his conquests, than to deny or extenuate them. But
in this case he had, to the surprise of Cadet, been very reticent, and
shy of speaking of this lady even to him.

"They say she is a miracle of beauty, Bigot!" continued Cadet, "and that
you are so jealous of the charms of your belle Gabrielle that you are
afraid to show her to your best friends."

"My belle Gabrielle is at liberty to go where she pleases, Cadet!" Bigot
saw the absurdity of anger, but he felt it, nevertheless. "She chooses
not to leave her bower, to look even on you, Cadet! I warrant you she
has not slept all night, listening to your infernal din."

"Then, I hope you will allow us to go and beg pardon on our knees for
disturbing her rest. What say the good company?"

"Agreed, agreed!" was the general response, and all pressed the
Intendant vociferously to allow them to see the fair mistress of
Beaumanoir.

Varin, however, proposed that she should be brought into the hall. "Send
her to us, O King," cried he; "we are nobles of Persia, and this is
Shushan the palace, where we carouse according to the law of the Medes,
seven days at a stretch. Let the King bring in Queen Vashti, to show her
beauty to the princes and nobles of his court!"

Bigot, too full of wine to weigh scruples, yielded to the wish of his
boon companions. He rose from his chair, which in his absence was taken
by Cadet. "Mind!" said he, "if I bring her in, you shall show her every
respect."

"We will kiss the dust of her feet," answered Cadet, "and consider you
the greatest king of a feast in New France or Old."

Bigot, without further parley, passed out of the hall, traversed a long
corridor and entered an anteroom, where he found Dame Tremblay, the old
housekeeper, dozing on her chair. He roused her up, and bade her go to
the inner chamber to summon her mistress.

The housekeeper rose in a moment at the voice of the Intendant. She was
a comely dame, with a ruddy cheek, and an eye in her head that looked
inquisitively at her master as she arranged her cap and threw back her
rather gay ribbons.

"I want your mistress up in the great hall! Go summon her at once,"
repeated the Intendant.

The housekeeper courtesied, but pressed her lips together as if to
prevent them from speaking in remonstrance. She went at once on her
ungracious errand.



CHAPTER VIII. CAROLINE DE ST. CASTIN.


Dame Tremblay entered the suite of apartments and returned in a few
moments, saying that her lady was not there, but had gone down to the
secret chamber, to be, she supposed, more out of hearing of the noise,
which had disturbed her so much.

"I will go find her then," replied the Intendant; "you may return to
your own room, dame."

He walked across the drawing-room to one of the gorgeous panels that
decorated the wall, and touched a hidden spring. A door flew open,
disclosing a stair heavily carpeted that led down to the huge vaulted
foundations of the Château.

He descended the stair with hasty though unsteady steps. It led to a
spacious room, lighted with a gorgeous lamp that hung pendant in silver
chains from the frescoed ceiling. The walls were richly tapestried with
products of the looms of the Gobelins, representing the plains of
Italy filled with sunshine, where groves, temples, and colonnades were
pictured in endless vistas of beauty. The furniture of the chamber was
of regal magnificence. Nothing that luxury could desire, or art furnish,
had been spared in its adornment. On a sofa lay a guitar, and beside it
a scarf and a dainty glove fit for the hand of the fairy queen.

The Intendant looked eagerly round, as he entered this bright chamber of
his fancy, but saw not its expected occupant. A recess in the deep wall
at the farthest side of the room contained an oratory with an altar and
a crucifix upon it. The recess was partly in the shade. But the eyes
of the Intendant discerned clearly enough the kneeling, or rather the
prostrate, figure of Caroline de St. Castin. Her hands were clasped
beneath her head, which was bowed to the ground. Her long, black hair
lay dishevelled over her back, as she lay in her white robe like the
Angel of Sorrow, weeping and crying from the depths of her broken heart,
"Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy upon
me!" She was so absorbed in her grief that she did not notice the
entrance of the Intendant.

Bigot stood still for a moment, stricken with awe at the spectacle of
this lovely woman weeping by herself in the secret chamber. A look of
something like pity stole into his eyes; he called her by name, ran to
her, assisted her to rise, which she did, slowly turning towards him
that weeping, Madonna-like face which haunts the ruins of Beaumanoir to
this day.

She was of medium stature, slender and lissome, looking taller than she
really was. Her features were chiselled with exquisite delicacy; her
hair of a raven blackness, and eyes of that dark lustre which reappears
for generations in the descendants of Europeans who have mingled their
blood with that of the aborigines of the forest. The Indian eye is
preserved as an heirloom, long after all memory of the red stain has
vanished from the traditions of the family. Her complexion was pale,
naturally of a rich olive, but now, through sorrow, of a wan and
bloodless hue--still very beautiful, and more appealing than the rosiest
complexion.

Caroline de St. Castin was an Acadienne of ancient and noble family,
whose head and founder, the Baron de St. Castin, had married the
beautiful daughter of the high chief of the Abenaquais.

Her father's house, one of the most considerable in the Colony, had been
the resort of the royal officers, civil and military, serving in Acadia.
Caroline, the only daughter of the noble house, had been reared in
all the refinements and luxuries of the period, as became her rank and
position both in France and her native Province.

In an evil hour for her happiness this beautiful and accomplished girl
met the Chevalier Bigot, who as Chief Commissary of the Army, was one of
the foremost of the royal officers in Acadia.

His ready wit and graceful manners pleased and flattered the susceptible
girl, not used to the seductions of the polished courtesies of the
mother-land of France. She was of a joyous temper--gay, frank, and
confiding. Her father, immersed in public affairs, left her much to
herself, nor, had he known it, would he have disapproved of the gallant
courtesies of the Chevalier Bigot. For the Baron had the soul of honor,
and dreamt every gentleman as well as himself possessed it.

Bigot, to do him justice, felt as sincere a regard for this beautiful,
amiable girl as his nature was capable of entertaining. In rank and
fortune she was more than his equal, and left to himself, he would
willingly have married her. Before he learned that his project of a
marriage in the Colony was scouted at Court he had already offered his
love to Caroline de St. Castin, and won easily the gentle heart that was
but too well disposed to receive his homage.

Her trust went with her love. Earth was never so green, nor air so
sweet, nor skies so bright and azure, as those of Caroline's wooing,
on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Minas. She loved this man with
a passion that filled with ecstasy her whole being. She trusted his
promises as she would have trusted God's. She loved him better than she
loved herself--better than she loved God, or God's law; and counted as
a gain every loss she suffered for his sake, and for the affection she
bore him.

After some months spent in her charming society, a change came over
Bigot. He received formidable missives from his great patroness at
Versailles, the Marquise de Pompadour, who had other matrimonial designs
for him. Bigot was too slavish a courtier to resent her interference,
nor was he honest enough to explain his position to his betrothed. He
deferred his marriage. The exigencies of the war called him away. He had
triumphed over a fond, confiding woman; but he had been trained among
the dissolute spirits of the Regency too thoroughly to feel more than
a passing regret for a woman whom, probably, he loved better than any
other of the victims of his licentious life.

When he finally left Acadia a conquered province in the hands of
the English, he also left behind him the one true, loving heart that
believed in his honor and still prayed for his happiness.

The days of Caroline's disillusion soon came; she could not conceal from
herself that she had been basely deceived and abandoned by the man she
loved so ardently. She learned that Bigot had been elevated to the high
office of Intendant of New France, but felt herself as utterly forgotten
by him as the rose that had bloomed and withered in her garden two
summers ago.

Her father had been summoned to France on the loss of the Colony; and
fearing to face him on his return, Caroline suddenly left her home
and sought refuge in the forest among her far-off kindred, the red
Abenaquais.

The Indians welcomed her with joy and unbounded respect, recognizing
her right to their devotion and obedience. They put upon her feet the
moccasins of their tribe, and sent her, with a trusty escort, through
the wilderness to Quebec, where she hoped to find the Intendant, not to
reproach him for his perfidy,--her gentle heart was too much subdued for
that,--but to claim his protection, and if refused, to die at his door.

It was under such circumstances that the beautiful, highborn Caroline de
St. Castin became an inmate of Beaumanoir. She had passed the night of
this wild debauch in a vigil of prayers, tears, and lamentations over
her sad lot and over the degradation of Bigot by the life which she now
knew he led. Sometimes her maddened fancy was ready to accuse Providence
itself of cruelty and injustice; sometimes, magnifying her own sin, she
was ready to think all earthly punishment upon herself as too light, and
invoked death and judgment as alone adequate to her fault. All night she
had knelt before the altar, asking for mercy and forgiveness,--sometimes
starting to her feet in terror, as a fresh burst of revelry came rushing
from the great hall above, and shook the door of her secret chamber.
But no one came to her help, no one looked in upon her desolation. She
deemed herself utterly forgotten and forsaken of God and man.

Occasionally she fancied she could distinguish the voice of the
Intendant amid the drunken uproar, and she shuddered at the infatuation
which bound her very soul to this man; and yet when she questioned her
heart, she knew that, base as he was, all she had done and suffered for
him she would infallibly do again. Were her life to live over, she would
repeat the fault of loving this false, ungrateful man. The promise
of marriage had been equivalent to marriage in her trust of him, and
nothing but death could now divorce her from him.

Hour after hour passed by, each seeming an age of suffering. Her
feelings were worked up to frenzy: she fancied she heard her father's
angry voice calling her by name, or she heard accusing angels jeering
at her fall. She sank prostrate at last, in the abandonment of despair,
calling upon God to put an end to her miserable life.

Bigot raised her from the floor, with words of pity and sympathy. She
turned on him a look of gratitude which, had he been of stone, he must
have felt. But Bigot's words meant less than she fancied. He was still
too intoxicated to reflect, or to feel shame of his present errand.

"Caroline!" said he, "what do you here? This is the time to make
merry--not to pray! The honorable company in the great hall desire to
pay their respects to the lady of Beaumanoir--come with me!"

He drew her hand through his arm with a courtly grace that seldom
forsook him, even in his worst moments. Caroline looked at him in a
dazed manner, not comprehending his request. "Go with you, François? You
know I will, but where?"

"To the great hall," repeated he; "my worthy guests desire to see you,
and to pay their respects to the fair lady of Beaumanoir."

It flashed upon her mind what he wanted. Her womanly pride was outraged
as it had never been before; she withdrew her hand from his arm with
shame and terror stamped on every feature.

"Go up there! Go to show myself to your guests!" exclaimed she, with
choking accents, as she stepped back a pace from him. "Oh, François
Bigot, spare me that shame and humiliation! I am, I know, contemptible
beyond human respect, but still--God help me!--I am not so vile as to
be made a spectacle of infamy to those drunken men whom I hear clamoring
for me, even now."

"Pshaw! You think too much of the proprieties, Caroline!" Bigot felt
sensibly perplexed at the attitude she assumed. "Why! The fairest dames
of Paris, dressed as Hebes and Ganymedes, thought it a fine jest to wait
on the Regent Duke of Orleans and the Cardinal du Bois in the gay days
of the King's bachelorhood, and they do the same now when the King gets
up one of his great feasts at Choisy; so come, sweetheart--come!" He
drew her towards the door.

"Spare me, François!" Caroline knelt at his feet, clasping his hand, and
bathing it in tears--"Spare me!" cried she. "Oh, would to God I had
died ere you came to command me to do what I cannot and will not do,
François!" added she, clasping hard the hand of the Intendant, which she
fancied relaxed somewhat of its iron hardness.

"I did not come to command you, Caroline, but to bear the request of my
guests. No, I do not even ask you on my account to go up to the great
hall: it is to please my guests only." Her tears and heartrending appeal
began to sober him. Bigot had not counted on such a scene as this.

"Oh, thanks, François, for that word! You did not come to command my
obedience in such a shameful thing: you had some small regard left for
the unfortunate Caroline. Say you will not command me to go up there,"
added she, looking at him with eyes of pitiful pleading, such as no
Italian art ever portrayed on the face of the sorrowing Madonna.

"No," he replied, impatiently. "It was not I proposed it: it was Cadet.
He is always a fool when the wine overflows, as I am too, or I would not
have hearkened to him! Still, Caroline, I have promised, and my guests
will jeer me finely if I return without you." He thought she hesitated a
moment in her resolve at this suggestion. "Come, for my sake, Caroline!
Do up that disordered hair; I shall be proud of you, my Caroline; there
is not a lady in New France can match you when you look yourself, my
pretty Caroline!"

"François," said she, with a sad smile, "it is long since you flattered
me thus! But I will arrange my hair for you alone," added she, blushing,
as with deft fingers she twisted her raven locks into a coronal about
her head. "I would once have gone with you to the end of the world to
hear you say you were proud of me. Alas! you can never be proud of me
any more, as in the old happy days at Grand Pré. Those few brief days of
love and joy can never return--never, never!"

Bigot stood silent, not knowing what to say or do. The change from the
bacchanalian riot in the great hall to the solemn pathos and woe of the
secret chamber sobered him rapidly. Even his obduracy gave way at last.
"Caroline," said he, taking both her hands in his, "I will not urge you
longer. I am called bad, and you think me so; but I am not brutal. It
was a promise made over the wine. Varin, the drunken beast, called you
Queen Vashti, and challenged me to show your beauty to them; and I swore
not one of their toasted beauties could match my fair Acadienne."

"Did the Sieur Varin call me Queen Vashti? Alas! he was a truer prophet
than he knew," replied she, with ineffable sadness. "Queen Vashti
refused to obey even her king, when commanded to unveil her face to the
drunken nobles. She was deposed, and another raised to her place. Such
may be my fate, François."

"Then you will not go, Caroline?"

"No; kill me if you like, and bear my dead body into the hall, but
living, I can never show my face again before men--hardly before you,
François," added she, blushing, as she hid her tearful eyes on his
shoulder.

"Well then, Caroline," replied, he, really admiring her spirit and
resolution, "they shall finish their carouse without seeing you. The
wine has flowed to-night in rivers, but they shall swim in it without
you."

"And tears have flowed down here," said she, sadly,--"oh, so bitter! May
you never taste their bitterness, François!"

Bigot paced the chamber with steadier steps than he had entered it. The
fumes were clearing from his brain; the song that had caught the ear of
Colonel Philibert as he approached the Château was resounding at
this moment. As it ceased Bigot heard the loud impatient knocking of
Philibert at the outer door.

"Darling!" said he, "lie down now, and compose yourself. François Bigot
is not unmindful of your sacrifices for his sake. I must return to my
guests, who are clamoring for me, or rather for you, Caroline!"

He kissed her cheek and turned to leave her, but she clung to his hand
as if wanting to say something more ere he went. She trembled visibly as
her low plaintive tones struck his ear.

"François! if you would forsake the companionship of those men and
purify your table of such excess, God's blessing would yet descend upon
you, and the people's love follow you! It is in your power to be as good
as you are great! I have many days wished to say this to you, but alas,
I feared you too much. I do not fear you to-day, François, after your
kind words to me."

Bigot was not impenetrable to that low voice so full of pathos and love.
But he was at a loss what to reply: strange influences were flowing
round him, carrying him out of himself. He kissed the gentle head that
reclined on his bosom. "Caroline," said he, "your advice is wise and
good as yourself. I will think of it for your sake, if not for my own.
Adieu, darling! Go, and take rest: these cruel vigils are killing you,
and I want you to live in hope of brighter days."

"I will," replied she, looking up with ineffable tenderness. "I am sure
I shall rest after your kind words, François. No dew of Heaven was ever
more refreshing than the balm they bring to my weary soul. Thanks, O
my François, for them!" She kissed his lips, and Bigot left the secret
chamber a sadder and for the moment a better man than he had ever been
before.

Caroline, overcome by her emotions, threw herself on a couch, invoking
blessings upon the head of the man by whom she had been so cruelly
betrayed. But such is woman's heart--full of mercy, compassion, and
pardon for every wrong, when love pleads for forgiveness.

"Ha! ha!" said Cadet, as the Intendant re-entered the great hall,
which was filled with bacchanalian frenzy. "Ha! ha! His Excellency has
proposed and been rejected! The fair lady has a will of her own and
won't obey! Why, the Intendant looks as if he had come from Quintin
Corentin, where nobody gets anything he wants!"

"Silence, Cadet! don't be a fool!" replied Bigot, impatiently, although
in the Intendant's usual mood nothing too gross or too bad could be said
in his presence but he could cap it with something worse.

"Fool, Bigot! It is you who have been the fool of a woman!" Cadet was
privileged to say anything, and he never stinted his speech. "Confess,
your Excellency! she is splay-footed as St. Pedauque of Dijon! She dare
not trip over our carpet for fear of showing her big feet!"

Cadet's coarse remark excited the mirth of the Intendant. The influences
of the great hall were more powerful than those of the secret chamber.
He replied curtly, however,--"I have excused the lady from coming,
Cadet. She is ill, or she does not please to come, or she has a private
fancy of her own to nurse--any reason is enough to excuse a lady, or for
a gentleman to cease pressing her."

"Dear me!" muttered Cadet, "the wind blows fresh from a new quarter!
It is easterly, and betokens a storm!" and with drunken gravity he
commenced singing a hunting refrain of Louis XIV.:


     "'Sitot qu'il voit sa Chienne
       Il quitte tout pour elle."'


Bigot burst out into immoderate laughter. "Cadet," said he, "you are,
when drunk, the greatest ruffian in Christendom, and the biggest knave
when sober. Let the lady sleep in peace, while we drink ourselves blind
in her honor. Bring in brandy, valets, and we will not look for day
until midnight booms on the old clock of the Château."

The loud knocking of Philibert in the great hall reverberated again and
again through the house. Bigot bade the valets go see who disturbed the
Château in that bold style.

"Let no one in!" added he "'tis against the rule to open the doors when
the Grand Company are met for business! Take whips, valets, and scourge
the insolent beggars away. Some miserable habitans, I warrant, whining
for the loss of their eggs and bacon taken by the King's purveyors!"

A servant returned with a card on a silver salver. "An officer in
uniform waits to see your Excellency: he brings orders from the
Governor," said he to the Intendant.

Bigot looked at the card with knitted brows; fire sparkled in his eyes
as he read the name.

"Colonel Philibert!" exclaimed he, "Aide-de-Camp of the Governor! What
the fiend brings HIM at such a time? Do you hear?" continued he, turning
to Varin. "It is your friend from Louisbourg, who was going to put you
in irons, and send you to France for trial when the mutinous garrison
threatened to surrender the place if we did not pay them."

Varin was not so intoxicated but the name of Philibert roused his anger.
He set his cup down with a bang upon the table. "I will not taste a
drop more till he is gone," said he; "curse Galissonière's crooked
neck--could he not have selected a more welcome messenger to send to
Beaumanoir? But I have got his name in my list of debtors, and he shall
pay up one day for his insolence at Louisbourg."

"Tut, tut, shut up your books! you are too mercantile for gentlemen,"
replied Bigot. "The question is, shall we allow Colonel Philibert to
bring his orders into the hall? Par Dieu! we are scarcely presentable!"

But whether presentable or no, the words were scarcely spoken, when,
impatient at the delay, Philibert took advantage of the open door and
entered the great hall. He stood in utter amazement for a moment at the
scene of drunken riot which he beheld. The inflamed faces, the confusion
of tongues, the disorder, filth, and stench of the prolonged debauch
sickened him, while the sight of so many men of rank and high office
revelling at such an hour raised a feeling of indignation which he
had difficulty in keeping down while he delivered his message to the
Intendant.

Bigot, however, was too shrewd to be wanting in politeness. "Welcome,
Colonel Philibert," said he; "you are an unexpected guest, but a welcome
one! Come and taste the hospitality of Beaumanoir before you deliver
your message. Bustle, valets, bring fresh cups and the fullest carafes
for Colonel Philibert."

"Thanks for your politeness, Chevalier! Your Excellency will please
excuse me if I deliver my message at once. My time is not my own
to-day, so I will not sit down. His Excellency the Governor desires your
presence and that of the Royal Commissaries at the council of war this
afternoon. Despatches have just arrived by the Fleur-de-Lis from home,
and the council must assemble at once."

A red flush rested upon the brow of Philibert as in his mind he measured
the important business of the council with the fitness of the men whom
he summoned to attend it. He declined the offer of wine, and stepped
backward from the table, with a bow to the Intendant and the company,
and was about to depart, when a loud voice on the further side of the
table cried out,--

"It is he, by all that is sacred! Pierre Philibert! wait!" Le Gardeur
de Repentigny rushed like a storm through the hall, upsetting chairs
and guests in his advance. He ran towards Colonel Philibert, who, not
recognizing the flushed face and disordered figure that greeted him,
shrank back from his embrace.

"My God! do you not know me, Pierre?" exclaimed Le Gardeur, wounded
to the quick by the astonished look of his friend. "I am Le Gardeur de
Repentigny! O dear friend, look and recognize me!"

Philibert stood transfixed with surprise and pain, as if an arrow had
stricken his eyes. "You! you Le Gardeur de Repentigny? It is impossible!
Le Gardeur never looked like you--much less, was ever found among people
like these!" The last words were rashly spoken, but fortunately not
heard amid the hubbub in the hall, or Philibert's life might have paid
the penalty from the excited guests.

"And yet it is true; Pierre, look at me again. I am no other than he
whom you drew out of the St. Lawrence, the only brother of Amélie!"

Philibert looked hard in the eyes of Le Gardeur, and doubted no longer.
He pressed his old friend to his heart, saying, in a voice full of
pathos,--

"O Le Gardeur! I recognize you now, but under what change of look and
place! Often have I forecast our meeting again, but it was in your
pure, virtuous home of Tilly, not in this place. What do you here, Le
Gardeur?"

"Forgive me, Pierre, for the shame of meeting me here." Le Gardeur stood
up like a new man in the glance of his friend; the shock seemed to have
sobered him at once. "'What do I do here?' say you, O dear friend!"
said he, glancing round the hall, "it is easier seen than told what I do
here. But by all the saints, I have finished here for to-day! You return
to the city at once, Pierre?"

"At once, Le Gardeur. The Governor awaits my return."

"Then I will return with you. My dear aunt and sister are in the city.
News of their arrival reached me here; my duty was to return at once,
but the Intendant's wine-cups were too potent for me--curse them, for
they have disgraced me in your eyes, Pierre, as well as my own!"

Philibert started at the information that Amélie was in the city.
"Amélie in the city?" repeated he, with glad surprise, "I did not expect
to be able to salute her and the noble Lady de Tilly so soon." His heart
bounded in secret at the prospect of again seeing this fair girl, who
had filled his thoughts for so many years and been the secret spring of
so much that was noble and manly in his character.

"Come, Le Gardeur, let us take leave of the Intendant, and return at
once to the city, but not in that plight!" added he, smiling, as Le
Gardeur, oblivious of all but the pleasure of accompanying him, grasped
his arm to leave the great hall. "Not in that garb, Le Gardeur! Bathe,
purify, and clean yourself; I will wait outside in the fresh air. The
odor of this room stifles me!"

"You are not going to leave us, Le Gardeur!" Varin called, across
the table, "and break up good company? Wait till we finish a few more
rounds, and we will all go together."

"I have finished all the rounds for to-day, Varin, may be forever!
Colonel Philibert is my dearest friend in life; I must leave even you to
go with him, so pray excuse me."

"You are excused, Le Gardeur." Bigot spoke very courteously to him, much
as he disliked the idea of his companionship with Philibert. "We must
all return by the time the Cathedral bells chime noon. Take one parting
cup before you go, Le Gardeur, and prevail on Colonel Philibert to do
the same, or he will not praise our hospitality, I fear."

"Not one drop more this day, were it from Jove's own poculum!" Le
Gardeur repelled the temptation more readily as he felt a twitch on his
sleeve from the hand of Philibert.

"Well, as you will, Le Gardeur; we have all had enough and over, I dare
say. Ha! ha! Colonel Philibert rather puts us to the blush, or would
were not our cheeks so well-painted in the hues of rosy Bacchus."

Philibert, with official courtesy, bade adieu to the Intendant and the
company. A couple of valets waited upon Le Gardeur, whom they assisted
to bathe and dress. In a short time he left the Château almost sobered,
and wholly metamorphosed into a handsome, fresh chevalier. A perverse
redness about the eyes alone remained, to tell the tale of the last
night's debauch.

Master Pothier sat on a horse-block at the door with all the gravity
of a judge, while he waited for the return of Colonel Philibert and
listened to the lively noise in the Château, the music, song, and jingle
of glass forming a sweet concert in the ears of the jolly old notary.

"I shall not need you to guide me back, Master Pothier," said Philibert,
as he put some silver pieces in his hollow palm; "take your fee. The
cause is gained, is it not, Le Gardeur?" He glanced triumphantly at his
friend.

"Good-by, Master Pothier," said he, as he rode off with Le Gardeur. The
old notary could not keep up with them, but came jolting on behind, well
pleased to have leisure to count and jingle his coins. Master Pothier
was in that state of joyful anticipation when hope outruns realization.
He already saw himself seated in the old armchair in the snug parlor
of Dame Bédard's inn, his back to the fire, his belly to the table, a
smoking dish of roast in the middle, an ample trencher before him with a
bottle of Cognac on one flank and a jug of Norman cider on the other, an
old crony or two to eat and drink with him, and the light foot and deft
hand of pretty Zoë Bédard to wait upon them.

This picture of perfect bliss floated before the winking eyes of Master
Pothier, and his mouth watered in anticipation of his Eden, not of
flowers and trees, but of tables, cups, and platters, with plenty to
fill them, and to empty them as well.

"A worthy gentleman and a brave officer, I warrant!" said Pothier, as he
jogged along. "He is generous as a prince, and considerate as a bishop,
fit for a judge, nay, for a chief justice! What would you do for
him, Master Pothier?" the old notary asked himself. "I answer the
interrogatory of the Court: I would draw up his marriage contract, write
his last will and testament with the greatest of pleasure and without
a fee!--and no notary in New France could do more for him!" Pothier's
imagination fell into a vision over a consideration of his favorite
text--that of the great sheet, wherein was all manner of flesh and fowl
good for food, but the tongue of the old notary would trip at the name
of Peter, and perversely say, "Rise, Pothier; kill, and eat."



CHAPTER IX. PIERRE PHILIBERT.


Colonel Philibert and Le Gardeur rode rapidly through the forest of
Beaumanoir, pulling up occasionally in an eager and sympathetic exchange
of questions and replies, as they recounted the events of their lives
since their separation, or recalled their school-days and glorious
holidays and rambles in the woods of Tilly--with frequent mention of
their gentle, fair companion, Amélie de Repentigny, whose name on the
lips of her brother sounded sweeter than the chime of the bells of
Charlebourg to the ear of Pierre Philibert.

The bravest man in New France felt a tremor in his breast as he asked Le
Gardeur a seemingly careless question--seemingly, for, in truth, it was
vital in the last degree to his happiness, and he knew it. He expressed
a fear that Amélie would have wholly forgotten him after so long an
absence from New France.

His heart almost ceased beating as he waited the reply of Le Gardeur,
which came impetuously: "Forgotten you, Pierre Philibert? She would
forget me as soon! But for you she would have had no brother to-day, and
in her prayers she ever remembers both of us--you by right of a sister's
gratitude, me because I am unworthy of her saintly prayers and need them
all the more! O Pierre Philibert, you do not know Amélie if you think
she is one ever to forget a friend like you!"

The heart of Philibert gave a great leap for joy. Too happy for speech,
he rode on a while in silence.

"Amélie will have changed much in appearance?" he asked, at last. A
thousand questions were crowding upon his lips.

"Changed? Oh, yes!" replied Le Gardeur, gaily. "I scarcely recognize my
little bright-eyed sister in the tall, perfect young lady that has taken
her place. But the loving heart, the pure mind, the gentle ways, and
winning smiles are the same as ever. She is somewhat more still and
thoughtful, perhaps--more strict in the observances of religion. You
will remember, I used to call her in jest our St. Amélie: I might call
her that in earnest now, Pierre, and she would be worthy of the name!"

"God bless you, Le Gardeur!" burst out Colonel Philibert,--his voice
could not repress the emotion he felt,--"and God bless Amélie! Think you
she would care to see me to-day, Le Gardeur?" Philibert's thoughts
flew far and fast, and his desire to know more of Amélie was a rack
of suspense to him. She might, indeed, recollect the youth Pierre
Philibert, thought he, as she did a sunbeam that gladdened long-past
summers; but how could he expect her to regard him--the full-grown
man--as the same? Nay, was he not nursing a fatal fancy in his breast
that would sting him to death? for among the gay and gallant throng
about the capital was it not more than possible that so lovely and
amiable a woman had already been wooed, and given the priceless treasure
of her love to another? It was, therefore, with no common feeling that
Philibert said, "Think you she will care to see me to-day, Le Gardeur?"

"Care to see you, Pierre Philibert? What a question! She and Aunt de
Tilly take every occasion to remind me of you, by way of example, to
shame me of my faults--and they succeed, too! I could cut off my right
hand this moment, Pierre, that it should never lift wine again to my
lips--and to have been seen by you in such company! What must you think
of me?"

"I think your regret could not surpass mine; but tell me how you have
been drawn into these rapids and taken the wrong turn, Le Gardeur?"

Le Gardeur winced as he replied,--"Oh, I do not know. I found myself
there before I thought. It was the wit, wine, and enchantments of Bigot,
I suppose,--and the greatest temptation of all, a woman's smiles,--that
led me to take the wrong turn, as you call it. There, you have my
confession!--and I would put my sword through any man but you, Pierre,
who dared ask me to give such an account of myself. I am ashamed of it
all, Pierre Philibert!"

"Thanks, Le Gardeur, for your confidence. I hope you will outride this
storm!" He held out his hand, nervous and sinewy as that of Mars. Le
Gardeur seized it, and pressed it hard in his. "Don't you think it is
still able to rescue a friend from peril?" added Philibert smiling.

Le Gardeur caught his meaning, and gave him a look of unutterable
gratitude. "Besides this hand of mine, are there not the gentler hands
of Amélie to intercede for you with your better self?" said Philibert.

"My dear sister!" interjected Le Gardeur. "I am a coward when I think of
her, and I shame to come into her pure presence."

"Take courage, Le Gardeur! There is hope where there is shame of our
faults. Be equally frank with your sister as with me, and she will win
you, in spite of yourself, from the enchantments of Bigot, Cadet, and
the still more potent smiles you speak of that led you to take the wrong
turn in life."

"I doubt it is too late, Pierre! although I know that, were every other
friend in the world to forsake me, Amélie would not! She would not even
reproach me, except by excess of affection."

Philibert looked on his friend admiringly, at this panegyric of the
woman he loved. Le Gardeur was in feature so like his sister that
Philibert at the moment caught the very face of Amélie, as it were,
looking at him through the face of her brother. "You will not resist her
pleadings, Le Gardeur,"--Philibert thought it an impossible thing. "No
guardian angel ever clung to the skirts of a sinner as Amélie will cling
to you," said he; "therefore I have every hope of my dear friend Le
Gardeur Repentigny."

The two riders emerged from the forest, and drew up for a minute in
front of the hostelry of the Crown of France, to water their horses at
the long trough before the door and inform Dame Bédard, who ran out to
greet them, that Master Pothier was following with his ambling nag at a
gentle pace, as befitted the gravity of his profession.

"Oh! Master Pothier never fails to find his way to the Crown of France;
but won't your Honors take a cup of wine? The day is hot and the road
dusty. 'A dry rider makes a wet nag,'" added the Dame, with a smile, as
she repeated an old saying, brought over with the rest of the butin in
the ships of Cartier and Champlain.

The gentlemen bowed their thanks, and as Philibert looked up, he saw
pretty Zoë Bédard poring over a sheet of paper bearing a red seal, and
spelling out the crabbed law text of Master Pothier. Zoë, like other
girls of her class, had received a tincture of learning in the day
schools of the nuns; but, although the paper was her marriage contract,
it puzzled her greatly to pick out the few chips of plain sense that
floated in the sea of legal verbiage it contained. Zoë, with a perfect
comprehension of the claims of meum and tuum, was at no loss, however,
in arriving at a satisfactory solution of the true merits of her
matrimonial contract with honest Antoine La Chance.

She caught the eye of Philibert, and blushed to the very chin as she
huddled away the paper and returned the salute of the two handsome
gentlemen, who, having refreshed their horses, rode off at a rapid trot
down the great highway that led to the city.

Babet Le Nocher, in a new gown, short enough to reveal a pair of shapely
ankles in clocked stockings and well-clad feet that would have been
the envy of many a duchess, sat on the thwart of the boat knitting. Her
black hair was in the fashion recorded by the grave Peter Kalm, who, in
his account of New France, says, "The peasant women all wear their hair
in ringlets, and nice they look!"

"As I live!" exclaimed she to Jean, who was enjoying a pipe of native
tobacco, "here comes that handsome officer back again, and in as great a
hurry to return as he was to go up the highway!"

"Ay, ay, Babet! It is plain to see he is either on the King's errand
or his own. A fair lady awaits his return in the city, or one has just
dismissed him where he has been! Nothing like a woman to put quicksilver
in a man's shoes--eh! Babet?"

"Or foolish thoughts into their hearts, Jean!" replied she, laughing.

"And nothing more natural, Babet, if women's hearts are wise enough in
their folly to like our foolish thoughts of them. But there are two!
Who is that riding with the gentleman? Your eyes are better than mine,
Babet!"

"Of course, Jean! that is what I always tell you, but you won't believe
me--trust my eyes, and doubt your own! The other gentleman," said she,
looking fixedly, while her knitting lay still in her lap, "the other is
the young Chevalier de Repentigny. What brings him back before the rest
of the hunting party, I wonder?"

"That officer must have been to Beaumanoir, and is bringing the young
seigneur back to town," remarked Jean, puffing out a long thread of
smoke from his lips.

"Well, it must be something better than smoke, Jean!"--Babet coughed:
she never liked the pipe--"The young chevalier is always one of the last
to give up when they have one of their three days drinking bouts up at
the Château. He is going to the bad, I fear--more's the pity! such a
nice, handsome fellow, too!"

"All lies and calumny!" replied Jean, in a heat. "Le Gardeur de
Repentigny is the son of my dear old seigneur. He may get drunk, but it
will be like a gentleman if he does, and not like a carter, Babet, or
like a--"

"Boatman! Jean; but I don't include you--you have never been the worse
for drinking water since I took care of your liquor, Jean!"

"Ay, you are intoxication enough of yourself for me, Babet! Two bright
eyes like yours, a pipe and bitters, with grace before meat, would save
any Christian man in this world." Jean stood up, politely doffing his
red tuque to the gentlemen. Le Gardeur stooped from his horse to grasp
his hand, for Jean had been an old servitor at Tilly, and the young
seigneur was too noble-minded and polite to omit a kindly notice of even
the humblest of his acquaintance.

"Had a busy day, Jean, with the old ferry?" asked Le Gardeur, cheerily.

"No, your Honor, but yesterday I think half the country-side crossed
over to the city on the King's corvée. The men went to work, and the
women followed to look after them, ha! ha!" Jean winked provokingly at
Babet, who took him up sharply.

"And why should not the women go after the men? I trow men are not so
plentiful in New France as they used to be before this weary war began.
It well behooves the women to take good care of all that are left."

"That is true as the Sunday sermon," remarked Jean. "Why, it was only
the other day I heard that great foreign gentleman, who is the guest of
His Excellency the Governor, say, sitting in this very boat, that 'there
are at this time four women to every man in New France!' If that is
true, Babet,--and you know he said it, for you were angry enough,--a
man is a prize indeed, in New France, and women are plenty as eggs at
Easter!"

"The foreign gentleman had much assurance to say it, even if it were
true: he were much better employed picking up weeds and putting them in
his book!" exclaimed Babet, hotly.

"Come! come!" cried Le Gardeur, interrupting this debate on the
population; "Providence knows the worth of Canadian women, and cannot
give us too many of them. We are in a hurry to get to the city, Jean, so
let us embark. My aunt and Amélie are in the old home in the city; they
will be glad to see you and Babet," added he, kindly, as he got into the
boat.

Babet dropped her neatest courtesy, and Jean, all alive to his duty,
pushed off his boat, bearing the two gentlemen and their horses across
the broad St. Charles to the King's Quay, where they remounted, and
riding past the huge palace of the Intendant, dashed up the steep Côte
au Chien and through the city gate, disappearing from the eyes of Babet,
who looked very admiringly after them. Her thoughts were especially
commendatory of the handsome officer in full uniform who had been so
polite and generous in the morning.

"I was afraid, Jean, you were going to blurt out about Mademoiselle des
Meloises," remarked Babet to Jean on his return; "men are so indiscreet
always!"

"Leaky boats! leaky boats! Babet! no rowing them with a woman aboard!
sure to run on the bank. But what about Mademoiselle des Meloises?"
Honest Jean had passed her over the ferry an hour ago, and been sorely
tempted to inform Le Gardeur of the interesting fact.

"What about Mademoiselle des Meloises?" Babet spoke rather sharply.
"Why, all Quebec knows that the Seigneur de Repentigny is mad in love
with her."

"And why should he not be mad in love with her if he likes?" replied
Jean; "she is a morsel fit for a king, and if Le Gardeur should lose
both his heart and his wits on her account, it is only what half the
gallants of Quebec have done."

"Oh, Jean, Jean! it is plain to see you have an eye in your head as well
as a soft place!" ejaculated Babet, recommencing her knitting with fresh
vigor, and working off the electricity that was stirring in her.

"I had two eyes in my head when I chose you, Babet, and the soft place
was in my heart!" replied Jean, heartily. The compliment was taken with
a smile, as it deserved to be. "Look you, Babet, I would not give this
pinch of snuff," said Jean, raising his thumb and two fingers holding
a good dose of the pungent dust,--"I would not give this pinch of snuff
for any young fellow who could be indifferent to the charms of such a
pretty lass as Angélique des Meloises!"

"Well, I am glad you did not tell the Seigneur de Repentigny that she
had crossed the ferry and gone--not to look for him, I'll be bound! I
will tell you something by and by, Jean, if you will come in and eat
your dinner; I have something you like."

"What is it, Babet?" Jean was, after all, more curious about his dinner
than about the fair lady.

"Oh, something you like--that is a wife's secret: keep the stomach of
a man warm, and his heart will never grow cold. What say you to fried
eels?"

"Bravo!" cried the gay old boatman, as he sang,


     "'Ah! ah! ah! frit à l'huile,
       Frit au beurre et à l'ognon!'"


and the jolly couple danced into their little cottage--no king and queen
in Christendom half so happy as they.



CHAPTER X. AMÉLIE DE REPENTIGNY.


The town house of the Lady de Tilly stood on the upper part of the Place
d'Armes, a broad, roughly-paved square. The Château of St. Louis, with
its massive buildings and high, peaked roofs, filled one side of the
square. On the other side, embowered in ancient trees that had escaped
the axe of Champlain's hardy followers, stood the old-fashioned
Monastery of the Recollets, with its high belfry and broad shady porch,
where the monks in gray gowns and sandals sat in summer, reading their
breviaries or exchanging salutations with the passers-by, who always had
a kind greeting for the brothers of St. Francis.

The mansion of the Lady de Tilly was of stone, spacious and ornate, as
became the rank and wealth of the Seigneurs de Tilly. It overlooked the
Place d'Armes and the noble gardens of the Château of St. Louis, with
a magnificent sweep of the St. Lawrence, flowing majestically under the
fortress-crowned cape and the high, wooded hills of Lauzon, the farther
side of the river closing the view.

In the recess of an ornate mullioned window, half concealed by the rich,
heavy curtains of a noble room, Amélie de Repentigny sat alone--very
quiet in look and demeanor, but no little agitated in mind, as might
be noticed in the nervous contact of her hands, which lay in her lap
clasping each other very hard, as if trying to steady her thoughts.

Her aunt was receiving some lady visitors in the great drawing-room. The
hum of loud feminine voices reached the ear of Amélie, but she paid no
attention, so absorbed was she in the new and strange thoughts that
had stirred in her mind since morning, when she had learned from the
Chevalier La Corne of the return to New France of Pierre Philibert. The
news had surprised her to a degree she could not account for. Her first
thought was, how fortunate for her brother that Pierre had returned;
her second, how agreeable to herself. Why? She could not think why: she
wilfully drew an inference away from the truth that lay in her heart--it
was wholly for the sake of her brother she rejoiced in the return of his
friend and preserver. Her heart beat a little faster than usual--that
was the result of her long walk and disappointment at not meeting
Le Gardeur on her arrival yesterday. But she feared to explore her
thoughts: a rigid self-examination might discover what she instinctively
felt was deeply concealed there.

A subtile, indefinable prevision had suggested to her that Colonel
Philibert would not have failed to meet Le Gardeur at Beaumanoir, and
that he would undoubtedly accompany her brother on his return and call
to pay his respects to the Lady de Tilly and--to herself. She felt her
cheek glow at the thought, yet she was half vexed at her own foolish
fancy, as she called it. She tried to call upon her pride, but that came
very laggardly to the relief of her discomposure.

Her interview, too, with Angélique des Meloises had caused her no little
disquiet. The bold avowals of Angélique with reference to the Intendant
had shocked Amélie. She knew that her brother had given more of his
thoughts to this beautiful, reckless girl than was good for his peace,
should her ambition ever run counter to his love.

The fond sister sighed deeply when she reflected that the woman who had
power to make prize of Le Gardeur's love was not worthy of him.

It is no rare thing for loving sisters who have to resign their brothers
to others' keeping to think so. But Amélie knew that Angélique des
Meloises was incapable of that true love which only finds its own in the
happiness of another. She was vain, selfish, ambitious, and--what Amélie
did not yet know--possessed of neither scruple nor delicacy in attaining
her objects.

It had chimed the hour of noon upon the old clock of the Recollets, and
Amélie still sat looking wistfully over the great square of the Place
d'Armes, and curiously scanning every horseman that rode across it. A
throng of people moved about the square, or passed in and out of the
great arched gateway of the Castle of St. Louis. A bright shield,
bearing the crown and fleur-de-lis, surmounted the gate, and under it
walked, with military pace, a couple of sentries, their muskets and
bayonets flashing out in the sun every time they wheeled to return on
their beat. Occasionally there was a ruffle of drums: the whole
guard turned out and presented arms, as some officer of high rank, or
ecclesiastical dignitary, passed through to pay his respects to the
Governor, or transact business at the vice-regal court. Gentlemen on
foot, with chapeaux and swords, carrying a cloak on their shoulders;
ladies in visiting dress; habitans and their wives in unchanging
costume; soldiers in uniform, and black-gowned clergy, mingled in a
moving picture of city life, which, had not Amélie's thoughts been so
preoccupied to-day, would have afforded her great delight to look out
upon.

The Lady de Tilly had rather wearied of the visit of the two ladies of
the city, Madame de Grandmaison and Madame Couillard, who had bored her
with all the current gossip of the day. They were rich and fashionable,
perfect in etiquette, costume, and most particular in their society;
but the rank and position of the noble Lady de Tilly made her friendship
most desirable, as it conferred in the eyes of the world a patent of
gentility which held good against every pretension to overtop it.

The stream of city talk from the lips of the two ladies had the merit
of being perfect of its kind--softly insinuating and sweetly censorious,
superlative in eulogy and infallible in opinion. The good visitors most
conscientiously discharged what they deemed a great moral and social
duty by enlightening the Lady de Tilly on all the recent lapses and
secrets of the capital. They slid over slippery topics like skaters on
thin ice, filling their listener with anxiety lest they should break
through. But Madame de Grandmaison and her companion were too well
exercised in the gymnastics of gossip to overbalance themselves. Half
Quebec was run over and run down in the course of an hour.

Lady de Tilly listened with growing impatience to their frivolities, but
she knew society too well to quarrel with its follies when it was of no
service to do so: she contented herself with hoping it was not so bad.
The Pope was not Catholic enough to suit some people, but, for her part,
she had generally found people better than they were called.

A rather loud but well-bred exclamation of Madame de Grandmaison roused
Amélie from her day-dream.

"Not going to the Intendant's ball at the Palace, my Lady de Tilly!
neither you nor Mademoiselle de Repentigny, whom we are so sorry not to
have seen to-day? Why, it is to be the most magnificent affair ever got
up in New France. All Quebec has rung with nothing else for a fortnight,
and every milliner and modiste in the city has gone almost insane over
the superlative costumes to be worn there."

"And it is to be the most select in its character," chimed in Madame
Couillard; "all gentry and noblesse, not one of the bourgeois to
be invited. That class, especially the female portion of them, give
themselves such airs nowadays! As if their money made them company for
people of quality! They must be kept down, I say, or--"

"And the Royal Intendant quite agrees with the general sentiment of the
higher circles," responded Madame de Grandmaison. "He is for keeping
down--"

"Noblesse! Noblesse!" The Lady de Tilly spoke with visible impatience.
"Who is this Royal Intendant who dares cast a slight upon the worthy,
honest bourgeoisie of this city? Is he noble himself? Not that I would
think worse of him were he not, but I have heard it disputed. He is the
last one who should venture to scorn the bourgeoisie."

Madame de Grandmaison fanned herself in a very stately manner. "Oh, my
Lady, you surely forget! The Chevalier Bigot is a distant relative of
the Count de Marville, and the Chevalier de Grandmaison is a constant
visitor at the Intendant's! But he would not have sat at his table an
hour had he not known that he was connected with the nobility. The Count
de Marville--"

"The Count de Marville!" interrupted the Lady de Tilly, whose politeness
almost gave way. "Truly, a man is known by the company he keeps. No
credit to any one to be connected with the Count de Marville."

Madame de Grandmaison felt rather subdued. She perceived that the Lady
de Tilly was not favorably impressed towards the Intendant. But she
tried again: "And then, my Lady, the Intendant is so powerful at Court.
He was a particular friend of Madame d'Étioles before she was known
at Court, and they say he managed her introduction to the King at the
famous masked ball at the Hôtel de Ville, when His Majesty threw
his handkerchief at her, and she became first dame du palais and the
Marquise de Pompadour. She has ever remained his firm friend, and in
spite of all his enemies could do to prevent it His Majesty made him
Intendant of New France."

"In spite of all the King's friends could do, you mean," replied the
Lady de Tilly, in a tone the sound of which caught the ear of Amélie,
and she knew her aunt was losing patience with her visitors. Lady de
Tilly heard the name of the royal mistress with intense disgust, but
her innate loyalty prevented her speaking disparagingly of the King.
"We will not discuss the Court," said she, "nor the friendships of this
Intendant. I can only pray his future may make amends for his past.
I trust New France may not have as much reason as poor lost Acadia to
lament the day of his coming to the Colonies."

The two lady visitors were not obtuse. They saw they had roused the
susceptibilities--prejudices, they called them--of the Lady de Tilly.
They rose, and smothering their disappointment under well-bred phrases,
took most polite leave of the dignified old lady, who was heartily glad
to be rid of them.

"The disagreeable old thing--to talk so of the Intendant!" exclaimed
Madame Couillard, spitefully, "when her own nephew, and heir in the
Seigniory of Tilly, is the Intendant's firmest friend and closest
companion."

"Yes, she forgot about her own house; people always forget to look at
home when they pass judgment upon their neighbors," replied Madame
de Grandmaison. "But I am mistaken if she will be able to impress Le
Gardeur de Repentigny with her uncharitable and unfashionable opinions
of the Intendant. I hope the ball will be the greatest social success
ever seen in the city, just to vex her and her niece, who is as proud
and particular as she is herself."

Amélie de Repentigny had dressed herself to-day in a robe of soft muslin
of Deccan, the gift of a relative in Pondicherry. It enveloped her
exquisite form, without concealing the grace and lissomeness of her
movements. A broad blue ribbon round her waist, and in her dark hair a
blue flower, were all her adornments, except a chain and cross of gold,
which lay upon her bosom, the rich gift of her brother, and often kissed
with a silent prayer for his welfare and happiness. More than once,
under the influence of some indefinable impulse, she rose and went to
the mirror, comparing her features now with a portrait of herself taken
as a young girl in the garb of a shepherdess of Provence. Her father
used to like that picture of her, and to please him she often wore her
hair in the fashion of Provence. She did so to-day. Why? The subtile
thought in many Protean shapes played before her fancy, but she would
not try to catch it--no! rather shyly avoided its examination.

She was quite restless, and sat down again in the deep recess of the
window, watching the Place d'Armes for the appearance of her brother.

She gave a sudden start at last, as a couple of officers galloped in to
the square and rode towards the great gate of the Château; one of them
she instantly recognized as her brother, the other, a tall martial
figure in full uniform, upon a fiery gray, she did not recognize, but
she knew in her heart it could be no other than Colonel Philibert.

Amélie felt a thrill, almost painful in its pleasure, agitating her
bosom, as she sat watching the gateway they had entered. It was even a
momentary relief to her that they had turned in there instead of riding
directly to the house. It gave her time to collect her thoughts and
summon all her fortitude for the coming interview. Her fingers wandered
down to the rosary in the folds of her dress, and the golden bead, which
had so often prompted her prayer for the happiness of Pierre Philibert,
seemed to burn to the touch. Her cheek crimsoned, for a strange thought
suddenly intruded--the boy Pierre Philibert, whose image and memory
she had so long and innocently cherished, was now a man, a soldier, a
councillor, trained in courts and camps! How unmaidenly she had acted,
forgetting all this in her childish prayers until this moment! "I mean
no harm," was all the defence she could think of. Nor had she time to
think more of herself, for, after remaining ten minutes in the Château,
just long enough to see the Governor and deliver the answer of the
Intendant to his message, the gray charger emerged from the gate. His
rider was accompanied by her brother and the well-known figure of her
godfather, La Corne St. Luc, who rode up the hill and in a minute or two
dismounted at the door of the mansion of the Lady de Tilly.

The fabled lynx, whose eye penetrates the very earth to discover hidden
treasure, did not cast a keener and more inquisitive glance than that
which Amélie, shrouded behind the thick curtains, directed from the
window at the tall, manly figure and handsome countenance of him whom
she knew to be Pierre Philibert. Let it not detract from her that she
gave way to an irresistible impulse of womanly curiosity. The Queen of
France would, under the same temptation, have done the same thing, and
perhaps without feeling half the modest shame of it that Amélie did. A
glance sufficed--but a glance that impressed upon her mind forever the
ineffaceable and perfect image of Pierre Philibert the man, who came in
place of Pierre Philibert the boy friend of Le Gardeur and of herself.



CHAPTER XI. THE SOLDIER'S WELCOME.


The voices of the gentlemen mingled with her aunt's in eager greetings.
She well knew which must be the voice of Colonel Philibert--the rest
were all so familiar to her ear. Suddenly footsteps ran up the
grand stair, clearing three at a time. She waited, trembling with
anticipation. Le Gardeur rushed into the room with outstretched arms,
embraced her, and kissed her in a transport of brotherly affection.

"Oh, Le Gardeur!" cried she, returning his kiss with fond affection, and
looking in his face with tenderness and joy. "O my brother, how I have
prayed and longed for your coming. Thank God! you are here at last. You
are well, brother, are you not?" said she, looking up with a glance that
seemed to betray some anxiety.

"Never better, Amélie," replied he, in a gayer tone than was quite
natural to him, and shyly averting his eyes from her tender scrutiny.
"Never better. Why, if I had been in my grave, I should have risen up to
welcome a friend whom I have met to-day after years of separation. Oh,
Amélie, I have such news for you!"

"News for me, Le Gardeur! What can it be?" A blush stole over her
countenance, and her bosom heaved, for she was very conscious of the
nature of the news her brother was about to impart.

"Guess! you unsuspecting queen of shepherdesses," cried he, archly
twisting a lock of her hair that hung over her shoulder. "Guess, you
pretty gipsy, you!"

"Guess? How can I guess, Le Gardeur? Can there be any news left in the
city of Quebec after an hour's visit from Madame de Grandmaison and
Madame Couillard? I did not go down, but I know they inquired much after
you, by the way!" Amélie, with a little touch of feminine perversity,
shyly put off the grand burst of Le Gardeur's intelligence, knowing it
was sure to come.

"Pshaw! who cares for those old scandal-mongers! But you can never guess
my news, Amélie, so I may as well tell you." Le Gardeur fairly swelled
with the announcement he was about to make.

"Have mercy then, brother, and tell me at once, for you do now set my
curiosity on tiptoe." She was a true woman, and would not for anything
have admitted her knowledge of the presence of Colonel Philibert in the
house.

"Amélie," said he, taking her by both hands, as if to prevent her
escape, "I was at Beaumanoir--you know the Intendant gave a grand
hunting party," added he, noticing the quick glance she gave him; "and
who do you think came to the Château and recognized me, or rather I
recognized him? A stranger--and not such a stranger, either Amélie."

"Nay; go on, brother! Who could this mysterious stranger and no stranger
have been?"

"Pierre Philibert, Amélie! Pierre--our Pierre, you know! You recollect
him, sister!"

"Recollect Pierre Philibert? Why, how could I ever forget him while you
are living? since to him we are all indebted for your life, brother!"

"I know that; are you not glad, as I am, at his return?" asked Le
Gardeur, with a penetrating look.

She threw her arms round him involuntarily, for she was much agitated.
"Glad, brother? Yes, I am glad because you are glad."

"No more than that, Amélie? That is a small thing to be glad for."

"Oh, brother! I am glad for gladness's sake! We can never overpay the
debt of gratitude we owe Pierre Philibert."

"O my sweet sister," replied he, kissing her, "I knew my news would
please you. Come, we will go down and see him at once, for Pierre is in
the house."

"But, Le Gardeur!" She blushed and hesitated. "Pierre Philibert I
knew--I could speak to him; but I shall hardly dare recognize him in the
stately soldier of to-day. Voilà la différence!" added she, repeating
the refrain of a song very popular both in New France and in Old at that
period.

Le Gardeur did not comprehend her hesitation and tone. Said he,--"Pierre
is wonderfully changed since he and I wore the green sash of the
seminary. He is taller than I, wiser and better,--he was always
that,--but in heart the same generous, noble Pierre Philibert he was
when a boy. Voilà la ressemblance!" added he, pulling her hair archly as
he repeated the antistrophe of the same ditty.

Amélie gave her brother a fond look, but she did not reply, except by a
tight pressure of the hand. The voices of the Chevalier La Corne and
the Lady de Tilly and Colonel Philibert were again heard in animated
conversation. "Come, brother, we will go now," said she; and quick
in executing any resolution she had formed, she took the arm of
her brother, swept with him down the broad stair, and entered the
drawing-room.

Philibert rose to his feet in admiration of the vision of loveliness
that suddenly beamed upon his eyes. It was the incarnation of all the
shapes of grace and beauty that had passed through his fervid fancy
during so many years of absence from his native land. Something there
was of the features of the young girl who had ridden with flying
locks, like a sprite, through the woods of Tilly. But comparing his
recollection of that slight girl with the tall, lithe, perfect womanhood
of the half-blushing girl before him, he hesitated, although intuitively
aware that it could be no other than the idol of his heart, Amélie de
Repentigny.

Le Gardeur solved the doubt in a moment by exclaiming, in a tone of
exultation, "Pierre Philibert, I bring an old young friend to greet
you--my sister!"

Philibert advanced, and Amélie raised her dark eyes with a momentary
glance that drew into her heart the memory of his face forever. She
held out her hand frankly and courteously. Philibert bent over it as
reverently as he would over the hand of the Madonna.

The greeting of the Lady de Tilly and La Corne St. Luc had been cordial,
nay, affectionate in its kindness. The good lady kissed Pierre as a
mother might have done a long-absent son.

"Colonel Philibert," said Amélie, straining her nerves to the tension of
steel to preserve her composure, "Colonel Philibert is most welcome; he
has never been forgotten in this house." She glanced at her aunt, who
smiled approvingly at Amélie's remark.

"Thanks, Mademoiselle de Repentigny; I am indeed happy to be remembered
here; it fulfils one of my most cherished hopes in returning to my
native land."

"Ay, ay, Pierre," interrupted La Corne St. Luc, who looked on this
little scene very admiringly, "good blood never lies. Look at Colonel
Philibert there, with the King's epaulets on his shoulders. I have a
sharp eye, as you know, Amélie, when I look after my pretty goddaughter,
but I should not have recognized our lively Pierre in him, had Le
Gardeur not introduced him to me, and I think you would not have known
him either."

"Thanks for your looking after me, godfather," replied Amélie, merrily,
very grateful in her heart for his appreciation of Pierre, "but I think
neither aunt nor I should have failed to recognize him."

"Right, my Amélie!" said the Lady de Tilly. "We should not, and we shall
not be afraid, Pierre,--I must call you Pierre or nothing,--we shall not
be afraid, although you do lay in a new stock of acquaintances in the
capital, that old friends will be put aside as unfashionable remnants."

"My whole stock of friendship consists of those remnants, my
Lady,--memories of dear friends I love and honor. They will never be
unfashionable with me: I should be bankrupt indeed, were I to part with
one of them."

"Then they are of a truer fabric than Penelope's web, for she, I read,
pulled in pieces at night what she had woven through the day," replied
Lady de Tilly. "Give me the friendship that won't unravel."

"But not a thread of my recollections has ever unravelled, or ever
will," replied Pierre, looking at Amélie as she clasped the arm of her
aunt, feeling stronger, as is woman's way, by the contact with another.

"Zounds! What is all this merchant's talk about webs and threads and
thrums?" exclaimed La Corne. "There is no memory so good as a soldier's,
Amélie, and for good reason: a soldier on our wild frontiers is
compelled to be faithful to old friends and old flannels; he cannot
help himself to new ones if he would. I was five years and never saw
a woman's face except red ones--some of them were very comely, by the
way," added the old warrior with a smile.

"The gallantry of the Chevalier La Corne is incontestable," remarked
Pierre, "for once, when we captured a convoy of soldiers' wives from New
England, he escorted them, with drums beating, to Grand Pré, and sent
a cask of Gasçon wine for them to celebrate their reunion with their
husbands."

"Frowzy huzzies! not worth the keeping, or I would not have sent them;
fit only for the bobtailed militia of New England!" exclaimed La Corne.

"Not so thought the New Englanders, who had a three days feast when they
remarried their wives--and handsome they were, too," said Philibert;
"the healths they drank to the Chevalier were enough to make him
immortal."

La Corne always brushed aside compliments to himself: "Tut, my Lady!
it was more Pierre's good-nature than mine--he out of kindness let the
women rejoin their husbands; on my part it was policy and stratagem, of
war. Hear the sequel! The wives spoiled the husbands, as I guessed they
would do, taught them to be too late at reveille, too early at tattoo.
They neglected guards and pickets, and when the long nights of winter
set in, the men hugged their wives by the firesides instead of their
muskets by their watch-fires. Then came destruction upon them! In a
blinding storm, amid snow-drifts and darkness, Coulon de Villiers, with
his troops on snow-shoes, marched into the New England camp, and made
widows of the most of the poor wives, who fell into our hands the second
time. Poor creatures! I saw that day how hard it was to be a soldier's
wife." La Corne's shaggy eyelash twinkled with moisture. "But it was the
fortune of war!--the fortune of war, and a cruel fortune it is at the
best!"

The Lady de Tilly pressed her hand to her bosom to suppress the rising
emotion. "Alas, Chevalier! poor widows! I feel all they suffered. War is
indeed a cruel fortune, as I too have had reason to learn."

"And what became of the poor women, godfather?" Amélie's eyes were
suffused with tears: it was in her heart, if ever in any mortal's, to
love her enemies.

"Oh, we cared for them the best we could. The Baron de St. Castin
sheltered them in his château for the winter, and his daughter devoted
herself to them with the zeal and tenderness of a saint from Heaven--a
noble, lovely girl, Amélie!" added La Corne, impressively; "the fairest
flower in all Acadia, and most unfortunate, poor girl! God's blessing
rest upon her, wherever she may be!" La Corne St. Luc spoke with a depth
of emotion he rarely manifested.

"How was she unfortunate, godfather?" Philibert watched the cheek flush
and the eyelid quiver of the fair girl as she spoke, carried away by her
sympathy. His heart went with his looks.

"Alas!" replied La Corne, "I would fain not answer, lest I distrust the
moral government of the universe. But we are blind creatures, and God's
ways are not fashioned in our ways. Let no one boast that he stands,
lest he fall! We need the help of the host of Heaven to keep us upright
and maintain our integrity. I can scarcely think of that noble girl
without tears. Oh, the pity of it! The pity of it!"

Lady de Tilly looked at him wonderingly. "I knew the Baron de St.
Castin," said she. "When he came to perform homage at the Castle of St.
Louis, for the grant of some lands in Acadia, he was accompanied by his
only daughter, a child perfect in goodness, grace, and loveliness. She
was just the age of Amélie. The ladies of the city were in raptures over
the pretty Mayflower, as they called her. What, in heaven's name, has
happened to that dear child, Chevalier La Corne?"

La Corne St. Luc, half angry with himself for having broached
the painful topic, and not used to pick his words, replied
bluntly,--"Happened, my Lady! what is it happens worst to a woman? She
loved a man unworthy of her love--a villain in spite of high rank and
King's favor, who deceived this fond, confiding girl, and abandoned her
to shame! Faugh! It is the way of the Court, they say; and the King has
not withdrawn his favor, but heaped new honors upon him!" La Corne put
a severe curb upon his utterance and turned impatiently away, lest he
might curse the King as well as the favorite.

"But what became of the poor deceived girl?" asked the Lady de Tilly,
after hastily clearing her eyes with her handkerchief.

"Oh, the old, old story followed. She ran away from home in an agony of
shame and fear, to avoid the return of her father from France. She went
among the Indians of the St. Croix, they say, and has not been heard of
since. Poor, dear girl! her very trust in virtue was the cause of her
fall!"

Amélie turned alternately pale and red at the recital of her godfather.
She riveted her eyes upon the ground as she pressed close to her aunt,
clasping her arm, as if seeking strength and support.

Lady de Tilly was greatly shocked at the sad recital. She inquired the
name of the man of rank who had acted so treacherously to the hapless
girl.

"I will not utter the name to-day, my Lady! It has been revealed to me
as a great secret. It is a name too high for the stroke of the law,
if there be any law left us but the will of a King's mistress! God,
however, has left us the law of a gentleman's sword to avenge its
master's wrong. The Baron de St. Castin will soon return to vindicate
his own honor, and whether or no, I vow to heaven, my Lady, that the
traitor who has wronged that sweet girl will one day have to try whether
his sword be sharper than that of La Corne St. Luc! But pshaw! I am
talking bravado like an Indian at the war post. The story of those
luckless New England wives has carried us beyond all bounds."

Lady de Tilly looked admiringly, without a sign of reproof, at the old
soldier, sympathizing with his honest indignation at so foul a wrong to
her sex. "Were that dear child mine, woman as I am, I would do the same
thing!" said she, with a burst of feeling. She felt Amélie press her arm
as if she too shared the spirit of her bolder aunt.

"But here comes Felix Baudoin to summon us to dinner!" exclaimed Lady de
Tilly, as an old, white-headed servitor in livery appeared at the door
with a low bow, announcing that dinner was served.

Le Gardeur and La Corne St. Luc greeted the old servitor with the
utmost kindness, inquired after his health, and begged a pinch from
his well-worn snuff-box. Such familiarities were not rare in that day
between the gentlemen of New France and their old servants, who usually
passed their lifetime in one household. Felix was the majordomo of the
Manor House of Tilly, trusty, punctilious, and polite, and honored by
his mistress more as an humble friend than as a servant of her house.

"Dinner is served, my Lady!" repeated Felix, with a bow. "But my
Lady must excuse! The kitchen has been full of habitans all day. The
Trifourchettes, the Doubledents, and all the best eaters in Tilly have
been here. After obeying my Lady's commands to give them all they could
eat we have had difficulty in saving anything for my Lady's own table."

"No matter, Felix, we shall say grace all the same. I could content
myself with bread and water, to give fish and flesh to my censitaires,
who are working so willingly on the King's corvée! But that must be
my apology to you, Pierre Philibert and the Chevalier La Corne, for a
poorer dinner than I could wish."

"Oh, I feel no misgivings, my Lady!" remarked La Corne St. Luc,
laughing. "Felix Baudoin is too faithful a servitor to starve his
mistress for the sake of the Trifourchettes, the Doubledents, and all
the best eaters in the Seigniory! No! no! I will be bound your Ladyship
will find Felix has tolled and tithed from them enough to secure a
dinner for us all--come, Amélie, with me."

Lady de Tilly took the arm of Colonel Philibert, followed by Le Gardeur,
La Corne, and Amélie, and, marshalled by the majordomo, proceeded to the
dining-room--a large room, wainscotted with black walnut, a fine wood
lately introduced. The ceiling was coved, and surrounded by a rich
frieze of carving. A large table, suggestive of hospitality, was covered
with drapery of the snowiest linen, the product of the spinning-wheels
and busy looms of the women of the Seigniory of Tilly. Vases of china,
filled with freshly-gathered flowers, shed sweet perfumes, while they
delighted the eye with their beauty, etherializing the elements of bread
and meat by suggestions of the poetry and ideals of life. A grand old
buffet, a prodigy of cabinet-maker's art, displayed a mass of family
plate, and a silver shield embossed with the arms of Tilly, a gift of
Henry of Navarre to their ancient and loyal house, hung upon the wall
over the buffet.

In spite of the Trifourchettes and the Doubledents, Felix Baudoin had
managed to set an excellent dinner upon the table of his lady, who
looked archly at the Chevalier La Corne, as if assenting to his remark
on her old servitor.

The lady remained standing at the head of her table until they all sat
down, when, clasping her hands, she recited with feeling and clearness
the old Latin grace, "Benedic, Domine, nos et haec tua dona,"
sanctifying her table by the invocation of the blessing of God upon it
and upon all who sat round it.

A soup, rich and savory, was the prelude at all dinners in New France.
A salmon speared in the shallows of the Chaudière, and a dish of
blood-speckled trout from the mountain streams of St. Joachim, smoked
upon the board. Little oval loaves of wheaten bread were piled up in
baskets of silver filigree. For in those days the fields of New France
produced crops of the finest wheat--a gift which Providence has since
withheld. "The wheat went away with the Bourbon lilies, and never grew
afterwards," said the old habitans. The meat in the larder had all
really been given to the hungry censitaires in the kitchen, except a
capon from the basse cour of Tilly and a standing pie, the contents of
which came from the manorial dovecote. A reef of raspberries, red as
corals, gathered on the tangled slopes of Côte à Bonhomme, formed the
dessert, with blue whortleberries from Cape Tourment, plums sweet as
honey drops, and small, gray-coated apples from Beaupré, delicious as
those that comforted the Rose of Sharon. A few carafes of choice wine
from the old manorial cellar, completed the entertainment.

The meal was not a protracted one, but to Pierre Philibert the most
blissful hour of his life. He sat by the side of Amélie, enjoying every
moment as if it were a pearl dropped into his bosom by word, look, or
gesture of the radiant girl who sat beside him.

He found Amélie, although somewhat timid at first to converse, a
willing, nay, an eager listener. She was attracted by the magnetism of
a noble, sympathetic nature, and by degrees ventured to cast a glance
at the handsome, manly countenance where feature after feature revealed
itself, like a landscape at dawn of day, and in Colonel Philibert she
recognized the very looks, speech, and manner of Pierre Philibert of
old.

Her questioning eyes hardly needed the interpretation of her tongue to
draw him out to impart the story of his life during his long absence
from New France, and it was with secret delight she found in him a
powerful, cultivated intellect and nobility of sentiment such as
she rightly supposed belonged only to a great man, while his visible
pleasure at meeting her again filled her with a secret joy that,
unnoticed by herself, suffused her whole countenance with radiance, and
incited her to converse with him more freely than she had thought it
possible when she sat down at table.

"It is long since we all sat together, Mademoiselle, at the table of
your noble aunt," remarked Philibert. "It fulfills an often and often
repeated day-dream of mine, that I should one day find you just the
same."

"And do you find me just the same?" answered she, archly. "You take down
the pride of ladyhood immensely, Colonel! I had imagined I was something
quite other than the wild child of Tilly!"

"I hardly like to consider you as in the pride of ladyhood,
Mademoiselle, for fear I should lose the wild child of Tilly, whom I
should be so glad to find again."

"And whom you do find just the same in heart, mind, and regard too!"
thought she to herself, but her words were,--"My school mistresses would
be ashamed of their work, Colonel, if they had not improved on the very
rude material my aunt sent them up from Tilly to manufacture into a fine
lady! I was the crowned queen of the year when I left the Ursulines, so
beware of considering me 'the child of Tilly' any longer."

Her silvery laugh caught his heart, for in that he recognized vividly
the gay young girl whose image he was every instant developing out of
the tall, lovely woman beside him.

La Corne St. Luc and the Lady de Tilly found a thousand delights in
mutual reminiscences of the past. Le Gardeur, somewhat heavy, joined
in conversation with Philibert and his sister. Amélie guessed, and
Philibert knew, the secret of Le Gardeur's dulness; both strove to
enliven and arouse him. His aunt guessed too, that he had passed the
night as the guests of the Intendant always passed it, and knowing
his temper and the regard he had for her good opinion, she brought the
subject of the Intendant into conversation, in order, casually as it
were, to impress Le Gardeur with her opinion of him. "Pierre Philibert
too," thought she, "shall be put upon his guard against the crafty
Bigot."

"Pierre," said she, "you are happy in a father who is a brave, honorable
man, of whom any son in the world might be proud. The country holds by
him immensely, and he deserves their regard. Watch over him now you are
at home, Pierre. He has some relentless and powerful enemies, who would
injure him if they could."

"That has he," remarked La Corne St. Luc; "I have spoken to the Sieur
Philibert and cautioned him, but he is not impressible on the subject of
his own safety. The Intendant spoke savagely of him in public the other
day."

"Did he, Chevalier?" replied Philibert, his eyes flashing with another
fire than that which had filled them looking at Amélie. "He shall
account to me for his words, were he Regent instead of Intendant!"

La Corne St. Luc looked half approvingly at Philibert.

"Don't quarrel with him yet, Pierre! You cannot make a quarrel of what
he has said."

Lady de Tilly listened uneasily, and said,--

"Don't quarrel with him at all, Pierre Philibert! Judge him and avoid
him, as a Christian man should do. God will deal with Bigot as he
deserves: the crafty man will be caught in his own devices some day."

"Oh, Bigot is a gentleman, aunt, too polite to insult any one," remarked
Le Gardeur, impatient to defend one whom he regarded as a friend. "He is
the prince of good fellows, and not crafty, I think, but all surface and
sunshine."

"You never explored the depths of him, Le Gardeur," remarked La Corne.
"I grant he is a gay, jesting, drinking, and gambling fellow in company;
but, trust me, he is deep and dark as the Devil's cave that I have seen
in the Ottawa country. It goes story under story, deeper and deeper,
until the imagination loses itself in contemplating the bottomless pit
of it--that is Bigot, Le Gardeur."

"My censitaires report to me," remarked the Lady de Tilly, "that his
commissaries are seizing the very seed-corn of the country. Heaven knows
what will become of my poor people next year if the war continue!"

"What will become of the Province in the hands of François Bigot?"
replied La Corne St. Luc. "They say, Philibert, that a certain great
lady at Court, who is his partner or patroness, or both, has obtained a
grant of your father's sequestered estate in Normandy, for her relative,
the Count de Marville. Had you heard of that, Philibert? It is the
latest news from France."

"Oh, yes, Chevalier! Ill news like that never misses the mark it is
aimed at. The news soon reached my father!"

"And how does your father take it?"

"My father is a true philosopher; he takes it as Socrates might have
taken it; he laughs at the Count de Marville, who will, he says, want to
sell the estate before the year is out, to pay his debts of honor--the
only debts he ever does pay."

"If Bigot had anything to do with such an outrage," exclaimed Le Gardeur
warmly, "I would renounce him on the spot. I have heard Bigot speak
of this gift to De Marville, whom he hates. He says it was all La
Pompadour's doing from first to last, and I believe it."

"Well," remarked La Corne, "Bigot has plenty of sins of his own to
answer for to the Sieur Philibert, on the day of account, without
reckoning this among them."

The loud report of a cannon shook the windows of the room, and died away
in long-repeated echoes among the distant hills.

"That is the signal for the Council of War, my Lady," said La Corne. "A
soldier's luck! just as we were going to have music and heaven, we are
summoned to field, camp, or council."

The gentlemen rose and accompanied the ladies to the drawing-room, and
prepared to depart. Colonel Philibert took a courteous leave of the
ladies of Tilly, looking in the eyes of Amélie for something which, had
she not turned them quickly upon a vase of flowers, he might have found
there. She plucked a few sprays from the bouquet, and handed them to him
as a token of pleasure at meeting him again in his own land.

"Recollect, Pierre Philibert!" said the Lady de Tilly, holding him
cordially by the hand, "the Manor House of Tilly is your second home,
where you are ever welcome."

Philibert was deeply touched by the genuine and stately courtesy of the
lady. He kissed her hand with grateful reverence, and bowing to both the
ladies, accompanied La Corne St. Luc and Le Gardeur to the castle of St.
Louis.

Amélie sat in the recess of the window, resting her cheek upon her
tremulous hand as she watched the gentlemen proceed on their way to
the castle. Her mind was overflowing with thoughts and fancies, new,
enigmatical, yet delightful. Her nervous manner did not escape the
loving eye of her aunt; but she spoke not--she was silent under the
burden of a secret joy that found not vent in words.

Suddenly Amélie rose from the window, and seated herself, in her
impulsive way, at the organ. Her fingers touched the keys timidly at
first as she began a trembling prelude of her own fantasy. In music her
pent-up feelings found congenial expression. The fire kindled, and she
presently burst out with the voice of a seraph in that glorious psalm,
the 116th:


     "'Toto pectore diligam
       Unice et Dominum colam,
       Qui lenis mihi supplici
       Non duram appulit aurem.

       Aurem qui mihi supplici,
       Non duram dedit; hunc ego
       Donec pectora spiritus
       Pulset semper, amabo.'"


The Lady de Tilly, half guessing the truth, would not wound the
susceptibilities of her niece by appearing to do so; so rose quietly
from her seat and placed her arms gently round Amélie when she finished
the psalm. She pressed her to her bosom, kissed her fondly, and without
a word, left her to find in music relief from her high-wrought feelings.
Her voice rose in sweeter and loftier harmonies to the pealing of the
organ as she sang to the end the joyful yet solemn psalm, in a version
made for Queen Mary of France and Scotland when life was good, hope all
brightness, and dark days as if they would never come.



CHAPTER XII. THE CASTLE OF ST. LOUIS.


The Count de la Galissonière, with a number of officers of rank in full
uniform, was slowly pacing up and down the long gallery that fronted
the Castle of St. Louis, waiting for the Council of War to open;
for although the hour had struck, the Intendant, and many other high
officials of the Colony, had not yet arrived from Beaumanoir.

The Castle of St. Louis, a massive structure of stone, with square
flanking towers, rose loftily from the brink of the precipice,
overlooking the narrow, tortuous streets of the lower town. The steeple
of the old Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, with its gilded vane, lay
far beneath the feet of the observer as he leaned over the balustrade of
iron that guarded the gallery of the Château.

A hum of voices and dense sounds rose up from the market of Notre Dame
and from the quay where ships and bateaux were moored. The cries of
sailors, carters, and habitans in thick medley floated up the steep
cliffs, pleasant sounds to the ear of the worthy Governor, who liked
the honest noises of industry and labor better than all the music of the
Academy.

A few merchantmen which had run the blockade of the English cruisers lay
at anchor in the stream, where the broad river swept majestically round
the lofty cape. In the midst of them a newly-arrived King's ship, the
Fleur-de-Lis, decorated with streamers, floated proudly, like a swan
among a flock of teal.

Le Gardeur, as an officer of the garrison, went to report himself to
the military commandant, while La Corne St. Luc and Colonel Philibert
proceeded to the gallery, where a crowd of officers were now assembled,
waiting for the Council.

The Governor at once called Philibert aside, and took his arm.
"Philibert," said he, "I trust you had no difficulty in finding the
Intendant?"

"No difficulty whatever, your Excellency. I discovered the Intendant and
his friends by ear long before I got sight of them." An equivocal smile
accompanied Philibert's words, which the Governor rightly interpreted.

"Ah! I understand, Philibert; they were carousing at that hour of
daylight? Were they all--? Faugh! I shame to speak the word. Was the
Intendant in a condition to comprehend my summons?" The Governor looked
sad, rather than surprised or angry, for he had expected no less than
Philibert had reported to him.

"I found him less intoxicated, I think, than many of his guests. He
received your message with more politeness than I expected, and promised
to be here punctually at the hour for opening the Council."

"Oh, Bigot never lacks politeness, drunk or sober: that strong intellect
of his seems to defy the power of wine, as his heart is proof against
moral feeling. You did not prolong your stay in Beaumanoir, I fancy?"
remarked the Governor, dinting the point of his cane into the floor.

"I hastened out of it as I would out of hell itself! After making prize
of my friend De Repentigny and bringing him off with me, as I mentioned
to you, I got quickly out of the Château."

"You did rightly, Philibert: the Intendant is ruining half the young men
of birth in the Colony."

"He shall not ruin Le Gardeur if I can save him," said Philibert,
resolutely. "May I count upon your Excellency's coöperation?" added he.

"Assuredly, Philibert! Command me in anything you can devise to rescue
that noble young fellow from the fatal companionship of Bigot. But I
know not how long I shall be permitted to remain in New France: powerful
intrigues are at work for my removal!" added the Governor. "I care not
for the removal, so that it be not accompanied with insult."

"Ah! you have received news to-day by the frigate?" said Philibert,
looking down at the King's ship at anchor in the stream.

"News? Yes; and such news, Philibert!" replied the Governor in at one of
despondency. "It needs the wisdom of Solon to legislate for this land,
and a Hercules to cleanse its Augean stables of official corruption. But
my influence at Court is nil--you know that, Philibert!"

"But while you are Governor your advice ought to prevail with the King,"
replied Philibert.

"My advice prevail! Listen, Philibert: my letters to the King and the
Minister of Marine and Colonies have been answered by whom, think you?"

"Nay, I cannot conceive who, out of the legal channel, would dare to
reply to them."

"No! no man could guess that my official despatches have been answered
by the Marquise de Pompadour! She replies to my despatches to my
sovereign!"

"La Pompadour!" exclaimed Philibert in a burst of indignation. "She,
the King's mistress, reply to your despatches! Has France come to be
governed by courtesans, like imperial Rome?"

"Yes! and you know the meaning of that insult, Philibert! They desire to
force me to resign, and I shall resign as soon as I see my friends safe.
I will serve the King in his fleet, but never more in a colony. This
poor land is doomed to fall into the hands of its enemies unless we get
a speedy peace. France will help us no more!"

"Don't say that, your Excellency! France will surely never be untrue
to her children in the New World! But our resources are not yet all
exhausted: we are not driven to the wall yet, your Excellency!"

"Almost, I assure you, Philibert! But we shall understand that better
after the Council."

"What say the despatches touching the negotiations going on for peace?"
asked Philibert, who knew how true were the Governor's vaticinations.

"They speak favorably of peace, and I think, correctly, Philibert;
and you know the King's armies and the King's mistresses cannot all be
maintained at the same time--women or war, one or other must give way,
and one need not doubt which it will be, when the women rule Court and
camp in France at the same time!"

"To think that a woman picked out of the gutters of Paris should rule
France and answer your despatches!" said Philibert, angrily; "it is
enough to drive honorable Frenchmen mad. But what says the Marquise de
Pompadour?"

"She is especially severe upon my opposing the fiscal measures and
commercial policy, as she calls it, of her friend the Intendant! She
approves of his grant of a monopoly of trade to the Grand Company, and
disputes my right, as Governor, to interfere with the Intendant in the
finances of the Colony."

Philibert felt deeply this wound to the honor and dignity of his chief.
He pressed his hand in warmest sympathy.

The Governor understood his feelings. "You are a true friend,
Philibert," said he; "ten men like you might still save this Colony!
But it is past the hour for the Council, and still Bigot delays! He must
have forgotten my summons."

"I think not; but he might have to wait until Cadet, Varin, Deschenaux,
and the rest of them were in a condition fit to travel," answered
Philibert with an air of disgust.

"O Philibert! the shame of it! the shame of it! for such thieves to
have the right to sit among loyal, honorable men," exclaimed, or rather
groaned, the Governor. "They have the real power in New France, and we
the empty title and the killing responsibility! Dine with me to-night
after the Council, Philibert: I have much to say to you."

"Not to-night, your Excellency! My father has killed the fatted calf
for his returned prodigal, and I must dine with him to-night," answered
Philibert.

"Right! Be it to-morrow then! Come on Wednesday," replied the Governor.
"Your father is a gentleman who carries the principles of true nobility
into the walks of trade; you are happy in such a father, Philibert, as
he is fortunate in such a son." The Governor bowed to his friend, and
rejoined the groups of officers upon the terrace.

A flash, and a column of smoke, white and sudden, rose from the great
battery that flanked the Château. It was the second signal for the
Council to commence. The Count de la Galissonière, taking the arm of
La Corne St. Luc, entered the Castle, and followed by the crowd of
officers, proceeded to the great Hall of Council and Audience. The
Governor, followed by his secretaries, walked forward to the vice-regal
chair, which stood on a daïs at the head of a long table covered with
crimson drapery. On each side of the table the members of the Council
took the places assigned to them in the order of their rank and
precedence, but a long array of chairs remained unoccupied. These seats,
belonging to the Royal Intendant and the other high officers of the
Colony who had not yet arrived to take their places in the Council,
stood empty.

The great hall of the Castle of St. Louis was palatial in its dimensions
and adornments. Its lofty coved ceiling rested on a cornice of rich
frieze of carved work, supported on polished pilasters of oak. The
panels of wainscoting upon the walls were surrounded by delicate
arabesques, and hung with paintings of historic interest--portraits of
the kings, governors, intendants, and ministers of state who had been
instrumental in the colonization of New France.

Over the Governor's seat hung a gorgeous escutcheon of the royal arms,
draped with a cluster of white flags sprinkled with golden lilies, the
emblems of French sovereignty in the Colony.

Among the portraits on the walls, besides those of the late and present
King,--which hung on each side of the throne,--might be seen the
features of Richelieu, who first organized the rude settlements on the
St. Lawrence into a body politic--a reflex of feudal France; and of
Colbert, who made available its natural wealth and resources by peopling
it with the best scions of the motherland, the noblesse and peasantry
of Normandy, Brittany, and Aquitaine. There too might be seen the keen,
bold features of Cartier, the first discoverer, and of Champlain, the
first explorer of the new land and the founder of Quebec. The gallant,
restless Louis Buade de Frontenac was pictured there side by side with
his fair countess, called by reason of her surpassing loveliness
"the divine;" Vaudreuil too, who spent a long life of devotion to his
country, and Beauharnais, who nourished its young strength until it was
able to resist not only the powerful confederacy of the Five Nations
but the still more powerful league of New England and the other English
Colonies. There, also, were seen the sharp, intellectual face of Laval,
its first bishop, who organized the Church and education in the
Colony; and of Talon, wisest of intendants, who devoted himself to the
improvement of agriculture, the increase of trade, and the well-being
of all the King's subjects in New France. And one more striking
portrait was there, worthy to rank among the statesmen and rulers of
New France,--the pale, calm, intellectual features of Mère Marie de
l'Incarnation, the first superior of the Ursulines of Quebec, who, in
obedience to heavenly visions, as she believed, left France to found
schools for the children of the new colonists, and who taught her own
womanly graces to her own sex, who were destined to become the future
mothers of New France.

In marked contrast with the military uniforms of the officers
surrounding the council-table were the black robes and tonsured heads
of two or three ecclesiastics, who had been called in by the Governor
to aid the council with their knowledge and advice. There were the
Abbé Metavet, of the Algonquins of the North; Père Oubal, the Jesuit
missionary of the Abenaquais of the East, and his confrère, La
Richardie, from the wild tribes of the Far West; but conspicuous among
the able and influential missionaries who were the real rulers of the
Indian nations allied with France was the famous Sulpicien, Abbé Piquet,
"the King's missionary," as he was styled in royal ordinances, and the
apostle to the Iroquois, whom he was laboring to convert and bring over
to the side of France in the great dispute raised between France and
England for supremacy in North America.

Upon the wall behind the vice-regal chair hung a great map, drawn by
the bold hand of Abbé Piquet, representing the claims as well as actual
possessions of France in America. A broad, red line, beginning in
Acadia, traversed the map westerly, taking in Lake Ontario and running
southerly along the crests and ridges of the Appalachian Mountains.
It was traced with a firm hand down to far-off Louisiana, claiming for
France the great valleys of the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the vast
territories watered by the Missouri and the Colorado--thus hemming the
English in between the walls of the Appalachian range on the west and
the seacoast on the east.

The Abbé Piquet had lately, in a canoe, descended the Belle Rivière,
as the voyageurs called the noble Ohio. From its source to its junction
with the solitary Mississippi the Abbé had planted upon its conspicuous
bluffs the ensigns of France, with tablets of lead bearing the
fleur-de-lis and the proud inscription, "Manibus date lilia
plenis,"--lilies destined, after a fierce struggle for empire, to be
trampled into the earth by the feet of the victorious English.

The Abbé, deeply impressed with the dangers that impended over the
Colony, labored zealously to unite the Indian nations in a general
alliance with France. He had already brought the powerful Algonquins
and Nipissings into his scheme, and planted them at Two Mountains as
a bulwark to protect the city of Ville Marie. He had created a great
schism in the powerful confederacy of the Five Nations by adroitly
fanning into a flame their jealousy of English encroachments upon their
ancient territory on Lake Ontario; and bands of Iroquois had, not long
since, held conference with the Governor of New France, denouncing the
English for disregarding their exclusive right to their own country.
"The lands we possess," said they at a great council in Ville Marie,
"the lands we possess were given to us by the Master of Life, and we
acknowledge to hold of no other!"

The Abbé had now strong hopes of perfecting a scheme which he afterwards
accomplished. A powerful body of the Iroquois left their villages and
castles on the Mohawk and Genesee rivers, and under the guidance of the
Abbé settled round the new Fort of La Presentation on the St. Lawrence,
and thus barred that way, for the future, against the destructive
inroads of their countrymen who remained faithful to the English
alliance.

Pending the arrival of the Royal Intendant the members of the Council
indulged freely in conversation bearing more or less upon the important
matters to be discussed,--the state of the country, the movements of
the enemy, and not seldom intermingled remarks of dissatisfaction and
impatience at the absence of the Intendant.

The revel at Beaumanoir was well known to them; and eyes flashed
and lips curled in open scorn at the well-understood reason of the
Intendant's delay.

"My private letters by the Fleur-de-Lis," remarked Beauharnais, "relate,
among other Court gossip, that orders will be sent out to stop the
defensive works at Quebec, and pull down what is built! They think
the cost of walls round our city can be better bestowed on political
favorites and certain high personages at Court." Beauharnais turned
towards the Governor. "Has your Excellency heard aught of this?" asked
he.

"Yes! It is true enough, Beauharnais! I also have received
communications to that effect!" replied the Governor, with an effort at
calmness which ill-concealed the shame and disgust that filled his soul.

There was an indignant stir among the officers, and many lips seemed
trembling with speech. The impetuous Rigaud de Vaudreuil broke the
fierce silence. He struck his fist heavily on the table.

"Ordered us to stop the building of the walls of Quebec, and to pull
down what we have done by virtue of the King's corvée!--did I hear your
Excellency right?" repeated he in a tone of utmost incredulity. "The
King is surely mad to think of such a thing!"

"Yes, Rigaud! it is as I tell you; but we must respect the royal
command, and treat His Majesty's name as becomes loyal servants."

"Ventre saint bleu!--heard ever Canadian or Frenchman such moonshine
madness! I repeat it, your Excellency--dismantle Quebec? How in God's
name are the King's dominions and the King's subjects to be defended?"
Rigaud got warmer. He was fearless, and would, as every one knew, have
out his say had the King been present in person. "Be assured, your
Excellency, it is not the King who orders that affront to his faithful
colony; it is the King's ministers--the King's mistresses--the
snuff-box-tapping courtiers at Versailles, who can spend the public
money in more elegant ways than in raising up walls round our brave old
city! Ancient honor and chivalry of France! what has become of you?"

Rigaud sat down angrily; the emotion he displayed was too much in accord
with the feelings of the gallant officers present to excite other
than marks of approbation, except among a few personal friends of the
Intendant, who took their cue from the avowed wishes of the Court.

"What reason does His Majesty give," asked La Corne St. Luc, "for this
singular communication?"

"The only reason given is found in the concluding paragraph of the
despatch. I will allow the Secretary to read so much of it, and no more,
before the Intendant arrives." The Governor looked up at the great clock
in the hall with a grim glance of impatience, as if mentally calling
down anything but a blessing upon the head of the loitering Intendant.

"The Count de le Galissonière ought to know," said the despatch
sneeringly, "that works like those of Quebec are not to be undertaken
by the governors of colonies, except under express orders from the King;
and therefore it is His Majesty's desire that upon the reception of this
despatch your Excellency will discontinue the works that have been begun
upon Quebec. Extensive fortifications require strong garrisons for
their defence, and the King's treasury is already exhausted by the
extraordinary expenses of the war in Europe. It cannot at the same time
carry on the war in Europe and meet the heavy drafts made upon it from
North America."

The Secretary folded the despatch, and sat down without altering a line
of his impassive face. Not so the majority of the officers round the
table: they were excited, and ready to spring up in their indignation.
The King's name restrained them all but Rigaud de Vaudreuil, who
impetuously burst out with an oath, exclaiming,--"They may as well sell
New France at once to the enemy, if we are not to defend Quebec! The
treasury wants money for the war in Europe forsooth! No doubt it wants
money for the war when so much is lavished upon the pimps, panders, and
harlots of the Court!"

The Governor rose suddenly, striking the table with his scabbard to stop
Rigaud in his rash and dangerous speech.

"Not a word more of comment, Chevalier Rigaud!" said he, with a sharp
imperative tone that cut short debate; "not another word! His Majesty's
name and those of his ministers must be spoken here respectfully, or not
at all! Sit down, Chevalier de Vaudreuil; you are inconsiderate."

"I obey your Excellency--I am, I dare say, inconsiderate! but I am
right!" Rigaud's passion was subsiding, but not spent. He obeyed the
order, however. He had had his say, and flung himself heavily upon his
chair.

"The King's despatch demands respectful and loyal consideration,
remarked De Lery, a solid, grave officer of engineers, "and I doubt
not that upon a proper remonstrance from this council His Majesty will
graciously reconsider his order. The fall of Louisbourg is ominous of
the fall of Quebec. It is imperative to fortify the city in time to meet
the threatened invasion. The loss of Quebec would be the loss of the
Colony; and the loss of the Colony, the disgrace of France and the ruin
of our country."

"I cordially agree with the Chevalier de Lery," said La Corne St. Luc;
"he has spoken more sense than would be found in a shipload of such
despatches as that just read! Nay, your Excellency," continued the old
officer, smiling, "I shall not affront my sovereign by believing that
so ill-timed a missive came from him! Depend upon it, His Majesty has
neither seen nor sanctioned it. It is the work of the minister and his
mistresses, not the King's."

"La Corne! La Corne!" The Governor raised his finger with a warning
look. "We will not discuss the point further until we are favored
with the presence and opinion of the Intendant; he will surely be here
shortly!" At this moment a distant noise of shouting was heard in some
part of the city.

An officer of the day entered the hall in great haste, and whispered
something in the Governor's ear.

"A riot in the streets!" exclaimed the Governor. "The mob attacking the
Intendant! You do not say so! Captain Duval, turn out the whole guard
at once, and let Colonel St. Remy take the command and clear the way for
the Intendant, and also clear the streets of all disturbers."

A number of officers sprang to their feet. "Keep seated, gentlemen! We
must not break up the Council," said the Governor. "We are sure to
have the Intendant here in a few minutes and to learn the cause of this
uproar. It is some trifling affair of noisy habitans, I have no doubt."

Another loud shout, or rather yell, made itself distinctly heard in the
council-chamber. "It is the people cheering the Intendant on his way
through the city!" remarked La Corne St. Luc, ironically. "Zounds! what
a vacarme they make! See what it is to be popular with the citizens of
Quebec!"

There was a smile all round the table at La Corne's sarcasm. It offended
a few friends of the Intendant, however.

"The Chevalier La Corne speaks boldly in the absence of the Intendant,"
said Colonel Leboeuf. "A gentleman would give a louis d'or any day to
buy a whip to lash the rabble sooner than a sou to win their applause! I
would not give a red herring for the good opinion of all Quebec!"

"They say in France, Colonel," replied La Corne de St. Luc, scornfully,
"that 'King's chaff is better than other people's corn, and that fish in
the market is cheaper than fish in the sea!' I believe it, and can prove
it to any gentleman who maintains the contrary!"

There was a laugh at La Corne's allusion to the Marquise de Pompadour,
whose original name of Jeanne Poisson, gave rise to infinite jests and
sarcasms among the people of low and high degree.

Colonel Leboeuf, choleric as he was, refrained from pressing the quarrel
with La Corne St. Luc. He sat sulkily smothering his wrath--longing to
leave the hall and go to the relief of the Intendant, but kept against
his will by the command of the Governor.

The drums of the main guard beat the assembly. The clash of arms and
the tramp of many feet resounded from the court-yard of the Château. The
members of the Council looked out of the windows as the troops formed in
column, and headed by Colonel St. Remy, defiled out of the Castle gate,
the thunder of their drums drowning every other sound and making the
windows shake as they marched through the narrow streets to the scene of
disturbance.



CHAPTER XIII. THE CHIEN D'OR.


On the Rue Buade, a street commemorative of the gallant Fontenac, stood
the large, imposing edifice newly built by the Bourgeois Philibert, as
the people of the Colony fondly called Nicholas Jaquin Philibert, the
great and wealthy merchant of Quebec and their champion against the
odious monopolies of the Grand Company favored by the Intendant.

The edifice was of stone, spacious and lofty, but in style solid, plain,
and severe. It was a wonder of architecture in New France and the talk
and admiration of the Colony from Tadousac to Ville Marie. It comprised
the city residence of the Bourgeois, as well as suites of offices and
ware-rooms connected with his immense business.

The house was bare of architectural adornments; but on its façade,
blazing in the sun, was the gilded sculpture that so much piqued the
curiosity of both citizens and strangers and was the talk of every
seigniory in the land. The tablet of the Chien D'or,--the Golden
Dog,--with its enigmatical inscription, looked down defiantly upon
the busy street beneath, where it is still to be seen, perplexing the
beholder to guess its meaning and exciting our deepest sympathies over
the tragedy of which it remains the sole sad memorial.

Above and beneath the figure of a couchant dog gnawing the thigh bone
of a man is graven the weird inscription, cut deeply in the stone, as if
for all future generations to read and ponder over its meaning:


     "Je suis un chien qui ronge l'os,
      En le rongeant je prends mon repos.
      Un temps viendra qui n'est pas venu
      Que je mordrai qui m'aura mordu."
                   1736.


Or in English:


     "I am a dog that gnaws his bone,
      I couch and gnaw it all alone--
      A time will come, which is not yet,
      When I'll bite him by whom I'm bit."


The magazines of the Bourgeois Philibert presented not only an epitome
but a substantial portion of the commerce of New France. Bales of furs,
which had been brought down in fleets of canoes from the wild, almost
unknown regions of the Northwest, lay piled up to the beams--skins of
the smooth beaver, the delicate otter, black and silver fox, so rich
to the eye and silky to the touch that the proudest beauties longed for
their possession; sealskins to trim the gowns of portly burgomasters,
and ermine to adorn the robes of nobles and kings. The spoils of the
wolf, bear, and buffalo, worked to the softness of cloth by the hands of
Indian women, were stored for winter wear and to fill the sledges with
warmth and comfort when the northwest wind freezes the snow to fine dust
and the aurora borealis moves in stately possession, like an army of
spear-men, across the northern sky. The harvests of the colonists, the
corn, the wool, the flax; the timber, enough to build whole navies,
and mighty pines fit to mast the tallest admiral, were stored upon the
wharves and in the warehouses of the Bourgeois upon the banks of the St.
Lawrence, with iron from the royal forges of the Three Rivers and heaps
of ginseng from the forests, a product worth its weight in gold and
eagerly exchanged by the Chinese for their teas, silks, and sycee
silver.

The stately mansion of Belmont, overlooking the picturesque valley of
the St. Charles, was the residence proper of the Bourgeois Philibert,
but the shadow that in time falls over every hearth had fallen upon
his when the last of his children, his beloved son Pierre, left home to
pursue his military studies in France. During Pierre's absence the home
at Belmont, although kept up with the same strict attention which the
Bourgeois paid to everything under his rule, was not occupied by him.
He preferred his city mansion, as more convenient for his affairs, and
resided therein. His partner of many years of happy wedded life had been
long dead; she left no void in his heart that another could fill, but he
kept up a large household for friendship's sake, and was lavish in his
hospitality. In secret he was a grave, solitary man, caring for the
present only for the sake of the thousands dependent on him--living much
with the memory of the dear dead, and much with the hope of the future
in his son Pierre.

The Bourgeois was a man worth looking at and, at a glance, one to
trust to, whether you sought the strong hand to help, the wise head to
counsel, or the feeling heart to sympathize with you. He was tall and
strongly knit, with features of a high patrician cast, a noble head,
covered thick with grizzly hair--one of those heads so tenacious of life
that they never grow bald, but carry to the grave the snows of a hundred
years. His quick gray eyes caught your meaning ere it was half spoken.
A nose and chin, moulded with beauty and precision, accentuated his
handsome face. His lips were grave even in their smile, for gaiety was
rarely a guest in the heart of the Bourgeois--a man keenly susceptible
to kindness, but strong in resentments and not to be placated without
the fullest atonement.

The Bourgeois sat by the table in his spacious, well-furnished
drawing-room, which overlooked the Rue Buade and gave him a glimpse of
the tall, new Cathedral and the trees and gardens of the Seminary. He
was engaged in reading letters and papers just arrived from France by
the frigate, rapidly extracting their contents and pencilling on their
margins memos, for further reference to his clerks.

The only other occupant of the room was a very elderly lady, in a black
gown of rigid Huguenot fashion. A close white cap, tied under her chin,
set off to the worst advantage her sharp, yet kindly, features. Not an
end of ribbon or edge of lace could be seen to point to one hair-breadth
of indulgence in the vanities of the world by this strict old Puritan,
who, under this unpromising exterior, possessed the kindliest heart in
Christendom. Her dress, if of rigid severity, was of saintly purity, and
almost pained the eye with its precision and neatness. So fond are we of
some freedom from over-much care as from over-much righteousness, that
a stray tress, a loose ribbon, a little rent even, will relieve the
eye and hold it with a subtile charm. Under the snow white hair of
Dame Rochelle--for she it was, the worthy old housekeeper and ancient
governess of the House of Philibert--you saw a kind, intelligent face.
Her dark eyes betrayed her Southern origin, confirmed by her speech,
which, although refined by culture, still retained the soft intonation
and melody of her native Languedoc.

Dame Rochelle, the daughter of an ardent Calvinist minister, was born in
the fatal year of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, when Louis
XIV. undid the glorious work of Henri IV., and covered France with
persecution and civil war, filling foreign countries with the elect
of her population, her industry, and her wealth, exiled in the name of
religion.

Dame Rochelle's childhood had passed in the trying scenes of the great
persecution, and in the succeeding civil wars of the Cevennes she lost
all that was nearest and dearest to her--her father, her brothers, her
kindred nearly all, and lastly, a gallant gentleman of Dauphiny to whom
she was betrothed. She knelt beside him at his place of execution--or
martyrdom, for he died for his faith--and holding his hands in hers,
pledged her eternal fidelity to his memory, and faithfully kept it all
her life.

The Count de Philibert, elder brother of the Bourgeois, was an officer
of the King; he witnessed this sad scene, took pity upon the hapless
girl, and gave her a home and protection with his family in the Château
of Philibert, where she spent the rest of her life until the Bourgeois
succeeded to his childless brother. In the ruin of his house she would
not consent to leave them, but followed their fortunes to New France.
She had been the faithful friend and companion of the wife of the
Bourgeois and the educator of his children, and was now, in her old age,
the trusted friend and manager of his household. Her days were divided
between the exercises of religion and the practical duties of life. The
light that illumined her, though flowing through the narrow window of a
narrow creed, was still light of divine origin. It satisfied her faith,
and filled her with resignation, hope, and comfort.

Her three studies were the Bible, the hymns of Marot, and the sermons of
the famous Jurieu. She had listened to the prophecies of Grande Marie,
and had even herself been breathed upon on the top of Mount Peira by the
Huguenot prophet, De Serre.

Good Dame Rochelle was not without a feeling that at times the spiritual
gift she had received when a girl made itself manifest by intuitions
of the future, which were, after all, perhaps only emanations of her
natural good sense and clear intellect--the foresight of a pure mind.

The wasting persecutions of the Calvinists in the mountains of the
Cevennes drove men and women wild with desperate fanaticism. De Serre
had an immense following. He assumed to impart the Holy Spirit and the
gift of tongues by breathing upon the believers. The refugees carried
his doctrines to England, and handed down their singular ideas to modern
times; and a sect may still be found which believes in the gift of
tongues and practises the power of prophesying, as taught originally in
the Cevennes.

The good dame was not reading this morning, although the volume before
her lay open. Her glasses lay upon the page, and she sat musing by the
open window, seldom looking out, however, for her thoughts were chiefly
inward. The return of Pierre Philibert, her foster child, had filled her
with joy and thankfulness, and she was pondering in her mind the details
of a festival which the Bourgeois intended to give in honor of the
return of his only son.

The Bourgeois had finished the reading of his packet of letters, and sat
musing in silence. He too was intently thinking of his son. His face
was filled with the satisfaction of old Simeon when he cried, out of the
fulness of his heart, "Domine! nunc dimittis!"

"Dame Rochelle," said he. She turned promptly to the voice of her
master, as she ever insisted on calling him. "Were I superstitious, I
should fear that my great joy at Pierre's return might be the prelude to
some great sorrow."

"God's blessing on Pierre!" said she, "he can only bring joy to this
house. Thank the Lord for what He gives and what He takes! He took
Pierre, a stripling from his home, and returns him a great man, fit to
ride at the King's right hand and to be over his host like Benaiah, the
son of Jehoiada, over the host of Solomon."

"Grand merci for the comparison, dame!" said the Bourgeois, smiling,
as he leaned back in his chair. "But Pierre is a Frenchman, and would
prefer commanding a brigade in the army of the Marshal de Saxe to
being over the host of King Solomom. But," continued he, gravely, "I am
strangely happy to-day, Deborah,"--he was wont to call her Deborah
when very earnest,--"and I will not anticipate any mischief to mar my
happiness. Pshaw! It is only the reaction of over-excited feelings. I am
weak in the strength of my joy."

"The still, small voice speaks to us in that way, master, to remind us
to place our trust in Heaven, not on earth, where all is transitory and
uncertain; for if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all,
let him remember the days of darkness, for they are many! We are no
strangers to the vanity and shadows of human life, master! Pierre's
return is like sunshine breaking through the clouds. God is pleased if
we bask in the sunshine when he sends it."

"Right, dame! and so we will! The old walls of Belmont shall ring with
rejoicing over the return of their heir and future owner."

The dame looked up delightedly at the remark of the Bourgeois. She
knew he had destined Belmont as a residence for Pierre; but the thought
suggested in her mind was, perhaps, the same which the Bourgeois had
mused upon when he gave expression to a certain anxiety.

"Master," said she, "does Pierre know that the Chevalier Bigot was
concerned in the false accusations against you, and that it was he,
prompted by the Cardinal and the Princess de Carignan, who enforced the
unjust decree of the Court?"

"I think not, Deborah. I never told Pierre that Bigot was ever more than
the avocat du Roi in my persecution. It is what troubles me amidst my
joy. If Pierre knew that the Intendant had been my false accuser on the
part of the Cardinal, his sword would not rest a day in its scabbard
without calling Bigot to a bloody account. Indeed, it is all I myself
can do to refrain. When I met him for the first time here, in the Palace
gate, I knew him again and looked him full in the eyes, and he knew
me. He is a bold hound, and glared back at me without shrinking. Had he
smiled I should have struck him; but we passed in silence, with a salute
as mortal as enemies ever gave each other. It is well, perhaps, I wore
not my sword that day, for I felt my passion rising--a thing I abhor.
Pierre's young blood would not remain still if he knew the Intendant as
I know him. But I dare not tell him! There would be bloodshed at once,
Deborah!"

"I fear so, master! I trembled at Bigot in the old land! I tremble at
him here, where he is more powerful than before. I saw him passing one
day. He stopped to read the inscription of the Golden Dog. His face
was the face of a fiend, as he rode hastily away. He knew well how to
interpret it."

"Ha! you did not tell me that before, Deborah!" The Bourgeois rose,
excitedly. "Bigot read it all, did he? I hope every letter of it was
branded on his soul as with red-hot iron!"

"Dear master, that is an unchristian saying, and nothing good can come
of it. 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord!' Our worst enemies are best
left in His hands."

The dame was proceeding in a still more moralizing strain, when a noise
arose in the street from a crowd of persons, habitans for the most part,
congregated round the house. The noise increased to such a degree that
they stopped their conversation, and both the dame and the Bourgeois
looked out of the window at the increasing multitude that had gathered
in the street.

The crowd had come to the Rue Buade to see the famous tablet of the
Golden Dog, which was talked of in every seigniory in New France;
still more, perhaps, to see the Bourgeois Philibert himself--the great
merchant who contended for the rights of the habitans, and who would not
yield an inch to the Friponne.

The Bourgeois looked down at the ever-increasing throng,--country people
for the most part, with their wives, with not a few citizens, whom he
could easily distinguish by their dress and manner. The Bourgeois stood
rather withdrawn from the front, so as not to be recognized, for he
hated intensely anything like a demonstration, still less an ovation.
He could hear many loud voices, however, in the crowd, and caught up the
chief topics they discussed with each other.

His eyes rested several times on a wiry, jerking little fellow, whom he
recognized as Jean La Marche, the fiddler, a censitaire of the manor of
Tilly. He was a well-known character, and had drawn a large circle of
the crowd around himself.

"I want to see the Bourgeois Philibert!" exclaimed Jean La Marche. "He
is the bravest merchant in New France--the people's friend. Bless the
Golden Dog, and curse the Friponne!"

"Hurrah for the Golden Dog, and curse the Friponne!" exclaimed a score
of voices; "won't you sing, Jean?"

"Not now; I have a new ballad ready on the Golden Dog, which I shall
sing to-night--that is, if you will care to listen to me." Jean said
this with a very demure air of mock modesty, knowing well that the
reception of a new ballad from him would equal the furor for a new aria
from the prima donna of the opera at Paris.

"We will all come to hear it, Jean!" cried they: "but take care of your
fiddle or you will get it crushed in the crowd."

"As if I did not know how to take care of my darling baby!" said Jean,
holding his violin high above his head. "It is my only child; it will
laugh or cry, and love and scold as I bid it, and make everybody else
do the same when I touch its heart-strings." Jean had brought his violin
under his arm, in place of a spade, to help build up the walls of the
city. He had never heard of Amphion, with his lyre, building up the
walls of Thebes; but Jean knew that in his violin lay a power of work
by other hands, if he played while they labored. "It lightened toil, and
made work go merrily as the bells of Tilly at a wedding," said he.

There was immense talk, with plenty of laughter and no thought of
mischief, among the crowd. The habitans of en haut and the habitans
of en bas commingled, as they rarely did, in a friendly way. Nor was
anything to provoke a quarrel said even to the Acadians, whose rude
patois was a source of merry jest to the better-speaking Canadians.

The Acadians had flocked in great numbers into Quebec on the seizure of
their Province by the English, sturdy, robust, quarrelsome fellows, who
went about challenging people in their reckless way,--Etions pas mon
maître, monsieur?--but all were civil to-day, and tuques were pulled
off and bows exchanged in a style of easy politeness that would not have
shamed the streets of Paris.

The crowd kept increasing in the Rue Buade. The two sturdy beggars
who vigorously kept their places on the stone steps of the barrier, or
gateway, of the Basse Ville reaped an unusual harvest of the smallest
coin--Max Grimau, an old, disabled soldier, in ragged uniform, which he
had worn at the defence of Prague under the Marshal de Belleisle,
and blind Bartemy, a mendicant born--the former, loud-tongued and
importunate, the latter, silent and only holding out a shaking hand for
charity. No Finance Minister or Royal Intendant studied more earnestly
the problem how to tax the kingdom than Max and Blind Bartemy how to
toll the passers-by, and with less success, perhaps.

To-day was a red-letter day for the sturdy beggars, for the news
flew fast that an ovation of some popular kind was to be given to
the Bourgeois Philibert. The habitans came trooping up the rough
mountain-road that leads from the Basse Ville to the Upper Town; and
up the long stairs lined with the stalls of Basque pedlars--cheating,
loquacious varlets--which formed a by-way from the lower regions of the
Rue de Champlain--a break-neck thoroughfare little liked by the old
and asthmatical, but nothing to the sturdy "climbers," as the habitans
called the lads of Quebec, or the light-footed lasses who displayed
their trim ankles as they flew up the breezy steps to church or market.

Max Grimau and Blind Bartemy had ceased counting their coins. The
passers-by came up in still increasing numbers, until the street, from
the barrier of the Basse Ville to the Cathedral, was filled with a
noisy, good-humored crowd, without an object except to stare at the
Golden Dog and a desire to catch a glimpse of the Bourgeois Philibert.

The crowd had become very dense, when a troop of gentlemen rode at full
speed into the Rue Buade, and after trying recklessly to force their way
through, came to a sudden halt in the midst of the surging mass.

The Intendant, Cadet, and Varin had ridden from Beaumanoir, followed by
a train of still flushed guests, who, after a hasty purification,
had returned with their host to the city--a noisy troop, loquacious,
laughing, shouting, as is the wont of men reckless at all times, and
still more defiant when under the influence of wine.

"What is the meaning of this rabble, Cadet?" asked Bigot; "they seem
to be no friends of yours. That fellow is wishing you in a hot place!"
added Bigot, laughing, as he pointed out a habitan who was shouting "A
bas Cadet!"

"Nor friends of yours, either," replied Cadet. "They have not recognized
you yet, Bigot. When they do, they will wish you in the hottest place of
all!"

The Intendant was not known personally to the habitans as were Cadet,
Varin, and the rest. Loud shouts and execrations were freely vented
against these as soon as they were recognized.

"Has this rabble waylaid us to insult us?" asked Bigot. "But it
can hardly be that they knew of our return to the city to-day." The
Intendant began to jerk his horse round impatiently, but without avail.

"Oh, no, your Excellency! it is the rabble which the Governor has
summoned to the King's corvée. They are paying their respects to the
Golden Dog, which is the idol the mob worships just now. They did not
expect us to interrupt their devotions, I fancy."

"The vile moutons! their fleece is not worth the shearing!" exclaimed
Bigot angrily, at the mention of the Golden Dog, which, as he glanced
upwards, seemed to glare defiantly upon him.

"Clear the way, villains!" cried Bigot loudly, while darting his horse
into the crowd. "Plunge that Flanders cart-horse of yours into them,
Cadet, and do not spare their toes!"

Cadet's rough disposition chimed well with the Intendant's wish. "Come
on, Varin, and the rest of you," cried he, "give spur, and fight your
way through the rabble."

The whole troop plunged madly at the crowd, striking right and left with
their heavy hunting-whips. A violent scuffle ensued; many habitans were
ridden down, and some of the horsemen dismounted. The Intendant's
Gascon blood got furious: he struck heavily, right and left, and many a
bleeding tuque marked his track in the crowd.

The habitans recognized him at last, and a tremendous yell burst out.
"Long live the Golden Dog! Down with the Friponne!" while the more bold
ventured on the cry, "Down with the Intendant and the thieves of the
Grand Company!"

Fortunately for the troop of horsemen the habitans were utterly unarmed;
but stones began to be thrown, and efforts were made by them, not always
unsuccessfully, to pull the riders off of their horses. Poor Jean La
Marche's darling child, his favorite violin, was crushed at the first
charge. Jean rushed at the Intendant's bridle, and received a blow which
levelled him.

The Intendant and all the troop now drew their swords. A bloody
catastrophe seemed impending, when the Bourgeois Philibert, seeing the
state of affairs, despatched a messenger with tidings to the Castle of
St. Louis, and rushed himself into the street amidst the surging crowd,
imploring, threatening, and compelling them to give way.

He was soon recognized and cheered by the people; but even his influence
might have failed to calm the fiery passions excited by the Intendant's
violence, had not the drums of the approaching soldiery suddenly
resounded above the noise of the riot. In a few minutes long files of
glittering bayonets were seen streaming down the Rue du Fort. Colonel
St. Remi rode at their head, forming his troops in position to charge
the crowd. The colonel saw at once the state of affairs, and being a man
of judgment, commanded peace before resorting to force. He was at once
obeyed. The people stood still and in silence. They fell back
quietly before the troops. They had no purpose to resist the
authorities--indeed, had no purpose whatever. A way was made by the
soldiers, and the Intendant and his friends were extricated from their
danger.

They rode at once out of the mob amid a volley of execrations, which
were replied to by angry oaths and threats of the cavaliers as they
galloped across the Place d'Armes and rode pell-mell into the gateway of
the Château of St. Louis.

The crowd, relieved of their presence, grew calm; and some of the more
timid of them got apprehensive of the consequences of this outrage upon
the Royal Intendant. They dispersed quietly, singly or in groups, each
one hoping that he might not be called upon to account for the day's
proceedings.

The Intendant and his cortège of friends rode furiously into the
courtyard of the Château of St. Louis, dishevelled, bespattered, and
some of them hatless. They dismounted, and foaming with rage, rushed
through the lobbies, and with heavy trampling of feet, clattering
of scabbards, and a bedlam of angry tongues, burst into the Council
Chamber.

The Intendant's eyes shot fire. His Gascon blood was at fever heat,
flushing his swarthy cheek like the purple hue of a hurricane. He rushed
at once to the council-table, and seeing the Governor, saluted him, but
spoke in tones forcibly kept under by a violent effort.

"Your Excellency and gentlemen of the Council will excuse our delay,"
shouted Bigot, "when I inform you that I, the Royal Intendant of New
France, have been insulted, pelted, and my very life threatened by a
seditious mob congregated in the streets of Quebec."

"I grieve much, and sympathize with your Excellency's indignation,"
replied the Governor warmly; "I rejoice you have escaped unhurt. I
despatched the troops to your assistance, but have not yet learned the
cause of the riot."

"The cause of the riot was the popular hatred of myself for enforcing
the royal ordinances, and the seditious example set the rabble by the
notorious merchant, Philibert, who is at the bottom of all mischief in
New France."

The Governor looked fixedly at the Intendant, as he replied
quietly,--"The Sieur Philibert, although a merchant, is a gentleman of
birth and loyal principles, and would be the last man alive, I think, to
excite a riot. Did you see the Bourgeois, Chevalier?"

"The crowd filled the street near his magazines, cheering for the
Bourgeois and the Golden Dog. We rode up and endeavored to force our way
through. But I did not see the Bourgeois himself until the disturbance
had attained its full proportions."

"And then, your Excellency? Surely the Bourgeois was not encouraging the
mob, or participating in the riot?"

"No! I do not charge him with participating in the riot, although the
mob were all his friends and partisans. Moreover," said Bigot, frankly,
for he felt he owed his safety to the interference of the Bourgeois, "it
would be unfair not to acknowledge that he did what he could to protect
us from the rabble. I charge Philibert with sowing the sedition that
caused the riot, not with rioting himself."

"But I accuse him of both, and of all the mob has done!" thundered
Varin, enraged to hear the Intendant speak with moderation and justice.
"The house of the Golden Dog is a den of traitors; it ought to be pulled
down, and its stones built into a monument of infamy over its owner,
hung like a dog in the market-place."

"Silence, Varin!" exclaimed the Governor sternly. "I will not hear the
Sieur Philibert spoken of in these injurious terms. The Intendant does
not charge him with this disturbance; neither shall you."

"Par Dieu! you shall not, Varin!" burst in La Corne St. Luc, roused to
unusual wrath by the opprobrium heaped upon his friend the Bourgeois;
"and you shall answer to me for that you have said!"

"La Corne! La Corne!" The Governor saw a challenge impending, and
interposed with vehemence. "This is a Council of War, and not a place
for recriminations. Sit down, dear old friend, and aid me to get on
with the business of the King and his Colony, which we are here met to
consider."

The appeal went to the heart of La Corne. He sat down. "You have spoken
generously, Chevalier Bigot, respecting the Bourgeois Philibert,"
continued the Governor. "I am pleased that you have done so. My
Aide-de-Camp, Colonel Philibert, who is just entering the Council, will
be glad to hear that your Excellency does justice to his father in this
matter."

"The blessing of St. Bennet's boots upon such justice," muttered Cadet
to himself. "I was a fool not to run my sword through Philibert when I
had the chance."

The Governor repeated to Colonel Philibert what had been said by Bigot.

Colonel Philibert bowed to the Intendant. "I am under obligation to
the Chevalier Bigot," said he, "but it astonishes me much that any one
should dare implicate my father in such a disturbance. Certainly the
Intendant does him but justice."

This remark was not pleasing to Bigot, who hated Colonel Philibert
equally with his father. "I merely said he had not participated in the
riot, Colonel Philibert, which was true. I did not excuse your father
for being at the head of the party among whom these outrages arise. I
simply spoke truth, Colonel Philibert. I do not eke out by the inch my
opinion of any man. I care not for the Bourgeois Philibert more than for
the meanest blue cap in his following."

This was an ungracious speech. Bigot meant it to be such. He repented
almost of the witness he had borne to the Bourgeois's endeavors to
quell the mob. But he was too profoundly indifferent to men's opinions
respecting himself to care to lie.

Colonel Philibert resented the Intendant's sneer at his father. He faced
Bigot, saying to him,--"The Chevalier Bigot has done but simple justice
to my father with reference to his conduct in regard to the riot. But
let the Intendant recollect that, although a merchant, my father is
above all things a Norman gentleman, who never swerved a hair-breadth
from the path of honor--a gentleman whose ancient nobility would dignify
even the Royal Intendant." Bigot looked daggers at this thrust at his
own comparatively humble origin. "And this I have further to say,"
continued Philibert, looking straight in the eyes of Bigot, Varin, and
Cadet, "whoever impugns my father's honor impugns mine; and no man, high
or low, shall do that and escape chastisement!"

The greater part of the officers seated round the council-board listened
with marks of approval to Philibert's vindication of his father. But no
one challenged his words, although dark, ominous looks glanced from one
to another among the friends of the Intendant. Bigot smothered his
anger for the present, however; and to prevent further reply from his
followers he rose, and bowing to the Governor, begged His Excellency to
open the Council.

"We have delayed the business of the King too long with these personal
recriminations," said he. "I shall leave this riot to be dealt with by
the King's courts, who will sharply punish both instigators and actors
in this outrage upon the royal authority."

These words seemed to end the dispute for the present.



CHAPTER XIV. THE COUNCIL OF WAR.


The Council now opened in due form. The Secretary read the royal
despatches, which were listened to with attention and respect, although
with looks of dissent in the countenances of many of the officers.

The Governor rose, and in a quiet, almost a solemn strain, addressed the
Council: "Gentlemen," said he, "from the tenor of the royal despatches
just read by the Secretary, it is clear that our beloved New France is
in great danger. The King, overwhelmed by the powers in alliance
against him, can no longer reinforce our army here. The English fleet is
supreme--for the moment only, I hope!" added the Governor, as if with a
prevision of his own future triumphs on the ocean. "English troops are
pouring into New York and Boston, to combine with the militia of New
England and the Middle Colonies in a grand attack upon New France. They
have commenced the erection of a great fort at Chouagen on Lake Ontario,
to dispute supremacy with our stronghold at Niagara, and the gates of
Carillon may ere long have to prove their strength in keeping the enemy
out of the Valley of the Richelieu. I fear not for Carillon, gentlemen,
in ward of the gallant Count de Lusignan, whom I am glad to see at our
Council. I think Carillon is safe."

The Count de Lusignan, a gray-headed officer of soldierly bearing, bowed
low to this compliment from the Governor. "I ask the Count de
Lusignan," continued the Governor, "what he thinks would result from
our withdrawing the garrison from Carillon, as is suggested in the
despatches?"

"The Five Nations would be on the Richelieu in a week, and the English
in Montreal a month after such a piece of folly on our part!" exclaimed
the Count de Lusignan.

"You cannot counsel the abandonment of Carillon then, Count?" A smile
played over the face of the Governor, as if he too felt the absurdity of
his question.

"Not till Quebec itself fall into the enemy's hands. When that happens,
His Majesty will need another adviser in the place of the old Count de
Lusignan."

"Well spoken, Count! In your hands Carillon is safe, and will one day,
should the enemy assail it, be covered with wreaths of victory, and its
flag be the glory of New France."

"So be it, Governor. Give me but the Royal Roussillon and I pledge you
neither English, Dutch, nor Iroquois shall ever cross the waters of St.
Sacrament."

"You speak like your ancestor the crusader, Count. But I cannot spare
the Royal Roussillon. Think you you can hold Carillon with your present
garrison?"

"Against all the force of New England. But I cannot promise the same
against the English regulars now landing at New York."

"They are the same whom the King defeated at Fontenoy, are they not?"
interrupted the Intendant, who, courtier as he was, disliked the tenor
of the royal despatches as much as any officer present,--all the more as
he knew La Pompadour was advising peace out of a woman's considerations
rather than upholding the glory of France.

"Among them are many troops who fought us at Fontenoy. I learned the
fact from an English prisoner whom our Indians brought in from Fort
Lydius," replied the Count de Lusignan.

"Well, the more of them the merrier," laughed La Corne St. Luc. "The
bigger the prize, the richer they who take it. The treasure-chests of
the English will make up for the beggarly packs of the New Englanders.
Dried stock fish, and eel-skin garters to drive away the rheumatism,
were the usual prizes we got from them down in Acadia!"

"The English of Fontenoy are not such despicable foes," remarked
the Chevalier de Lery; "they sufficed to take Louisbourg, and if we
discontinue our walls, will suffice to take Quebec."

"Louisbourg was not taken by THEM, but fell through the mutiny of the
base Swiss!" replied Bigot, touched sharply by any allusion to that
fortress where he had figured so discreditably. "The vile hirelings
demanded money of their commander when they should have drawn the blood
of the enemy!" added he, angrily.

"Satan is bold, but he would blush in the presence of Bigot," remarked
La Corne St. Luc to an Acadian officer seated next him. "Bigot kept
the King's treasure, and defrauded the soldiers of their pay: hence the
mutiny and the fall of Louisbourg."

"It is what the whole army knows," replied the officer. "But hark! the
Abbé Piquet is going to speak. It is a new thing to see clergy in a
Council of War!"

"No one has a better right to speak here than the Abbé Piquet," replied
La Corne. "No one has sent more Indian allies into the field to fight
for New France than the patriotic Abbé."

Other officers did not share the generous sentiments of La Corne St.
Luc. They thought it derogatory to pure military men to listen to a
priest on the affairs of the war.

"The Marshal de Belleisle would not permit even Cardinal de Fleury to
put his red stockings beneath his council-table," remarked a strict
martinet of La Serre; "and here we have a whole flock of black gowns
darkening our regimentals! What would Voltaire say?"

"He would say that when priests turn soldiers it is time for soldiers
to turn tinkers and mend holes in pots, instead of making holes in our
enemies," replied his companion, a fashionable freethinker of the day.

"Well, I am ready to turn pedlar any day! The King's army will go to the
dogs fast enough since the Governor commissions Recollets and Jesuits to
act as royal officers," was the petulant remark of another officer of La
Serre.

A strong prejudice existed in the army against the Abbé Piquet for his
opposition to the presence of French troops in his Indian missionary
villages. They demoralized his neophytes, and many of the officers
shared in the lucrative traffic of fire-water to the Indians. The
Abbé was zealous in stopping those abuses, and the officers complained
bitterly of his over-protection of the Indians.

The famous "King's Missionary," as he was called, stood up with an air
of dignity and authority that seemed to assert his right to be present
in the Council of War, for the scornful looks of many of the officers
had not escaped his quick glance.

The keen black eyes, thin resolute lips, and high swarthy forehead of
the Abbé would have well become the plumed hat of a marshal of France.
His loose black robe, looped up for freedom, reminded one of a grave
senator of Venice whose eye never quailed at any policy, however severe,
if required for the safety of the State.

The Abbé held in his hand a large roll of wampum, the tokens of treaties
made by him with the Indian nations of the West, pledging their alliance
and aid to the great Onontio, as they called the Governor of New France.

"My Lord Governor!" said the Abbé, placing his great roll on the table,
"I thank you for admitting the missionaries to the Council. We appear
less as churchmen on this occasion than as the King's ambassadors,
although I trust that all we have done will redound to God's glory and
the spread of religion among the heathen. These belts of wampum are
tokens of the treaties we have made with the numerous and warlike tribes
of the great West. I bear to the Governor pledges of alliance from the
Miamis and Shawnees of the great valley of the Belle Rivière, which they
call the Ohio. I am commissioned to tell Onontio that they are at peace
with the King and at war with his enemies from this time forth forever.
I have set up the arms of France on the banks of the Belle Rivière, and
claimed all its lands and waters as the just appanage of our sovereign,
from the Alleghanies to the plantations of Louisiana. The Sacs and
Foxes, of the Mississippi; the Pottawatomies, Winnebagoes, and Chippewas
of a hundred bands who fish in the great rivers and lakes of the West;
the warlike Ottawas, who have carried the Algonquin tongue to the
banks of Lake Erie,--in short, all enemies of the Iroquois have pledged
themselves to take the field whenever the Governor shall require the axe
to be dug up and lifted against the English and the Five Nations. Next
summer the chiefs of all these tribes will come to Quebec, and ratify in
a solemn General Council the wampums they now send by me and the other
missionaries, my brothers in the Lord!"

The Abbé, with the slow, formal manner of one long accustomed to the
speech and usages of the Indians, unrolled the belts of wampum, many
fathoms in length, fastened end to end to indicate the length of the
alliance of the various tribes with France. The Abbé interpreted
their meaning, and with his finger pointed out the totems or signs
manual--usually a bird, beast, or fish--of the chiefs who had signed the
roll.

The Council looked at the wampums with intense interest, well knowing
the important part these Indians were capable of assuming in the war
with England.

"These are great and welcome pledges you bring us, Abbé," said the
Governor; "they are proofs at once of your ability and of your zealous
labors for the King. A great public duty has been ably discharged by you
and your fellow-missionaries, whose loyalty and devotion to France
it shall be my pleasure to lay before His Majesty. The Star of Hope
glitters in the western horizon, to encourage us under the clouds of
the eastern. Even the loss of Acadia, should it be final, will be
compensated by the acquisition of the boundless fertile territories
of the Belle Riviere and of the Illinois. The Abbé Piquet and his
fellow-missionaries have won the hearts of the native tribes of the
West. There is hope now, at last, of uniting New France with Louisiana
in one unbroken chain of French territory.

"It has been my ambition, since His Majesty honored me with the
Government of New France, to acquire possession of those vast
territories covered with forests old as time, and in soil rich and
fertile as Provence and Normandy.

"I have served the King all my life," continued the Governor, "and
served him with honor and even distinction,--permit me to say this much
of myself."

He spoke in a frank, manly way, for vanity prompted no part of his
speech. "Many great services have I rendered my country, but I feel
that the greatest service I could yet do Old France or New would be the
planting of ten thousand sturdy peasants and artisans of France in the
valley of the far West, to make its forests vocal with the speech of our
native land.

"This present war may end suddenly,--I think it will: the late victory
at Lawfelt has stricken the allies under the Duke of Cumberland a blow
hard as Fontenoy. Rumors of renewed negotiations for peace are flying
thick through Europe. God speed the peacemakers, and bless them, I
say! With peace comes opportunity. Then, if ever, if France be true to
herself and to her heritage in the New World, she will people the valley
of the Ohio and secure forever her supremacy in America!

"But our forts far and near must be preserved in the meantime. We must
not withdraw from one foot of French territory. Quebec must be walled,
and made safe against all attack by land or water. I therefore will
join the Council in a respectful remonstrance to the Count de Maurepas,
against the inopportune despatches just received from His Majesty. I
trust the Royal Intendant will favor the Council now with his opinion on
this important matter, and I shall be happy to have the cooperation of
His Excellency in measures of such vital consequence to the Colony and
to France."

The Governor sat down, after courteously motioning the Intendant to rise
and address the Council.

The Intendant hated the mention of peace. His interests, and the
interests of his associates of the Grand Company, were all involved in
the prolongation of the war.

War enabled the Grand Company to monopolize the trade and military
expenditure of New France. The enormous fortunes its members made, and
spent with such reckless prodigality, would by peace be dried up in
their source; the yoke would be thrown off the people's neck, trade
would again free.

Bigot was far-sighted enough to see that clamors would be raised and
listened to in the leisure of peace. Prosecutions for illegal exactions
might follow, and all the support of his friends at Court might not be
able to save him and his associates from ruin--perhaps punishment.

The parliaments of Paris, Rouen, and Brittany still retained a shadow of
independence. It was only a shadow, but the fury of Jansenism supplied
the lack of political courage, and men opposed the Court and its policy
under pretence of defending the rights of the Gallican Church and the
old religion of the nation.

Bigot knew he was safe so long as the Marquise de Pompadour governed the
King and the kingdom. But Louis XV. was capricious and unfaithful in his
fancies; he had changed his mistresses, and his policy with them, many
times, and might change once more, to the ruin of Bigot and all the
dependents of La Pompadour.

Bigot's letters by the Fleur-de-Lis were calculated to alarm him. A
rival was springing up at Court to challenge La Pompadour's supremacy:
the fair and fragile Lange Vaubernier had already attracted the King's
eye, and the courtiers versed in his ways read the incipient signs of a
future favorite.

Little did the laughing Vaubernier forsee the day when, as Madame
du Barry, she would reign as Dame du Palais, after the death of La
Pompadour. Still less could she imagine that in her old age, in the next
reign, she would be dragged to the guillotine, filling the streets
of Paris with her shrieks, heard above the howlings of the mob of the
Revolution: "Give me life! life! for my repentance! Life! to devote
it to the Republic! Life! for the surrender of all my wealth to the
nation!" And death, not life, was given in answer to her passionate
pleadings.

These dark days were yet in the womb of the future, however. The giddy
Vaubernier was at this time gaily catching at the heart of the King,
but her procedure filled the mind of Bigot with anxiety: the fall of La
Pompadour would entail swift ruin upon himself and associates. He knew
it was the intrigues of this girl which had caused La Pompadour suddenly
to declare for peace in order to watch the King more surely in his
palace. Therefore the word peace and the name of Vaubernier were equally
odious to Bigot, and he was perplexed in no small degree how to act.

Moreover, be it confessed that, although a bad man and a corrupt
statesman, Bigot was a Frenchman, proud of the national success and
glory. While robbing her treasures with one hand, he was ready with
his sword in the other to risk life and all in her defence. Bigot was
bitterly opposed to English supremacy in North America. The loss of
Louisbourg, though much his fault, stung him to the quick, as a triumph
of the national enemy; and in those final days of New France, after the
fall of Montcalm, Bigot was the last man to yield, and when all others
counselled retreat, he would not consent to the surrender of Quebec to
the English.

To-day, in the Council of War, Bigot stood up to respond to the appeal
of the Governor. He glanced his eye coolly, yet respectfully, over the
Council. His raised hand sparkled with gems, the gifts of courtiers and
favorites of the King. "Gentlemen of the Council of War!," said he, "I
approve with all my heart of the words of His Excellency the Governor,
with reference to our fortifications and the maintenance of our
frontiers. It is our duty to remonstrate, as councillors of the King
in the Colony, against the tenor of the despatches of the Count de
Maurepas. The city of Quebec, properly fortified, will be equivalent to
an army of men in the field, and the security and defence of the whole
Colony depends upon its walls. There can be but one intelligent opinion
in the Council on that point, and that opinion should be laid before His
Majesty before this despatch be acted on.

"The pressure of the war is great upon us just now. The loss of the
fleet of the Marquis de la Jonquière has greatly interrupted our
communications with France, and Canada is left much to its own
resources. But Frenchmen! the greater the peril the greater the glory
of our defence! And I feel a lively confidence,"--Bigot glanced proudly
round the table at the brave, animated faces that turned towards
him,--"I feel a lively confidence that in the skill, devotion, and
gallantry of the officers I see around this council-table, we shall be
able to repel all our enemies, and bear the royal flag to fresh triumphs
in North America."

This timely flattery was not lost upon the susceptible minds of the
officers present, who testified their approval by vigorous tapping on
the table, and cries of "Well said, Chevalier Intendant!"

"I thank, heartily, the venerable Abbé Piquet," continued he, "for his
glorious success in converting the warlike savages of the West from foes
to fast friends of the King; and as Royal Intendant I pledge the Abbé
all my help in the establishment of his proposed fort and mission at La
Présentation, for the purpose of dividing the power of the Iroquois."

"That is right well said, if the Devil said it!" remarked La Corne St.
Luc, to the Acadian sitting next him. "There is bell-metal in Bigot, and
he rings well if properly struck. Pity so clever a fellow should be a
knave!"

"Fine words butter no parsnips, Chevalier La Corne," replied the
Acadian, whom no eloquence could soften. "Bigot sold Louisbourg!" This
was a common but erroneous opinion in Acadia.

"Bigot butters his own parsnips well, Colonel," replied La Corne St.
Luc; "but I did not think he would have gone against the despatches! It
is the first time he ever opposed Versailles! There must be something
in the wind! A screw loose somewhere, or another woman in the case! But
hark, he is going on again!"

The Intendant, after examining some papers, entered into a detail of the
resources of the Colony, the number of men capable of bearing arms,
the munitions and material of war in the magazines, and the relative
strength of each district of the Province. He manipulated his figures
with the dexterity of an Indian juggler throwing balls; and at the
end brought out a totality of force in the Colony capable unaided of
prolonging the war for two years, against all the powers of the English.

At the conclusion of this speech Bigot took his seat. He had made a
favorable impression upon the Council, and even his most strenuous
opponents admitted that on the whole the Intendant had spoken like an
able administrator and a true Frenchman.

Cadet and Varin supported their chief warmly. Bad as they were, both
in private life and public conduct, they lacked neither shrewdness nor
courage. They plundered their country--but were ready to fight for it
against the national enemy.

Other officers followed in succession,--men whose names were already
familiar, or destined to become glorious in New France,--La Corne, St.
Luc, Celeron de Bienville, Colonel Philibert, the Chevalier de Beaujeu,
the De Villiers, Le Gardeur de St. Pierre, and De Lery. One and all
supported that view of the despatches taken by the Governor and the
Intendant. All agreed upon the necessity of completing the walls of
Quebec and of making a determined stand at every point of the frontier
against the threatened invasion. In case of the sudden patching up of a
peace by the negotiators at Aix La Chapelle--as really happened--on the
terms of uti possidetis, it was of vital importance that New France hold
fast to every shred of her territory, both East and West.

Long and earnest were the deliberations of the Council of War. The
reports of the commanding officers from all points of the frontier were
carefully studied. Plans of present defence and future conquest were
discussed with reference to the strength and weakness of the Colony, and
an accurate knowledge of the forces and designs of the English obtained
from the disaffected remnant of Cromwellian republicans in New England,
whose hatred to the Crown ever outweighed their loyalty, and who kept
up a traitorous correspondence, for purposes of their own, with the
governors of New France.

The lamps were lit and burned far into the night when the Council broke
up. The most part of the officers partook of a cheerful refreshment with
the Governor before they retired to their several quarters. Only Bigot
and his friends declined to sup with the Governor: they took a polite
leave, and rode away from the Château to the Palace of the Intendant,
where a more gorgeous repast and more congenial company awaited them.

The wine flowed freely at the Intendant's table, and as the irritating
events of the day were recalled to memory, the pent-up wrath of the
Intendant broke forth. "Damn the Golden Dog and his master both!"
exclaimed he. "Philibert shall pay with his life for the outrage of
to-day, or I will lose mine! The dirt is not off my coat yet, Cadet!"
said he, as he pointed to a spatter of mud upon his breast. "A pretty
medal that for the Intendant to wear in a Council of War!"

"Council of War!" replied Cadet, setting his goblet down with a bang
upon the polished table, after draining it to the bottom. "I would like
to go through that mob again! and I would pull an oar in the galleys
of Marseilles rather than be questioned with that air of authority by a
botanizing quack like La Galissonière! Such villainous questions as he
asked me about the state of the royal magazines! La Galissonière had
more the air of a judge cross-examining a culprit than of a Governor
asking information of a king's officer!"

"True, Cadet!" replied Varin, who was always a flatterer, and who at
last saved his ill-gotten wealth by the surrender of his wife as a
love-gift to the Duc de Choiseul. "We all have our own injuries to bear.
The Intendant was just showing us the spot of dirt cast upon him by the
mob; and I ask what satisfaction he has asked in the Council for the
insult."

"Ask satisfaction!" replied Cadet with a laugh. "Let him take it!
Satisfaction! We will all help him! But I say that the hair of the dog
that bit him will alone cure the bite! What I laughed at the most was
this morning at Beaumanoir, to see how coolly that whelp of the Golden
Dog, young Philibert, walked off with De Repentigny from the very midst
of all the Grand Company!"

"We shall lose our young neophyte, I doubt, Cadet! I was a fool to let
him go with Philibert!" remarked Bigot.

"Oh, I am not afraid of losing him, we hold him by a strong triple cord,
spun by the Devil. No fear of losing him!" answered Cadet, grinning
good-humoredly.

"What do you mean, Cadet?" The Intendant took up his cup and drank very
nonchalantly, as if he thought little of Cadet's view of the matter.
"What triple cord binds De Repentigny to us?"

"His love of wine, his love of gaming, and his love of women--or rather
his love of a woman, which is the strongest strand in the string for a
young fool like him who is always chasing virtue and hugging vice!"

"Oh! a woman has got him! eh, Cadet? Pray who is she? When once a woman
catches a fellow by the gills, he is a dead mackerel: his fate is fixed
for good or bad in this world. But who is she, Cadet?--she must be a
clever one," said Bigot, sententiously.

"So she is! and she is too clever for young De Repentigny: she has got
her pretty fingers in his gills, and can carry her fish to whatever
market she chooses!"

"Cadet! Cadet! out with it!" repeated a dozen voices. "Yes, out with
it!" repeated Bigot. "We are all companions under the rose, and there
are no secrets here about wine or women!"

"Well, I would not give a filbert for all the women born since mother
Eve!" said Cadet, flinging a nut-shell at the ceiling. "But this is a
rare one, I must confess. Now stop! Don't cry out again 'Cadet! out with
it!' and I will tell you! What think you of the fair, jolly Mademoiselle
des Meloises?"

"Angélique? Is De Repentigny in love with her?" Bigot looked quite
interested now.

"In love with her? He would go on all fours after her, if she wanted
him! He does almost, as it is."

Bigot placed a finger on his brow and pondered for a moment. "You say
well, Cadet; if De Repentigny has fallen in love with that girl, he
is ours forever! Angélique des Meloises never lets go her ox until she
offers him up as a burnt offering! The Honnêtes Gens will lose one of
the best trout in their stream if Angélique has the tickling of him!"

Bigot did not seem to be quite pleased with Cadet's information. He
rose from his seat somewhat flushed and excited by this talk respecting
Angélique des Meloises. He walked up and down the room a few turns,
recovered his composure, and sat down again.

"Come, gentlemen," said he; "too much care will kill a cat! Let us
change our talk to a merrier tune; fill up, and we will drink to the
loves of De Repentigny and the fair Angélique! I am much mistaken if we
do not find in her the dea ex machinâ to help us out of our trouble with
the Honnêtes Gens!"

The glasses were filled and emptied. Cards and dice were then called
for. The company drew their chairs into a closer circle round the
table; deep play, and deeper drinking, set in. The Palais resounded with
revelry until the morning sun looked into the great window, blushing red
at the scene of drunken riot that had become habitual in the Palace of
the Intendant.



CHAPTER XV. THE CHARMING JOSEPHINE.


The few words of sympathy dropped by Bigot in the secret chamber had
fallen like manna on the famine of Caroline's starving affections as she
remained on the sofa, where she had half fallen, pressing her bosom with
her hands as if a new-born thought lay there. "I am sure he meant it!"
repeated she to herself. "I feel that his words were true, and for the
moment his look and tone were those of my happy maiden days in Acadia!
I was too proud then of my fancied power, and thought Bigot's love
deserved the surrender of my very conscience to his keeping. I forgot
God in my love for him; and, alas for me! that now is part of my
punishment! I feel not the sin of loving him! My penitence is not
sincere when I can still rejoice in his smile! Woe is me! Bigot! Bigot!
unworthy as thou art, I cannot forsake thee! I would willingly die at
thy feet, only spurn me not away, nor give to another the love that
belongs to me, and for which I have paid the price of my immortal soul!"

She relapsed into a train of bitter reflections as her thoughts reverted
to herself. Silence had been gradually creeping through the house. The
noisy debauch was at an end. There were trampings, voices, and footfalls
for a while longer, and then they died away. Everything was still
and silent as the grave. She knew the feast was over and the guests
departed; but not whether Bigot had accompanied them.

She sprang up as a low knock came to her door, thinking it was he, come
to bid her adieu. It was with a feeling of disappointment she heard the
voice of Dame Tremblay saying, "My Lady, may I enter?"

Caroline ran her fingers through her disordered hair, pressed her
handkerchief into her eyes, and hastily tried to obliterate every trace
of her recent agony. She bade her enter.

Dame Tremblay, shrewd as became the whilom Charming Josephine of Lake
Beauport, had a kind heart, nevertheless, under her old-fashioned
bodice. She sincerely pitied this young creature who was passing her
days in prayer and her nights in weeping, although she might rather
blame her in secret for not appreciating better the honor of a residence
at Beaumanoir and the friendship of the Intendant.

"I do not think she is prettier than I, when I was the Charming
Josephine!" thought the old dame. "I did not despise Beaumanoir in those
days, and why should she now? But she will be neither maid nor mistress
here long, I am thinking!" The dame saluted the young lady with great
deference, and quietly asked if she needed her service.

"Oh! it is you, good dame!"--Caroline answered her own thoughts, rather
than the question,--"tell me what makes this unusual silence in the
Château?"

"The Intendant and all the guests have gone to the city, my Lady: a
great officer of the Governor's came to summon them. To be sure, not
many of them were fit to go, but after a deal of bathing and dressing
the gentlemen got off. Such a clatter of horsemen as they rode out, I
never heard before, my Lady; you must have heard them even here!"

"Yes, dame!" replied Caroline, "I heard it; and the Intendant, has he
accompanied them?"

"Yes, my Lady; the freshest and foremost cavalier of them all. Wine and
late hours never hurt the Intendant. It is for that I praise him, for he
is a gallant gentleman, who knows what politeness is to women."

Caroline shrank a little at the thought expressed by the dame. "What
causes you to say that?" asked she.

"I will tell, my Lady! 'Dame Tremblay!' said he, just before he left the
Château. 'Dame Tremblay'--he always calls me that when he is formal,
but sometimes when he is merry, he calls me 'Charming Josephine,' in
remembrance of my young days, concerning which he has heard flattering
stories, I dare say--"

"In heaven's name! go on, dame!" Caroline, depressed as she was, felt
the dame's garrulity like a pinch on her impatience. "What said the
Intendant to you, on leaving the Château?"

"Oh, he spoke to me of you quite feelingly--that is, bade me take the
utmost care of the poor lady in the secret chamber. I was to give you
everything you wished, and keep off all visitors, if such were your own
desire."

A train of powder does not catch fire from a spark more quickly than
Caroline's imagination from these few words of the old housekeeper. "Did
he say that, good dame? God bless you, and bless him for those words!"
Her eyes filled with tears at the thought of his tenderness, which,
although half fictitious, she wholly believed.

"Yes, dame," continued she. "It is my most earnest desire to be secluded
from all visitors. I wish to see no one but yourself. Have you many
visitors--ladies, I mean--at the Château?"

"Oh, yes! the ladies of the city are not likely to forget the
invitations to the balls and dinners of the bachelor Intendant of New
France. It is the most fashionable thing in the city, and every lady
is wild to attend them. There is one, the handsomest and gayest of them
all, who, they say, would not object even to become the bride of the
Intendant."

It was a careless shaft of the old dame's, but it went to the heart of
Caroline. "Who is she, good dame?--pray tell me!"

"Oh, my Lady, I should fear her anger, if she knew what I say! She
is the most terrible coquette in the city--worshipped by the men, and
hated, of course, by the women, who all imitate her in dress and style
as much as they possibly can, because they see it takes! But every woman
fears for either husband or lover when Angélique des Meloises is her
rival."

"Is that her name? I never heard it before, dame!" remarked Caroline,
with a shudder. She felt instinctively that the name was one of direful
omen to herself.

"Pray God you may never have reason to hear it again," replied Dame
Tremblay. "She it was who went to the mansion of Sieur Tourangeau and
with her riding-whip lashed the mark of a red cross upon the forehead of
his daughter, Cecile, scarring her forever, because she had presumed
to smile kindly upon a young officer, a handsome fellow, Le Gardeur de
Repentigny--whom any woman might be pardoned for admiring!" added the
old dame, with a natural touch of the candor of her youth. "If Angélique
takes a fancy to the Intendant, it will be dangerous for any other woman
to stand in her way!"

Caroline gave a frightened look at the dame's description of a possible
rival in the Intendant's love. "You know more of her, dame! Tell me all!
Tell me the worst I have to learn!" pleaded the poor girl.

"The worst, my Lady! I fear no one can tell the worst of Angélique des
Meloises,--at least, would not dare to, although I know nothing bad of
her, except that she would like to have all the men to herself, and so
spite all the women!"

"But she must regard that young officer with more than common affection,
to have acted so savagely to Mademoiselle Tourangeau?" Caroline, with
a woman's quickness, had caught at that gleam of hope through the
darkness.

"Oh, yes, my Lady! All Quebec knows that Angélique loves the Seigneur
de Repentigny, for nothing is a secret in Quebec if more than one
person knows it, as I myself well recollect; for when I was the Charming
Josephine, my very whispers were all over the city by the next dinner
hour, and repeated at every table, as gentlemen cracked their almonds
and drank their wine in toasts to the Charming Josephine."

"Pshaw! dame! Tell me about the Seigneur de Repentigny! Does Angélique
des Meloises love him, think you?" Caroline's eyes were fixed like stars
upon the dame, awaiting her reply.

"It takes women to read women, they say," replied the dame, "and
every lady in Quebec would swear that Angélique loves the Seigneur de
Repentigny; but I know that, if she can, she will marry the Intendant,
whom she has fairly bewitched with her wit and beauty, and you know a
clever woman can marry any man she pleases, if she only goes the right
way about it: men are such fools!"

Caroline grew faint. Cold drops gathered on her brow. A veil of mist
floated before her eyes. "Water! good dame water!" she articulated,
after several efforts.

Dame Tremblay ran, and got her a drink of water and such restoratives
as were at hand. The dame was profuse in words of sympathy: she had
gone through life with a light, lively spirit, as became the Charming
Josephine, but never lost the kindly heart that was natural to her.

Caroline rallied from her faintness. "Have you seen what you tell me,
dame, or is it but the idle gossip of the city, no truth in it? Oh, say
it is the idle gossip of the city! François Bigot is not going to marry
this lady? He is not so faithless"--to me, she was about to add, but did
not.

"So faithless to her, she means, poor soul!" soliliquized the dame. "It
is but little you know my gay master if you think he values a promise
made to any woman, except to deceive her! I have seen too many birds
of that feather not to know a hawk, from beak to claw. When I was the
Charming Josephine I took the measure of men's professions, and never
was deceived but once. Men's promises are big as clouds, and as empty
and as unstable!"

"My good dame, I am sure you have a kind heart," said Caroline, in reply
to a sympathizing pressure of the hand. "But you do not know, you cannot
imagine what injustice you do the Intendant"--Caroline hesitated and
blushed--"by mentioning the report of his marriage with that lady. Men
speak untruly of him--"

"My dear Lady, it is what the women say that frightens one! The men are
angry, and won't believe it; but the women are jealous, and will believe
it even if there be nothing in it! As a faithful servant I ought to have
no eyes to watch my master, but I have not failed to observe that the
Chevalier Bigot is caught man-fashion, if not husband-fashion, in the
snares of the artful Angélique. But may I speak my real opinion to you,
my Lady?"

Caroline was eagerly watching the lips of the garrulous dame. She
started, brushed back with a stroke of her hand the thick hair that had
fallen over her ear,--"Oh, speak all your thoughts, good dame! If your
next words were to kill me, speak them!"

"My next words will not harm you, my Lady," said she, with a meaning
smile, "if you will accept the opinion of an old woman, who learned the
ways of men when she was the Charming Josephine! You must not conclude
that because the Chevalier Intendant admires, or even loves Angélique
des Meloises, he is going to marry her. That is not the fashion of
these times. Men love beauty, and marry money; love is more plenty than
matrimony, both at Paris and at Quebec, at Versailles as well as at
Beaumanoir or even at Lake Beauport, as I learned to my cost when I was
the Charming Josephine!"

Caroline blushed crimson at the remark of Dame Tremblay. Her voice
quivered with emotion. "It is sin to cheapen love like that, dame! And
yet I know we have sometimes to bury our love in our heart, with no hope
of resurrection."

"Sometimes? Almost always, my Lady! When I was the Charming
Josephine--nay, listen, Lady: my story is instructive." Caroline
composed herself to hear the dame's recital. "When I was the Charming
Josephine of Lake Beauport I began by believing that men were angels
sent for the salvation of us women. I thought that love was a better
passport than money to lead to matrimony; but I was a fool for my fancy!
I had a good score of lovers any day. The gallants praised my beauty,
and it was the envy of the city; they flattered me for my wit,--nay,
even fought duels for my favor, and called me the Charming Josephine,
but not one offered to marry me! At twenty I ran away for love, and
was forsaken. At thirty I married for money, and was rid of all my
illusions. At forty I came as housekeeper to Beaumanoir, and have
lived here comfortably ever since I know what royal intendants are! Old
Hocquart wore night-caps in the daytime, took snuff every minute, and
jilted a lady in France because she had not the dower of a duchess to
match his hoards of wealth! The Chevalier Bigot's black eye and jolly
laugh draw after him all the girls of the city, but not one will catch
him! Angélique des Meloises is first in his favor, but I see it is as
clear as print in the eye of the Intendant that he will never marry
her--and you will prevent him, my Lady!"

"I? I prevent him!" exclaimed Caroline in amazement. "Alas! good dame,
you little know how lighter than thistledown floating on the wind is my
influence with the Intendant."

"You do yourself injustice, my Lady. Listen! I never saw a more pitying
glance fall from the eye of man than the Intendant cast upon you one day
when he saw you kneeling in your oratory unconscious of his presence.
His lips quivered, and a tear gathered under his thick eyelashes as he
silently withdrew. I heard him mutter a blessing upon you, and curses
upon La Pompadour for coming between him and his heart's desire. I was
a faithful servant and kept my counsel. I could see, however, that the
Intendant thought more of the lovely lady of Beaumanoir than of all the
ambitious demoiselles of Quebec."

Caroline sprang up, and casting off the deep reserve she had maintained,
threw her arms round the neck of Dame Tremblay, and half choked with
emotion, exclaimed,--

"Is that true? good, dear friend of friends! Did the Chevalier Bigot
bless me, and curse La Pompadour for coming between him and his heart's
desire! His heart's desire! but you do not know--you cannot guess what
that means, dame?"

"As if I did not know a man's heart's desire! but I am a woman, and can
guess! I was not the Charming Josephine for nothing, good Lady!" replied
the dame, smiling, as the enraptured girl laid her fair, smooth cheek
upon that of the old housekeeper.

"And did he look so pityingly as you describe, and bless me as I was
praying, unwitting of his presence?" repeated she, with a look that
searched the dame through and through.

"He did, my Lady; he looked, just then, as a man looks upon a woman whom
he really loves. I know how men look when they really love us and when
they only pretend to? No deceiving me!" added she. "When I was the
Charming Josephine--"

"Ave Maria!" said Caroline, crossing herself with deep devotion, not
heeding the dame's reminiscences of Lake Beauport. "Heaven has heard my
prayers! I can die happy!"

"Heaven forbid you should die at all, my Lady! You die? The Intendant
loves you. I see it in his face that he will never marry Angélique des
Meloises. He may indeed marry a great marchioness with her lap full of
gold and châteaux--that is, if the King commands him: that is how the
grand gentlemen of the Court marry. They wed rank, and love beauty--the
heart to one, the hand to another. It would be my way too, were I a man
and women so simple as we all are. If a girl cannot marry for love, she
will marry for money; and if not for money, she can always marry for
spite--I did, when I was the Charming Josephine!"

"It is a shocking and sinful way, to marry without love!" said Caroline,
warmly.

"It is better than no way at all!" replied the dame, regretting her
remark when she saw her lady's face flush like crimson. The dame's
opinions were rather the worse for wear in her long journey through
life, and would not be adopted by a jury of prudes. "When I was the
Charming Josephine," continued she, "I had the love of half the gallants
of Quebec, but not one offered his hand. What was I to do? 'Crook a
finger, or love and linger,' as they say in Alençon, where I was born?"

"Fie, dame! Don't say such things!" said Caroline, with a shamed,
reproving look. "I would think better of the Intendant." Her gratitude
led her to imagine excuses for him. The few words reported to her
by Dame Tremblay she repeated with silently moving lips and tender
reiteration. They lingered in her ear like the fugue of a strain of
music, sung by a choir of angelic spirits. "Those were his very words,
dame?" added she again, repeating them--not for inquiry, but for secret
joy.

"His very words, my Lady! But why should the Royal Intendant not have
his heart's desire as well as that great lady in France? If any one had
forbidden my marrying the poor Sieur Tremblay, for whom I did not care
two pins, I would have had him for spite--yes, if I had had to marry him
as the crows do, on a tree-top!"

"But no one bade you or forbade you, dame! You were happy that no one
came between you and your heart's desire!" replied Caroline.

Dame Tremblay laughed out merrily at the idea. "Poor Giles Tremblay my
heart's desire! Listen, Lady, I could no more get that than you could.
When I was the Charming Josephine there was but one, out of all my
admirers, whom I really cared for, and he, poor fellow, had a wife
already! So what was I to do? I threw my line at last in utter despair,
and out of the troubled sea I drew the Sieur Tremblay, whom I married,
and soon put cosily underground with a heavy tombstone on top of him to
keep him down, with this inscription, which you may see for yourself, my
Lady, if you will, in the churchyard where he lies:


     "'Ci gît mon Giles,
       Ah! qu'il est bien,
       Pour son répos,
       Et pour le mien!'


"Men are like my Angora tabby: stroke them smoothly and they will purr
and rub noses with you; but stroke them the wrong way and whirr! they
scratch your hands and out of the window they fly! When I was the
Charming--"

"Oh, good dame, thanks! thanks! for the comfort you have given me!"
interrupted Caroline, not caring for a fresh reminiscence of the
Charming Josephine. "Leave me, I pray. My mind is in a sad tumult. I
would fain rest. I have much to fear, but something also to hope for
now," she said, leaning back in her chair in deep and quiet thought.

"The Château is very still now, my Lady," replied the dame, "the
servants are all worn out with long attendance and fast asleep. Let my
Lady go to her own apartments, which are bright and airy. It will be
better for her than this dull chamber."

"True, dame!" Caroline rose at the suggestion. "I like not this secret
chamber. It suited my sad mood, but now I seem to long for air and
sunshine. I will go with you to my own room."

They ascended the winding stair, and Caroline seated herself by the
window of her own chamber, overlooking the park and gardens of the
Château. The huge, sloping forest upon the mountain side, formed, in the
distance, with the blue sky above it, a landscape of beauty, upon which
her eyes lingered with a sense of freshness and delight.

Dame Tremblay left her to her musings, to go, she said, to rouse up the
lazy maids and menservants, to straighten up the confusion of everything
in the Château after the late long feast.

On the great stair she encountered M. Froumois, the Intendant's valet,
a favorite gossip of the dame's, who used to invite him into her snug
parlor, where she regaled him with tea and cake, or, if late in the
evening, with wine and nipperkins of Cognac, while he poured into her
ear stories of the gay life of Paris and the bonnes fortunes of himself
and master--for the valet in plush would have disdained being less
successful among the maids in the servants' hall than his master in
velvet in the boudoirs of their mistresses.

M. Froumois accepted the dame's invitation, and the two were presently
engaged in a melée of gossip over the sayings and doings of fashionable
society in Quebec.

The dame, holding between her thumb and finger a little china cup of tea
well laced, she called it, with Cognac, remarked,--"They fairly run the
Intendant down, Froumois: there is not a girl in the city but laces
her boots to distraction since it came out that the Intendant admires
a neat, trim ankle. I had a trim ankle myself when I was the Charming
Josephine, M. Froumois!"

"And you have yet, dame,--if I am a judge," replied Froumois, glancing
down with an air of gallantry.

"And you are accounted a judge--and ought to be a good one, Froumois! A
gentleman can't live at court as you have done, and learn nothing of
the points of a fine woman!" The good dame liked a compliment as well as
ever she had done at Lake Beauport in her hey-day of youth and beauty.

"Why, no, dame," replied he; "one can't live at Court and learn nothing!
We study the points of fine women as we do fine statuary in the gallery
of the Louvre, only the living beauties will compel us to see their best
points if they have them!" M. Froumois looked very critical as he took a
pinch from the dame's box, which she held out to him. Her hand and wrist
were yet unexceptionable, as he could not help remarking.

"But what think you, really, of our Quebec beauties? Are they not a good
imitation of Versailles?" asked the dame.

"A good imitation! They are the real porcelain! For beauty and
affability Versailles cannot exceed them. So says the Intendant, and
so say I!," replied the gay valet. "Why, look you, Dame Tremblay!"
continued he, extending his well-ringed fingers, "they do give gentlemen
no end of hopes here! We have only to stretch out our ten digits and a
ladybird will light on every one of them! It was so at Versailles--it
is just so here. The ladies in Quebec do know how to appreciate a real
gentleman!"

"Yes, that is what makes the ladies of Ville Marie so jealous and
angry," replied the dame; "the King's officers and all the great catches
land at Quebec first, when they come out from France, and we take toll
of them! We don't let a gentleman of them get up to Ville Marie without
a Quebec engagement tacked to his back, so that all Ville Marie can
read it, and die of pure spite! I say we, Froumois; but you understand I
speak of myself only as the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport. I must
content myself now with telling over my past glories."

"Well dame, I don't know but you are glorious yet! But tell me, what has
got over my master to-day? Was the unknown lady unkind? Something has
angered him, I am sure!"

"I cannot tell you, Froumois: women's moods are not to be explained,
even by themselves." The dame had been sensibly touched by Caroline's
confidence in her, and she was too loyal to her sex to repeat even to
Froumois her recent conversation with Caroline.

They found plenty of other topics, however, and over the tea and Cognac
the dame and valet passed an hour of delightful gossip.

Caroline, left to the solitude of her chamber, sat silently with her
hands clasped in her lap. Her thoughts pressed inward upon her. She
looked out without seeing the fair landscape before her eyes.

Tears and sorrow she had welcomed in a spirit of bitter penitence for
her fault in loving one who no longer regarded her. "I do not deserve
any man's regard," murmured she, as she laid her soul on the rack of
self-accusation, and wrung its tenderest fibres with the pitiless rigor
of a secret inquisitor. She utterly condemned herself while still
trying to find some excuse for her unworthy lover. At times a cold
half-persuasion, fluttering like a bird in the snow, came over her that
Bigot could not be utterly base. He could not thus forsake one who had
lost all--name, fame, home, and kindred--for his sake! She clung to the
few pitying words spoken by him as a shipwrecked sailor to the plank
which chance has thrown in his way. It might float her for a few hours,
and she was grateful.

Immersed in these reflections, Caroline sat gazing at the clouds, now
transformed into royal robes of crimson and gold--the gorgeous train
of the sun filled the western horizon. She raised her pale hands to her
head, lifting the mass of dark hair from her temples. The fevered blood,
madly coursing, pulsed in her ear like the stroke of a bell.

She remembered a sunset like this on the shores of the Bay of Minas,
where the thrush and oriole twittered their even-song before seeking
their nests, where the foliage of the trees was all ablaze with golden
fire, and a shimmering path of sunlight lay upon the still waters like a
glorious bridge leading from themselves to the bright beyond.

On that well-remembered night her heart had yielded to Bigot's
pleadings. She had leaned her head upon his bosom, and received the kiss
and gave the pledge that bound her to him forever.

The sun kept sinking--the forests on the mountain tops burst into a
bonfire of glory. Shadows went creeping up the hill-sides until the
highest crest alone flamed out as a beacon of hope to her troubled soul.

Suddenly, like a voice from the spirit world, the faint chime of the
bells of Charlebourg floated on the evening breeze: it was the Angelus,
calling men to prayer and rest from their daily labor. Sweetly the soft
reverberation floated through the forests, up the hill-sides, by plain
and river, entering the open lattices of Château and cottage, summoning
rich and poor alike to their duty of prayer and praise. It reminded men
of the redemption of the world by the divine miracle of the incarnation
announced by Gabriel, the angel of God, to the ear of Mary blessed among
women.

The soft bells rang on. Men blessed them, and ceased from their toils
in field and forest. Mothers knelt by the cradle, and uttered the sacred
words with emotions such as only mothers feel. Children knelt by their
mothers, and learned the story of God's pity in appearing upon earth as
a little child, to save mankind from their sins. The dark Huron setting
his snares in the forest and the fishers on the shady stream stood
still. The voyageur sweeping his canoe over the broad river suspended
his oar as the solemn sound reached him, and he repeated the angel's
words and went on his way with renewed strength.

The sweet bells came like a voice of pity and consolation to the ear of
Caroline. She knelt down, and clasping her hands, repeated the prayer of
millions,--


     "'Ave Maria! gratia plena.'"


She continued kneeling, offering up prayer after prayer for God's
forgiveness, both for herself and for him who had brought her to this
pass of sin and misery. "'Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!'" repeated she,
bowing herself to the ground. "I am the chief of sinners; who shall
deliver me from this body of sin and afliction?"

The sweet bells kept ringing. They woke reminiscences of voices of
by-gone days. She heard her father's tones, not in anger as he would
speak now, but kind and loving as in her days of innocence. She heard
her mother, long dead--oh, how happily dead! for she could not die of
sorrow now over her dear child's fall. She heard the voices of the fair
companions of her youth, who would think shame of her now; and amidst
them all, the tones of the persuasive tongue that wooed her maiden love.
How changed it all seemed! and yet, as the repetition of two or three
notes of a bar of music brings to recollection the whole melody to which
it belongs, the few kind words of Bigot, spoken that morning, swept all
before them in a drift of hope. Like a star struggling in the mist the
faint voice of an angel was heard afar off in the darkness.

The ringing of the Angelus went on. Her heart was utterly melted. Her
eyes, long parched, as a spent fountain in the burning desert, were
suddenly filled with tears. She felt no longer the agony of the eyes
that cannot weep. The blessed tears flowed quietly as the waters of
Shiloh, bringing relief to her poor soul, famishing for one true word of
affection. Long after the sweet bells ceased their chime Caroline kept
on praying for him, and long after the shades of night had fallen over
the Château of Beaumanoir.



CHAPTER XVI. ANGÉLIQUE DES MELOISES.


"Come and see me to-night, Le Gardeur." Angélique des Meloises drew the
bridle sharply as she halted her spirited horse in front of the officer
of the guard at the St. Louis Gate. "Come and see me to-night: I shall
be at home to no one but you. Will you come?"

Had Le Gardeur de Repentigny been ever so laggard and indifferent a
lover the touch of that pretty hand, and the glance from the dark eye
that shot fire down into his very heart, would have decided him to obey
this seductive invitation.

He held her hand as he looked up with a face radiant with joy. "I will
surely come, Angélique; but tell me--"

She interrupted him laughingly: "No; I will tell you nothing till you
come! So good-by till then."

He would fain have prolonged the interview; but she capriciously shook
the reins, and with a silvery laugh rode through the gateway and into
the city. In a few minutes she dismounted at her own home, and giving
her horse in charge of a groom, ran lightly up the broad steps into the
house.

The family mansion of the Des Meloises was a tall and rather pretentious
edifice overlooking the fashionable Rue St. Louis.

The house was, by a little artifice on the part of Angélique, empty of
visitors this evening. Even her brother, the Chevalier des Meloises,
with whom she lived, a man of high life and extreme fashion, was
to-night enjoying the more congenial society of the officers of the
Regiment de Béarn. At this moment, amid the clash of glasses and the
bubbling of wine, the excited and voluble Gascons were discussing in
one breath the war, the council, the court, the ladies, and whatever gay
topic was tossed from end to end of the crowded mess-table.

"Mademoiselle's hair has got loose and looks like a Huron's," said her
maid Lizette, as her nimble fingers reärranged the rich dark-golden
locks of Angélique, which reached to the floor as she sat upon her
fauteuil.

"No matter, Lizette; do it up à la Pompadour, and make haste. My
brain is in as great confusion as my hair. I need repose for an hour.
Remember, Lizette, I am at home to no one to-night except the Chevalier
de Repentigny."

"The Chevalier called this afternoon, Mademoiselle, and was sorry he
did not find you at home," replied Lizette, who saw the eyelashes of
her mistress quiver and droop, while a flush deepened for an instant the
roseate hue of her cheek.

"I was in the country, that accounts for it! There, my hair will do!"
said Angélique, giving a glance in the great Venetian mirror before her.
Her freshly donned robe of blue silk, edged with a foam of snowy laces
and furbelows, set off her tall figure. Her arms, bare to the elbows,
would have excited Juno's jealousy or Homer's verse to gather efforts
in praise of them. Her dainty feet, shapely, aspiring, and full of
character as her face, were carelessly thrust forward, and upon one of
them lay a flossy spaniel, a privileged pet of his fair mistress.

The boudoir of Angélique was a nest of luxury and elegance. Its
furnishings and adornings were of the newest Parisian style. A carpet
woven in the pattern of a bed of flowers covered the floor. Vases of
Sèvres and Porcelain, filled with roses and jonquils, stood on marble
tables. Grand Venetian mirrors reflected the fair form of their mistress
from every point of view--who contemplated herself before and behind
with a feeling of perfect satisfaction and sense of triumph over every
rival.

A harpsichord occupied one corner of the room, and an elaborate
bookcase, well-filled with splendidly bound volumes, another.

Angélique had small taste for reading, yet had made some acquaintance
with the literature of the day. Her natural quick parts and good taste
enabled her to shine, even in literary conversation. Her bright eyes
looked volumes. Her silvery laugh was wiser than the wisdom of a
précieuse. Her witty repartees covered acres of deficiencies with so
much grace and tact that men were tempted to praise her knowledge no
less than her beauty.

She had a keen eye for artistic effects. She loved painting, although
her taste was sensuous and voluptuous--character is shown in the choice
of pictures as much as in that of books or of companions.

There was a painting of Vanloo--a lot of full-blooded horses in a field
of clover; they had broken fence, and were luxuriating in the rich,
forbidden pasture. The triumph of Cleopatra over Antony, by Le Brun, was
a great favorite with Angélique, because of a fancied, if not a real,
resemblance between her own features and those of the famous Queen
of Egypt. Portraits of favorite friends, one of them Le Gardeur de
Repentigny, and a still more recent acquisition, that of the Intendant
Bigot, adorned the walls, and among them was one distinguished for its
contrast to all the rest--the likeness, in the garb of an Ursuline, of
her beautiful Aunt Marie des Meloises, who, in a fit of caprice some
years before, had suddenly forsaken the world of fashion, and retired to
a convent.

The proud beauty threw back her thick golden tresses as she scanned her
fair face and magnificent figure in the tall Venetian mirror. She drank
the intoxicating cup of self-flattery to the bottom as she compared
herself, feature by feature, with every beautiful woman she knew in New
France. The longer she looked the more she felt the superiority of her
own charms over them all. Even the portrait of her aunt, so like her in
feature, so different in expression, was glanced at with something like
triumph spiced with content.

"She was handsome as I!" cried Angélique. "She was fit to be a queen,
and made herself a nun--and all for the sake of a man! I am fit to be a
queen too, and the man who raises me nighest to a queen's estate gets
my hand! My heart?" she paused a few moments. "Pshaw!" A slight quiver
passed over her lips. "My heart must do penance for the fault of my
hand!"

Petrified by vanity and saturated with ambition, Angélique retained
under the hard crust of selfishness a solitary spark of womanly feeling.
The handsome face and figure of Le Gardeur de Repentigny was her
beau-ideal of manly perfection. His admiration flattered her pride. His
love, for she knew infallibly, with a woman's instinct, that he loved
her, touched her into a tenderness such as she felt for no man besides.
It was the nearest approach to love her nature was capable of, and she
used to listen to him with more than complacency, while she let her
hand linger in his warm clasp while the electric fire passed from one
to another and she looked into his eyes, and spoke to him in those sweet
undertones that win man's hearts to woman's purposes.

She believed she loved Le Gardeur; but there was no depth in the soil
where a devoted passion could take firm root. Still she was a woman
keenly alive to admiration, jealous and exacting of her suitors, never
willingly letting one loose from her bonds, and with warm passions and
a cold heart was eager for the semblance of love, although never feeling
its divine reality.

The idea of a union with Le Gardeur some day, when she should tire of
the whirl of fashion, had been a pleasant fancy of Angélique. She had
no fear of losing her power over him: she held him by the very
heart-strings, and she knew it. She might procrastinate, play false and
loose, drive him to the very verge of madness by her coquetries, but she
knew she could draw him back, like a bird held by a silken string. She
could excite, if she could not feel, the fire of a passionate love. In
her heart she regarded men as beings created for her service, amazement,
and sport,--to worship her beauty and adorn it with gifts. She took
everything as her due, giving nothing in return. Her love was an empty
shell that never held a kernel of real womanly care for any man.

Amid the sunshine of her fancied love for Le Gardeur had come a day
of eclipse for him, of fresh glory for her. The arrival of the new
Intendant, Bigot, changed the current of Angélique's ambition. His
high rank, his fabulous wealth, his connections with the court, and
his unmarried state, fanned into a flame the secret aspirations of the
proud, ambitious girl. His wit and gallantry captivated her fancy, and
her vanity was full fed by being singled out as the special object of
the Intendant's admiration.

She already indulged in dreams which regarded the Intendant himself as
but a stepping-stone to further greatness. Her vivid fancy, conjured
up scenes of royal splendor, where, introduced by the courtly Bigot,
princes and nobles would follow in her train and the smiles of majesty
itself would distinguish her in the royal halls of Versailles.

Angélique felt she had power to accomplish all this could she but
open the way. The name of Bigot she regarded as the open sesame to all
greatness. "If women rule France by a right more divine than that of
kings, no woman has a better right than I!" said she, gazing into the
mirror before her. "The kingdom should be mine, and death to all other
pretenders! And what is needed after all?" thought she, as she brushed
her golden hair from her temples with a hand firm as it was beautiful.
"It is but to pull down the heart of a man! I have done that many a time
for my pleasure; I will now do it for my profit, and for supremacy over
my jealous and envious sex!"

Angélique was not one to quail when she entered the battle in pursuit
of any object of ambition or fancy. "I never saw the man yet," said she,
"whom I could not bring to my feet if I willed it! The Chevalier Bigot
would be no exception--that is, he would be no exception"--the voice
of Angélique fell into a low, hard monotone as she finished the
sentence--"were he free from the influence of that mysterious woman at
Beaumanoir, who, they say, claims the title of wife by a token which
even Bigot may not disregard! Her pleading eyes may draw his compassion
where they ought to excite his scorn. But men are fools to woman's
faults, and are often held by the very thing women never forgive. While
she crouches there like a lioness in my path the chances are I shall
never be chatelaine of Beaumanoir--never, until she is gone!"

Angélique fell into a deep fit of musing, and murmured to herself, "I
shall never reach Bigot unless she be removed--but how to remove her?"

Ay, that was the riddle of the Sphinx! Angélique's life, as she had
projected it, depended upon the answer to that question.

She trembled with a new feeling; a shiver ran through her veins as if
the cold breath of a spirit of evil had passed over her. A miner, boring
down into the earth, strikes a hidden stone that brings him to a dead
stand. So Angélique struck a hard, dark thought far down in the depths
of her secret soul. She drew it to the light, and gazed on it shocked
and frightened.

"I did not mean that!" cried the startled girl, crossing herself. "Mère
de Dieu! I did not conceive a wicked thought like that! I will not! I
cannot contemplate that!" She shut her eyes, pressing both hands over
them as if resolved not to look at the evil thought that, like a spirit
of darkness, came when evoked, and would not depart when bidden. She
sprang up trembling in every limb, and supporting herself against a
table, seized a gilded carafe and poured out a full goblet of wine,
which she drank. It revived her fainting spirit. She drank another, and
stood up herself again, laughing at her own weakness.

She ran to the window, and looked out into the night. The bright stars
shone overhead; the lights in the street reassured her. The people
passing by and the sound of voices brought back her familiar mood. She
thought no more of the temptation from which she had not prayed to be
delivered, just as the daring skater forgets the depths that underlie
the thin ice over which he skims, careless as a bird in the sunshine.

An hour more was struck by the loud clock of the Recollets. The drums
and bugles of the garrison sounded the signal for the closing of the
gates of the city and the setting of the watch for the night. Presently
the heavy tramp of the patrol was heard in the street. Sober bourgeois
walked briskly home, while belated soldiers ran hastily to get into
their quarters ere the drums ceased beating the tattoo.

The sharp gallop of a horse clattered on the stony pavement, and stopped
suddenly at the door. A light step and the clink of a scabbard rang
on the steps. A familiar rap followed. Angélique, with the infallible
intuition of a woman who recognizes the knock and footstep of her lover
from ten thousand others, sprang up and met Le Gardeur de Repentigny as
he entered the boudoir. She received him with warmth, even fondness, for
she was proud of Le Gardeur and loved him in her secret heart beyond all
the rest of her admirers.

"Welcome, Le Gardeur!" exclaimed she, giving both hands in his: "I knew
you would come; you are welcome as the returned prodigal!"

"Dear Angélique!" repeated he, after kissing her hands with fervor, "the
prodigal was sure to return, he could not live longer on the dry husks
of mere recollections."

"So he rose, and came to the house that is full and overflowing with
welcome for him! It is good of you to come, Le Gardeur! why have you
stayed so long away?" Angélique in the joy of his presence forgot for
the moment her meditated infidelity.

A swift stroke of her hand swept aside her flowing skirts to clear a
place for him upon the sofa, where he sat down beside her.

"This is kind of you, Angélique," said he, "I did not expect so much
condescension after my petulance at the Governor's ball; I was wicked
that night--forgive me."

"The fault was more mine, I doubt, Le Gardeur." Angélique recollected
how she had tormented him on that occasion by capricious slights, while
bounteous of her smiles to others. "I was angry with you because of your
too great devotion to Cecile Tourangeau."

This was not true, but Angélique had no scruple to lie to a lover. She
knew well that it was only from his vexation at her conduct that Le
Gardeur had pretended to renew some long intermitted coquetries with the
fair Cecile. "But why were you wicked at all that night?" inquired she,
with a look of sudden interest, as she caught a red cast in his eye,
that spoke of much dissipation. "You have been ill, Le Gardeur!" But
she knew he had been drinking deep and long, to drown vexation, perhaps,
over her conduct.

"I have not been ill," replied he; "shall I tell you the truth,
Angélique?"

"Always, and all of it! The whole truth and nothing but the truth!" Her
hand rested fondly on his; no word of equivocation was possible under
that mode of putting her lover to the question. "Tell me why you were
wicked that night!"

"Because I loved you to madness, Angélique; and I saw myself thrust from
the first place in your heart, and a new idol set up in my stead. That
is the truth?"

"That is not the truth!" exclaimed she vehemently; "and never will be the
truth if I know myself and you. But you don't know women, Le Gardeur,"
added she, with a smile; "you don't know me, the one woman you ought to
know better than that!"

It is easy to recover affection that is not lost. Angélique knew her
power, and was not indisposed to excess in the exercise of it. "Will
you do something for me, Le Gardeur?" asked she, tapping his fingers
coquettishly with her fan.

"Will I not? Is there anything in earth, heaven, or hell, Angélique, I
would not do for you if I only could win what I covet more than life?"

"What is that?" Angélique knew full well what he coveted more than life;
her own heart began to beat responsively to the passion she had kindled
in his. She nestled up closer to his side. "What is that, Le Gardeur?"

"Your love, Angélique! I have no other hope in life if I miss that! Give
me your love and I will serve you with such loyalty as never man served
woman with since Adam and Eve were created."

It was a rash saying, but Le Gardeur believed it, and Angélique too.
Still she kept her aim before her. "If I give you my love," said she,
pressing her hand through his thick locks, sending from her fingers
a thousand electric fires, "will you really be my knight, my preux
chevalier, to wear my colors and fight my battles with all the world?"

"I will, by all that is sacred in man or woman! Your will shall be my
law, Angélique; your pleasure, my conscience; you shall be to me all
reason and motive for my acts if you will but love me!"

"I do love you, Le Gardeur!" replied she, impetuously. She felt the
vital soul of this man breathing on her cheek. She knew he spoke true,
but she was incapable of measuring the height and immensity of such
a passion. She accepted his love, but she could no more contain the
fulness of his overflowing affection than the pitcher that is held to
the fountain can contain the stream that gushes forth perpetually.

Angélique was ALMOST carried away from her purpose, however. Had her
heart asserted its rightful supremacy--that is, had nature fashioned it
larger and warmer--she had there and then thrown herself into his arms
and blessed him by the consent he sought. She felt assured that here was
the one man God had made for her, and she was cruelly sacrificing him to
a false idol of ambition and vanity. The word he pleaded for hovered
on her tongue, ready like a bird to leap down into his bosom; but she
resolutely beat it back into its iron cage.

The struggle was the old one--old as the race of man. In the losing
battle between the false and true, love rarely comes out of that
conflict unshorn of life or limb. Untrue to him, she was true to her
selfish self. The thought of the Intendant and the glories of
life opening to her closed her heart, not to the pleadings of Le
Gardeur,--them she loved,--but to the granting of his prayer.

The die was cast, but she still clasped hard his hand in hers, as if she
could not let him go. "And will you do all you say, Le Gardeur--make
my will your law, my pleasure your conscience, and let me be to you all
reason and motive? Such devotion terrifies me, Le Gardeur?"

"Try me! Ask of me the hardest thing, nay, the wickedest, that
imagination can conceive or hands do--and I would perform it for your
sake." Le Gardeur was getting beside himself. The magic power of those
dark, flashing eyes of hers was melting all the fine gold of his nature
to folly.

"Fie!" replied she, "I do not ask you to drink the sea: a small thing
would content me. My love is not so exacting as that, Le Gardeur."

"Does your brother need my aid?" asked he. "If he does, he shall have
it to half my fortune for your sake!" Le Gardeur was well aware that the
prodigal brother of Angélique was in a strait for money, as was usual
with him. He had lately importuned Le Gardeur, and obtained a large sum
from him.

She looked up with well-affected indignation. "How can you think such
a thing, Le Gardeur? my brother was not in my thought. It was the
Intendant I wished to ask you about,--you know him better than I."

This was not true. Angélique had studied the Intendant in mind, person,
and estate, weighing him scruple by scruple to the last attainable
atom of information. Not that she had sounded the depths of Bigot's
soul--there were regions of darkness in his character which no eye but
God's ever penetrated. Angélique felt that with all her acuteness she
did not comprehend the Intendant.

"You ask what I think of the Intendant?" asked he, surprised somewhat at
the question.

"Yes--an odd question, is it not, Le Gardeur?" and she smiled away any
surprise he experienced.

"Truly, I think him the most jovial gentleman that ever was in New
France," was the reply; "frank and open-handed to his friends, laughing
and dangerous to his foes. His wit is like his wine, Angélique: one
never tires of either, and no lavishness exhausts it. In a word, I, like
the Intendant, I like his wit, his wine, his friends,--some of them, that
is!--but above all, I like you, Angélique, and will be more his friend
than ever for your sake, since I have learned his generosity towards the
Chevalier des Meloises."

The Intendant had recently bestowed a number of valuable shares in the
Grand Company upon the brother of Angélique, making the fortune of that
extravagant young nobleman.

"I am glad you will be his friend, if only for my sake," added she,
coquettishly. "But some great friends of yours like him not. Your sweet
sister Amélie shrank like a sensitive plant at the mention of his name,
and the Lady de Tilly put on her gravest look to-day when I spoke of the
Chevalier Bigot."

Le Gardeur gave Angélique an equivocal look at mention of his sister.
"My sister Amélie is an angel in the flesh," said he. "A man need be
little less than divine to meet her full approval; and my good aunt has
heard something of the genial life of the Intendant. One may excuse a
reproving shake of her noble head."

"Colonel Philibert too! he shares in the sentiments of your aunt and
sister, to say nothing of the standing hostility of his father, the
Bourgeois," continued Angélique, provoked at Le Gardeur's want of
adhesion.

"Pierre Philibert! He may not like the Intendant: he has reason for not
doing so; but I stake my life upon his honor--he will never be unjust
towards the Intendant or any man." Le Gardeur could not be drawn into a
censure of his friend.

Angélique shielded adroitly the stiletto of innuendo she had drawn. "You
say right," said she, craftily; "Pierre Philibert is a gentleman worthy
of your regard. I confess I have seen no handsomer man in New France.
I have been dreaming of one like him all my life! What a pity I saw you
first, Le Gardeur!" added she, pulling him by the hair.

"I doubt you would throw me to the fishes were Pierre my rival,
Angélique," replied he, merrily; "but I am in no danger: Pierre's
affections are, I fancy, forestalled in a quarter where I need not be
jealous of his success."

"I shall at any rate not be jealous of your sister, Le Gardeur," said
Angélique, raising her face to his, suffused with a blush; "if I do not
give you the love you ask for it is because you have it already; but ask
no more at present from me--this, at least, is yours," said she, kissing
him twice, without prudery or hesitation.

That kiss from those adored lips sealed his fate. It was the
first--better it had been the last, better he had never been born than
have drank the poison of her lips.

"Now answer me my questions, Le Gardeur," added she, after a pause of
soft blandishments.

Le Gardeur felt her fingers playing with his hair, as, like Delilah, she
cut off the seven locks of his strength.

"There is a lady at Beaumanoir; tell me who and what she is, Le
Gardeur," said she.

He would not have hesitated to betray the gate of Heaven at her
prayer; but, as it happened, Le Gardeur could not give her the special
information she wanted as to the particular relation in which that lady
stood to the Intendant. Angélique with wonderful coolness talked away,
and laughed at the idea of the Intendant's gallantry. But she could get
no confirmation of her suspicions from Le Gardeur. Her inquiry was for
the present a failure, but she made Le Gardeur promise to learn what he
could and tell her the result of his inquiries.

They sat long conversing together, until the bell of the Recollets
sounded the hour of midnight. Angélique looked in the face of Le Gardeur
with a meaning smile, as she counted each stroke with her dainty finger
on his cheek. When finished, she sprang up and looked out of the lattice
at the summer night.

The stars were twinkling like living things. Charles's Wain lay inverted
in the northern horizon; Bootes had driven his sparkling herd down the
slope of the western sky. A few thick tresses of her golden hair hung
negligently over her bosom and shoulders. She placed her arm in Le
Gardeur's, hanging heavily upon him as she directed his eyes to the
starry heavens. The selfish schemes she carried in her bosom dropped for
a moment to the ground. Her feet seemed to trample them into the dust,
while she half resolved to be to this man all that he believed her to
be, a true and devoted woman.

"Read my destiny, Le Gardeur," said she, earnestly. "You are a
Seminarist. They say the wise fathers of the Seminary study deeply the
science of the stars, and the students all become adepts in it."

"Would that my starry heaven were more propitious, Angélique," replied
he, gaily kissing her eyes. "I care not for other skies than these! My
fate and fortune are here."

Her bosom heaved with mingled passions. The word of hope and the word
of denial struggled on her lips for mastery. Her blood throbbed quicker
than the beat of the golden pendule on the marble table; but, like a
bird, the good impulse again escaped her grasp.

"Look, Le Gardeur," said she. Her delicate finger pointed at Perseus,
who was ascending the eastern heavens: "there is my star. Mère
Malheur,--you know her,--she once said to me that that was my natal
star, which would rule my life."

Like all whose passions pilot them, Angélique believed in destiny.

Le Gardeur had sipped a few drops of the cup of astrology from the
venerable Professor Vallier. Angélique's finger pointed to the star
Algol--that strange, mutable star that changes from bright to dark with
the hours, and which some believe changes men's hearts to stone.

"Mère Malheur lied!" exclaimed he, placing his arm round her, as if to
protect her from the baleful influence. "That cursed star never presided
over your birth, Angélique! That is the demon star Algol."

Angélique shuddered, and pressed still closer to him, as if in fear.

"Mère Malheur would not tell me the meaning of that star, but bade me,
if a saint, to watch and wait; if a sinner, to watch and pray. What
means Algol, Le Gardeur?" she half faltered.

"Nothing for you, love. A fig for all the stars in the sky! Your bright
eyes outshine them all in radiance, and overpower them in influence.
All the music of the spheres is to me discord compared with the voice of
Angélique des Meloises, whom alone I love!"

As he spoke a strain of heavenly harmony arose from the chapel of the
Convent of the Ursulines, where they were celebrating midnight service
for the safety of New France. Amid the sweet voices that floated up on
the notes of the pealing organ was clearly distinguished that of Mère
St. Borgia, the aunt of Angélique, who led the choir of nuns. In trills
and cadences of divine melody the voice of Mère St. Borgia rose higher
and higher, like a spirit mounting the skies. The words were indistinct,
but Angélique knew them by heart. She had visited her aunt in the
Convent, and had learned the new hymn composed by her for the solemn
occasion.

As they listened with quiet awe to the supplicating strain, Angélique
repeated to Le Gardeur the words of the hymn as it was sung by the choir
of nuns:


     "'Soutenez, grande Reine,
       Notre pauvre pays!
       Il est votre domaine,
       Faites fleurir nos lis!
       L'Anglais sur nos frontières
       Porte ses étendards;
       Exauces nos prières,
       Protégez nos remparts!'"


The hymn ceased. Both stood mute until the watchman cried the hour in
the silent street.

"God bless their holy prayers, and good-night and God bless you,
Angélique!" said Le Gardeur, kissing her. He departed suddenly, leaving
a gift in the hand of Lizette, who courtesied low to him with a smile
of pleasure as he passed out, while Angélique leaned out of the window
listening to his horse's hoofs until the last tap of them died away on
the stony pavement.

She threw herself upon her couch and wept silently. The soft music
had touched her feelings. Le Gardeur's love was like a load of gold,
crushing her with its weight. She could neither carry it onward nor
throw it off. She fell at length into a slumber filled with troubled
dreams. She was in a sandy wilderness, carrying a pitcher of clear, cold
water, and though dying of thirst she would not drink, but perversely
poured it upon the ground. She was falling down into unfathomable
abysses and pushed aside the only hand stretched out to save her. She
was drowning in deep water and she saw Le Gardeur buffeting the waves to
rescue her but she wrenched herself out of his grasp. She would not be
saved, and was lost! Her couch was surrounded with indefinite shapes of
embryo evil.

She fell asleep at last. When she awoke the sun was pouring in her
windows. A fresh breeze shook the trees. The birds sang gaily in the
garden. The street was alive and stirring with people.

It was broad day. Angélique des Meloises was herself again. Her
day-dream of ambition resumed its power. Her night-dream of love was
over. Her fears vanished, her hopes were all alive, and she began to
prepare for a possible morning call from the Chevalier Bigot.



CHAPTER XVII. SPLENDIDE MENDAX.


Amid the ruins of the once magnificent palace of the Intendant, massive
fragments of which still remain to attest its former greatness,
there may still be traced the outline of the room where Bigot walked
restlessly up and down the morning after the Council of War. The
disturbing letters he had received from France on both public and
private affairs irritated him, while it set his fertile brain at work
to devise means at once to satisfy the Marquise de Pompadour and to have
his own way still.

The walls of his cabinet--now bare, shattered, and roofless with the
blasts of six score winters--were hung with portraits of ladies and
statesmen of the day; conspicuous among which was a fine picture from
the pencil of Vanloo of the handsome, voluptuous Marquise de Pompadour.

With a world of faults, that celebrated dame, who ruled France in the
name of Louis XV., made some amends by her persistent good nature and
her love for art. The painter, the architect, the sculptor, and above
all, the men of literature in France, were objects of her sincere
admiration, and her patronage of them was generous to profusion. The
picture of her in the cabinet of the Intendant had been a work of
gratitude by the great artist who painted it, and was presented by her
to Bigot as a mark of her friendship and demi-royal favor. The cabinet
itself was furnished in a style of regal magnificence, which the
Intendant carried into all details of his living.

The Chevalier de Pean, the Secretary and confidential friend of the
Intendant, was writing at a table. He looked up now and then with a
curious glance as the figure of his chief moved to and fro with quick
turns across the room. But neither of them spoke.

Bigot would have been quite content with enriching himself and his
friends, and turning out of doors the crowd of courtly sycophants who
clamored for the plunder of the Colony. He had sense to see that the
course of policy in which he was embarked might eventually ruin New
France,--nay, having its origin in the Court, might undermine the
whole fabric of the monarchy. He consoled himself, however, with the
reflection that it could not be helped. He formed but one link in the
great chain of corruption, and one link could not stand alone: it could
only move by following those which went before and dragging after it
those that came behind. Without debating a useless point of morals,
Bigot quietly resigned himself to the service of his masters, or rather
mistresses, after he had first served himself.

If the enormous plunder made out of the administration of the war by
the great monopoly he had established were suddenly to cease, Bigot felt
that his genius would be put to a severe test. But he had no misgivings,
because he had no scruples. He was not the man to go under in any storm.
He would light upon his feet, as he expressed it, if the world turned
upside down.

Bigot suddenly stopped in his walk. His mind had been dwelling upon
the great affairs of his Intendancy and the mad policy of the Court of
Versailles. A new thought struck him. He turned and looked fixedly at
his Secretary.

"De Pean!" said he. "We have not a sure hold of the Chevalier de
Repentigny! That young fellow plays fast and loose with us. One who
dines with me at the palace and sups with the Philiberts at the Chien
d'Or cannot be a safe partner in the Grand Company!"

"I have small confidence in him, either," replied De Pean. "Le Gardeur
has too many loose ends of respectability hanging about him to make him
a sure hold for our game."

"Just so! Cadet, Varin, and the rest of you, have only half haltered the
young colt. His training so far is no credit to you! The way that cool
bully, Colonel Philibert, walked off with him out of Beaumanoir, was a
sublime specimen of impudence. Ha! Ha! The recollection of it has salted
my meat ever since! It was admirably performed! although, egad, I should
have liked to run my sword through Philibert's ribs! and not one of you
all was man enough to do it for me!"

"But your Excellency gave no hint, you seemed full of politeness towards
Philibert," replied De Pean, with a tone that implied he would have done
it had Bigot given the hint.

"Zounds! as if I do not know it! But it was provoking to be flouted,
so politely too, by that whelp of the Golden Dog! The influence of that
Philibert is immense over young De Repentigny. They say he once pulled
him out of the water, and is, moreover, a suitor of the sister, a
charming girl, De Pean! with no end of money, lands, and family power.
She ought to be secured as well as her brother in the interests of the
Grand Company. A good marriage with one of our party would secure her,
and none of you dare propose, by God!"

"It is useless to think of proposing to her," replied De Pean. "I know
the proud minx. She is one of the angelic ones who regard marriage as a
thing of Heaven's arrangement. She believes God never makes but one
man for one woman, and it is her duty to marry him or nobody. It is
whispered among the knowing girls who went to school with her at the
Convent,--and the Convent girls do know everything, and something
more,--that she always cherished a secret affection for this Philibert,
and that she will marry him some day."

"Marry Satan! Such a girl as that to marry a cursed Philibert!" Bigot
was really irritated at the information. "I think," said he, "women are
ever ready to sail in the ships of Tarshish, so long as the cargo is
gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks! It speaks ill for the boasted
gallantry of the Grand Company if not one of them can win this girl. If
we could gain her over we should have no difficulty with the brother,
and the point is to secure him."

"There is but one way I can see, your Excellency." De Pean did not
appear to make his suggestion very cheerfully, but he was anxious to
please the Intendant.

"How is that?" the Intendant asked sharply. He had not the deepest sense
of De Pean's wisdom.

"We must call in woman to fight woman in the interests of the Company,"
replied the Secretary.

"A good scheme if one could be got to fight and win! But do you know any
woman who can lay her fingers on Le Gardeur de Repentigny and pull him
out from among the Honnêtes Gens?"

"I do, your Excellency. I know the very one can do it," replied De Pean
confidently.

"You do! Why do you hesitate then? Have you any arrière pensée
that keeps you from telling her name at once?" asked the Intendant
impatiently.

"It is Mademoiselle des Meloises. She can do it, and no other woman in
New France need try!" replied De Pean.

"Why, she is a clipper, certainly! Bright eyes like hers rule the world
of fools--and of wise men, too," added Bigot in a parenthesis. "However,
all the world is caught by that bird-lime. I confess I never made a
fool of myself but a woman was at the bottom of it. But for one who has
tripped me up, I have taken sweet revenge on a thousand. If Le Gardeur
be entangled in Nerea's hair, he is safe in our toils. Do you think
Angélique is at home, De Pean?"

The Intendant looked up at the clock. It was the usual hour for morning
calls in Quebec.

"Doubtless she is at home at this hour, your Excellency," replied
De Pean. "But she likes her bed, as other pretty women do, and is
practising for the petite levée, like a duchess. I don't suppose she is
up!"

"I don't know that," replied Bigot. "A greater runagate in petticoats
there is not in the whole city! I never pass through the streets but I
see her."

"Ay, that is because she intends to meet your Excellency!" Bigot looked
sharply at De Pean. A new thought flashed in his eyes.

"What! think you she makes a point of it, De Pean?"

"I think she would not go out of the way of your Excellency." De Pean
shuffled among his papers, but his slight agitation was noticed by the
Intendant.

"Hum! is that your thought, De Pean? Looks she in this quarter?" Bigot
meditated with his hand on his chin for a moment or two. "You think she
is doubtless at home this morning?" added he.

"It was late when De Repentigny left her last night, and she would
have long and pleasant dreams after that visit, I warrant," replied the
Secretary.

"How do you know? By St. Picot! You watch her closely, De Pean!"

"I do, your Excellency: I have reason," was the reply.

De Pean did not say what his reason for watching Angélique was; neither
did Bigot ask. The Intendant cared not to pry into the personal matters
of his friends. He had himself too much to conceal not to respect the
secrets of his associates.

"Well, De Pean! I will wait on Mademoiselle des Meloises this morning.
I will act on your suggestion, and trust I shall not find her
unreasonable."

"I hope your Excellency will not find her unreasonable, but I know you
will, for if ever the devil of contradiction was in a woman he is in
Angélique des Meloises!" replied De Pean savagely, as if he spoke from
some experience of his own.

"Well, I will try to cast out that devil by the power of a still
stronger one. Ring for my horse, De Pean!"

The Secretary obeyed and ordered the horse. "Mind, De Pean!" continued
the Intendant. "The Board of the Grand Company meet at three for
business! actual business! not a drop of wine upon the table, and all
sober! not even Cadet shall come in if he shows one streak of the grape
on his broad face. There is a storm of peace coming over us, and it is
necessary to shorten sail, take soundings, and see where we are, or we
may strike on a rock."

The Intendant left the palace attended by a couple of equerries. He rode
through the palace gate and into the city. Habitans and citizens bowed
to him out of habitual respect for their superiors. Bigot returned their
salutations with official brevity, but his dark face broke into sunshine
as he passed ladies and citizens whom he knew as partners of the Grand
Company or partizans of his own faction.

As he rode rapidly through the streets many an ill wish followed him,
until he dismounted before the mansion of the Des Meloises.

"As I live, it is the Royal Intendant himself," screamed Lizette, as she
ran, out of breath, to inform her mistress, who was sitting alone in the
summer-house in the garden behind the mansion, a pretty spot tastefully
laid out with flower beds and statuary. A thick hedge of privet,
cut into fantastic shapes by some disciple of the school of Lenôtre,
screened it from the slopes that ran up towards the green glacis of Cape
Diamond.

Angélique looked beautiful as Hebe the golden-haired, as she sat in the
arbor this morning. Her light morning dress of softest texture fell in
graceful folds about her exquisite form. She held a Book of Hours in her
hand, but she had not once opened it since she sat down. Her dark eyes
looked not soft, nor kindly, but bright, defiant, wanton, and even
wicked in their expression, like the eyes of an Arab steed, whipped,
spurred, and brought to a desperate leap--it may clear the wall before
it, or may dash itself dead against the stones. Such was the temper of
Angélique this morning.

Hard thoughts and many respecting the Lady of Beaumanoir, fond almost
savage regret at her meditated rejection of De Repentigny, glittering
images of the royal Intendant and of the splendors of Versailles, passed
in rapid succession through her brain, forming a phantasmagoria in which
she colored everything according to her own fancy. The words of her maid
roused her in an instant.

"Admit the Intendant and show him into the garden, Lizette. Now!" said
she, "I shall end my doubts about that lady! I will test the Intendant's
sincerity,--cold, calculating woman-slayer that he is! It shames me to
contrast his half-heartedness with the perfect adoration of my handsome
Le Gardeur de Repentigny!"

The Intendant entered the garden. Angélique, with that complete
self-control which distinguishes a woman of half a heart or no heart at
all, changed her whole demeanor in a moment from gravity to gayety.
Her eyes flashed out pleasure, and her dimples went and came, as she
welcomed the Intendant to her arbor.

"A friend is never so welcome as when he comes of his own accord!"
said she, presenting her hand to the Intendant, who took it with
empressement. She made room for him on the seat beside her, dashing her
skirts aside somewhat ostentatiously.

Bigot looked at her admiringly. He thought he had never seen, in
painting, statuary, or living form, a more beautiful and fascinating
woman.

Angélique accepted his admiration as her due, feeling no thanks, but
looking many.

"The Chevalier Bigot does not lose his politeness, however long he
absents himself!" said she, with a glance like a Parthian arrow well
aimed to strike home.

"I have been hunting at Beaumanoir," replied he extenuatingly; "that
must explain, not excuse, my apparent neglect." Bigot felt that he had
really been a loser by his absence.

"Hunting! indeed!" Angélique affected a touch of surprise, as if she
had not known every tittle of gossip about the gay party and all their
doings at the Château. "They say game is growing scarce near the city,
Chevalier," continued she nonchalantly, "and that a hunting party at
Beaumanoir is but a pretty menotomy for a party of pleasure is that
true?"

"Quite true, mademoiselle," replied he, laughing. "The two things are
perfectly compatible,--like a brace of lovers, all the better for being
made one."

"Very gallantly said!" retorted she, with a ripple of dangerous
laughter. "I will carry the comparison no farther. Still, I wager,
Chevalier, that the game is not worth the hunt."

"The play is always worth the candle, in my fancy," said he, with a
glance of meaning; "but there is really good game yet in Beaumanoir,
as you will confess, Mademoiselle, if you will honor our party some day
with your presence."

"Come now, Chevalier," replied she, fixing him mischievously with her
eyes, "tell me, what game do you find in the forest of Beaumanoir?"

"Oh! rabbits, hares, and deer, with now and then a rough bear to try the
mettle of our chasseurs."

"What! no foxes to cheat foolish crows? no wolves to devour pretty Red
Riding Hoods straying in the forest? Come, Chevalier, there is better
game than all that," said she.

"Oh, yes!" he half surmised she was rallying him now--"plenty, but we
don't wind horns after them."

"They say," continued she, "there is much fairer game than bird or beast
in the forest of Beaumanoir, Chevalier." She went on recklessly, "Stray
lambs are picked up by intendants sometimes, and carried tenderly to the
Château! The Intendant comprehends a gentleman's devoirs to our sex, I
am sure."

Bigot understood her now, and gave an angry start. Angélique did not
shrink from the temper she had evoked.

"Heavens! how you look, Chevalier!" said she, in a tone of half banter.
"One would think I had accused you of murder instead of saving a
fair lady's life in the forest; although woman-killing is no murder I
believe, by the laws of gallantry, as read by gentlemen--of fashion."

Bigot rose up with a hasty gesture of impatience and sat down again.
After all, he thought, what could this girl know about Caroline de St.
Castin? He answered her with an appearance of frankness, deeming that to
be the best policy.

"Yes, Mademoiselle, I one day found a poor suffering woman in the
forest. I took her to the Château, where she now is. Many ladies beside
her have been to Beaumanoir. Many more will yet come and go, until I
end my bachelordom and place one there in perpetuity as 'mistress of my
heart and home,' as the song says."

Angélique could coquette in half-meanings with any lady of honor at
Court. "Well, Chevalier, it will be your fault not to find one fit to
place there. They walk every street of the city. But they say this lost
and found lady is a stranger?"

"To me she is--not to you, perhaps, Mademoiselle!"

The fine ear of Angélique detected the strain of hypocrisy in his
speech. It touched a sensitive nerve. She spoke boldly now.

"Some say she is your wife, Chevalier Bigot!" Angélique gave vent to a
feeling long pent-up. She who trifled with men's hearts every day was
indignant at the least symptom of repayment in kind. "They say she is
your wife or, if not your wife, she ought to be, Chevalier,--and will
be, perhaps, one of these fine days, when you have wearied of the
distressed damsels of the city."

It had been better for Bigot, better for Angélique, that these two could
have frankly understood each other. Bigot, in his sudden admiration of
the beauty of this girl, forgot that his object in coming to see her
had really been to promote a marriage, in the interests of the Grand
Company, between her and Le Gardeur. Her witcheries had been too potent
for the man of pleasure. He was himself caught in the net he spread for
another. The adroit bird-catching of Angélique was too much for him in
the beginning: Bigot's tact and consummate heartlessness with women,
might be too much for her in the end. At the present moment he was
fairly dazzled with her beauty, spirit, and seductiveness.

"I am a simple quail," thought he, "to be caught by her piping. Par
Dieu! I am going to make a fool of myself if I do not take care! Such
a woman as this I have not found between Paris and Naples. The man who
gets her, and knows how to use her, might be Prime Minister of France.
And to fancy it--I came here to pick this sweet chestnut out of the fire
for Le Gardeur de Repentigny! François Bigot! as a man of gallantry and
fashion I am ashamed of you!"

These were his thoughts, but in words he replied, "The lady of
Beaumanoir is not my wife, perhaps never will be." Angélique's eager
question fell on very unproductive ground.

Angélique repeated the word superciliously. "'Perhaps!' 'Perhaps' in the
mouth of a woman is consent half won; in the mouth of a man I know it
has a laxer meaning. Love has nothing to say to 'perhaps': it is will or
shall, and takes no 'perhaps' though a thousand times repeated!

"And you intend to marry this treasure trove of the forest--perhaps?"
continued Angélique, tapping the ground with a daintier foot than the
Intendant had ever seen before.

"It depends much on you, Mademoiselle des Meloises," said he. "Had you
been my treasure-trove, there had been no 'perhaps' about it." Bigot
spoke bluntly, and to Angélique it sounded like sincerity. Her dreams
were accomplished. She trembled with the intensity of her gratification,
and felt no repugnance at his familiar address.

The Intendant held out his hand as he uttered the dulcet flattery, and
she placed her hand in his, but it was cold and passionless. Her heart
did not send the blood leaping into her finger-ends as when they were
held in the loving grasp of Le Gardeur.

"Angélique!" said he. It was the first time the Intendant had called her
by her name. She started. It was the unlocking of his heart she
thought, and she looked at him with a smile which she had practised with
infallible effect upon many a foolish admirer.

"Angélique, I have seen no woman like you, in New France or in Old; you
are fit to adorn a Court, and I predict you will--if--if--"

"If what, Chevalier?" Her eyes fairly blazed with vanity and pleasure.
"Cannot one adorn Courts, at least French Courts, without if's?"

"You can, if you choose to do so," replied he, looking at her
admiringly; for her whole countenance flashed intense pleasure at his
remark.

"If I choose to do so? I do choose to do so! But who is to show me the
way to the Court, Chevalier? It is a long and weary distance from New
France."

"I will show you the way, if you will permit me, Angélique: Versailles
is the only fitting theatre for the display of beauty and spirit like
yours."

Angélique thoroughly believed this, and for a few moments was dazzled
and overpowered by the thought of the golden doors of her ambition
opened by the hand of the Intendant. A train of images, full-winged
and as gorgeous as birds of paradise, flashed across her vision. La
Pompadour was getting old, men said, and the King was already casting
his eyes round the circle of more youthful beauties in his Court for a
successor. "And what woman in the world," thought she, "could vie with
Angélique des Meloises if she chose to enter the arena to supplant La
Pompadour? Nay, more! If the prize of the King were her lot, she would
outdo La Maintenon herself, and end by sitting on the throne."

Angélique was not, however, a milkmaid to say yes before she was asked.
She knew her value, and had a natural distrust of the Intendant's
gallant speeches. Moreover, the shadow of the lady of Beaumanoir would
not wholly disappear. "Why do you say such flattering things to me,
Chevalier?" asked she. "One takes them for earnest coming from the Royal
Intendant. You should leave trifling to the idle young men of the city,
who have no business to employ them but gallanting us women."

"Trifling! By St. Jeanne de Choisy, I was never more in earnest,
Mademoiselle!" exclaimed Bigot. "I offer you the entire devotion of
my heart." St. Jeanne de Choisy was the sobriquet in the petits
appartements for La Pompadour. Angélique knew it very well, although
Bigot thought she did not.

"Fair words are like flowers, Chevalier," replied she, "sweet to smell
and pretty to look at; but love feeds on ripe fruit. Will you prove your
devotion to me if I put it to the test?"

"Most willingly, Angélique!" Bigot thought she contemplated some idle
freak that might try his gallantry, perhaps his purse. But she was in
earnest, if he was not.

"I ask, then, the Chevalier Bigot that before he speaks to me again of
love or devotion, he shall remove that lady, whoever she may be, from
Beaumanoir!" Angélique sat erect, and looked at him with a long, fixed
look, as she said this.

"Remove that lady from Beaumanoir!" exclaimed he in complete surprise;
"surely that poor shadow does not prevent your accepting my devotion,
Angélique?"

"Yes, but it does, Chevalier! I like bold men. Most women do, but I did
not think that even the Intendant of New France was bold enough to
make love to Angélique des Meloises while he kept a wife or mistress in
stately seclusion at Beaumanoir!"

Bigot cursed the shrewishness and innate jealousy of the sex, which
would not content itself with just so much of a man's favor as he chose
to bestow, but must ever want to rule single and alone. "Every woman is
a despot," thought he, "and has no mercy upon pretenders to her throne."

"That lady," replied he, "is neither wife nor mistress, Mademoiselle:
she sought the shelter of my roof with a claim upon the hospitality of
Beaumanoir.

"No doubt"--Angélique's nostril quivered with a fine disdain--"the
hospitality of Beaumanoir is as broad and comprehensive as its master's
admiration for our sex!" said she.

Bigot was not angry. He gave a loud laugh. "You women are merciless upon
each other, Mademoiselle!" said he.

"Men are more merciless to women when they beguile us with insincere
professions," replied she, rising up in well-affected indignation.

"Not so, Mademoiselle!" Bigot began to feel annoyed. "That lady is
nothing to me," said he, without rising as she had done. He kept his
seat.

"But she has been! you have loved her at some time or other! and she is
now living on the scraps and leavings of former affection. I am never
deceived, Chevalier!" continued she, glancing down at him, a wild light
playing under her long eyelashes like the illumined under-edge of a
thundercloud.

"But how in St. Picot's name did you arrive at all this knowledge,
Mademoiselle?" Bigot began to see that there was nothing for it but
to comply with every caprice of this incomprehensible girl if he would
carry his point.

"Oh, nothing is easier than for a woman to divine the truth in such
matters, Chevalier," said she. "It is a sixth sense given to our sex to
protect our weakness: no man can make love to two women but each of them
knows instinctively to her finger-tips that he is doing it."

"Surely woman is a beautiful book written in golden letters, but in a
tongue as hard to understand as hieroglyphics of Egypt." Bigot was quite
puzzled how to proceed with this incomprehensible girl.

"Thanks for the comparison, Chevalier," replied she, with a laugh. "It
would not do for men to scrutinize us too closely, yet one woman reads
another easily as a horn-book of Troyes, which they say is so easy that
the children read it without learning."

To boldly set at defiance a man who had boasted a long career of success
was the way to rouse his pride, and determine him to overcome her
resistance. Angélique was not mistaken. Bigot saw her resolution, and,
although it was with a mental reservation to deceive her, he promised to
banish Caroline from his château.

"It was always my good fortune to be conquered in every passage of arms
with your sex, Angélique," said he, at once radiant and submissive. "Sit
down by me in token of amity."

She complied without hesitation, and sat down by him, gave him her
hand again, and replied with an arch smile, while a thousand inimitable
coquetries played about her eyes and lips, "You speak now like an amant
magnifique, Chevalier!


     "'Quelque fort qu'on s'en defende,
       Il y faut venir un jour!'"


"It is a bargain henceforth and forever, Angélique!" said he; "but I am
a harder man than you imagine: I give nothing for nothing, and all for
everything. Will you consent to aid me and the Grand Company in a matter
of importance?"

"Will I not? What a question, Chevalier! Most willingly I will aid you
in anything proper for a lady to do!" added she, with a touch of irony.

"I wish you to do it, right or wrong, proper or improper, although
there is no impropriety in it. Improper becomes proper if you do it,
Mademoiselle!"

"Well, what is it, Chevalier,--this fearful test to prove my loyalty to
the Grand Company, and which makes you such a matchless flatterer?"

"Just this, Angélique!" replied he. "You have much influence with the
Seigneur de Repentigny?"

Angélique colored up to the eyes. "With Le Gardeur! What of him? I can
take no part against the Seigneur de Repentigny;" said she, hastily.

"Against him? For him! We fear much that he is about to fall into the
hands of the Honnêtes Gens: you can prevent it if you will, Angélique?"

"I have an honest regard for the Seigneur de Repentigny!" said she, more
in answer to her own feelings than to the Intendant's remark--her cheek
flushed, her fingers twitched nervously at her fan, which she broke in
her agitation and threw the pieces vehemently upon the ground. "I have
done harm enough to Le Gardeur I fear," continued she. "I had better not
interfere with him any more! Who knows what might result?" She looked up
almost warningly at the Intendant.

"I am glad to find you so sincere a friend to Le Gardeur," remarked
Bigot, craftily. "You will be glad to learn that our intention is to
elevate him to a high and lucrative office in the administration of
the Company, unless the Honnêtes Gens are before us in gaining full
possession of him."

"They shall not be before us if I can prevent it, Chevalier," replied
she, warmly. She was indeed grateful for the implied compliment to
Le Gardeur. "No one will be better pleased at his good fortune than
myself."

"I thought so. It was partly my business to tell you of our intentions
towards Le Gardeur."

"Indeed!" replied she, in a tone of pique. "I flattered myself your
visit was all on my own account, Chevalier."

"So it was." Bigot felt himself on rather soft ground. "Your brother,
the Chevalier des Meloises, has doubtless consulted you upon the plan of
life he has sketched out for both of you?"

"My good brother sketches so many plans of life that I really am not
certain I know the one you refer to." She guessed what was coming, and
held her breath hard until she heard the reply.

"Well, you of course know that his plan of life depends mainly upon an
alliance between yourself and the Chevalier de Repentigny."

She gave vent to her anger and disappointment. She rose up suddenly,
and, grasping the Intendant's arm fiercely, turned him half round in
her vehemence. "Chevalier Bigot! did you come here to propose for me on
behalf of Le Gardeur de Repentigny?"

"Pardon me, Mademoiselle; it is no proposal of mine,--on behalf of Le
Gardeur. I sanctioned his promotion. Your brother, and the Grand Company
generally, would prefer the alliance. I don't!" He said this with a
tone of meaning which Angélique was acute enough to see implied Bigot's
unwillingness to her marrying any man--but himself, was the addendum she
at once placed to his credit. "I regret I mentioned it," continued he,
blandly, "if it be contrary to your wishes."

"It is contrary to my wishes," replied she, relaxing her clutch of his
arm. "Le Gardeur de Repentigny can speak for himself. I will not allow
even my brother to suggest it; still less will I discuss such a subject
with the Chevalier Bigot."

"I hope you will pardon me, Mademoiselle--I will not call you Angélique
until you are pleased with me again. To be sure, I should never have
forgiven you had you conformed to your brother's wishes. It was what I
feared might happen, and I--I wished to try you; that was all!"

"It is dangerous trying me, Chevalier," replied she, resuming her seat
with some heat. "Don't try me again, or I shall take Le Gardeur out of
pure SPITE," she said. Pure love was in her mind, but the other word
came from her lips. "I will do all I can to rescue him from the Honnêtes
Gens, but not by marrying him, Chevalier,--at present."

They seemed to understand each other fully. "It is over with now," said
Bigot. "I swear to you, Angélique, I did not mean to offend you,--you
cut deep."

"Pshaw!" retorted she, smiling. "Wounds by a lady are easily cured: they
seldom leave a mark behind, a month after."

"I don't know that. The slight repulse of a lady's finger--a touch
that would not crush a gnat--will sometimes kill a strong man like a
sword-stroke. I have known such things to happen," said Bigot.

"Well, happily, my touch has not hurt you, Chevalier. But, having
vindicated myself, I feel I owe you reparation. You speak of rescuing Le
Gardeur from the Honnêtes Gens. In what way can I aid you?"

"In many ways and all ways. Withdraw him from them. The great festival
at the Philiberts--when is it to be?"

"To-morrow! See, they have honored me with a special invitation." She
drew a note from her pocket. "This is very polite of Colonel Philibert,
is it not?" said she.

Bigot glanced superciliously at the note. "Do you mean to go,
Angélique?" asked he.

"No; although, had I no feelings but my own to consult, I would
certainly go."

"Whose feelings do you consult, Angélique," asked the Intendant, "if not
your own?"

"Oh, don't be flattered,--the Grand Company's! I am loyal to the
association without respect to persons."

"So much the better," said he. "By the way, it would not be amiss to
keep Le Gardeur away from the festival. These Philiberts and the heads
of the Honnêtes Gens have great sway over him."

"Naturally; they are all his own kith and kin. But I will draw him away,
if you desire it. I cannot prevent his going, but I can find means
to prevent his staying!" added she, with a smile of confidence in her
power.

"That will do, Angélique,--anything to make a breach between them!"

While there were abysses in Bigot's mind which Angélique could not
fathom, as little did Bigot suspect that, when Angélique seemed to
flatter him by yielding to his suggestions, she was following out a
course she had already decided upon in her own mind from the moment she
had learned that Cecile Tourangeau was to be at the festival of Belmont,
with unlimited opportunities of explanation with Le Gardeur as to her
treatment by Angélique.

The Intendant, after some pleasant badinage, rose and took his
departure, leaving Angélique agitated, puzzled, and dissatisfied, on the
whole, with his visit. She reclined on the seat, resting her head on her
hand for a long time,--in appearance the idlest, in reality the busiest,
brain of any girl in the city of Quebec. She felt she had much to do,--a
great sacrifice to make,--but firmly resolved, at whatever cost, to go
through with it; for, after all, the sacrifice was for herself, and not
for others.



CHAPTER XVIII. THE MEROVINGIAN PRINCESS.


The interior of the Cathedral of St. Marie seemed like another world, in
comparison with the noisy, bustling Market Place in front of it.

The garish sunshine poured hot and oppressive in the square outside, but
was shorn of its strength as it passed through the painted windows of
the Cathedral, filling the vast interior with a cool, dim, religious
light, broken by tall shafts of columns, which swelled out into ornate
capitals, supporting a lofty ceiling, on which was painted the open
heavens with saints and angels adoring the Lord.

A lofty arch of cunning work overlaid with gold, the masterpiece of Le
Vasseur, spanned the chancel, like the rainbow round the throne. Lights
were burning on the altar, incense went up in spirals to the roof; and
through the wavering cloud the saints and angels seemed to look down
with living faces upon the crowd of worshippers who knelt upon the broad
floor of the church.

It was the hour of Vespers. The voice of the priest was answered by the
deep peal of the organ and the chanting of the choir. The vast edifice
was filled with harmony, in the pauses of which the ear seemed to catch
the sound of the river of life as it flows out of the throne of God and
the Lamb.

The demeanor of the crowd of worshippers was quiet and reverential. A
few gay groups, however, whose occupation was mainly to see and be seen,
exchanged the idle gossip of the day with such of their friends as they
met there. The fee of a prayer or two did not seem excessive for the
pleasure, and it was soon paid.

The perron outside was a favorite resort of the gallants of fashion at
the hour of Vespers, whose practice it was to salute the ladies of their
acquaintance at the door by sprinkling their dainty fingers with holy
water. Religion combined with gallantry is a form of devotion not quite
obsolete at the present day, and at the same place.

The church door was the recognized spot for meeting, gossip, business,
love-making, and announcements; old friends stopped to talk over the
news, merchants their commercial prospects. It was at once the Bourse
and the Royal Exchange of Quebec: there were promulgated, by the brazen
lungs of the city crier, royal proclamations of the Governor, edicts
of the Intendant, orders of the Court of Justice, vendues public and
private,--in short, the life and stir of the city of Quebec seemed to
flow about the door of St. Marie as the blood through the heart of a
healthy man.

A few old trees, relics of the primeval forest, had been left for shade
and ornament in the great Market Place. A little rivulet of clear water
ran sparkling down the slope of the square, where every day the shadow
of the cross of the tall steeple lay over it like a benediction.

A couple of young men, fashionably dressed, loitered this afternoon near
the great door of the Convent in the narrow Street that runs into the
great square of the market. They walked about with short, impatient
turns, occasionally glancing at the clock of the Recollets, visible
through the tall elms that bounded the garden of the Gray Friars.
Presently the door of the Convent opened. Half a dozen gaily-attired
young ladies, internes or pupils of the Convent, sallied out. They had
exchanged their conventual dress for their usual outside attire, and got
leave to go out into the world on some errand, real or pretended, for
one hour and no more.

They tripped lightly down the broad steps, and were instantly joined
by the young men who had been waiting for them. After a hasty, merry
hand-shaking, the whole party proceeded in great glee towards the Market
Place, where the shops of the mercers and confectioners offered the
attractions they sought. They went on purchasing bonbons and ribbons
from one shop to another until they reached the Cathedral, when a common
impulse seized them to see who was there. They flew up the steps and
disappeared in the church.

In the midst of their devotions, as they knelt upon the floor, the
sharp eyes of the young ladies were caught by gesticulations of the
well-gloved hand of the Chevalier des Meloises, as he saluted them
across the aisle.

The hurried recitation of an Ave or two had quite satisfied the
devotion of the Chevalier, and he looked round the church with an air of
condescension, criticizing the music and peering into the faces of such
of the ladies as looked up, and many did so, to return his scrutiny.

The young ladies encountered him in the aisle as they left the church
before the service was finished. It had long since been finished for
him, and was finished for the young ladies also when they had satisfied
their curiosity to see who was there and who with whom.

"We cannot pray for you any longer, Chevalier des Meloises!" said one of
the gayest of the group; "the Lady Superior has economically granted us
but one hour in the city to make our purchases and attend Vespers. Out
of that hour we can only steal forty minutes for a promenade through the
city, so good-by, if you prefer the church to our company, or come with
us and you shall escort two of us. You see we have only a couple of
gentlemen to six ladies."

"I much prefer your company, Mademoiselle de Brouague!" replied he
gallantly, forgetting the important meeting of the managers of the
Grand Company at the Palace. The business, however, was being cleverly
transacted without his help.

Louise de Brouague had no great esteem for the Chevalier des
Meloises, but, as she remarked to a companion, he made rather a neat
walking-stick, if a young lady could procure no better to promenade
with.

"We come out in full force to-day, Chevalier," said she, with a merry
glance round the group of lively girls. "A glorious sample of the famous
class of the Louises, are we not?"

"Glorious! superb! incomparable!" the Chevalier replied, as he inspected
them archly through his glass. "But how did you manage to get out?
One Louise at a time is enough to storm the city, but six of them at
once--the Lady Superior is full of mercy to-day."

"Oh! is she? Listen: we should not have got permission to come out
to-day had we not first laid siege to the soft heart of Mère des
Seraphins. She it was who interceded for us, and lo! here we are, ready
for any adventure that may befall errant demoiselles in the streets of
Quebec!"

Well might the fair Louise de Brouague boast of the famous class of "the
Louises," all composed of young ladies of that name, distinguished for
beauty, rank, and fashion in the world of New France.

Prominent among them at that period was the beautiful, gay Louise
de Brouague. In the full maturity of her charms, as the wife of the
Chevalier de Lery she accompanied her husband to England after the
cession of Canada, and went to Court to pay homage to their new
sovereign, George III., when the young king, struck with her grace and
beauty, gallantly exclaimed,--

"If the ladies of Canada are as handsome as you, I have indeed made a
conquest!"

To escort young ladies, internes of the Convent, when granted permission
to go out into the city, was a favorite pastime, truly a labor of love,
of the young gallants of that day,--an occupation, if very idle, at
least very agreeable to those participating in these stolen promenades,
and which have not, perhaps, been altogether discontinued in Quebec even
to the present day.

The pious nuns were of course entirely ignorant of the contrivances
of their fair pupils to amuse themselves in the city. At any rate they
good-naturedly overlooked things they could not quite prevent. They had
human hearts still under their snowy wimples, and perhaps did not wholly
lack womanly sympathy with the dear girls in their charge.

"Why are you not at Belmont to-day, Chevalier des Meloises?" boldly
asked Louise Roy, a fearless little questioner in a gay summer robe.
She was pretty, and sprightly as Titania. Her long chestnut hair was
the marvel and boast of the Convent and, what she prized more, the
admiration of the city. It covered her like a veil down to her knees
when she chose to let it down in a flood of splendor. Her deep gray eyes
contained wells of womanly wisdom. Her skin, fair as a lily of Artois,
had borrowed from the sun five or six faint freckles, just to prove the
purity of her blood and distract the eye with a variety of charms. The
Merovingian Princess, the long-haired daughter of kings, as she was
fondly styled by the nuns, queened it wherever she went by right divine
of youth, wit, and beauty.

"I should not have had the felicity of meeting you, Mademoiselle Roy,
had I gone to Belmont," replied the Chevalier, not liking the question
at all. "I preferred not to go."

"You are always so polite and complimentary," replied she, a trace of
pout visible on her pretty lips. "I do not see how any one could stay
away who was at liberty to go to Belmont! And the whole city has gone,
I am sure! for I see nobody in the street!" She held an eye-glass
coquettishly to her eye. "Nobody at all!" repeated she. Her companions
accused her afterwards of glancing equivocally at the Chevalier as she
made this remark; and she answered with a merry laugh that might imply
either assent or denial.

"Had you heard in the Convent of the festival at Belmont, Mademoiselle
Roy?" asked he, twirling his cane rather majestically.

"We have heard of nothing else and talked of nothing else for a whole
week!" replied she. "Our mistresses have been in a state of distraction
trying to stop our incessant whispering in the school instead of minding
our lessons like good girls trying to earn good conduct marks! The
feast, the ball, the dresses, the company, beat learning out of our
heads and hearts! Only fancy, Chevalier," she went on in her voluble
manner; "Louise de Beaujeu here was asked to give the Latin name for
Heaven, and she at once translated it Belmont!"

"Tell no school tales, Mademoiselle Roy!" retorted Louise de Beaujeu,
her black eyes flashing with merriment. "It was a good translation! But
who was it stumbled in the Greek class when asked for the proper name of
the anax andron, the king of men in the Iliad?" Louise Roy looked archly
and said defiantly, "Go on!" "Would you believe it, Chevalier, she
replied 'Pierre Philibert!' Mère Christine fairly gasped, but Louise had
to kiss the floor as a penance for pronouncing a gentleman's name with
such unction."

"And if I did I paid my penance heartily and loudly, as you may
recollect, Louise de Beaujeu, although I confess I would have preferred
kissing Pierre Philibert himself if I had had my choice!"

"Always her way! won't give in! never! Louise Roy stands by her
translation in spite of all the Greek Lexicons in the Convent!"
exclaimed Louise de Brouague.

"And so I do, and will; and Pierre Philibert is the king of men, in New
France or Old! Ask Amélie de Repentigny!" added she, in a half whisper
to her companion.

"Oh, she will swear to it any day!" was the saucy reply of Louise de
Brouague. "But without whispering it, Chevalier des Meloises," continued
she, "the classes in the Convent have all gone wild in his favor since
they learned he was in love with one of our late companions in school.
He is the Prince Camaralzaman of our fairy tales."

"Who is that?" The Chevalier spoke tartly, rather. He was excessively
annoyed at all this enthusiasm in behalf of Pierre Philibert.

"Nay, I will tell no more fairy tales out of school, but I assure you,
if our wishes had wings the whole class of Louises would fly away to
Belmont to-day like a flock of ring-doves."

Louise de Brouague noticed the pique of the Chevalier at the mention
of Philibert, but in that spirit of petty torment with which her sex
avenges small slights she continued to irritate the vanity of the
Chevalier, whom in her heart she despised.

His politeness nearly gave way. He was thoroughly disgusted with all
this lavish praise of Philibert. He suddenly recollected that he had an
appointment at the Palace which would prevent him, he said, enjoying the
full hour of absence granted to the Greek class of the Ursulines.

"Mademoiselle Angélique has of course gone to Belmont, if pressing
engagements prevent YOU, Chevalier," said Louise Roy. "How provoking it
must be to have business to look after when one wants to enjoy life!"
The Chevalier half spun round on his heel under the quizzing of Louise's
eye-glass.

"No, Angélique has not gone to Belmont," replied he, quite piqued.
"She very properly declined to mingle with the Messieurs and Mesdames
Jourdains who consort with the Bourgeois Philibert! She was preparing
for a ride, and the city really seems all the gayer by the absence of so
many commonplace people as have gone out to Belmont."

Louise de Brouague's eyes gave a few flashes of indignation. "Fie,
Chevalier! that was naughtily said of you about the good Bourgeois and
his friends," exclaimed she, impetuously. "Why, the Governor, the Lady
de Tilly and her niece, the Chevalier La Corne St. Luc, Hortense and
Claude de Beauharnais, and I know not how many more of the very élite of
society have gone to do honor to Colonel Philibert! And as for the
girls in the Convent, who you will allow are the most important and
most select portion of the community, there is not one of us but would
willingly jump out of the window, and do penance on dry bread and salt
fish for a month, just for one hour's pleasure at the ball this evening,
would we not, Louises?"

Not a Louise present but assented with an emphasis that brought
sympathetic smiles upon the faces of the two young chevaliers who had
watched all this pretty play.

The Chevalier des Meloises bowed very low. "I regret so much, ladies, to
have to leave you! but affairs of State, you know--affairs of State!
The Intendant will not proceed without a full board: I must attend the
meeting to-day at the Palace."

"Oh, assuredly, Chevalier," replied Louise Roy. "What would become of
the Nation, what would become of the world, nay, what would become
of the internes of the Ursulines, if statesmen and warriors and
philosophers like you and the Sieurs Drouillon and La Force here (this
in a parenthesis, not to scratch the Chevalier too deep), did not take
wise counsel for our safety and happiness, and also for the welfare of
the nation?"

The Chevalier des Meloises took his departure under this shower of
arrows.

The young La Force was as yet only an idle dangler about the city; but
in the course of time became a man of wit and energy worthy of his name.
He replied gaily,--

"Thanks, Mademoiselle Roy! It is just for sake of the fair internes
of the Convent that Drouillon and I have taken up the vocation of
statesmen, warriors, philosophers, and friends. We are quite ready to
guide your innocent footsteps through the streets of this perilous city,
if you are ready to go."

"We had better hasten too!" ejaculated Louise Roy, looking archly
through her eye-glass. "I can see Bonhomme Michel peeping round the
corner of the Côte de Lery! He is looking after us stray lambs of the
flock, Sieur Drouillon!"

Bonhomme Michel was the old watchman and factotum of the monastery. He
had a general commission to keep a sharp eye upon the young ladies who
were allowed to go out into the city. A pair of horn spectacles usually
helped his vision,--sometimes marred it, however, when the knowing
gallants slipped a crown into his hand to put in the place of his
magnifiers! Bonhomme Michel placed all his propitiation money--he liked
a pious word--in his old leathern sack, which contained the redemption
of many a gadding promenade through the streets of Quebec. Whether he
reported what he saw this time is not recorded in the Vieux Récit, the
old annals of the Convent. But as Louise Roy called him her dear old
Cupid, and knew so well how to bandage his eyes, it is probable the good
nuns were not informed of the pleasant meeting of the class Louises and
the gentlemen who escorted them round the city on the present occasion.



CHAPTER XIX. PUT MONEY IN THY PURSE.


The Chevalier des Meloises, quite out of humor with the merry Louises,
picked his way with quick, dainty steps down the Rue du Palais. The
gay Louises, before returning to the Convent, resolved to make a
hasty promenade to the walls to see the people at work upon them. They
received with great contentment the military salutes of the officers
of their acquaintance, which they acknowledged with the courtesy of
well-trained internes, slightly exaggerated by provoking smiles
and mischievous glances which had formed no part of the lessons in
politeness taught them by the nuns.

In justice be it said, however, the girls were actuated by a nobler
feeling than the mere spirit of amusement--a sentiment of loyalty to
France, a warm enthusiasm for their country, drew them to the walls:
they wanted to see the defenders of Quebec, to show their sympathy and
smile approval upon them.

"Would to heaven I were a man," exclaimed Louise de Brouague, "that I
might wield a sword, a spade, anything of use, to serve my country! I
shame to do nothing but talk, pray, and suffer for it, while every one
else is working or fighting."

Poor girl! she did not foresee a day when the women of New France would
undergo trials compared with which the sword stroke that kills the
strong man is as the touch of mercy,--when the batteries of Wolfe would
for sixty-five days shower shot and shell upon Quebec, and the South
shore for a hundred miles together be blazing with the fires of
devastation. Such things were mercifully withheld from their foresight,
and the light-hearted girls went the round of the works as gaily as they
would have tripped in a ballroom.

The Chevalier des Meloises, passing through the Porte du Palais, was
hailed by two or three young officers of the Regiment of Béarn,
who invited him into the Guard House to take a glass of wine before
descending the steep hill. The Chevalier stopped willingly, and entered
the well-furnished quarters of the officers of the guard, where a cool
flask of Burgundy presently restored him to good humor with himself, and
consequently with the world.

"What is up to-day at the Palace?" asked Captain Monredin, a vivacious
Navarrois. "All the Gros Bonnets of the Grand Company have gone down
this afternoon! I suppose you are going too, Des Meloises?"

"Yes! They have sent for me, you see, on affairs of State--what
Penisault calls 'business.' Not a drop of wine on the board! Nothing but
books and papers, bills and shipments, money paid, money received! Doit
et avoir and all the cursed lingo of the Friponne! I damn the Friponne,
but bless her money! It pays, Monredin! It pays better than fur-trading
at a lonely outpost in the northwest." The Chevalier jingled a handful
of coin in his pocket. The sound was a sedative to his disgust at the
idea of trade, and quite reconciled him to the Friponne.

"You are a lucky dog nevertheless, to be able to make it jingle!" said
Monredin, "not one of us Béarnois can play an accompaniment to your air
of money in both pockets. Here is our famous Regiment of Béarn, second
to none in the King's service, a whole year in arrears without pay! Gad!
I wish I could go into 'business,' as you call it, and woo that jolly
dame, La Friponne!

"For six months we have lived on trust. Those leeches of Jews, who call
themselves Christians, down in the Sault au Matelot, won't cash the best
orders in the regiment for less than forty per cent. discount!"

"That is true!" broke in another officer, whose rather rubicund face
told of credit somewhere, and the product of credit,--good wine and
good dinners generally. "That is true, Monredin! The old curmudgeon of a
broker at the corner of the Cul de Sac had the impudence to ask me
fifty per cent. discount upon my drafts on Bourdeaux! I agree with Des
Meloises there: business may be a good thing for those who handle it,
but devil touch their dirty fingers for me!"

"Don't condemn all of them, Emeric," said Captain Poulariez, a quiet,
resolute-looking officer. "There is one merchant in the city who carries
the principles of a gentleman into the usages of commerce. The Bourgeois
Philibert gives cent. per cent. for good orders of the King's officers,
just to show his sympathy with the army and his love for France."

"Well, I wish he were paymaster of the forces, that is all, and then I
could go to him if I wanted to," replied Monredin.

"Why do you not go to him?" asked Poulariez.

"Why, for the same reason, I suppose, so many others of us do not,"
replied Monredin. "Colonel Dalquier endorses my orders, and he hates the
Bourgeois cordially, as a hot friend of the Intendant ought to do. So
you see I have to submit to be plucked of my best pen-feathers by that
old fesse-mathieu Penisault at the Friponne!"

"How many of yours have gone out to the great spread at Belmont?" asked
Des Meloises, quite weary of commercial topics.

"Par Dieu!" replied Monredin, "except the colonel and adjutant, who
stayed away on principle, I think every officer in the regiment, present
company excepted--who being on duty could not go, much to their chagrin.
Such a glorious crush of handsome girls has not been seen, they say,
since our regiment came to Quebec."

"And not likely to have been seen before your distinguished arrival--eh,
Monredin?" ejaculated Des Meloises, holding his glass to be refilled.
"That is delicious Burgundy," added he, "I did not think any one beside
the Intendant had wine like that."

"That is some of La Martinière's cargo," replied Poulariex. "It was kind
of him, was it not, to remember us poor Béarnois here on the wrong side
of the Atlantic?"

"And how earnestly we were praying for that same Burgundy," ejaculated
Monredin, "when it came, as if dropped upon us by Providence! Health and
wealth to Captain La Martinière and the good frigate Fleur-de-Lis!"

Another round followed.

"They talk about those Jansenist convulsionnaires at the tomb of Master
Paris, which are setting all France by the ears," exclaimed Monredin,
"but I say there is nothing so contagious as the drinking of a glass of
wine like that."

"And the glass gives us convulsions too, Monredin, if we try it too
often, and no miracle about it either," remarked Poulariez.

Monredin looked up, red and puffy, as if needing a bridle to check his
fast gait.

"But they say we are to have peace soon. Is that true, Des Meloises?"
asked Poulariez. "You ought to know what is under the cards before they
are played."

"No, I don't know; and I hope the report is not true. Who wants peace
yet? It would ruin the King's friends in the Colony." Des Meloises
looked as statesmanlike as he could when delivering this dictum.

"Ruin the King's friends! Who are they, Des Meloises?" asked Poulariez,
with a look of well-assumed surprise.

"Why, the associates of the Grand Company, to be sure! What other
friends has the King got in New France?"

"Really! I thought he had the Regiment of Béarn for a number of them--to
say nothing of the honest people of the Colony," replied Poulariez,
impatiently.

"The Honnêtes Gens, you mean!" exclaimed Des Meloises. "Well, Poulariez,
all I have to say is that if this Colony is to be kept up for the sake
of a lot of shopkeepers, wood-choppers, cobblers, and farmers, the
sooner the King hands it over to the devil or the English the better!"

Poulariex looked indignant enough; but from the others a loud laugh
followed this sally.

The Chevalier des Meloises pulled out his watch. "I must be gone to
the Palace," said he. "I dare say Cadet, Varin, and Penisault will have
balanced the ledgers by this time, and the Intendant, who is the devil
for business on such occasions, will have settled the dividends for the
quarter--the only part of the business I care about."

"But don't you help them with the work a little?" asked Poulariez.

"Not I; I leave business to them that have a vocation for it. Besides,
I think Cadet, Vargin, and Penisault like to keep the inner ring of the
company to themselves." He turned to Emeric: "I hope there will be a
good dividend to-night, Emeric," said he. "I owe you some revenge at
piquet, do I not?"

"You capoted me last night at the Taverne de Menut, and I had three aces
and three kings."

"But I had a quatorze, and took the fishes," replied Des Meloises.

"Well, Chevalier, I shall win them back to-night. I hope the dividend
will be good: in that way I too may share in the 'business' of the Grand
Company."

"Good-by, Chevalier; remember me to St. Blague!" (This was a familiar
sobriquet of Bigot.) "Tis the best name going. If I had an heir for the
old château on the Adour, I would christen him Bigot for luck."

The Chevalier des Meloises left the officers and proceeded down the
steep road that led to the Palace. The gardens were quiet to-day--a few
loungers might be seen in the magnificent alleys, pleached walks, and
terraces; beyond these gardens, however, stretched the King's wharves
and the magazines of the Friponne. These fairly swarmed with men loading
and unloading ships and bateaux, and piling and unpiling goods.

The Chevalier glanced with disdain at the magazines, and flourishing his
cane, mounted leisurely the broad steps of the Palace, and was at once
admitted to the council-room.

"Better late than never, Chevalier des Meloises!" exclaimed Bigot,
carelessly glancing at him as he took a seat at the board, where sat
Cadet, Varin, Penisault, and the leading spirits of the Grand Company.
"You are in double luck to-day. The business is over, and Dame Friponne
has laid a golden egg worth a Jew's tooth for each partner of the
Company."

The Chevalier did not notice, or did not care for, the slight touch of
sarcasm in the Intendant's tone. "Thanks, Bigot!" drawled he. "My eggs
shall be hatched to-night down at Menut's. I expect to have little more
left than the shell of it to-morrow."

"Well, never mind! We have considered all that, Chevalier. What one
loses another gets. It is all in the family. Look here," continued he,
laying his finger upon a page of the ledger that lay open before him,
"Mademoiselle Angélique des Meloises is now a shareholder in the Grand
Company. The list of high, fair, and noble ladies of the Court who are
members of the Company will be honored by the addition of the name of
your charming sister."

The Chevalier's eyes sparkled with delight as he read Angélique's name
on the book. A handsome sum of five digits stood to her credit. He bowed
his thanks with many warm expressions of his sense of the honor done his
sister by "placing her name on the roll of the ladies of the Court who
honor the Company by accepting a share of its dividends."

"I hope Mademoiselle des Meloises will not refuse this small mark of our
respect," observed Bigot, feeling well assured she would not deem it a
small one.

"Little fear of that!" muttered Cadet, whose bad opinion of the sex was
incorrigible. "The game fowls of Versailles scratch jewels out of every
dung-hill, and Angélique des Meloises has longer claws than any of
them!"

Cadet's ill-natured remark was either unheard or unheeded; besides,
he was privileged to say anything. Des Meloises bowed with an air of
perfect complaisance to the Intendant as he answered,--"I guarantee the
perfect satisfaction of Angélique with this marked compliment of the
Grand Company. She will, I am sure, appreciate the kindness of the
Intendant as it deserves."

Cadet and Varin exchanged smiles, not unnoticed by Bigot, who smiled
too. "Yes, Chevalier," said he, "the Company gives this token of its
admiration for the fairest lady in New France. We have bestowed premiums
upon fine flax and fat cattle: why not upon beauty, grace, and wit
embodied in handsome women?"

"Angélique will be highly flattered, Chevalier," replied he, "at the
distinction. She must thank you herself, as I am sure she will."

"I am happy to try to deserve her thanks," replied Bigot; and, not
caring to talk further on the subject,--"what news in the city this
afternoon, Chevalier?" asked he; "how does that affair at Belmont go
off?"

"Don't know. Half the city has gone, I think. At the Church door,
however, the talk among the merchants is that peace is going to be made
soon. Is it so very threatening, Bigot?"

"If the King wills it, it is." Bigot spoke carelessly.

"But your own opinion, Chevalier Bigot; what think you of it?"

"Amen! amen! Quod fiat fiatur! Seigny John, the fool of Paris, could
enlighten you as well as I could as to what the women at Versailles may
decide to do," replied Bigot in a tone of impatience.

"I fear peace will be made. What will you do in that case, Bigot?" asked
Des Meloises, not noticing Bigot's aversion to the topic.

"If the King makes it, invitus amabo! as the man said who married the
shrew." Bigot laughed mockingly. "We must make the best of it, Des
Meloises! and let me tell you privately, I mean to make a good thing of
it for ourselves whichever way it turns."

"But what will become of the Company should the war expenditure stop?"
The Chevalier was thinking of his dividend of five figures.

"Oh! you should have been here sooner, Des Meloises: you would have
heard our grand settlement of the question in every contingency of peace
or war."

"Be sure of one thing," continued Bigot, "the Grand Company will not,
like the eels of Melun, cry out before they are skinned. What says the
proverb, 'Mieux vaut êngin que force' (craft beats strength)? The Grand
Company must prosper as the first condition of life in New France.
Perhaps a year or two of repose may not be amiss, to revictual and
reinforce the Colony; and by that time we shall be ready to pick the
lock of Bellona's temple again and cry Vive la guerre! Vive la Grande
Compagnie! more merrily than ever!"

Bigot's far-reaching intellect forecast the course of events, which
remained so much subject to his own direction after the peace of Aix la
Chapelle--a peace which in America was never a peace at all, but only
an armed and troubled truce between the clashing interests and rival
ambitions of the French and English in the New World.

The meeting of the Board of Managers of the Grand Company broke up,
and--a circumstance that rarely happened--without the customary debauch.
Bigot, preoccupied with his own projects, which reached far beyond the
mere interests of the Company, retired to his couch. Cadet, Varin,
and Penisault, forming an interior circle of the Friponne, had certain
matters to shape for the Company's eye. The rings of corruption in the
Grand Company descended, narrower and more black and precipitous, down
to the bottom where Bigot sat, the Demiurgos of all.

The Chevalier des Meloises was rather proud of his sister's beauty and
cleverness, and in truth a little afraid of her. They lived together
harmoniously enough, so long as each allowed the other his or her
own way. Both took it, and followed their own pleasures, and were not
usually disagreeable to one another, except when Angélique commented on
what she called his penuriousness, and he upon her extravagance, in the
financial administration of the family of the Des Meloises.

The Chevalier was highly delighted to-day to be able to inform Angélique
of her good fortune in becoming a partner of the Friponne and that
too by grace of his Excellency the Intendant. The information filled
Angélique with delight, not only because it made her independent of her
brother's mismanagement of money, but it opened a door to her wildest
hopes. In that gift her ambition found a potent ally to enable her to
resist the appeal to her heart which she knew would be made to-night by
Le Gardeur de Repentigny.

The Chevalier des Meloises had no idea of his sister's own aims. He had
long nourished a foolish fancy that, if he had not obtained the hand of
the wealthy and beautiful heiress of Repentigny, it was because he had
not proposed. Something to-day had suggested the thought that unless he
did propose soon his chances would be nil, and another might secure the
prize which he had in his vain fancy set down as his own.

He hinted to Angélique to-day that he had almost resolved to marry, and
that his projected alliance with the noble and wealthy house of Tilly
could be easily accomplished if Angélique would only do her share, as a
sister ought, in securing her brother's fortune and happiness.

"How?" asked she, looking up savagely, for she knew well at what her
brother was driving.

"By your accepting Le Gardeur without more delay! All the city knows he
is mad in love, and would marry you any day you choose if you wore only
the hair on your head. He would ask no better fortune!"

"It is useless to advise me, Renaud!" said she, "and whether I take Le
Gardeur or no it would not help your chance with Amélie! I am sorry for
it, for Amélie is a prize, Renaud! but not for you at any price. Let
me tell you, that desirable young lady will become the bride of Pierre
Philibert, and the bride of no other man living."

"You give one cold encouragement, sister! But I am sure, if you would
only marry Le Gardeur, you could easily, with your tact and cleverness,
induce Amélie to let me share the Tilly fortune. There are chests full
of gold in the old Manor House, and a crow could hardly fly in a day
over their broad lands!"

"Perfectly useless, brother! Amélie is not like most girls. She would
refuse the hand of a king for the sake of the man she loves, and she
loves Pierre Philibert to his finger-ends. She has married him in her
heart a thousand times. I hate paragons of women, and would scorn to
be one, but I tell you, brother, Amélie is a paragon of a girl, without
knowing it!"

"Hum, I never tried my hand on a paragon: I should like to do so,"
replied he, with a smile of decided confidence in his powers. "I fancy
they are just like other women when you can catch them with their armor
off."

"Yes, but women like Amélie never lay off their armor! They seem born in
it, like Minerva. But your vanity will not let you believe me, Renaud!
So go try her, and tell me your luck! She won't scratch you, nor scold.
Amélie is a lady, and will talk to you like a queen. But she will give
you a polite reply to your proposal that will improve your opinions of
our sex."

"You are mocking me, Angélique, as you always do! One never knows when
you are in jest or when in earnest. Even when you get angry, it is often
unreal and for a purpose! I want you to be serious for once. The fortune
of the Tillys and De Repentignys is the best in New France, and we can
make it ours if you will help me."

"I am serious enough in wishing you those chests full of gold, and those
broad lands that a crow cannot fly over in a day; but I must forego my
share of them, and so must you yours, brother!" Angélique leaned back
in her chair, desiring to stop further discussion of a topic she did not
like to hear.

"Why must you forego your share of the De Repentigny fortune, Angélique?
You could call it your own any day you chose by giving your little
finger to Le Gardeur! you do really puzzle me."

The Chevalier did look perplexed at his inscrutable sister, who only
smiled over the table at him, as she nonchalantly cracked nuts and
sipped her wine by drops.

"Of course I puzzle you, Renaud!" said she at last. "I am a puzzle to
myself sometimes. But you see there are so many men in the world,--poor
ones are so plenty, rich ones so scarce, and sensible ones hardly to be
found at all,--that a woman may be excused for selling herself to the
highest bidder. Love is a commodity only spoken of in romances or in the
patois of milkmaids now-a-days!"

"Zounds, Angélique! you would try the patience of all the saints in
the calendar! I shall pity the fellow you take in! Here is the
fairest fortune in the Colony about to fall into the hands of Pierre
Philibert--whom Satan confound for his assurance! A fortune which I
always regarded as my own!"

"It shows the folly and vanity of your sex! You never spoke a word to
Amélie de Repentigny in the way of wooing in your life! Girls like her
don't drop into men's arms just for the asking."

"Pshaw! as if she would refuse me if you only acted a sister's part! But
you are impenetrable as a rock, and the whole of your fickle sex could
not match your vanity and caprice, Angélique."

She rose quickly with a provoked air.

"You are getting so complimentary to my poor sex, Renaud," said she,
"that I must really leave you to yourself, and I could scarcely leave
you in worse company."

"You are so bitter and sarcastic upon one!" replied he, tartly; "my only
desire was to secure a good fortune for you, and another for myself.
I don't see, for my part, what women are made for, except to mar
everything a man wants to do for himself and for them!"

"Certainly everything should be done for us, brother; but I have no
defence to make for my sex, none! I dare say we women deserve all that
men think of us, but then it is impolite to tell us so to our faces.
Now, as I advised you, Renaud, I would counsel you to study gardening,
and you may one day arrive at as great distinction as the Marquis de
Vandriere--you may cultivate chou chou if you cannot raise a bride like
Amélie de Repentigny."

Angélique knew her brother's genius was not penetrating, or she
would scarcely have ventured this broad allusion to the brother of La
Pompadour, who, by virtue of his relationship to the Court favorite,
had recently been created Director of the Royal Gardens. What fancy was
working in the brain of Angélique when she alluded to him may be only
surmised.

The Chevalier was indignant, however, at an implied comparison between
himself and the plebeian Marquis de Vandriere. He replied, with some
heat,--

"The Marquis de Vandriere! How dare you mention him and me together!
There's not an officer's mess in the army that receives the son of
the fishmonger! Why do you mention him, Angélique? You are a perfect
riddle!"

"I only thought something might happen, brother, if I should ever go to
Paris! I was acting a charade in my fancy, and that was the solution of
it!"

"What was? You would drive the whole Sorbonne mad with your charades and
fancies! But I must leave you."

"Good-by, brother,--if you will go. Think of it!--if you want to rise
in the world you may yet become a royal gardener like the Marquis de
Vandriere!" Her silvery laugh rang out good-humoredly as he descended
the stairs and passed out of the house.

She sat down in her fauteuil. "Pity Renaud is such a fool!" said she;
"yet I am not sure but he is wiser in his folly than I with all my tact
and cleverness, which I suspect are going to make a greater fool of me
than ever he is!"

She leaned back in her chair in a deep thinking mood. "It is growing
dark," murmured she. "Le Gardeur will assuredly be here soon, in spite
of all the attractions of Belmont. How to deal with him when he comes is
more than I know: he will renew his suit, I am sure."

For a moment the heart of Angélique softened in her bosom. "Accept him
I must not!" said she; "affront him I will not! cease to love him is
out of my power as much as is my ability to love the Intendant, whom I
cordially detest, and shall marry all the same!" She pressed her hands
over her eyes, and sat silent for a few minutes. "But I am not sure of
it! That woman remains still at Beaumanoir! Will my scheming to remove
her be all in vain or no?" Angélique recollected with a shudder a
thought that had leaped in her bosom, like a young Satan, engendered of
evil desires. "I dare hardly look in the honest eyes of Le Gardeur after
nursing such a monstrous fancy as that," said she; "but my fate is fixed
all the same. Le Gardeur will vainly try to undo this knot in my life,
but he must leave me to my own devices." To what devices she left him
was a thought that sprang not up in her purely selfish nature.

In her perplexity Angélique tied knot upon knot hard as pebbles in her
handkerchief. Those knots of her destiny, as she regarded them, she left
untied, and they remain untied to this day--a memento of her character
and of those knots in her life which posterity has puzzled itself over
to no purpose to explain.



CHAPTER XX. BELMONT.


A short drive from the gate of St. John stood the old mansion of
Belmont, the country-seat of the Bourgeois Philibert--a stately park,
the remains of the primeval forest of oak, maple, and pine; trees of
gigantic growth and ample shade surrounded the high-roofed, many-gabled
house that stood on the heights of St. Foye overlooking the broad valley
of the St. Charles. The bright river wound like a silver serpent through
the flat meadows in the bottom of the valley, while the opposite slopes
of alternate field and forest stretched away to the distant range of the
Laurentian hills, whose pale blue summits mingled with the blue sky at
midday or, wrapped in mist at morn and eve, were hardly distinguishable
from the clouds behind them.

The gardens and lawns of Belmont were stirring with gay company to-day
in honor of the fête of Pierre Philibert upon his return home from the
campaign in Acadia. Troops of ladies in costumes and toilettes of the
latest Parisian fashion gladdened the eye with pictures of grace and
beauty which Paris itself could not have surpassed. Gentlemen in full
dress, in an age when dress was an essential part of a gentleman's
distinction, accompanied the ladies with the gallantry, vivacity, and
politeness belonging to France, and to France alone.

Communication with the mother country was precarious and uncertain by
reason of the war and the blockade of the Gulf by the English cruisers.
Hence the good fortune and daring of the gallant Captain Martinière in
running his frigate, the Fleur-de-Lis, through the fleet of the enemy,
enabling him among other things to replenish the wardrobes of the ladies
of Quebec with latest Parisian fashions, made him immensely popular
on this gala day. The kindness and affability of the ladies extended
without diminution of graciousness to the little midshipmen even, whom
the Captain conditioned to take with him wherever he and his officers
were invited. Captain Martinière was happy to see the lads enjoy a
few cakes on shore after the hard biscuit they had so long nibbled on
shipboard. As for himself, there was no end to the gracious smiles and
thanks he received from the fair ladies at Belmont.

At the great door of the Manor House, welcoming his guests as they
arrived, stood the Bourgeois Philibert, dressed as a gentleman of the
period, in attire rich but not ostentatious. His suit of dark velvet
harmonized well with his noble manner and bearing. But no one for a
moment could overlook the man in contemplating his dress. The keen,
discriminating eye of woman, overlooking neither dress nor man, found
both worthy of warmest commendation, and many remarks passed between
the ladies on that day that a handsomer man and more ripe and perfect
gentleman than the Bourgeois Philibert had never been seen in New
France.

His grizzled hair grew thickly all over his head, the sign of a
tenacious constitution. It was powdered and tied behind with a broad
ribbon, for he hated perukes. His strong, shapely figure was handsomely
conspicuous as he stood, chapeau in hand, greeting his guests as they
approached. His eyes beamed with pleasure and hospitality, and his
usually grave, thoughtful lips were wreathed in smiles, the sweeter
because not habitually seen upon them.

The Bourgeois had this in common with all complete and earnest
characters, that the people believed in him because they saw that he
believed in himself. His friends loved and trusted him to the uttermost,
his enemies hated and feared him in equal measure; but no one, great or
small, could ignore him and not feel his presence as a solid piece of
manhood.

It is not intellect, nor activity, nor wealth, that obtains most power
over men; but force of character, self-control, a quiet, compressed will
and patient resolve; these qualities make one man the natural ruler over
others by a title they never dispute.

The party of the Honnêtes Gens, the "honest folks" as they were
derisively called by their opponents, regarded the Bourgeois Philibert
as their natural leader. His force of character made men willingly stand
in his shadow. His clear intellect, never at fault, had extended his
power and influence by means of his vast mercantile operations over
half the continent. His position as the foremost merchant of New France
brought him in the front of the people's battle with the Grand Company,
and in opposition to the financial policy of the Intendant and the
mercantile assumption of the Friponne.

But the personal hostility between the Intendant and the Bourgeois had
its root and origin in France, before either of them crossed the ocean
to the hither shore of the Atlantic. The Bourgeois had been made very
sensible of a fact vitally affecting him, that the decrees of the
Intendant, ostensibly for the regulation of trade in New France, had
been sharply pointed against himself. "They draw blood!" Bigot had
boasted to his familiars as he rubbed his hands together with
intense satisfaction one day, when he learned that Philibert's large
trading-post in Mackinaw had been closed in consequence of the Indians
having been commanded by royal authority, exercised by the Intendant,
to trade only at the comptoirs of the Grand Company. "They draw blood!"
repeated he, "and will draw the life yet out of the Golden Dog." It was
plain the ancient grudge of the courtly parasite had not lost a tooth
during all those years.

The Bourgeois was not a man to talk of his private griefs, or seek
sympathy, or even ask counsel or help. He knew the world was engrossed
with its own cares. The world cares not to look under the surface of
things for sake of others, but only for its own sake, its own interests,
its own pleasures.

To-day, however, cares, griefs, and resentments were cast aside, and
the Bourgeois was all joy at the return of his only son, and proud of
Pierre's achievements, and still more of the honors spontaneously paid
him. He stood at the door, welcoming arrival after arrival, the happiest
man of all the joyous company who honored Belmont that day.

A carriage with outriders brought the Count de la Galissonière and
his friend Herr Kalm and Dr. Gauthier, the last a rich old bachelor,
handsome and generous, the physician and savant par excellence of
Quebec. After a most cordial reception by the Bourgeois the Governor
walked among the guests, who had crowded up to greet him with the
respect due to the King's representative, as well as to show their
personal regard; for the Count's popularity was unbounded in the Colony
except among the partizans of the Grand Company.

Herr Kalm was presently enticed away by a bevy of young ladies, Hortense
de Beauharnais leading them, to get the learned professor's opinion on
some rare specimens of botany growing in the park. Nothing loath--for he
was good-natured as he was clever, and a great enthusiast withal in the
study of plants--he allowed the merry, talkative girls to lead him where
they would. He delighted them in turn by his agreeable, instructive
conversation, which was rendered still more piquant by the odd medley of
French, Latin, and Swedish in which it was expressed.

An influx of fresh arrivals next poured into the park--the Chevalier de
la Corne, with his pretty daughter, Agathe La Corne St. Luc; the Lady
de Tilly and Amélie de Repentigny, with the brothers de Villiers. The
brothers had overtaken the Chevalier La Corne upon the road, but the
custom of the highway in New France forbade any one passing another
without politely asking permission to do so.

"Yes, Coulon," replied the Chevalier; "ride on!" He winked pleasantly at
his daughter as he said this. "There is, I suppose, nothing left for an
old fellow who dates from the sixteen hundreds but to take the side of
the road and let you pass. I should have liked, however, to stir up the
fire in my gallant little Norman ponies against your big New England
horses. Where did you get them? Can they run?"

"We got them in the sack of Saratoga," replied Coulon, "and they ran
well that day, but we overtook them. Would Mademoiselle La Corne care if
we try them now?"

Scarcely a girl in Quebec would have declined the excitement of a race
on the highroad of St. Foye, and Agathe would fain have driven herself
in the race, but being in full dress to-day, she thought of her wardrobe
and the company. She checked the ardor of her father, and entered the
park demurely, as one of the gravest of the guests.

"Happy youths! Noble lads, Agathe!" exclaimed the Chevalier, admiringly,
as the brothers rode rapidly past them. "New France will be proud of
them some day!"

The rest of the company now began to arrive in quick succession.
The lawn was crowded with guests. "Ten thousand thanks for coming!"
exclaimed Pierre Philibert, as he assisted Amélie de Repentigny and the
Lady de Tilly to alight from their carriage.

"We could not choose but come to-day, Pierre," replied Amélie, feeling
without displeasure the momentary lingering of his hand as it touched
hers. "Nothing short of an earthquake would have kept aunt at home,"
added she, darting a merry glance of sympathy with her aunt's supposed
feelings.

"And you, Amélie?" Pierre looked into those dark eyes which shyly turned
aside from his gaze.

"I was an obedient niece, and accompanied her. It is so easy to persuade
people to go where they wish to go!" She withdrew her hand gently, and
took his arm as he conducted the ladies into the house. She felt a flush
on her cheek, but it did not prevent her saying in her frank, kindly
way,--"I was glad to come to-day, Pierre, to witness this gathering of
the best and noblest in the land to honor your fête. Aunt de Tilly has
always predicted greatness for you."

"And you, Amélie, doubted, knowing me a shade better than your aunt?"

"No, I believed her; so true a prophet as aunt surely deserved one firm
believer!"

Pierre felt the electric thrill run through him which a man feels at the
moment he discovers a woman believes in him. "Your presence here to-day,
Amélie! you cannot think how sweet it is," said he.

Her hand trembled upon his arm. She thought nothing could be sweeter
than such words from Pierre Philibert. With a charming indirectness,
however, which did not escape him, she replied, "Le Gardeur is very
proud of you to-day, Pierre."

He laid his fingers upon her hand. It was a delicate little hand, but
with the strength of an angel's it had moulded his destiny and led him
to the honorable position he had attained. He was profoundly conscious
at this moment of what he owed to this girl's silent influence. He
contented himself, however, with saying, "I will so strive that one day
Amélie de Repentigny shall not shame to say she too is proud of me."

She did not reply for a moment. A tremor agitated her low, sweet voice.
"I am proud of you now, Pierre,--more proud than words can tell to see
you so honored, and proudest to think you deserve it all."

It touched him almost to tears. "Thanks, Amélie; when you are proud of
me I shall begin to feel pride of myself. Your opinion is the one thing
in life I have most cared for,--your approbation is my best reward."

Her eyes were eloquent with unspoken words, but she thought, "If that
were all!" Pierre Philibert had long received the silent reward of her
good opinion and approbation.

The Bourgeois at this moment came up to salute Amélie and the Lady de
Tilly.

"The Bourgeois Philibert has the most perfect manner of any gentleman in
New France," was the remark of the Lady de Tilly to Amélie, as he
left them again to receive other guests. "They say he can be rough
and imperious sometimes to those he dislikes, but to his friends and
strangers, and especially to ladies, no breath of spring can be more
gentle and balmy." Amélie assented with a mental reservation in the
depths of her dark eyes, and in the dimple that flashed upon her cheek
as she suppressed the utterance of a pleasant fancy in reply to her
aunt.

Pierre conducted the ladies to the great drawing-room, which was already
filled with company, who overwhelmed Amélie and her aunt with the
vivacity of their greeting.

In a fine shady grove at a short distance from the house, a row of
tables was set for the entertainment of several hundreds of the hardy
dependents of the Bourgeois; for while feasting the rich the Bourgeois
would not forget his poorer friends, and perhaps his most exquisite
satisfaction was in the unrestrained enjoyment of his hospitality by
the crowd of happy, hungry fellows and their families, who, under the
direction of his chief factor, filled the tables from end to end, and
made the park resound with songs and merriment--fellows of infinite
gaiety, with appetites of Gargantuas and a capacity for good liquors
that reminded one of the tubs of the Danaïdes. The tables groaned
beneath mountains of good things, and in the centre of each, like Mont
Blanc rising from the lower Alps, stood a magnificent Easter pie, the
confection of which was a masterpiece of the skill of Maître Guillot
Gobet, the head cook of the Bourgeois, who was rather put out, however,
when Dame Rochelle decided to bestow all the Easter pies upon the hungry
voyageurs, woodmen, and workmen, and banished them from the menu of the
more patrician tables set for the guests of the mansion.

"Yet, after all," exclaimed Maître Guillot, as he thrust his head out of
the kitchen door to listen to the song the gay fellows were singing
with all their lungs in honor of his Easter pie; "after all, the fine
gentlemen and ladies would not have paid my noble pies such honor as
that! and what is more the pies would not have been eaten up to the last
crumb!" Maître Guillot's face beamed like a harvest moon, as he chimed
in with the well-known ditty in praise of the great pie of Rouen:


     "'C'est dans la ville de Rouen,
       Ils ont fait un paté si grand,
       Ils ont fait un paté si grand,
       Qu'ils ont trouvê un homme dedans!'"


Maître Guillot would fain have been nearer, to share in the shouting and
clapping of hands which followed the saying of grace by the good Curé of
St. Foye, and to see how vigorously knives were handled, and how chins
wagged in the delightful task of levelling down mountains of meat, while
Gascon wine and Norman cider flowed from ever-replenished flagons.

The Bourgeois and his son, with many of his chief guests, honored for
a time the merry feast out-of-doors, and were almost inundated by the
flowing cups drunk to the health and happiness of the Bourgeois and of
Pierre Philibert.

Maître Guillot Gobet returned to his kitchen, where he stirred up his
cooks and scullions on all sides, to make up for the loss of his Easter
pies on the grand tables in the hall. He capered among them like a
marionette, directing here, scolding there, laughing, joking, or with
uplifted hands and stamping feet despairing of his underlings' cooking a
dinner fit for the fête of Pierre Philibert.

Maître Guilot was a little, fat, red-nosed fellow, with twinkling black
eyes, and a mouth irascible as that of a cake-baker of Lerna. His heart
was of the right paste, however, and full as a butter-boat of the sweet
sauce of good nature, which he was ready to pour over the heads of all
his fellows who quietly submitted to his dictation. But woe to man or
maid servant who delayed or disputed his royal orders! An Indian typhoon
instantly blew. At such a time even Dame Rochelle would gather her
petticoats round her and hurry out of the storm, which always subsided
quickly in proportion to the violence of its rage.

Maître Guillot knew what he was about, however. He did not use, he said,
to wipe his nose with a herring! and on that day he was going to cook a
dinner fit for the Pope after Lent, or even for the Reverend Father De
Berey himself, who was the truest gourmet and the best trencherman in
New France.

Maître Guillot honored his master, but in his secret soul he did not
think his taste quite worthy of his cook! But he worshipped Father
De Berey, and gloried in the infallible judgment and correct taste
of cookery possessed by the jolly Recollet. The single approbation
of Father De Berey was worth more than the praise of a world full of
ordinary eating mortals, who smacked their lips and said things were
good, but who knew no more than one of the Cent Suisses why things were
good, or could appreciate the talents of an artiste of the cordon bleu.

Maître Guillot's Easter pie had been a splendid success. "It was
worthy," he said, "to be placed as a crown on top of the new Cathedral
of St. Marie, and receive the consecration of the Bishop."

Lest the composition of it should be forgotten, Maître Guillot had, with
the solemnity of a deacon intoning the Litany, ravished the ear of Jules
Painchaud, his future son-in-law, as he taught him the secrets of its
confection.

With his white cap set rakishly on one side of his head and arms akimbo,
Maître Guillot gave Jules the famous recipe:

"Inside of circular walls of pastry an inch thick, and so rich as easily
to be pulled down, and roomy enough within for the Court of King
Pepin, lay first a thick stratum of mince-meat of two savory hams of
Westphalia, and if you cannot get them, of two hams of our habitans."

"Of our habitans!" ejaculated Jules, with an air of consternation.

"Precisely! don't interrupt me!" Maître Guillot grew red about the gills
in an instant. Jules was silenced. "I have said it!" cried he; "two hams
of our habitans! what have you to say against it--stock fish, eh?"

"Oh, nothing, sir," replied Jules, with humility, "only I thought--"
Poor Jules would have consented to eat his thought rather than fall out
with the father of his Susette.

"You thought!" Maître Guillot's face was a study for Hogarth, who alone
could have painted the alto tone of voice as it proceeded from his round
O of a mouth. "Susette shall remain upon my hands an old maid for the
term of her natural life if you dispute the confection of Easter pie!"

"Now listen, Jules," continued he, at once mollified by the contrite,
submissive air of his future son-in-law: "Upon the foundation of the
mince-meat of two hams of Westphalia,--or, if you cannot get them, of
two hams of our habitans,--place scientifically the nicely-cut pieces
of a fat turkey, leaving his head to stick out of the upper crust, in
evidence that Master Dindon lies buried there! Add two fat capons, two
plump partridges, two pigeons, and the back and thighs of a brace of
juicy hares. Fill up the whole with beaten eggs, and the rich contents
will resemble, as a poet might say, 'fossils of the rock in golden yolks
embedded and enjellied!' Season as you would a saint. Cover with a slab
of pastry. Bake it as you would cook an angel, and not singe a feather.
Then let it cool, and eat it! And then, Jules, as the Reverend Father de
Berey always says after grace over an Easter pie, 'Dominus vobiscum!'"



CHAPTER XXI. SIC ITUR AD ASTRA.


The old hall of Belmont had been decorated for many a feast since the
times of its founder, the Intendant Talon; but it had never contained a
nobler company of fair women and brave men, the pick and choice of their
race, than to-day met round the hospitable and splendid table of the
Bourgeois Philibert in honor of the fête of his gallant son.

Dinner was duly and decorously despatched. The social fashion of New
France was not for the ladies to withdraw when the wine followed
the feast, but to remain seated with the gentlemen, purifying the
conversation, and by their presence restraining the coarseness which was
the almost universal vice of the age.

A troop of nimble servitors carried off the carved dishes and fragments
of the splendid pâtisseries of Maître Guillot, in such a state of
demolition as satisfied the critical eye of the chief cook that the
efforts of his genius had been very successful. He inspected the dishes
through his spectacles. He knew, by what was left, the ability of the
guests to discriminate what they had eaten and to do justice to his
skill. He considered himself a sort of pervading divinity, whose
culinary ideas passing with his cookery into the bodies of the guests
enabled them, on retiring from the feast, to carry away as part of
themselves some of the fine essence of Maître Gobet himself.

At the head of his table, peeling oranges and slicing pineapples for the
ladies in his vicinity, sat the Bourgeois himself, laughing, jesting,
and telling anecdotes with a geniality that was contagious. "'The gods
are merry sometimes,' says Homer, 'and their laughter shakes Olympus!'"
was the classical remark of Father de Berey, at the other end of
the table. Jupiter did not laugh with less loss of dignity than the
Bourgeois.

Few of the guests did not remember to the end of their lives the
majestic and happy countenance of the Bourgeois on this memorable day.

At his right hand sat Amélie de Repentigny and the Count de la
Galissonière. The Governor, charmed with the beauty and agreeableness of
the young chatelaine, had led her in to dinner, and devoted himself
to her and the Lady de Tilly with the perfection of gallantry of a
gentleman of the politest court in Europe. On his left sat the radiant,
dark-eyed Hortense de Beauharnais. With a gay assumption of independence
Hortense had taken the arm of La Corne St. Luc, and declared she would
eat no dinner unless he would be her cavalier and sit beside her! The
gallant old soldier surrendered at discretion. He laughingly consented
to be her captive, he said, for he had no power and no desire but to
obey. Hortense was proud of her conquest. She seated herself by his
side with an air of triumph and mock gravity, tapping him with her fan
whenever she detected his eye roving round the table, compassionating,
she affirmed, her rivals, who had failed where she had won in securing
the youngest, the handsomest, and most gallant of all the gentlemen at
Belmont.

"Not so fast, Hortense!" exclaimed the gay Chevalier; "you have captured
me by mistake! The tall Swede--he is your man! The other ladies all know
that, and are anxious to get me out of your toils, so that you may be
free to ensnare the philosopher!"

"But you don't wish to get away from me! I am your garland, Chevalier,
and you shall wear me to-day. As for the tall Swede, he has no idea of a
fair flower of our sex except to wear it in his button-hole,--this
way!" added she, pulling a rose out of a vase and archly adorning the
Chevalier's vest with it.

"All pretence and jealousy, mademoiselle. The tall Swede knows how
to take down your pride and bring you to a proper sense of your false
conceit of the beauty and wit of the ladies of New France."

Hortense gave two or three tosses of defiance to express her emphatic
dissent from his opinions.

"I wish Herr Kalm would lend me his philosophic scales, to weigh your
sex like lambs in market," continued La Corne St. Luc; "but I fear I am
too old, Hortense, to measure women except by the fathom, which is the
measure of a man."

"And the measure of a man is the measure of an angel too scriptum est,
Chevalier!" replied she. Hortense had ten merry meanings in her eye,
and looked as if bidding him select which he chose. "The learned Swede's
philosophy is lost upon me," continued she, "he can neither weigh by
sample nor measure by fathom the girls of New France!" She tapped him
on the arm. "Listen to me, chevalier," said she, "you are neglecting me
already for sake of Cecile Tourangeau!" La Corne was exchanging some
gay badinage with a graceful, pretty young lady on the other side of the
table, whose snowy forehead, if you examined it closely, was marked with
a red scar, in figure of a cross, which, although powdered and partially
concealed by a frizz of her thick blonde hair, was sufficiently distinct
to those who looked for it; and many did so, as they whispered to each
other the story of how she got it.

Le Gardeur de Repentigny sat by Cecile, talking in a very sociable
manner, which was also commented on. His conversation seemed to be
very attractive to the young lady, who was visibly delighted with the
attentions of her handsome gallant.

At this moment a burst of instruments from the musicians, who occupied a
gallery at the end of the hall, announced a vocal response to the toast
of the King's health, proposed by the Bourgeois. "Prepare yourself for
the chorus, Chevalier," exclaimed Hortense. "Father de Berey is going to
lead the royal anthem!"

"Vive le Roi!" replied La Corne. "No finer voice ever sang Mass, or
chanted 'God Save the King!' I like to hear the royal anthem from the
lips of a churchman rolling it out ore rotundo, like one of the Psalms
of David. Our first duty is to love God,--our next to honor the King!
and New France will never fail in either!" Loyalty was ingrained in
every fibre of La Corne St. Luc.

"Never, Chevalier. Law and Gospel rule together, or fall together! But
we must rise," replied Hortense, springing up.

The whole company rose simultaneously. The rich, mellow voice of
the Rev. Father de Berey, round and full as the organ of Ste. Marie,
commenced the royal anthem composed by Lulli in honor of Louis Quatorze,
upon an occasion of his visit to the famous Convent of St. Cyr, in
company with Madame de Maintenon.

The song composed by Madame Brinon was afterwards translated into
English, and words and music became, by a singular transposition, the
national hymn of the English nation.

"God Save the King!" is no longer heard in France. It was buried with
the people's loyalty, fathoms deep under the ruins of the monarchy. But
it flourishes still with pristine vigor in New France, that olive branch
grafted on the stately tree of the British Empire. The broad chest and
flexile lips of Father de Berey rang out the grand old song in tones
that filled the stately old hall:


     "'Grand Dieu!  Sauvez le Roi!
       Grand Dieu!  Sauvez le Roi!
       Sauvez le Roi!
       Que toujours glorieux.
       Louis Victorieux,
       Voye ses ennemis
       Toujours soumis!'"


The company all joined in the chorus, the gentlemen raising their cups,
the ladies waving their handkerchiefs, and male and female blending in
a storm of applause that made the old walls ring with joy. Songs and
speeches followed in quick succession, cutting as with a golden blade
the hours of the dessert into quinzaines of varied pleasures.

The custom of the times had reduced speechmaking after dinner to a
minimum. The ladies, as Father de Berey wittily remarked, preferred
private confession to public preaching; and long speeches, without
inlets for reply, were the eighth mortal sin which no lady would
forgive.

The Bourgeois, however, felt it incumbent upon himself to express his
deep thanks for the honor done his house on this auspicious occasion.
And he remarked that the doors of Belmont, so long closed by reason of
the absence of Pierre, would hereafter be ever open to welcome all
his friends. He had that day made a gift of Belmont, with all its
belongings, to Pierre, and he hoped,--the Bourgeois smiled as he
said this, but he would not look in a quarter where his words struck
home,--he hoped that some one of Quebec's fair daughters would assist
Pierre in the menage of his home and enable him to do honor to his
housekeeping.

Immense was the applause that followed the short, pithy speech of the
Bourgeois. The ladies blushed and praised, the gentlemen cheered and
enjoyed in anticipation the renewal of the old hospitalities of Belmont.

"The skies are raining plum cakes!" exclaimed the Chevalier La Corne
to his lively companion. "Joy's golden drops are only distilled in the
alembic of woman's heart! What think you, Hortense? Which of Quebec's
fair daughters will be willing to share Belmont with Pierre?"

"Oh, any of them would!" replied she. "But why did the Bourgeois
restrict his choice to the ladies of Quebec, when he knew I came from
the Three Rivers?"

"Oh, he was afraid of you, Hortense; you would make Belmont too good
for this world! What say you, Father de Berry? Do you ever walk on the
cape?"

The friar, in a merry mood, had been edging close to Hortense. "I love,
of all things, to air my gray gown on the cape of a breezy afternoon,"
replied the jovial Recollet, "when the fashionables are all out, and
every lady is putting her best foot foremost. It is then I feel sure
that Horace is the next best thing to the Homilies:


    "'Teretesque suras laudo, et integer ego!'"


The Chevalier La Corne pinched the shrugging shoulder of Hortense as he
remarked, "Don't confess to Father de Berey that you promenade on the
cape! But I hope Pierre Philibert will soon make his choice! We are
impatient to visit him and give old Provençal the butler a run every
day through those dark crypts of his, where lie entombed the choicest
vintages of sunny France."

The Chevalier said this waggishly, for the benefit of old Provençal, who
stood behind his chair looking half alarmed at the threatened raid upon
his well-filled cellars.

"But if Pierre should not commit matrimony," replied Hortense, "what
will become of him? and especially what will become of us?"

"We will drink his wine all the same, good fellow that he is! But Pierre
had as lief commit suicide as not commit matrimony; and who would not?
Look here, Pierre Philibert," continued the old soldier, addressing him,
with good-humored freedom. "Matrimony is clearly your duty, Pierre;
but I need not tell you so: it is written on your face plain as the way
between Peronne and St. Quintin,--a good, honest way as ever was trod
by shoe leather, and as old as Chinon in Touraine! Try it soon, my boy.
Quebec is a sack full of pearls!" Hortense pulled him mischievously
by the coat, so he caught her hand and held it fast in his, while he
proceeded: "You put your hand in the sack and take out the first that
offers. It will be worth a Jew's ransom! If you are lucky to find the
fairest, trust me it will be the identical pearl of great price for
which the merchant went and sold all that he had and bought it. Is not
that Gospel, Father de Berey? I think I have heard something like that
preached from the pulpit of the Recollets?"

"Matter of brimborion, Chevalier! not to be questioned by laymen! Words
of wisdom for my poor brothers of St. Francis, who, after renouncing the
world, like to know that they have renounced something worth having!
But not to preach a sermon on your parable, Chevalier, I will
promise Colonel Philibert that when he has found the pearl of great
price,"--Father de Berey, who knew a world of secrets, glanced archly at
Amélie as he said this,--"the bells of our monastery shall ring out such
a merry peal as they have not rung since fat Brother Le Gros broke his
wind, and short Brother Bref stretched himself out half a yard pulling
the bell ropes on the wedding of the Dauphin."

Great merriment followed the speech of Father de Berey. Hortense rallied
the Chevalier, a good old widower, upon himself not travelling the plain
way between Peronne and St. Quintin, and jestingly offered herself
to travel with him, like a couple of gypsies carrying their budget of
happiness pick-a-back through the world.

"Better than that!" La Corne exclaimed. Hortense was worthy to ride on
the baggage-wagons in his next campaign! Would she go? She gave him her
hand. "I expect nothing else!" said she. "I am a soldier's daughter, and
expect to live a soldier's wife, and die a soldier's widow. But a truce
to jest. It is harder to be witty than wise," continued she. "What is
the matter with Cousin Le Gardeur?" Her eyes were fixed upon him as he
read a note just handed to him by a servant. He crushed it in his hand
with a flash of anger, and made a motion as if about to tear it, but did
not. He placed it in his bosom. But the hilarity of his countenance was
gone.

There was another person at the table whose quick eye, drawn by sisterly
affection, saw Le Gardeur's movement before even Hortense. Amélie was
impatient to leave her seat and go beside him, but she could not at the
moment leave the lively circle around her. She at once conjectured that
the note was from Angélique des Meloises. After drinking deeply two
or three times Le Gardeur arose, and with a faint excuse that did not
impose on his partner left the table. Amélie rose quickly also, excusing
herself to the Bourgeois, and joined her brother in the park, where the
cool night air blew fresh and inviting for a walk.

Pretty Cecile Touraugeau had caught a glimpse of the handwriting as she
sat by the side of Le Gardeur, and guessed correctly whence it had come
and why her partner so suddenly left the table.

She was out of humor; the red mark upon her forehead grew redder as she
pouted in visible discontent. But the great world moves on, carrying
alternate storms and sunshine upon its surface. The company rose from
the table--some to the ball-room, some to the park and conservatories.
Cecile's was a happy disposition, easily consoled for her sorrows. Every
trace of her displeasure was banished and almost forgotten from the
moment the gay, handsome Jumonville de Villiers invited her out to the
grand balcony, where, he said, the rarest pastime was going on.

And rare pastime it was! A group of laughing but half-serious girls were
gathered round Doctor Gauthier, urging him to tell their fortunes by
consulting the stars, which to-night shone out with unusual brilliancy.

At that period, as at the present, and in every age of the world, the
female sex, like the Jews of old, asks signs, while the Greeks--that is,
the men--seek wisdom.

The time never was, and never will be, when a woman will cease to be
curious,--when her imagination will not forecast the decrees of fate
in regard to the culminating event of her life and her whole
nature--marriage. It was in vain Doctor Gauthier protested his inability
to read the stars without his celestial eye-glasses.

The ladies would not accept his excuses: he knew the heavens by heart,
they said, and could read the stars of destiny as easily as the Bishop
his breviary.

In truth the worthy doctor was not only a believer but an adept in
astrology. He had favored his friends with not a few horoscopes and
nativities, when pressed to do so. His good nature was of the substance
of butter: any one that liked could spread it over their bread. Many
good men are eaten up in that way by greedy friends.

Hortense de Beauharnais urged the Doctor so merrily and so
perseveringly, promising to marry him herself if the stars said so, that
he laughingly gave way, but declared he would tell Hortense's fortune
first, which deserved to be good enough to make her fulfil her promise
just made.

She was resigned, she said, and would accept any fate from the rank of a
queen to a cell among the old maids of St. Cyr! The girls of Quebec hung
all their hopes on the stars, bright and particular ones especially.
They were too loving to live single, and too proud to live poor. But she
was one who would not wait for ships to land that never came, and plums
to drop into her mouth that never ripened. Hortense would be ruled by
the stars, and wise Doctor Gauthier should to-night declare her fate.

They all laughed at this free talk of Hortense. Not a few of the ladies
shrugged their shoulders and looked askance at each other, but many
present wished they had courage to speak like her to Doctor Gauthier.

"Well, I see there is nothing else for it but to submit to my ruling
star, and that is you, Hortense!" cried the Doctor; "so please stand up
before me while I take an inventory of your looks as a preliminary to
telling your fortune."

Hortense placed herself instantly before him. "It is one of the
privileges of our dry study," remarked he, as he looked admiringly on
the tall, charming figure and frank countenance of the girl before him.

"The querent," said he gravely, "is tall, straight, slender, arms long,
hands and feet of the smallest, hair just short of blackness,
piercing, roving eyes, dark as night and full of fire, sight quick, and
temperament alive with energy, wit, and sense."

"Oh, tell my fortune, not my character! I shall shame of energy, wit,
and sense, if I hear such flattery, Doctor!" exclaimed she, shaking
herself like a young eagle preparing to fly.

"We shall see what comes of it, Hortense!" replied he gravely, as with
his gold-headed cane he slowly quartered the heavens like an ancient
augur, and noted the planets in their houses. The doctor was quite
serious, and even Hortense, catching his looks, stood very silent as he
studied the celestial aspects,


     "Carrying through ether in perpetual round
      Decrees and resolutions of the Gods."


"The Lord of the ascendant," said he, "is with the Lord of the seventh
in the tenth house. The querent, therefore, shall marry the man made for
her, but not the man of her youthful hope and her first love.

"The stars are true," continued he, speaking to himself rather than to
her. "Jupiter in the seventh house denotes rank and dignity by marriage,
and Mars in sextile foretells successful wars. It is wonderful,
Hortense! The blood of Beauharnais shall sit on thrones more than one;
it shall rule France, Italy, and Flanders, but not New France, for
Saturn in quintile looks darkly upon the twins who rule America!"

"Come, Jumonville," exclaimed Hortense, "congratulate Claude on the
greatness awaiting the house of Beauharnais, and condole with me that I
am to see none of it myself! I do not care for kings and queens in the
third generation, but I do care for happy fortune in the present for
those I know and love! Come, Jumonville, have your fortune told now,
to keep me in countenance. If the Doctor hits the truth for you I shall
believe in him for myself."

"That is a good idea, Hortense," replied Jumonville; "I long ago hung my
hat on the stars--let the Doctor try if he can find it."

The Doctor, in great good humor, surveyed the dark, handsome face and
lithe, athletic figure of Jumonville de Villiers. He again raised his
cane with the gravity of a Roman pontifex, marking off his templum in
the heavens. Suddenly he stopped. He repeated more carefully his survey,
and then turned his earnest eyes upon the young soldier.

"You see ill-fortune for me, Doctor!" exclaimed Jumonville, with bright,
unflinching eyes, as he would look on danger of any kind.

"The Hyleg, or giver of life, is afflicted by Mars in the eighth house,
and Saturn is in evil aspect in the ascendant!" said the Doctor slowly.

"That sounds warlike, and means fighting I suppose, Doctor. It is a
brave fortune for a soldier. Go on!" Jumonville was in earnest now.

"The pars fortunae," continued the Doctor, gazing upward, "rejoices in
a benign aspect with Venus. Fame, true love, and immortality will be
yours, Jumonville de Villiers; but you will die young under the flag of
your country and for sake of your King! You will not marry, but all the
maids and matrons of New France will lament your fate with tears, and
from your death shall spring up the salvation of your native land--how,
I see not; but decretum est, Jumonville, ask me no more!"

A thrill like a stream of electricity passed through the company. Their
mirth was extinguished, for none could wholly free their minds from
the superstition of their age. The good Doctor sat down, and wiped his
moistened eye-glasses. He would tell no more to-night, he said. He had
really gone too far, making jest of earnest and earnest of jest, and
begged pardon of Jumonville for complying with his humor.

The young soldier laughed merrily. "If fame, immortality, and true love
are to be mine, what care I for death? It will be worth giving up life
for, to have the tears of the maids and matrons of New France to lament
your fate. What could the most ambitious soldier desire more?"

The words of Jumonville struck a kindred chord in the bosom of Hortense
de Beauharnais. They were stamped upon her heart forever. A few years
after this prediction, Jumonville de Villiers lay slain under a flag of
truce on the bank of the Monongahela, and of all the maids and matrons
of New France who wept over his fate, none shed more and bitterer tears
than his fair betrothed bride, Hortense de Beauharnais.

The prediction of the Sieur Gauthier was repeated and retold as a
strangely true tale; it passed into the traditions of the people, and
lingered in their memory generations after the festival of Belmont was
utterly forgotten.

When the great revolt took place in the English Colonies, the death of
the gallant Jumonville de Villiers was neither forgotten nor forgiven by
New France. Congress appealed in vain for union and help from Canadians.
Washington's proclamations were trodden under foot, and his troops
driven back or captured. If Canada was lost to France partly through the
death of Jumonville, it may also be said that his blood helped to save
it to England. The ways of Providence are so mysterious in working out
the problems of national existence that the life or death of a single
individual may turn the scales of destiny over half a continent.

But all these events lay as yet darkly in the womb of the future. The
gallant Jumonville who fell, and his brother Coulon who took his "noble
revenge" upon Washington by sparing his life, were to-day the gayest of
the gay throng who had assembled to do honor to Pierre Philibert.

While this group of merry guests, half in jest, half in earnest, were
trying to discover in the stars the "far-reaching concords" that moulded
the life of each, Amélie led her brother away from the busy grounds near
the mansion, and took a quiet path that led into the great park which
they entered.

A cool salt-water breeze, following the flood tide that was coming up
the broad St. Lawrence, swept their faces as Amélie walked by the side
of Le Gardeur, talking in her quiet way of things familiar, and of home
interests until she saw the fever of his blood abate and his thoughts
return into calmer channels. Her gentle craft subdued his impetuous
mood--if craft it might be called--for more wisely cunning than all
craft is the prompting of true affection, where reason responds like
instinct to the wants of the heart.

They sat down upon a garden seat overlooking the great valley. None of
the guests had sauntered out so far, but Amélie's heart was full; she
had much to say, and wished no interruption.

"I am glad to sit in this pretty spot, Amélie," said he, at last, for
he had listened in silence to the sweet, low voice of his sister as she
kept up her half sad, half glad monologue, because she saw it pleased
him. It brought him into a mood in which she might venture to talk of
the matter that pressed sorely upon her heart.

"A little while ago, I feared I might offend you, Le Gardeur," said she,
taking his hand tenderly in hers, "if I spoke all I wished. I never did
offend you that I remember, brother, did I?"

"Never, my incomparable sister; you never did, and never could. Say
what you will, ask me what you like; but I fear I am unworthy of your
affection, sister."

"You are not unworthy; God gave you as my only brother, you will never
be unworthy in my eyes. But it touches me to the quick to suspect others
may think lightly of you, Le Gardeur."

He flinched, for his pride was touched, but he knew Amélie was right.
"It was weakness in me," said he, "I confess it, sister. To pour wine
upon my vexation in hope to cure it, is to feed a fire with oil. To
throw fire into a powder magazine were wisdom compared with my folly,
Amélie: I was angry at the message I got at such a time. Angélique des
Meloises has no mercy upon her lovers!"

"Oh, my prophetic heart! I thought as much! It was Angélique, then, sent
you the letter you read at table?"

"Yes, who else could have moved me so? The time was ill-chosen, but I
suspect, hating the Bourgeois as she does, Angélique intended to call me
from Pierre's fête. I shall obey her now, but tonight she shall obey
me, decide to make or mar me, one way or other! You may read the letter,
Amélie, if you will."

"I care not to read it, brother; I know Angélique too well not to fear
her influence over you. Her craft and boldness were always a terror to
her companions. But you will not leave Pierre's fête tonight?" added
she, half imploringly; for she felt keenly the discourtesy to Pierre
Philibert.

"I must do even that, sister! Were Angélique as faulty as she is fair, I
should only love her the more for her faults, and make them my own. Were
she to come to me like Herodias with the Baptist's head in a charger, I
should outdo Herod in keeping my pledge to her."

Amélie uttered a low, moaning cry. "O my dear infatuated brother, it is
not in nature for a De Repentigny to love irrationally like that! What
maddening philtre have you drank, to intoxicate you with a woman who
uses you so imperiously? But you will not go, Le Gardeur!" added
she, clinging to his arm. "You are safe so long as you are with your
sister,--you will be safe no longer if you go to the Maison des Meloises
tonight!"

"Go I must and shall, Amélie! I have drank the maddening philtre,--I
know that, Amélie, and would not take an antidote if I had one! The
world has no antidote to cure me. I have no wish to be cured of love for
Angélique, and in fine I cannot be, so let me go and receive the rod
for coming to Belmont and the reward for leaving it at her summons!" He
affected a tone of levity, but Amélie's ear easily detected the false
ring of it.

"Dearest brother!" said she, "are you sure Angélique returns, or is
capable of returning, love like yours? She is like the rest of us, weak
and fickle, merely human, and not at all the divinity a man in his fancy
worships when in love with a woman." It was in vain, however, for Amélie
to try to persuade her brother of that.

"What care I, Amélie, so long as Angélique is not weak and fickle to
me?" answered he; "but she will think her tardy lover is both weak and
fickle unless I put in a speedy appearance at the Maison des Meloises!"
He rose up as if to depart, still holding his sister by the hand.

Amélie's tears flowed silently in the darkness. She was not willing to
plant a seed of distrust in the bosom of her brother, yet she remembered
bitterly and indignantly what Angélique had said of her intentions
towards the Intendant. Was she using Le Gardeur as a foil to set off her
attractions in the eyes of Bigot?

"Brother!" said Amélie, "I am a woman, and comprehend my sex better than
you. I know Angélique's far-reaching ambition and crafty ways. Are you
sure, not in outward persuasion but in inward conviction, that she loves
you as a woman should love the man she means to marry?"

Le Gardeur felt her words like a silver probe that searched his heart.
With all his unbounded devotion, he knew Angélique too well not to feel
a pang of distrust sometimes, as she showered her coquetries upon every
side of her. It was the overabundance of her love, he said, but he
thought it often fell like the dew round Gideon's fleece, refreshing all
the earth about it, but leaving the fleece dry. "Amélie!" said he, "you
try me hard, and tempt me too, my sister, but it is useless. Angélique
may be false as Cressida to other men, she will not be false to me! She
has sworn it, with her hand in mine, before the altar of Notre Dame. I
would go down to perdition with her in my arms rather than be a crowned
king with all the world of women to choose from and not get her."

Amélie shuddered at his vehemence, but she knew how useless was
expostulation. She wisely refrained, deeming it her duty, like a good
sister, to make the best of what she could not hinder. Some jasmines
overhung the seat; she plucked a handful, and gave them to him as they
rose to return to the house.

"Take them with you, Le Gardeur," said she, giving him the flowers,
which she tied into a wreath; "they will remind Angélique that she has a
powerful rival in your sister's love."

He took them as they walked slowly back. "Would she were like you,
Amélie, in all things!" said he. "I will put some of your flowers in her
hair to-night for your sake, sister."

"And for her own! May they be for you both an augury of good! Mind and
return home, Le Gardeur, after your visit. I shall sit up to await your
arrival, to congratulate you;" and, after a pause, she added, "or to
console you, brother!"

"Oh, no fear, sister!" replied he, cheeringly. "Angélique is true as
steel to me. You shall call her my betrothed tomorrow! Good-by! And now
go dance with all delight till morning." He kissed her and departed for
the city, leaving her in the ball-room by the side of the Lady de Tilly.

Amélie related to her aunt the result of her conversation with Le
Gardeur, and the cause of his leaving the fête so abruptly. The Lady de
Tilly listened with surprise and distress. "To think," said she, "of
Le Gardeur asking that terrible girl to marry him! My only hope is, she
will refuse him. And if it be as I hear, I think she will!"

"It would be the ruin of Le Gardeur if she did, aunt! You cannot think
how determined he is on this marriage."

"It would be his ruin if she accepted him!" replied the Lady de Tilly.
"With any other woman Le Gardeur might have a fair chance of happiness;
but none with her! More than one of her lovers lies in a bloody grave
by reason of her coquetries. She has ruined every man whom she has
flattered into loving her. She is without affection. Her thoughts are
covered with a veil of deceit impenetrable. She would sacrifice the
whole world to her vanity. I fear, Amélie, she will sacrifice Le Gardeur
as ruthlessly as the most worthless of her admirers."

"We can only hope for the best, aunt; and I do think Angélique loves Le
Gardeur as she never loved any other."

They were presently rejoined by Pierre Philibert. The Lady de Tilly and
Amélie apologized for Le Gardeur's departure,--he had been compelled to
go to the city on an affair of urgency, and had left them to make his
excuses. Pierre Philibert was not without a shrewd perception of the
state of affairs. He pitied Le Gardeur, and excused him, speaking most
kindly of him in a way that touched the heart of Amélie. The ball went
on with unflagging spirit and enjoyment. The old walls fairly vibrated
with the music and dancing of the gay company.

The music, like the tide in the great river that night, reached its
flood only after the small hours had set in. Amélie had given her
hand to Pierre for one or two dances, and many a friendly, many a half
envious guess was made as to the probable Chatelaine of Belmont.



CHAPTER XXII. SO GLOZED THE TEMPTER.


The lamps burned brightly in the boudoir of Angélique des Meloises
on the night of the fête of Pierre Philibert. Masses of fresh flowers
filled the antique Sèvres vases, sending delicious odors through the
apartment, which was furnished in a style of almost royal splendor. Upon
the white hearth a few billets of wood blazed cheerfully, for, after
a hot day, as was not uncommon in New France, a cool salt-water breeze
came up the great river, bringing reminders of cold sea-washed rocks and
snowy crevices still lingering upon the mountainous shores of the St.
Lawrence.

Angélique sat idly watching the wreaths of smoke as they rose in shapes
fantastic as her own thoughts.

By that subtle instinct which is a sixth sense in woman, she knew that
Le Gardeur de Repentigny would visit her to-night and renew his offer of
marriage. She meant to retain his love and evade his proposals, and she
never for a moment doubted her ability to accomplish her ends. Men's
hearts had hitherto been but potter's clay in her hands, and she had no
misgivings now; but she felt that the love of Le Gardeur was a thing she
could not tread on without a shock to herself like the counter-stroke of
a torpedo to the naked foot of an Indian who rashly steps upon it as it
basks in a sunny pool.

She was agitated beyond her wont, for she loved Le Gardeur with a
strange, selfish passion, for her own sake, not for his,--a sort of love
not uncommon with either sex. She had the frankness to be half ashamed
of it, for she knew the wrong she was doing to one of the most noble
and faithful hearts in the world. But the arrival of the Intendant had
unsettled every good resolution she had once made to marry Le Gardeur
de Repentigny and become a reputable matron in society. Her ambitious
fantasies dimmed every perception of duty to her own heart as well as
his; and she had worked herself into that unenviable frame of mind
which possesses a woman who cannot resolve either to consent or deny, to
accept her lover or to let him go.

The solitude of her apartment became insupportable to her. She sprang
up, opened the window, and sat down in the balcony outside, trying to
find composure by looking down into the dark, still street. The voices
of two men engaged in eager conversation reached her ear. They sat upon
the broad steps of the house, so that every word they spoke reached her
ear, although she could scarcely distinguish them in the darkness. These
were no other than Max Grimeau and Blind Bartemy, the brace of beggars
whose post was at the gate of the Basse Ville. They seemed to be
comparing the amount of alms each had received during the day, and were
arranging for a supper at some obscure haunt they frequented in the
purlieus of the lower town, when another figure came up, short, dapper,
and carrying a knapsack, as Angélique could detect by the glimmer of a
lantern that hung on a rope stretched across the street. He was greeted
warmly by the old mendicants.

"Sure as my old musket it is Master Pothier, and nobody else!" exclaimed
Max Grimeau rising, and giving the newcomer a hearty embrace. "Don't
you see, Bartemy? He has been foraging among the fat wives of the
south shore. What a cheek he blows--red as a peony, and fat as a Dutch
Burgomaster!" Max had seen plenty of the world when he marched under
Marshal de Belleisle, so he was at no loss for apt comparisons.

"Yes!" replied Blind Bartemy, holding out his hand to be shaken. "I see
by your voice, Master Pothier, that you have not said grace over bare
bones during your absence. But where have you been this long time?"

"Oh, fleecing the King's subjects to the best of my poor ability in the
law! and without half the success of you and Max here, who toll the gate
of the Basse Ville more easily than the Intendant gets in the King's
taxes!"

"Why not?" replied Bartemy, with a pious twist of his neck, and an
upward cast of his blank orbs. "It is pour l'amour de Dieu! We beggars
save more souls than the Curé; for we are always exhorting men to
charity. I think we ought to be part of Holy Church as well as the Gray
Friars."

"And so we are part of Holy Church, Bartemy!" interrupted Max Grimeau.
"When the good Bishop washed twelve pair of our dirty feet on Maunday
Thursday in the Cathedral, I felt like an Apostle--I did! My feet were
just ready for benediction; for see! they had never been washed, that
I remember of, since I marched to the relief of Prague! But you should
have been out to Belmont to-day, Master Pothier! There was the grandest
Easter pie ever made in New France! You might have carried on a lawsuit
inside of it, and lived off the estate for a year--I ate a bushel of it.
I did!"

"Oh, the cursed luck is every day mine!" replied Master Pothier,
clapping his hands upon his stomach. "I would not have missed that
Easter pie--no, not to draw the Pope's will! But, as it is laid down in
the Coutume d' Orléans (Tit. 17), the absent lose the usufruct of their
rights; vide, also, Pothier des Successions--I lost my share of the pie
of Belmont!"

"Well, never mind, Master Pothier," replied Max. "Don't grieve; you
shall go with us to-night to the Fleur-de-Lis in the Sault au Matelot.
Bartemy and I have bespoken an eel pie and a gallon of humming cider of
Normandy. We shall all be jolly as the marguilliers of Ste. Roche, after
tithing the parish!"

"Have with you, then! I am free now: I have just delivered a letter to
the Intendant from a lady at Beaumanoir, and got a crown for it. I will
lay it on top of your eel pie, Max!"

Angélique, from being simply amused at the conversation of the old
beggars, became in an instant all eyes and ears at the words of Master
Pothier.

"Had you ever the fortune to see that lady at Beaumanoir?" asked Max,
with more curiosity than was to be expected of one in his position.

"No; the letter was handed me by Dame Tremblay, with a cup of wine. But
the Intendant gave me a crown when he read it. I never saw the Chevalier
Bigot in better humor! That letter touched both his purse and his
feelings. But how did you ever come to hear of the Lady of Beaumanoir?"

"Oh, Bartemy and I hear everything at the gate of the Basse Ville! My
Lord Bishop and Father Glapion of the Jesuits met in the gate one day
and spoke of her, each asking the other if he knew who she was--when up
rode the Intendant; and the Bishop made free, as Bishops will, you know,
to question him whether he kept a lady at the Château.

"'A round dozen of them, my Lord Bishop!' replied Bigot, laughing. La!
It takes the Intendant to talk down a Bishop! He bade my Lord not to
trouble himself, the lady was under his tutelle! which I comprehended as
little, as little--"

"As you do your Nominy Dominy!" replied Pothier. "Don't be angry, Max,
if I infer that the Intendant quoted Pigean (Tit. 2, 27): 'Le Tuteur est
comptable de sa gestion.'"

"I don't care what the pigeons have to say to it--that is what the
Intendant said!" replied Max, hotly, "and THAT, for your law grimoire,
Master Pothier!" Max snapped his fingers like the lock of his musket at
Prague, to indicate what he meant by THAT!

"Oh, inepte loquens! you don't understand either law or Latin, Max!"
exclaimed Pothier, shaking his ragged wig with an air of pity.

"I understand begging; and that is getting without cheating, and much
more to the purpose," replied Max, hotly. "Look you, Master Pothier! you
are learned as three curates; but I can get more money in the gate of
the Basse Ville by simply standing still and crying out Pour l'amour de
Dieu! than you with your budget of law lingo-jingo, running up and down
the country until the dogs eat off the calves of your legs, as they say
in the Nivernois."

"Well, never mind what they say in the Nivernois about the calves of my
legs! Bon coq ne fut jamais gras!--a game-cock is never fat--and that is
Master Pothier dit Robin. Lean as are my calves, they will carry away
as much of your eel pie to-night as those of the stoutest carter in
Quebec!"

"And the pie is baked by this time; so let us be jogging!" interrupted
Bartemy, rising. "Now give me your arm, Max! and with Master Pothier's
on the other side, I shall walk to the Fleur-de-Lis straight as a
steeple."

The glorious prospect of supper made all three merry as crickets on a
warm hearth, as they jogged over the pavement in their clouted shoes,
little suspecting they had left a flame of anger in the breast of
Angélique des Meloises, kindled by the few words of Pothier respecting
the lady of Beaumanoir.

Angélique recalled with bitterness that the rude bearer of the note had
observed something that had touched the heart and opened the purse of
the Intendant. What was it? Was Bigot playing a game with Angélique des
Meloises? Woe to him and the lady of Beaumanoir if he was! As she sat
musing over it a knock was heard on the door of her boudoir. She left
the balcony and reëntered her room, where a neat, comely girl in a
servant's dress was waiting to speak to her.

The girl was not known to Angélique. But courtesying very low, she
informed her that she was Fanchon Dodier, a cousin of Lizette's. She
had been in service at the Château of Beaumanoir, but had just left it.
"There is no living under Dame Tremblay," said she, "if she suspect a
maid servant of flirting ever so little with M. Froumois, the handsome
valet of the Intendant! She imagined that I did; and such a life as
she has led me, my Lady! So I came to the city to ask advice of cousin
Lizette, and seek a new place. I am sure Dame Tremblay need not be so
hard upon the maids. She is always boasting of her own triumphs when she
was the Charming Josephine."

"And Lizette referred you to me?" asked Angélique, too occupied just
now to mind the gossip about Dame Tremblay, which another time she would
have enjoyed immensely. She eyed the girl with intense curiosity; for
might she not tell her something of the secret over which she was eating
her heart out?

"Yes, my Lady! Lizette referred me to you, and told me to be very
circumspect indeed about what I said touching the Intendant, but simply
to ask if you would take me into your service. Lizette need not have
warned me about the Intendant; for I never reveal secrets of my masters
or mistresses, never! never, my Lady!"

"You are more cunning than you look, nevertheless," thought Angélique,
"whatever scruple you may have about secrets." "Fanchon," said she, "I
will make one condition with you: I will take you into my service if you
will tell me whether you ever saw the Lady of Beaumanoir."

Angélique's notions of honor, clear enough in theory, never prevented
her sacrificing them without compunction to gain an object or learn a
secret that interested her.

"I will willingly tell you all I know, my Lady. I have seen her once;
none of the servants are supposed to know she is in the Château, but of
course all do." Fanchon stood with her two hands in the pockets of her
apron, as ready to talk as the pretty grisette who directed Lawrence
Sterne to the Opéra Comique.

"Of course!" remarked Angélique, "a secret like that could never be kept
in the Château of Beaumanoir! Now tell me, Fanchon, what is she like?"
Angélique sat up eagerly and brushed back the hair from her ear with a
rapid stroke of her hand as she questioned the girl. There was a look in
her eyes that made Fanchon a little afraid, and brought out more truth
than she intended to impart.

"I saw her this morning, my Lady, as she knelt in her oratory: the
half-open door tempted me to look, in spite of the orders of Dame
Tremblay."

"Ah! you saw her this morning!" repeated Angélique impetuously; "how
does she appear? Is she better in looks than when she first came to the
Château, or worse? She ought to be worse, much worse!"

"I do not know, my Lady, but, as I said, I looked in the door, although
forbid to do so. Half-open doors are so tempting, and one cannot shut
one's eyes! Even a keyhole is hard to resist when you long to know what
is on the other side of it--I always found it so!"

"I dare say you did! But how does she look?" broke in Angélique,
impatiently stamping her dainty foot on the floor.

"Oh, so pale, my Lady! but her face is the loveliest I ever
saw,--almost," added she, with an after-thought; "but so sad! she looks
like the twin sister of the blessed Madonna in the Seminary chapel, my
Lady."

"Was she at her devotions, Fanchon?"

"I think not, my Lady: she was reading a letter which she had just
received from the Intendant."

Angélique's eyes were now ablaze. She conjectured at once that Caroline
was corresponding with Bigot, and that the letter brought to the
Intendant by Master Pothier was in reply to one from him. "But how do
you know the letter she was reading was from the Intendant? It could not
be!" Angélique's eyebrows contracted angrily, and a dark shadow passed
over her face. She said "It could not be," but she felt it could be, and
was.

"Oh, but it was from the Intendant, my Lady! I heard her repeat his name
and pray God to bless François Bigot for his kind words. That is the
Intendant's name, is it not, my Lady?"

"To be sure it is! I should not have doubted you, Fanchon! but could
you gather the purport of that letter? Speak truly, Fanchon, and I will
reward you splendidly. What think you it was about?"

"I did more than gather the purport of it, my Lady: I have got the
letter itself!" Angélique sprang up eagerly, as if to embrace Fanchon.
"I happened, in my eagerness, to jar the door; the lady, imagining
some one was coming, rose suddenly and left the room. In her haste she
dropped the letter on the floor. I picked it up; I thought no harm, as I
was determined to leave Dame Tremblay to-day. Would my Lady like to read
the letter?"

Angélique fairly sprang at the offer. "You have got the letter, Fanchon?
Let me see it instantly! How considerate of you to bring it! I will give
you this ring for that letter!" She pulled a ring off her finger, and
seizing Fanchon's hand, put it on hers. Fanchon was enchanted; she
admired the ring, as she turned it round and round her finger.

"I am infinitely obliged, my Lady, for your gift. It is worth a million
such letters," said she.

"The letter outweighs a million rings," replied Angélique as she tore it
open violently and sat down to read.

The first word struck her like a stone:


"DEAR CAROLINE:"--it was written in the bold hand of the Intendant,
which Angélique knew very well--"You have suffered too much for my sake,
but I am neither unfeeling nor ungrateful. I have news for you! Your
father has gone to France in search of you! No one suspects you to
be here. Remain patiently where you are at present, and in the utmost
secrecy, or there will be a storm which may upset us both. Try to be
happy, and let not the sweetest eyes that were ever seen grow dim with
needless regrets. Better and brighter days will surely come. Meanwhile,
pray! pray, my Caroline! it will do you good, and perhaps make me more
worthy of the love which I know is wholly mine.

"Adieu, FRANÇOIS."


Angélique devoured rather than read the letter. She had no sooner
perused it than she tore it up in a paroxysm of fury, scattering its
pieces like snowflakes over the floor, and stamping on them with her
firm foot as if she would tread them into annihilation.

Fanchon was not unaccustomed to exhibitions of feminine wrath; but she
was fairly frightened at the terrible rage that shook Angélique from
head to foot.

"Fanchon! did you read that letter?" demanded she, turning suddenly
upon the trembling maid. The girl saw her mistress's cheeks twitch with
passion, and her hands clench as if she would strike her if she answered
yes.

Shrinking with fear, Fanchon replied faintly, "No, my Lady; I cannot
read."

"And you have allowed no other person to read it?"

"No, my Lady; I was afraid to show the letter to any one; you know I
ought not to have taken it!"

"Was no inquiry made about it?" Angélique laid her hand upon the girl's
shoulder, who trembled from head to foot.

"Yes, my Lady; Dame Tremblay turned the Château upside down, looking for
it; but I dared not tell her I had it!"

"I think you speak truth, Fanchon!" replied Angélique, getting somewhat
over her passion; but her bosom still heaved, like the ocean after
a storm. "And now mind what I say!"--her hand pressed heavily on the
girl's shoulder, while she gave her a look that seemed to freeze
the very marrow in her bones. "You know a secret about the Lady of
Beaumanoir, Fanchon, and one about me too! If you ever speak of either
to man or woman, or even to yourself, I will cut the tongue out of your
mouth and nail it to that door-post! Mind my words, Fanchon! I never
fail to do what I threaten."

"Oh, only do not look so at me, my Lady!" replied poor Fanchon,
perspiring with fear. "I am sure I never shall speak of it. I swear by
our Blessed Lady of Ste. Foye! I will never breathe to mortal that I
gave you that letter."

"That will do!" replied Angélique, throwing herself down in her great
chair. "And now you may go to Lizette; she will attend to you. But
REMEMBER!"

The frightened girl did not wait for another command to go. Angélique
held up her finger, which to Fanchon looked terrible as a poniard. She
hurried down to the servants' hall with a secret held fast between her
teeth for once in her life; and she trembled at the very thought of ever
letting it escape.

Angélique sat with her hands on her temples, staring upon the fire that
flared and flickered in the deep fireplace. She had seen a wild, wicked
vision there once before. It came again, as things evil never fail to
come again at our bidding. Good may delay, but evil never waits. The red
fire turned itself into shapes of lurid dens and caverns, changing from
horror to horror until her creative fancy formed them into the secret
chamber of Beaumanoir with its one fair, solitary inmate, her rival for
the hand of the Intendant,--her fortunate rival, if she might believe
the letter brought to her so strangely. Angélique looked fiercely at the
fragments of it lying upon the carpet, and wished she had not destroyed
it; but every word of it was stamped upon her memory, as if branded with
a hot iron.

"I see it all, now!" exclaimed she--"Bigot's falseness, and her
shameless effrontery in seeking him in his very house. But it shall not
be!" Angélique's voice was like the cry of a wounded panther tearing at
the arrow which has pierced his flank. "Is Angélique des Meloises to
be humiliated by that woman? Never! But my bright dreams will have no
fulfilment so long as she lives at Beaumanoir,--so long as she lives
anywhere!"

She sat still for a while, gazing into the fire; and the secret chamber
of Beaumanoir again formed itself before her vision. She sprang up,
touched by the hand of her good angel perhaps, and for the last time.
"Satan whispered it again in my ear!" cried she. "Ste. Marie! I am not
so wicked as that! Last night the thought came to me in the dark--I
shook it off at dawn of day. To-night it comes again,--and I let it
touch me like a lover, and I neither withdraw my hand nor tremble!
To-morrow it will return for the last time and stay with me,--and I
shall let it sleep on my pillow! The babe of sin will have been born and
waxed to a full demon, and I shall yield myself up to his embraces! O
Bigot, Bigot! what have you not done? C'est la faute à vous! C'est la
faute à vous!" She repeated this exclamation several times, as if by
accusing Bigot she excused her own evil imaginings and cast the blame of
them upon him. She seemed drawn down into a vortex from which there
was no escape. She gave herself up to its drift in a sort of passionate
abandonment. The death or the banishment of Caroline were the only
alternatives she could contemplate. "'The sweetest eyes that were ever
seen'--Bigot's foolish words!" thought she; "and the influence of those
eyes must be killed if Angélique des Meloises is ever to mount the lofty
chariot of her ambition."

"Other women," she thought bitterly, "would abandon greatness for love,
and in the arms of a faithful lover like Le Gardeur find a compensation
for the slights of the Intendant!"

But Angélique was not like other women: she was born to conquer men--not
to yield to them. The steps of a throne glittered in her wild fancy, and
she would not lose the game of her life because she had missed the first
throw. Bigot was false to her, but he was still worth the winning, for
all the reasons which made her first listen to him. She had no love for
him--not a spark! But his name, his rank, his wealth, his influence at
Court, and a future career of glory there--these things she had regarded
as her own by right of her beauty and skill in ruling men. "No rival
shall ever boast she has conquered Angélique des Meloises!" cried she,
clenching her hands. And thus it was in this crisis of her fate the
love of Le Gardeur was blown like a feather before the breath of her
passionate selfishness. The weights of gold pulled her down to the
nadir. Angélique's final resolution was irrevocably taken before her
eager, hopeful lover appeared in answer to her summons recalling him
from the festival of Belmont.



CHAPTER XXIII. SEALS OF LOVE, BUT SEALED IN VAIN.


She sat waiting Le Gardeur's arrival, and the thought of him began to
assert its influence as the antidote of the poisonous stuff she had
taken into her imagination. His presence so handsome, his manner so
kind, his love so undoubted, carried her into a region of intense
satisfaction. Angélique never thought so honestly well of herself as
when recounting the marks of affection bestowed upon her by Le Gardeur
de Repentigny. "His love is a treasure for any woman to possess, and he
has given it all to me!" said she to herself. "There are women who value
themselves wholly by the value placed upon them by others; but I value
others by the measure of myself. I love Le Gardeur; and what I love I do
not mean to lose!" added she, with an inconsequence that fitted ill
with her resolution regarding the Intendant. But Angélique was one
who reconciled to herself all professions, however opposite or however
incongruous.

A hasty knock at the door of the mansion, followed by the quick,
well-known step up the broad stair, brought Le Gardeur into
her presence. He looked flushed and disordered as he took her
eagerly-extended hand and pressed it to his lips.

Her whole aspect underwent a transformation in the presence of her
lover. She was unfeignedly glad to see him. Without letting go his
hand she led him to the sofa, and sat down by him. Other men had the
semblance of her graciousness, and a perfect imitation it was too; but
he alone had the reality of her affection.

"O Le Gardeur!" exclaimed she, looking him through and through, and
detecting no flaw in his honest admiration, "can you forgive me
for asking you to come and see me to-night? and for absolutely no
reason--none in the world, Le Gardeur, but that I longed to see you! I
was jealous of Belmont for drawing you away from the Maison des Meloises
to-night!"

"And what better reason could I have in the world than that you were
longing to see me, Angélique? I think I should leave the gate of Heaven
itself if you called me back, darling! Your presence for a minute is
more to me than hours of festivity at Belmont, or the company of any
other woman in the world."

Angélique was not insensible to the devotion of Le Gardeur. Her feelings
were touched, and never slow in finding an interpretation for them she
raised his hand quickly to her lips and kissed it. "I had no motive
in sending for you but to see you, Le Gardeur!" said she; "will that
content you? If it won't--"

"This shall," replied he, kissing her cheek--which she was far from
averting or resenting.

"That is so like you, Le Gardeur!" replied she,--"to take before it
is given!" She stopped--"What was I going to say?" added she. "It was
given, and my contentment is perfect to have you here by my side!" If
her thoughts reverted at this moment to the Intendant it was with a
feeling of repulsion, and as she looked fondly on the face of Le Gardeur
she could not help contrasting his handsome looks with the hard, swarthy
features of Bigot.

"I wish my contentment were perfect, Angélique; but it is in your power
to make it so--will you? Why keep me forever on the threshold of my
happiness, or of my despair, whichever you shall decree? I have spoken
to Amélie tonight of you!"

"O do not press me, Le Gardeur!" exclaimed she, violently agitated,
anxious to evade the question she saw burning on his lips, and
distrustful of her own power to refuse; "not now! not to-night! Another
day you shall know how much I love you, Le Gardeur! Why will not men
content themselves with knowing we love them, without stripping our
favors of all grace by making them duties, and in the end destroying our
love by marrying us?" A flash of her natural archness came over her face
as she said this.

"That would not be your case or mine, Angélique," replied he, somewhat
puzzled at her strange speech. But she rose up suddenly without
replying, and walked to a buffet, where stood a silver salver full of
refreshments. "I suppose you have feasted so magnificently at Belmont
that you will not care for my humble hospitalities," said she, offering
him a cup of rare wine, a recent gift of the Intendant,--which she did
not mention, however. "You have not told me a word yet of the grand
party at Belmont. Pierre Philibert has been highly honored by the
Honnêtes Gens I am sure!"

"And merits all the honor he receives! Why were you not there too,
Angélique? Pierre would have been delighted," replied he, ever ready to
defend Pierre Philibert.

"And I too! but I feared to be disloyal to the Fripponne!" said she,
half mockingly. "I am a partner in the Grand Company you know, Le
Gardeur! But I confess Pierre Philibert is the handsomest man--except
one--in New France. I own to THAT. I thought to pique Amélie one day by
telling her so, but on the contrary I pleased her beyond measure! She
agreed without excepting even the one!"

"Amélie told me your good opinions of Pierre, and I thanked you for it!"
said he, taking her hand. "And now, darling, since you cannot with wine,
words, or winsomeness divert me from my purpose in making you declare
what you think of me also, let me tell you I have promised Amélie to
bring her your answer to-night!"

The eyes of Le Gardeur shone with a light of loyal affection. Angélique
saw there was no escaping a declaration. She sat irresolute and
trembling, with one hand resting on his arm and the other held up
deprecatingly. It was a piece of acting she had rehearsed to herself
for this foreseen occasion. But her tongue, usually so nimble and free,
faltered for once in the rush of emotions that well-nigh overpowered
her. To become the honored wife of Le Gardeur de Repentigny, the sister
of the beauteous Amélie, the niece of the noble Lady de Tilly, was a
piece of fortune to have satisfied, until recently, both her heart and
her ambition. But now Angélique was the dupe of dreams and fancies. The
Royal Intendant was at her feet. France and its courtly splendors
and court intrigues opened vistas of grandeur to her aspiring and
unscrupulous ambition. She could not forego them, and would not! She
knew that, all the time her heart was melting beneath the passionate
eyes of Le Gardeur.

"I have spoken to Amélie, and promised to take her your answer
to-night," said he, in a tone that thrilled every fibre of her better
nature. "She is ready to embrace you as her sister. Will you be my wife,
Angélique?"

Angélique sat silent; she dared not look up at him. If she had, she
knew her hard resolution would melt. She felt his gaze upon her without
seeing it. She grew pale and tried to answer no, but could not; and she
would not answer yes.

The vision she had so wickedly revelled in flashed again upon her at
this supreme moment. She saw, in a panorama of a few seconds, the gilded
halls of Versailles pass before her, and with the vision came the old
temptation.

"Angélique!" repeated he, in a tone full of passionate entreaty, "will
you be my wife, loved as no woman ever was,--loved as alone Le Gardeur
de Repentigny can love you?"

She knew that. As she weakened under his pleading and grasped both his
hands tight in hers, she strove to frame a reply which should say yes
while it meant no; and say no which he should interpret yes.

"All New France will honor you as the Châtelaine de Repentigny! There
will be none higher, as there will be none fairer, than my bride!" Poor
Le Gardeur! He had a dim suspicion that Angélique was looking to France
as a fitting theatre for her beauty and talents.

She still sat mute, and grew paler every moment. Words formed themselves
upon her lips, but she feared to say them, so terrible was the
earnestness of this man's love, and no less vivid the consciousness of
her own. Her face assumed the hardness of marble, pale as Parian and as
rigid; a trembling of her white lips showed the strife going on within
her; she covered her eyes with her hand, that he might not see the tears
she felt quivering under the full lids, but she remained mute.

"Angélique!" exclaimed he, divining her unexpressed refusal; "why do you
turn away from me? You surely do not reject me? But I am mad to think
it! Speak, darling! one word, one sign, one look from those dear eyes,
in consent to be the wife of Le Gardeur, will bring life's happiness to
us both!" He took her hand, and drew it gently from her eyes and kissed
it, but she still averted her gaze from him; she could not look at him,
but the words dropped slowly and feebly from her lips in response to his
appeal:

"I love you, Le Gardeur, but I will not marry you!" said she. She could
not utter more, but her hand grasped his with a fierce pressure, as if
wanting to hold him fast in the very moment of refusal.

He started back, as if touched by fire. "You love me, but will not
marry me! Angélique, what mystery is this? But you are only trying me!
A thousand thanks for your love; the other is but a jest,--a good jest,
which I will laugh at!" And Le Gardeur tried to laugh, but it was a sad
failure, for he saw she did not join in his effort at merriment, but
looked pale and trembling, as if ready to faint.

She laid her hands upon his heavily and sadly. He felt her refusal in
the very touch. It was like cold lead. "Do not laugh, Le Gardeur, I
cannot laugh over it; this is no jest, but mortal earnest! What I say I
mean! I love you, Le Gardeur, but I will not marry you!"

She drew her hands away, as if to mark the emphasis she could not speak.
He felt it like the drawing of his heartstrings.

She turned her eyes full upon him now, as if to look whether love of
her was extinguished in him by her refusal. "I love you, Le Gardeur--you
know I do! But I will not--I cannot--marry you now!" repeated she.

"Now!" he caught at the straw like a drowning swimmer in a whirlpool.
"Now? I said not now but when you please, Angélique! You are worth a
man's waiting his life for!"

"No, Le Gardeur!" she replied, "I am not worth your waiting for; it
cannot be, as I once hoped it might be; but love you I do and ever
shall!" and the false, fair woman kissed him fatuously. "I love you, Le
Gardeur, but I will not marry you!"

"You do not surely mean it, Angélique!" exclaimed he; "you will not give
me death instead of life? You cannot be so false to your own heart, so
cruel to mine? See, Angélique! My saintly sister Amélie believed in
your love, and sent these flowers to place in your hair when you
had consented to be my wife,--her sister; you will not refuse them,
Angélique?"

He raised his hand to place the garland upon her head, but Angélique
turned quickly, and they fell at her feet. "Amélie's gifts are not for
me, Le Gardeur--I do not merit them! I confess my fault: I am, I know,
false to my own heart, and cruel to yours. Despise me,--kill me for it
if you will, Le Gardeur! better you did kill me, perhaps! but I cannot
lie to you as I can to other men! Ask me not to change my resolution,
for I neither can nor will." She spoke with impassioned energy, as if
fortifying her refusal by the reiteration of it.

"It is past comprehension!" was all he could say, bewildered at her
words thus dislocated from all their natural sequence of association.
"Love me and not marry me!--that means she will marry another!" thought
he, with a jealous pang. "Tell me, Angélique," continued he, after
several moments of puzzled silence, "is there some inscrutable reason
that makes you keep my love and reject my hand?"

"No reason, Le Gardeur! It is mad unreason,--I feel that,--but it is no
less true. I love you, but I will not marry you." She spoke with more
resolution now. The first plunge was over, and with it her fear and
trembling as she sat on the brink.

The iteration drove him beside himself. He seized her hands, and
exclaimed with vehemence,--"There is a man--a rival--a more fortunate
lover--behind all this, Angélique des Meloises! It is not yourself that
speaks, but one that prompts you. You have given your love to another,
and discarded me! Is it not so?"

"I have neither discarded you, nor loved another," Angélique
equivocated. She played her soul away at this moment with the mental
reservation that she had not yet done what she had resolved to do upon
the first opportunity--accept the hand of the Intendant Bigot.

"It is well for that other man, if there be one!" Le Gardeur rose and
walked angrily across the room two or three times. Angélique was playing
a game of chess with Satan for her soul, and felt that she was losing
it.

"There was a Sphinx in olden times," said he, "that propounded a riddle,
and he who failed to solve it had to die. Your riddle will be the death
of me, for I cannot solve it, Angélique!"

"Do not try to solve it, dear Le Gardeur! Remember that when her riddle
was solved the Sphinx threw herself into the sea. I doubt that may be
my fate! But you are still my friend, Le Gardeur!" added she, seating
herself again by his side, in her old fond, coquettish manner. "See
these flowers of Amélie's, which I did not place in my hair; I treasure
them in my bosom!" She gathered them up as she spoke, kissed them, and
placed them in her bosom.

"You are still my friend, Le Gardeur?" Her eyes turned upon him with the
old look she could so well assume.

"I am more than a thousand friends, Angélique!" replied he; "but I shall
curse myself that I can remain so and see you the wife of another."

The very thought drove him to frenzy. He dashed her hand away and sprang
up towards the door, but turned suddenly round. "That curse was not for
you, Angélique!" said he, pale and agitated; "it was for myself, for
ever believing in the empty love you professed for me. Good-by! Be
happy! As for me, the light goes out of my life, Angélique, from this
day forth."

"Oh, stop! stop, Le Gardeur! do not leave me so!" She rose and
endeavored to restrain him, but he broke from her, and without adieu
or further parley rushed out bareheaded into the street. She ran to
the balcony to call him back, and leaning far over it, cried out, "Le
Gardeur! Le Gardeur!" That voice would have called him from the dead
could he have heard it, but he was already lost in the darkness. A
few rapid steps resounded on the distant pavement, and Le Gardeur de
Repentigny was lost to her forever!

She waited long on the balcony, looking over it for a chance of hearing
his returning steps, but none came. It was the last impulse of her love
to save her, but it was useless. "Oh, God!" she exclaimed in a voice
of mortal agony, "he is gone forever--my Le Gardeur! my one true lover,
rejected by my own madness, and for what?" She thought "For what!"
and in a storm of passion, tearing her golden hair over her face,
and beating her breast in her rage, she exclaimed,--"I am wicked,
unutterably bad, worse and more despicable than the vilest creature that
crouches under the bushes on the Batture! How dared I, unwomanly that I
am, reject the hand I worship for sake of a hand I should loathe in the
very act of accepting it? The slave that is sold in the market is better
than I, for she has no choice, while I sell myself to a man whom I
already hate, for he is already false to me! The wages of a harlot were
more honestly earned than the splendor for which I barter soul and body
to this Intendant!"

The passionate girl threw herself upon the floor, nor heeded the blood
that oozed from her head, bruised on the hard wood. Her mind was torn by
a thousand wild fancies. Sometimes she resolved to go out like the Rose
of Sharon and seek her beloved in the city and throw herself at his
feet, making him a royal gift of all he claimed of her.

She little knew her own wilful heart. She had seen the world bow to
every caprice of hers, but she never had one principle to guide her,
except her own pleasure. She was now like a goddess of earth, fallen in
an effort to reconcile impossibilities in human hearts, and became the
sport of the powers of wickedness.

She lay upon the floor senseless, her hands in a violent clasp. Her
glorious hair, torn and disordered, lay over her like the royal robe of
a queen stricken from her throne and lying dead upon the floor of her
palace.

It was long after midnight, in the cold hours of the morning, when
she woke from her swoon. She raised herself feebly upon her elbow,
and looked dazedly up at the cold, unfeeling stars that go on shining
through the ages, making no sign of sympathy with human griefs. Perseus
had risen to his meridian, and Algol, her natal star, alternately
darkened and brightened as if it were the scene of some fierce conflict
of the powers of light and darkness, like that going on in her own soul.

Her face was stained with hard clots of blood as she rose, cramped and
chilled to the bone. The night air had blown coldly upon her through
the open lattice; but she would not summon her maid to her assistance.
Without undressing she threw herself upon a couch, and utterly worn out
by the agitation she had undergone, slept far into the day.



CHAPTER XXIV. THE HURRIED QUESTION OF DESPAIR.


Le Gardeur plunged headlong down the silent street, neither knowing nor
caring whither. Half mad with grief, half with resentment, he vented
curses upon himself, upon Angélique, upon the world, and looked upon
Providence itself as in league with the evil powers to thwart his
happiness,--not seeing that his happiness in the love of a woman like
Angélique was a house built on sand, which the first storm of life would
sweep away.

"Holla! Le Gardeur de Repentigny! Is that you?" exclaimed a voice in the
night. "What lucky wind blows you out at this hour?" Le Gardeur stopped
and recognized the Chevalier de Pean. "Where are you going in such a
desperate hurry?"

"To the devil!" replied Le Gardeur, withdrawing his hand from De Pean's,
who had seized it with an amazing show of friendship. "It is the only
road left open to me, and I am going to march down it like a garde du
corps of Satan! Do not hold me, De Pean! Let go my arm! I am going to
the devil, I tell you!"

"Why, Le Gardeur," was the reply, "that is a broad and well-travelled
road--the king's highway, in fact. I am going upon it myself, as fast
and merrily as any man in New France."

"Well, go on it then! March either before or after me, only don't go
with me, De Pean; I am taking the shortest cuts to get to the end of
it, and want no one with me." Le Gardeur walked doggedly on; but De Pean
would not be shaken off. He suspected what had happened.

"The shortest cut I know is by the Taverne de Menut, where I am going
now," said he, "and I should like your company, Le Gardeur! Our set are
having a gala night of it, and must be musical as the frogs of Beauport
by this hour! Come along!" De Pean again took his arm. He was not
repelled this time.

"I don't care where I go, De Pean!" replied he, forgetting his dislike
to this man, and submitting to his guidance,--the Taverne de Menut was
just the place for him to rush into and drown his disappointment in
wine. The two moved on in silence for a few minutes.

"Why, what ails you, Le Gardeur?" asked his companion, as they walked on
arm in arm. "Has fortune frowned upon the cards, or your mistress proved
a fickle jade like all her sex?"

His words were irritating enough to Le Gardeur. "Look you, De Pean," said
he, stopping, "I shall quarrel with you if you repeat such remarks.
But you mean no mischief I dare say, although I would not swear it!" Le
Gardeur looked savage.

De Pean saw it would not be safe to rub that sore again. "Forgive me,
Le Gardeur!" said he, with an air of sympathy well assumed. "I meant no
harm. But you are suspicious of your friends to-night as a Turk of his
harem."

"I have reason to be! And as for friends, I find only such friends as
you, De Pean! And I begin to think the world has no better!" The clock
of the Recollets struck the hour as they passed under the shadow of
its wall. The brothers of St. Francis slept quietly on their peaceful
pillows, like sea birds who find in a rocky nook a refuge from the
ocean storms. "Do you think the Recollets are happy, De Pean?" asked he,
turning abruptly to his companion.

"Happy as oysters at high water, who are never crossed in love, except
of their dinner! But that is neither your luck nor mine, Le Gardeur!" De
Pean was itching to draw from his companion something with reference to
what had passed with Angélique.

"Well, I would rather be an oyster than a man, and rather be dead than
either!" was the reply of Le Gardeur. "How soon, think you, will brandy
kill a man, De Pean?" asked he abruptly, after a pause of silence.

"It will never kill you, Le Gardeur, if you take it neat at Master
Menut's. It will restore you to life, vigor, and independence of man and
woman. I take mine there when I am hipped as you are, Le Gardeur. It is
a specific for every kind of ill-fortune,--I warrant it will cure and
never kill you."

They crossed the Place d'Armes. Nothing in sight was moving except the
sentries who paced slowly like shadows up and down the great gateway of
the Castle of St. Louis.

"It is still and solemn as a church-yard here," remarked De Pean; "all
the life of the place is down at Menut's! I like the small hours," added
he as the chime of the Recollets ceased. "They are easily counted,
and pass quickly, asleep or awake. Two o'clock in the morning is
the meridian of the day for a man who has wit to wait for it at
Menut's!--these small hours are all that are worth reckoning in a man's
life!"

Without consenting to accompany De Pean, Le Gardeur suffered himself to
be led by him. He knew the company that awaited him there--the wildest
and most dissolute gallants of the city and garrison were usually
assembled there at this hour.

The famous old hostelry was kept by Master Menut, a burly Breton
who prided himself on keeping everything full and plenty about his
house--tables full, tankards full, guests full, and himself very full.
The house was to-night lit up with unusual brilliance, and was full
of company--Cadet, Varin, Mercier, and a crowd of the friends and
associates of the Grand Company. Gambling, drinking, and conversing in
the loudest strain on such topics as interested their class, were the
amusements of the night. The vilest thoughts, uttered in the low argot
of Paris, were much affected by them. They felt a pleasure in this
sort of protest against the extreme refinement of society, just as the
collegians of Oxford, trained beyond their natural capacity in morals,
love to fall into slang and, like Prince Hal, talk to every tinker in
his own tongue.

De Pean and Le Gardeur were welcomed with open arms at the Taverne de
Menut. A dozen brimming glasses were offered them on every side. De Pean
drank moderately. "I have to win back my losses of last night," said he,
"and must keep my head clear." Le Gardeur, however, refused nothing
that was offered him. He drank with all, and drank every description of
liquor. He was speedily led up into a large, well-furnished room, where
tables were crowded with gentlemen playing cards and dice for piles
of paper money, which was tossed from hand to hand with the greatest
nonchalance as the game ended and was renewed.

Le Gardeur plunged headlong into the flood of dissipation. He played,
drank, talked argot, and cast off every shred of reserve. He doubled his
stakes, and threw his dice reckless and careless whether he lost or won.
His voice overbore that of the stoutest of the revellers. He embraced De
Pean as his friend, who returned his compliments by declaring Le Gardeur
de Repentigny to be the king of good fellows, who had the "strongest
head to carry wine and the stoutest heart to defy dull care of any man
in Quebec."

De Pean watched with malign satisfaction the progress of Le Gardeur's
intoxication. If he seemed to flag, he challenged him afresh to drink to
better fortune; and when he lost the stakes, to drink again to spite ill
luck.

But let a veil be dropped over the wild doings of the Taverne de Menut.
Le Gardeur lay insensible at last upon the floor, where he would have
remained had not some of the servants of the inn who knew him lifted him
up compassionately and placed him upon a couch, where he lay, breathing
heavily like one dying. His eyes were fixed; his mouth, where the kisses
of his sister still lingered, was partly opened, and his hands were
clenched, rigid as a statue's.

"He is ours now!" said De Pean to Cadet. "He will not again put his head
under the wing of the Philiberts!"

The two men looked at him, and laughed brutally.

"A fair lady whom you know, Cadet, has given him liberty to drink
himself to death, and he will do it."

"Who is that? Angélique?" asked Cadet.

"Of course; who else? and Le Gardeur won't be the first or last man
she has put under stone sheets," replied De Pean, with a shrug of his
shoulders.

"Gloria patri filioque!" exclaimed Cadet, mockingly; "the Honnêtes Gens
will lose their trump card. How did you get him away from Belmont, De
Pean?"

"Oh, it was not I! Angélique des Meloises set the trap and whistled the
call that brought him," replied De Pean.

"Like her, the incomparable witch!" exclaimed Cadet with a hearty laugh.
"She would lure the very devil to play her tricks instead of his own.
She would beat Satan at his best game to ruin a man."

"It would be all the same, Cadet, I fancy--Satan or she! But where is
Bigot? I expected him here."

"Oh, he is in a tantrum to-night, and would not come. That piece of his
at Beaumanoir is a thorn in his flesh, and a snow-ball on his spirits.
She is taming him. By St. Cocufin! Bigot loves that woman!"

"I told you that before, Cadet. I saw it a month ago, and was sure of it
on that night when he would not bring her up to show her to us."

"Such a fool, De Pean, to care for any woman! What will Bigot do with
her, think you?"

"How should I know? Send her adrift some fine day I suppose, down the
Rivière du Loup. He will, if he is a sensible man. He dare not marry any
woman without license from La Pompadour, you know. The jolly fish-woman
holds a tight rein over her favorites. Bigot may keep as many women as
Solomon--the more the merrier; but woe befall him if he marries without
La Pompadour's consent! They say she herself dotes on Bigot,--that is
the reason." De Pean really believed that was the reason; and certainly
there was reason for suspecting it.

"Cadet! Cadet!" exclaimed several voices. "You are fined a basket of
champagne for leaving the table."

"I'll pay it," replied he, "and double it; but it is hot as Tartarus in
here. I feel like a grilled salmon." And indeed, Cadet's broad, sensual
face was red and glowing as a harvest moon. He walked a little unsteady
too, and his naturally coarse voice sounded thick, but his hard brain
never gave way beyond a certain point under any quantity of liquor.

"I am going to get some fresh air," said he. "I shall walk as far as the
Fleur-de-Lis. They never go to bed at that jolly old inn."

"I will go with you!" "And I!" exclaimed a dozen voices.

"Come on then; we will all go to the old dog-hole, where they keep the
best brandy in Quebec. It is smuggled of course, but that makes it all
the better."

Mine host of the Taverne de Menut combatted this opinion of the goodness
of the liquors at the Fleur-de-Lis. His brandy had paid the King's
duties, and bore the stamp of the Grand Company, he said; and he
appealed to every gentleman present on the goodness of his liquors.

Cadet and the rest took another round of it to please the landlord, and
sallied out with no little noise and confusion. Some of them struck
up the famous song which, beyond all others, best expressed the gay,
rollicking spirit of the French nation and of the times of the old
régime:


     "'Vive Henri Quatre!
       Vive le Roi vaillant!
       Ce diable à quatre
       A le triple talent,
       De boire et de battre,
       Et d'être un vert galant!'"


When the noisy party arrived at the Fleur-de-Lis, they entered without
ceremony into a spacious room--low, with heavy beams and with roughly
plastered walls, which were stuck over with proclamations of governors
and intendants and dingy ballads brought by sailors from French ports.

A long table in the middle of the room was surrounded by a lot of
fellows, plainly of the baser sort,--sailors, boatmen, voyageurs,--in
rough clothes, and tuques--red or blue,--upon their heads. Every one had
a pipe in his mouth. Some were talking with loose, loquacious tongues;
some were singing; their ugly, jolly visages--half illumined by the
light of tallow candles stuck in iron sconces on the wall--were worthy
of the vulgar but faithful Dutch pencils of Schalken and Teniers. They
were singing a song as the new company came in.

At the head of the table sat Master Pothier, with a black earthen mug of
Norman cider in one hand and a pipe in the other. His budget of law hung
on a peg in the corner, as quite superfluous at a free-and-easy at the
Fleur-de-Lis.

Max Grimeau and Blind Bartemy had arrived in good time for the eel pie.
They sat one on each side of Master Pothier, full as ticks and merry as
grigs; a jolly chorus was in progress as Cadet entered.

The company rose and bowed to the gentlemen who had honored them with
a call. "Pray sit down, gentlemen; take our chairs!" exclaimed Master
Pothier, officiously offering his to Cadet, who accepted it as well as
the black mug, of which he drank heartily, declaring old Norman cider
suited his taste better than the choicest wine.

"We are your most humble servitors, and highly esteem the honor of your
visit," said Master Pothier, as he refilled the black mug.

"Jolly fellows!" replied Cadet, stretching his legs refreshingly,
"this does look comfortable. Do you drink cider because you like it, or
because you cannot afford better?"

"There is nothing better than Norman cider, except Cognac brandy,"
replied Master Pothier, grinning from ear to ear. "Norman cider is fit
for a king, and with a lining of brandy is drink for a Pope! It will
make a man see stars at noonday. Won't it, Bartemy?"

"What! old turn-penny! are you here?" cried Cadet, recognizing the old
beggar of the gate of the Basse Ville.

"Oh, yes, your Honor!" replied Bartemy, with his professional whine,
"pour l'amour de Dieu!"

"Gad! you are the jolliest beggar I know out of the Friponne," replied
Cadet, throwing him a crown.

"He is not a jollier beggar than I am, your Honor," said Max Grimeau,
grinning like an Alsatian over a Strasbourg pie. "It was I sang bass in
the ballad as you came in--you might have heard me, your Honor?"

"To be sure I did; I will be sworn there is not a jollier beggar in
Quebec than you, old Max! Here is a crown for you too, to drink the
Intendant's health and another for you, you roving limb of the law,
Master Pothier! Come, Master Pothier! I will fill your ragged gown
full as a demijohn of brandy if you will go on with the song you were
singing."

"We were at the old ballad of the Pont d'Avignon, your Honor," replied
Master Pothier.

"And I was playing it," interrupted Jean La Marche; "you might have
heard my violin, it is a good one!" Jean would not hide his talent in
a napkin on so auspicious an occasion as this. He ran his bow over the
strings and played a few bars,--"that was the tune, your Honor."

"Ay, that was it! I know the jolly old song! Now go on!" Cadet thrust
his thumbs into the armholes of his laced waistcoat and listened
attentively; rough as he was, he liked the old Canadian music.

Jean tuned his fiddle afresh, and placing it with a knowing jerk under
his chin, and with an air of conceit worthy of Lulli, began to sing and
play the old ballad:


     "'A St. Malo, beau port de mer,
       Trois navires sont arrivés,
       Chargés d'avoine, chargés de bled;
       Trois dames s'en vont les merchander!'"


"Tut!" exclaimed Varin, "who cares for things that have no more point in
them than a dumpling! give us a madrigal, or one of the devil's ditties
from the Quartier Latin!"

"I do not know a 'devil's ditty,' and would not sing one if I did,"
replied Jean La Marche, jealous of the ballads of his own New France.
"Indians cannot swear because they know no oaths, and habitans cannot
sing devil's ditties because they never learned them; but 'St. Malo,
beau port de mer,'--I will sing that with any man in the Colony!"

The popular songs of the French Canadians are simple, almost infantine,
in their language, and as chaste in expression as the hymns of other
countries. Impure songs originate in classes who know better, and revel
from choice in musical slang and indecency.

"Sing what you like! and never mind Varin, my good fellow," said Cadet,
stretching himself in his chair; "I like the old Canadian ballads better
than all the devil's ditties ever made in Paris! You must sing your
devil's ditties yourself, Varin; our habitans won't,--that is sure!"

After an hour's roystering at the Fleur-de-Lis the party of gentlemen
returned to the Taverne de Menut a good deal more unsteady and more
obstreperous than when they came. They left Master Pothier seated in
his chair, drunk as Bacchus, and every one of the rest of his companions
blind as Bartemy.

The gentlemen, on their return to the Taverne de Menut, found De Pean in
a rage. Pierre Philibert had followed Amélie to the city, and learning
the cause of her anxiety and unconcealed tears, started off with the
determination to find Le Gardeur.

The officer of the guard at the gate of the Basse Ville was able to
direct him to the right quarter. He hastened to the Taverne de Menut,
and in haughty defiance of De Pean, with whom he had high words, he got
the unfortunate Le Gardeur away, placed him in a carriage, and took him
home, receiving from Amélie such sweet and sincere thanks as he thought
a life's service could scarcely have deserved.

"Par Dieu! that Philibert is a game-cock, De Pean," exclaimed Cadet, to
the savage annoyance of the Secretary. "He has pluck and impudence for
ten gardes du corps. It was neater done than at Beaumanoir!" Cadet sat
down to enjoy a broad laugh at the expense of his friend over the second
carrying off of Le Gardeur.

"Curse him! I could have run him through, and am sorry I did not,"
exclaimed De Pean.

"No, you could not have run him through, and you would have been sorry
had you tried it, De Pean," replied Cadet. "That Philibert is not as
safe as the Bank of France to draw upon. I tell you it was well for
yourself you did not try, De Pean. But never mind," continued Cadet,
"there is never so bad a day but there is a fair to-morrow after it,
so make up a hand at cards with me and Colonel Trivio, and put money
in your purse; it will salve your bruised feelings." De Pean failed to
laugh off his ill humor, but he took Cadet's advice, and sat down to
play for the remainder of the night.


"Oh, Pierre Philibert, how can we sufficiently thank you for your
kindness to my dear, unhappy brother?" said Amélie to him, her eyes
tremulous with tears and her hand convulsively clasping his, as Pierre
took leave of her at the door of the mansion of the Lady de Tilly.

"Le Gardeur claims our deepest commiseration, Amélie," replied he; "you
know how this has happened?"

"I do know, Pierre, and shame to know it. But you are so generous ever.
Do not blame me for this agitation!" She strove to steady herself, as a
ship will right up for a moment in veering.

"Blame you! what a thought! As soon blame the angels for being good! But
I have a plan, Amélie, for Le Gardeur--we must get him out of the
city and back to Tilly for a while. Your noble aunt has given me an
invitation to visit the Manor House. What if I manage to accompany Le
Gardeur to his dear old home?"

"A visit to Tilly in your company would, of all things, delight Le
Gardeur," said she, "and perhaps break those ties that bind him to the
city."

These were pleasing words to Philibert, and he thought how delightful
would be her own fair presence also at Tilly.

"All the physicians in the world will not help Le Gardeur as will your
company at Tilly!" exclaimed she, with a sudden access of hope. "Le
Gardeur needs not medicine, only care, and--"

"The love he has set his heart on, Amélie! Men sometimes die when they
fail in that." He looked at her as he said this, but instantly withdrew
his eyes, fearing he had been overbold.

She blushed, and only replied, with absolute indirection, "Oh, I am so
thankful to you, Pierre Philibert!" But she gave him, as he left, a look
of gratitude and love which never effaced itself from his memory. In
after-years, when Pierre Philibert cared not for the light of the sun,
nor for woman's love, nor for life itself, the tender, impassioned
glance of those dark eyes wet with tears came back to him like a break
in the dark clouds, disclosing the blue heaven beyond; and he longed to
be there.



CHAPTER XXV. BETWIXT THE LAST VIOLET AND THE EARLIEST ROSE.


"Do not go out to-day, brother, I want you so particularly to stay with
me to-day," said Amélie de Repentigny, with a gentle, pleading voice.
"Aunt has resolved to return to Tilly to-morrow; I need your help to
arrange these papers, and anyway, I want your company, brother," added
she, smiling.

Le Gardeur sat feverish, nervous, and ill after his wild night spent
at the Taverne de Menut. He started and reddened as his sister's eyes
rested on him. He looked through the open window like a wild animal
ready to spring out of it and escape.

A raging thirst was on him, which Amélie sought to assuage by draughts
of water, milk, and tea--a sisterly attention which he more than once
acknowledged by kissing the loving fingers which waited upon him so
tenderly.

"I cannot stay in the house, Amélie," said he; "I shall go mad if I do!
You know how it has fared with me, sweet sister! I yesterday built up a
tower of glass, high as heaven, my heaven--a woman's love; to-day I am
crushed under the ruins of it."

"Say not so, brother! you were not made to be crushed by the nay of any
faithless woman. Oh! why will men think more of our sex than we deserve?
How few of us do deserve the devotion of a good and true man!"

"How few men would be worthy of you, sweet sister!" replied he, proudly.
"Ah! had Angélique had your heart, Amélie!"

"You will be glad one day of your present sorrow, brother," replied she.
"It is bitter I know, and I feel its bitterness with you, but life with
Angélique would have been infinitely harder to bear."

He shook his head, not incredulously, but defiantly at fate. "I would
have accepted it," said he, "had I been sure life with her had been hard
as millstones! My love is of the perverse kind, not to be transmuted by
any furnace of fiery trial."

"I have no answer, brother, but this:" and Amdlie stooped and kissed his
fevered forehead. She was too wise to reason in a case where she knew
reason always made default.

"What has happened at the Manor House," asked he after a short silence,
"that aunt is going to return home sooner than she expected when she
left?"

"There are reports to-day of Iroquois on the upper Chaudière, and her
censitaires are eager to return to guard their homes from the prowling
savages; and what is more, you and Colonel Philibert are ordered to go
to Tilly to look after the defence of the Seigniory."

Le Gardeur sat bolt upright. His military knowledge could not comprehend
an apparently useless order. "Pierre Philibert and I ordered to Tilly to
look after the defence of the Seigniory! We had no information yesterday
that Iroquois were within fifty leagues of Tilly. It is a false rumor
raised by the good wives to get their husbands home again! Don't you
think so, Amélie?" asked he, smiling for the first time.

"No, I don't think so, Le Gardeur! but it would be a pretty ruse de
guerre, were it true. The good wives naturally feel nervous at being
left alone--I should myself," added she, playfully.

"Oh, I don't know! the nervous ones have all come with the men to the
city; but I suppose the works are sufficiently advanced, and the men can
be spared to return home. But what says Pierre Philibert to the order
despatching him to Tilly? You have seen him since?"

Amélie blushed a little as she replied, "Yes, I have seen him; he is
well content, I think, to see Tilly once more in your company, brother."

"And in yours, sister!--Why blush, Amélie? Pierre is worthy of you,
should he ever say to you what I so vainly said last night to Angélique
des Meloises!" Le Gardeur held her tightly by the hand.

Her face was glowing scarlet,--she was in utter confusion. "Oh, stop,
brother! Don't say such things! Pierre never uttered such thoughts to
me!--never will, in all likelihood!"

"But he will! And, my darling sister, when Pierre Philibert shall say he
loves you and asks you to be his wife, if you love him, if you pity me,
do not say him nay!" She was trembling with agitation, and without power
to reply. But Le Gardeur felt her hand tighten upon his. He comprehended
the involuntary sign, drew her to him, kissed her, and left the topic
without pressing it further; leaving it in the most formidable shape to
take deep root in the silent meditations of Amélie.

The rest of the day passed in such sunshine as Amélie could throw over
her brother. Her soft influence retained him at home: she refreshed him
with her conversation and sympathy, drew from him the pitiful story of
his love and its bitter ending. She knew the relief of disburdening his
surcharged heart; and to none but his sister, from whom he had never had
a secret until this episode in his life, would he have spoken a word of
his heart's trouble.

Numerous were the visitors to-day at the hospitable mansion of the Lady
de Tilly; but Le Gardeur would see none of them except Pierre Philibert,
who rode over as soon as he was relieved from his military attendance at
the Castle of St. Louis.

Le Gardeur received Pierre with an effusion of grateful
affection--touching, because real. His handsome face, so like Amélie's,
was peculiarly so when it expressed the emotions habitual to her;
and the pleasure both felt in the presence of Pierre brought out
resemblances that flashed fresh on the quick, observant eye of Pierre.

The afternoon was spent in conversation of that kind which gives and
takes with mutual delight. Le Gardeur seemed more his old self again in
the company of Pierre; Amélie was charmed at the visible influence
of Pierre over him, and a hope sprang up in her bosom that the little
artifice of beguiling Le Gardeur to Tilly in the companionship of Pierre
might be the means of thwarting those adverse influences which were
dragging him to destruction.

If Pierre Philibert grew more animated in the presence of those bright
eyes, which were at once appreciative and sympathizing, Amélie drank in
the conversation of Pierre as one drinks the wine of a favorite vintage.
If her heart grew a little intoxicated, what the wonder? Furtively
as she glanced at the manly countenance of Pierre, she saw in it the
reflection of his noble mind and independent spirit; and remembering the
injunction of Le Gardeur,--for, woman-like, she sought a support out of
herself to justify a foregone conclusion,--she thought that if Pierre
asked her she could be content to share his lot, and her greatest
happiness would be to live in the possession of his love.

Pierre Philibert took his departure early from the house of the Lady
de Tilly, to make his preparations for leaving the city next day. His
father was aware of his project, and approved of it.

The toils of the day were over in the house of the Chien d'Or. The
Bourgeois took his hat and sword and went out for a walk upon the cape,
where a cool breeze came up fresh from the broad river. It was just the
turn of tide. The full, brimming waters, reflecting here and there
a star, began to sparkle under the clear moon that rose slowly and
majestically over the hills of the south shore.

The Bourgeois sat down on the low wall of the terrace to enjoy the
freshness and beauty of the scene which, although he had seen it a
hundred times before, never looked lovelier, he thought, than this
evening. He was very happy in his silent thoughts over his son's return
home; and the general respect paid him on the day of his fête had been
more felt, perhaps, by the Bourgeois than by Pierre himself.

As he indulged in these meditations, a well-known voice suddenly
accosted him. He turned and was cordially greeted by the Count de la
Galissonière and Herr Kalm, who had sauntered through the garden of the
Castle and directed their steps towards the cape with intention to call
upon the Lady de Tilly and pay their respects to her before she left the
city.

The Bourgeois, learning their intentions, said he would accompany
them, as he too owed a debt of courtesy to the noble lady and her niece
Amélie, which he would discharge at the same time.

The three gentlemen walked gravely on, in pleasant conversation. The
clearness of the moonlit night threw the beautiful landscape, with its
strongly accentuated features, into contrasts of light and shade to
which the pencil of Rembrandt alone could have done justice. Herr Kalm
was enthusiastic in his admiration,--moonlight over Drachenfels on the
Rhine, or the midnight sun peering over the Gulf of Bothnia, reminded
him of something similar, but of nothing so grand on the whole as the
matchless scene visible from Cape Diamond--worthy of its name.

Lady de Tilly received her visitors with the gracious courtesy habitual
to her. She especially appreciated the visit from the Bourgeois, who so
rarely honored the houses of his friends by his welcome presence. As
for His Excellency, she remarked, smiling, it was his official duty to
represent the politeness of France to the ladies of the Colony, while
Herr Kalm, representing the science of Europe, ought to be honored in
every house he chose to visit,--she certainly esteemed the honor of his
presence in her own.

Amélie made her appearance in the drawing-room, and while the visitors
stayed exerted herself to the utmost to please and interest them by
taking a ready and sympathetic part in their conversation. Her quick
and cultivated intellect enabled her to do so to the delight, and even
surprise, of the three grave, learned gentlemen. She lacked neither
information nor opinions of her own, while her speech, soft and womanly,
gave a delicacy to her free yet modest utterances that made her, in
their recollections of her in the future, a standard of comparison,--a
measure of female perfections.

Le Gardeur, learning who were in the house, came down after a while to
thank the Governor, the Bourgeois, and Herr Kalm for the honor of their
visit. He exerted himself by a desperate effort to be conversable,--not
very successfully, however; for had not Amélie watched him with deepest
sympathy and adroitly filled the breaks in his remarks, he would have
failed to pass himself creditably before the Governor. As it was, Le
Gardeur contented himself with following the flow of conversation which
welled up copiously from the lips of the rest of the company.

After a while came in Félix Baudoin in his full livery, reserved for
special occasions, and announced to his lady that tea was served. The
gentlemen were invited to partake of what was then a novelty in New
France. The Bourgeois, in the course of the new traffic with China that
had lately sprung up in consequence of the discovery of ginseng in New
France, had imported some chests of tea, which the Lady de Tilly, with
instinctive perception of its utility, adopted at once as the beverage
of polite society. As yet, however, it was only to be seen upon the
tables of the refined and the affluent.

A fine service of porcelain of Chinese make adorned her table, pleasing
the fancy with its grotesque pictures,--then so new, now so familiar to
us all. The Chinese garden and summer-house, the fruit-laden trees,
and river with overhanging willows; the rustic bridge with the three
long-robed figures passing over it; the boat floating upon the water and
the doves flying in the perspectiveless sky--who does not remember them
all?

Lady de Tilly, like a true gentlewoman, prized her china, and thought
kindly of the mild, industrious race who had furnished her tea-table
with such an elegant equipage.

It was no disparagement to the Lady de Tilly that she had not read
English poets who sang the praise of tea: English poets were in those
days an unknown quantity in French education, and especially in New
France until after the conquest. But Wolfe opened the great world of
English poetry to Canada as he recited Gray's Elegy with its prophetic
line,--


     "The paths of glory lead but to the grave,"


as he floated down the St. Lawrence in that still autumnal night to
land his forces and scale by stealth the fatal Heights of Abraham, whose
possession led to the conquest of the city and his own heroic death,
then it was the two glorious streams of modern thought and literature
united in New France, where they have run side by side to this day,--in
time to be united in one grand flood stream of Canadian literature.

The Bourgeois Philibert had exported largely to China the newly
discovered ginseng, for which at first the people of the flowery
kingdom paid, in their sycee silver, ounce for ounce. And his Cantonese
correspondent esteemed himself doubly fortunate when he was enabled
to export his choicest teas to New France in exchange for the precious
root.

Amélie listened to an eager conversation between the Governor and Herr
Kalm, started by the latter on the nature, culture, and use of the
tea-plant,--they would be trite opinions now,--with many daring
speculations on the ultimate conquest of the tea-cup over the wine-cup.
"It would inaugurate the third beatitude!" exclaimed the philosopher,
pressing together the tips of the fingers of both hands, "and the 'meek
would inherit the earth;'" so soon as the use of tea became universal,
mankind would grow milder, as their blood was purified from the fiery
products of the still and the wine-press! The life of man would be
prolonged and made more valuable.

"What has given China four thousand of years of existence?" asked Herr
Kaim, abruptly, of the Count.

The Count could not tell, unless it were that the nation was dead
already in all that regarded the higher life of national existence,--had
become mummified, in fact,--and did not know it.

"Not at all!" replied Herr Kalm. "It is the constant use of the
life-giving infusion of tea that has saved China! Tea soothes the
nerves; it clears the blood, expels vapors from the brain, and restores
the fountain of life to pristine activity. Ergo, it prolongs the
existence of both men and nations, and has made China the most antique
nation in the world."

Herr Kalm was a devotee to the tea-cup; he drank it strong to excite his
flagging spirits, weak to quiet them down. He took Bohea with his
facts, and Hyson with his fancy, and mixed them to secure the necessary
afflatus to write his books of science and travel. Upon Hyson he would
have attempted the Iliad, upon Bohea he would undertake to square the
circle, discover perpetual motion, or reform the German philosophy.

The professor was in a jovial mood, and gambolled away gracefully as
a Finland horse under a pack-saddle laden with the learning of a dozen
students of Abo, travelling home for the holidays.

"We are fortunate in being able to procure our tea in exchange for
our useless ginseng," remarked the Lady de Tilly, as she handed the
professor a tiny plate of the leaves, as was the fashion of the day.
After drinking the tea, the infused leaves were regarded as quite a
fashionable delicacy. Except for the fashion, it had not been perhaps
considered a delicacy at all.

The observation of the Lady de Tilly set the professor off on another
branch of the subject. "He had observed," he said, "the careless methods
of preparing the ginseng in New France, and predicted a speedy end of
the traffic, unless it were prepared to suit the fancy of the fastidious
Chinese."

"That is true, Herr Kalm," replied the Governor, "but our Indians
who gather it are bad managers. Our friend Philibert, who opened this
lucrative trade, is alone capable of ensuring its continuance. It is a
mine of wealth to New France, if rightly developed. How much made you
last year by ginseng, Philibert?"

"I can scarcely answer," replied the Bourgeois, hesitating a moment
to mention what might seem like egotism; "but the half million I
contributed towards the war in defence of Acadia was wholly the product
of my export of ginseng to China."

"I know it was! and God bless you for it, Philibert!" exclaimed the
Governor with emotion, as he grasped the hand of the patriotic merchant.

"If we have preserved New France this year, it was through your timely
help in Acadia. The King's treasury was exhausted," continued the
Governor, looking at Herr Kalm, "and ruin imminent, when the noble
merchant of the Chien d'Or fed, clothed, and paid the King's troops for
two months before the taking of Grand Pré from the enemy!"

"No great thing in that, your Excellency," replied the Bourgeois, who
hated compliments to himself. "If those who have do not give, how can
you get from those who have not? You may lay some of it to the account
of Pierre too,--he was in Acadia, you know, Governor." A flash of honest
pride passed over the usually sedate features of the Bourgeois at the
mention of his son.

Le Gardeur looked at his sister. She knew instinctively that his
thoughts put into words would say, "He is worthy to be your father,
Amélie!" She blushed with a secret pleasure, but spoke not. The music in
her heart was without words yet; but one day it would fill the universe
with harmony for her.

The Governor noticed the sudden reticence, and half surmising the cause,
remarked playfully, "The Iroquois will hardly dare approach Tilly with
such a garrison as Pierre Philibert and Le Gardeur, and with you,
my Lady de Tilly, as commandant, and you, Mademoiselle Amélie, as
aide-de-camp!"

"To be sure! your Excellency," replied the Lady de Tilly. "The women
of Tilly have worn swords and kept the old house before now!" she added
playfully, alluding to a celebrated defence of the château by a former
lady of the Manor at the head of a body of her censitaires; "and depend
upon it, we shall neither give up Tilly nor Le Gardeur either, to
whatever savages claim them, be they red or white!"

The lady's allusion to his late associates did not offend Le Gardeur,
whose honest nature despised their conduct, while he liked their
company. They all understood her, and laughed. The Governor's loyalty
to the King's commission prevented his speaking his thoughts. He only
remarked, "Le Gardeur and Pierre Philibert will be under your orders,
my Lady, and my orders are that they are not to return to the city until
all dangers of the Iroquois are over."

"All right, your Excellency!" exclaimed Le Gardeur. "I shall obey my
aunt." He was acute enough to see through their kindly scheming for
his welfare; but his good nature and thorough devotion to his aunt and
sister, and his affectionate friendship for Pierre, made him yield to
the project without a qualm of regret. Le Gardeur was assailable on many
sides,--a fault in his character--or a weakness--which, at any rate,
sometimes offered a lever to move him in directions opposite to the
malign influences of Bigot and his associates.

The company rose from the tea-table and moved to the drawing-room, where
conversation, music, and a few games of cards whiled away a couple of
hours very pleasantly.

Amélie sang exquisitely. The Governor was an excellent musician, and
accompanied her. His voice, a powerful tenor, had been strengthened
by many a conflict with old Boreas on the high seas, and made soft and
flexible by his manifold sympathies with all that is kindly and good and
true in human nature.

A song of wonderful pathos and beauty had just been brought down from
the wilds of the Ottawa, and become universally sung in New France. A
voyageur flying from a band of Iroquois had found a hiding-place on a
rocky islet in the middle of the Sept Chutes. He concealed himself from
his foes, but could not escape, and in the end died of starvation and
sleeplessness. The dying man peeled off the white bark of the birch, and
with the juice of berries wrote upon it his death song, which was found
long after by the side of his remains. His grave is now a marked spot
on the Ottawa. La Complainte de Cadieux had seized the imagination of
Amélie. She sang it exquisitely, and to-night needed no pressing to
do so, for her heart was full of the new song, composed under such
circumstances of woe. Intense was the sympathy of the company, as she
began:


     "'Petit rocher de la haute montagne,
       Je viens finir ici cette campagne!
       Ah! doux echos, entendez mes soupirs!
       En languissant je vais bientôt--mourir.'"


There were no dry eyes as she concluded. The last sighs of Cadieux
seemed to expire on her lips:


     "'Rossignole, va dire à ma maîtresse,
       A mes enfans, qu'un adieu je leur laisse,
       Que j'ai gardé mon amour et ma foi,
       Et desormais faut renoncer à moi.'"


A few more friends of the family dropped in--Coulon de Villiers, Claude
Beauharnais, La Corne St. Luc, and others, who had heard of the lady's
departure and came to bid her adieu.

La Corne raised much mirth by his allusions to the Iroquois. The secret
was plainly no secret to him. "I hope to get their scalps," said he,
"when you have done with them and they with you, Le Gardeur!"

The evening passed on pleasantly, and the clock of the Recollets pealed
out a good late hour before they took final leave of their hospitable
hostess, with mutual good wishes and adieus, which with some of them
were never repeated. Le Gardeur was no little touched and comforted by
so much sympathy and kindness. He shook the Bourgeois affectionately
by the hand, inviting him to come up to Tilly. It was noticed and
remembered that this evening Le Gardeur clung filially, as it were, to
the father of Pierre, and the farewell he gave him was tender, almost
solemn, in a sort of sadness that left an impress upon all minds. "Tell
Pierre--but indeed, he knows we start early," said Le Gardeur, "and the
canoes will be waiting on the Batture an hour after sunrise.

The Bourgeois knew in a general way the position of Le Gardeur, and
sympathized deeply with him. "Keep your heart up, my boy!" said he
on leaving. "Remember the proverb,--never forget it for a moment, Le
Gardeur: Ce que Dieu garde est bien gardé!"

"Good-by, Sieur Philibert!" replied he, still holding him by the hand.
"I would fain be permitted to regard you as a father, since Pierre is
all of a brother to me!"

"I will be a father, and a loving one too, if you will permit me, Le
Gardeur," said the Bourgeois, touched by the appeal. "When you return
to the city, come home with Pierre. At the Golden Dog, as well as at
Belmont, there will be ever welcome for Pierre's friend as for Pierre's
self."

The guests then took their departure.

The preparations for the journey home were all made, and the household
retired to rest, all glad to return to Tilly. Even Felix Baudoin felt
like a boy going back on a holiday. His mind was surcharged with the
endless things he had gathered up, ready to pour into the sympathizing
ear of Barbara Sanschagrin; and the servants and censitaires were
equally eager to return to relate their adventures in the capital when
summoned on the King's corvée to build the walls of Quebec.



CHAPTER XXVI. THE CANADIAN BOAT-SONG.


     "V'là l'bon vent!
      V'là l'joli vent!
      V'là l'bon vent!
      Ma mie m'appelle!
      V'là l'bon vent!
      V'là l'joli vent!
      V'là l'bon vent!
      Ma mie m'attend!"


The gay chorus of the voyageurs made the shores ring, as they kept
time with their oars, while the silver spray dripped like a shower of
diamonds in the bright sunshine at every stroke of their rapid paddles.
The graceful bark canoes, things of beauty and almost of life, leaped
joyously over the blue waters of the St. Lawrence as they bore the
family of the Lady de Tilly and Pierre Philibert with a train of
censitaires back to the old Manor House.

The broad river was flooded with sunshine as it rolled majestically
between the high banks crowned with green fields and woods in full leaf
of summer. Frequent cottages and villages were visible along the shores,
and now and then a little church with its bright spire or belfry marked
the successive parishes on either hand.

The tide had already forced its way two hundred leagues up from the
ocean, and still pressed irresistibly onward, surging and wrestling
against the weight of the descending stream.

The wind too was favorable. A number of yachts and bateaux spread their
snowy sails to ascend the river with the tide. They were for the most
part laden with munitions of war for the Richelieu on their way to the
military posts on Lake Champlain, or merchandise for Montreal to be
reladen in fleets of canoes for the trading posts up the river of the
Ottawas, the Great Lakes, or, mayhap, to supply the new and far-off
settlements on the Belle Rivière and the Illinois.

The line of canoes swept past the sailing vessels with a cheer. The
light-hearted crews exchanged salutations and bandied jests with each
other, laughing immoderately at the well-worn jokes current upon the
river among the rough voyageurs. A good voyage! a clear run! short
portages and long rests! Some inquired whether their friends had
paid for the bear and buffalo skins they were going to buy, or they
complimented each other on their nice heads of hair, which it was hoped
they would not leave behind as keepsakes with the Iroquois squaws.

The boat-songs of the Canadian voyageurs are unique in character, and
very pleasing when sung by a crew of broad-chested fellows dashing their
light birch-bark canoes over the waters rough or smooth, taking them, as
they take fortune, cheerfully,--sometimes skimming like wild geese over
the long, placid reaches, sometimes bounding like stags down the rough
rapids and foaming saults.

Master Jean La Marche, clean as a new pin and in his merriest mood, sat
erect as the King of Yvetot in the bow of the long canoe which held the
Lady de Tilly and her family. His sonorous violin was coquettishly fixed
in its place of honor under his wagging chin, as it accompanied his
voice while he chanted an old boat-song which had lightened the labor of
many a weary oar on lake and river, from the St. Lawrence to the Rocky
Mountains.

Amélie sat in the stern of the canoe, laying her white hand in the cool
stream which rushed past her. She looked proud and happy to-day, for the
whole world of her affections was gathered together in that little bark.

She felt grateful for the bright sun; it seemed to have dispelled every
cloud that lately shaded her thoughts on account of her brother, and she
silently blessed the light breeze that played with her hair and cooled
her cheek, which she felt was tinged with a warm glow of pleasure in the
presence of Pierre Philibert.

She spoke little, and almost thanked the rough voyageurs for their
incessant melodies, which made conversation difficult for the time, and
thus left her to her own sweet silent thoughts, which seemed almost too
sacred for the profanation of words.

An occasional look, or a sympathetic smile exchanged with her brother
and her aunt, spoke volumes of pure affection. Once or twice the eyes
of Pierre Philibert captured a glance of hers which might not have been
intended for him, but which Amélie suffered him to intercept and
hide away among the secret treasures of his heart. A glance of true
affection--brief, it may be, as a flash of lightning--becomes, when
caught by the eyes of love, a real thing, fixed and imperishable
forever. A tender smile, a fond word of love's creation, contains a
universe of light and life and immortality,--small things, and of little
value to others, but to him or her whom they concern more precious and
more prized than the treasures of Ind.

Master Jean La Marche, after a few minutes' rest, made still more
refreshing by a draught from a suspicious-looking flask, which, out of
respect for the presence of his mistress, the Lady de Tilly, he said
contained "milk," began a popular boat-song which every voyageur in New
France knew as well as his prayers, and loved to his very finger-ends.

The canoe-men pricked up their ears, like troopers at the sound of a
bugle, as Jean La Marche began the famous old ballad of the king's son
who, with his silver gun, aimed at the beautiful black duck, and shot
the white one, out of whose eyes came gold and diamonds, and out of
whose mouth rained silver, while its pretty feathers, scattered to the
four winds, were picked up by three fair dames, who with them made a bed
both large and deep--


     "For poor wayfaring men to sleep."


Master Jean's voice was clear and resonant as a church bell newly
christened; and he sang the old boat-song with an energy that drew
the crews of half-a-dozen other canoes into the wake of his music, all
uniting in the stirring chorus:


     "Fringue! Fringue sur la rivière!
      Fringue! Fringue sur l'aviron!"


The performance of Jean La Marche was highly relished by the critical
boatmen, and drew from them that flattering mark of approval, so welcome
to a vocalist,--an encore of the whole long ballad, from beginning to
end.

As the line of canoes swept up the stream, a welcome cheer occasionally
greeted them from the shore, or a voice on land joined in the gay
refrain. They draw nearer to Tilly, and their voices became more and
more musical, their gaiety more irrepressible, for they were going home;
and home to the habitans, as well as to their lady, was the world of all
delights.

The contagion of high spirits caught even Le Gardeur, and drew him
out of himself, making him for the time forget the disappointments,
resentments, and allurements of the city.

Sitting there in the golden sunshine, the blue sky above him, the blue
waters below,--friends whom he loved around him, mirth in every eye,
gaiety on every tongue,--how could Le Gardeur but smile as the music of
the boatmen brought back a hundred sweet associations? Nay, he laughed,
and to the inexpressible delight of Amélie and Pierre, who watched every
change in his demeanor, united in the chorus of the glorious boat-song.

A few hours of this pleasant voyaging brought the little fleet of canoes
under the high bank, which from its summit slopes away in a wide domain
of forests, park, and cultivated fields, in the midst of which stood the
high-pointed and many-gabled Manor House of Tilly.

Upon a promontory--as if placed there for both a land and sea mark,
to save souls as well as bodies--rose the belfry of the Chapel of St.
Michael, overlooking a cluster of white, old-fashioned cottages, which
formed the village of St. Michael de Tilly.

Upon the sandy beach a crowd of women, children, and old men had
gathered, who were cheering and clapping their hands at the unexpected
return of the lady of the Manor with all their friends and relatives.

The fears of the villagers had been greatly excited for some days past
by exaggerated reports of the presence of Iroquois on the upper waters
of the Chaudière. They not unnaturally conjectured, moreover, that
the general call for men on the King's corvée, to fortify the city,
portended an invasion by the English, who, it was rumored, were to come
up in ships from below, as in the days of Sir William Phipps with his
army of New Englanders, the story of whose defeat under the walls of
Quebec was still freshly remembered in the traditions of the Colony.

"Never fear them!" said old Louis, the one-eyed pilot. "It was in my
father's days. Many a time have I heard him tell the story--how, in the
autumn of the good year 1690, thirty-four great ships of the Bostonians
came up from below, and landed an army of ventres bleus of New England
on the flats of Beauport. But our stout Governor, Count de Frontenac,
came upon them from the woods with his brave soldiers, habitans, and
Indians, and drove them pell-mell back to their boats, and stripped
the ship of Admiral Phipps of his red flag, which, if you doubt my
word,--which no one does,--still hangs over the high altar of the Church
of Notre Dame des Victoires. Blessed be our Lady, who saved our country
from our enemies,--and will do so again, if we do not by our wickedness
lose her favor! But the arbre sec--the dry tree--still stands upon the
Point de Levis, where the Boston fleet took refuge before beating their
retreat down the river again,--and you know the old prophecy: that while
that tree stands, the English shall never prevail against Quebec!"

Much comforted by this speech of old Louis the pilot, the villagers of
Tilly rushed to the beach to receive their friends.

The canoes came dashing into shore. Men, women, and children ran
knee-deep into the water to meet them, and a hundred eager hands were
ready to seize their prows and drag them high and dry upon the sandy
beach.

"Home again! and welcome to Tilly, Pierre Philibert!" exclaimed Lady de
Tilly, offering her hand. "Friends like you have the right of welcome
here." Pierre expressed his pleasure in fitting terms, and lent his aid
to the noble lady to disembark.

Le Gardeur assisted Amélie out of the canoe. As he led her across the
beach, he felt her hand tremble as it rested on his arm. He glanced down
at her averted face, and saw her eyes directed to a spot well remembered
by himself--the scene of his rescue from drowning by Pierre Philibert.

The whole scene came before Amélie at this moment. Her vivid
recollection conjured up the sight of the inanimate body of her brother
as it was brought ashore by the strong arm of Pierre Philibert and laid
upon the beach; her long agony of suspense, and her joy, the greatest
she had ever felt before or since, at his resuscitation to life, and
lastly, her passionate vow which she made when clasping the neck of his
preserver--a vow which she had enshrined as a holy thing in her heart
ever since.

At that moment a strange fancy seized her: that Pierre Philibert was
again plunging into deep water to rescue her brother, and that she would
be called on by some mysterious power to renew her vow or fulfil it to
the very letter.

She twitched Le Gardeur gently by the arm and said to him, in a half
whisper, "It was there, brother! do you remember?"

"I know it, sister!" replied he; "I was also thinking of it. I am
grateful to Pierre; yet, oh, my Amélie, better he had left me at the
bottom of the deep river, where I had found my bed! I have no pleasure
in seeing Tilly any more!"

"Why not, brother? Are we not all the same? Are we not all here? There
is happiness and comfort for you at Tilly."

"There was once, Amélie," replied he, sadly; "but there will be none for
me in the future, as I feel too well. I am not worthy of you, Amélie."

"Come, brother!" replied she, cheerily, "you dampen the joy of our
arrival. See, the flag is going up on the staff of the turret, and
old Martin is getting ready to fire off the culverin in honor of your
arrival."

Presently there was a flash, a cloud of smoke, and the report of a
cannon came booming down to the shore from the Manor House.

"That was well done of Martin and the women!" remarked Felix Baudoin,
who had served in his youth, and therefore knew what was fitting in
a military salute. "'The women of Tilly are better than the men of
Beauce,' says the proverb."

"Ay, or of Tilly either!" remarked Josephte Le Tardeur, in a sharp,
snapping tone. Josephte was a short, stout virago, with a turned-up nose
and a pair of black eyes that would bore you through like an auger.
She wore a wide-brimmed hat of straw, overtopping curls as crisp as
her temper. Her short linsey petticoat was not chary of showing her
substantial ankles, while her rolled-up sleeves displayed a pair of arms
so red and robust that a Swiss milkmaid might well have envied them.

Her remark was intended for the ear of José Le Tardeur, her husband, a
lazy, good-natured fellow, whose eyes had been fairly henpecked out of
his head all the days of his married life. Josephte's speech hit him
without hurting him, as he remarked to a neighbor. Josephte made a
target of him every day. He was glad, for his part, that the women of
Tilly were better soldiers than the men, and so much fonder of looking
after things! It saved the men a deal of worry and a good deal of work.

"What are you saying, José?" exclaimed Felix, who only caught a few half
words.

"I say, Master Felix, that but for Mère Eve there would have been no
curse upon men, to make them labor when they do not want to, and no
sin either. As the Curé says, we could have lain on the grass sunning
ourselves all day long. Now it is nothing but work and pray, never play,
else you will save neither body nor soul. Master Felix, I hope you will
remember me if I come up to the Manor house."

"Ay, I will remember you, José," replied Felix, tartly; "but if labor
was the curse which Eve brought into the world when she ate the apple,
I am sure you are free from it. So ride up with the carts, José, and get
out of the way of my Lady's carriage!"

José obeyed, and taking off his cap, bowed respectfully to the Lady
de Tilly as she passed, leaning on the arm of Pierre Philibert, who
escorted her to her carriage.

A couple of sleek Canadian horses, sure-footed as goats and strong as
little elephants, drew the coach with a long, steady trot up the winding
road which led to the Manor House.

The road, unfenced and bordered with grass on each side of the track,
was smooth and well kept, as became the Grande Chaussée of the Barony
of Tilly. It ran sometimes through stretches of cultivated fields--green
pastures or corn-lands ripening for the sickle of the censitaire.
Sometimes it passed through cool, shady woods, full of primeval
grandeur,--part of the great Forest of Tilly, which stretched away far
as the eye could reach over the hills of the south shore. Huge oaks that
might have stood there from the beginning of the world, wide-branching
elms, and dark pines overshadowed the highway, opening now and then
into vistas of green fields where stood a cottage or two, with a herd of
mottled cows grazing down by the brook. On the higher ridges the trees
formed a close phalanx, and with their dark tops cut the horizon into a
long, irregular line of forest, as if offering battle to the woodman's
axe that was threatening to invade their solitudes.

Half an hour's driving brought the company to the Manor House, a stately
mansion, gabled and pointed like an ancient château on the Seine.

It was a large, irregular structure of hammered stone, with
deeply-recessed windows, mullioned and ornamented with grotesque
carvings. A turret, loopholed and battlemented, projected from each of
the four corners of the house, enabling its inmates to enfilade every
side with a raking fire of musketry, affording an adequate defence
against Indian foes. A stone tablet over the main entrance of the Manor
House was carved with the armorial bearings of the ancient family of
Tilly, with the date of its erection, and a pious invocation placing the
house under the special protection of St. Michael de Thury, the patron
saint of the House of Tilly.

The Manor House of Tilly had been built by Charles Le Gardeur de Tilly,
a gentleman of Normandy, one of whose ancestors, the Sieur de Tilly,
figures on the roll of Battle Abbey as a follower of Duke William at
Hastings. His descendant, Charles Le Gardeur, came over to Canada with a
large body of his vassals in 1636, having obtained from the King a grant
of the lands of Tilly, on the bank of the St. Lawrence, "to hold in
fief and seigniory,"--so ran the royal patent,--"with the right and
jurisdiction of superior, moyenne and basse justice, and of hunting,
fishing, and trading with the Indians throughout the whole of this royal
concession; subject to the condition of foi et hommage, which he shall
be held to perform at the Castle of St. Louis in Quebec, of which he
shall hold under the customary duties and dues, agreeably to the coutume
de Paris followed in this country."

Such was the style of the royal grants of seignioral rights conceded
in New France, by virtue of one of which this gallant Norman gentleman
founded his settlement and built this Manor House on the shores of the
St. Lawrence.

A broad, smooth carriage road led up to the mansion across a park dotted
with clumps of evergreens and deciduous trees. Here and there an ancient
patriarch of the forest stood alone,--some old oak or elm, whose goodly
proportions and amplitude of shade had found favor in the eyes of the
seigniors of Tilly, and saved it from the axe of the woodman.

A pretty brook, not too wide to be crossed over by a rustic bridge,
meandered through the domain, peeping occasionally out of the openings
in the woods as it stole away like a bashful girl from the eyes of her
admirer.

This brook was the outflow of a romantic little lake that lay hidden
away among the wooded hills that bounded the horizon, an irregular sheet
of water a league in circumference, dotted with islands and abounding
with fish and waterfowl that haunted its quiet pools. That primitive bit
of nature had never been disturbed by axe or fire, and was a favorite
spot for recreation to the inmates of the Manor House, to whom it was
accessible either by boat up the little stream, or by a pleasant drive
through the old woods.

As the carriages drew up in front of the Manor House, every door,
window, and gable of which looked like an old friend in the eyes of
Pierre Philibert, a body of female servants--the men had all been away
at the city--stood ranged in their best gowns and gayest ribbons to
welcome home their mistress and Mademoiselle Amélie, who was the idol of
them all.

Great was their delight to see Monsieur Le Gardeur, as they usually
styled their young master, with another gentleman in military costume,
whom it did not take two minutes for some of the sharp-eyed lasses to
recognize as Pierre Philibert, who had once saved the life of Le Gardeur
on a memorable occasion, and who now, they said one to another, was come
to the Manor House to--to--they whispered what it was to each other, and
smiled in a knowing manner.

Women's wits fly swiftly to conclusions, and right ones too on most
occasions. The lively maids of Tilly told one another in whispers that
they were sure Pierre Philibert had come back to the Manor House as
a suitor for the hand of Mademoiselle Amélie, as was most natural he
should do, so handsome and manly looking as he was, and mademoiselle
always liked to hear any of them mention his name. The maids ran out
the whole chain of logical sequences before either Pierre or Amélie
had ventured to draw a conclusion of any kind from the premises of this
visit.

Behind the mansion, overlooking poultry-yards and stables which were
well hidden from view, rose a high colombière, or pigeon-house, of
stone, the possession of which was one of the rights which feudal
law reserved to the lord of the manor. This colombière was capable of
containing a large army of pigeons, but the regard which the Lady de
Tilly had for the corn-fields of her censitaires caused her to thin out
its population to such a degree that there remained only a few favorite
birds of rare breed and plumage to strut and coo upon the roofs, and
rival the peacocks on the terrace with their bright colors.

In front of the mansion, contrasting oddly with the living trees around
it, stood a high pole, the long, straight stem of a pine-tree, carefully
stripped of its bark, bearing on its top the withered remains of a bunch
of evergreens, with the fragments of a flag and ends of ribbon which
fluttered gaily from it. The pole was marked with black spots from the
discharge of guns fired at it by the joyous habitans, who had kept the
ancient custom of May-day by planting this May-pole in front of the
Manor House of their lady.

The planting of such a pole was in New France a special mark of respect
due to the feudal superior, and custom as well as politeness required
that it should not be taken down until the recurrence of another
anniversary of Flora, which in New France sometimes found the earth
white with snow and hardened with frost, instead of covered with flowers
as in the Old World whence the custom was derived.

The Lady de Tilly duly appreciated this compliment of her faithful
censitaires, and would sooner have stripped her park of half its live
trees than have removed that dead pole, with its withered crown, from
the place of honor in front of her mansion.

The revels of May in New France, the king and queen of St. Philip, the
rejoicings of a frank, loyal peasantry--illiterate in books but not
unlearned in the art of life,--have wholly disappeared before the
levelling spirit of the nineteenth century.

The celebration of the day of St. Philip has been superseded by the
festival of St. John the Baptist, at a season of the year when green
leaves and blooming flowers give the possibility of arches and garlands
in honor of the Canadian summer.

Felix Beaudoin with a wave of his hand scattered the bevy of maid
servants who stood chattering as they gazed upon the new arrivals. The
experience of Felix told him that everything had of course gone wrong
during his absence from the Manor House, and that nothing could be
fit for his mistress's reception until he had set all to rights again
himself.

The worthy majordomo was in a state of perspiration lest he should not
get into the house before his mistress and don his livery to meet her at
the door with his white wand and everything en régle, just as if nothing
had interrupted their usual course of housekeeping.

The Lady de Tilly knew the weakness of her faithful old servitor, and
although she smiled to herself, she would not hurt his feelings by
entering the house before he was ready at his post to receive her. She
continued walking about the lawn conversing with Amélie, Pierre, and Le
Gardeur, until she saw old Felix with his wand and livery standing at
the door, when, taking Pierre's arm, she led the way into the house.

The folding doors were open, and Felix with his wand walked before his
lady and her companions into the mansion. They entered without delay,
for the day had been warm, and the ladies were weary after sitting
several hours in a canoe, a mode of travelling which admits of very
little change of position in the voyagers.

The interior of the Manor House of Tilly presented the appearance of
an old French château. A large hall with antique furniture occupied the
center of the house, used occasionally as a court of justice when
the Seigneur de Tilly exercised his judicial office for the trial of
offenders, which was very rarely, thanks to the good morals of the
people, or held a cour plenière of his vassals, on affairs of
the seigniory for apportioning the corvées for road-making and
bridge-building, and, not the least important by any means, for the
annual feast to his censitaires on the day of St. Michael de Thury.

From this hall, passages led into apartments and suites of rooms
arranged for use, comfort, and hospitality. The rooms were of all sizes,
panelled, tapestried, and furnished in a style of splendor suited to
the wealth and dignity of the Seigneurs of Tilly. A stair of oak, broad
enough for a section of grenadiers to march up it abreast, led to
the upper chambers, bedrooms, and boudoirs, which looked out of old
mullioned windows upon the lawn and gardens that surrounded the house,
affording picturesque glimpses of water, hills, and forests far enough
off for contemplation, and yet near enough to be accessible by a short
ride from the mansion.

Pierre Philibert was startled at the strange familiarity of everything
he saw: the passages and all their intricacies, where he, Le Gardeur,
and Amélie had hid and found one another with cries of delight,--he
knew where they all led to; the rooms with their antique and stately
furniture, the paintings on the wall, before which he had stood and
gazed, wondering if the world was as fair as those landscapes of sunny
France and Italy and why the men and women of the house of Tilly, whose
portraits hung upon the walls, looked at him so kindly with those dark
eyes of theirs, which seemed to follow him everywhere, and he imagined
they even smiled when their lips were illumined by a ray of sunshine.
Pierre looked at them again with a strange interest,--they were like the
faces of living friends who welcomed him back to Tilly after years of
absence.

Pierre entered a well-remembered apartment which he knew to be the
favorite sitting-room of the Lady de Tilly. He walked hastily across
it to look at a picture upon the wall which he recognized again with a
flush of pleasure.

It was the portrait of Amélie painted by himself during his last visit
to Tilly. The young artist, full of enthusiasm, had put his whole soul
into the work, until he was himself startled at the vivid likeness which
almost unconsciously flowed from his pencil. He had caught the divine
upward expression of her eyes, as she turned her head to listen to him,
and left upon the canvas the very smile he had seen upon her lips.
Those dark eyes of hers had haunted his memory forever after. To his
imagination that picture had become almost a living thing. It was as a
voice of his own that returned to his ear as the voice of Amélie. In
the painting of that portrait Pierre had the first revelation of a
consciousness of his deep love which became in the end the master
passion of his life.

He stood for some minutes contemplating this portrait, so different from
her in age now, yet so like in look and expression. He turned suddenly
and saw Amélie; she had silently stepped up behind him, and her features
in a glow of pleasure took on the very look of the picture.

Pierre started. He looked again, and saw every feature of the girl of
twelve looking through the transparent countenance of the perfect
woman of twenty. It was a moment of blissful revelation, for he felt an
assurance at that moment that Amélie was the same to him now as in their
days of youthful companionship. "How like it is to you yet, Amélie!"
said he; "it is more true than I knew how to make it!"

"That sounds like a paradox, Pierre Philibert!" replied she, with a
smile. "But it means, I suppose, that you painted a universal portrait
of me which will be like through all my seven ages. Such a picture might
be true of the soul, Pierre, had you painted that, but I have outgrown
the picture of my person."

"I could imagine nothing fairer than that portrait! In soul and body it
is all true, Amélie."

"Flatterer that you are!" said she, laughing. "I could almost wish
that portrait would walk out of its frame to thank you for the care you
bestowed upon its foolish little original."

"My care was more than rewarded! I find in that picture my beau-ideal of
the beauty of life, which, belonging to the soul, is true to all ages."

"The girl of twelve would have thanked you more enthusiastically for
that remark, Pierre, than I dare do," replied she.

"The thanks are due from me, not from you, Amélie! I became your
debtor for a life-long obligation when without genius I could do
impossibilities. You taught me that paradox when you let me paint that
picture."

Amélie glanced quickly up at him. A slight color came and went on her
cheek. "Would that I could do impossibilities," said she, "to thank you
sufficiently for your kindness to Le Gardeur and all of us in coming to
Tilly at this time.

"It would be a novelty, almost a relief, to put Pierre Philibert under
some obligation to us for we all owe him, would it not, Le Gardeur?"
continued she, clasping the arm of her brother, who just now came into
the room. "We will discharge a portion of our debt to Pierre for this
welcome visit by a day on the lake,--we will make up a water-party. What
say you, brother? The gentlemen shall light fires, the ladies shall make
tea, and we will have guitars and songs, and maybe a dance, brother! and
then a glorious return home by moonlight! What say you to my programme,
Le Gardeur de Repentigny? What say you, Pierre Philibert?"

"It is a good programme, sister, but leave me out of it. I shall only
mar the pleasure of the rest; I will not go to the lake. I have been
trying ever since my return home to recognize Tilly; everything looks
to me in an eclipse, and nothing bright as it once was, not even you,
Amélie. Your smile has a curious touch of sadness in it which does not
escape my eyes; accursed as they have been of late, seeing things they
ought not to see, yet I can see that, and I know it, too; I have given
you cause to be sad, sister."

"Hush, brother! it is a sin against your dear eyes to speak of them
thus! Tilly is as bright and joyous as ever. As for my smiles, if you
detect in them one trace of that sadness you talk about, I shall grow as
melancholy as yourself, and for as little cause. Come! you shall confess
before three days, brother, if you will only help me to be gay, that
your sister has the lightest heart in New France."



CHAPTER XXVII. CHEERFUL YESTERDAYS AND CONFIDENT TO-MORROWS.


The ladies retired to their several rooms, and after a general
rearranging of toilets descended to the great parlor, where they were
joined by Messire La Lande, the curé of the parish, a benevolent, rosy
old priest, and several ladies from the neighborhood, with two or three
old gentlemen of a military air and manner, retired officers of the army
who enjoyed their pensions and kept up their respectability at a cheaper
rate in the country than they could do in the city.

Felix Beaudoin had for the last two hours kept the cooks in hot water.
He was now superintending the laying of the table, resolved that,
notwithstanding his long absence from home, the dinner should be a
marvellous success.

Amélie was very beautiful to-day. Her face was aglow with pure air and
exercise, and she felt happy in the apparent contentment of her brother,
whom she met with Pierre on the broad terrace of the Manor House.

She was dressed with exquisite neatness, yet plainly. An antique cross
of gold formed her only adornment except her own charms. That cross she
had put on in honor of Pierre Philibert. He recognized it with delight
as a birthday gift to Amélie which he had himself given her during their
days of juvenile companionship, on one of his holiday visits to Tilly.

She was conscious of his recognition of it,--it brought a flush to her
cheek. "It is in honor of your visit, Pierre," said she, frankly, "that
I wear your gift. Old friendship lasts well with me, does it not? But
you will find more old friends than me at Tilly who have not forgotten
you."

"I am already richer than Croesus, if friendship count as riches,
Amélie. The hare had many friends, but none at last; I am more fortunate
in possessing one friend worth a million."

"Nay, you have the million too, if good wishes count in your favor,
Pierre, you are richer"--the bell in the turret of the château began to
ring for dinner, drowning her voice somewhat.

"Thanks to the old bell for cutting short the compliment, Pierre,"
continued she, laughing; "you don't know what you have lost! but
in compensation you shall be my cavalier, and escort me to the
dining-room."

She took the arm of Pierre, and in a merry mood, which brought back
sweet memories of the past, their voices echoed again along the old
corridors of the Manor House as they proceeded to the great dining-room,
where the rest of the company were assembling.

The dinner was rather a stately affair, owing to the determination of
Felix Beaudoin to do especial honor to the return home of the family.
How the company ate, talked, and drank at the hospitable table need not
be recorded here. The good Curé's face, under the joint influence of
good humor and good cheer, was full as a harvest moon. He rose at last,
folded his hands, and slowly repeated "agimus gratias." After dinner
the company withdrew to the brilliantly lighted drawing-room, where
conversation, music, and a few games of cards for such as liked them,
filled up a couple of hours longer.

The Lady de Tilly, seated beside Pierre Philibert on the sofa, conversed
with him in a pleasant strain, while the Curé, with a couple of old
dowagers in turbans, and an old veteran officer of the colonial marine,
long stranded on a lee shore, formed a quartette at cards.

These were steady enthusiasts of whist and piquet, such as are only to
be found in small country circles where society is scarce and amusements
few. They had met as partners or antagonists, and played, laughed, and
wrangled over sixpenny stakes and odd tricks and honors, every week for
a quarter of a century, and would willingly have gone on playing till
the day of judgment without a change of partners if they could have
trumped death and won the odd trick of him.

Pierre recollected having seen these same old friends seated at the same
card-table during his earliest visits to the Manor House. He recalled
the fact to the Lady de Tilly, who laughed and said her old friends had
lived so long in the company of the kings and queens that formed the
paste-board Court of the Kingdom of Cocagne that they could relish no
meaner amusement than one which royalty, although mad, had the credit of
introducing.

Amélie devoted herself to the task of cheering her somewhat moody
brother. She sat beside him, resting her hand with sisterly affection
upon his shoulder, while in a low, sweet voice she talked to him,
adroitly touching those topics only which she knew awoke pleasurable
associations in his mind. Her words were sweet as manna and full of
womanly tenderness and sympathy, skilfully wrapped in a strain of gaiety
like a bridal veil which covers the tears of the heart.

Pierre Philibert's eyes involuntarily turned towards her, and his
ears caught much of what she said. He was astonished at the grace and
perfection of her language; it seemed to him like a strain of music
filled with every melody of earth and heaven, surpassing poets in beauty
of diction, philosophers in truth,--and in purity of affection, all the
saints and sweetest women of whom he had ever read.

Her beauty, her vivacity, her modest reticences, and her delicate tact
in addressing the captious spirit of Le Gardeur, filled Pierre
with admiration. He could at that moment have knelt at her feet and
worshipped in her the realization of every image which his imagination
had ever formed of a perfect woman.

Now and then she played on the harp for Le Gardeur the airs which she
knew he liked best. His sombre mood yielded to her fond exertions, and
she had the reward of drawing at last a smile from his eyes as well as
from his lips. The last she knew might be simulated, the former she felt
was real, for the smile of the eye is the flash of the joy kindled in
the glad heart.

Le Gardeur was not dull nor ungrateful; he read clearly enough the
loving purpose of his sister. His brow cleared up under her sunshine.
He smiled, he laughed; and Amélie had the exquisite joy of believing she
had gained a victory over the dark spirit that had taken possession of
his soul, although the hollow laugh struck the ear of Pierre Philibert
with a more uncertain sound than that which fluttered the fond hopes of
Amélie.

Amélie looked towards Pierre, and saw his eyes fixed upon her with
that look which fills every woman with an emotion almost painful in its
excess of pleasure when first she meets it--that unmistakable glance
from the eyes of a man who, she is proud to perceive, has singled her
out from all other women for his love and homage.

Her face became of a deep glow in spite of her efforts to look calm and
cold; she feared Pierre might have misinterpreted her vivacity of
speech and manner. Sudden distrust of herself came over her in his
presence,--the flow of her conversation was embarrassed, and almost
ceased.

To extricate herself from her momentary confusion, which she was very
conscious had not escaped the observation of Pierre,--and the thought of
that confused her still more,--she rose and went to the harpsichord, to
recover her composure by singing a sweet song of her own composition,
written in the soft dialect of Provence, the Languedoc, full of the
sweet sadness of a tender, impassioned love.

Her voice, tremulous in its power, flowed in a thousand harmonies on the
enraptured ears of her listeners. Even the veteran card-players left a
game of whist unfinished, to cluster round the angelic singer.

Pierre Philibert sat like one in a trance. He loved music, and
understood it passing well. He had heard all the rare voices which Paris
prided itself in the possession of, but he thought he had never known
what music was till now. His heart throbbed in sympathy with every
inflection of the voice of Amélie, which went through him like a sweet
spell of enchantment. It was the voice of a disembodied spirit singing
in the language of earth, which changed at last into a benediction and
good-night for the parting guests, who, at an earlier hour than usual,
out of consideration for the fatigue of their hosts, took their leave of
the Manor House and its hospitable inmates.

The family, as families will do upon the departure of their guests, drew
up in a narrower circle round the fire, that blessed circle of freedom
and confidence which belongs only to happy households. The novelty
of the situation kept up the interest of the day, and they sat and
conversed until a late hour.

The Lady de Tilly reclined comfortably in her fauteuil looking with
good-natured complacency upon the little group beside her. Amélie,
sitting on a stool, reclined her head against the bosom of her aunt,
whose arm embraced her closely and lovingly as she listened with
absorbing interest to an animated conversation between her aunt and
Pierre Philibert.

The Lady de Tilly drew Pierre out to talk of his travels, his studies,
and his military career, of which he spoke frankly and modestly. His
high principles won her admiration; the chivalry and loyalty of his
character, mingled with the humanity of the true soldier, touched a
chord in her own heart, stirring within her the sympathies of a nature
akin to his.

The presence of Pierre Philibert, so unforeseen at the old Manor House,
seemed to Amélie the work of Providence for a good and great end--the
reformation of her brother. If she dared to think of herself in
connection with him it was with fear and trembling, as a saint on earth
receives a beatific vision that may only be realized in Heaven.

Amélie, with peculiar tact, sought to entangle Le Gardeur's thoughts in
an elaborate cobweb of occupations rivalling that of Arachne, which she
had woven to catch every leisure hour of his, so as to leave him no time
to brood over the pleasures of the Palace of the Intendant or the charms
of Angélique des Meloises.

There were golden threads too in the network in which she hoped to
entangle him: long rides to the neighboring seigniories, where bright
eyes and laughing lips were ready to expel every shadow of care from the
most dejected of men, much more from a handsome gallant like Le Gardeur
de Repentigny, whose presence at any of these old manors put their fair
inmates at once in holiday trim and in holiday humor; there were shorter
walks through the park and domain of Tilly, where she intended to
botanize and sketch, and even fish and hunt with Le Gardeur and Pierre,
although, sooth to say, Amélie's share in hunting would only be to ride
her sure-footed pony and look at her companions; there were visits to
friends far and near, and visits in return to the Manor House, and
a grand excursion of all to the lake of Tilly in boats,--they would
colonize its little island for a day, set up tents, make a governor and
intendant, perhaps a king and queen, and forget the world till their
return home.

This elaborate scheme secured the approbation of the Lady de Tilly, who
had, in truth, contributed part of it. Le Gardeur said he was a poor
fly whom they were resolved to catch and pin to the wall of a château
en Espagne, but he would enter the web without a buzz of opposition on
condition that Pierre would join him. So it was all settled.

Amélie did not venture again that night to encounter the eyes of Pierre
Philibert,--she needed more courage than she felt just now to do that;
but in secret she blessed him, and treasured those fond looks of his in
her heart, never to be forgotten any more. When she retired to her
own chamber and was alone, she threw herself in passionate abandonment
before the altar in her little oratory, which she had crowned
with flowers to mark her gladness. She poured out her pure soul in
invocations of blessings upon Pierre Philibert and upon her brother and
all the house. The golden head of her rosary lingered long in her loving
fingers that night, as she repeated over and over her accustomed prayers
for his safety and welfare.

The sun rose gloriously next morning over the green woods and still
greener meadows of Tilly. The atmosphere was soft and pure; it had been
washed clean of all its impurities by a few showers in the night. Every
object seemed nearer and clearer to the eye, while the delicious odor of
fresh flowers filled the whole air with fragrance.

The trees, rocks, waters, and green slopes stood out with marvellous
precision of outline, as if cut with a keen knife. No fringe of haze
surrounded them, as in a drought or as in the evening when the air
is filled with the shimmering of the day dust which follows the sun's
chariot in his course round the world.

Every object, great and small, seemed magnified to welcome Pierre
Philibert, who was up betimes this morning and out in the pure air
viewing the old familiar scenes.

With what delight he recognized each favorite spot! There was the
cluster of trees which crowned a promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence
where he and Le Gardeur had stormed the eagle's nest. In that sweep of
forest the deer used to browse and the fawns crouch in the long ferns.
Upon yonder breezy hill they used to sit and count the sails turning
alternately bright and dark as the vessels tacked up the broad river.
There was a stretch of green lawn, still green as it was in his
memory--how everlasting are God's colors! There he had taught Amélie to
ride, and, holding fast, ran by her side, keeping pace with her flying
Indian pony. How beautiful and fresh the picture of her remained in his
memory!--the soft white dress she wore, her black hair streaming over
her shoulders, her dark eyes flashing delight, her merry laugh rivalling
the trill of the blackbird which flew over their heads chattering
for very joy. Before him lay the pretty brook with its rustic bridge
reflecting itself in the clear water as in a mirror. That path along
the bank led down to the willows where the big mossy stones lay in the
stream and the silvery salmon and speckled trout lay fanning the water
gently with their fins as they contemplated their shadows on the smooth,
sandy bottom.

Pierre Philibert sat down on a stone by the side of the brook and
watched the shoals of minnows move about in little battalions, wheeling
like soldiers to the right or left at a wave of the hand. But his
thoughts were running in a circle of questions and enigmas for which he
found neither end nor answer.

For the hundredth time Pierre proposed to himself the tormenting enigma,
harder, he thought, to solve than any problem of mathematics,--for it
was the riddle of his life: "What thoughts are truly in the heart of
Amélie de Repentigny respecting me? Does she recollect me only as
her brother's companion, who may possibly have some claim upon her
friendship, but none upon her love?" His imagination pictured every look
she had given him since his return. Not all! Oh, Pierre Philibert! the
looks you would have given worlds to catch, you were unconscious of!
Every word she had spoken, the soft inflection of every syllable of her
silvery voice lingered in his ear. He had caught meanings where
perhaps no meaning was, and missed the key to others which he knew were
there--never, perhaps, to be revealed to him. But although he questioned
in the name of love, and found many divine echoes in her words,
imperceptible to every ear but his own, he could not wholly solve the
riddle of his life. Still he hoped.

"If love creates love, as some say it does," thought he, "Amélie de
Repentigny cannot be indifferent to a passion which governs every
impulse of my being! But is there any especial merit in loving her
whom all the world cannot help admiring equally with myself? I am
presumptuous to think so!--and more presumptuous still to expect, after
so many years of separation and forgetfulness, that her heart, so loving
and so sympathetic, has not already bestowed its affection upon some one
more fortunate than me."

While Pierre tormented himself with these sharp thorns of doubt,--and
of hopes painful as doubts,--little did he think what a brave, loving
spirit was hid under the silken vesture of Amélie de Repentigny, and
how hard was her struggle to conceal from his eyes those tender regards,
which, with over-delicacy, she accounted censurable because they were
wholly spontaneous.

He little thought how entirely his image had filled her heart during
those years when she dreamed of him in the quiet cloister, living in a
world of bright imaginings of her own; how she had prayed for his safety
and welfare as she would have prayed for the soul of one dead,--never
thinking, or even hoping, to see him again.

Pierre had become to her as one of the disembodied saints or angels
whose pictures looked down from the wall of the Convent chapel--the
bright angel of the Annunciation or the youthful Baptist proclaiming the
way of the Lord. Now that Pierre Philibert was alive in the
flesh,--a man, beautiful, brave, honorable, and worthy of any woman's
love,--Amélie was frightened. She had not looked for that, and yet it
had come upon her. And, although trembling, she was glad and proud to
find she had been remembered by the brave youth, who recognized in the
perfect woman the girl he had so ardently loved as a boy.

Did he love her still? Woman's heart is quicker to apprehend all
possibilities than man's. She had caught a look once or twice in the
eyes of Pierre Philibert which thrilled the inmost fibres of her being;
she had detected his ardent admiration. Was she offended? Far from it!
And although her cheek had flushed deeply red, and her pulses throbbed
hard at the sudden consciousness that Pierre Philibert admired, nay,
more,--she could not conceal it from herself,--she knew that night that
he loved her! She would not have foregone that moment of revelation for
all that the world had to offer.

She would gladly at that moment of discovery have fled to her own
apartment and cried for joy, but she dared not; she trembled lest his
eyes, if she looked up, should discover the secret of her own. She had
an overpowering consciousness that she stood upon the brink of her fate;
that ere long that look of his would be followed by words--blessed,
hoped-for words, from the lips of Pierre Philibert! words which would be
the pledge and assurance to her of that love which was hereafter to be
the joy--it might be the despair, but in any case the all in all of her
life forever.

Amélie had not yet realized the truth that love is the strength, not the
weakness of woman; and that the boldness of the man is rank cowardice
in comparison with the bravery she is capable of, and the sacrifices she
will make for the sake of the man who has won her heart.

God locks up in a golden casket of modesty the yearnings of a woman's
heart; but when the hand in which he has placed the key that opens it
calls forth her glorified affections, they come out like the strong
angels, and hold back the winds that blow from the four corners of the
earth that they may not hurt the man whose forehead is sealed with the
kiss of her acknowledged love.



CHAPTER XXVIII. A DAY AT THE MANOR HOUSE.


Amélie, after a night of wakefulness and wrestling with a tumult of
new thoughts and emotions,--no longer dreams, but realities of
life,--dressed herself in a light morning costume, which, simple as
it was, bore the touch of her graceful hand and perfect taste. With a
broad-brimmed straw hat set upon her dark tresses, which were knotted
with careless care in a blue ribbon, she descended the steps of the
Manor House. There was a deep bloom upon her cheeks, and her eyes
looked like fountains of light and gladness, running over to bless all
beholders.

She inquired of Felix Beaudoin of her brother. The old majordomo, with a
significant look, informed her that Monsieur Le Gardeur had just ordered
his horse to ride to the village. He had first called for a decanter of
Cognac, and when it was brought to him he suddenly thrust it back and
would not taste it. "He would not drink even Jove's nectar in the Manor
House, he said; but would go down to the village, where Satan mixed the
drink for thirsty souls like his! Poor Le Gardeur!" continued Felix,
"you must not let him go to the village this morning, mademoiselle!"

Amélie was startled at this information. She hastened at once to seek
her brother, whom she found walking impatiently in the garden, slashing
the heads off the poppies and dahlias within reach of his riding-whip.
He was equipped for a ride, and waited the coming of the groom with his
horse.

Amélie ran up, and clasping his arms with both hands as she looked up
in his face with a smile, exclaimed, "Do not go to the village yet, Le
Gardeur! Wait for us!"

"Not go to the village yet, Amélie?" replied he; "why not? I shall
return for breakfast, although I have no appetite. I thought a ride to
the village would give me one."

"Wait until after breakfast, brother, when we will all go with you to
meet our friends who come this morning to Tilly,--our cousin Héloise de
Lotbinière is coming to see you and Pierre Philibert; you must be there
to welcome her,--gallants are too scarce to allow her to spare the
handsomest of all, my own brother!"

Amélie divined truly from Le Gardeur's restless eyes and haggard look
that a fierce conflict was going on in his breast between duty and
desire,--whether he should remain at home, or go to the village to
plunge again into the sea of dissipation out of which he had just been
drawn to land half-drowned and utterly desperate.

Amélie resolved not to leave his side, but to cleave to him, and inch by
inch to fight the demons which possessed him until she got the victory.

Le Gardeur looked fondly in the face of Amélie. He read her thoughts,
and was very conscious why she wished him not to go to the village. His
feelings gave way before her love and tenderness. He suddenly embraced
her and kissed her cheeks, while the tears stood welling in his eyes. "I
am not worthy of you, Amélie," said he; "so much sisterly care is lost
on me!"

"Oh, say not that, brother," replied she, kissing him fondly in return.
"I would give my life to save you, O my brother!"

Amélie was greatly moved, and for a time unable to speak further; she
laid her head on his shoulder, and sobbed audibly. Her love gained the
victory where remonstrance and opposition would have lost it.

"You have won the day, Amélie!" said he; "I will not go to the village
except with you. You are the best and truest girl in all Christendom!
Why is there no other like you? If there were, this curse had not come
upon me, nor this trial upon you, Amélie! You are my good angel, and I
will try, oh, so faithfully try, to be guided by you! If you fail, you
will at least have done all and more than your duty towards your erring
brother."

"Le Brun!" cried he to the groom who had brought his horse, and to whom
he threw the whip which had made such havoc among the flowers, "lead
Black Caesar to the stable again! and hark you! when I bid you bring
him out in the early morning another time, lead him to me unbridled and
unsaddled, with only a halter on his head, that I may ride as a clown,
not as a gentleman!"

Le Brun stared at this speech, and finally regarded it as a capital
joke, or else, as he whispered to his fellow-grooms in the stable, he
believed his young master had gone mad.

"Pierre Philibert," continued Amélie, "is down at the salmon pool. Let
us join him, Le Gardeur, and bid him good morning once more at Tilly."

Amélie, overjoyed at her victory, tripped gaily by the side of
her brother, and presently two friendly hands, the hands of Pierre
Philibert, were extended to greet her and Le Gardeur.

The hand of Amélie was retained for a moment in that of Pierre
Philibert, sending the blood to her cheeks. There is a magnetic touch in
loving fingers which is never mistaken, though their contact be but for
a second of time: it anticipates the strong grasp of love which will
ere long embrace body and soul in adamantine chains of a union not to be
broken even by death.

If Pierre Philibert retained the hand of Amélie for one second longer
than mere friendship required of him, no one perceived it but God
and themselves. Pierre felt it like a revelation--the hand of Amélie
yielding timidly, but not unwillingly, to his manly grasp. He looked in
her face. Her eyes were averted, and she withdrew her hand quietly but
gently, as not upbraiding him.

That moment of time flashed a new influence upon both their lives: it
was the silent recognition that each was henceforth conscious of the
special regard of the other.

There are moments which contain the whole quintessence of our
lives,--our loves, our hopes, our failures, in one concentrated drop of
happiness or misery. We look behind us and see that our whole past has
led up to that infinitesimal fraction of time which is the consummation
of the past in the present, the end of the old and the beginning of the
new. We look forward from the vantage ground of the present, and the
world of a new revelation lies before us.

Pierre Philibert was conscious from that moment that Amélie de
Repentigny was not indifferent to him,--nay, he had a ground of hope
that in time she would listen to his pleadings, and at last bestow on
him the gift of her priceless love.

His hopes were sure hopes, although he did not dare to give himself the
sweet assurance of it, nor did Amélie herself as yet suspect how far her
heart was irrevocably wedded to Pierre Philibert.

Deep as was the impression of that moment upon both of them, neither
Philibert nor Amélie yielded to its influence more than to lapse into a
momentary silence, which was relieved by Le Gardeur, who, suspecting not
the cause,--nay, thinking it was on his account that his companions
were so unaccountably grave and still, kindly endeavored to force the
conversation upon a number of interesting topics, and directed the
attention of Philibert to various points of the landscape which
suggested reminiscences of his former visits to Tilly.

The equilibrium of conversation was restored, and the three, sitting
down on a long, flat stone, a boulder which had dropped millions of
years before out of an iceberg as it sailed slowly over the glacial
ocean which then covered the place of New France, commenced to talk over
Amélie's programme of the previous night, the amusements she had planned
for the week, the friends in all quarters they were to visit, and the
friends from all quarters they were to receive at the Manor House.
These topics formed a source of fruitful comment, as conversation on our
friends always does. If the sun shone hot and fierce at noontide in the
dog-days, they would enjoy the cool shade of the arbors with books and
conversation; they would ride in the forest, or embark in their canoes
for a row up the bright little river; there would be dinners and
diversions for the day, music and dancing for the night.

The spirits of the inmates of the Manor House could not help but be
kept up by these expedients, and Amélie flattered herself that she would
quite succeed in dissipating the gloomy thoughts which occupied the mind
of Le Gardeur.

They sat on the stone by the brook-side for an hour, conversing
pleasantly while they watched the speckled trout dart like silver arrows
spotted with blood in the clear pool.

Le Gardeur strove to be gay, and teased Amélie in playfully criticizing
her programme, and, half in earnest, half in jest, arguing for the
superior attractions of the Palace of the Intendant to those of the
Manor House of Tilly. He saw the water standing in her eyes, when a
consciousness of what must be her feelings seized him; he drew her to
his side, asked her forgiveness, and wished fire were set to the Palace
and himself in the midst of it! He deserved it for wounding, even in
jest, the heart of the best and noblest sister in the world.

"I am not wounded, dear Le Gardeur," replied she, softly; "I knew you
were only in jest. My foolish heart is so sensitive to all mention of
the Palace and its occupants in connection with you, that I could not
even take in jest what was so like truth."

"Forgive me, I will never mention the Palace to you again, Amélie,
except to repeat the malediction I have bestowed upon it a thousand
times an hour since I returned to Tilly."

"My own brave brother!" exclaimed she, embracing him, "now I am happy!"

The shrill notes of a bugle were heard sounding a military call to
breakfast. It was the special privilege of an old servitor of the
family, who had been a trumpeter in the troop of the Seigneur of Tilly,
to summon the family of the Manor House in that manner to breakfast
only. The old trumpeter had solicited long to be allowed to sound the
reveille at break of day, but the good Lady de Tilly had too much
regard for the repose of the inmates of her house to consent to any such
untimely waking of them from their morning slumbers.

The old, familiar call was recognized by Philibert, who reminded Amélie
of a day when Aeolus (the ancient trumpeter bore that windy sobriquet)
had accompanied them on a long ramble in the forest,--how, the day being
warm, the old man fell asleep under a comfortable shade, while the three
children straggled off into the depths of the woods, where they were
speedily lost.

"I remember it like yesterday, Pierre," exclaimed Amélie, sparkling at
the reminiscence; "I recollect how I wept and wrung my hands, tired out,
hungry, and forlorn, with my dress in tatters, and one shoe left in a
miry place! I recollect, moreover, that my protectors were in almost as
bad a plight as myself, yet they chivalrously carried the little maiden
by turns, or together made a queen's chair for me with their locked
hands, until we all broke down together and sat crying at the foot of
a tree, reminding one another of the babes in the wood, and recounting
stories of bears which had devoured lost naughty children in the forest.
I remember how we all knelt down at last and recited our prayers until
suddenly we heard the bugle-call of Aeolus sounding close by us. The
poor old man, wild with rapture at having found us, kissed and shook us
so violently that we almost wished ourselves lost in the forest again."

The recollection of this adventure was very pleasing to Pierre. He
recalled every incident of it perfectly, and all three of them seemed
for a while transported back into the fairy-land of their happy
childhood.

The bugle-call of old Aeolus again sounded, and the three friends rose
and proceeded towards the house.

The little brook--it had never looked so bright before to
Amélie--sparkled with joy like her own eyes. The orioles and blackbirds
warbled in the bushes, and the insects which love warmth and sunshine
chirmed and chirruped among the ferns and branches as Amélie, Pierre,
and Le Gardeur walked home along the green footpath under the avenue of
elms that led to the château.

The Lady de Tilly received them with many pleasant words. Leading
them into the breakfast-room, she congratulated Le Gardeur upon the
satisfaction it afforded her to see her dear children, so she called
them, once more seated round her board in health and happiness. Amélie
colored slightly, and looked at her aunt as if questioning whether she
included Philibert among her children.

The Lady de Tilly guessed her thought, but pretending not to, bade Felix
proceed with the breakfast, and turned the conversation to topics more
general. "The Iroquois," she said, "had left the Chaudière and gone
further eastward; the news had just been brought in by messengers to
the Seigniory, and it was probable, nay, certain that they would not be
heard of again. Therefore Le Gardeur and Pierre Philibert were under
no necessity of leaving the Manor to search for the savages, but could
arrange with Amélie for as much enjoyment as they could crowd into these
summer days."

"It is all arranged, aunt!" replied Amélie. "We have held a cour
plenière this morning, and made a code of laws for our Kingdom of
Cocagne during the next eight days. It needs only the consent of our
suzeraine lady to be at once acted upon."

"And your suzeraine lady gives her consent without further questioning,
Amélie! although I confess you have an admirable way of carrying your
point, Amélie," said her aunt, laughing; "you resolve first what you
will do, and ask my approbation after."

"Yes, aunt, that is our way in the kingdom of pleasure! And we begin
this morning: Le Gardeur and Pierre will ride to the village to meet our
cousin Héloise, from Lotbinière."

"But you will accompany us, Amélie!" exclaimed Le Gardeur. "I will not
go else,--it was a bargain!"

"Oh, I did not count myself for anything but an embarrassment! of course
I shall go with you, Le Gardeur, but our cousin Héloise de Lotbinière is
coming to see you, not me. She lost her heart," remarked she, turning to
Pierre, "when she was last here, at the feast of St. John, and is coming
to seek it again."

"Ah! how was that, Amélie?" asked Philibert. "I remember the lovely
face, the chestnut curls, and bright black eyes of Héloise de
Lotbinière. And has hers really gone the way of all hearts?"

"Of all good hearts, Pierre,--but you shall hear if you will be good and
listen. She saw the portraits of you and Le Gardeur, one day, hung in
the boudoir of my aunt. Héloise professed that she admired both until
she could not tell which she liked best, and left me to decide."

"Ah! and which of us did you give to the fair Héloise?" demanded
Philibert with a sudden interest.

"Not the Abélard she wanted, you may be sure, Pierre," exclaimed
Le Gardeur; "she gave me, and kept you! It was a case of clear
misappropriation."

"No, brother, not so!" replied Amélie, hastily. "Héloise had tried the
charm of the three caskets with the three names without result, and at
last watched in the church porch, on the eve of St. John, to see the
shade of her destined lover pass by, and lo, Héloise vowed she saw me,
and no one else, pass into the church!"

"Ah! I suppose it was you? It is no rare thing for you to visit the
shrine of our Lady on the eve of St. John. Pierre Philibert, do you
recollect? Oh, not as I do, dear friend," continued Le Gardeur with a
sudden change of voice, which was now filled with emotion: "it was
on the day of St. John you saved my poor worthless life. We are not
ungrateful! She has kept the eve of St. John in the church ever since,
in commemoration of that event."

"Brother, we have much to thank Heaven for!" replied Amélie, blushing
deeply at his words, "and I trust we shall never be ungrateful for its
favor and protection."

Amélie shied from a compliment like a young colt at its own shadow.
She avoided further reference to the subject broached by Le Gardeur
by saying,--"It was I whom Héloise saw pass into the church. I never
explained the mystery to her, and she is not sure yet whether it was
my wraith or myself who gave her that fright on St. John's eve. But I
claimed her heart as one authorized to take it, and if I could not marry
her myself I claimed the right to give her to whomsoever I pleased, and
I gave her to you, Le Gardeur, but you would not accept the sweetest
girl in New France!"

"Thanks, Amélie," replied he, laughing, yet wincing. "Héloise is indeed
all you say, the sweetest girl in New France! But she was too angelic
for Le Gardeur de Repentigny. Pshaw! you make me say foolish things,
Amélie. But in penance for my slight, I will be doubly attentive to my
fair cousin de Lotbinière to-day. I will at once order the horses and we
will ride down to the village to meet her."

Arrayed in a simple riding-dress of dark blue, which became her as did
everything else which she wore,--Amélie's very attire seemed instinct
with the living graces and charms of its wearer,--she mounted her horse,
accepting the aid of Philibert to do so, although when alone she usually
sprang to the saddle herself, saluting the Lady de Tilly, who waved her
hand to them from the lawn. The three friends slowly cantered down the
broad avenue of the park towards the village of Tilly.

Amélie rode well. The exercise and the pure air brought the fresh color
to her face, and her eyes sparkled with animation as she conversed gaily
with her brother and Philibert.

They speedily reached the village, where they met Héloise de Lotbinière,
who, rushing to Amélie, kissed her with effusion, and as she greeted Le
Gardeur looked up as if she would not have refused a warmer salutation
than the kind shake of the hand with which he received her. She welcomed
Philibert with glad surprise, recognizing him at once, and giving
a glance at Amélie which expressed an ocean of unspoken meaning and
sympathy.

Héloise was beautiful, gay, spirited, full of good humor and
sensibility. Her heart had long been devoted to Le Gardeur, but never
meeting with any response to her shy advances, which were like the
wheeling of a dove round and round its wished-for mate, she had long
concluded with a sigh that for her the soul of Le Gardeur was insensible
to any touch of a warmer regard than sprang from the most sincere
friendship.

Amélie saw and understood all this; she loved Héloise, and in her quiet
way had tried to awaken a kinder feeling for her in the heart of her
brother. As one fights fire with fire in the great conflagrations of
the prairies, Amélie hoped also to combat the influence of Angélique des
Meloises by raising up a potent rival in the fair Héloise de Lotbinière
but she soon found how futile were her endeavors. The heart of Le
Gardeur was wedded to the idol of his fancy, and no woman on earth could
win him away from Angélique.

Amélie comforted Héloise by the gift of her whole confidence and
sympathy. The poor disappointed girl accepted the decree of fate, known
to no other but Amélie, while in revenge upon herself--a thing not rare
in proud, sensitive natures--she appeared in society more gay, more
radiant and full of mirth than ever before. Héloise hid the asp in her
bosom, but so long as its bite was unseen she laughed cruelly at the
pain of it, and deceived, as she thought, the eyes of the world as to
her suffering.

The arrival of Héloise de Lotbinière was followed by that of a crowd of
other visitors, who came to the Manor House to pay their respects to
the family on their return home, and especially to greet Le Gardeur and
Colonel Philibert, who was well remembered, and whom the busy tongues
of gossip already set down as a suitor for the hand of the young
chatelaine.

The report of what was said by so many whispering friends was quickly
carried to the ear of Amélie by some of her light-hearted companions.
She blushed at the accusation, and gently denied all knowledge of it,
laughing as a woman will laugh who carries a hidden joy or a hidden
sorrow in her heart, neither of which she cares to reveal to the world's
eye. Amélie listened to the pleasant tale with secret complaisance, for,
despite her tremor and confusion, it was pleasant to hear that Pierre
Philibert loved her, and was considered a suitor for her hand. It was
sweet to know that the world believed she was his choice.

She threaded every one of these precious words, like a chaplet of pearls
upon the strings of her heart,--contemplating them, counting them over
and over in secret, with a joy known only to herself and to God, whom
she prayed to guide her right whatever might happen.

That something would happen ere long she felt a premonition, which at
times made her grave in the midst of her hopes and anticipations.

The days passed gaily at Tilly. Amélie carried out the elaborate
programme which she had arranged for the amusement of Le Gardeur as well
as for the pleasures of her guests.

Every day brought a change and a fresh enjoyment. The mornings were
devoted by the gentlemen to hunting, fishing, and other sport; by the
ladies to reading, music, drawing, needlework, or the arrangements of
dress and ornaments. In the afternoons all met together, and the social
evening was spent either at the Manor House or some neighboring mansion.
The hospitality of all was alike: a profusion of social feeling formed,
at that day, a marked characteristic of the people of New France.

The Lady de Tilly spent an hour or two each day with her trusty land
steward, or bailli, Master Coté, in attending to the multifarious
business of her Seigniory. The feudal law of New France imposed great
duties and much labor upon the lords of the manor, by giving them an
interest in every man's estate, and making them participators in every
transfer of land throughout a wide district of country. A person who
acquired, by purchase or otherwise, the lands of a censitaire, or
vassal, was held to perform foi et hommage for the lands so acquired,
and to acquit all other feudal dues owing by the original holder to his
seigneur.

It was during one of these fair summer days at Tilly that Sieur
Tranchelot, having acquired the farm of the Bocage, a strip of land
a furlong wide and a league in depth, with a pleasant frontage on the
broad St. Lawrence, the new censitaire came as in duty bound to render
foi et hommage for the same to the lady of the Manor of Tilly, according
to the law and custom of the Seigniory.

At the hour of noon, Lady de Tilly, with Le Gardeur, Amélie, and Pierre
Philibert, in full dress, stood on a dais in the great hall; Master Coté
sat at a table on the floor in front, with his great clasped book of
record open before him. A drawn sword lay upon the table, and a cup of
wine stood by the side of it.

When all was arranged, three loud knocks were heard on the great door,
and the Sieur Tranchelot, dressed in his holiday costume, but bareheaded
and without sword or spurs,--not being gentilhomme he was not entitled
to wear them,--entered the door, which was ceremoniously opened for him
by the majordomo. He was gravely led up to the dais, where stood the
lady of the Manor, by the steward bearing his wand of office.

The worthy censitaire knelt down before the lady, and repeating her name
three times, pronounced the formula of foi et hommage prescribed by the
law, as owing to the lords of the Manor of Tilly.

"My Lady de Tilly! My Lady de Tilly! My Lady de Tilly! I render you
fealty and homage due to you on account of my lands of the Bocage, which
belong to me by virtue of the deed executed by the Sieur Marcel before
the worthy notary Jean Pothier dit Robin, on the day of Palms, 1748,
and I avow my willingness to acquit the seigniorial and feudal cens et
rentes, and all other lawful dues, whensoever payable by me; beseeching
you to be my good liege lady, and to admit me to the said fealty and
homage."

The lady accepted the homage of Sieur Tranchelot, graciously remitted
the lods et ventes,--the fines payable to the seigneur,--gave him the
cup of wine to drink when he rose to his feet, and ordered him to be
generously entertained by her majordomo, and sent back to the Bocage
rejoicing.

So the days passed by in alternation of business and pastime, but all
made a pleasure for the agreeable inmates of the Manor House. Philibert
gave himself up to the delirium of enchantment which the presence of
Amélie threw over him. He never tired of watching the fresh developments
of her gloriously-endowed nature. Her beauty, rare as it was, grew
day by day upon his wonder and admiration, as he saw how fully it
corresponded to the innate grace and nobility of her mind.

She was so fresh of thought, so free from all affectation, so gentle and
winning in all her ways, and, sooth to say, so happy in the admiration
of Philibert, which she was very conscious of now. It darted from his
eyes at every look, although no word of it had yet passed his lips. The
radiance of her spirits flashed like sunbeams through every part of the
old Manor House.

Amélie was carried away in a flood of new emotion; she tried once or
twice to be discreetly angry with herself for admitting so unreservedly
the pleasure she felt in Pierre's admiration; she placed her soul on a
rack of self-questioning torture, and every inquisition she made of her
heart returned the self-same answer: she loved Pierre Philibert!

It was in vain she accused herself of possible impropriety: that it was
bold, unmaidenly, censurable, nay, perhaps sinful, to give her heart
before it had been asked for; but if she had to die for it, she could
not conceal the truth, that she loved Pierre Philibert! "I ought to be
angry with myself," said she. "I try to be so, but I cannot! Why?"

"Why?" Amélie solved the query as every true woman does, who asks
herself why she loves one man rather than another. "Because he has
chosen me out in preference to all others, to be the treasure-keeper of
his affections! I am proud," continued Amélie, "that he gives his love
to me, to me! unworthy as I am of such preference. I am no better than
others." Amélie was a true woman: proud as an empress before other men,
she was humble and lowly as the Madonna in the presence of him whom she
felt was, by right of love, lord and master of her affections.

Amélie could not overcome a feeling of tremor in the presence of Pierre
since she made this discovery. Her cheek warmed with an incipient flush
when his ardent eyes glanced at her too eloquently. She knew what was
in his heart, and once or twice, when casually alone with Philibert, she
saw his lips quivering under a hard restraint to keep in the words, the
dear words, she thought, which would one day burst forth in a flood
of passionate eloquence, overwhelming all denial, and make her his own
forever.

Time and tide, which come to all once in our lives, as the poet says,
and which must be taken at their flood to lead to fortune, came at
length to Amélie de Repentigny.

It came suddenly and in an unlooked-for hour, the great question of
questions to her as to every woman.

The hour of birth and the hour of death are in God's hand, but the hour
when a woman, yielding to the strong enfolding arm of a man who loves
her, falters forth an avowal of her love, and plights her troth, and
vows to be one with him till death, God leaves that question to be
decided by her own heart. His blessing rests upon her choice, if pure
love guides and reason enlightens affection. His curse infallibly
follows every faithless pledge where no heart is, every union that is
not the marriage of love and truth. These alone can be married, and
where these are absent there is no marriage at all in the face of
Heaven, and but the simulation of one on earth, an unequal yoking,
which, if man will not sunder, God will at last, where there is neither
marriage nor giving in marriage, but all are as his angels.

The day appointed for the long-planned excursion to the beautiful Lake
of Tilly came round. A numerous and cheerful water-party left the Manor
House in the bright, cool morning to spend the day gipsying in the
shady woods and quiet recesses of the little lake. They were all there:
Amélie's invitation to her young friends far and near had been eagerly
accepted. Half a dozen boats and canoes, filled with light-hearted
companions and with ample provisions for the day, shot up the narrow
river, and after a rapid and merry voyage, disembarked their passengers
and were drawn up on the shores and islands of the lake.

That bright morning was followed by a sunny day of blue skies, warm yet
breezy. The old oaks wove a carpet of shadows, changing the pattern
of its tissue every hour upon the leaf-strewn floor of the forest.
The fresh pines shed their resinous perfume on every side in the still
shade, but out in the sunshine the birds sang merrily all day.

The groups of merrymakers spent a glorious day of pleasure by the side
of the clear, smooth lake, fishing and junketing on shore, or paddling
their birch canoes over its waters among the little islands which dotted
its surface.

Day was fast fading away into a soft twilight; the shadows which had
been drawing out longer and longer as the sun declined, lay now in all
their length, like bands stretched over the greensward. The breeze went
down with the sun, and the smooth surface of the lake lay like a sheet
of molten gold reflecting the parting glories of the day that still lit
up the western sky.

A few stars began to twinkle here and there--they were not destined to
shine brilliantly to-night, for they would ere long be eclipsed by
the splendor of the full moon, which was just at hand, rising in a
hemisphere of light, which stood like a royal pavilion on the eastern
horizon. From it in a few minutes would emerge the queen of heaven, and
mildly replace the vanishing glory of the day.

The company, after a repast under the trees, rose full of life and
merriment and rearranged themselves into little groups and couples as
chance or inclination led them. They trooped down to the beach to embark
in their canoes for a last joyous cruise round the lake and its fairy
islands, by moonlight, before returning home.

Amid a shower of lively conversation and laughter, the ladies seated
themselves in the light canoes, which danced like corks upon the water.
The gentlemen took the paddles, and, expert as Indians in the use of
them, swept out over the surface of the lake, which was now all aglow
with the bright crimson of sunset.

In the bow of one of the canoes sat the Arion of Tilly, Jean de La
Marche; a flute or two accompanied his violin, and a guitar tinkled
sweetly under the fingers of Héloise de Lotbinière. They played an old
air, while Jean led the chorus in splendid voice:


     "'Nous irons sur l'eau,
       Nous y prom-promener,
       Nous irons jouer dans l'isle.'"


The voices of all united in the song as the canoes swept away around a
little promontory, crowned with three pine-trees, which stood up in the
blaze of the setting sun like the three children in the fiery furnace,
or the sacred bush that burned and was not consumed.

Faint and fainter, the echoes repeated the receding harmony, until at
last they died away. A solemn silence succeeded. A languor like that of
the lotus-eaters crept over the face of nature and softened the heart to
unwonted tenderness. It was the hour of gentle thoughts, of low spoken
confidences, and love between young and sympathizing souls, who alone
with themselves and God confess their mutual love and invoke his
blessing upon it.



CHAPTER XXIX. FELICES TER ET AMPLIUS.


Amélie, by accident or by contrivance of her fair companions,--girls are
so wily and sympathetic with each other,--had been left seated by the
side of Philibert, on the twisted roots of a gigantic oak forming a rude
but simple chair fit to enthrone the king of the forest and his dryad
queen. No sound came to break the quiet of the evening hour save
the monotonous plaint of a whippoorwill in a distant brake, and the
ceaseless chirm of insects among the leafy boughs and down in the ferns
that clustered on the knolls round about.

Philibert let fall upon his knee the book which he had been reading. His
voice faltered, he could not continue without emotion the touching tale
of Paolo and Francesca da Rimini. Amélie's eyes were suffused with tears
of pity, for her heart had beat time to the music of Dante's immortal
verse as it dropped in measured cadence from the lips of Philibert.

She had read the pathetic story before, but never comprehended until
now the weakness which is the strength of love. Oh, blessed paradox of
a woman's heart! And how truly the Commedia, which is justly called
Divine, unlocks the secret chambers of the human soul.

"Read no more, Pierre," said she, "that book is too terrible in its
beauty and in its sadness! I think it was written by a disembodied
spirit who had seen all worlds, knew all hearts, and shared in all
sufferings. It sounds to me like the sad voice of a prophet of woe."

"Amélie," replied he, "believe you there are women faithful and true
as Francesca da Rimini? She would not forsake Paolo even in the gloomy
regions of despair. Believe you that there are such women?"

Amélie looked at him with a quick, confident glance. A deep flush
covered her cheek, and her breath went and came rapidly; she knew what
to answer, but she thought it might seem overbold to answer such a
question. A second thought decided her, however. Pierre Philibert would
ask her no question to which she might not answer, she said to herself.

Amélie replied to him slowly, but undoubtingly: "I think there are such
women, Pierre," replied she, "women who would never, even in the regions
of despair, forsake the man whom they truly love, no, not for all the
terrors recorded in that awful book of Dante!"

"It is a blessed truth, Amélie," replied he, eagerly; and he thought,
but did not say it, "Such a woman you are; the man who gets your love
gets that which neither earth nor heaven nor hell can take away."

He continued aloud, "The love of such a woman is truly given away,
Amélie; no one can merit it! It is a woman's grace, not man's
deserving."

"I know not," said she; "it is not hard to give away God's gifts: love
should be given freely as God gives it to us. It has no value except
as the bounty of the heart, and looks for no reward but in its own
acceptance."

"Amélie!" exclaimed he, passionately, turning full towards her; but her
eyes remained fixed upon the ground. "The gift of such a woman's love
has been the dream, the ambition of my life! I may never find it, or
having found it may never be worthy of it; and yet I must find it or
die! I must find it where alone I seek it--there or nowhere! Can you
help me for friendship's sake--for love's sake, Amélie de Repentigny, to
find that one treasure that is precious as life, which is life itself to
the heart of Pierre Philibert?"

He took hold of her passive hands. They trembled in his, but she offered
not to withdraw them. Indeed, she hardly noticed the act in the tide
of emotion which was surging in her bosom. Her heart moved with a wild
yearning to tell him that he had found the treasure he sought,--that a
love as strong and as devoted as that of Francesca da Rimini was her own
free gift to him.

She tried to answer him, but could not. Her hand still remained fast
locked in his. He held to it as a drowning man holds to the hand that is
stretched to save him.

Philibert knew at that moment that the hour of his fate was come.
He would never let go that hand again till he called it his own, or
received from it a sign to be gone forever from the presence of Amélie
de Repentigny.

The soft twilight grew deeper and deeper every moment, changing the rosy
hues of the west into a pale ashen gray, over which hung the lamp of
love,--the evening star, which shines so brightly and sets so soon,--and
ever the sooner as it hastens to become again the morning star of a
brighter day.

The shadow of the broad, spreading tree fell darker round the rustic
seat where sat these two--as myriads have sat before and since, working
out the problems of their lives, and beginning to comprehend each
other, as they await with a thrill of anticipation the moment of mutual
confidence and fond confession.

Pierre Philibert sat some minutes without speaking. He could have sat
so forever, gazing with rapture upon her half-averted countenance, which
beamed with such a divine beauty, all aglow with the happy consciousness
of his ardent admiration, that it seemed the face of a seraph; and in
his heart, if not on his knees, he bent in worship, almost idolatrous,
at her feet.

And yet he trembled, this strong man who had faced death in every form
but this! He trembled by the side of this gentle girl,--but it was for
joy, not for fear. Perfect love casts out fear, and he had no fear now
for Amélie's love, although she had not yet dared to look at him. But
her little hand lay unreprovingly in his,--nestling like a timid bird
which loved to be there, and sought not to escape. He pressed it gently
to his heart; he felt by its magnetic touch, by that dumb alphabet of
love, more eloquent than spoken words, that he had won the heart of
Amélie de Repentigny.

"Pierre," said she,--she wanted to say it was time to rejoin
their companions, but the words would not come. Her face was still
half-averted, and suffused with an unseen blush, as she felt his strong
arm round her; and his breath, how sweet it seemed, fanning her cheek.
She had no power, no will to resist him, as he drew her close, still
closer to his heart.

She trembled, but was happy. No eye saw but God's through the blessed
twilight; and "God will not reprove Pierre Philibert for loving me,"
thought she, "and why should I?" She tried, or simulated, an attempt at
soft reproof, as a woman will who fears she may be thought too fond and
too easily won, at the very moment she is ready to fall down and kiss
the feet of the man before her.

"Pierre," said she, "it is time we rejoin our companions; they will
remark our absence. We will go."

But she still sat there, and made no effort to go. A gossamer thread
could have held her there forever, and how could she put aside the
strong arm that was mightier than her own will?

Pierre spoke now; the feelings so long pent up burst forth in a torrent
that swept away every bond of restraint but that of love's own laws.

He placed his hand tenderly on her cheek, and turned her glowing face
full towards him. Still she dared not look up. She knew well what he was
going to say. She might control her words, but not her tell-tale eyes.
She felt a wild joy flashing and leaping in her bosom, which no art
could conceal, should she look up at this moment in the face of Pierre
Philibert.

"Amélie," said he, after a pause, "turn those dear eyes, and see and
believe in the truth of mine! No words can express how much I do love
you!"

She gave a start of joy,--not of surprise, for she knew he loved her.
But the avowal of Pierre Philibert's love lifted at once the veil from
her own feelings. She raised her dark, impassioned eyes to his, and
their souls met and embraced in one look both of recognition and bliss.
She spake not, but unconsciously nestled closer to his breast, faltering
out some inarticulate words of tenderness.

"Amélie," continued he, straining her still harder to his heart, "your
love is all I ask of Heaven and of you. Give me that. I must have it, or
live henceforth a man forlorn in the wide world. Oh, say, darling, can
you, do you care for me?"

"Yes, indeed I do!" replied she, laying her arm over his neck, as if
drawing him towards her with a timid movement, while he stooped and
kissed her sweet mouth and eyes in an ecstasy of passionate joy.
She abandoned herself for a moment to her excess of bliss. "Kiss me,
darling!" said he; and she kissed him more than once, to express her own
great love and assure him that it was all his own.

They sat in silence for some minutes; her cheek lay upon his, as she
breathed his name with many fond, faltering expressions of tenderness.

He felt her tears upon his face. "You weep, Amélie," said he, starting
up and looking at her cheeks and eyes suffused with moisture.

"I do," said she, "but it is for joy! Oh, Pierre Philibert, I am
so happy! Let me weep now; I will laugh soon. Forgive me if I have
confessed too readily how much I love you."

"Forgive you! 'tis I need forgiveness; impetuous that I am to have
forced this confession from you to-night. Those blessed words, 'Yes,
indeed I do,'--God's finger has written them on my heart forever. Never
will I forsake the dear lips which spake them, nor fail in all loving
duty and affection to you, my Amélie, to the end of my life."

"Of both our lives, Pierre," replied she; "I can imagine no life, only
death, separated from you. In thought you have always been with me from
the beginning; my life and yours are henceforth one."

He gave a start of joy, "And you loved me before, Amélie!" exclaimed he.

"Ever and always; but irrevocably since that day of terror and joy when
you saved the life of Le Gardeur, and I vowed to pray for you to the end
of my life."

"And during these long years in the Convent, Amélie,--when we seemed
utterly forgotten to each other?"

"You were not forgotten by me, Pierre! I prayed for you then,--earnest
prayers for your safety and happiness, never hoping for more; least of
all anticipating such a moment of bliss as the present. Oh, my Pierre,
do not think me bold! You give me the right to love you without shame by
the avowal of your love to me."

"Amélie!" exclaimed he, kissing her in an ecstasy of joy and admiration,
"what have I done--what can I ever do, to merit or recompense such
condescension as your dear words express?"

"Love me, Pierre! Always love me! That is my reward. That is all I ask,
all my utmost imagination could desire."

"And this little hand, Amélie, will be forever mine?"

"Forever, Pierre, and the heart along with it."

He raised her hand reverently to his lips and kissed it. "Let it not be
long," said he. "Life is too short to curtail one hour of happiness from
the years full of trouble which are most men's lot."

"But not our lot, Pierre; not ours. With you I forbode no more trouble
in this life, and eternal joy in the next."

She looked at him, and her eyes seemed to dilate with joy. Her hand
crept timidly up to his thick locks; she fondly brushed them aside from
his broad forehead, which she pressed down to her lips and kissed.

"Tell my aunt and Le Gardeur when we return home," continued she. "They
love you, and will be glad--nay, overjoyed, to know that I am to be
your--your--"

"My wife!---Amélie, thrice blessed words! Oh, say my wife!"

"Yes, your wife, Pierre! Your true and loving wife forever."

"Forever! Yes. Love like ours is imperishable as the essence of the soul
itself, and partakes of the immortality of God, being of him and from
him. The Lady de Tilly shall find me a worthy son, and Le Gardeur a true
and faithful brother."

"And you, Pierre! Oh, say it; that blessed word has not sounded yet in
my ear--what shall I call you?" And she looked in his eyes, drawing his
soul from its inmost depths by the magnetism of her look.

"Your husband,--your true and loving husband, as you are my wife,
Amélie."

"God be praised!" murmured she in his ear. "Yes, my HUSBAND! The blessed
Virgin has heard my prayers." And she pressed him in a fond embrace,
while tears of joy flowed from her eyes. "I am indeed happy!"

The words hardly left her lips when a sudden crash of thunder rolled
over their heads and went pealing down the lake and among the islands,
while a black cloud suddenly eclipsed the moon, shedding darkness over
the landscape, which had just begun to brighten in her silvery rays.

Amélie was startled, frightened, clinging hard to the breast of
Pierre, as her natural protector. She trembled and shook as the angry
reverberations rolled away in the distant forests. "Oh, Pierre!"
exclaimed she, "what is that? It is as if a dreadful voice came between
us, forbidding our union! But nothing shall ever do that now, shall it?
Oh, my love!"

"Nothing, Amélie. Be comforted," replied he. "It is but a thunder-storm
coming up. It will send Le Gardeur and all our gay companions quickly
back to us, and we shall return home an hour sooner, that is all. Heaven
cannot frown on our union, darling."

"I should love you all the same, Pierre," whispered she. Amélie was not
hard to persuade; she was neither weak nor superstitious beyond her age
and sex. But she had not much time to indulge in alarms.

In a few minutes the sound of voices was heard; the dip and splash of
hasty paddles followed, and the fleet of canoes came rushing into shore
like a flock of water-fowl seeking shelter in bay or inlet from a storm.

There was a hasty preparation on all sides for departure. The camp-fires
were trampled out lest they should kindle a conflagration in the forest.
The baskets were tossed into one of the large canoes. Philibert and
Amélie embarked in that of Le Gardeur, not without many arch smiles and
pretended regrets on the part of some of the young ladies for having
left them on their last round of the lake.

The clouds kept gathering in the south, and there was no time for
parley. The canoes were headed down the stream, the paddles were plied
vigorously: it was a race to keep ahead of the coming storm, and they
did not quite win it.

The black clouds came rolling over the horizon in still blacker masses,
lower and lower, lashing the very earth with their angry skirts, which
were rent and split with vivid flashes of lightning. The rising wind
almost overpowered with its roaring the thunder that pealed momentarily
nearer and nearer. The rain came down in broad, heavy splashes, followed
by a fierce, pitiless hail, as if Heaven's anger was pursuing them.

Amélie clung to Philibert. She thought of Francesca da Rimini clinging
to Paolo amidst the tempest of wind and the moving darkness, and uttered
tremblingly the words, "Oh, Pierre! what an omen. Shall it be said of us
as of them, 'Amor condusse noi ad una morte'?" ("Love has conducted us
into one death.")

"God grant we may one day say so," replied he, pressing her to his
bosom, "when we have earned it by a long life of mutual love and
devotion. But now cheer up, darling; we are home."

The canoes pushed madly to the bank. The startled holiday party sprang
out; servants were there to help them. All ran across the lawn under
the wildly-tossing trees, and in a few moments, before the storm could
overtake them with its greatest fury, they reached the Manor House, and
were safe under the protection of its strong and hospitable roof.



CHAPTER XXX. "NO SPEECH OF SILK WILL SERVE YOUR TURN."


Angélique des Meloises was duly informed, through the sharp espionage of
Lizette, as to what had become of Le Gardeur after that memorable night
of conflict between love and ambition, when she rejected the offer of
his hand and gave herself up to the illusions of her imagination.

She was sorry, yet flattered, at Lizette's account of his conduct at the
Taverne de Menut; for, although pleased to think that Le Gardeur loved
her to the point of self-destruction, she honestly pitied him, and felt,
or thought she felt, that she could sacrifice anything except herself
for his sake.

Angélique pondered in her own strange, fitful way over Le Gardeur. She
had no thought of losing him wholly. She would continue to hold him in
her silken string, and keep him under the spell of her fascinations.
She still admired him,--nay, loved him, she thought. She could not help
doing so; and if she could not help it, where was the blame? She would
not, to be sure, sacrifice for him the brilliant hopes which danced
before her imagination like fire-flies in a summer night--for no man in
the world would she do that! The Royal Intendant was the mark she aimed
at. She was ready to go through fire and water to reach that goal of her
ambition. But if she gave the Intendant her hand it was enough; it was
all she could give him, but not the smallest corner of her heart, which
she acknowledged to herself belonged only to Le Gardeur de Repentigny.

While bent on accomplishing this scheme by every means in her power, and
which involved necessarily the ruin of Le Gardeur, she took a sort of
perverse pride in enumerating the hundred points of personal and moral
superiority possessed by him over the Intendant and all others of her
admirers. If she sacrificed her love to her ambition, hating herself
while she did so, it was a sort of satisfaction to think that Le
Gardeur's sacrifice was not less complete than her own; and she rather
felt pleased with the reflection that his heart would be broken, and no
other woman would ever fill that place in his affections which she had
once occupied.

The days that elapsed after their final interview were days of vexation
to Angélique. She was angry with herself, almost; angry with Le Gardeur
that he had taken her at her word, and still more angry that she did not
reap the immediate reward of her treachery against her own heart. She
was like a spoiled and wilful child which will neither have a thing nor
let it go. She would discard her lover and still retain his love! and
felt irritated and even jealous when she heard of his departure to Tilly
with his sister, who had thus, apparently, more influence to take him
away from the city than Angélique had to keep him there.

But her mind was especially worked upon almost to madness by the ardent
professions of love, with the careful avoidance of any proposal of
marriage, on the part of the Intendant. She had received his daily
visits with a determination to please and fascinate him. She had
dressed herself with elaborate care, and no woman in New France equalled
Angélique in the perfection of her attire. She studied his tastes in her
conversation and demeanor, which were free beyond even her wont,
because she saw that a manner bold and unconstrained took best with
him. Angélique's free style was the most perfect piece of acting in
the world. She laughed loudly at his wit, and heard without blushes his
double entendres and coarse jests, not less coarse because spoken in
the polished dialect of Paris. She stood it all, but with no more result
than is left by a brilliant display of fireworks after it is over. She
could read in the eager looks and manner of the Intendant that she had
fixed his admiration and stirred his passions, but she knew by a no less
sure intuition that she had not, with all her blandishments, suggested
to his mind one serious thought of marriage.

In vain she reverted to the subject of matrimony, in apparent jest but
secret earnest. The Intendant, quick-witted as herself, would accept
the challenge, talk with her and caracole on the topic which she had
caparisoned so gaily for him, and amid compliments and pleasantries,
ride away from the point, she knew not whither! Then Angélique would be
angry after his departure, and swear,--she could swear shockingly for a
lady when she was angry!--and vow she would marry Le Gardeur after all;
but her pride was stung, not her love. No man had ever defeated her
when she chose to subdue him, neither should this proud Intendant! So
Angélique collected her scattered forces again, and laid closer siege to
Bigot than ever.

The great ball at the Palais had been the object of absorbing interest
to the fashionable society of the Capital for many weeks. It came on at
last, turning the heads of half the city with its splendor.

Angélique shone the acknowledged queen of the Intendant's ball. Her
natural grace and beauty, set off by the exquisite taste and richness of
her attire, threw into eclipse the fairest of her rivals. If there was
one present who, in admiration of her own charms, claimed for herself
the first place, she freely conceded to Angélique the second. But
Angélique feared no rival there. Her only fear was at Beaumanoir. She
was profoundly conscious of her own superiority to all present, while
she relished the envy and jealousy which it created. She cared but
little what the women thought of her, and boldly challenging the homage
of the men, obtained it as her rightful due.

Still, under the gay smiles and lively badinage which she showered on
all around as she moved through the brilliant throng, Angélique felt a
bitter spirit of discontent rankling in her bosom. She was angry, and
she knew why, and still more angry because upon herself lay the blame!
Not that she blamed herself for having rejected Le Gardeur: she had done
that deliberately and for a price; but the price was not yet paid, and
she had, sometimes, qualms of doubt whether it would ever be paid!

She who had had her own way with all men, now encountered a man who
spoke and looked like one who had had his own way with all women, and
who meant to have his own way with her!

She gazed often upon the face of Bigot, and the more she looked the more
inscrutable it appeared to her. She tried to sound the depths of his
thoughts, but her inquiry was like the dropping of a stone into the
bottomless pit of that deep cavern of the dark and bloody ground talked
of by adventurous voyageurs from the Far West.

That Bigot admired her beyond all other women at the ball, was visible
enough from the marked attention which he lavished upon her and the
courtly flatteries that flowed like honey from his lips. She also read
her preëminence in his favor from the jealous eyes of a host of rivals
who watched her every movement. But Angélique felt that the admiration
of the Intendant was not of that kind which had driven so many men mad
for her sake. She knew Bigot would never go mad for her, much as he was
fascinated! and why? why?

Angélique, while listening to his honeyed flatteries as he led her
gaily through the ballroom, asked herself again and again, why did he
carefully avoid the one topic that filled her thoughts, or spoke of it
only in his mocking manner, which tortured her to madness with doubt and
perplexity?

As she leaned on the arm of the courtly Intendant, laughing like one
possessed with the very spirit of gaiety at his sallies and jests, her
mind was torn with bitter comparisons as she remembered Le Gardeur, his
handsome face and his transparent admiration, so full of love and ready
for any sacrifice for her sake,--and she had cast it all away for this
inscrutable voluptuary, a man who had no respect for women, but who
admired her person, condescended to be pleased with it, and affected to
be caught by the lures she held out to him, but which she felt would be
of no more avail to hold him fast than the threads which a spider throws
from bush to bush on a summer morn will hold fast a bird which flies
athwart them!

The gayest of the gay to all outward appearance, Angélique missed sorely
the presence of Le Gardeur, and she resented his absence from the ball
as a slight and a wrong to her sovereignty, which never released a lover
from his allegiance.

The fair demoiselles at the ball, less resolutely ambitious than
Angélique, found by degrees, in the devotion of other cavaliers, ample
compensation for only so much of the Intendant's favor as he liberally
bestowed on all the sex; but that did not content Angélique: she looked
with sharpest eyes of inquisition upon the bright glances which now and
then shot across the room where she sat by the side of Bigot, apparently
steeped in happiness, but with a serpent biting at her heart, for she
felt that Bigot was really unimpressible as a stone under her most
subtle manipulation.

Her thoughts ran in a round of ceaseless repetition of the question:
"Why can I not subdue François Bigot as I have subdued every other man
who exposed his weak side to my power?" and Angélique pressed her foot
hard upon the floor as the answer returned ever the same: "The heart of
the Intendant is away at Beaumanoir! That pale, pensive lady" (Angélique
used a more coarse and emphatic word) "stands between him and me like a
spectre as she is, and obstructs the path I have sacrificed so much to
enter!"

"I cannot endure the heat of the ballroom, Bigot!" said Angélique; "I
will dance no more to-night! I would rather sit and catch fireflies on
the terrace than chase forever without overtaking it the bird that has
escaped from my bosom!"

The Intendant, ever attentive to her wishes, offered his arm to lead
her into the pleached walks of the illuminated garden. Angélique rose,
gathered up her rich train, and with an air of royal coquetry took his
arm and accompanied the Intendant on a promenade down the grand alley of
roses.

"What favorite bird has escaped from your bosom, Angélique?" asked
the Intendant, who had, however, a shrewd guess of the meaning of her
metaphor.

"The pleasure I had in anticipation of this ball! The bird has flown, I
know not where or how. I have no pleasure here at all!" exclaimed she,
petulantly, although she knew the ball had been really got up mainly for
her own pleasure.

"And yet Momus himself might have been your father, and Euphrosyne your
mother, Angélique," replied Bigot, "to judge by your gaiety to-night.
If you have no pleasure, it is because you have given it all away to
others! But I have caught the bird you lost, let me restore it to your
bosom pray!" He laid his hand lightly and caressingly upon her arm.
Her bosom was beating wildly; she removed his hand, and held it firmly
grasped in her own.

"Chevalier!" said she, "the pleasure of a king is in the loyalty of his
subjects, the pleasure of a woman in the fidelity of her lover!" She
was going to say more, but stopped. But she gave him a glance which
insinuated more than all she left unsaid.

Bigot smiled to himself. "Angélique is jealous!" thought he, but he only
remarked, "That is an aphorism which I believe with all my heart! If the
pleasure of a woman be in the fidelity of her lover, I know no one who
should be more happy than Angélique des Meloises! No lady in New France
has a right to claim greater devotion from a lover, and no one receives
it!"

"But I have no faith in the fidelity of my lover! and I am not happy,
Chevalier! far from it!" replied she, with one of those impulsive
speeches that seemed frankness itself, but in this woman were artful to
a degree.

"Why so?" replied he; "pleasure will never leave you, Angélique, unless
you wilfully chase it away from your side! All women envy your beauty,
all men struggle to obtain your smiles. For myself, I would gather all
the joys and treasures of the world, and lay them at your feet, would
you let me!

"I do not hinder you, Chevalier!" she replied, with a laugh of
incredulity, "but you do not do it! It is only your politeness to say
that. I have told you that the pleasure of a woman is in the fidelity
of her lover; tell me now, Chevalier, what is the highest pleasure of a
man?"

"The beauty and condescension of his mistress,--at least, I know
none greater." Bigot looked at her as if his speech ought to receive
acknowledgement on the spot.

"And it is your politeness to say that, also, Chevalier!" replied she
very coolly.

"I wish I could say of your condescension, Angélique, what I have said
of your beauty: François Bigot would then feel the highest pleasure of a
man." The Intendant only half knew the woman he was seeking to deceive.
She got angry.

Angélique looked up with a scornful flash. "My condescension, Chevalier?
to what have I not condescended on the faith of your solemn promise that
the lady of Beaumanoir should not remain under your roof? She is still
there, Chevalier, in spite of your promise!"

Bigot was on the point of denying the fact, but there was sharpness
in Angélique's tone, and clearness of all doubt in her eyes. He saw he
would gain nothing by denial.

"She knows the whole secret, I do believe!" muttered he. "Argus with his
hundred eyes was a blind man compared to a woman's two eyes sharpened by
jealousy."

"The lady of Beaumanoir accuses me of no sin that I repent of!" replied
he. "True! I promised to send her away, and so I will; but she is a
woman, a lady, who has claims upon me for gentle usage. If it were your
case, Angélique--"

Angélique quitted his arm and stood confronting him, flaming with
indignation. She did not let him finish his sentence: "If it were my
case, Bigot! as if that could ever be my case, and you alive to speak of
it!"

Bigot stepped backwards. He was not sure but a poniard glittered in the
clenched hand of Angélique. It was but the flash of her diamond rings as
she lifted it suddenly. She almost struck him.

"Do not blame me for infidelities committed before I knew you,
Angélique!" said he, seizing her hand, which he held forcibly in his, in
spite of her efforts to wrench it away.

"It is my nature to worship beauty at every shrine. I have ever done
so until I found the concentration of all my divinities in you. I could
not, if I would, be unfaithful to you, Angélique des Meloises!" Bigot
was a firm believer in the classical faith that Jove laughs at lovers'
perjuries.

"You mock me, Bigot!" replied she. "You are the only man who has ever
dared to do so twice."

"When did I mock you twice, Angélique?" asked he, with an air of injured
innocence.

"Now! and when you pledged yourself to remove the lady of Beaumanoir
from your house! I admire your courage, Bigot, in playing false with me
and still hoping to win! But never speak to me more of love while that
pale spectre haunts the secret chambers of the Château!"

"She shall be removed, Angélique, since you insist upon it," replied he,
secretly irritated; "but where is the harm? I pledge my faith she shall
not stand in the way of my love for you."

"Better she were dead than do so!" whispered Angélique to herself. "It
is my due, Bigot!" replied she aloud, "you know what I have given up for
your sake!"

"Yes! I know you have banished Le Gardeur de Repentigny when it had been
better to keep him securely in the ranks of the Grand Company. Why did
you refuse to marry him, Angélique?"

The question fairly choked her with anger. "Why did I refuse to marry
him? François Bigot! Do you ask me seriously that question? Did you not
tell me of your own love, and all but offer me your hand, giving me
to understand--miserable sinner that you are, or as you think me to
be--that you pledged your own faith to me, as first in your choice, and
I have done that which I had better have been dead and buried with
the heaviest pyramid of Egypt on top of me, buried without hope of
resurrection, than have done?"

Bigot, accustomed as he was to woman's upbraidings, scarcely knew what
to reply to this passionate outburst. He had spoken to her words of
love, plenty of them, but the idea of marriage had not flashed across
his mind for a moment,--not a word of that had escaped his lips. He had
as little guessed the height of Angélique's ambition as she the depths
of his craft and wickedness, and yet there was a wonderful similarity
between the characters of both,--the same bold, defiant spirit, the same
inordinate ambition, the same void of principle in selecting means to
ends,--only the one fascinated with the lures of love, the other by the
charms of wit, the temptations of money, or effected his purposes by the
rough application of force.

"You call me rightly a miserable sinner," said he, half smiling, as one
not very miserable although a sinner. "If love of fair women be a sin, I
am one of the greatest of sinners; and in your fair presence, Angélique,
I am sinning at this moment enough to sink a shipload of saints and
angels!"

"You have sunk me in my own and the world's estimation, if you mean what
you say, Bigot!" replied she, unconsciously tearing in strips the fan
she held in her hand. "You love all women too well ever to be capable of
fixing your heart upon one!" A tear, of vexation perhaps, stood in her
angry eye as she said this, and her cheek twitched with fierce emotion.

"Come, Angélique!" said he, soothingly, "some of our guests have entered
this alley. Let us walk down to the terrace. The moon is shining bright
over the broad river, and I will swear to you by St. Picaut, my patron,
whom I never deceive, that my love for all womankind has not hindered me
from fixing my supreme affection upon you."

Angélique allowed him to press her hand, which he did with fervor. She
almost believed his words. She could scarcely imagine another woman
seriously preferred to herself, when she chose to flatter a man with a
belief of her own preference for him.

They walked down a long alley brilliantly illuminated with lamps of
Bohemian glass, which shone like the diamonds, rubies, and emeralds
which grew upon the trees in the garden of Aladdin.

At every angle of the geometrically-cut paths of hard-beaten sea-shells,
white as snow, stood the statue of a faun, a nymph, or dryad, in Parian
marble, holding a torch, which illuminated a great vase running over
with fresh, blooming flowers, presenting a vista of royal magnificence
which bore testimony to the wealth and splendid tastes of the Intendant.

The garden walks were not deserted: their beauty drew out many a couple
who sauntered merrily, or lovingly, down the pleached avenues, which
looked like the corridors of a gorgeously-decorated palace.

Bigot and Angélique moved among the guests, receiving, as they passed,
obsequious salutations, which to Angélique seemed a foretaste of
royalty. She had seen the gardens of the palace many times before, but
never illuminated as now. The sight of them so grandly decorated filled
her with admiration of their owner, and she resolved that, cost what it
would, the homage paid to her to-night, as the partner of the Intendant,
should become hers by right on his hearthstone as the first lady in New
France.

Angélique threw back her veil that all might see her, that the women
might envy and the men admire her, as she leaned confidingly on the arm
of Bigot, looking up in his face with that wonderful smile of hers
which had brought so many men to ruin at her feet, and talking with such
enchantment as no woman could talk but Angélique des Meloises.

Well understanding that her only road to success was to completely
fascinate the Intendant, she bent herself to the task with such power
of witchery and such simulation of real passion, that Bigot, wary and
experienced gladiator as he was in the arena of love, was more than once
brought to the brink of a proposal for her hand.

She watched every movement of his features, at these critical moments
when he seemed just falling into the snares so artfully set for him.
When she caught his eyes glowing with passionate admiration, she shyly
affected to withdraw hers from his gaze, turning on him at times flashes
of her dark eyes which electrified every nerve of his sensuous nature.
She felt the pressure of his hand, the changed and softened inflections
of his voice, she knew the words of her fate were trembling on his lips,
and yet they did not come! The shadow of that pale hand at Beaumanoir,
weak and delicate as it was, seemed to lay itself upon his lips when
about to speak to her, and snatch away the words which Angélique,
trembling with anticipation, was ready to barter away body and soul to
hear spoken.

In a shady passage through a thick greenery where the lights were dimmer
and no one was near, she allowed his arm for a moment to encircle her
yielding form, and she knew by his quick breath that the words were
moulded in his thoughts, and were on the point to rush forth in
a torrent of speech. Still they came not, and Bigot again, to her
unutterable disgust, shied off like a full-blooded horse which starts
suddenly away from some object by the wayside and throws his rider
headlong on the ground. So again were dashed the ardent expectations of
Angélique.

She listened to the gallant and gay speeches of Bigot, which seemed to
flutter like birds round her, but never lit on the ground where she had
spread her net like a crafty fowler as she was, until she went almost
mad with suppressed anger and passionate excitement. But she kept on
replying with badinage light as his own, and with laughter so soft and
silvery that it seemed a gentle dew from Heaven, instead of the drift
and flying foam of the storm that was raging in her bosom.

She read and re-read glimpses of his hidden thoughts that went and came
like faces in a dream, and she saw in her imagination the dark, pleading
eyes and pale face of the lady of Beaumanoir. It came now like a
revelation, confirming a thousand suspicions that Bigot loved that
pale, sad face too well ever to marry Angélique des Meloises while its
possessor lived at Beaumanoir,--or while she lived at all!

And it came to that! In this walk with Bigot round the glorious garden,
with God's flowers shedding fragrance around them; with God's stars
shining overhead above all the glitter and illusion of the thousand
lamps, Angélique repeated to herself the terrific words, "Bigot loves
that pale, sad face too well ever to marry me while its possessor lives
at Beaumanoir--or while she lives at all!"

The thought haunted her! It would not leave her! She leaned heavily upon
his arm as she swept like a queen of Cyprus through the flower-bordered
walks, brushing the roses and lilies with her proud train, and treading,
with as dainty a foot as ever bewitched human eye, the white paths that
led back to the grand terrace of the Palace.

Her fevered imagination played tricks in keeping with her fear: more
than once she fancied she saw the shadowy form of a beautiful woman
walking on the other side of Bigot next his heart! It was the form
of Caroline bearing a child in one arm, and claiming, by that supreme
appeal to a man's heart, the first place in his affections.

The figure sometimes vanished, sometimes reappeared in the same place,
and once and the last time assumed the figure and look of Our Lady of
St. Foye, triumphant after a thousand sufferings, and still ever bearing
the face and look of the lady of Beaumanoir.

Emerging at last from the dim avenue into the full light, where a
fountain sent up showers of sparkling crystals, the figure vanished, and
Angélique sat down on a quaintly-carved seat under a mountain-ash, very
tired, and profoundly vexed at all things and with everybody.

A servant in gorgeous livery brought a message from the ballroom to the
Intendant.

He was summoned for a dance, but he would not leave Angélique, he said.
But Angélique begged for a short rest: it was so pleasant in the garden.
She would remain by the fountain. She liked its sparkling and splashing,
it refreshed her; the Intendant could come for her in half an hour; she
wanted to be alone; she felt in a hard, unamiable mood, she said, and he
only made her worse by stopping with her when others wanted him, and he
wanted others!

The Intendant protested, in terms of the warmest gallantry, that he
would not leave her; but seeing Angélique really desired at the present
moment to be alone, and reflecting that he was himself sacrificing too
much for the sake of one goddess, while a hundred others were adorned
and waiting for his offerings, he promised in half an hour to return for
her to this spot by the fountain, and proceeded towards the Palace.

Angélique sat watching the play and sparkle of the fountain, which
she compared to her own vain exertions to fascinate the Intendant, and
thought that her efforts had been just as brilliant, and just as futile!

She was sadly perplexed. There was a depth in Bigot's character which
she could not fathom, a bottomless abyss into which she was falling and
could not save herself. Whichever way she turned the eidolon of
Caroline met her as a bar to all further progress in her design upon the
Intendant.

The dim half-vision of Caroline which she had seen in the pleached
walk, she knew was only the shadow and projection of her own thoughts, a
brooding fancy which she had unconsciously conjured up into the form of
her hated rival. The addition of the child was the creation of the deep
and jealous imaginings which had often crossed her mind. She thought of
that yet unborn pledge of a once mutual affection as the secret spell by
which Caroline, pale and feeble as she was, still held the heart of the
Intendant in some sort of allegiance.

"It is that vile, weak thing!" said she bitterly and angrily to herself,
"which is stronger than I. It is by that she excites his pity, and pity
draws after it the renewal of his love. If the hope of what is not yet
be so potent with Bigot, what will not the reality prove ere long? The
annihilation of all my brilliant anticipations! I have drawn a blank in
life's lottery, by the rejection of Le Gardeur for his sake! It is the
hand of that shadowy babe which plucks away the words of proposal from
the lips of Bigot, which gives his love to its vile mother, and leaves
to me the mere ashes of his passion, words which mean nothing, which
will never mean anything but insult to Angélique des Meloises, so long
as that woman lives to claim the hand which but for her would be mine!"

Dark fancies fluttered across the mind of Angélique during the absence
of the Intendant. They came like a flight of birds of evil omen, ravens,
choughs, and owls, the embodiments of wicked thoughts. But such thoughts
suited her mood, and she neither chid nor banished them, but let them
light and brood, and hatch fresh mischief in her soul.

She looked up to see who was laughing so merrily while she was so angry
and so sad, and beheld the Intendant jesting and toying with a cluster
of laughing girls who had caught him at the turn of the broad stair of
the terrace. They kept him there in utter oblivion of Angélique! Not
that she cared for his presence at that moment, or felt angry, as she
would have done at a neglect of Le Gardeur, but it was one proof among a
thousand others that, gallant and gay as he was among the throng of fair
guests who were flattering and tempting him on every side, not one
of them, herself included, could feel sure she had made an impression
lasting longer than the present moment upon the heart of the Intendant.

But Bigot had neither forgotten Angélique nor himself. His wily spirit
was contriving how best to give an impetus to his intrigue with her
without committing himself to any promise of marriage. He resolved
to bring this beautiful but exacting girl wholly under his power. He
comprehended fully that Angélique was prepared to accept his hand at
any moment, nay, almost demanded it; but the price of marriage was what
Bigot would not, dared not pay, and as a true courtier of the period he
believed thoroughly in his ability to beguile any woman he chose, and
cheat her of the price she set upon her love.



CHAPTER XXXI. THE BALL AT THE INTENDANT'S PALACE.


The bevy of fair girls still surrounded Bigot on the terrace stair.
Some of them stood leaning in graceful pose upon the balusters. The wily
girls knew his artistic tastes, and their pretty feet patted time to the
music, while they responded with ready glee to the gossiping of the gay
Intendant.

Amid their idle badinage Bigot inserted an artful inquiry for
suggestion, not for information, whether it was true that his friend
Le Gardeur de Repentigny, now at the Manor House of Tilly, had become
affianced to his cousin, Héloise de Lotbinière? There was a start of
surprise and great curiosity at once manifested among the ladies, some
of whom protested that it could not be true, for they knew better
in what direction Le Gardeur's inclinations pointed. Others, more
compassionate or more spiteful, with a touch of envy, said they hoped
it was true, for he had been "jilted by a young lady in the city!" Whom
they "all knew!" added one sparkling demoiselle, giving herself a twitch
and throwing a side glance which mimicked so perfectly the manner of
the lady hinted at, that all knew in a moment she meant no other than
Angélique des Meloises. They all laughed merrily at the conceit, and
agreed that Le Gardeur de Repentigny would only serve the proud flirt
right by marrying Héloise, and showing the world how little he cared for
Angélique.

"Or how much!" suggested an experienced and lively widow, Madame La
Touche. "I think his marrying Héloise de Lotbinière will only prove the
desperate condition of his feelings. He will marry her, not because he
loves her, but to spite Angélique."

The Intendant had reckoned securely on the success of his ruse: the
words were scarcely spoken before a couple of close friends of Angélique
found her out, and poured into her ears an exaggerated story of the
coming marriage of Le Gardeur with Héloise de Lotbinière.

Angélique believed them because it seemed the natural consequence of her
own infidelity.

Her friends, who were watching her with all a woman's curiosity and
acuteness, were secretly pleased to see that their news had cut her to
the quick. They were not misled by the affected indifference and gay
laughter which veiled the resentment which was plainly visible in her
agitated bosom.

Her two friends left her to report back to their companions, with
many exaggerations and much pursing of pretty lips, how Angélique had
received their communication. They flattered themselves they had had
the pleasure of first breaking the bad tidings to her, but they were
mistaken! Angélique's far-reaching curiosity had touched Tilly with
its antennae, and she had already learned of the visit of Héloise de
Lotbinière, an old school companion of her own, to the Manor House of
Tilly.

She had scented danger afar off from that visit. She knew that Héloise
worshipped Le Gardeur, and now that Angélique had cast him off, what
more natural than that he should fall at last into her snares--so
Angélique scornfully termed the beauty and amiable character of her
rival. She was angry without reason, and she knew it; but that made her
still more angry, and with still less reason.

"Bigot!" said she, impetuously, as the Intendant rejoined her when the
half-hour had elapsed, "you asked me a question in the Castle of St.
Louis, leaning on the high gallery which overlooks the cliffs! Do you
remember it?"

"I do: one does not forget easily what one asks of a beautiful woman,
and still less the reply she makes to us," replied he, looking at her
sharply, for he guessed her drift.

"Yet you seem to have forgotten both the question and the reply, Bigot.
Shall I repeat them?" said she, with an air of affected languor.

"Needless, Angélique! and to prove to you the strength of my memory,
which is but another name for the strength of my admiration, I will
repeat it: I asked you that night--it was a glorious night, the bright
moon shone full in our faces as we looked over the shining river, but
your eyes eclipsed all the splendor of the heavens--I asked you to give
me your love; I asked for it then, Angélique! I ask for it now."

Angélique was pleased with the flattery, even while she knew how hollow
and conventional a thing it was.

"You said all that before, Bigot!" replied she, "and you added a foolish
speech, which I confess pleased me that night better than now. You said
that in me you had found the fair haven of your desires, where your
bark, long tossing in cross seas, and beating against adverse winds,
would cast anchor and be at rest. The phrase sounded poetical if
enigmatical, but it pleased me somehow; what did it mean, Bigot? I have
puzzled over it many times since--pray tell me!"

Angélique turned her eyes like two blazing stars full upon him as if to
search for every trace of hidden thought that lurked in his countenance.

"I meant what I said, Angélique: that in you I had found the pearl of
price which I would rather call mine than wear a king's crown."

"You explain one enigma by another. The pearl of price lay there before
you and you picked it up! It had been the pride of its former owner, but
you found it ere it was lost. What did you with it, Bigot?"

The Intendant knew as well as she the drift of the angry tide, which
was again setting in full upon him, but he doubted not his ability to
escape. His real contempt for women was the lifeboat he trusted in,
which had carried himself and fortunes out of a hundred storms and
tempests of feminine wrath.

"I wore the precious pearl next my heart, as any gallant gentleman
should do," replied he blandly; "I would have worn it inside my heart
could I have shut it up there."

Bigot smiled in complacent self-approval at his own speech. Not so
Angélique! She was irritated by his general reference to the duty of
a gallant gentleman to the sex and not to his own special duty as the
admirer of herself.

Angélique was like an angry pantheress at this moment. The darts of
jealousy just planted by her two friends tore her side, and she felt
reckless both as to what she said and what she did. With a burst of
passion not rare in women like her, she turned her wrath full upon him
as the nearest object. She struck Bigot with her clenched hand upon the
breast, exclaiming with wild vehemence,--

"You lie! François Bigot, you never wore me next your heart, although
you said so! You wear the lady of Beaumanoir next your heart. You have
opened your heart to her after pledging it to me! If I was the pearl
of price, you have adorned her with it--my abasement is her glory!"
Angélique's tall, straight figure stood up, magnified with fury as she
uttered this.

The Intendant stepped back in surprise at the sudden attack. Had the
blow fallen upon his face, such is human nature, Bigot would have
regarded it as an unpardonable insult, but falling upon his breast, he
burst out in a loud laugh as he caught hold of her quivering hand, which
she plucked passionately away from him.

The eyes of Angélique looked dangerous and full of mischief, but Bigot
was not afraid or offended. In truth, her jealousy flattered him,
applying it wholly to himself. He was, moreover, a connoisseur in female
temper: he liked to see the storm of jealous rage, to watch the rising
of its black clouds, to witness the lightning and the thunder, the gusts
and whirlwinds of passion, followed by the rain of angry tears, when the
tears were on his account. He thought he had never seen so beautiful a
fury as Angélique was at that moment.

Her pointed epithet, "You lie!" which would have been death for a man
to utter, made no dint on the polished armor of Bigot, although he inly
resolved that she should pay a woman's penalty for it.

He had heard that word from other pretty lips before, but it left no
mark upon a conscience that was one stain, upon a life that was one
fraud. Still his bold spirit rather liked this bold utterance from an
angry woman, when it was in his power by a word to change her rage into
the tender cooing of a dove.

Bigot was by nature a hunter of women, and preferred the excitement of a
hard chase, when the deer turns at bay and its capture gave him a trophy
to be proud of, to the dull conquest of a tame and easy virtue, such as
were most of those which had fallen in his way.

"Angélique!" said he, "this is perfect madness; what means this burst of
anger? Do you doubt the sincerity of my love for you?"

"I do, Bigot! I doubt it, and I deny it. So long as you keep a mistress
concealed at Beaumanoir, your pledge to me is false and your love an
insult."

"You are too impetuous and too imperious, Angélique! I have promised you
she shall be removed from Beaumanoir, and she shall--"

"Whither, and when?"

"To the city, and in a few days: she can live there in quiet seclusion.
I cannot be cruel to her, Angélique."

"But you can be cruel to me, Bigot, and will be, unless you exercise the
power which I know is placed in your hands by the King himself."

"What is that? to confiscate her lands and goods if she had any?"

"No, to confiscate her person! Issue a lettre de cachet and send her
over sea to the Bastile."

Bigot was irritated at this suggestion, and his irritation was narrowly
watched by Angélique.

"I would rather go to the Bastile myself!" exclaimed he; "besides, the
King alone issues lettres de cachet: it is a royal prerogative, only to
be used in matters of State."

"And matters of love, Bigot, which are matters of State in France!
Pshaw! as if I did not know that the King delegates his authority, and
gives lettres de cachet in blank to his trusted courtiers, and even
to the ladies of his Court. Did not the Marquise de Pompadour send
Mademoiselle Vaubernier to the Bastile for only smiling upon the King?
It is a small thing I ask of you, Bigot, to test your fidelity,--you
cannot refuse me, come!" added she, with a wondrous transformation of
look and manner from storm and gloom to warmth and sunshine.

"I cannot and will not do it. Hark you, Angélique, I dare not do it!
Powerful as I may seem, the family of that lady is too potent to risk
the experiment upon. I would fain oblige you in this matter, but it
would be the height of madness to do so."

"Well, then, Bigot, do this, if you will not do that! Place her in the
Convent of the Ursulines: it will suit her and me both,--no better place
in the world to tame an unruly spirit. She is one of the pious souls who
will be at home there, with plenty of prayers and penances, and plenty
of sins to pray for every day."

"But I cannot force her to enter the Convent, Angélique. She will think
herself not good enough to go there; besides, the nuns themselves would
have scruples to receive her."

"Not if YOU request her admission of Mère de la Nativité: the Lady
Superior will refuse no application of yours, Bigot."

"Won't she! but she will! The Mère de la Nativité considers me a sad
reprobate, and has already, when I visited her parlor, read me a couple
of sharpest homilies on my evil ways, as she called them. The venerable
Mère de la Nativité will not carry coals, I assure you, Angélique."

"As if I did not know her!" she replied impatiently. "Why, she screens
with all her authority that wild nephew of hers, the Sieur Varin!
Nothing irritates her like hearing a bad report of him, and although she
knows all that is said of him to be true as her breviary, she will not
admit it. The soeurs converses in the laundry were put on bread and
water with prayers for a week, only for repeating some gossip they had
heard concerning him."

"Ay! that is because the venerable Mère Superior is touchy on the point
of family,--but I am not her nephew, voilà la différance!" as the song
says.

"Well! but you are her nephew's master and patron," replied Angélique,
"and the good Mère will strain many points to oblige the Intendant of
New France for sake of the Sieur Varin. You do not know her as I do,
Bigot."

"What do you advise, Angélique?" asked he, curious to see what was
working in her brain.

"That if you will not issue a lettre de cachet, you shall place the lady
of Beaumanoir in the hands of the Mère de la Nativité with instructions
to receive her into the community after the shortest probation."

"Very good, Angélique! But if I do not know the Mère Superior, you do
not know the lady of Beaumanoir. There are reasons why the nuns would
not and could not receive her at all,--even were she willing to go, as I
think she would be. But I will provide her a home suited to her station
in the city; only you must promise to speak to me no more respecting
her."

"I will promise no such thing, Bigot!" said Angélique, firing up again
at the failure of her crafty plan for the disposal of Caroline, "to have
her in the city will be worse than to have her at Beaumanoir."

"Are you afraid of the poor girl, Angélique,--you, with your surpassing
beauty, grace, and power over all who approach you? She cannot touch
you."

"She has touched me, and to the quick too, already," she replied,
coloring with passion. "You love that girl, François Bigot! I am never
deceived in men. You love her too well to give her up, and still you
make love to me. What am I to think?"

"Think that you women are able to upset any man's reason, and make fools
of us all to your own purposes." Bigot saw the uselessness of argument;
but she would not drop the topic.

"So you say, and so I have found it with others," replied she, "but not
with you, Bigot. But I shall have been made the fool of, unless I carry
my point in regard to this lady."

"Well, trust to me, Angélique. Hark you! there are reasons of State
connected with her. Her father has powerful friends at Court, and I must
act warily. Give me your hand; we will be friends. I will carry out your
wishes to the farthest possible stretch of my power. I can say no more."

Angélique gave him her hand. She saw she could not carry her point with
the Intendant, and her fertile brain was now scheming another way to
accomplish her ends. She had already undergone a revulsion of feeling,
and repented having carried her resentment so far,--not that she felt
it less, but she was cunning and artful, although her temper sometimes
overturned her craft, and made wreck of her schemes.

"I am sorry I was so angry, Bigot, as to strike you with this feeble
hand." Angélique smiled as she extended her dainty fingers, which,
delicate as they were, had the strength and elasticity of steel.

"Not so feeble either, Angélique!" replied he, laughing; "few men could
plant a better blow: you hit me on the heart fairly, Angélique."

He seized her hand and lifted it to his lips. Had Queen Dido possessed
that hand she would have held fast Aeneas himself when he ran away from
his engagements.

Angélique pressed the Intendant's hand with a grasp that left every
vein bloodless. "As I hold fast to you, Bigot, and hold you to your
engagements, thank God that you are not a woman! If you were, I think I
should kill you. But as you are a man, I forgive, and take your promise
of amendment. It is what foolish women always do!"

The sound of the music and the measured tread of feet in the lively
dances were now plainly heard in the pauses of their conversation.

They rose, and entered the ballroom. The music ceased, and recommenced
a new strain for the Intendant and his fair partner, and for a time
Angélique forgot her wrath in the delirious excitement of the dance.

But in the dance her exuberance of spirits overflowed like a fountain
of intoxicating wine. She cared not for things past or future in the
ecstatic joy of the present.

Her voluptuous beauty, lissomeness, and grace of movement enthralled all
eyes with admiration, as she danced with the Intendant, who was himself
no mean votary of Terpsichore. A lock of her long golden hair broke
loose and streamed in wanton disorder over her shoulders; but she heeded
it not,--carried away by the spirit of the dance, and the triumph of
present possession of the courtly Intendant. Her dainty feet flashed
under her flying robe and scarcely seemed to touch the floor as they
kept time to the swift throbbings of the music.

The Intendant gazed with rapture on his beautiful partner, as she leaned
upon his arm in the pauses of the dance, and thought more than once
that the world would be well lost for sake of such a woman. It was but a
passing fancy, however; the serious mood passed away, and he was weary,
long before Angélique, of the excitement and breathless heat of a wild
Polish dance, recently first heard of in French society. He led her to a
seat, and left her in the centre of a swarm of admirers, and passed into
an alcove to cool and rest himself.



CHAPTER XXXII. "ON WITH THE DANCE."


Bigot, a voluptuary in every sense, craved a change of pleasure. He was
never satisfied long with one, however pungent. He felt it as a relief
when Angélique went off like a laughing sprite upon the arm of De Pean.
"I am glad to get rid of the women sometimes, and feel like a man,"
he said to Cadet, who sat drinking and telling stories with hilarious
laughter to two or three boon companions, and indulging in the coarsest
jests and broadest scandal about the ladies at the ball, as they passed
by the alcove where they were seated.

The eager persistence of Angélique, in her demand for a lettre de cachet
to banish the unfortunate Caroline, had wearied and somewhat disgusted
Bigot.

"I would cut the throat of any man in the world for the sake of her
bright eyes," said he to himself, as she gave him a parting salute with
her handkerchief; "but she must not ask me to hurt that poor foolish
girl at Beaumanoir. No, by St. Picot! she is hurt enough already, and I
will not have Angélique tormenting her! What merciless creatures women
are to one another, Cadet!" said he, aloud.

Cadet looked up with red, inflamed eyes at the remark of Bigot. He cared
nothing for women himself, and never hesitated to show his contempt for
the whole sex.

"Merciless creatures, do you call them, Bigot! the claws of all the cats
in Caen could not match the finger-nails of a jealous woman--still less
her biting tongue."

Angélique des Meloises swept past the two in a storm of music, as if in
defiance of their sage criticisms. Her hand rested on the shoulder of
the Chevalier de Pean. She had an object which made her endure it,
and her dissimulation was perfect. Her eyes transfixed his with their
dazzling look. Her lips were wreathed in smiles; she talked continually
as she danced, and with an inconsistency which did not seem strange
in her, was lamenting the absence from the ball of Le Gardeur de
Repentigny.

"Chevalier," said she, in reply to some gallantry of her partner,
"most women take pride in making sacrifices of themselves; I prefer to
sacrifice my admirers. I like a man, not in the measure of what I do for
him, but what he will do for me. Is not that a candid avowal, Chevalier?
You like frankness, you know."

Frankness and the Chevalier de Pean were unknown quantities together;
but he was desperately smitten, and would bear any amount of snubbing
from Angélique.

"You have something in your mind you wish me to do," replied he,
eagerly. "I would poison my grandmother, if you asked me, for the reward
you could give me."

"Yes, I have something in my mind, Chevalier, but not concerning your
grandmother. Tell me why you allowed Le Gardeur de Repentigny to leave
the city?"

"I did not allow him to leave the city," said he, twitching his ugly
features, for he disliked the interest she expressed in Le Gardeur.
"I would fain have kept him here if I could. The Intendant, too, had
desperate need of him. It was his sister and Colonel Philibert who
spirited him away from us."

"Well, a ball in Quebec is not worth twisting a curl for in the absence
of Le Gardeur de Repentigny!" replied she. "You shall promise me to
bring him back to the city, Chevalier, or I will dance with you no
more."

Angélique laughed so gaily as she said this that a stranger would have
interpreted her words as all jest.

"She means it, nevertheless," thought the Chevalier. "I will promise my
best endeavor, Mademoiselle," said he, setting hard his teeth, with a
grimace of dissatisfaction which did not escape the eye of Angélique;
"moreover, the Intendant desires his return on affairs of the Grand
Company, and has sent more than one message to him already, to urge his
return."

"A fig for the Grand Company! Remember, it is I desire his return; and
it is my command, not the Intendant's, which you are bound, as a gallant
gentleman, to obey." Angélique would have no divided allegiance, and the
man who claimed her favors must give himself up, body and soul, without
thought of redemption.

She felt very reckless and very wilful at this moment. The laughter on
her lips was the ebullition of a hot and angry heart, not the play of
a joyous, happy spirit. Bigot's refusal of a lettre de cachet had stung
her pride to the quick, and excited a feeling of resentment which found
its expression in the wish for the return of Le Gardeur.

"Why do you desire the return of Le Gardeur?" asked De Pean,
hesitatingly. Angélique was often too frank by half, and questioners got
from her more than they liked to hear.

"Because he was my first admirer, and I never forget a true friend,
Chevalier," replied she, with an undertone of fond regret in her voice.

"But he will not be your last admirer," replied De Pean, with what
he considered a seductive leer, which made her laugh at him. "In the
kingdom of love, as in the kingdom of heaven, the last shall be first
and the first last. May I be the last, Mademoiselle?"

"You will certainly be the last, De Pean; I promise that." Angélique
laughed provokingly. She saw the eye of the Intendant watching her. She
began to think he remained longer in the society of Cadet than was due
to herself.

"Thanks, Mademoiselle," said De Pean, hardly knowing whether her laugh
was affirmative or negative; "but I envy Le Gardeur his precedence."

Angélique's love for Le Gardeur was the only key which ever unlocked her
real feelings. When the fox praised the raven's voice and prevailed on
her to sing, he did not more surely make her drop the envied morsel out
of her mouth than did Angélique drop the mystification she had worn so
coquettishly before De Pean.

"Tell me, De Pean," said she, "is it true or not that Le Gardeur de
Repentigny is consoling himself among the woods of Tilly with a fair
cousin of his, Héloise de Lotbinière?"

De Pean had his revenge, and he took it. "It is true; and no wonder,"
said he. "They say Héloise is, without exception, the sweetest girl in
New France, if not one of the handsomest."

"Without exception!" echoed she, scornfully. "The women will not believe
that, at any rate, Chevalier. I do not believe it, for one." And she
laughed in the consciousness of beauty. "Do you believe it?"

"No, that were impossible," replied he, "while Angélique des Meloises
chooses to contest the palm of beauty."

"I contest no palm with her, Chevalier; but I give you this rosebud for
your gallant speech. But tell me, what does Le Gardeur think of this
wonderful beauty? Is there any talk of marriage?"

"There is, of course, much talk of an alliance." De Pean lied, and the
truth had been better for him.

Angélique started as if stung by a wasp. The dance ceased for her, and
she hastened to a seat. "De Pean," said she, "you promised to bring Le
Gardeur forthwith back to the city; will you do it?"

"I will bring him back, dead or alive, if you desire it; but I must have
time. That uncompromising Colonel Philibert is with him. His sister,
too, clings to him like a good angel to the skirt of a sinner. Since you
desire it,"--De Pean spoke it with bitterness,--"Le Gardeur shall come
back, but I doubt if it will be for his benefit or yours, Mademoiselle."

"What do you mean, De Pean?" asked she, abruptly, her dark eyes alight
with eager curiosity, not unmingled with apprehension. "Why do you doubt
it will not be for his benefit or mine? Who is to harm him?"

"Nay, he will only harm himself, Angélique. And, by St. Picot! he will
have ample scope for doing it in this city. He has no other enemy but
himself." De Pean felt that she was making an ox of him to draw the
plough of her scheming.

"Are you sure of that, De Pean?" demanded she, sharply.

"Quite sure. Are not all the associates of the Grand Company his fastest
friends? Not one of them will hurt him, I am sure."

"Chevalier de Pean!" said she, noticing the slight shrug he gave when he
said this, "you say Le Gardeur has no enemy but himself; if so, I hope
to save him from himself, nothing more. Therefore I want him back to the
city."

De Pean glanced towards Bigot. "Pardon me, Mademoiselle. Did the
Intendant never speak to you of Le Gardeur's abrupt departure?" asked
he.

"Never! He has spoken to you, though. What did he say?" asked she, with
eager curiosity.

"He said that you might have detained him had you wished, and he blamed
you for his departure."

De Pean had a suspicion that Angélique had really been instrumental in
withdrawing Le Gardeur from the clutches of himself and associates; but
in this he erred. Angélique loved Le Gardeur, at least for her own sake
if not for his, and would have preferred he should risk all the dangers
of the city to avoid what she deemed the still greater dangers of the
country,--and the greatest of these, in her opinion, was the fair face
of Héloise de Lotbinière. While, from motives of ambition, Angélique
refused to marry him herself, she could not bear the thought of another
getting the man whom she had rejected.

De Pean was fairly puzzled by her caprices: he could not fathom, but he
dared not oppose them.

At this moment Bigot, who had waited for the conclusion of a game of
cards, rejoined the group where she sat.

Angélique drew in her robe and made room for him beside her, and was
presently laughing and talking as free from care, apparently, as an
oriole warbling on a summer spray. De Pean courteously withdrew, leaving
her alone with the Intendant.

Bigot was charmed for the moment into oblivion of the lady who sat in
her secluded chamber at Beaumanoir. He forgot his late quarrel with
Angélique in admiration of her beauty. The pleasure he took in her
presence shed a livelier glow of light across his features. She observed
it, and a renewed hope of triumph lifted her into still higher flights
of gaiety.

"Angélique," said he, offering his arm to conduct her to the gorgeous
buffet, which stood loaded with golden dishes of fruit, vases of
flowers, and the choicest confectionery, with wine fit for a feast of
Cyprus, "you are happy to-night, are you not? But perfect bliss is only
obtained by a judicious mixture of earth and heaven: pledge me gaily now
in this golden wine, Angélique, and ask me what favor you will."

"And you will grant it?" asked she, turning her eyes upon him eagerly.

"Like the king in the fairy tale, even to my daughter and half of my
kingdom," replied he, gaily.

"Thanks for half the kingdom, Chevalier," laughed she, "but I would
prefer the father to the daughter." Angélique gave him a look of
ineffable meaning. "I do not desire a king to-night, however. Grant me
the lettre de cachet, and then--"

"And then what, Angélique?" He ventured to take her hand, which seemed
to tempt the approach of his.

"You shall have your reward. I ask you for a lettre de cachet, that is
all." She suffered her hand to remain in his.

"I cannot," he replied sharply to her urgent repetition. "Ask her
banishment from Beaumanoir, her life if you like, but a lettre de cachet
to send her to the Bastile I cannot and will not give!"

"But I ask it, nevertheless!" replied the wilful, passionate girl.
"There is no merit in your love if it fears risk or brooks denial! You
ask me to make sacrifices, and will not lift your finger to remove that
stumbling-block out of my way! A fig for such love, Chevalier Bigot! If
I were a man, there is nothing in earth, heaven, or hell I would not do
for the woman I loved!"

Angélique fixed her blazing eyes full upon him, but magnetic as was
their fire, they drew no satisfying reply. "Who in heaven's name is this
lady of Beaumanoir of whom you are so careful or so afraid?"

"I cannot tell you, Angélique," said he, quite irritated. "She may be a
runaway nun, or the wife of the man in the iron mask, or--"

"Or any other fiction you please to tell me in the stead of truth, and
which proves your love to be the greatest fiction of all!"

"Do not be so angry, Angélique," said he, soothingly, seeing the need
of calming down this impetuous spirit, which he was driving beyond all
bounds. But he had carelessly dropped a word which she picked up eagerly
and treasured in her bosom. "Her life! He said he would give me her
life! Did he mean it?" thought she, absorbed in this new idea.

Angélique had clutched the word with a feeling of terrible import. It
was not the first time the thought had flashed its lurid light across
her mind. It had seemed of comparatively light import when it was only
the suggestion of her own wild resentment. It seemed a word of terrible
power heard from the lips of Bigot, yet Angélique knew well he did not
in the least seriously mean what he said.

"It is but his deceit and flattery," she said to herself, "an idle
phrase to cozen a woman. I will not ask him to explain it, I shall
interpret it in my own way! Bigot has said words he understood not
himself; it is for me to give them form and meaning."

She grew quiet under these reflections, and bent her head in seeming
acquiescence to the Intendant's decision. The calmness was apparent
only.

"You are a true woman, Angélique," said he, "but no politician: you
have never heard thunder at Versailles. Would that I dared to grant your
request. I offer you my homage and all else I have to give you to half
my kingdom."

Angélique's eyes flashed fire. "It is a fairy tale after all!" exclaimed
she; "you will not grant the lettre de cachet?"

"As I told you before, I dare not grant that, Angélique; anything
else--"

"You dare not! You, the boldest Intendant ever sent to New France, and
say you dare not! A man who is worth the name dare do anything in the
world for a woman if he loves her, and for such a man a true woman
will kiss the ground he walks on, and die at his feet if need be!"
Angélique's thoughts reverted for a moment to Le Gardeur, not to Bigot,
as she said this, and thought how he would do it for her sake if she
asked him.

"My God, Angélique, you drive this matter hard, but I like you better so
than when you are in your silkiest humor."

"Bigot, it were better you had granted my request." Angélique clenched
her fingers hard together, and a cruel expression lit her eyes for a
moment. It was like the glance of a lynx seeking a hidden treasure in
the ground: it penetrated the thick walls of Beaumanoir! She suppressed
her anger, however, lest Bigot should guess the dark imaginings and
half-formed resolution which brooded in her mind.

With her inimitable power of transformation she put on her air of
gaiety again and exclaimed,--"Pshaw! let it go, Bigot. I am really no
politician, as you say; I am only a woman almost stifled with the heat
and closeness of this horrid ballroom. Thank God, day is dawning in the
great eastern window yonder; the dancers are beginning to depart! My
brother is waiting for me, I see, so I must leave you, Chevalier."

"Do not depart just now, Angélique! Wait until breakfast, which will be
prepared for the latest guests."

"Thanks, Chevalier," said she, "I cannot wait. It has been a gay and
delightful ball--to them who enjoyed it."

"Among whom you were one, I hope," replied Bigot.

"Yes, I only wanted one thing to be perfectly happy, and that I could
not get, so I must console myself," said she, with an air of mock
resignation.

Bigot looked at her and laughed, but he would not ask what it was she
lacked. He did not want a scene, and feared to excite her wrath by
mention again of the lettre de cachet.

"Let me accompany you to the carriage, Angélique," said he, handing her
cloak and assisting her to put it on.

"Willingly, Chevalier," replied she coquettishly, "but the Chevalier
de Pean will accompany me to the door of the dressing-room. I promised
him." She had not, but she beckoned with her finger to him. She had
a last injunction for De Pean which she cared not that the Intendant
should hear.

De Pean was reconciled by this manoevre; he came, and Angélique and
he tripped off together. "Mind, De Pean, what I asked you about Le
Gardeur!" said she in an emphatic whisper.

"I will not forget," replied he, with a twinge of jealousy. "Le Gardeur
shall come back in a few days or De Pean has lost his influence and
cunning."

Angélique gave him a sharp glance of approval, but made no further
remark. A crowd of voluble ladies were all telling over the incidents
of the ball, as exciting as any incidents of flood and field, while they
arranged themselves for departure.

The ball was fast thinning out. The fair daughters of Quebec, with
disordered hair and drooping wreaths, loose sandals, and dresses looped
and pinned to hide chance rents or other accidents of a long night's
dancing, were retiring to their rooms, or issuing from them hooded and
mantled, attended by obsequious cavaliers to accompany them home.

The musicians, tired out and half asleep, drew their bows slowly across
their violins; the very music was steeped in weariness. The lamps grew
dim in the rays of morning, which struggled through the high windows,
while, mingling with the last strains of good-night and bon répos, came
a noise of wheels and the loud shouts of valets and coachmen out in the
fresh air, who crowded round the doors of the Palace to convey home
the gay revellers who had that night graced the splendid halls of the
Intendant.

Bigot stood at the door bowing farewell and thanks to the fair company
when the tall, queenly figure of Angélique came down leaning on the arm
of the Chevalier de Pean. Bigot tendered her his arm, which she at once
accepted, and he accompanied her to her carriage.

She bowed graciously to the Intendant and De Pean, on her departure,
but no sooner had she driven off, than, throwing herself back in her
carriage, heedless of the presence of her brother, who accompanied her
home, she sank into a silent train of thoughts from which she was roused
with a start when the carriage drew up sharply at the door of their own
home.



CHAPTER XXXIII. LA CORRIVEAU.


Angélique scarcely noticed her brother, except to bid him good-night
when she left him in the vestibule of the mansion. Gathering her gay
robes in her jewelled hand, she darted up the broad stairs to her
own apartment, the same in which she had received Le Gardeur on that
memorable night in which she crossed the Rubicon of her fate.

There was a fixedness in her look and a recklessness in her step that
showed anger and determination. It struck Lizette with a sort of awe, so
that, for once, she did not dare to accost her young mistress with her
usual freedom. The maid opened the door and closed it again without
offering a word, waiting in the anteroom until a summons should come
from her mistress.

Lizette observed that she had thrown herself into a fauteuil, after
hastily casting off her mantle, which lay at her feet. Her long hair
hung loose over her shoulders as it parted from all its combs and
fastenings. She held her hands clasped hard across her forehead, and
stared with fixed eyes upon the fire which burned low on the hearth,
flickering in the depths of the antique fireplace, and occasionally
sending a flash through the room which lit up the pictures on the wall,
seeming to give them life and movement, as if they, too, would gladly
have tempted Angélique to better thoughts. But she noticed them not, and
would not at that moment have endured to look at them.

Angélique had forbidden the lamps to be lighted: it suited her mood to
sit in the half-obscure room, and in truth her thoughts were hard and
cruel, fit only to be brooded over in darkness and alone. She clenched
her hands, and raising them above her head, muttered an oath between her
teeth, exclaiming,--

"Par Dieu! It must be done! It must be done!" She stopped suddenly when
she had said that. "What must be done?" asked she sharply of herself,
and laughed a mocking laugh. "He gave me her life! He did not mean it!
No! The Intendant was treating me like a petted child. He offered me her
life while he refused me a lettre de cachet! The gift was only upon his
false lips, not in his heart! But Bigot shall keep that promise in spite
of himself. There is no other way,--none!"

This was a new world Angélique suddenly found herself in. A world of
guilty thoughts and unresisted temptations, a chaotic world where black,
unscalable rocks, like a circle of the Inferno, hemmed her in on every
side, while devils whispered in her ears the words which gave shape
and substance to her secret wishes for the death of her "rival," as she
regarded the poor sick girl at Beaumanoir.

How was she to accomplish it? To one unpractised in actual deeds of
wickedness, it was a question not easy to be answered, and a thousand
frightful forms of evil, stalking shapes of death came and went before
her imagination, and she clutched first at one, then at another of
the dire suggestions that came in crowds that overwhelmed her power of
choice.

In despair to find an answer to the question, "What must be done?" she
rose suddenly and rang the bell. The door opened, and the smiling face
and clear eye of Lizette looked in. It was Angélique's last chance, but
it was lost. It was not Lizette she had rung for. Her resolution was
taken.

"My dear mistress!" exclaimed Lizette, "I feared you had fallen asleep.
It is almost day! May I now assist you to undress for bed?" Voluble
Lizette did not always wait to be first spoken to by her mistress.

"No, Lizette, I was not asleep; I do not want to undress; I have much
to do. I have writing to do before I retire; send Fanchon Dodier here."
Angélique had a forecast that it was necessary to deceive Lizette, who,
without a word, but in no serene humor, went to summon Fanchon to wait
on her mistress.

Fanchon presently came in with a sort of triumph glittering in her black
eye. She had noticed the ill humor of Lizette, but had not the slightest
idea why she had been summoned to wait on Angélique instead of her own
maid. She esteemed it quite an honor, however.

"Fanchon Dodier!" said she, "I have lost my jewels at the ball; I cannot
rest until I find them; you are quicker-witted than Lizette: tell me
what to do to find them, and I will give you a dress fit for a lady."

Angélique with innate craft knew that her question would bring forth the
hoped-for reply.

Fanchon's eyes dilated with pleasure at such a mark of confidence. "Yes,
my Lady," replied she, "if I had lost my jewels I should know what to
do. But ladies who can read and write and who have the wisest gentlemen
to give them counsel do not need to seek advice where poor habitan girls
go when in trouble and perplexity."

"And where is that, Fanchon? Where would you go if in trouble and
perplexity?"

"My Lady, if I had lost all my jewels,"--Fanchon's keen eye noticed that
Angélique had lost none of hers, but she made no remark on it,--"if I
had lost all mine, I should go see my aunt Josephte Dodier. She is the
wisest woman in all St. Valier; if she cannot tell you all you wish to
know, nobody can."

"What! Dame Josephte Dodier, whom they call La Corriveau? Is she your
aunt?"

Angélique knew very well she was. But it was her cue to pretend
ignorance in order to impose on Fanchon.

"Yes, ill-natured people call her La Corriveau, but she is my aunt,
nevertheless. She is married to my uncle Louis Dodier, but is a lady,
by right of her mother, who came from France, and was once familiar with
all the great dames of the Court. It was a great secret why her mother
left France and came to St. Valier; but I never knew what it was. People
used to shake their heads and cross themselves when speaking of her, as
they do now when speaking of Aunt Josephte, whom they call La Corriveau;
but they tremble when she looks at them with her black, evil eye,
as they call it. She is a terrible woman, is Aunt Josephte! but oh,
Mademoiselle, she can tell you things past, present, and to come! If she
rails at the world, it is because she knows every wicked thing that is
done in it, and the world rails at her in return; but people are afraid
of her all the same."

"But is it not wicked? Is it not forbidden by the Church to consult a
woman like her, a sorcière?" Angélique took a sort of perverse merit to
herself for arguing against her own resolution.

"Yes, my Lady! but although forbidden by the Church, the girls all
consult her, nevertheless, in their losses and crosses; and many of the
men, too, for she does know what is to happen, and how to do things,
does Aunt Josephte. If the clergy cannot tell a poor girl about her
sweetheart, and how to keep him in hand, why should she not go and
consult La Corriveau, who can?"

"Fanchon, I would not care to consult your aunt. People would laugh at
my consulting La Corriveau, like a simple habitan girl; what would the
world say?"

"But the world need not know, my Lady. Aunt Josephte knows secrets,
they say, that would ruin, burn, and hang half the ladies of Paris. She
learned those terrible secrets from her mother, but she keeps them safe
in those close lips of hers. Not the faintest whisper of one of them has
ever been heard by her nearest neighbor. Indeed, she has no gossips, and
makes no friends, and wants none. Aunt Josephte is a safe confidante, my
Lady, if you wish to consult her."

"I have heard she is clever, supernatural, terrible, this aunt of
yours! But I could not go to St. Valier for advice and help; I could not
conceal my movements like a plain habitan girl."

"No, my Lady," continued Fanchon, "it is not fitting that you should go
to Aunt Josephte. I will bring Aunt Josephte here to you. She will be
charmed to come to the city and serve a lady like you."

"Well,--no! it is not well, but ill! but I want to recover my jewels, so
go for your aunt, and bring her back with you. And mind, Fanchon!" said
Angélique, lifting a warning finger, "if you utter one word of your
errand to man or beast, or to the very trees of the wayside, I will cut
out your tongue, Fanchon Dodier!"

Fanchon trembled and grew pale at the fierce look of her mistress. "I
will go, my Lady, and I will keep silent as a fish!" faltered the maid.
"Shall I go immediately?"

"Immediately if you will! It is almost day, and you have far to go. I
will send old Gujon the butler to order an Indian canoe for you. I will
not have Canadian boatmen to row you to St. Valier: they would talk you
out of all your errand before you were half-way there. You shall go
to St. Valier by water, and return with La Corriveau by land. Do you
understand? Bring her in to-night, and not before midnight. I will leave
the door ajar for you to enter without noise; you will show her at once
to my apartment, Fanchon! Be wary, and do not delay, and say not a word
to mortal!"

"I will not, my Lady. Not a mouse shall hear us come in!" replied
Fanchon, quite proud now of the secret understanding between herself and
her mistress.

"And again mind that loose tongue of yours! Remember, Fanchon, I will
cut it out as sure as you live if you betray me."

"Yes, my Lady!" Fanchon's tongue felt somewhat paralyzed under the
threat of Angélique, and she bit it painfully as if to remind it of its
duty.

"You may go now," said Angélique. "Here is money for you. Give this
piece of gold to La Corriveau as an earnest that I want her. The
canotiers of the St. Lawrence will also require double fare for bringing
La Corriveau over the ferry."

"No, they rarely venture to charge her anything at all, my Lady,"
replied Fanchon; "to be sure it is not for love, but they are afraid
of her. And yet Antoine La Chance, the boatman, says she is equal to a
Bishop for stirring up piety; and more Ave Marias are repeated when she
is in his boat, than are said by the whole parish on Sunday."

"I ought to say my Ave Marias, too!" replied Angélique, as Fanchon left
the apartment, "but my mouth is parched and burns up the words of prayer
like a furnace; but that is nothing to the fire in my heart! That girl,
Fanchon Dodier, is not to be trusted, but I have no other messenger
to send for La Corriveau. I must be wary with her, too, and make
her suggest the thing I would have done. My Lady of Beaumanoir!" she
apostrophized in a hard monotone, "your fate does not depend on the
Intendant, as you fondly imagine. Better had he issued the lettre de
cachet than for you to fall into the hands of La Corriveau!"

Daylight now shot into the windows, and the bright rays of the rising
sun streamed full in the face of Angélique. She saw herself reflected in
the large Venetian mirror. Her countenance looked pale, stern, and fixed
as marble. The fire in her eyes startled her with its unearthly glow.
She trembled and turned away from her mirror, and crept to her couch
like a guilty thing, with a feeling as if she was old, haggard, and
doomed to shame for the sake of this Intendant, who cared not for her,
or he would not have driven her to such desperate and wicked courses as
never fell to the lot of a woman before.

"C'est sa faute! C'est sa faute!" exclaimed she, clasping her hands
passionately together. "If she dies, it is his fault, not mine! I prayed
him to banish her, and he would not! C'est sa faute! C'est sa faute!"
Repeating these words Angélique fell into a feverish slumber, broken by
frightful dreams which lasted far on into the day.

The long reign of Louis XIV., full of glories and misfortunes for
France, was marked towards its close by a portentous sign indicative of
corrupt manners and a falling state. Among these, the crimes of secret
poisoning suddenly attained a magnitude which filled the whole nation
with terror and alarm.

Antonio Exili, an Italian, like many other alchemists of that period,
had spent years in search of the philosopher's stone and the elixir
of life. His vain experiments to transmute the baser metals into gold
reduced him to poverty and want. His quest after these secrets had led
him to study deeply the nature and composition of poisons and their
antidotes. He had visited the great universities and other schools of
the continent, finishing his scientific studies under a famous German
chemist named Glaser. But the terrible secret of the agua tofana and of
the poudre de succession, Exili learned from Beatrice Spara, a Sicilian,
with whom he had a liaison, one of those inscrutable beings of the
gentle sex whose lust for pleasure or power is only equalled by the
atrocities they are willing to perpetrate upon all who stand in the way
of their desires or their ambition.

To Beatrice Spara, the secret of this subtle preparation had come
down like an evil inheritance from the ancient Candidas and Saganas of
imperial Rome. In the proud palaces of the Borgias, of the Orsinis, the
Scaligers, the Borroméos, the art of poisoning was preserved among the
last resorts of Machiavellian statecraft; and not only in palaces, but
in streets of Italian cities, in solitary towers and dark recesses of
the Apennines, were still to be found the lost children of science,
skilful compounders of poisons, at once fatal and subtle in their
operation,--poisons which left not the least trace of their presence in
the bodies of their victims, but put on the appearance of other and more
natural causes of death.

Exili, to escape the vengeance of Beatrice Spara, to whom he had proved
a faithless lover, fled from Naples, and brought his deadly knowledge
to Paris, where he soon found congenial spirits to work with him in
preparing the deadly poudre de succession, and the colorless drops of
the aqua tofana.

With all his crafty caution, Exili fell at last under suspicion of
the police for tampering in these forbidden arts. He was arrested, and
thrown into the Bastile, where he became the occupant of the same cell
with Gaudin de St. Croix, a young nobleman of the Court, the lover of
the Marchioness de Brinvilliers, for an intrigue with whom the Count
had been imprisoned. St. Croix learned from Exili, in the Bastile, the
secret of the poudre de succession.

The two men were at last liberated for want of proof of the charges
against them. St. Croix set up a laboratory in his own house, and at
once proceeded to experiment upon the terrible secrets learned from
Exili, and which he revealed to his fair, frail mistress, who, mad to
make herself his wife, saw in these a means to remove every obstacle out
of the way. She poisoned her husband, her father, her brother, and at
last, carried away by a mania for murder, administered on all sides the
fatal poudre de succession, which brought death to house, palace, and
hospital, and filled the capital, nay, the whole kingdom, with suspicion
and terror.

This fatal poison history describes as either a light and almost
impalpable powder, tasteless, colorless, and inodorous, or a liquid
clear as a dewdrop, when in the form of the aqua tofana. It was capable
of causing death either instantaneously or by slow and lingering decline
at the end of a definite number of days, weeks, or even months, as was
desired. Death was not less sure because deferred, and it could be made
to assume the appearance of dumb paralysis, wasting atrophy, or burning
fever, at the discretion of the compounder of the fatal poison.

The ordinary effect of the aqua tofana was immediate death. The poudre
de succession was more slow in killing. It produced in its pure form a
burning heat, like that of a fiery furnace in the chest, the flames of
which, as they consumed the patient, darted out of his eyes, the only
part of the body which seemed to be alive, while the rest was little
more than a dead corpse.

Upon the introduction of this terrible poison into France, Death, like
an invisible spirit of evil, glided silently about the kingdom, creeping
into the closest family circles, seizing everywhere on its helpless
victims. The nearest and dearest relationships of life were no longer
the safe guardians of the domestic hearth. The man who to-day appeared
in the glow of health dropped to-morrow and died the next day. No skill
of the physician was able to save him, or to detect the true cause of
his death, attributing it usually to the false appearances of disease
which it was made to assume.

The victims of the poudre de succession were counted by thousands.
The possession of wealth, a lucrative office, a fair young wife, or a
coveted husband, were sufficient reasons for sudden death to cut off
the holder of these envied blessings. A terrible mistrust pervaded
all classes of society. The husband trembled before his wife, the wife
before her husband, father and son, brother and sister,--kindred and
friends, of all degrees, looked askance and with suspicious eyes upon
one another.

In Paris the terror lasted long. Society was for a while broken up by
cruel suspicions. The meat upon the table remained uneaten, the wine
undrank, men and women procured their own provisions in the market, and
cooked and ate them in their own apartments. Yet was every precaution in
vain. The fatal dust scattered upon the pillow, or a bouquet sprinkled
with the aqua tofana, looking bright and innocent as God's dew upon the
flowers, transmitted death without a warning of danger. Nay, to crown
all summit of wickedness, the bread in the hospitals of the sick, the
meagre tables of the convent, the consecrated host administered by the
priest, and the sacramental wine which he drank himself, all in turn
were poisoned, polluted, damned, by the unseen presence of the manna of
St. Nicholas, as the populace mockingly called the poudre de succession.

The Court took the alarm when a gilded vial of the aqua tofana was
found one day upon the table of the Duchesse de la Vallière, having
been placed there by the hand of some secret rival, in order to
cast suspicion upon the unhappy Louise, and hasten her fall, already
approaching.

The star of Montespan was rising bright in the east, and that of La
Vallière was setting in clouds and darkness in the west. But the King
never distrusted for a moment the truth of La Vallière, the only woman
who ever loved him for his own sake, and he knew it even while he
allowed her to be supplanted by another infinitely less worthy--one
whose hour of triumph came when she saw the broken-hearted Louise throw
aside the velvet and brocade of the Court and put on the sackcloth of
the barefooted and repentant Carmelite.

The King burned with indignation at the insult offered to his mistress,
and was still more alarmed to find the new mysterious death creeping
into the corridors of his palace. He hastily constituted the terrible
Chambre Ardente, a court of supreme criminal jurisdiction, and
commissioned it to search out, try, and burn, without appeal, all
poisoners and secret assassins in the kingdom.

La Regnie, a man of Rhadamanthean justice, as hard of heart as he was
subtle and suspicious, was long baffled, and to his unutterable rage,
set at naught by the indefatigable poisoners who kept all France awake
on its pillows.

History records how Gaudin de St. Croix, the disciple of Exili, while
working in his secret laboratory at the sublimation of the deadly
poison, accidentally dropped the mask of glass which protected his face.
He inhaled the noxious fumes and fell dead by the side of his crucibles.
This event gave Desgrais, captain of the police of Paris, a clue to the
horrors which had so long baffled his pursuit.

The correspondence of St. Croix was seized. His connection with
the Marchioness de Brinvilliers and his relations with Exili were
discovered. Exili was thrown a second time into the Bastile. The
Marchioness was arrested, and put upon her trial before the Chambre
Ardente, where, as recorded in the narrative of her confessor, Pirol,
her ravishing beauty of feature, blue eyes, snow-white skin, and gentle
demeanor won a strong sympathy from the fickle populace of Paris, in
whose eyes her charms of person and manner pleaded hard to extenuate her
unparalleled crimes.

But no power of beauty or fascination of look could move the stern La
Regnie from his judgment. She was pronounced guilty of the death of her
husband, and sentenced first to be tortured and then beheaded and her
body burnt on the Place de Grève, a sentence which was carried out to
the letter. The ashes of the fairest and most wicked dame of the Court
of Lous XIV. were scattered to the four corners of the city which had
been the scene of her unparalleled crimes. The arch-poisoner Exili was
also tried, and condemned to be burnt. The tumbril that bore him to
execution was stopped on its way by the furious rabble, and he was torn
in pieces by them.

For a short time the kingdom breathed freely in fancied security; but
soon the epidemic of sudden as well as lingering deaths from poison
broke out again on all sides. The fatal tree of the knowledge of evil,
seemingly cut down with Exili and St. Croix, had sprouted afresh, like a
upas that could not be destroyed.

The poisoners became more numerous than ever. Following the track of
St. Croix and La Brinvilliers, they carried on the war against
humanity without relaxation. Chief of these was a reputed witch and
fortune-teller named La Voisin, who had studied the infernal secret
under Exili and borne a daughter to the false Italian.

With La Voisin were associated two priests, Le Sage and Le Vigoureux,
who lived with her, and assisted her in her necromantic exhibitions,
which were visited, believed in, and richly rewarded by some of the
foremost people of the Court. These necromantic exhibitions were in
reality a cover to darker crimes.

It was long the popular belief in France, that Cardinal Bonzy got from
La Voisin the means of ridding himself of sundry persons who stood
in the way of his ecclesiastical preferment, or to whom he had to pay
pensions in his quality of Archbishop of Narbonne. The Duchesse de
Bouillon and the Countess of Soissons, mother of the famous Prince
Eugene, were also accused of trafficking with that terrible woman,
and were banished from the kingdom in consequence, while a royal duke,
François de Montmorency, was also suspected of dealings with La Voisin.

The Chambre Ardente struck right and left. Desgrais, chief of the
police, by a crafty ruse, penetrated into the secret circle of La
Voisin, and she, with a crowd of associates, perished in the fires of
the Place de Grève. She left an ill-starred daughter, Marie Exili, to
the blank charity of the streets of Paris, and the possession of many of
the frightful secrets of her mother and of her terrible father.

Marie Exili clung to Paris. She grew up beautiful and profligate; she
coined her rare Italian charms, first into gold and velvet, then into
silver and brocade, and at last into copper and rags. When her charms
faded entirely, she began to practise the forbidden arts of her mother
and father, but without their boldness or long impunity.

She was soon suspected, but receiving timely warning of her danger, from
a high patroness at Court, Marie fled to New France in the disguise of
a paysanne, one of a cargo of unmarried women sent out to the colony on
matrimonial venture, as the custom then was, to furnish wives for the
colonists. Her sole possession was an antique cabinet with its contents,
the only remnant saved from the fortune of her father, Exili.

Marie Exili landed in New France, cursing the Old World which she had
left behind, and bringing as bitter a hatred of the New, which received
her without a shadow of suspicion that under her modest peasant's garb
was concealed the daughter and inheritrix of the black arts of Antonio
Exili and of the sorceress La Voisin.

Marie Exili kept her secret well. She played the ingénue to perfection.
Her straight figure and black eyes having drawn a second glance from
the Sieur Corriveau, a rich habitan of St. Valier, who was looking for
a servant among the crowd of paysannes who had just arrived from France,
he could not escape from the power of their fascination.

He took Marie Exili home with him, and installed her in his household,
where his wife soon died of some inexplicable disease which baffled the
knowledge of both the doctor and the curate, the two wisest men in the
parish. The Sieur Corriveau ended his widowhood by marrying Marie Exili,
and soon died himself, leaving his whole fortune and one daughter, the
image of her mother, to Marie.

Marie Exili, ever in dread of the perquisitions of Desgrais, kept very
quiet in her secluded home on the St. Lawrence, guarding her secret with
a life-long apprehension, and but occasionally and in the darkest ways
practising her deadly skill. She found some compensation and relief for
her suppressed passions in the clinging sympathy of her daughter, Marie
Josephte dit La Corriveau, who worshipped all that was evil in her
mother, and in spite of an occasional reluctance, springing from some
maternal instinct, drew from her every secret of her life. She made
herself mistress of the whole formula of poisoning as taught by her
grandfather Exili, and of the arts of sorcery practised by her wicked
grandmother, La Voisin.

As La Corriveau listened to the tale of the burning of her grandmother
on the Place de Grève, her own soul seemed bathed in the flames which
rose from the faggots, and which to her perverted reason appeared as the
fires of cruel injustice, calling for revenge upon the whole race of the
oppressors of her family, as she regarded the punishers of their crimes.

With such a parentage, and such dark secrets brooding in her bosom,
Marie Josephte, or, as she was commonly called, La Corriveau, had
nothing in common with the simple peasantry among whom she lived.

Years passed over her, youth fled, and La Corriveau still sat in her
house, eating her heart out, silent and solitary. After the death of her
mother, some whispers of hidden treasures known only to herself, a
rumor which she had cunningly set afloat, excited the cupidity of Louis
Dodier, a simple habitan of St. Valier, and drew him into a marriage
with her.

It was a barren union. No child followed, with God's grace in its little
hands, to create a mother's feelings and soften the callous heart of La
Corriveau. She cursed her lot that it was so, and her dry bosom became
an arid spot of desert, tenanted by satyrs and dragons, by every evil
passion of a woman without conscience and void of love.

But La Corriveau had inherited the sharp intellect and Italian
dissimulation of Antonio Exili: she was astute enough to throw a veil
of hypocrisy over the evil eyes which shot like a glance of death from
under the thick black eyebrows.

Her craft was equal to her malice. An occasional deed of alms, done not
for charity's sake, but for ostentation; an adroit deal of cards, or a
horoscope cast to flatter a foolish girl; a word of sympathy, hollow
as a water bubble, but colored with iridescent prettiness, averted
suspicion from the darker traits of her character.

If she was hated, she was also feared by her neighbors, and although
the sign of the cross was made upon the chair whereon she had sat in a
neighbor's house, her visits were not unwelcome, and in the manor-house,
as in the cabin of the woodman, La Corriveau was received, consulted,
rewarded, and oftener thanked than cursed, by her witless dupes.

There was something sublime in the satanic pride with which she carried
with her the terrible secrets of her race, which in her own mind made
her the superior of every one around her, and whom she regarded as
living only by her permission or forbearance.

For human love other than as a degraded menial, to make men the slaves
of her mercenary schemes, La Corriveau cared nothing. She never felt
it, never inspired it. She looked down upon all her sex as the filth
of creation and, like herself, incapable of a chaste feeling or a pure
thought. Every better instinct of her nature had gone out like the flame
of a lamp whose oil is exhausted; love of money remained as dregs at
the bottom of her heart. A deep grudge against mankind, and a secret
pleasure in the misfortunes of others, especially of her own sex, were
her ruling passions.

Her mother, Marie Exili, had died in her bed, warning her daughter not
to dabble in the forbidden arts which she had taught her, but to cling
to her husband and live an honest life as the only means of dying a more
hopeful death than her ancestors.

La Corriveau heard much, but heeded little. The blood of Antonio Exili
and of La Voisin beat too vigorously in her veins to be tamed down by
the feeble whispers of a dying woman who had been weak enough to give
way at last. The death of her mother left La Corriveau free to follow
her own will. The Italian subtlety of her race made her secret and
cautious. She had few personal affronts to avenge, and few temptations
in the simple community where she lived to practise more than the
ordinary arts of a rural fortune-teller, keeping in impenetrable shadow
the darker side of her character as a born sorceress and poisoner.

Fanchon Dodier, in obedience to the order of her mistress, started early
in the day to bear the message entrusted to her for La Corriveau. She
did not cross the river and take the king's highway, the rough though
well-travelled road on the south shore which led to St. Valier.
Angélique was crafty enough amid her impulsiveness to see that it were
better for Fanchon to go down by water and return by land: it lessened
observation, and might be important one day to baffle inquiry. La
Corriveau would serve her for money, but for money also she might
betray her. Angélique resolved to secure her silence by making her the
perpetrator of whatever scheme of wickedness she might devise against
the unsuspecting lady of Beaumanoir. As for Fanchon, she need know
nothing more than Angélique told her as to the object of her mission to
her terrible aunt.

In pursuance of this design, Angélique had already sent for a couple of
Indian canoemen to embark Fanchon at the quay of the Friponne and convey
her to St. Valier.

Half-civilized and wholly-demoralized red men were always to be found
on the beach of Stadacona, as they still called the Batture of the St.
Charles, lounging about in blankets, smoking, playing dice, or drinking
pints or quarts,--as fortune favored them, or a passenger wanted
conveyance in their bark canoes, which they managed with a dexterity
unsurpassed by any boatman that ever put oar or paddle in water, salt or
fresh.

These rough fellows were safe and trusty in their profession. Fanchon
knew them slightly, and felt no fear whatever in seating herself upon
the bear skin which carpeted the bottom of their canoe.

They pushed off at once from the shore, with scarcely a word of reply
to her voluble directions and gesticulations as they went speeding their
canoe down the stream. The turning tide bore them lightly on its bosom,
and they chanted a wild, monotonous refrain as their paddles flashed and
dipped alternately in stream and sunshine;


     "Ah! ah! Tenaouich tenaga!
      Tenaouich tenaga, ouich ka!"


"They are singing about me, no doubt," said Fanchon to herself. "I do
not care what people say, they cannot be Christians who speak such a
heathenish jargon as that: it is enough to sink the canoe; but I will
repeat my paternosters and my Ave Marias, seeing they will not converse
with me, and I will pray good St. Anne to give me a safe passage to
St. Valier." In which pious occupation, as the boatmen continued
their savage song without paying her any attention, Fanchon, with many
interruptions of worldly thoughts, spent the rest of the time she was in
the Indian canoe.

Down past the green hills of the south shore the boatmen steadily plied
their paddles, and kept singing their wild Indian chant. The wooded
slopes of Orleans basked in sunshine as they overlooked the broad
channel through which the canoe sped, and long before meridian the
little bark was turned in to shore and pulled up on the beach of St.
Valier.

Fanchon leaped out without assistance, wetting a foot in so doing, which
somewhat discomposed the good humor she had shown during the voyage. Her
Indian boatmen offered her no help, considering that women were made to
serve men and help themselves, and not to be waited upon by them.

"Not that I wanted to touch one of their savage hands," muttered
Fanchon, "but they might have offered one assistance! Look there,"
continued she, pulling aside her skirt and showing a very trim foot wet
up to the ankle; "they ought to know the difference between their
red squaws and the white girls of the city. If they are not worth
politeness, WE are. But Indians are only fit to kill Christians or be
killed by them; and you might as well courtesy to a bear in the briers
as to an Indian anywhere."

The boatmen looked at her foot with supreme indifference, and taking out
their pipes, seated themselves on the edge of their canoe, and began to
smoke.

"You may return to the city," said she, addressing them sharply; "I pray
to the bon Dieu to strike you white;--it is vain to look for manners
from an Indian! I shall remain in St. Valier, and not return with you."

"Marry me, be my squaw, Ania?" replied one of the boatmen, with a grim
smile; "the bon Dieu will strike out papooses white, and teach them
manners like palefaces."

"Ugh! not for all the King's money. What! marry a red Indian, and carry
his pack like Fifine Perotte? I would die first! You are bold indeed,
Paul La Crosse, to mention such a thing to me. Go back to the city! I
would not trust myself again in your canoe. It required courage to do
so at all, but Mademoiselle selected you for my boatmen, not I. I wonder
she did so, when the brothers Ballou, and the prettiest fellows in town,
were idle on the Batture."

"Ania is niece to the old medicine-woman in the stone wigwam at St.
Valier; going to see her, eh?" asked the other boatman, with a slight
display of curiosity.

"Yes, I am going to visit my aunt Dodier; why should I not? She
has crocks of gold buried in the house, I can tell you that, Pierre
Ceinture!"

"Going to get some from La Corriveau, eh? crocks of gold, eh?" said Paul
La Crosse.

"La Corriveau has medicines, too! get some, eh?" asked Pierre Ceinture.

"I am going neither for gold nor medicines, but to see my aunt, if it
concerns you to know, Pierre Ceinture! which it does not!"

"Mademoiselle des Meloises pay her to go, eh? not going back ever, eh?"
asked the other Indian.

"Mind your own affairs, Paul La Crosse, and I will mind mine!
Mademoiselle des Meloises paid you to bring me to St. Valier, not to ask
me impertinences. That is enough for you! Here is your fare; now you
can return to the Sault au Matelot, and drink yourselves blind with the
money!"

"Very good, that!" replied the Indian. "I like to drink myself blind,
will do it to-night! Like to see me, eh? Better that than go see La
Corriveau! The habitans say she talks with the Devil, and makes the
sickness settle like a fog upon the wigwams of the red men. They say she
can make palefaces die by looking at them! But Indians are too hard
to kill with a look! Fire-water and gun and tomahawk, and fever in the
wigwams, only make the Indians die."

"Good that something can make you die, for your ill manners! look at my
stocking!" replied Fanchon, with warmth. "If I tell La Corriveau what
you say of her there will be trouble in your wigwam, Pierre Ceinture!"

"Do not do that, Ania!" replied the Indian, crossing himself earnestly;
"do not tell La Corriveau, or she will make an image of wax and call it
Pierre Ceinture, and she will melt it away before a slow fire, and as it
melts my flesh and bones will melt away, too! Do not tell her, Fanchon
Dodier!" The Indian had picked up this piece of superstition from the
white habitans, and, like them, thoroughly believed in the supernatural
powers of La Corriveau.

"Well, leave me! get back to the city, and tell Mademoiselle I arrived
safe at St. Valier," replied Fanchon, turning to leave them.

The Indians were somewhat taken down by the airs of Fanchon, and they
stood in awe of the far-reaching power of her aunt, from the spell
of whose witchcraft they firmly believed no hiding-place, even in the
deepest woods, could protect them. Merely nodding a farewell to Fanchon,
the Indians silently pushed their canoe into the stream, and, embarking,
returned to the city by the way they came.

A fine breezy upland lay before Fanchon Dodier. Cultivated fields
of corn, and meadows ran down to the shore. A row of white cottages,
forming a loosely connected street, clustered into something like a
village at the point where the parish church stood, at the intersection
of two or three roads, one of which, a narrow green track, but little
worn by the carts of the habitans, led to the stone house of La
Corriveau, the chimney of which was just visible as you lost sight of
the village spire.

In a deep hollow, out of sight of the village church, almost out of
hearing of its little bell, stood the house of La Corriveau, a square,
heavy structure of stone, inconvenient and gloomy, with narrow windows
and an uninviting door. The pine forest touched it on one side, a
brawling stream twisted itself like a live snake half round it on the
other. A plot of green grass, ill kept and deformed, with noxious weeds,
dock, fennel, thistle, and foul stramonium, was surrounded by a rough
wall of loose stones, forming the lawn, such as it was, where, under
a tree, seated in an armchair, was a solitary woman, whom Fanchon
recognized as her aunt, Marie Josephte Dodier, surnamed La Corriveau.

La Corriveau, in feature and person, took after her grand-sire Exili.
She was tall and straight, of a swarthy complexion, black-haired, and
intensely black-eyed. She was not uncomely of feature, nay, had been
handsome, nor was her look at first sight forbidding, especially if she
did not turn upon you those small basilisk eyes of hers, full of fire
and glare as the eyes of a rattlesnake. But truly those thin, cruel lips
of hers never smiled spontaneously, or affected to smile upon you unless
she had an object to gain by assuming a disguise as foreign to her as
light to an angel of darkness.

La Corriveau was dressed in a robe of soft brown stuff, shaped with
a degree of taste and style beyond the garb of her class. Neatness in
dress was the one virtue she had inherited from her mother. Her feet
were small and well-shod, like a lady's, as the envious neighbors used
to say. She never in her life would wear the sabots of the peasant
women, nor go barefoot, as many of them did, about the house. La
Corriveau was vain of her feet, which would have made her fortune, as
she thought with bitterness, anywhere but in St. Valier.

She sat musing in her chair, not noticing the presence of her niece,
who stood for a moment looking and hesitating before accosting her. Her
countenance bore, when she was alone, an expression of malignity which
made Fanchon shudder. A quick, unconscious twitching of the fingers
accompanied her thoughts, as if this weird woman was playing a game of
mora with the evil genius that waited on her. Her grandsire Exili had
the same nervous twitching of his fingers, and the vulgar accused him of
playing at mora with the Devil, who ever accompanied him, they believed.

The lips of La Corriveau moved in unison with her thoughts. She was
giving expression to her habitual contempt for her sex as she crooned
over, in a sufficiently audible voice to reach the ear of Fanchon, a
hateful song of Jean Le Meung on women:


     "'Toutes vous êtes, serez ou futes,
       De fait ou de volonté putes!'"


"It is not nice to say that, Aunt Marie!" exclaimed Fanchon, coming
forward and embracing La Corriveau, who gave a start on seeing her niece
so unexpectedly before her. "It is not nice, and it is not true!"

"But it is true, Fanchon Dodier! if it be not nice. There is nothing
nice to be said of our sex, except by foolish men! Women know one
another better! But," continued she, scrutinizing her niece with her
keen black eyes, which seemed to pierce her through and through,
"what ill wind or Satan's errand has brought you to St. Valier to-day,
Fanchon?"

"No ill wind, nor ill errand either, I hope, aunt. I come by command of
my mistress to ask you to go to the city: she is biting her nails off
with impatience to see you on some business."

"And who is your mistress, who dares to ask La Corriveau to go to the
city at her bidding?"

"Do not be angry, aunt," replied Fanchon, soothingly. "It was I
counselled her to send for you, and I offered to fetch you. My mistress
is a high lady, who expects to be still higher,--Mademoiselle des
Meloises!

"Mademoiselle Angélique des Meloises,--one hears enough of her! a high
lady indeed! who will be low enough at last! A minx as vain as she is
pretty, who would marry all the men in New France, and kill all the
women, if she could have her way! What in the name of the Sabbat does
she want with La Corriveau?"

"She did not call you names, aunt, and please do not say such things of
her, for you will frighten me away before I tell my errand. Mademoiselle
Angélique sent this piece of gold as earnest-money to prove that she
wants your counsel and advice in an important matter."

Fanchon untied the corner of her handkerchief, and took from it a broad
shining louis d'or. She placed it in the hand of La Corriveau, whose
long fingers clutched it like the talons of a harpy. Of all the evil
passions of this woman, the greed for money was the most ravenous.

"It is long since I got a piece of gold like that to cross my hand with,
Fanchon!" said she, looking at it admiringly and spitting on it for good
luck.

"There are plenty more where it came from, aunt," replied Fanchon.
"Mademoiselle could fill your apron with gold every day of the week if
she would: she is to marry the Intendant!"

"Marry the Intendant! ah, indeed! that is why she sends for me so
urgently! I see! Marry the Intendant! She will bestow a pot of gold on
La Corriveau to accomplish that match!"

"Maybe she would, aunt; I would, myself. But it is not that she wishes
to consult you about just now. She lost her jewels at the ball, and
wants your help to find them."

"Lost her jewels, eh? Did she say you were to tell me that she had lost
her jewels, Fanchon?"

"Yes, aunt, that is what she wants to consult you about," replied
Fanchon, with simplicity. But the keen perception of La Corriveau saw
that a second purpose lay behind it.

"A likely tale!" muttered she, "that so rich a lady would send for La
Corriveau from St. Valier to find a few jewels! But it will do. I will
go with you to the city: I cannot refuse an invitation like that. Gold
fetches any woman, Fanchon. It fetches me always. It will fetch you,
too, some day, if you are lucky enough to give it the chance."

"I wish it would fetch me now, aunt; but poor girls who live by service
and wages have small chance to be sent for in that way! We are glad to
get the empty hand without the money. Men are so scarce with this cruel
war, that they might easily have a wife to each finger, were it allowed
by the law. I heard Dame Tremblay say--and I thought her very right--the
Church does not half consider our condition and necessities."

"Dame Tremblay! the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport! She who would
have been a witch, and could not: Satan would not have her!" exclaimed
La Corriveau, scornfully. "Is she still housekeeper and bedmaker at
Beaumanoir?"

Fanchon was honest enough to feel rather indignant at this speech.
"Don't speak so of her, aunt; she is not bad. Although I ran away from
her, and took service with Mademoiselle des Meloises, I will not speak
ill of her."

"Why did you run away from Beaumanoir?" asked La Corriveau.

Fanchon reflected a moment upon the mystery of the lady of Beaumanoir,
and something checked her tongue, as if it were not safe to tell all
she knew to her aunt, who would, moreover, be sure to find out from
Angélique herself as much as her mistress wished her to know.

"I did not like Dame Tremblay, aunt," replied she; "I preferred to live
with Mademoiselle Angélique. She is a lady, a beauty, who dresses to
surpass any picture in the book of modes from Paris, which I often
looked at on her dressing-table. She allowed me to imitate them, or wear
her cast-off dresses, which were better than any other ladies' new ones.
I have one of them on. Look, aunt!" Fanchon spread out very complacently
the skirt of a pretty blue robe she wore.

La Corriveau nodded her head in a sort of silent approval, and
remarked,--"She is free-handed enough! She gives what costs her nothing,
and takes all she can get, and is, after all, a trollop, like the rest
of us, Fanchon, who would be very good if there were neither men nor
money nor fine clothes in the world, to tempt poor silly women."

"You do say such nasty things, aunt!" exclaimed Fanchon, flashing with
indignation. "I will hear no more! I am going into the house to see dear
old Uncle Dodier, who has been looking through the window at me for ten
minutes past, and dared not come out to speak to me. You are too hard
on poor old Uncle Dodier, aunt," said Fanchon, boldly. "If you cannot be
kind to him, why did you marry him?"

"Why, I wanted a husband, and he wanted my money, that was all; and I
got my bargain, and his too, Fanchon!" and the woman laughed savagely.

"I thought people married to be happy, aunt," replied the girl,
persistently.

"Happy! such folly. Satan yokes people together to bring more sinners
into the world, and supply fresh fuel for his fires."

"My mistress thinks there is no happiness like a good match," remarked
Fanchon; "and I think so, too, aunt. I shall never wait the second time
of asking, I assure you, aunt."

"You are a fool, Fanchon," said La Corriveau; "but your mistress
deserves to wear the ring of Cleopatra, and to become the mother of
witches and harlots for all time. Why did she really send for me?"

The girl crossed herself, and exclaimed, "God forbid, aunt! my mistress
is not like that!"

La Corriveau spat at the mention of the sacred name. "But it is in her,
Fanchon. It is in all of us! If she is not so already, she will be. But
go into the house and see your foolish uncle, while I go prepare for
my visit. We will set out at once, Fanchon, for business like that of
Angélique des Meloises cannot wait."



CHAPTER XXXIV. WEIRD SISTERS.


Fanchon walked into the house to see her uncle Dodier. When she was
gone, the countenance of La Corriveau put on a dark and terrible
expression. Her black eyes looked downwards, seeming to penetrate the
very earth, and to reflect in their glittering orbits the fires of the
underworld.

She stood for a few moments, buried in deep thought, with her arms
tightly folded across her breast. Her fingers moved nervously, as they
kept time with the quick motions of her foot, which beat the ground.

"It is for death, and no lost jewels, that girl sends for me!" muttered
La Corriveau through her teeth, which flashed white and cruel between
her thin lips. "She has a rival in her love for the Intendant, and she
will lovingly, by my help, feed her with the manna of St. Nicholas!
Angélique des Meloises has boldness, craft, and falseness for twenty
women, and can keep secrets like a nun. She is rich and ambitious, and
would poison half the world rather than miss the thing she sets her mind
on. She is a girl after my own heart, and worth the risk I run with her.
Her riches would be endless should she succeed in her designs; and with
her in my power, nothing she has would henceforth be her own,--but mine!
mine! Besides," added La Corriveau, her thoughts flashing back to the
fate which had overtaken her progenitors, Exili and La Voisin, "I
may need help myself, some day, to plead with the Intendant on my own
account,--who knows?"

A strange thrill ran through the veins of La Corriveau, but she
instantly threw it off. "I know what she wants," added she. "I will take
it with me. I am safe in trusting her with the secret of Beatrice Spara.
That girl is worthy of it as Brinvilliers herself."

La Corriveau entered her own apartment. She locked the door behind her,
drew a bunch of keys from her bosom, and turned towards a cabinet of
singular shape and Italian workmanship which stood in a corner of the
apartment. It was an antique piece of furniture, made of some dark
oriental wood, carved over with fantastic figures from Etruscan designs
by the cunning hand of an old Italian workman, who knew well how to
make secret drawers and invisible concealments for things dangerous and
forbidden.

It had once belonged to Antonio Exili, who had caused it to be made,
ostensibly for the safe-keeping of his cabalistic formulas and alchemic
preparations, when searching for the philosopher's stone and the elixir
of life, really for the concealment of the subtle drugs out of which his
alembics distilled the aqua tofana and his crucibles prepared the poudre
de succession.

In the most secret place of all were deposited, ready for use, a few
vials of the crystal liquid, every single drop of which contained the
life of a man, and which, administered in due proportion of time and
measure, killed and left no sign, numbering its victim's days, hours,
and minutes, exactly according to the will and malignity of his
destroyer.

La Corriveau took out the vials, and placed them carefully in a casket
of ebony not larger than a woman's hand. In it was a number of small
flaskets, each filled with pills like grains of mustard-seed, the
essence and quintessence of various poisons, that put on the appearance
of natural diseases, and which, mixed in due proportion with the aqua
tofana, covered the foulest murders with the lawful ensigns of the angel
of death.

In that box of ebony was the sublimated dust of deadly nightshade, which
kindles the red fires of fever and rots the roots of the tongue. There
was the fetid powder of stramonium, that grips the lungs like an asthma;
and quinia, that shakes its victims like the cold hand of the miasma of
the Pontine marshes. The essence of poppies, ten times sublimated, a few
grains of which bring on the stupor of apoplexy; and the sardonic plant,
that kills its victim with the frightful laughter of madness on his
countenance.

The knowledge of these and many more cursed herbs, once known to Medea
in the Colchian land, and transplanted to Greece and Rome with the
enchantments of their use, had been handed, by a long succession of
sorcerers and poisoners, down to Exili and Beatrice Spara, until they
came into the possession of La Corriveau, the legitimate inheritrix of
this lore of hell.

Before closing the cabinet, La Corriveau opened one more secret drawer,
and took out, with a hesitating hand, as if uncertain whether to do so
or no, a glittering stiletto, sharp and cruel to see. She felt the point
of it mechanically with her thumb; and, as if fascinated by the touch,
placed it under her robe. "I may have need of it," muttered she, "either
to save myself OR to make sure of my work on another. Beatrice Spara
was the daughter of a Sicilian bravo, and she liked this poignard better
than even the poisoned chalice."

La Corriveau rose up now, well satisfied with her foresight and
preparation. She placed the ebony casket carefully in her bosom,
cherishing it like an only child, as she walked out of the room with her
quiet, tiger-like tread. Her look into the future was pleasant to her at
this moment. There was the prospect of an ample reward for her trouble
and risk, and the anticipated pleasure of practising her skill upon one
whose position she regarded as similar to that of the great dames of the
Court, whom Exili and La Voisin had poisoned during the high carnival of
death, in the days of Louis XIV.

She was now ready, and waited impatiently to depart.

The goodman Dodier brought the calèche to the door. It was a
substantial, two-wheeled vehicle, with a curious arrangement of springs,
made out of the elastic wood of the hickory. The horse, a stout Norman
pony, well harnessed, sleek and glossy, was lightly held by the hand
of the goodman, who patted it kindly as an old friend; and the pony,
in some sort, after an equine fashion, returned the affection of its
master.

La Corriveau, with an agility hardly to be expected from her years,
seated herself beside Fanchon in the calèche, and giving her willing
horse a sharp cut with the lash for spite, not for need,--goodman Dodier
said, only to anger him,--they set off at a rapid pace, and were soon
out of sight at the turn of the dark pine-woods, on their way to the
city of Quebec.

Angélique des Meloises had remained all day in her house, counting the
hours as they flew by, laden with the fate of her unsuspecting rival at
Beaumanoir.

Night had now closed in; the lamps were lit, the fire again burned red
upon the hearth. Her door was inexorably shut against all visitors.
Lizette had been sent away until the morrow; Angélique sat alone and
expectant of the arrival of La Corriveau.

The gay dress in which she had outshone all her sex at the ball on the
previous night lay still in a heap upon the floor, where last night she
had thrown it aside, like the robe of innocence which once invested her.
Her face was beautiful, but cruel, and in its expression terrible as
Medea's brooding over her vengeance sworn against Creusa for her sin
with Jason. She sat in a careless dishabille, with one white arm partly
bare. Her long golden locks flowed loosely down her back and touched
the floor, as she sat on her chair and watched and waited for the coming
footsteps of La Corriveau. Her lips were compressed with a terrible
resolution; her eyes glanced red as they alternately reflected the glow
of the fire within them and of the fire without. Her hands were clasped
nervously together, with a grip like iron, and lay in her lap, while her
dainty foot marked the rhythm of the tragical thoughts that swept like a
song of doom through her soul.

The few compunctious feelings which struggled up into her mind were
instantly overborne by the passionate reflection that the lady of
Beaumanoir must die! "I must, or she must--one or other! We cannot both
live and marry this man!" exclaimed she, passionately. "Has it come to
this: which of us shall be the wife, which the mistress? By God, I would
kill him too, if I thought he hesitated in his choice; but he shall soon
have no choice but one! Her death be on her own head and on Bigot's--not
on mine!"

And the wretched girl strove to throw the guilt of the sin she
premeditated upon her victim, upon the Intendant, upon fate, and, with
a last subterfuge to hide the enormity of it from her own eyes, upon La
Corriveau, whom she would lead on to suggest the crime and commit it!--a
course which Angélique tried to believe would be more venial than if it
were suggested by herself! less heinous in her own eyes, and less wicked
in the sight of God.

"Why did that mysterious woman go to Beaumanoir and place herself in the
path of Angélique des Meloises?" exclaimed she angrily. "Why did Bigot
reject my earnest prayer, for it was earnest, for a lettre de cachet to
send her unharmed away out of New France?"

Then Angélique sat and listened without moving for a long time. The
clock ticked loud and warningly. There was a sighing of the wind about
the windows, as if it sought admittance to reason and remonstrate with
her. A cricket sang his monotonous song on the hearth. In the wainscot
of the room a deathwatch ticked its doleful omen. The dog in the
courtyard howled plaintively as the hour of midnight sounded upon
the Convent bell, close by. The bell had scarcely ceased ere she was
startled by a slight creaking like the opening of a door, followed by a
whispering and the rustle of a woman's garments, as of one approaching
with cautious steps up the stair. A thrill of expectation, not unmingled
with fear, shot through the breast of Angélique. She sprang up,
exclaiming to herself, "She is come, and all the demons that wait on
murder come with her into my chamber!" A knock followed on the door.
Angélique, very agitated in spite of her fierce efforts to appear calm,
bade them come in.

Fanchon opened the door, and, with a courtesy to her mistress, ushered
in La Corriveau, who walked straight into the room and stood face to
face with Angélique.

The eyes of the two women instantly met in a searching glance that took
in the whole look, bearing, dress, and almost the very thoughts of each
other. In that one glance each knew and understood the other, and could
trust each other in evil, if not in good.

And there was trust between them. The evil spirits that possessed each
of their hearts shook hands together, and a silent league was sworn to
in their souls before a word was spoken.

And yet how unlike to human eye were these two women!--how like in God's
eye, that sees the heart and reads the Spirit, of what manner it is!
Angélique, radiant in the bloom of youth and beauty, her golden hair
floating about her like a cloud of glory round a daughter of the sun,
with her womanly perfections which made the world seem brighter for
such a revelation of completeness in every external charm; La Corriveau,
stern, dark, angular, her fine-cut features crossed with thin lines of
cruelty and cunning, no mercy in her eyes, still less on her lips, and
none at all in her heart, cold to every humane feeling, and warming only
to wickedness and avarice: still these women recognized each other as
kindred spirits, crafty and void of conscience in the accomplishment of
their ends.

Had fate exchanged the outward circumstances of their lives, each might
have been the other easily and naturally. The proud beauty had nothing
in her heart better than La Corriveau, and the witch of St. Valier, if
born in luxury and endowed with beauty and wealth, would have rivalled
Angélique in seductiveness, and hardly fallen below her in ambition and
power.

La Corriveau saluted Angélique, who made a sign to Fanchon to retire.
The girl obeyed somewhat reluctantly. She had hoped to be present at
the interview between her aunt and her mistress, for her curiosity was
greatly excited, and she now suspected there was more in this visit than
she had been told.

Angélique invited La Corriveau to remove her cloak and broad hat.
Seating her in her own luxurious chair, she sat down beside her, and
began the conversation with the usual platitudes and commonplaces of the
time, dwelling longer upon them than need was, as if she hesitated or
feared to bring up the real subject of this midnight conference.

"My Lady is fair to look on. All women will admit that; all men swear to
it!" said La Corriveau, in a harsh voice that grated ominously, like
the door of hell which she was opening with this commencement of her
business.

Angélique replied only with a smile. A compliment from La Corriveau even
was not wasted upon her; but just now she was on the brink of an abyss
of explanation, looking down into the dark pit, resolved, yet hesitating
to make the plunge.

"No witch or witchery but your own charms is needed, Mademoiselle,"
continued La Corriveau, falling into the tone of flattery she often used
towards her dupes, "to make what fortune you will in this world; what
pearl ever fished out of the sea could add a grace to this wondrous hair
of yours? Permit me to touch it, Mademoiselle!"

La Corriveau took hold of a thick tress, and held it up to the light of
the lamp, where it shone like gold. Angélique shrank back as from the
touch of fire. She withdrew her hair with a jerk from the hand of La
Corriveau. A shudder passed through her from head to foot. It was the
last parting effort of her good genius to save her.

"Do not touch it!" said she quickly; "I have set my life and soul on
a desperate venture, but my hair--I have devoted it to our Lady of St.
Foye; it is hers, not mine! Do not touch it, Dame Dodier."

Angélique was thinking of a vow she had once made before the shrine of
the little church of Lorette. "My hair is the one thing belonging to me
that I will keep pure," continued she; "so do not be angry with me," she
added, apologetically.

"I am not angry," replied La Corriveau, with a sneer. "I am used to
strange humors in people who ask my aid; they always fall out with
themselves before they fall in with La Corriveau."

"Do you know why I have sent for you at this hour, good Dame Dodier?"
asked Angélique, abruptly.

"Call me La Corriveau; I am not good Dame Dodier. Mine is an ill name,
and I like it best, and so should you, Mademoiselle, for the business
you sent me for is not what people who say their prayers call good. It
was to find your lost jewels that Fanchon Dodier summoned me to your
abode, was it not?" La Corriveau uttered this with a suppressed smile of
incredulity.

"Ah! I bade Fanchon tell you that in order to deceive her, not you! But
you know better, La Corriveau! It was not for the sake of paltry jewels
I desired you to come to the city to see me at this hour of midnight."

"I conjectured as much!" replied La Corriveau, with a sardonic smile
which showed her small teeth, white, even, and cruel as those of a
wildcat. "The jewel you have lost is the heart of your lover, and
you thought La Corriveau had a charm to win it back; was not that it,
Mademoiselle?"

Angélique sat upright, gazing boldly into the eyes of her visitor. "Yes,
it was that and more than that I summoned you for. Can you not guess?
You are wise, La Corriveau, you know a woman's desire better than she
dare avow it to herself!"

"Ah!" replied La Corriveau, returning her scrutiny with the eyes of a
basilisk; a green light flashed out of their dark depths. "You have a
lover, and you have a rival, too! A woman more potent than yourself,
in spite of your beauty and your fascinations, has caught the eye and
entangled the affections of the man you love, and you ask my counsel how
to win him back and how to triumph over your rival. Is it not for that
you have summoned La Corriveau?"

"Yes, it is that, and still more than that!" replied Angélique,
clenching her hands hard together, and gazing earnestly at the fire with
a look of merciless triumph at what she saw there reflected from her own
thoughts distinctly as if she looked at her own face in a mirror.

"It is all that, and still more than that,--cannot you guess yet why I
have summoned you here?" continued Angélique, rising and laying her left
hand firmly upon the shoulder of La Corriveau, as she bent her head and
whispered with terrible distinctness in her ear.

La Corriveau heard her whisper and looked up eagerly. "Yes, I know now,
Mademoiselle,--you would kill your rival! There is death in your eye,
in your voice, in your heart, but not in your hand! You would kill the
woman who robs you of your lover, and you have sent for La Corriveau to
help you in the good work! It is a good work in the eyes of a woman to
kill her rival! but why should I do that to please you? What do I care
for your lover, Angélique des Meloises?"

Angélique was startled to hear from the lips of another, words which
gave free expression to her own secret thoughts. A denial was on her
lips, but the lie remained unspoken. She trembled before La Corriveau,
but her resolution was unchanged.

"It was not only to please me, but to profit yourself that I sent
for you!" Angélique replied eagerly, like one trying to outstrip her
conscience and prevent it from overtaking her sin. "Hark you! you love
gold, La Corriveau! I will give you all you crave in return for your
help,--for help me you shall! you will never repent of it if you do; you
will never cease to regret it if you do not! I will make you rich, La
Corrivean! or else, by God! do you hear? I swear it! I will have you
burnt for a witch, and your ashes strewn all over St. Valier!"

La Corriveau spat contemptuously upon the floor at the holy name. "You
are a fool, Angélique des Meloises, to speak thus to me! Do you know
who and what I am? You are a poor butterfly to flutter your gay wings
against La Corriveau; but still I like your spirit! women like you are
rare. The blood of Exili could not have spoken bolder than you do; you
want the life of a woman who has kindled the hell-fire of jealousy in
your heart, and you want me to tell you how to get your revenge!"

"I do want you to do it, La Corriveau, and your reward shall be great!"
answered Angélique with a burst of impatience. She could beat about the
bush no longer.

"To kill a woman or a man were of itself a pleasure even without the
profit," replied La Corriveau, doggedly. "But why should I run myself
into danger for you, Mademoiselle des Meloises? Have you gold enough to
balance the risk?"

Angélique had now fairly overleaped all barriers of reserve. "I will
give you more than your eyes ever beheld, if you will serve me in this
matter, Dame Dodier!"

"Perhaps so, but I am getting old and trust neither man nor woman. Give
a pledge of your good faith, before you speak one word farther to me
on this business, Mademoiselle des Meloises." La Corriveau held out her
double hands significantly.

"A pledge? that is gold you want!" replied Angélique. "Yes, La
Corriveau; I will bind you to me with chains of gold; you shall have it
uncounted, as I get it,--gold enough to make you the richest woman in
St. Valier, the richest peasant-woman in New France."

"I am no peasant-woman," replied La Corriveau, with a touch of pride,
"I come of a race ancient and terrible as the Roman Caesars! But pshaw!
what have you to do with that? Give me the pledge of your good faith and
I will help you."

Angélique rose instantly, and, opening the drawer of an escritoire,
took out a long silken purse filled with louis d'or, which peeped and
glittered through the interstices of the net-work. She gave it with the
air of one who cared nothing for money.

La Corriveau extended both hands eagerly, clutching as with the claws of
a harpy. She pressed the purse to her thin bloodless lips, and touched
with the ends of her bony fingers the edges of the bright coin visible
through the silken net.

"This is indeed a rare earnest-penny!" exclaimed La Corriveau. "I will
do your whole bidding, Mademoiselle; only I must do it in my own way. I
have guessed aright the nature of your trouble and the remedy you seek.
But I cannot guess the name of your false lover, nor that of the woman
whose doom is sealed from this hour."

"I will not tell you the name of my lover," replied Angélique. She
was reluctant to mention the name of Bigot as her lover. The idea was
hateful to her. "The name of the woman I cannot tell you, even if I
would," added she.

"How, Mademoiselle? you put the death-mark upon one you do not know?"

"I do not know her name. Nevertheless, La Corriveau, that gold, and ten
times as much, are yours, if you relieve me of the torment of knowing
that the secret chamber of Beaumanoir contains a woman whose life is
death to all my hopes, and disappointment to all my plans."

The mention of Beaumanoir startled La Corriveau.

"The lady of Beaumanoir!" she exclaimed, "whom the Abenaquis brought
in from Acadia? I saw that lady in the woods of St. Valier, when I was
gathering mandrakes one summer day. She asked me for some water in God's
name. I cursed her silently, but I gave her milk. I had no water.
She thanked me. Oh, how she thanked me! nobody ever before thanked La
Corriveau so sweetly as she did! I, even I, bade her a good journey,
when she started on afresh with her Indian guides, after asking me the
distance and direction of Beaumanoir."

This unexpected touch of sympathy surprised and revolted Angélique a
little.

"You know her then! That is rare fortune, La Corriveau," said she; "she
will remember you, you will have less difficulty in gaining access to
her and winning her confidence."

La Corriveau clapped her hands, laughing a strange laugh, that sounded
as if it came from a deep well.

"Know her? That is all I know; she thanked me sweetly. I said so, did I
not? but I cursed her in my heart when she was gone. I saw she was both
beautiful and good,--two things I hate."

"Do you call her beautiful? I care not whether she be good, that will
avail nothing with him; but is she beautiful, La Corriveau? Is she
fairer than I, think you?"

La Corriveau looked at Angélique intently and laughed. "Fairer than you?
Listen! It was as if I had seen a vision. She was very beautiful, and
very sad. I could wish it were another than she, for oh, she spoke to me
the sweetest I was ever spoken to since I came into the world."

Angélique ground her teeth with anger. "What did you do, La Corriveau?
Did you not wish her dead? Did you think the Intendant or any man could
not help loving her to the rejection of any other woman in the world?
What did you do?"

"Do? I went on picking my mandrakes in the forest, and waited for you
to send for La Corriveau. You desire to punish the Intendant for his
treachery in forsaking you for one more beautiful and better!"

It was but a bold guess of La Corriveau, but she had divined the truth.
The Intendant Bigot was the man who was playing false with Angélique.

Her words filled up the measure of Angélique's jealous hate, and
confirmed her terrible resolution. Jealousy is never so omnipotent as
when its rank suspicions are fed and watered by the tales of others.

"There can be but one life between her and me!" replied the vehement
girl; "Angélique des Meloises would die a thousand deaths rather than
live to feed on the crumbs of any man's love while another woman feasts
at his table. I sent for you, La Corriveau, to take my gold and kill
that woman!"

"Kill that woman! It is easily said, Mademoiselle; but I will not
forsake you, were she the Madonna herself! I hate her for her goodness,
as you hate her for her beauty. Lay another purse by the side of this,
and in thrice three days there shall be weeping in the Château of
Beaumanoir, and no one shall know who has killed the cuckquean of the
Chevalier Intendant!"

Angélique sprang up with a cry of exultation, like a pantheress seizing
her prey. She clasped La Corriveau in her arms and kissed her dark,
withered cheek, exclaiming, "Yes, that is her name! His cuckquean she
is; his wife she is not and never shall be!--Thanks, a million golden
thanks, La Corriveau, if you fulfil your prophecy! In thrice three days
from this hour, was it not that you said?"

"Understand me!" said La Corriveau, "I serve you for your money, not
for your liking! but I have my own joy in making my hand felt in a world
which I hate and which hates me!" La Corriveau held out her hands as
if the ends of her fingers were trickling poison. "Death drops on
whomsoever I send it," said she, "so secretly and so subtly that the
very spirits of air cannot detect the trace of the aqua tofana."

Angélique listened with amaze, yet trembled with eagerness to hear more.
"What! La Corriveau, have you the secret of the aqua tofana, which the
world believes was burnt with its possessors two generations ago, on the
Place de Grève?"

"Such secrets never die," replied the poisoner; "they are too precious!
Few men, still fewer women, are there who would not listen at the
door of hell to learn them. The king in his palace, the lady in her
tapestried chamber, the nun in her cell, the very beggar on the street,
would stand on a pavement of fire to read the tablets which record the
secret of the aqua tofana. Let me see your hand," added she abruptly,
speaking to Angélique.

Angélique held out her hand; La Corriveau seized it. She looked intently
upon the slender fingers and oval palm. "There is evil enough in these
long, sharp spatulae of yours," said she, "to ruin the world. You are
worthy to be the inheritrix of all I know. These fingers would pick
fruit off the forbidden tree for men to eat and die! The tempter only is
needed, and he is never far off! Angélique des Meloises, I may one day
teach you the grand secret; meantime I will show you that I possess it."



CHAPTER XXXV. "FLASKETS OF DRUGS, FULL TO THEIR WICKED LIPS."


La Corriveau took the ebony casket from her bosom and laid it solemnly
on the table. "Do not cross yourself," she exclaimed angrily as she
saw Angélique mechanically make the sacred sign. "There can come no
blessings here. There is death enough in that casket to kill every man
and woman in New France."

Angélique fastened her gaze upon the casket as if she would have drawn
out the secret of its contents by the very magnetism of her eyes. She
laid her hand upon it caressingly, yet tremblingly--eager, yet fearful,
to see its contents.

"Open it!" cried La Corriveau, "press the spring, and you will see such
a casket of jewels as queens might envy. It was the wedding-gift of
Beatrice Spara, and once belonged to the house of Borgia--Lucrezia
Borgia had it from her terrible father; and he, from the prince of
demons!"

Angélique pressed the little spring,--the lid flew open, and there
flashed from it a light which for the moment dazzled her eyes with its
brilliancy. She thrust the casket from her in alarm, and retreated a few
steps, imagining she smelt the odor of some deadly perfume.

"I dare not approach it," said she. "Its glittering terrifies me; its
odor sickens me."

"Tush! it is your weak imagination!" replied La Corriveau; "your
sickly conscience frightens you! You will need to cast off both to rid
Beaumanoir of the presence of your rival! The aqua tofana in the hands
of a coward is a gift as fatal to its possessor as to its victim."

Angélique with a strong effort tried to master her fear, but could not.
She would not again handle the casket.

La Corriveau looked at her as if suspecting this display of weakness.
She then drew the casket to herself and took out a vial, gilt and chased
with strange symbols. It was not larger than the little finger of a
delicate girl. Its contents glittered like a diamond in the sunshine.

La Corriveau shook it up, and immediately the liquid was filled with
a million sparks of fire. It was the aqua tofana undiluted by mercy,
instantaneous in its effect, and not medicable by any antidote. Once
administered, there was no more hope for its victim than for the souls
of the damned who have received the final judgment. One drop of that
bright water upon the tongue of a Titan would blast him like Jove's
thunderbolt, would shrivel him up to a black, unsightly cinder!

This was the poison of anger and revenge that would not wait for time,
and braved the world's justice. With that vial La Borgia killed her
guests at the fatal banquet in her palace, and Beatrice Spara in her
fury destroyed the fair Milanese who had stolen from her the heart of
Antonio Exili.

This terrible water was rarely used alone by the poisoners; but it
formed the basis of a hundred slower potions which ambition, fear,
avarice, or hypocrisy mingled with the element of time, and colored with
the various hues and aspects of natural disease.

Angélique sat down and leaned towards La Corriveau, supporting her chin
on the palms of her hands as she bent eagerly over the table, drinking
in every word as the hot sand of the desert drinks in the water poured
upon it. "What is that?" said she, pointing to a vial as white as milk
and seemingly as harmless.

"That," replied La Corriveau, "is the milk of mercy. It brings on
painless consumption and decay. It eats the life out of a man while the
moon empties and fills once or twice. His friends say he dies of quick
decline, and so he does! ha! ha!--when his enemy wills it! The strong
man becomes a skeleton, and blooming maidens sink into their graves
blighted and bloodless, with white lips and hearts that cease gradually
to beat, men know not why. Neither saint nor sacrament can arrest the
doom of the milk of mercy."

"This vial," continued she, lifting up another from the casket and
replacing the first, licking her thin lips with profound satisfaction
as she did so,--"this contains the acrid venom that grips the heart like
the claws of a tiger, and the man drops down dead at the time appointed.
Fools say he died of the visitation of God. The visitation of God!"
repeated she in an accent of scorn, and the foul witch spat as she
pronounced the sacred name. "Leo in his sign ripens the deadly nuts of
the East, which kill when God will not kill. He who has this vial for
a possession is the lord of life." She replaced it tenderly. It was a
favorite vial of La Corriveau.

"This one," continued she, taking up another, "strikes with the dead
palsy; and this kindles the slow, inextinguishable fires of typhus. Here
is one that dissolves all the juices of the body, and the blood of a
man's veins runs into a lake of dropsy. This," taking up a green vial,
"contains the quintessence of mandrakes distilled in the alembic when
Scorpio rules the hour. Whoever takes this liquid"--La Corriveau shook
it up lovingly--"dies of torments incurable as the foul disease of lust
which it simulates and provokes."

There was one vial which contained a black liquid like oil. "It is a
relic of the past," said she, "an heir-loom from the Untori, the ointers
of Milan. With that oil they spread death through the doomed city,
anointing its doors and thresholds with the plague until the people
died."

The terrible tale of the anointers of Milan has, since the days of La
Corriveau, been written in choice Italian by Manzoni, in whose wonderful
book he that will may read it.

"This vial," continued the witch, "contains innumerable griefs, that
wait upon the pillows of rejected and heartbroken lovers, and the wisest
physician is mocked with lying appearances of disease that defy his
skill and make a fool of his wisdom."

"Oh, say no more!" exclaimed Angélique, shocked and terrified. However
inordinate in her desires, she was dainty in her ways. "It is like a
Sabbat of witches to hear you talk, La Corriveau!" cried she, "I will
have none of those foul things which you propose. My rival shall die
like a lady! I will not feast like a vampire on her dead body, nor shall
you. You have other vials in the casket of better hue and flavor.
What is this?" continued Angélique, taking out a rose-tinted and
curiously-twisted bottle sealed on the top with the mystic pentagon.
"This looks prettier, and may be not less sure than the milk of mercy in
its effect. What is it?"

"Ha! ha!" laughed the woman with her weirdest laugh. "Your wisdom is
but folly, Angélique des Meloises! You would kill, and still spare your
enemy! That was the smelling-bottle of La Brinvilliers, who took it
with her to the great ball at the Hôtel de Ville, where she secretly
sprinkled a few drops of it upon the handkerchief of the fair Louise
Gauthier, who, the moment she put it to her nostrils, fell dead upon the
floor. She died and gave no sign, and no man knew how or why! But she
was the rival of Brinvilliers for the love of Gaudin de St. Croix,
and in that she resembles the lady of Beaumanoir, as you do La
Brinvilliers!"

"And she got her reward! I would have done the same thing for the same
reason! What more have you to relate of this most precious vial of your
casket?" asked Angélique.

"That its virtue is unimpaired. Three drops sprinkled upon a bouquet of
flowers, and its odor breathed by man or woman, causes a sudden swoon
from which there is no awakening more in this world. People feel no
pain, but die smiling as if angels had kissed away their breath. Is it
not a precious toy, Mademoiselle?"

"Oh, blessed vial!" exclaimed Angélique, pressing it to her lips, "thou
art my good angel to kiss away the breath of the lady of Beaumanoir! She
shall sleep on roses, La Corriveau, and you shall make her bed!"

"It is a sweet death, befitting one who dies for love, or is killed by
the jealousy of a dainty rival," replied the witch; "but I like best
those draughts which are most bitter and not less sure."

"The lady of Beaumanoir will not be harder to kill than Louise
Gauthier," replied Angélique, watching the glitter of the vial in the
lamplight. "She is unknown even to the servants of the Château; nor will
the Intendant himself dare to make public either her life or death in
his house."

"Are you sure, Mademoiselle, that the Intendant will not dare to make
public the death of that woman in the Château?" asked La Corriveau, with
intense eagerness; that consideration was an important link of the chain
which she was forging.

"Sure? yes, I am sure by a hundred tokens!" said Angélique, with an air
of triumph. "He dare not even banish her for my sake, lest the secret
of her concealment at Beaumanoir become known. We can safely risk his
displeasure, even should he suspect that I have cut the knot he knew not
how to untie."

"You are a bold girl!" exclaimed La Corriveau, looking on her
admiringly, "you are worthy to wear the crown of Cleopatra, the queen of
all the gypsies and enchantresses. I shall have less fear now to do your
bidding, for you have a stronger spirit than mine to support you."

"'Tis well, La Corriveau! Let this vial of Brinvilliers bring me the
good fortune I crave, and I will fill your lap with gold. If the lady of
Beaumanoir shall find death in a bouquet of flowers, let them be roses!"

"But how and where to find roses? they have ceased blooming," said La
Corriveau, hating Angélique's sentiment, and glad to find an objection
to it.

"Not for her, La Corriveau; fate is kinder than you think!" Angélique
threw back a rich curtain and disclosed a recess filled with pots of
blooming roses and flowers of various hues. "The roses are blooming here
which will form the bouquet of Beaumanoir."

"You are of rare ingenuity, Mademoiselle," replied La Corriveau,
admiringly. "If Satan prompts you not, it is because he can teach you
nothing either in love or stratagem."

"Love!" replied Angélique quickly, "do not name that! No! I have
sacrificed all love, or I should not be taking counsel of La Corriveau!"

Angélique's thoughts flashed back upon Le Gardeur for one regretful
moment. "No, it is not love," continued she, "but the duplicity of a man
before whom I have lowered my pride. It is the vengeance I have vowed
upon a woman for whose sake I am trifled with! It is that prompts me to
this deed! But no matter, shut up the casket, La Corriveau; we will talk
now of how and when this thing is to be done."

The witch shut up her infernal casket of ebony, leaving the vial of
Brinvilliers shining like a ruby in the lamplight upon the polished
table.

The two women sat down, their foreheads almost touching together, with
their eyes flashing in lurid sympathy as they eagerly discussed the
position of things in the Château. The apartments of Caroline, the hours
of rest and activity, were all well known to Angélique, who had adroitly
fished out every fact from the unsuspecting Fanchon Dodier, as had also
La Corriveau.

It was known to Angélique that the Intendant would be absent from
the city for some days, in consequence of the news from France. The
unfortunate Caroline would be deprived of the protection of his vigilant
eye.

The two women sat long arranging and planning their diabolical scheme.
There was no smile upon the cheek of Angélique now. Her dimples, which
drove men mad, had disappeared. Her lips, made to distil words sweeter
than honey of Hybla, were now drawn together in hard lines like La
Corriveau's,--they were cruel and untouched by a single trace of mercy.

The hours struck unheeded on the clock in the room, as it ticked louder
and louder like a conscious monitor beside them. Its slow finger had
marked each wicked thought, and recorded for all time each murderous
word as it passed their cruel lips.

La Corriveau held the casket in her lap with an air of satisfaction, and
sat with eyes fixed on Angélique, who was now silent.

"Water the roses well, Mademoiselle," said she; "in three days I shall
be here for a bouquet, and in less than thrice three days I promise you
there shall be a dirge sung for the lady of Beaumanoir."

"Only let it be done soon and surely," replied Angélique,--her very tone
grew harsh,--"but talk no more of it; your voice sounds like a cry from
a dark gallery that leads to hell. Would it were done! I could then shut
up the memory of it in a tomb of silence, forever, forever, and wash my
hands of a deed done by you, not me!"

"A deed done by you, not me!" She repeated the words, as if repeating
them made them true. She would shut up the memory of her crime forever;
she reflected not that the guilt is in the evil intent, and the sin the
same before God even if the deed be never done.

Angélique was already an eager sophist. She knew better than the
wretched creature whom she had bribed with money, how intensely wicked
was the thing she was tempting her to do; but her jealousy maddened her,
and her ambition could not let her halt in her course.

There was one thought which still tormented her "What would the
Intendant think? What would he say should he suspect her of the murder
of Caroline?" She feared his scrutinizing investigation; but, trusting
in her power, she risked his suspicions, nay, remembering his words,
made him in her own mind an accessory in the murder.

If she remembered Le Gardeur de Repentigny at all at this moment, it was
only to strangle the thought of him. She shied like a horse on the brink
of a precipice when the thought of Le Gardeur intruded itself. Rising
suddenly, she bade La Corriveau be gone about her business, lest she
should be tempted to change her mind.

La Corriveau laughed at the last struggle of dying conscience, and bade
Angélique go to bed. It was two hours past midnight, and she would bid
Fanchon let her depart to the house of an old crone in the city who
would give her a bed and a blessing in the devil's name.

Angélique, weary and agitated, bade her be gone in the devil's name, if
she preferred a curse to a blessing. The witch, with a mocking laugh,
rose and took her departure for the night.

Fanchon, weary of waiting, had fallen asleep. She roused herself,
offering to accompany her aunt in hopes of learning something of her
interview with her mistress. All she got was a whisper that the jewels
were found. La Corriveau passed out into the darkness, and plodded her
way to the house of her friend, where she resolved to stay until she
accomplished the secret and cruel deed she had undertaken to perform.



CHAPTER XXXVI. THE BROAD, BLACK GATEWAY OF A LIE.


The Count de la Galissonière was seated in his cabinet a week after the
arrival of La Corriveau on her fatal errand. It was a plain, comfortable
apartment he sat in, hung with arras, and adorned with maps and
pictures. It was there he held his daily sittings for the ordinary
despatch of business with a few such councillors as the occasion
required to be present.

The table was loaded with letters, memorandums, and bundles of papers
tied up in official style. Despatches of royal ministers, bearing the
broad seal of France. Reports from officers of posts far and near in New
France lay mingled together with silvery strips of the inner bark of the
birch, painted with hieroglyphics, giving accounts of war parties on
the eastern frontier and in the far west, signed by the totems of Indian
chiefs in alliance with France. There was a newly-arrived parcel
of letters from the bold, enterprising Sieur de Verendrye, who was
exploring the distant waters of the Saskatchewan and the land of the
Blackfeet, and many a missive from missionaries, giving account of wild
regions which remain yet almost a terra incognita to the government
which rules over them.

At the Governor's elbow sat his friend Bishop Pontbriand with a
secretary immersed in papers. In front of him was the Intendant with
Varin, Penisault, and D'Estèbe. On one side of the table, La Corne
St. Luc was examining some Indian despatches with Rigaud de Vaudreuil;
Claude Beauharnais and the venerable Abbé Piquet overlooking with deep
interest the rude pictorial despatches in the hands of La Corne. Two
gentlemen of the law, in furred gowns and bands, stood waiting at one
end of the room, with books under their arms and budgets of papers
in their hands ready to argue before the Council some knotty point
of controversy arising out of the concession of certain fiefs and
jurisdictions granted under the feudal laws of the Colony.

The Intendant, although personally at variance with several of the
gentlemen sitting at the council table, did not let that fact be visible
on his countenance, nor allow it to interfere with the despatch of
public business.

The Intendant was gay and easy to-day, as was his wont, wholly
unsuspecting the foul treason that was plotting by the woman he
admired against the woman he loved. His opinions were sometimes loftily
expressed, but always courteously as well as firmly.

Bigot never drooped a feather in face of his enemies, public or private,
but laughed and jested with all at table in the exuberance of a spirit
which cared for no one, and only reined itself in when it was politic to
flatter his patrons and patronesses at Versailles.

The business of the Council had begun. The mass of papers which lay
at the left hand of the Governor were opened and read seriatim by his
secretary, and debated, referred, decided upon, or judgment postponed,
as the case seemed best to the Council.

The Count was a man of method and despatch, clear-headed and singularly
free from prejudice, ambiguity, or hesitation. He was honest and frank
in council, as he was gallant on the quarter-deck. The Intendant was
not a whit behind him in point of ability and knowledge of the political
affairs of the colony, and surpassed him in influence at the court
of Louis XV., but less frank, for he had much to conceal, and kept
authority in his own hands as far as he was able.

Disliking each other profoundly from the total divergence of their
characters, opinions, and habits, the Governor and Intendant still met
courteously at the council-table, and not without a certain respect for
the rare talents which each recognized in the other.

Many of the papers lying before them were on subjects relating to
the internal administration of the Colony,--petitions of the people
suffering from the exactions of the commissaries of the army,
remonstrances against the late decrees of the Intendant, and arrêts of
the high court of justice confirming the right of the Grand Company to
exercise certain new monopolies of trade.

The discussions were earnest, and sometimes warm, on these important
questions. La Corne St. Luc assailed the new regulations of the
Intendant in no measured terms of denunciation, in which he was
supported by Rigaud de Vaudreuil and the Chevalier de Beauharnais. But
Bigot, without condescending to the trouble of defending the ordinances
on any sound principle of public policy, which he knew to be useless and
impossible with the clever men sitting at the table, contented himself
with a cold smile at the honest warmth of La Corne St. Luc, and simply
bade his secretary read the orders and despatches from Versailles, in
the name of the royal ministers, and approved of by the King himself in
a Lit de Justice which had justified every act done by him in favor of
the Grand Company.

The Governor, trammelled on all sides by the powers conferred upon the
Intendant, felt unable to exercise the authority he needed to vindicate
the cause of right and justice in the colony. His own instructions
confirmed the pretensions of the Intendant, and of the Grand Company.
The utmost he could do in behalf of the true interests of the people
and of the King, as opposed to the herd of greedy courtiers and selfish
beauties who surrounded him, was to soften the deadening blows they
dealt upon the trade and resources of the Colony.

A decree authorizing the issue of an unlimited quantity of paper bills,
the predecessors of the assignats of the mother country, was strongly
advocated by Bigot, who supported his views with a degree of financial
sophistry which showed that he had effectively mastered the science of
delusion and fraud of which Law had been the great teacher in France,
and the Mississippi scheme, the prototype of the Grand Company, the
great exemplar.

La Corne St. Luc opposed the measure forcibly. "He wanted no paper
lies," he said, "to cheat the husbandman of his corn and the laborer of
his hire. If the gold and silver had all to be sent to France to pamper
the luxuries of a swarm of idlers at the Court, they could buy and sell
as they had done in the early days of the Colony, with beaver skins for
livres, and muskrat skins for sous. These paper bills," continued he,
"had been tried on a small scale by the Intendant Hoquart, and on
a small scale had robbed and impoverished the Colony. If this new
Mississippi scheme propounded by new Laws,"--and here La Corne glanced
boldly at the Intendant,--"is to be enforced on the scale proposed,
there will not be left in the Colony one piece of silver to rub against
another. It will totally beggar New France, and may in the end bankrupt
the royal treasury of France itself if called on to redeem them."

The discussion rolled on for an hour. The Count listened in silent
approbation to the arguments of the gentlemen opposing the measure, but
he had received private imperative instructions from the King to aid
the Intendant in the issue of the new paper money. The Count reluctantly
sanctioned a decree which filled New France with worthless assignats,
the non-redemption of which completed the misery of the Colony and aided
materially in its final subjugation by the English.

The pile of papers upon the table gradually diminished as they were
opened and disposed of. The Council itself was getting weary of a long
sitting, and showed an evident wish for its adjournment. The gentlemen
of the law did not get a hearing of their case that day, but were well
content to have it postponed, because a postponement meant new fees
and increased costs for their clients. The lawyers of Old France, whom
LaFontaine depicts in his lively fable as swallowing the oyster and
handing to each litigant an empty shell, did not differ in any essential
point from their brothers of the long robe in New France, and differed
nothing at all in the length of their bills and the sharpness of their
practice.

The breaking up of the Council was deferred by the Secretary opening
a package sealed with the royal seal, and which contained other sealed
papers marked SPECIAL for His Excellency the Governor. The Secretary
handed them to the Count, who read over the contents with deep interest
and a changing countenance. He laid them down and took them up again,
perused them a second time, and passed them over to the Intendant,
who read them with a start of surprise and a sudden frown on his
dark eyebrows. But he instantly suppressed it, biting his nether lip,
however, with anger which he could not wholly conceal.

He pushed the papers back to the Count with a nonchalant air, as of
a man who had quite made up his mind about them, saying in a careless
manner,--

"The commands of Madame la Marquise de Pompadour shall be complied
with," said he. "I will order strict search to be made for the missing
demoiselle, who, I suspect, will be found in some camp or fort, sharing
the couch of some lively fellow who has won favor in her bright eyes."

Bigot saw danger in these despatches, and in the look of the Governor,
who would be sure to exercise the utmost diligence in carrying out the
commands of the court in this matter.

Bigot for a few moments seemed lost in reflection. He looked round the
table, and, seeing many eyes fixed upon him, spoke boldly, almost with a
tone of defiance.

"Pray explain to the councillors the nature of this despatch, your
Excellency!" said he to the Count. "What it contains is not surprising
to any one who knows the fickle sex, and no gentleman can avoid feeling
for the noble Baron de St. Castin!"

"And for his daughter, too, Chevalier!" replied the Governor. "It is
only through their virtues that such women are lost. But it is the
strangest tale I have heard in New France!"

The gentlemen seated at the table looked at the Governor in some
surprise. La Corne St. Luc, hearing the name of the Baron de St. Castin,
exclaimed, "What, in God's name, your Excellency,--what is there in that
despatch affecting my old friend and companion in arms, the Baron de St.
Castin?"

"I had better explain," replied the Count; "it is no secret in France,
and will not long be a secret here.

"This letter, gentlemen," continued he, addressing the councillors, and
holding it open in his hand, "is a pathetic appeal from the Baron de
St. Castin, whom you all know, urging me by every consideration of
friendship, honor, and public duty, to aid in finding his daughter,
Caroline de St. Castin, who has been abducted from her home in Acadia,
and who, after a long and vain search for her by her father in France,
where it was thought she might have gone, has been traced to this
Colony, where it is said she is living concealed under some strange
alias or low disguise.

"The other despatch," continued the Governor, "is from the Marquise de
Pompadour, affirming the same thing, and commanding the most rigorous
search to be made for Mademoiselle de St. Castin. In language hardly
official, the Marquise threatens to make stockfish, that is her phrase,
of whosoever has had a hand in either the abduction or the concealment
of the missing lady."

The attention of every gentleman at the table was roused by the words
of the Count. But La Corne St. Luc could not repress his feelings. He
sprang up, striking the table with the palm of his hand until it sounded
like the shot of a petronel.

"By St. Christopher the Strong!" exclaimed he, "I would cheerfully have
lost a limb rather than heard such a tale told by my dear old friend and
comrade, about that angelic child of his, whom I have carried in my arms
like a lamb of God many and many a time!

"You know, gentlemen, what befell her!" The old soldier looked as if he
could annihilate the Intendant with the lightning of his eyes. "I affirm
and will maintain that no saint in heaven was holier in her purity than
she was in her fall! Chevalier Bigot, it is for you to answer these
despatches! This is your work! If Caroline de St. Castin be lost, you
know where to find her!"

Bigot started up in a rage mingled with fear, not of La Corne St. Luc,
but lest the secret of Caroline's concealment at Beaumanoir should
become known. The furious letter of La Pompadour repressed the prompting
of his audacious spirit to acknowledge the deed openly and defy the
consequences, as he would have done at any less price than the loss of
the favor of his powerful and jealous patroness.

The broad, black gateway of a lie stood open to receive him, and angry
as he was at the words of St. Luc, Bigot took refuge in it--and lied.

"Chevalier La Corne!" said he, with a tremendous effort at self-control,
"I do not affect to misunderstand your words, and in time and place will
make you account for them! but I will say, for the contentment of
His Excellency and of the other gentlemen at the council-table, that
whatever in times past have been my relations with the daughter of the
Baron de St. Castin, and I do not deny having shown her many courtesies,
her abduction was not my work, and if she be lost, I do not know where
to find her!"

"Upon your word as a gentleman," interrogated the Governor, "will you
declare you know not where she is to be found?"

"Upon my word as a gentleman!" The Intendant's face was suffused with
passion. "You have no right to ask that! Neither shall you, Count de
La Galissonière! But I will myself answer the despatch of Madame la
Marquise de Pompadour! I know no more, perhaps less, than yourself or
the Chevalier La Corne St. Luc, where to look for the daughter of the
Baron de St. Castin; and I proclaim here that I am ready to cross swords
with the first gentleman who shall dare breathe a syllable of doubt
against the word of François Bigot!"

Varin and Penisault exchanged a rapid glance, partly of doubt, partly of
surprise. They knew well, for Bigot had not concealed from his intimate
associates the fact that a strange lady, whose name they had not heard,
was living in the secret chambers of the Château of Beaumanoir. Bigot
never told any who she was or whence she came. Whatever suspicion they
might entertain in their own minds, they were too wary to express it.
On the contrary, Varin, ever more ready with a lie than Bigot, confirmed
with a loud oath the statement of the Intendant.

La Corne St. Luc looked like a baffled lion as Rigaud de Vaudreuil,
with the familiarity of an old friend, laid his hand over his mouth,
and would not let him speak. Rigaud feared the coming challenge, and
whispered audibly in the ear of St. Luc,--

"Count a hundred before you speak, La Corne! The Intendant is to be
taken on his word just at present, like any other gentleman! Fight
for fact, not for fancy! Be prudent, La Corne! we know nothing to the
contrary of what Bigot swears to!"

"But I doubt much to the contrary, Rigaud!" replied La Corne, with
accent of scorn and incredulity.

The old soldier chafed hard under the bit, but his suspicions were not
facts. He felt that he had no solid grounds upon which to accuse the
Intendant in the special matter referred to in the letters. He was,
moreover, although hot in temperament, soon master of himself, and used
to the hardest discipline of self-control.

"I was, perhaps, over hasty, Rigaud!" replied La Corne St. Luc,
recovering his composure; "but when I think of Bigot in the past, how can
I but mistrust him in the present? However, be the girl above ground or
under ground, I will, par Dieu, not leave a stone unturned in New France
until I find the lost child of my old friend! La Corne St. Luc pledges
himself to that, and he never broke his word!"

He spoke the last words audibly, and looked hard at the Intendant. Bigot
cursed him twenty times over between his teeth, for he knew La Corne's
indomitable energy and sagacity, that was never at fault in finding
or forcing a way to whatever he was in search of. It would not be long
before he would discover the presence of a strange lady at Beaumanoir,
thought Bigot, and just as certain would he be to find out that she was
the lost daughter of the Baron de St. Castin.

The good Bishop rose up when the dispute waxed warmest between the
Intendant and La Corne St. Luc. His heart was eager to allay the strife;
but his shrewd knowledge of human nature, and manifold experience of
human quarrels, taught him that between two such men the intercession of
a priest would not, at that moment, be of any avail. Their own notions
of honor and self-respect would alone be able to restrain them from
rushing into unseemly excesses of language and act; so the good
Bishop stood with folded arms looking on, and silently praying for
an opportunity to remind them of the seventh holy beatitude, "Beati
pacifici!"

Bigot felt acutely the difficulty of the position he had been placed
in by the act of La Pompadour, in sending her despatch to the Governor
instead of to himself. "Why had she done that?" said he savagely to
himself. "Had she suspected him?"

Bigot could not but conclude that La Pompadour suspected him in this
matter. He saw clearly that she would not trust the search after this
girl to him, because she knew that Caroline de St. Castin had formerly
drawn aside his heart, and that he would have married her but for the
interference of the royal mistress. Whatever might have been done before
in the way of sending Caroline back to Acadia, it could not be done now,
after he had boldly lied before the Governor and the honorable Council.

One thing seemed absolutely necessary, however. The presence of Caroline
at Beaumanoir must be kept secret at all hazards, until--until,--and
even Bigot, for once, was ashamed of the thoughts which rushed into his
mind,--until he could send her far into the wilderness, among savage
tribes, to remain there until the search for her was over and the affair
forgotten.

This was his first thought. But to send her away into the wilderness was
not easy. A matter which in France would excite the gossip and curiosity
of a league or two of neighborhood would be carried on the tongues of
Indians and voyageurs in the wilds of North America for thousands of
miles. To send her away without discovery seemed difficult. To retain
her at Beaumanoir in face of the search which he knew would be made by
the Governor and the indomitable La Corne St. Luc, was impossible. The
quandary oppressed him. He saw no escape from the dilemma; but, to the
credit of Bigot be it said, that not for a moment did he entertain a
thought of doing injury to the hapless Caroline, or of taking advantage
of her lonely condition to add to her distress, merely to save himself.

He fell into a train of sober reflections unusual to him at any time,
and scarcely paid any attention to the discussion of affairs at the
council-table for the rest of the sitting. He rose hastily at last,
despairing to find any outlet of escape from the difficulties which
surrounded him in this unlucky affair.

With His Excellency's consent, he said, they would do no more business
that day. He was tired, and would rise. Dinner was ready at the Palace,
where he had some wine of the golden plant of Ay-Ay, which he would
match against the best in the Castle of St. Louis, if His Excellency and
the other gentlemen would honor him with their company.

The Council, out of respect to the Intendant, rose at once. The
despatches were shoved back to the secretaries, and for the present
forgotten in a buzz of lively conversation, in which no man shone to
greater advantage than Bigot.

"It is but a fast-day, your Reverence," said he, accosting the Abbé
Piquot, "but if you will come and say grace over my graceless table, I
will take it kindly of you. You owe me a visit, you know, and I owe you
thanks for the way in which you looked reproof, without speaking it,
upon my dispute with the Chevalier La Corne. It was better than words,
and showed that you know the world we live in as well as the world you
teach us to live for hereafter."

The Abbé was charmed with the affability of Bigot, and nourishing some
hope of enlisting him heartily in behalf of his favorite scheme of
Indian policy, left the Castle in his company. The Intendant also
invited the Procureur du Roi and the other gentlemen of the law, who
found it both politic, profitable, and pleasant to dine at the bountiful
and splendid table of the Palace.

The Governor, with three or four most intimate friends, the Bishop, La
Corne St. Luc, Rigaud de Vaudreuil, and the Chevalier de Beauharnais,
remained in the room, conversing earnestly together on the affair of
Caroline de St. Castin, which awoke in all of them a feeling of deepest
pity for the young lady, and of sympathy for the distress of her father.
They were lost in conjectures as to the quarter in which a search for
her might be successful.

"There is not a fort, camp, house, or wigwam, there is not a hole or
hollow tree in New France where that poor broken-hearted girl may have
taken refuge, or been hid by her seducer, but I will find her out,"
exclaimed La Corne St. Luc. "Poor girl! poor hapless girl! How can I
blame her? Like Magdalene, if she sinned much, it was because she loved
much, and cursed be either man or woman who will cast a stone at her!"

"La Corne," replied the Governor, "the spirit of chivalry will not
wholly pass away while you remain to teach by your example the duty of
brave men to fair women. Stay and dine with me, and we will consider
this matter thoroughly! Nay, I will not have an excuse to-day. My
old friend, Peter Kalm, will dine with us too; he is a philosopher as
perfectly as you are a soldier! So stay, and we will have something
better than tobacco-smoke to our wine to-day!"

"The tobacco-smoke is not bad either, your Excellency!" replied La
Corne, who was an inveterate smoker. "I like your Swedish friend. He
cracks nuts of wisdom with such a grave air that I feel like a boy
sitting at his feet, glad to pick up a kernel now and then. My practical
philosophy is sometimes at fault, to be sure, in trying to fit his
theories but I feel that I ought to believe many things which I do not
understand."

The Count took his arm familiarly, and, followed by the other gentlemen,
proceeded to the dining-hall, where his table was spread in a style
which, if less luxurious than the Intendant's, left nothing to be
desired by guests who were content with plenty of good cheer, admirable
cooking, adroit service, and perfect hospitality.



CHAPTER XXXVII. ARRIVAL OF PIERRE PHILIBERT.


Dinner at the table of the Count de la Galissonière was not a dull
affair of mere eating and drinking. The conversation and sprightliness
of the host fed the minds of his guests as generously as his bread
strengthened their hearts, or his wine, in the Psalmist's words, made
their faces to shine. Men were they, every one of them possessed of
a sound mind in a sound body; and both were well feasted at this
hospitable table.

The dishes were despatched in a leisurely and orderly manner, as became
men who knew the value of both soul and body, and sacrificed neither to
the other. When the cloth was drawn, and the wine-flasks glittered ruby
and golden upon the polished board, the old butler came in, bearing upon
a tray a large silver box of tobacco, with pipes and stoppers and a
wax candle burning, ready to light them, as then the fashion was in
companies composed exclusively of gentlemen. He placed the materials for
smoking upon the table as reverently as a priest places his biretta upon
the altar,--for the old butler did himself dearly love the Indian weed,
and delighted to smell the perfume of it as it rose in clouds over his
master's table.

"This is a bachelors' banquet, gentlemen," said the Governor, filling a
pipe to the brim. "We will take fair advantage of the absence of ladies
to-day, and offer incense to the good Manitou who first gave tobacco for
the solace of mankind."

The gentlemen were all, as it chanced, honest smokers. Each one took a
pipe from the stand and followed the Governor's example, except Peter
Kalm, who, more philosophically, carried his pipe with him--a
huge meerschaum, clouded like a sunset on the Baltic. He filled it
deliberately with tobacco, pressed it down with his finger and thumb,
and leaning back in his easy chair after lighting it, began to blow such
a cloud as the portly Burgomaster of Stockholm might have envied on a
grand council night in the old Raadhus of the city of the Goths.

They were a goodly group of men, whose frank, loyal eyes looked
openly at each other across the hospitable table. None of them but had
travelled farther than Ulysses, and, like him, had seen strange cities
and observed many minds of men, and was as deeply read in the book of
human experience as ever the crafty king of Ithaca.

The event of the afternoon--the reading of the royal despatches--had
somewhat dashed the spirits of the councillors, for they saw clearly
the drift of events which was sweeping New France out of the lap of her
mother country, unless her policy were totally changed and the hour
of need brought forth a man capable of saving France herself and her
faithful and imperilled colonies.

"Hark!" exclaimed the Bishop, lifting his hand, "the Angelus is ringing
from tower and belfry, and thousands of knees are bending with the
simplicity of little children in prayer, without one thought of theology
or philosophy. Every prayer rising from a sincere heart, asking pardon
for the past and grace for the future, is heard by our Father in heaven;
think you not it is so, Herr Kalm?"

The sad foreboding of colonists like La Corne St. Luc did not prevent
the desperate struggle that was made for the preservation of French
dominion in the next war. Like brave and loyal men, they did their duty
to God and their country, preferring death and ruin in a lost cause to
surrendering the flag which was the symbol of their native land. The
spirit, if not the words, of the old English loyalist was in them:


     "For loyalty is still the same,
        Whether it win or lose the game;
      True as the dial to the sun,
        Although it be not shone upon."


New France, after gathering a harvest of glory such as America had never
seen reaped before, fell at last, through the neglect of her mother
country. But she dragged down the nation in her fall, and France would
now give the apple of her eye for the recovery, never to be, of "the
acres of snow" which La Pompadour so scornfully abandoned to the
English.

These considerations lay in the lap of the future, however; they
troubled not the present time and company. The glasses were again
replenished with wine or watered, as the case might be, for the Count de
la Galissonière and Herr Kalm kept Horatian time and measure, drinking
only three cups to the Graces, while La Corne St. Luc and Rigaud de
Vaudreuil drank nine full cups to the Muses, fearing not the enemy that
steals away men's brains. Their heads were helmeted with triple brass,
and impenetrable to the heaviest blows of the thyrsus of Bacchus. They
drank with impunity, as if garlanded with parsley, and while commending
the Bishop, who would drink naught save pure water, they rallied gaily
Claude Beauharnais, who would not drink at all.

In the midst of a cheerful concert of merriment, the door of the cabinet
opened, and the servant in waiting announced the entrance of Colonel
Philibert.

All rose to welcome him. Pierre looked anxious and somewhat discomposed,
but the warm grasp of the hands of so many true friends made him glad
for the moment.

"Why, Pierre!" exclaimed the Count, "I hope no ill wind has blown you to
the city so unexpectedly! You are heartily welcome, however, and we will
call every wind good that blows our friends back to us again."

"It is a cursed wind that blows me back to-day," replied Philibert,
sitting down with an air of disquiet.

"Why, what is the matter, Pierre?" asked the Count. "My honored Lady de
Tilly and her lovely niece, are they well?"

"Well, your Excellency, but sorely troubled. The devil has tempted Le
Gardeur again, and he has fallen. He is back to the city, wild as a
savage and beyond all control."

"Good God! it will break his sister's heart," said the Governor,
sympathizingly. "That girl would give her life for her brother. I feel
for her; I feel for you, too, Pierre." Philibert felt the tight clasp
of the Governor's hand as he said this. He understood well its meaning.
"And not less do I pity the unhappy youth who is the cause of such grief
to his friends," continued he.

"Yes, your Excellency, Le Gardeur is to be pitied, as well as blamed. He
has been tried and tempted beyond human strength."

La Corne St. Luc had risen, and was pacing the floor with impatient
strides. "Pierre Philibert!" exclaimed he, "where is the poor lad? He
must be sought for and saved yet. What demons have assailed him now?
Was it the serpent of strong drink, that bites men mad, or the legion
of fiends that rattle the dice-box in their ears? Or was it the last
temptation, which never fails when all else has been tried in vain--a
woman?"

"It was all three combined. The Chevalier de Pean visited Tilly
on business of the Intendant--in reality, I suspect, to open a
communication with Le Gardeur, for he brought him a message from a lady
you wot of, which drove him wild with excitement. A hundred men could
not have restrained Le Gardeur after that. He became infatuated with
De Pean, and drank and gambled all night and all day with him at the
village inn, threatening annihilation to all who interfered with him.
Today he suddenly left Tilly, and has come with De Pean to the city."

"De Pean!" exclaimed La Corne, "the spotted snake! A fit tool for the
Intendant's lies and villainy! I am convinced he went not on his own
errand to Tilly. Bigot is at the bottom of this foul conspiracy to ruin
the noblest lad in the Colony."

"It may be," replied Philibert, "but the Intendant alone would have had
no power to lure him back. It was the message of that artful siren
which has drawn Le Gardeur de Repentigny again into the whirlpool of
destruction."

"Aye, but Bigot set her on him, like a retriever, to bring back the
game!" replied La Corne, fully convinced of the truth of his opinion.

"It may be," answered Philibert; "but my impression is that she has
influenced the Intendant, rather than he her, in this matter."

The Bishop listened with warm interest to the account of Philibert. He
looked a gentle reproof, but did not utter it, at La Corne St. Luc
and Philibert, for their outspoken denunciation of the Intendant. He
knew--none knew better--how deserved it was; but his ecclesiastical
rank placed him at the apex of all parties in the Colony, and taught him
prudence in expressing or hearing opinions of the King's representatives
in the Colony.

"But what have you done, Pierre Philibert," asked the Bishop, "since
your arrival? Have you seen Le Gardeur?"

"No, my Lord; I followed him and the Chevalier to the city. They have
gone to the Palace, whither I went and got admittance to the cabinet
of the Intendant. He received me in his politest and blandest manner.
I asked an interview with Le Gardeur. Bigot told me that my friend
unfortunately at that moment was unfit to be seen, and had refused
himself to all his city friends. I partly believed him, for I heard the
voice of Le Gardeur in a distant room, amid a babble of tongues and the
rattle of dice. I sent him a card with a few kind words, and received
it back with an insult--deep and damning--scrawled upon it. It was not
written, however, in the hand of Le Gardeur, although signed by his
name. Read that, your Excellency," said he, throwing a card to the
Count. "I will not repeat the foul expressions it contains. Tell Pierre
Philibert what he should do to save his honor and save his friend. Poor,
wild, infatuated Le Gardeur never wrote that--never! They have made him
sign his name to he knew not what."

"And, by St. Martin!" exclaimed La Corne, who looked at the card, "some
of them shall bite dust for that! As for Le Gardeur, poor boy, overlook
his fault--pity him, forgive him. He is not so much to blame, Pierre, as
those plundering thieves of the Friponne, who shall find that La Corne
St. Luc's sword is longer by half an ell than is good for some of their
stomachs!"

"Forbear, dear friends," said the Bishop; "it is not the way of
Christians to talk thus."

"But it is the way of gentlemen!" replied La Corne, impatiently, "and I
always hold that a true gentleman is a true Christian. But you do your
duty, my Lord Bishop, in reproving us, and I honor you for it, although
I may not promise obedience. David fought a duel with Goliath, and was
honored by God and man for it, was he not?"

"But he fought it not in his own quarrel, La Corne," replied the Bishop
gently; "Goliath had defied the armies of the living God, and David
fought for his king, not for himself."

"Confiteor! my Lord Bishop, but the logic of the heart is often truer
than the logic of the head, and the sword has no raison d'être, except
in purging the world of scoundrels."

"I will go home now; I will see your Excellency again on this matter,"
said Pierre, rising to depart.

"Do, Pierre! my utmost services are at your command," said the Governor,
as the guests all rose too. It was very late.

The hour of departure had arrived; the company all rose, and courteously
bidding their host good-night, proceeded to their several homes, leaving
him alone with his friend Kalm.

They two at once passed into a little museum of minerals, plants, birds,
and animals, where they sat down, eager as two boy-students. The world,
its battles, and its politics were utterly forgotten, as they conversed
far into the night and examined, with the delight of new discoverers,
the beauty and variety of nature's forms that exist in the New World.



CHAPTER XXXVIII. A WILD NIGHT INDOORS AND OUT.


The Chevalier de Pean had been but too successful in his errand of
mischief to the Manor House of Tilly.

A few days had sufficed for this accomplished ambassador of Bigot to
tempt Le Gardeur to his ruin, and to triumph in his fall.

Upon his arrival at the Seigniory, De Pean had chosen to take up his
quarters at the village inn, in preference to accepting the proffered
hospitality of the Lady de Tilly, whom, however, he had frequently to
see, having been craftily commissioned by Bigot with the settlement
of some important matters of business relating to her Seigniory, as a
pretext to visit the Manor House and linger in the village long enough
to renew his old familiarity with Le Gardeur.

The visits of De Pean to the Manor House were politely but not cordially
received. It was only by reason of the business he came upon that he
was received at all. Nevertheless he paid his court to the ladies of the
Manor, as a gentleman anxious to remove their prejudices and win their
good opinion.

He once, and but once, essayed to approach Amélie with gallantry, a
hair-breadth only beyond the rigid boundary-line of ordinary politeness,
when he received a repulse so quick, so unspoken and invisible, that
he could not tell in what it consisted, yet he felt it like a sudden
paralysis of his powers of pleasing. He cared not again to encounter the
quick glance of contempt and aversion which for an instant flashed in
the eyes of Amélie when she caught the drift of his untimely admiration.

A woman is never so Rhadamanthean in her justice, and so quick in her
execution of it, as when she is proud and happy in her love for another
man: she is then indignant at every suggestion implying any doubt of the
strength, purity, and absoluteness of her devotion.

De Pean ground his teeth in silent wrath at this quiet but unequivocal
repulse, and vowed a bitter vow that Amélie should ere long repent in
sackcloth and ashes for the wound inflicted upon his vanity and still
more upon his cupidity.

One of the day-dreams of his fancy was broken, never to return. The
immense fortune and high rank of the young Chatelaine de Repentigny
had excited the cupidity of De Pean for some time, and although the
voluptuous beauty of Angélique fastened his eyes, he would willingly
have sacrificed her for the reversion of the lordships of Tilly and
Repentigny.

De Pean's soul was too small to bear with equanimity the annihilation
of his cherished hopes. As he looked down upon his white hands, his
delicate feet, and irreproachable dress and manner, he seemed not to
comprehend that a true woman like Amélie cares nothing for these things
in comparison with a manly nature that seeks a woman for her own sake
by love, and in love, and not by the accessories of wealth and position.
For such a one she would go barefoot if need were, while golden slippers
would not tempt her to walk with the other.

Amélie's beau-ideal of manhood was embodied in Pierre Philibert, and the
greatest king in Christendom would have wooed in vain at her feet, much
less an empty pretender like the Chevalier de Pean.

"I would not have treated any gentleman so rudely," said Amélie in
confidence to Héloise de Lotbinière when they had retired to the privacy
of their bedchamber. "No woman is justified in showing scorn of any
man's love, if it be honest and true; but the Chevalier de Pean is false
to the heart's core, and his presumption woke such an aversion in my
heart, that I fear my eyes showed less than ordinary politeness to his
unexpected advances."

"You were too gentle, not too harsh, Amélie," replied Héloise, with her
arm round her friend. "Had I been the object of his hateful addresses, I
should have repaid him in his own false coin: I would have led him on
to the brink of the precipice of a confession and an offer, and then I
would have dropped him as one drops a stone into the deep pool of the
Chaudière."

"You were always more bold than I, Héloise; I could not do that for the
world," replied Amélie. "I would not willingly offend even the Chevalier
de Pean. Moreover, I fear him, and I need not tell you why, darling.
That man possesses a power over my dear brother that makes me tremble,
and in my anxiety for Le Gardeur I may have lingered, as I did
yesterday, too long in the parlor when in company with the Chevalier de
Pean, who, mistaking my motive, may have supposed that I hated not his
presence so much as I truly did!"

"Amélie, your fears are my own!" exclaimed Héloise, pressing Amélie to
her side. "I must, I will tell you. O loved sister of mine,--let me
call you so!--to you alone I dare acknowledge my hopeless love for Le
Gardeur, and my deep and abiding interest in his welfare."

"Nay, do not say hopeless, Héloise!" replied Amélie, kissing her fondly.
"Le Gardeur is not insensible to your beauty and goodness. He is too
like myself not to love you."

"Alas, Amélie! I know it is all in vain. I have neither beauty nor
other attractions in his eyes. He left me yesterday to converse with the
Chevalier de Pean on the subject of Angélique des Meloises, and I
saw, by the agitation of his manner, the flush upon his cheek, and
the eagerness of his questioning, that he cared more for Angélique,
notwithstanding her reported engagement with the Intendant, than he did
for a thousand Héloises de Lotbinière!"

The poor girl, overpowered by the recollection, hid her face upon the
shoulder of Amélie, and sobbed as if her very heart were breaking,--as
in truth it was.

Amélie, so happy and secure in her own affection, comforted Héloise with
her tears and caresses, but it was only by picturing in her imagination
her own state, should she be so hapless as to lose the love of Pierre
Philibert, that she could realize the depth of misery and abandonment
which filled the bosom of her fair companion.

She was, moreover, struck to the heart by the words of Héloise regarding
the eagerness of her brother to get word of Angélique. "The Chevalier de
Pean might have brought a message, perhaps a love-token from Angélique
to Le Gardeur to draw him back to the city," thought she. If so, she
felt instinctively that all their efforts to redeem him would be in
vain, and that neither sister's love nor Pierre's remonstrances would
avail to prevent his return. He was the slave of the lamp and Angélique
its possessor.

"Heaven forbid, Héloise!" she said faintly; "Le Gardeur is lost if he
return to the city now! Twice lost--lost as a gentleman, lost as the
lover of a woman who cares for him only as a pastime and as a foil
to her ambitious designs upon the Intendant! Poor Le Gardeur! what
happiness might not be his in the love of a woman noble-minded as
himself! What happiness were he yours, O darling Héloise!" She kissed
her pallid cheeks, wet with tears, which lay by hers on the same pillow,
and both remained silently brooding over the thoughts which spring from
love and sorrow.

"Happiness can never be mine, Amélie," said Héloise, after a lapse of
several minutes. "I have long feared it, now I know it. Le Gardeur loves
Angélique; he is wholly hers, and not one little corner of his heart is
left for poor Héloise to nestle in! I did not ask much, Amélie, but I
have not retained the little interest I believed was once mine! He has
thrown the whole treasure of his life at her feet. After playing with
it, she will spurn it for a more ambitious alliance! Oh, Amélie!"
exclaimed she with vivacity, "I could be wicked! Heaven forgive me! I
could be cruel and without pity to save Le Gardeur from the wiles of
such a woman!"

The night was a stormy one; the east wind, which had lain in a dead lull
through the early hours of the evening, rose in all its strength at the
turn of the tide. It came bounding like the distant thud of a cannon. It
roared and rattled against the windows and casements of the Manor House,
sounding a deep bass in the long chimneys and howling like souls in
torment amid the distant woods.

The rain swept down in torrents, as if the windows of heaven were opened
to wash away the world's defilements. The stout walls of the Manor House
were immovable as rocks, but the wind and the rain and the noise of the
storm struck an awe into the two girls. They crept closer together in
their bed; they dared not separate for the night. The storm seemed
too much the reflex of the agitation of their own minds, and they lay
clasped in each other's arms, mingling their tears and prayers for Le
Gardeur until the gray dawn looked over the eastern hill and they slept.

The Chevalier de Pean was faithful to the mission upon which he had been
despatched to Tilly. He disliked intensely the return of Le Gardeur
to renew his old ties with Angélique. But it was his fate, his cursed
crook, he called it, ever to be overborne by some woman or other, and
he resolved that Le Gardeur should pay for it with his money, and be so
flooded by wine and debauchery that Angélique herself would repent that
she had ever invited his return.

That she would not marry Le Gardeur was plain enough to De Pean, who
knew her ambitious views regarding the Intendant; and that the Intendant
would not marry her was equally a certainty to him, although it did not
prevent De Pean's entertaining an intense jealousy of Bigot.

Despite discouraging prospects, he found a consolation in the reflection
that, failing his own vain efforts to please Amélie de Repentigny for
sake of her wealth, the woman he most loved for sake of her beauty and
spirit would yet drop like a golden fleece into his arms, either through
spite at her false lover or through love of himself. De Pean cared
little which, for it was the person, not the inclination of Angélique,
that carried away captive the admiration of the Chevalier de Pean.

The better to accomplish his crafty design of abducting Le Gardeur, De
Pean had taken up his lodging at the village inn. He knew that in the
polite hospitalities of the Manor House he could find few opportunities
to work upon the susceptible nature of Le Gardeur; that too many
loving eyes would there watch over his safety, and that he was himself
suspected, and his presence only tolerated on account of the business
which had ostensibly brought him there. At the inn he would be free
to work out his schemes, sure of success if by any means and on any
pretence he could draw Le Gardeur thither and rouse into life and fury
the sleeping serpents of his old propensities,--the love of gaming, the
love of wine, and the love of Angélique.

Could Le Gardeur be persuaded to drink a full measure to the bright eyes
of Angélique des Meloises, and could he, when the fire was kindled,
be tempted once more to take in hand the box more fatal than that of
Pandora and place fortune on the turn of a die, De Pean knew well that
no power on earth could stop the conflagration of every good resolution
and every virtuous principle in his mind. Neither aunt nor sister nor
friends could withhold him then! He would return to the city, where the
Grand Company had a use to make of him which he would never understand
until it was too late for aught but repentance.

De Pean pondered long upon a few words he had one day heard drop from
the lips of Bigot, which meant more, much more, than they seemed to
imply, and they flitted long through his memory like bats in a room
seeking an outlet into the night, ominous of some deed of darkness.

De Pean imagined that he had found a way to revenge himself on Le
Gardeur and Amélie--each for thwarting him in a scheme of love or
fortune. He brooded long and malignantly how to hatch the plot which he
fancied was his own, but which had really been conceived in the deeper
brain of Bigot, whose few seemingly harmless words had dropped into the
ear of De Pean, casually as it were, but which Bigot knew would take
root and grow in the congenial soul of his secretary and one day bring
forth terrible fruit.

The next day was wet and autumnal, with a sweeping east wind which blew
raw and gustily over the dark grass and drooping trees that edged the
muddy lane of the village of Tilly.

At the few houses in the village everything was quiet, except at the
old-fashioned inn, with its low, covered gallery and swinging sign of
the Tilly Arms.

There, flitting round the door, or occasionally peering through the
windows of the tap-room, with pipes in their mouths and perchance a
tankard in their hands, were seen the elders of the village, boatmen,
and habitans, making use, or good excuse, of a rainy day for a social
gathering in the dry, snug chimney-corner of the Tilly Arms.

In the warmest corner of all, his face aglow with firelight and good
liquor, sat Master Pothier dit Robin, with his gown tucked up to his
waist as he toasted his legs and old gamashes in the genial warmth of a
bright fire.

He leaned back his head and twirled his thumbs for a few minutes without
speaking or listening to the babble around him, which had now turned
upon the war and the latest sweep of the royal commissaries for corn
and cattle. "Did you say, Jean La Marche," said he, "that Le Gardeur de
Repentigny was playing dice and drinking hot wine with the Chevalier de
Pean and two big dogs of the Friponne?"

"I did." Jean spoke with a choking sensation. "Our young Seigneur has
broken out again wilder than ever, and is neither to hold nor bind any
longer!"

"Ay!" replied Master Pothier reflectively, "the best bond I could draw
would not bind him more than a spider's thread! They are stiff-necked as
bulls, these De Repentignys, and will bear no yoke but what they put on
of themselves! Poor lad! Do they know at the Manor House that he is here
drinking and dicing with the Chevalier de Pean?"

"No! Else all the rain in heaven would not have prevented his being
looked after by Mademoiselle Amélie and my Lady," answered Jean. "His
friend, Pierre Philibert, who is now a great officer of the King, went
last night to Batiscan, on some matter of the army, as his groom told
me. Had he been here, Le Gardeur would not have spent the day at the
Tilly Arms, as we poor habitans do when it is washing-day at home."

"Pierre Philibert!" Master Pothier rubbed his hands at this reminder, "I
remember him, Jean! A hero like St. Denis! It was he who walked into the
Château of the Intendant and brought off young De Repentigny as a cat
does her kitten."

"What, in his mouth, Master Pothier?"

"None of your quips, Jean; keep cool!" Master Pothier's own face
grew red. "Never ring the coin that is a gift, and do not stretch my
comparisons like your own wit to a bare thread. If I had said in his
mouth, what then? It was by word of mouth, I warrant you, that he
carried him away from Beaumanoir. Pity he is not here to take him away
from the Tilly Arms!"

The sound of voices, the rattle and clash of the dice-box in the distant
parlor, reached his ear amidst the laughter and gabble of the common
room. The night was a hard one in the little inn.

In proportion as the common room of the inn grew quiet by the departure
of its guests, the parlor occupied by the gentlemen became more noisy
and distinct in its confusion. The song, the laugh, the jest, and jingle
of glasses mingled with the perpetual rattle of dice or the thumps which
accompanied the play of successful cards.

Paul Gaillard, the host, a timid little fellow not used to such high
imperious guests, only ventured to look into the parlor when summoned
for more wine. He was a born censitaire of the house of Tilly, and felt
shame and pity as he beheld the dishevelled figure of his young Seigneur
shaking the dice-box and defying one and all to another cast for love,
liquor, or whole handfuls of uncounted coin.

Paul Gaillard had ventured once to whisper something to Le Gardeur about
sending his calèche to the Manor House, hoping that his youthful master
would consent to be driven home. But his proposal was met by a wild
laugh from Le Gardeur and a good-humored expulsion from the room.

He dared not again interfere, but contented himself with waiting until
break of day to send a message to the Lady de Tilly informing her of the
sad plight of his young master.

De Pean, with a great object in view, had summoned Le Mercier and Emeric
de Lantagnac from the city,--potent topers and hard players,--to assist
him in his desperate game for the soul, body, and fortune of Le Gardeur
de Repentigny.

They came willingly. The Intendant had laughingly wished them bon voyage
and a speedy return with his friend Le Gardeur, giving them no other
intimation of his wishes; nor could they surmise that he had any other
object in view than the pleasure of again meeting a pleasant companion
of his table and a sharer of their pleasures.

De Pean had no difficulty in enticing Le Gardeur down to the village
inn, where he had arranged that he should meet, by mere accident, as it
were, his old city friends.

The bold, generous nature of Le Gardeur, who neither suspected nor
feared any evil, greeted them with warmth. They were jovial fellows, he
knew, who would be affronted if he refused to drink a cup of wine with
them. They talked of the gossip of the city, its coteries and
pleasant scandals, and of the beauty and splendor of the queen of
society--Angélique des Meloises.

Le Gardeur, with a painful sense of his last interview with Angélique,
and never for a moment forgetting her reiterated words, "I love you, Le
Gardeur, but I will not marry you," kept silent whenever she was named,
but talked with an air of cheerfulness on every other topic.

His one glass of wine was soon followed by another. He was pressed with
such cordiality that he could not refuse. The fire was rekindled, at
first with a faint glow upon his cheek and a sparkle in his eye; but the
table soon overflowed with wine, mirth, and laughter. He drank without
reflection, and soon spoke with warmth and looseness from all restraint.

De Pean, resolved to excite Le Gardeur to the utmost, would not cease
alluding to Angélique. He recurred again and again to the splendor of
her charms and the fascination of her ways. He watched the effect of
his speech upon the countenance of Le Gardeur, keenly observant of every
expression of interest excited by the mention of her.

"We will drink to her bright eyes," exclaimed De Pean, filling his glass
until it ran over, "first in beauty and worthy to be first in place in
New France--yea, or Old France either! and he is a heathen who will not
drink this toast!"

"Le Gardeur will not drink it! Neither would I, in his place," replied
Emeric de Lantagnac, too drunk now to mind what he said. "I would drink
to the bright eyes of no woman who had played me the trick Angélique has
played upon Le Gardeur!"

"What trick has she played upon me?" repeated Le Gardeur, with a touch
of anger.

"Why, she has jilted you, and now flies at higher game, and nothing but
a prince of the blood will satisfy her!"

"Does she say that, or do you invent it?" Le Gardeur was almost choking
with angry feelings. Emeric cared little what he said, drunk or sober.
He replied gravely,--

"Oh, all the women in the city say she said it! But you know, Le
Gardeur, women will lie of one another faster than a man can count a
hundred by tens."

De Pean, while enjoying the vexation of Le Gardeur, feared that the
banter of Emeric might have an ill effect on his scheme. "I do not
believe it, Le Gardeur;" said he, "Angélique is too true a woman to say
what she means to every jealous rival. The women hope she has jilted
you. That counts one more chance for them, you know! Is not that
feminine arithmetic, Le Mercier?" asked he.

"It is at the Friponne," replied Le Mercier, laughing. "But the man who
becomes debtor to Angélique des Meloises will never, if I know her, be
discharged out of her books, even if he pay his debt."

"Ay, they say she never lets a lover go, or a friend either," replied De
Pean. "I have proof to convince Le Gardeur that Angélique has not jilted
him. Emeric reports women's tattle, nothing more."

Le Gardeur was thoroughly roused. "Par Dieu!" exclaimed he, "my affairs
are well talked over in the city, I think! Who gave man or woman the
right to talk of me thus?"

"No one gave them the right. But the women claim it indefeasibly from
Eve, who commenced talking of Adam's affairs with Satan the first time
her man's back was turned."

"Pshaw! Angélique des Meloises is as sensible as she is beautiful: she
never said that! No, par Dieu! she never said to a man or woman that she
had jilted me, or gave reason for others to say so!"

Le Gardeur in his vexation poured out with nervous hand a large glass
of pure brandy and drank it down. It had an instant effect. His forehead
flushed, and his eyes dilated with fresh fire. "She never said that!"
repeated he fiercely. "I would swear it on my mother's head, she never
did! and would kill any man who would dare affirm it of her!"

"Right! the way to win a woman is never to give her up," answered De
Pean. "Hark you, Le Gardeur, all the city knows that she favored you
more than any of the rest of her legion of admirers. Why are you moping
away your time here at Tilly when you ought to be running down your game
in the city?"

"My Atalanta is too fleet of foot for me, De Pean," replied Le Gardeur.
"I have given up the chase. I have not the luck of Hippomanes."

"That is, she is too fast!" said De Pean mockingly. "But have you thrown
a golden apple at her feet to stop your runaway nymph?"

"I have thrown myself at her feet, De Pean! and in vain," said Le
Gardeur, gulping down another cup of brandy.

De Pean watched the effect of the deep potations which Le Gardeur now
poured down to quench the rising fires kindled in his breast. "Come
here, Le Gardeur," said he; "I have a message for you which I would not
deliver before, lest you might be angry."

De Pean led him into a recess of the room. "You are wanted in the city,"
whispered he. "Angélique sent this little note by me. She put it in my
hand as I was embarking for Tilly, and blushed redder than a rose as she
did so. I promised to deliver it safely to you."

It was a note quaintly folded in a style Le Gardeur recognized well,
inviting him to return to the city. Its language was a mixture of light
persiflage and tantalizing coquetry,--she was dying of the dullness of
the city! The late ball at the Palace had been a failure, lacking the
presence of Le Gardeur! Her house was forlorn without the visits of her
dear friend, and she wanted his trusty counsel in an affair of the last
importance to her welfare and happiness!

"That girl loves you, and you may have her for the asking!" continued
De Pean, as Le Gardeur sat crumpling the letter up in his hand. De Pean
watched his countenance with the eye of a basilisk.

"Do you think so?" asked Le Gardeur eagerly. "But no, I have no more
faith in woman; she does not mean it!"

"But if she does mean it, would you go, Le Gardeur?"

"Would I go?" replied he, excitedly. "Yes, I would go to the lowest pit
in hell for her! But why are you taunting me, De Pean!"

"I taunt you? Read her note again! She wants your trusty counsel in an
affair of the last importance to her welfare and happiness. You know
what is the affair of last importance to a woman! Will you refuse her
now, Le Gardeur?"

"No, par Dieu! I can refuse her nothing; no, not if she asked me for my
head, although I know it is but mockery."

"Never mind! Then you will return with us to the city? We start at
daybreak."

"Yes, I will go with you, De Pean; you have made me drunk, and I am
willing to stay drunk till I leave Amélie and my aunt and Héloise, up
at the Manor House. Pierre Philibert, he will be angry that I leave him,
but he can follow, and they can all follow! I hate myself for it, De
Pean! But Angélique des Meloises is to me more than creature or Creator.
It is a sin to love a woman as I love her, De Pean!"

De Pean fairly writhed before the spirit he evoked. He was not so
sure of his game but that it might yet be lost. He knew Angélique's
passionate impulses, and he thought that no woman could resist such
devotion as that of Le Gardeur.

He kept down his feelings, however. He saw that Le Gardeur was ripe for
ruin. They returned to the table and drank still more freely. Dice and
cards were resumed; fresh challenges were thrown out; Emeric and Le
Mercier were already deep in a game; money was pushed to and fro. The
contagion fastened like a plague upon Le Gardeur, who sat down at
the table, drew forth a full purse, and pulling up every anchor of
restraint, set sail on the flood-tide of drinking and gaming which
lasted without ceasing until break of day.

De Pean never for a moment lost sight of his scheme for the abduction
of Le Gardeur. He got ready for departure, and with a drunken rush and
a broken song the four gallants, with unwashed faces and disordered
clothes, staggered into their canoe and with a shout bade the boatmen
start.

The hardy canotiers were ready for departure. They headed their long
canoes down the flowing river, dashed their paddles into the water just
silvered with the rays of the rising sun, and shot down stream towards
the city of Quebec.

De Pean, elate with his success, did not let the gaiety of the party
flag for a moment during their return. They drank, sang, and talked
balderdash and indecencies in a way to bring a look of disgust upon the
cheeks of the rough boatmen.

Much less sober than when they left Tilly, the riotous party reached the
capital. The canotiers with rapid strokes of the paddle passed the high
cliffs and guarded walls, and made for the quay of the Friponne, De Pean
forcing silence upon his companions as they passed the Sault au Matelot,
where a crowd of idle boatmen hailed them with volleys of raillery,
which only ceased when the canoe was near enough for them to see whom it
contained. They were instantly silent. The rigorous search made by order
of the Intendant after the late rioters, and the summary punishment
inflicted upon all who had been convicted, had inspired a careful
avoidance of offence toward Bigot and the high officers of his staff.

De Pean landed quietly, few caring to turn their heads too often towards
him. Le Gardeur, wholly under his control, staggered out of the canoe,
and, taking his arm, was dragged rather than led up to the Palace, where
Bigot greeted the party with loud welcome. Apartments were assigned
to Le Gardeur, as to a most honored guest in the Palace. Le Gardeur de
Repentigny was finally and wholly in the power of the Intendant.

Bigot looked triumphant, and congratulated De Pean on the success of his
mission. "We will keep him now!" said he. "Le Gardeur must never draw a
sober breath again until we have done with him!"

De Pean looked knowingly at Bigot; "I understand," said he; "Emeric and
Le Mercier will drink him blind, and Cadet, Varin, and the rest of us
will rattle the dice like hail. We must pluck the pigeon to his
last feather before he will feel desperate enough to play your game,
Chevalier."

"As you like, De Pean, about that," replied Bigot; "only mind that he
does not leave the Palace. His friends will run after him. That accursed
Philibert will be here; on your life, do not let him see him! Hark you!
When he comes, make Le Gardeur affront him by some offensive reply to
his inquiry. You can do it."

De Pean took the hint, and acted upon it by forging that infamous
card in the name of Le Gardeur, and sending it as his reply to Pierre
Philibert.



CHAPTER XXXIX. MÈRE MALHEUR.


La Corriveau, eager to commence her work of wickedness, took up her
abode at the house of her ancient friend, Mère Malheur, whither she went
on the night of her first interview with Angélique.

It was a small house, built of uncut stones, with rough stone steps and
lintels, a peaked roof, and low overhanging eaves, hiding itself under
the shadow of the cliff, so closely that it seemed to form a part of the
rock itself.

Its sole inmate, an old crone who had reached the last degree of woman's
ugliness and woman's heartlessness,--Mère Malheur--sold fair winds to
superstitious sailors and good luck to hunters and voyageurs. She was
not a little suspected of dabbling in other forbidden things. Half
believing in her own impostures, she regarded La Corriveau with a
feeling akin to worship, who in return for this devotion imparted to her
a few secrets of minor importance in her diabolic arts.

La Corriveau was ever a welcome guest at the house of Mère Malheur, who
feasted her lavishly, and served her obsequiously, but did not press
with undue curiosity to learn her business in the city. The two women
understood one another well enough not to pry too closely into each
other's secrets.

On this occasion La Corriveau was more than usually reserved, and while
Mère Malheur eagerly detailed to her all the doings and undoings that
had happened in her circle of acquaintance, she got little information
in return. She shrewdly concluded that La Corriveau had business on hand
which would not bear to be spoken of.

"When you need my help, ask for it without scruple, Dame Dodier," said
the old crone. "I see you have something on hand that may need my aid. I
would go into the fire to serve you, although I would not burn my finger
for any other woman in the world, and you know it."

"Yes, I know it, Mère Malheur," La Corriveau spoke with an air of
superiority, "and you say rightly: I have something on hand which I
cannot accomplish alone, and I need your help, although I cannot tell
you yet how or against whom."

"Is it a woman or a man? I will only ask that question, Dame Dodier,"
said the crone, turning upon her a pair of green, inquisitive eyes.

"It is a woman, and so of course you will help me. Our sex for the
bottom of all mischief, Mère Malheur! I do not know what women are made
for except to plague one another for the sake of worthless men!"

The old crone laughed a hideous laugh, and playfully pushed her
long fingers into the ribs of La Corriveau. "Made for! quotha! men's
temptation, to be sure, and the beginning of all mischief!"

"Pretty temptations you and I are, Mère Malheur!" replied La Corriveau,
with a scornful laugh.

"Well, we were pretty temptations once! I will never give up that! You
must own, Dame Dodier, we were both pretty temptations once!"

"Pshaw! I wish I had been a man, for my part," replied La Corriveau,
impetuously. "It was a spiteful cross of fate to make me a woman!"

"But, Dame Dodier, I like to be a woman, I do. A man cannot be half as
wicked as a woman, especially if she be young and pretty," said the old
woman, laughing till the tears ran out of her bleared eyes.

"Nay, that is true, Mère Malheur; the fairest women in the world are
ever the worst! fair and false! fair and false! they are always so. Not
one better than another. Satan's mark is upon all of us!" La Corriveau
looked an incarnation of Hecate as she uttered this calumny upon her
sex.

"Ay, I have his mark on my knee, Dame Dodier," replied the crone. "See
here! It was pricked once in the high court of Arras, but the fool judge
decided that it was a mole, and not a witch-mark! I escaped a red gown
that time, however. I laughed at his stupidity, and bewitched him for
it in earnest. I was young and pretty then! He died in a year, and Satan
sat on his grave in the shape of a black cat until his friends set a
cross over it. I like to be a woman, I do, it is so easy to be wicked,
and so nice! I always tell the girls that, and they give me twice as
much as if I had told them to be good and nice, as they call it! Pshaw!
Nice! If only men knew us as we really are!"

"Well, I do not like women, Mère Malheur," replied La Corriveau; "they
sneer at you and me and call us witch and sorceress, and they will lie,
steal, kill, and do worse themselves for the sake of one man to-day, and
cast him off for sake of another to-morrow! Wise Solomon found only
one good woman in a thousand; the wisest man now finds not one in a
worldful! It were better all of us were dead, Mère Malheur; but pour me
out a glass of wine, for I am tired of tramping in the dark to the house
of that gay lady I told you of."

Mère Malheur poured out a glass of choice Beaume from a dame-jeanne
which she had received from a roguish sailor, who had stolen it from his
ship.

"But you have not told me who she is, Dame Dodier," replied Mère
Malheur, refilling the glass of La Corriveau.

"Nor will I yet. She is fit to be your mistress and mine, whoever she
is; but I shall not go again to see her."

And La Corriveau did not again visit the house of Angélique. She had
received from her precise information respecting the movements of the
Intendant. He had gone to the Trois Rivières on urgent affairs, and
might be absent for a week.

Angélique had received from Varin, in reply to her eager question for
news, a short, falsified account of the proceedings in the Council
relative to Caroline and of Bigot's indignant denial of all knowledge of
her.

Varin, as a member of the Council, dared not reveal the truth, but would
give his familiars half-hints, or tell to others elaborate lies, when
pressed for information. He did not, in this case, even hint at the fact
that a search was to be made for Caroline. Had he done so, Angélique
would herself have given secret information to the Governor to order
the search of Beaumanoir, and thus got her rival out of the way without
trouble, risk, or crime.

But it was not to be. The little word that would have set her active
spirit on fire to aid in the search for Caroline was not spoken, and her
thoughts remained immovably fixed upon her death.

But if Angélique had been misled by Varin as to what had passed at the
Council, Mère Malheur, through her intercourse with a servant of Varin,
had learned the truth. An eavesdropping groom had overheard his
master and the Intendant conversing on the letters of the Baron and La
Pompadour. The man told his sweetheart, who, coming with some stolen
sweetmeats to Mère Malheur, told her, who in turn was not long in
imparting what she had heard to La Corriveau.

La Corriveau did not fail to see that, should Angélique discover that
her rival was to be searched for, and taken to France if found, she
would at once change her mind, and Caroline would be got rid of without
need of her interference. But La Corriveau had got her hand in the dish.
She was not one to lose her promised reward or miss the chance of so
cursed a deed by any untimely avowal of what she knew.

So Angélique was doomed to remain in ignorance until too late. She
became the dupe of her own passions and the dupe of La Corriveau, who
carefully concealed from her a secret so important.

Bigot's denial in the Council weighed nothing with her. She felt certain
that the lady was no other than Caroline de St. Castin. Angélique
was acute enough to perceive that Bigot's bold assertion that he knew
nothing of her bound him in a chain of obligation never to confess
afterwards aught to the contrary. She eagerly persuaded herself that he
would not regret to hear that Caroline had died by some sudden and, to
appearance, natural death, and thus relieved him of a danger, and her of
an obstacle to her marriage.

Without making a full confidant of Mère Malheur, La Corriveau resolved
to make use of her in carrying out her diabolical scheme. Mère Malheur
had once been a servant at Beaumanoir. She knew the house, and in her
heyday of youth and levity had often smuggled herself in and out by the
subterranean passage which connected the solitary watchtower with the
vaults of the Château. Mère Malheur knew Dame Tremblay, who, as the
Charming Josephine, had often consulted her upon the perplexities of a
heart divided among too many lovers.

The memory of that fragrant period of her life was the freshest and
pleasantest of all Dame Tremblay's experience. It was like the odor of
new-mown hay, telling of early summer and frolics in the green fields.
She liked nothing better than to talk it all over in her snug room with
Mère Malheur, as they sat opposite one another at her little table,
each with a cup of tea in her hand, well laced with brandy, which was a
favorite weakness of them both.

Dame Tremblay was, in private, neither nice nor squeamish as to the
nature of her gossip. She and the old fortune-teller, when out of sight
of the rest of the servants, had always a dish of the choicest scandal
fresh from the city.

La Corriveau resolved to send Mère Malheur to Beaumanoir, under the
pretence of paying a visit to Dame Tremblay, in order to open a way
of communication between herself and Caroline. She had learned enough
during her brief interview with Caroline in the forest of St. Valier,
and from what she now heard respecting the Baron de St. Castin, to
convince her that this was no other than his missing daughter.

"If Caroline could only be induced to admit La Corriveau into her secret
chamber and take her into her confidence, the rest--all the rest,"
muttered the hag to herself, with terrible emphasis, "would be easy, and
my reward sure. But that reward shall be measured in my own bushel, not
in yours, Mademoiselle des Meloises, when the deed is done!"

La Corriveau knew the power such a secret would enable her to exercise
over Angélique. She already regarded the half of her reputed riches as
her own. "Neither she nor the Intendant will ever dare neglect me after
that!" said she. "When once Angélique shall be linked in with me by a
secret compact of blood, the fortune of La Corriveau is made. If
the death of this girl be the elixir of life to you, it shall be the
touchstone of fortune forever to La Corriveau!"

Mère Malheur was next day despatched on a visit to her old gossip, Dame
Tremblay. She had been well tutored on every point, what to say and how
to demean herself. She bore a letter to Caroline, written in the Italian
hand of La Corriveau, who had learned to write well from her mother,
Marie Exili.

The mere possession of the art of writing was a rarity in those days in
the class among whom she lived. La Corriveau's ability to write at all
was a circumstance as remarkable to her illiterate neighbors as the
possession of the black art which they ascribed to her, and not without
a strong suspicion that it had the same origin.

Mère Malheur, in anticipation of a cup of tea and brandy with Dame
Tremblay, had dressed herself with some appearance of smartness in
a clean striped gown of linsey. A peaked Artois hat surmounted a
broad-frilled cap, which left visible some tresses of coarse gray hair
and a pair of silver ear-rings, which dangled with every motion of
her head. Her shoes displayed broad buckles of brass, and her short
petticoat showed a pair of stout ankles enclosed in red clocked
stockings. She carried a crutched stick in her hand, by help of which
she proceeded vigorously on her journey.

Starting in the morning, she trudged out of the city towards the ferry
of Jean Le Nocher, who carefully crossed himself and his boat too as he
took Mère Malheur on board. He wafted her over in a hurry, as something
to be got rid of as quickly as possible.

Mère Malheur tramped on, like a heavy gnome, through the fallen and
flying leaves of the woods of Beaumanoir, caring nothing for the golden,
hazy sky, the soft, balmy air, or the varicolored leaves--scarlet,
yellow, and brown, of every shade and tinge--that hung upon the autumnal
trees.

A frosty night or two had ushered in the summer of St. Martin, as it was
called by the habitans,--the Indian summer,--that brief time of glory
and enchantment which visits us like a gaudy herald to announce the
approach of the Winter King. It is Nature's last rejoicing in the
sunshine and the open air, like the splendor and gaiety of a maiden
devoted to the cloister, who for a few weeks is allowed to flutter like
a bird of paradise amid the pleasures and gaieties of the world, and
then comes the end. Her locks of pride are shorn off; she veils her
beauty, and kneels a nun on the cold stones of her passionless cell, out
of which, even with repentance, there comes no deliverance.

Mère Malheur's arrival at Beaumanoir was speedily known to all the
servants of the Château. She did not often visit them, but when she did
there was a hurried recital of an Ave or two to avert any harm, followed
by a patronizing welcome and a rummage for small coins to cross her
hand withal in return for her solutions of the grave questions of love,
jealousy, money, and marriage, which fermented secretly or openly in the
bosoms of all of them. They were but human beings, food for imposture,
and preyed on by deceivers. The visit of Mère Malheur was an event of
interest in both kitchen and laundry of the Château.

Dame Tremblay had the first claim, however, upon this singular visitor.
She met her at the back door of the Château, and with a face beaming
with smiles, and dropping all dignity, exclaimed,--

"Mère Malheur, upon my life! Welcome, you wicked old soul! you surely
knew I wanted to see you! come in and rest! you must be tired, unless
you came on a broom! ha! ha! come to my room and never mind anybody!"

This last remark was made for the benefit of the servants who stood
peeping at every door and corner, not daring to speak to the old woman
in the presence of the housekeeper, but knowing that their time would
come, they had patience.

The housekeeper, giving them a severe look, proceeded to her own snug
apartment, followed by the crone, whom she seated in her easiest chair
and proceeded to refresh with a glass of cognac, which was swallowed
with much relish and wiping of lips, accompanied by a little artificial
cough. Dame Tremblay kept a carafe of it in her room to raise the
temperature of her low spirits and vapors to summer heat, not that she
drank, far from it, but she liked to sip a little for her stomach's
sake.

"It is only a thimbleful I take now and then," she said. "When I was
the Charming Josephine I used to kiss the cups I presented to the young
gallants, and I took no more than a fly! but they always drank bumpers
from the cup I kissed!" The old dame looked grave as she shook her head
and remarked, "But we cannot be always young and handsome, can we, Mère
Malheur?"

"No, dame, but we can be jolly and fat, and that is what we are! You
don't quaff life by thimblefuls, and you only want a stout offer to show
the world that you can trip as briskly to church yet as any girl in New
France!"

The humor of the old crone convulsed Dame Tremblay with laughter, as if
some invisible fingers were tickling her wildly under the armpits.

She composed herself at last, and drawing her chair close to that of
Mère Malheur, looked her inquiringly in the face and asked, "What is the
news?"

Dame Tremblay was endowed with more than the ordinary curiosity of her
sex. She knew more news of city and country than any one else, and
she dispensed it as freely as she gathered. She never let her stock of
gossip run low, and never allowed man or woman to come to speak with
her without pumping them dry of all they knew. A secret in anybody's
possession set her wild to possess it, and she gave no rest to her
inordinate curiosity until she had fished it out of even the muddiest
waters.

The mystery that hung around Caroline was a source of perpetual
irritation to the nerves of Dame Tremblay. She had tried as far as she
dared by hint and suggestion to draw from the lady some reference to
her name and family, but in vain. Caroline would avow nothing, and Dame
Tremblay, completely baffled by a failure of ordinary means to find out
the secret, bethought herself of her old resource in case of perplexity,
Mère Malheur.

For several days she had been brooding over this mode of satisfying
her curiosity, when the unexpected visit of Mère Malheur set aside
all further hesitation about disobeying the Intendant's orders not
to inquire or allow any other person to make inquisition respecting
Caroline.

"Mère Malheur, you feel comfortable now!" said she. "That glass of
cognac has given you a color like a peony!"

"Yes, I am very comfortable now, dame! your cognac is heavenly: it warms
without burning. That glass is the best news I have to tell of to-day!"

"Nay, but there is always something stirring in the city; somebody born,
married, or dead; somebody courted, won, lost, or undone; somebody's
name up, somebody's reputation down! Tell me all you know, Mère Malheur!
and then I will tell you something that will make you glad you came to
Beaumanoir to-day. Take another sip of cognac and begin!"

"Ay, dame, that is indeed a temptation!" She took two deep sips, and
holding her glass in her hand, began with loose tongue to relate the
current gossip of the city, which was already known to Dame Tremblay;
but an ill-natured version of it from the lips of her visitor seemed
to give it a fresh seasoning and a relish which it had not previously
possessed.

"Now, Mère Malheur! I have a secret to tell you," said Dame Tremblay, in
a low, confidential tone, "a dead secret, mind you, which you had better
be burnt than reveal. There is a lady, a real lady if I ever saw one,
living in the Château here in the greatest privacy. I and the Intendant
only see her. She is beautiful and full of sorrow as the picture of
the blessed Madonna. What she is, I may guess; but who she is, I cannot
conjecture, and would give my little finger to know!"

"Tut, dame!" replied Mère Malheur, with a touch of confidence, "I will
not believe any woman could keep a secret from you! But this is news,
indeed, you tell me! A lady in concealment here, and you say you cannot
find her out, Dame Tremblay!"

"In truth, I cannot; I have tried every artifice, but she passes all my
wit and skill. If she were a man, I would have drawn her very teeth out
with less difficulty than I have tried to extract the name of this lady.
When I was the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport, I could wind men
like a thread around which finger I liked; but this is a tangled knot
which drives me to despair to unravel it."

"What do you know about her, dame? Tell me all you suspect!" said Mère
Malheur.

"Truly," replied the dame, without the least asperity, "I suspect the
poor thing, like the rest of us, is no better than she should be; and
the Intendant knows it, and Mademoiselle des Meloises knows it too; and,
to judge by her constant prayers and penitence, she knows it herself but
too well, and will not say it to me!"

"Ay, dame! but this is great news you tell me!" replied Mère Malheur,
eagerly clutching at the opportunity thus offered for the desired
interview. "But what help do you expect from me in the matter?"

Mère Malheur looked very expectant at her friend, who continued, "I want
you to see that lady under promise of secrecy, mark you!--and look at
her hands, and tell me who and what she is."

Dame Tremblay had an unlimited faith in the superstitions of her age.

"I will do all you wish, dame, but you must allow me to see her
alone," replied the crone, who felt she was thus opening the door to La
Corriveau.

"To be sure I will,--that is, if she will consent to be seen, for she
has in some things a spirit of her own! I am afraid to push her too
closely! The mystery of her is taking the flesh off my bones, and I can
only get sleep by taking strong possets, Mère Malheur! Feel my elbow!
Feel my knee! I have not had so sharp an elbow or knee since Goodman
Tremblay died! And he said I had the sharpest elbow and knee in the
city! But I had to punch him sometimes to keep him in order! But set
that horrid cap straight, Mère Malheur, while I go ask her if she would
like to have her fortune told. She is not a woman if she would not like
to know her fortune, for she is in despair, I think, with all the world;
and when a woman is in despair, as I know by my own experience, she will
jump at any chance for spite, if not for love, as I did when I took the
Sieur Tremblay by your advice, Mère Malheur!"

Dame Tremblay left the old crone making hideous faces in a mirror.
She rubbed her cheeks and mouth with the corner of her apron as she
proceeded to the door of Caroline's apartment. She knocked gently, and a
low, soft voice bade her enter.

Caroline was seated on a chair by the window, knitting her sad thoughts
into a piece of work which she occasionally lifted from her lap with a
sudden start, as something broke the train of her reflections.

She was weighing over and over in her thoughts, like gold in a scale, by
grains and pennyweights, a few kind words lately spoken to her by Bigot
when he ran in to bid her adieu before departing on his journey to Trois
Rivières. They seemed a treasure inexhaustible as she kept on repeating
them to herself. The pressure of his hand had been warmer, the tone
of his voice softer, the glance of his eye more kind, and he looked
pityingly, she thought, upon her wan face when he left her in the
gallery, and with a cheery voice and a kiss bade her take care of her
health and win back the lost roses of Acadia.

These words passed through her mind with unceasing repetition, and a
white border of light was visible on the edge of the dark cloud which
hung over her. "The roses of Acadia will never bloom again," thought she
sadly. "I have watered them with salt tears too long, and all in vain.
O Bigot, I fear it is too late, too late!" Still, his last look and last
words reflected a faint ray of hope and joy upon her pallid countenance.

Dame Tremblay entered the apartment, and while busying herself on
pretence of setting it in order, talked in her garrulous way of the
little incidents of daily life in the Château, and finished by a
mention, as if it were casual, of the arrival of the wise woman of the
city, who knew everything, who could interpret dreams, and tell, by
looking in a glass or in your hand, things past, present, and to come.

"A wonderful woman," Dame Tremblay said, "a perilous woman too, not safe
to deal with; but for all that, every one runs after her, and she has
a good or bad word for every person who consults her. For my part,"
continued the dame, "she foretold my marriage with the Goodman Tremblay
long before it happened, and she also foretold his death to the very
month it happened. So I have reason to believe in her as well as to be
thankful!"

Caroline listened attentively to the dame's remarks. She was not
superstitious, but yet not above the beliefs of her age, while the
Indian strain in her lineage and her familiarity with the traditions
of the Abenaquis inclined her to yield more than ordinary respect to
dreams.

Caroline had dreamed of riding on a coal-black horse, seated behind the
veiled figure of a man whose face she could not see, who carried her
like the wind away to the ends of the earth, and there shut her up in
a mountain for ages and ages, until a bright angel cleft the rock,
and, clasping her in his arms, bore her up to light and liberty in the
presence of the Redeemer and of all the host of heaven.

This dream lay heavy on her mind. For the veiled figure she knew was
one she loved, but who had no honest love for her. Her mind had been
brooding over the dream all day, and the announcement by Dame Tremblay
of the presence in the Château of one who was able to interpret dreams
seemed a stroke of fortune, if not an act of Providence.

She roused herself up, and with more animation than Dame Tremblay had
yet seen in her countenance, requested her to send up the visitor, that
she might ask her a question.

Mère Malheur was quickly summoned to the apartment of Caroline, where
Dame Tremblay left them alone.

The repulsive look of the old crone sent a shock through the fine,
nervous organization of the young girl. She requested Mère Malheur to
be seated, however, and in her gentle manner questioned her about the
dream.

Mère Malheur was an adept in such things, and knew well how to humor
human nature, and lead it to put its own interpretations upon its own
visions and desires while giving all the credit of it to herself.

Mère Malheur therefore interpreted the dream according to Caroline's
secret wishes. This inspired a sort of confidence, and Mère Malheur
seized the opportunity to deliver the letter from La Corriveau.

"My Lady," said she, looking carefully round the room to note if the
door was shut and no one was present, "I can tell you more than the
interpretation of your dream. I can tell who you are and why you are
here!"

Caroline started with a frightened look, and stared in the face of Mère
Malheur. She faltered out at length,--"You know who I am and why I am
here? Impossible! I never saw you before."

"No, my Lady, you never saw me before, but I will convince you that I
know you. You are the daughter of the Baron de St. Castin! Is it not
so?" The old crone looked frightfully knowing as she uttered these
words.

"Mother of mercies! what shall I do?" ejaculated the alarmed girl. "Who
are you to say that?"

"I am but a messenger, my Lady. Listen! I am sent here to give you
secretly this letter from a friend who knows you better than I, and who
above all things desires an interview with you, as she has things of the
deepest import to communicate."

"A letter! Oh, what mystery is all this? A letter for me! Is it from the
Intendant?"

"No, my Lady, it is from a woman." Caroline blushed and trembled as she
took it from the old crone.

A woman! It flashed upon the mind of Caroline that the letter was
important. She opened it with trembling fingers, anticipating she knew
not what direful tidings when her eyes ran over the clear handwriting.

La Corriveau had written to the effect that she was an unknown friend,
desirous of serving her in a moment of peril. The Baron de St.
Castin had traced her to New France, and had procured from the King
instructions to the Governor to search for her everywhere and to send
her to France. Other things of great import, the writer said, she had
also to communicate, if Caroline would grant her a private interview in
the Château.

There was a passage leading from the old deserted watch-tower to the
vaulted chamber, continued the letter, and the writer would without
further notice come on the following night to Beaumanoir, and knock
at the arched door of her chamber about the hour of midnight, when,
if Caroline pleased to admit her, she would gladly inform her of very
important matters relating to herself, to the Intendant, and to the
Baron de St. Castin, who was on his way out to the Colony to conduct in
person the search after his lost daughter.

The letter concluded with the information that the Intendant had gone to
Trois Rivières, whence he might not return for a week, and that during
his absence the Governor would probably order a search for her to be
made at Beaumanoir.

Caroline held the letter convulsively in her hand as she gathered its
purport rather than read it. Her face changed color, from a deep flush
of shame to the palest hue of fear, when she comprehended its meaning
and understood that her father was on his way to New France to find out
her hiding-place.

"What shall I do! Oh, what shall I do!" exclaimed she, wringing her
hands for very anguish, regardless of the presence of Mère Malheur, who
stood observing her with eyes glittering with curiosity, but void of
every mark of womanly sympathy or feeling.

"My father, my loving father!" continued Caroline, "my deeply-injured
father coming here with anger in his face to drag me from my
concealment! I shall drop dead at his feet for very shame. Oh, that
I were buried alive with mountains piled over me to hide me from my
father! What shall I do? Whither shall I go? Bigot, Bigot, why have you
forsaken me?"

Mère Malheur continued eyeing her with cold curiosity, but was ready at
the first moment to second the promptings of the evil spirit contained
in the letter.

"Mademoiselle," said she, "there is but one way to escape from the
search to be made by your father and the Governor,--take counsel of
her who sends you that friendly letter. She can offer you a safe
hiding-place until the storm blows over. Will you see her, my Lady?"

"See her! I, who dare see no one! Who is she that sends me such strange
news? Is it truth? Do you know her?" continued she, looking fixedly
at Mère Malheur, as if in hope of reading on her countenance some
contradiction of the matter contained in the letter.

"I think it is all true, my Lady," replied she, with mock humility; "I
am but a poor messenger, however, and speak not myself of things I do
not know, but she who sends me will tell you all."

"Does the Intendant know her?"

"I think he told her to watch over your safety during his absence. She
is old and your friend; will you see her?" replied Mère Malheur, who saw
the point was gained.

"Oh, yes, yes! tell her to come. Beseech her not to fail to come, or
I shall go mad. O woman, you too are old and experienced and ought to
know,--can she help me in this strait, think you?" exclaimed Caroline,
clasping her hands in a gesture of entreaty.

"No one is more able to help you," said the crone; "she can counsel you
what to do, and if need be find means to conceal you from the search
that will be made for you."

"Haste, then, and bid her come to-morrow night! Why not tonight?"
Caroline was all nervous impatience. "I will wait her coming in the
vaulted chamber; I will watch for her as one in the valley of death
watches for the angel of deliverance. Bid her come, and at midnight
to-morrow she shall find the door of the secret chamber open to admit
her."

The eagerness of the ill-fated girl to see La Corriveau outran every
calculation of Mère Malheur. It was in vain and useless for her to speak
further on the subject; Caroline would say no more. Her thoughts ran
violently in the direction suggested by the artful letter. She would
see La Corriveau to-morrow night, and would make no more avowals to Mère
Malheur, she said to herself.

Seeing no more was to be got out of her, the crone bade her a formal
farewell, looking at her curiously as she did so, and wondering in her
mind if she should ever see her again. For the old creature had a shrewd
suspicion that La Corriveau had not told her all her intentions with
respect to this singular girl.

Caroline returned her salute, still holding the letter in her hand. She
sat down to peruse it again, and observed not Mère Malheur's equivocal
glance as she turned her eyes for the last time upon the innocent girl,
doomed to receive the midnight visit from La Corriveau.

"There is death in the pot!" the crone muttered as she went out,--"La
Corriveau comes not here on her own errand either! That girl is too
beautiful to live, and to some one her death is worth gold! It will go
hard, but La Corriveau shall share with me the reward of the work of
tomorrow night!"

In the long gallery she encountered Dame Tremblay "ready to eat her up,"
as she told La Corriveau afterwards, in the eagerness of her curiosity
to learn the result of her interview with Caroline.

Mère Malheur was wary, and accustomed to fence with words. It was
necessary to tell a long tale of circumstances to Dame Tremblay, but not
necessary nor desirable to tell the truth. The old crone therefore, as
soon as she had seated herself in the easy chair of the housekeeper and
refreshed herself by twice accepting the dame's pressing invitation to
tea and cognac, related with uplifted hands and shaking head a narrative
of bold lies regarding what had really passed during her interview with
Caroline.

"But who is she, Mère Malheur? Did she tell you her name? Did she show
you her palm?"

"Both, dame, both! She is a girl of Ville Marie who has run away from
her parents for love of the gallant Intendant, and is in hiding from
them. They wanted to put her into the Convent to cure her of love. The
Convent always cures love, dame, beyond the power of philtres to revive
it!" and the old crone laughed inwardly to herself, as if she doubted
her own saying.

Eager to return to La Corriveau with the account of her successful
interview with Caroline, she bade Dame Tremblay a hasty but formal
farewell, and with her crutched stick in her hand trudged stoutly back
to the city.

Mère Malheur, while the sun was yet high, reached her cottage under the
rock, where La Corriveau was eagerly expecting her at the window. The
moment she entered, the masculine voice of La Corriveau was heard asking
loudly,--

"Have you seen her, Mère Malheur? Did you give her the letter? Never
mind your hat! tell me before you take it off!" The old crone was
tugging at the strings, and La Corriveau came to help her.

"Yes! she took your letter," replied she, impatiently. "She took my
story like spring water. Go at the stroke of twelve to-morrow night and
she will let you in, Dame Dodier; but will she let you out again, eh?"
The crone stood with her hat in her hand, and looked with a wicked
glance at La Corriveau.

"If she will let me in, I shall let myself out, Mère Malheur," replied
Corriveau in a low tone. "But why do you ask that?"

"Because I read mischief in your eye and see it twitching in your thumb,
and you do not ask me to share your secret! Is it so bad as that, Dame
Dodier?"

"Pshaw! you are sharing it! wait and you will see your share of it! But
tell me, Mère Malheur, how does she look, this mysterious lady of the
Château?" La Corriveau sat down, and placed her long, thin hand on the
arm of the old crone.

"Like one doomed to die, because she is too good to live. Sorrow is a
bad pasture for a young creature like her to feed on, Dame Dodier!" was
the answer, but it did not change a muscle on the face of La Corriveau.

"Ay! but there are worse pastures than sorrow for young creatures like
her, and she has found one of them," she replied, coldly.

"Well! as we make our bed so must we lie on it, Dame Dodier,--that is
what I always tell the silly young things who come to me asking their
fortunes; and the proverb pleases them. They always think the bridal bed
must be soft and well made, at any rate."

"They are fools! better make their death-bed than their bridal bed! But
I must see this piece of perfection of yours to-morrow night, dame! The
Intendant returns in two days, and he might remove her. Did she tell you
about him?"

"No! Bigot is a devil more powerful than the one we serve, dame. I fear
him!"

"Tut! I fear neither devil nor man. It was to be at the hour of twelve!
Did you not say at the hour of twelve, Mère Malheur?"

"Yes! go in by the vaulted passage and knock at the secret door. She
will admit you. But what will you do with her, Dame Dodier? Is she
doomed? Could you not be gentle with her, dame?"

There was a fall in the voice of Mère Malheur,--an intonation partly
due to fear of consequences, partly to a fibre of pity which--dry and
disused--something in the look of Caroline had stirred like a dead leaf
quivering in the wind.

"Tut! has she melted your old dry heart to pity, Mère Malheur! Ha, ha!
who would have thought that! and yet I remember she made a soft fool of
me for a minute in the wood of St. Valier!" La Corriveau spoke in a hard
tone, as if in reproving Mère Malheur she was also reproving herself.

"She is unlike any other woman I ever saw," replied the crone, ashamed
of her unwonted sympathy. "The devil is clean out of her as he is out of
a church."

"You are a fool, Mère Malheur! Out of a church, quotha!" and La
Corriveau laughed a loud laugh; "why I go to church myself, and whisper
my prayers backwards to keep on terms with the devil, who stands nodding
behind the altar to every one of my petitions,--that is more than some
people get in return for their prayers," added she.

"I pray backwards in church too, dame, but I could never get sight
of him there, as you do: something always blinds me!" and the two old
sinners laughed together at the thought of the devil's litanies they
recited in the church.

"But how to get to Beaumanoir? I shall have to walk, as you did, Mère
Malheur. It is a vile road, and I must take the byway through the
forest. It were worth my life to be seen on this visit," said La
Corriveau, conning on her fingers the difficulties of the by-path, which
she was well acquainted with, however.

"There is a moon after nine, by which hour you can reach the wood of
Beaumanoir," observed the crone. "Are you sure you know the way, Dame
Dodier?"

"As well as the way into my gown! I know an Indian canotier who will
ferry me across to Beauport, and say nothing. I dare not allow that
prying knave, Jean Le Nocher, or his sharp wife, to mark my movements."

"Well thought of, Dame Dodier; you are of a craft and subtlety to cheat
Satan himself at a game of hide and seek!" The crone looked with genuine
admiration, almost worship, at La Corriveau as she said this; "but I
doubt he will find both of us at last, dame, when we have got into our
last corner."

"Well, vogue la galère!" exclaimed La Corriveau, starting up. "Let it go
as it will! I shall walk to Beaumanoir, and I shall fancy I wear golden
garters and silver slippers to make the way easy and pleasant. But you
must be hungry, Mère, with your long tramp. I have a supper prepared for
you, so come and eat in the devil's name, or I shall be tempted to say
grace in nomine Domini, and choke you."

The two women went to a small table and sat down to a plentiful meal
of such things as formed the dainties of persons of their rank of
life. Upon the table stood the dish of sweetmeats which the thievish
maidservant had brought to Mère Malheur with the groom's story of the
conversation between Bigot and Varin, a story which, could Angélique
have got hold of it, would have stopped at once her frightful plot to
kill the unhappy Caroline.

"I were a fool to tell her that story of the groom's," muttered La
Corriveau to herself, "and spoil the fairest experiment of the aqua
tofana ever made, and ruin my own fortune too! I know a trick worth two
of that," and she laughed inwardly to herself a laugh which was repeated
in hell and made merry the ghosts of Beatrice Spara, Exili, and La
Voisin.

All next day La Corriveau kept closely to the house, but she found
means to communicate to Angélique her intention to visit Beaumanoir that
night.

The news was grateful, yet strangely moving to Angélique; she trembled
and turned pale, not for truth, but for doubt and dread of possible
failure or discovery.

She sent by an unknown hand to the house of Mère Malheur a little basket
containing a bouquet of roses so beautiful and fragrant that they might
have been plucked in the garden of Eden.

La Corriveau carried the basket into an inner chamber, a small room,
the window of which never saw the sun, but opened against the close,
overhanging rock, which was so near that it might be touched by the
hand. The dark, damp wall of the cliff shed a gloomy obscurity in the
room even at midday.

The small black eyes of La Corriveau glittered like poniards as she
opened the basket, and taking out the bouquet, found attached to it by a
ribbon a silken purse containing a number of glittering pieces of gold.
She pressed the coins to her cheek, and even put them between her lips
to taste their sweetness, for money she loved beyond all things. The
passion of her soul was avarice; her wickedness took its direction from
the love of money, and scrupled at no iniquity for the sake of it.

She placed the purse carefully in her bosom, and took up the roses,
regarding them with a strange look of admiration as she muttered, "They
are beautiful and they are sweet! men would call them innocent! they are
like her who sent them, fair without as yet; like her who is to
receive them, fair within." She stood reflecting for a few moments, and
exclaimed as she laid the bouquet upon the table,--

"Angélique des Meloises, you send your gold and your roses to me because
you believe me to be a worse demon than yourself, but you are worthy to
be crowned tonight with these roses as queen of hell and mistress of
all the witches that ever met in Grand Sabbat at the palace of Galienne,
where Satan sits on a throne of gold!"

La Corriveau looked out of the window and saw a corner of the rock lit
up with the last ray of the setting sun. She knew it was time to prepare
for her journey. She loosened her long black and gray elfin locks, and
let them fall dishevelled over her shoulders. Her thin, cruel lips were
drawn to a rigid line, and her eyes were filled with red fire as
she drew the casket of ebony out of her bosom and opened it with a
reverential touch, as a devotee would touch a shrine of relics. She took
out a small, gilded vial of antique shape, containing a clear, bright
liquid, which, as she shook it up, seemed filled with a million sparks
of fire.

Before drawing the glass stopper of the vial, La Corriveau folded a
handkerchief carefully over her mouth and nostrils, to avoid inhaling
the volatile essence of its poisonous contents. Then, holding the
bouquet with one hand at arm's length, she sprinkled the glowing roses
with the transparent liquid from the vial which she held in the other
hand, repeating, in a low, harsh tone, the formula of an ancient
incantation, which was one of the secrets imparted to Antonio Exili by
the terrible Beatrice Spara.

La Corriveau repeated by rote, as she had learned from her mother, the
ill-omened words, hardly knowing their meaning, beyond that they were
something very potent, and very wicked, which had been handed down
through generations of poisoners and witches from the times of heathen
Rome:


           "'Hecaten voco!
       Voco Tisiphonem!
           Spargens avernales aquas,
       Te morti devoveo, te diris ago!"'


The terrible drops of the aqua tofana glittered like dew on the glowing
flowers, taking away in a moment all their fragrance, while leaving all
their beauty unimpaired. The poison sank into the very hearts of the
roses, whence it breathed death from every petal and every leaf, leaving
them fair as she who had sent them, but fatal to the approach of lip or
nostril, fit emblems of her unpitying hate and remorseless jealousy.

La Corriveau wrapped the bouquet in a medicated paper of silver tissue,
which prevented the escape of the volatile death, and replacing the
roses carefully in the basket, prepared for her departure to Beaumanoir.



CHAPTER XL. QUOTH THE RAVEN, "NEVERMORE!"


It was the eve of St. Michael. A quiet autumnal night brooded over
the forest of Beaumanoir. The moon, in her wane, had risen late, and
struggled feebly among the broken clouds that were gathering slowly in
the east, indicative of a storm. She shed a dim light through the glades
and thickets, just enough to discover a path where the dark figure of
a woman made her way swiftly and cautiously towards the Château of the
Intendant.

She was dressed in the ordinary costume of a peasant-woman, and carried
a small basket on her arm, which, had she opened it, would have been
found to contain a candle and a bouquet of fresh roses carefully covered
with a paper of silver tissue,--nothing more. An honest peasant-woman
would have had a rosary in her basket, but this was no honest-peasant
woman, and she had none.

The forest was very still,--it was steeped in quietness. The rustling
of the dry leaves under the feet of the woman was all she heard, except
when the low sighing of the wind, the sharp bark of a fox, or the shriek
of an owl, broke the silence for a moment, and all was again still.

The woman looked watchfully around as she glided onwards. The path
was known to her, but not so familiarly as to prevent the necessity
of stopping every few minutes to look about her and make sure she was
right.

It was long since she had travelled that way, and she was looking for a
landmark--a gray stone that stood somewhere not far from where she was,
and near which she knew that there was a footpath that led, not directly
to the Château, but to the old deserted watch-tower of Beaumanoir.

That stone marked a spot not to be forgotten by her, for it was the
memorial of a deed of wickedness now only remembered by herself and
by God. La Corriveau cared nothing for the recollection. It was not
terrible to her, and God made no sign; but in his great book of account,
of which the life of every man and woman forms a page, it was written
down and remembered.

On the secret tablets of our memory, which is the book of our life,
every thought, word, and deed, good or evil, is written down indelibly
and forever; and the invisible pen goes on writing day after day, hour
after hour, minute after minute, every thought, even the idlest, every
fancy the most evanescent: nothing is left out of our book of life which
will be our record in judgment! When that book is opened and no secrets
are hid, what son or daughter of Adam is there who will not need to say,
"God be merciful?"

La Corriveau came suddenly upon the gray stone. It startled her, for its
rude contour, standing up in the pale moonlight, put on the appearance
of a woman. She thought she was discovered, and she heard a noise; but
another glance reassured her. She recognized the stone, and the noise
she had heard was only the scurrying of a hare among the dry leaves.

The habitans held this spot to be haunted by the wailing spirit of
a woman in a gray robe, who had been poisoned by a jealous lover. La
Corriveau gave him sweatmeats of the manna of St. Nicholas, which
the woman ate from his hand, and fell dead at his feet in this
trysting-place, where they met for the last time. The man fled to the
forest, haunted by a remorseful conscience, and died a retributive
death: he fell sick, and was devoured by wolves. La Corriveau alone of
mortals held the terrible secret.

La Corriveau gave a low laugh as she saw the pale outline of the woman
resolve itself into the gray stone. "The dead come not again!" muttered
she, "and if they do she will soon have a companion to share her
midnight walks round the Château!" La Corriveau had no conscience; she
knew not remorse, and would probably have felt no great fear had that
pale spirit really appeared at that moment, to tax her with wicked
complicity in her murder.

The clock of the Château struck twelve. Its reverberations sounded far
into the night as La Corriveau emerged stealthily out of the forest,
crouching on the shady side of the high garden hedges, until she reached
the old watch-tower, which stood like a dead sentinel at his post on the
flank of the Château.

There was an open doorway, on each side of which lay a heap of fallen
stones. This was the entrance into a square room, dark and yawning as
a cavern. It was traversed by one streak of moonshine, which struggled
through a grated window set in the thick wall.

La Corriveau stood for a few moments looking intently into the gloomy
ruin; then, casting a sharp glance behind her, she entered. Tired with
her long walk through the forest, she flung herself upon a stone seat
to rest, and to collect her thoughts for the execution of her terrible
mission.

The dogs of the Château barked vehemently, as if the very air bore some
ominous taint; but La Corriveau knew she was safe: they were shut up in
the courtyard, and could not trace her to the tower. A harsh voice or
two and the sound of whips presently silenced the barking dogs, and all
was still again.

She had got into the tower unseen and unheard. "They say there is an
eye that sees everything," muttered she, "and an ear that hears our
very thoughts. If God sees and hears, he does nothing to prevent me from
accomplishing my end; and he will not interfere to-night! No, not for
all the prayers she may utter, which will not be many more! God if there
be one--lets La Corriveau live, and will let the lady of Beaumanoir
die!"

There was a winding stair of stone, narrow and tortuous, in one corner
of the tower. It led upwards to the roof and downwards to a deep vault
which was arched and groined. Its heavy, rough columns supported the
tower above, and divided the vaults beneath. These vaults had formerly
served as magazines for provisions and stores for the use of the
occupants of the Château upon occasions when they had to retire for
safety from a sudden irruption of Iroquois.

La Corriveau, after a short rest, got up with a quick, impatient
movement. She went over to an arched doorway upon which her eyes had
been fixed for several minutes. "The way is down there," she muttered;
"now for a light!"

She found the entrance to the stair open; she passed in, closing the
door behind her so that the glimmer might not be seen by any chance
stroller, and struck a light. The reputation which the tower had of
being haunted made the servants very shy of entering it, even in the
day-time; and the man was considered bold indeed who came near it after
dark.

With her candle in her hand, La Corriveau descended slowly into the
gloomy vault. It was a large cavern of stone, a very habitation of
darkness, which seemed to swallow up the feeble light she carried. It
was divided into three portions, separated by rough columns.

A spring of water trickled in and trickled out of a great stone trough,
ever full and overflowing with a soft, tinkling sound, like a clepsydra
measuring the movements of eternity. The cool, fresh, living water
diffused throughout the vaults an even, mild temperature the year round.
The gardeners of the Château took advantage of this, and used the vault
as a favorite storeroom for their crops of fruit and vegetables for
winter use in the Château.

La Corriveau went resolutely forward, as one who knew what she
sought and where to find it, and presently stood in front of a recess
containing a wooden panel similar to that in the Château, and movable
in the same manner. She considered it for some moments, muttering to
herself as she held aloft the candle to inspect it closely and find the
spring by which it was moved.

La Corriveau had been carefully instructed by Mère Malheur in every
point regarding the mechanism of this door. She had no difficulty in
finding the secret of its working. A slight touch sufficed when the
right place was known. She pressed it hard with her hand; the panel
swung open, and behind it gaped a dark, narrow passage leading to the
secret chamber of Caroline.

She entered without hesitation, knowing whither it led. It was damp and
stifling. Her candle burned dimmer and dimmer in the impure air of the
long shut-up passage. There were, however, no other obstacles in her
way. The passage was unincumbered; but the low arch, scarcely over her
own height, seemed to press down upon her as she passed along, as if to
prevent her progress. The fearless, wicked heart bore her up,--nothing
worse than herself could meet her; and she felt neither fear at what lay
before her nor remorse at what was behind.

The distance to be traversed was not far, although it seemed to her
impatience to be interminable. Mère Malheur, with her light heels,
could once run through it in a minute, to a tryst in the old tower. La
Corriveau was thrice that time in groping her way along it before she
came to a heavy, iron-ribbed door set in a deep arch, which marked the
end of the passage.

That black, forbidding door was the dividing of light from darkness, of
good from evil, of innocence from guilt. On one side of it, in a chamber
of light, sat a fair girl, confiding, generous, and deceived only
through her excess of every virtue; on the other, wickedness, fell and
artful, was approaching with stealthy footsteps through an unseen way,
and stood with hand upraised to knock, but incapable of entering in
unless that unsuspecting girl removed the bar.

As the hour of midnight approached, one sound after another died away in
the Château. Caroline, who had sat counting the hours and watching the
spectral moon as it flickered among the drifting clouds, withdrew from
the window with a trembling step, like one going to her doom.

She descended to the secret chamber, where she had appointed to meet her
strange visitor and hear from strange lips the story that would be told
her.

She attired herself with care, as a woman will in every extremity of
life. Her dark raven hair was simply arranged, and fell in thick masses
over her neck and shoulders. She put on a robe of soft, snow-white
texture, and by an impulse she yielded to, but could not explain, bound
her waist with a black sash, like a strain of mourning in a song of
innocence. She wore no ornaments save a ring, the love-gift of Bigot,
which she never parted with, but wore with a morbid anticipation that
its promises would one day be fulfilled. She clung to it as a talisman
that would yet conjure away her sorrows; and it did! but alas! in a way
little anticipated by the constant girl! A blast from hell was at hand
to sweep away her young life, and with it all her earthly troubles.

She took up a guitar mechanically, as it were, and as her fingers
wandered over the strings, a bar or two of the strain, sad as the sigh
of a broken heart, suggested an old ditty she had loved formerly, when
her heart was full of sunshine and happiness, when her fancy used to
indulge in the luxury of melancholic musings, as every happy, sensitive,
and imaginative girl will do as a counterpoise to her high-wrought
feelings.

In a low voice, sweet and plaintive as the breathings of an Aeolian
harp, Caroline sang her Minne-song:--


     "'A linnet sat upon a thorn
         At evening chime.
       Its sweet refrain fell like the rain
         Of summer-time.
       Of summer-time when roses bloomed,
         And bright above
       A rainbow spanned my fairy-land
         Of hope and love!
       Of hope and love! O linnet, cease
         Thy mocking theme!
       I ne'er picked up the golden cup
         In all my dream!
       In all my dream I missed the prize
         Should have been mine;
       And dreams won't die! though fain would I,
         And make no sign!'"


The lamps burned brightly, shedding a cheerful light upon the landscapes
and figures woven into the tapestry behind which was concealed the black
door that was to admit La Corriveau.

It was oppressively still. Caroline listened with mouth and ears for
some sound of approaching footsteps until her heart beat like the swift
stroke of a hammer, as it sent the blood throbbing through her temples
with a rush that almost overpowered her.

She was alone, and lonely beyond expression. Down in these thick
foundations no sound penetrated to break the terrible monotony of the
silence around her, except the dull, solemn voice of the bell striking
the hour of midnight.

Caroline had passed a sleepless night after the visit of Mère Malheur,
sometimes tossing on her solitary couch, Sometimes starting up in
terror. She rose and threw herself despairingly upon her knees, calling
on Christ to pardon her, and on the Mother of Mercies to plead for her,
sinner that she was, whose hour of shame and punishment had come!

The mysterious letter brought by Mère Malheur, announcing that her place
of concealment was to be searched by the Governor, excited her liveliest
apprehensions. But that faded into nothingness in comparison with the
absolute terror that seized her at the thoughts of the speedy arrival of
her father in the Colony.

Caroline, overwhelmed with a sense of shame and contrition, pictured to
herself in darkest colors the anger of her father at the dishonor she
had brought upon his unsullied name.

She sat down, she rose up, she walked her solitary chamber, and knelt
passionately on the floor, covering her face with her hands, crying to
the Madonna for pity and protection.

Poor self-accuser! The hardest and most merciless wretch who ever threw
stones at a woman was pitiful in comparison with Caroline's inexorable
condemnation of herself.

Yet her fear was not on her own account. She could have kissed her
father's hand and submitted humbly to death itself, if he chose to
inflict it; but she trembled most at the thought of a meeting between
the fiery Baron and the haughty Intendant. One or the other, or both of
them, she felt instinctively, must die, should the Baron discover that
Bigot had been the cause of the ruin of his idolized child. She trembled
for both, and prayed God that she might die in their stead and the
secret of her shame never be known to her fond father.

A dull sound, like footsteps shuffling in the dark passage behind the
arras, struck her ear; she knew her strange visitant was come. She
started up, clasping her hands hard together as she listened, wondering
who and what like she might be. She suspected no harm,--for who could
desire to harm her who had never injured a living being? Yet there she
stood on the one side of that black door of doom, while the calamity of
her life stood on the other side like a tigress ready to spring through.

A low knock, twice repeated on the thick door behind the arras, drew
her at once to her feet. She trembled violently as she lifted up the
tapestry; something rushed through her mind telling her not to do it.
Happy had it been for her never to have opened that fatal door!

She hesitated for a moment, but the thought of her father and the
impending search of the Château flashed suddenly upon her mind. The
visitant, whoever she might be, professed to be a friend, and could, she
thought, have no motive to harm her.

Caroline, with a sudden impulse, pushed aside the fastening of the door,
and uttering the words, "Dieu! protège moi!" stood face to face with La
Corriveau.

The bright lamp shone full on the tall figure of the strange visitor,
and Caroline, whose fears had anticipated some uncouth sight of terror,
was surprised to see only a woman dressed in the simple garb of a
peasant, with a little basket on her arm, enter quietly through the
secret door.

The eyes of La Corriveau glared for a moment with fiendish curiosity
upon the young girl who stood before her like one of God's angels. She
measured her from head to foot, noted every fold of her white robe,
every flexure of her graceful form, and drank in the whole beauty and
innocence of her aspect with a feeling of innate spite at aught so fair
and good. On her thin, cruel lips there played a smile as the secret
thought hovered over them in an unspoken whisper,--"She will make a
pretty corpse! Brinvilliers and La Voisin never mingled drink for a
fairer victim than I will crown with roses to-night!"

Caroline retreated a few steps, frightened and trembling, as she
encountered the glittering eyes and sinister smile of La Corriveau. The
woman observed it, and instantly changed her mien to one more natural
and sympathetic; for she comprehended fully the need of disarming
suspicion and of winning the confidence of her victim to enable her more
surely to destroy her.

Caroline, reassured by a second glance at her visitor, thought she had
been mistaken in her first impression. The peasant's dress, the harmless
basket, the quiet manner assumed by La Corriveau as she stood in a
respectful attitude as if waiting to be spoken to, banished all fears
from the mind of Caroline, and left her only curious to know the issue
of this mysterious visit.



CHAPTER XLI. A DEED WITHOUT A NAME.


Caroline, profoundly agitated, rested her hands on the back of a
chair for support, and regarded La Corriveau for some moments without
speaking. She tried to frame a question of some introductory kind, but
could not. But the pent-up feelings came out at last in a gush straight
from the heart.

"Did you write this?" said she, falteringly, to La Corriveau, and
holding out the letter so mysteriously placed in her hand by Mère
Malheur. "Oh, tell me, is it true?"

La Corriveau did not reply except by a sign of assent, and standing
upright waited for further question.

Caroline looked at her again wonderingly. That a simple peasant-woman
could have indited such a letter, or could have known aught respecting
her father, seemed incredible.

"In heaven's name, tell me who and what you are!" exclaimed she. "I
never saw you before!"

"You have seen me before!" replied La Corriveau quietly.

Caroline looked at her amazedly, but did not recognize her. La Corriveau
continued, "Your father is the Baron de St. Castin, and you, lady,
would rather die than endure that he should find you in the Château of
Beaumanoir. Ask me not how I know these things; you will not deny their
truth; as for myself, I pretend not to be other than I seem."

"Your dress is that of a peasant-woman, but your language is not the
language of one. You are a lady in disguise visiting me in this strange
fashion!" said Caroline, puzzled more than ever. Her thoughts at this
instant reverted to the Intendant. "Why do you come here in this secret
manner?" asked she.

"I do not appear other than I am," replied La Corriveau evasively, "and
I come in this secret manner because I could get access to you in no
other way."

"You said that I had seen you before; I have no knowledge or
recollection of it," remarked Caroline, looking fixedly at her.

"Yes, you saw me once in the wood of St. Valier. Do you remember the
peasant-woman who was gathering mandrakes when you passed with your
Indian guides, and who gave you milk to refresh you on the way?"

This seemed like a revelation to Caroline; she remembered the incident
and the woman. La Corriveau had carefully put on the same dress she had
worn that day.

"I do recollect!" replied Caroline, as a feeling of confidence welled up
like a living spring within her. She offered La Corriveau her hand. "I
thank you gratefully," said she; "you were indeed kind to me that day in
the forest, and I am sure you must mean kindly by me now."

La Corriveau took the offered hand, but did not press it. She could not
for the life of her, for she had not heart to return the pressure of a
human hand. She saw her advantage, however, and kept it through the rest
of the brief interview.

"I mean you kindly, lady," replied she, softening her harsh voice as
much as she could to a tone of sympathy, "and I come to help you out of
your trouble."

For a moment that cruel smile played on her thin lips again, but she
instantly repressed it. "I am only a peasant-woman," repeated she again,
"but I bring you a little gift in my basket to show my good-will." She
put her hand in her basket, but did not withdraw it at the moment, as
Caroline, thinking little of gifts but only of her father, exclaimed,--

"I am sure you mean well, but you have more important things to tell
me of than a gift. Your letter spoke of my father. What, in God's name,
have you to tell me of my father?"

La Corriveau withdrew her hand from the basket and replied, "He is on
his way to New France in search of you. He knows you are here, lady."

"In Beaumanoir? Oh, it cannot be! No one knows I am here!" exclaimed
Caroline, clasping her hands in an impulse of alarm.

"Yes, more than you suppose, lady, else how did I know? Your father
comes with the King's letters to take you hence and return with you to
Acadia or to France." La Corriveau placed her hand in her basket, but
withdrew it again. It was not yet time.

"God help me, then!" exclaimed Caroline, shrinking with terror. "But the
Intendant; what said you of the Intendant?"

"He is ordered de par le Roi to give you up to your father, and he will
do so if you be not taken away sooner by the Governor."

Caroline was nigh fainting at these words. "Sooner! how sooner?" asked
she, faintly.

"The Governor has received orders from the King to search Beaumanoir
from roof to foundation-stone, and he may come to-morrow, lady, and find
you here."

The words of La Corriveau struck like sharp arrows into the soul of the
hapless girl.

"God help me, then!" exclaimed she, clasping her hands in agony. "Oh,
that I were dead and buried where only my Judge could find me at the
last day, for I have no hope, no claim upon man's mercy! The world will
stone me, dead or living, and alas! I deserve my fate. It is not hard to
die, but it is hard to bear the shame which will not die with me!"

She cast her eyes despairingly upward as she uttered this, and did
not see the bitter smile return to the lips of La Corriveau, who
stood upright, cold and immovable before her, with fingers twitching
nervously, like the claws of a fury, in her little basket, while she
whispered to herself, "Is it time, is it time?" but she took not out the
bouquet yet.

Caroline came still nearer, with a sudden change of thought, and
clutching the dress of La Corriveau, cried out, "O woman, is this all
true? How can you know all this to be true of me, and you a stranger?"

"I know it of a certainty, and I am come to help you. I may not tell you
by whom I know it; perhaps the Intendant himself has sent me," replied
La Corriveau, with a sudden prompting of the spirit of evil who stood
beside her. "The Intendant will hide you from this search, if there be a
sure place of concealment in New France."

The reply sent a ray of hope across the mind of the agonized girl. She
bounded with a sense of deliverance. It seemed so natural that Bigot, so
deeply concerned in her concealment, should have sent this peasant woman
to take her away, that she could not reflect at the moment how unlikely
it was, nor could she, in her excitement, read the lie upon the cold
face of La Corriveau.

She seized the explanation with the grasp of despair, as a sailor seizes
the one plank which the waves have washed within his reach, when all
else has sunk in the seas around him.

"Bigot sent you?" exclaimed Caroline, raising her hands, while her
pale face was suddenly suffused with a flush of joy. "Bigot sent you to
conduct me hence to a sure place of concealment? Oh, blessed messenger!
I believe you now." Her excited imagination outflew even the inventions
of La Corriveau. "Bigot has heard of my peril, and sent you here at
midnight to take me away to your forest home until this search be over.
Is it not so? François Bigot did not forget me in my danger, even while
he was away!"

"Yes, lady, the Intendant sent me to conduct you to St. Valier, to
hide you there in a sure retreat until the search be over," replied La
Corriveau, calmly eyeing her from head to foot.

"It is like him! He is not unkind when left to himself. It is so
like the François Bigot I once knew! But tell me, woman, what said he
further? Did you see him, did you hear him? Tell me all he said to you."

"I saw him, lady, and heard him," replied La Corriveau, taking the
bouquet in her fingers, "but he said little more than I have told you.
The Intendant is a stern man, and gives few words save commands to those
of my condition. But he bade me convey to you a token of his love;
you would know its meaning, he said. I have it safe, lady, in this
basket,--shall I give it to you?"

"A token of his love, of François Bigot's love to me! Are you a woman
and could delay giving it so long? Why gave you it not at first? I
should not have doubted you then. Oh, give it to me, and be blessed as
the welcomest messenger that ever came to Beaumanoir!"

La Corriveau held her hand a moment more in the basket. Her dark
features turned a shade paler, although not a nerve quivered as she
plucked out a parcel carefully wrapped in silver tissue. She slipped off
the cover, and held at arm's length towards the eager, expectant girl,
the fatal bouquet of roses, beautiful to see as the fairest that ever
filled the lap of Flora.

Caroline clasped it with both hands, exclaiming in a voice of
exultation, while every feature radiated with joy, "It is the gift of
God, and the return of François's love! All will yet be well!"

She pressed the glowing flowers to her lips with passionate kisses,
breathed once or twice their mortal poison, and suddenly throwing back
her head with her dark eyes fixed on vacancy, but holding the fatal
bouquet fast in her hands, fell dead at the feet of La Corriveau.

A weird laugh, terrible and unsuppressed, rang around the walls of the
secret chamber, where the lamps burned bright as ever; but the glowing
pictures of the tapestry never changed a feature. Was it not strange
that even those painted men should not have cried out at the sight of so
pitiless a murder?

Caroline lay amid them all, the flush of joy still on her cheek, the
smile not yet vanished from her lips. A pity for all the world, could it
have seen her; but in that lonely chamber no eye pitied her.

But now a more cruel thing supervened. The sight of Caroline's lifeless
form, instead of pity or remorse, roused all the innate furies that
belonged to the execrable race of La Corriveau. The blood of generations
of poisoners and assassins boiled and rioted in her veins. The spirits
of Beatrice Spara and of La Voisin inspired her with new fury. She was
at this moment like a pantheress that has brought down her prey and
stands over it to rend it in pieces.

Caroline lay dead, dead beyond all doubt, never to be resuscitated,
except in the resurrection of the just. La Corriveau bent over her and
felt her heart; it was still. No sign of breath flickered on lip or
nostril.

The poisoner knew she was dead, but something still woke her suspicions,
as with a new thought she drew back and looked again at the beauteous
form before her. Suddenly, as if to make assurance doubly sure, she
plucked the sharp Italian stiletto from her bosom, and with a firm,
heavy hand plunged it twice into the body of the lifeless girl. "If
there be life there," she said, "it too shall die! La Corriveau leaves
no work of hers half done!"

A faint trickle of blood in red threads ran down the snow-white
vestment, and that was all! The heart had forever ceased to beat, and
the blood to circulate. The golden bowl was broken and the silver cord
of life loosed forever, and yet this last indignity would have recalled
the soul of Caroline, could she have been conscious of it. But all was
well with her now; not in the sense of the last joyous syllables she
spoke in life, but in a higher, holier sense, as when God interprets our
words, and not men, all was well with her now.

The gaunt, iron-visaged woman knelt down upon her knees, gazing with
unshrinking eyes upon the face of her victim, as if curiously marking
the effect of a successful experiment of the aqua tofana.

It was the first time she had ever dared to administer that subtle
poison in the fashion of La Borgia.

"The aqua tofana does its work like a charm!" muttered she. "That vial
was compounded by Beatrice Spara, and is worthy of her skill and more
sure than her stiletto! I was frantic to use that weapon, for no purpose
than to redden my hands with the work of a low bravo!"

A few drops of blood were on the hand of La Corriveau. She wiped them
impatiently upon the garment of Caroline, where it left the impress of
her fingers upon the snowy muslin. No pity for her pallid victim, who
lay with open eyes looking dumbly upon her, no remorse for her act
touched the stony heart of La Corriveau.

The clock of the Château struck one. The solitary stroke of the bell
reverberated like an accusing voice through the house, but failed to
awaken one sleeper to a discovery of the black tragedy that had just
taken place under its roof.

That sound had often struck sadly upon the ear of Caroline, as she
prolonged her vigil of prayer through the still watches of the night.
Her ear was dull enough now to all earthly sound! But the toll of
the bell reached the ear of La Corriveau, rousing her to the need of
immediately effecting her escape, now that her task was done.

She sprang up and looked narrowly around the chamber. She marked with
envious malignity the luxury and magnificence of its adornments. Upon a
chair lay her own letter sent to Caroline by the hands of Mère Malheur.
La Corriveau snatched it up. It was what she sought. She tore it in
pieces and threw the fragments from her; but with a sudden thought, as
if not daring to leave even the fragments upon the floor, she gathered
them up hastily and put them in her basket with the bouquet of roses,
which she wrested from the dead fingers of Caroline in order to carry it
away and scatter the fatal flowers in the forest.

She pulled open the drawers of the escritoire to search for money, but
finding none, was too wary to carry off aught else. The temptation lay
sore upon her to carry away the ring from the finger of Caroline.
She drew it off the pale wasted finger, but a cautious consideration
restrained her. She put it on again, and would not take it.

"It would only lead to discovery!" muttered she. "I must take nothing
but myself and what belongs to me away from Beaumanoir, and the sooner
the better!"

La Corriveau, with her basket again upon her arm, turned to give one
last look of fiendish satisfaction at the corpse, which lay like a dead
angel slain in God's battle. The bright lamps were glaring full upon her
still beautiful but sightless eyes, which, wide open, looked, even in
death, reproachfully yet forgivingly upon their murderess.

Something startled La Corriveau in that look. She turned hastily away,
and, relighting her candle, passed through the dark archway of the
secret door, forgetting to close it after her, and retraced her steps
along the stone passage until she came to the watch-tower, where she
dashed out her light.

Creeping around the tower in the dim moonlight, she listened long and
anxiously at door and window to discover if all was still about the
Château. Not a sound was heard but the water of the little brook
gurgling in its pebbly bed, which seemed to be all that was awake on
this night of death.

La Corriveau emerged cautiously from the tower. She crept like a guilty
thing under the shadow of the hedge, and got away unperceived by the
same road she had come. She glided like a dark spectre through the
forest of Beaumanoir, and returned to the city to tell Angélique des
Meloises that the arms of the Intendant were now empty and ready to
clasp her as his bride; that her rival was dead, and she had put herself
under bonds forever to La Corriveau as the price of innocent blood.

La Corriveau reached the city in the gray of the morning; a thick fog
lay like a winding-sheet upon the face of nature. The broad river, the
lofty rocks, every object, great and small, was hidden from view.

To the intense satisfaction of La Corriveau, the fog concealed her
return to the house of Mère Malheur, whence, after a brief repose, and
with a command to the old crone to ask no questions yet, she sallied
forth again to carry to Angélique the welcome news that her rival was
dead.

No one observed La Corriveau as she passed, in her peasant dress,
through the misty streets, which did not admit of an object being
discerned ten paces off.

Angélique was up. She had not gone to bed that night, and sat feverishly
on the watch, expecting the arrival of La Corriveau.

She had counted the minutes of the silent hours of the night as they
passed by her in a terrible panorama. She pictured to her imagination
the successive scenes of the tragedy which was being accomplished at
Beaumanoir.

The hour of midnight culminated over her head, and looking out of her
window at the black, distant hills, in the recesses of which she knew
lay the Château, her agitation grew intense. She knew at that hour La
Corriveau must be in the presence of her victim. Would she kill her? Was
she about it now? The thought fastened on Angélique like a wild beast,
and would not let go. She thought of the Intendant, and was filled with
hope; she thought of the crime of murder and shrunk now that it was
being done.

It was in this mood she waited and watched for the return of her bloody
messenger. She heard the cautious foot on the stone steps. She knew by a
sure instinct whose it was, and rushed down to admit her.

They met at the door, and without a word spoken, one eager glance of
Angélique at the dark face of La Corriveau drank in the whole fatal
story. Caroline de St. Castin was dead! Her rival in the love of the
Intendant was beyond all power of rivalry now! The lofty doors of
ambitious hope stood open--what! to admit the queen of beauty and of
society? No! but a murderess, who would be forever haunted with the fear
of justice! It seemed at this moment as if the lights had all gone out
in the palaces and royal halls where her imagination had so long run
riot, and she saw only dark shadows, and heard inarticulate sounds of
strange voices babbling in her ear. It was the unspoken words of her own
troubled thoughts and the terrors newly awakened in her soul!

Angélique seized the hand of La Corriveau, not without a shudder. She
drew her hastily up to her chamber and thrust her into a chair. Placing
both hands upon the shoulders of La Corriveau, she looked wildly in her
face, exclaiming in a half exultant, half piteous tone, "Is it done? Is
it really done? I read it in your eyes! I know you have done the deed!
Oh, La Corriveau!"

The grim countenance of the woman relaxed into a half smile of scorn
and surprise at the unexpected weakness which she instantly noted in
Angélique's manner.

"Yes, it is done!" replied she, coldly, "and it is well done! But, by
the manna of St. Nicholas!" exclaimed she, starting from the chair and
drawing her gaunt figure up to its full height, while her black eyes
shot daggers, "you look, Mademoiselle, as if you repented its being
done. Do you?"

"Yes! No! No, not now!" replied Angélique, touched as with a hot iron.
"I will not repent now it is done! that were folly, needless, dangerous,
now it is done! But is she dead? Did you wait to see if she were really
dead? People look dead sometimes and are not! Tell me truly, and conceal
nothing!"

"La Corriveau does not her work by halves, Mademoiselle, neither do you;
only you talk of repentance after it is done, I do not! That is all the
difference! Be satisfied; the lady of Beaumanoir is dead! I made doubly
sure of that, and deserve a double reward from you!"

"Reward! You shall have all you crave! But what a secret between you and
me!" Angélique looked at La Corriveau as if this thought now struck her
for the first time. She was in this woman's power. She shivered from
head to foot. "Your reward for this night's work is here," faltered she,
placing her hand over a small box. She did not touch it, it seemed as
if it would burn her. It was heavy with pieces of gold. "They are
uncounted," continued she. "Take it, it is all yours!"

La Corriveau snatched the box off the table and held it to her bosom.
Angélique continued, in a monotonous tone, as one conning a lesson by
rote,--"Use it prudently. Do not seem to the world to be suddenly rich:
it might be inquired into. I have thought of everything during the past
night, and I remember I had to tell you that when I gave you the gold.
Use it prudently! Something else, too, I was to tell you, but I think
not of it at this moment."

"Thanks, and no thanks, Mademoiselle!" replied La Corriveau, in a hard
tone. "Thanks for the reward so fully earned. No thanks for your faint
heart that robs me of my well-earned meed of applause for a work done so
artistically and perfectly that La Brinvilliers, or La Borgia herself,
might envy me, a humble paysanne of St. Valier!"

La Corriveau looked proudly up as she said this, for she felt herself to
be anything but a humble paysanne. She nourished a secret pride in her
heart over the perfect success of her devilish skill in poisoning.

"I give you whatever praise you desire," replied Angélique,
mechanically. "But you have not told me how it was done. Sit down
again," continued she, with a touch of her imperative manner, "and tell
me all and every incident of what you have done."

"You will not like to hear it. Better be content with the knowledge that
your rival was a dangerous and a beautiful one." Angélique looked up at
this. "Better be content to know that she is dead, without asking any
more."

"No, you shall tell me everything. I cannot rest unless I know all!"

"Nor after you do know all will you rest!" replied La Corriveau
slightingly, for she despised the evident trepidation of Angélique.

"No matter! you shall tell me. I am calm now." Angélique made a great
effort to appear calm while she listened to the tale of tragedy in which
she had played so deep a part.

La Corriveau, observing that the gust of passion was blown over, sat
down in the chair opposite Angélique, and placing one hand on the knee
of her listener, as if to hold her fast, began the terrible recital.

She gave Angélique a graphic, minute, and not untrue account of all she
had done at Beaumanoir, dwelling with fierce unction on the marvellous
and sudden effects of the aqua tofana, not sparing one detail of the
beauty and innocent looks of her victim; and repeating, with a mocking
laugh, the deceit she had practised upon her with regard to the bouquet
as a gift from the Intendant.

Angélique listened to the terrible tale, drinking it in with eyes,
mouth, and ears. Her countenance changed to a mask of ugliness,
wonderful in one by nature so fair to see. Cloud followed cloud over
her face and eyes as the dread recital went on, and her imagination
accompanied it with vivid pictures of every phase of the diabolical
crime.

When La Corriveau described the presentation of the bouquet as a gift
of Bigot, and the deadly sudden effect which followed its joyous
acceptance, the thoughts of Caroline in her white robe, stricken as by
a thunderbolt, shook Angélique with terrible emotion. But when La
Corriveau, coldly and with a bitter spite at her softness, described
with a sudden gesticulation and eyes piercing her through and through,
the strokes of the poniard upon the lifeless body of her victim,
Angélique sprang up, clasped her hands together, and, with a cry of woe,
fell senseless upon the floor.

"She is useless now," said La Corriveau, rising and spurning Angélique
with her foot. "I deemed she had courage to equal her wickedness. She is
but a woman after all,--doomed to be the slave of some man through
life, while aspiring to command all men! It is not of such flesh that La
Corriveau is made!"

La Corriveau stood a few moments, reflecting what was best to be done.

All things considered, she decided to leave Angélique to come to of
herself, while she made the best of her way back to the house of Mère
Malheur, with the intention, which she carried out, of returning to St.
Valier with her infamous reward that very day.



CHAPTER XLII. "LET'S TALK OF GRAVES AND WORMS AND EPITAPHS."


About the hour that La Corriveau emerged from the gloomy woods of
Beauport, on her return to the city, the night of the murder of
Caroline, two horsemen were battering at full speed on the highway that
led to Charlebourg. Their dark figures were irrecognizable in the dim
moonlight. They rode fast and silent, like men having important business
before them, which demanded haste; business which both fully understood
and cared not now to talk about.

And so it was. Bigot and Cadet, after the exchange of a few words about
the hour of midnight, suddenly left the wine, the dice, and the gay
company at the Palace, and mounting their horses, rode, unattended by
groom or valet, in the direction of Beaumanoir.

Bigot, under the mask of gaiety and indifference, had felt no little
alarm at the tenor of the royal despatch, and at the letter of the
Marquise de Pompadour concerning Caroline de St. Castin.

The proximate arrival of Caroline's father in the Colony was a
circumstance ominous of trouble. The Baron was no trifler, and would as
soon choke a prince as a beggar, to revenge an insult to his personal
honor or the honor of his house.

Bigot cared little for that, however. The Intendant was no coward, and
could brazen a thing out with any man alive. But there was one thing
which he knew he could not brazen out or fight out, or do anything but
miserably fail in, should it come to the question. He had boldly and
wilfully lied at the Governor's council-table--sitting as the King's
councillor among gentlemen of honor--when he declared that he knew not
the hiding-place of Caroline de St. Castin. It would cover him with
eternal disgrace, as a gentleman, to be detected in such a flagrant
falsehood. It would ruin him as a courtier in the favor of the great
Marquise should she discover that, in spite of his denials of the fact,
he had harbored and concealed the missing lady in his own château.

Bigot was sorely perplexed over this turn of affairs. He uttered a
thousand curses upon all concerned in it, excepting upon Caroline
herself, for although vexed at her coming to him at all, he could not
find it in his heart to curse her. But cursing or blessing availed
nothing now. Time was pressing, and he must act.

That Caroline would be sought after in every nook and corner of the
land, he knew full well, from the character of La Corne St. Luc and of
her father. His own château would not be spared in the general search,
and he doubted if the secret chamber would remain a secret from the keen
eyes of these men. He surmised that others knew of its existence besides
himself: old servitors, and women who had passed in and out of it in
times gone by. Dame Tremblay, who did know of it, was not to be trusted
in a great temptation. She was in heart the Charming Josephine still,
and could be bribed or seduced by any one who bid high enough for her.

Bigot had no trust whatever in human nature. He felt he had no guarantee
against a discovery, farther than interest or fear barred the door
against inquiry. He could not rely for a moment upon the inviolability
of his own house. La Corne St. Luc would demand to search, and he, bound
by his declarations of non-complicity in the abduction of Caroline,
could offer no reason for refusal without arousing instant suspicion;
and La Corne was too sagacious not to fasten upon the remotest trace of
Caroline and follow it up to a complete discovery.

She could not, therefore, remain longer in the Château--this was
absolute; and he must, at whatever cost and whatever risk, remove her to
a fresh place of concealment, until the storm blew over, or some other
means of escape from the present difficulty offered themselves in the
chapter of accidents.

In accordance with this design, Bigot, under pretence of business, had
gone off the very next day after the meeting of the Governor's Council,
in the direction of the Three Rivers, to arrange with a band of
Montagnais, whom he could rely upon, for the reception of Caroline,
in the disguise of an Indian girl, with instructions to remove their
wigwams immediately and take her off with them to the wild, remote
valley of the St. Maurice.

The old Indian chief, eager to oblige the Intendant, had assented
willingly to his proposal, promising the gentlest treatment of the lady,
and a silent tongue concerning her.

Bigot was impressive in his commands upon these points, and the chief
pledged his faith upon them, delighted beyond measure by the promise of
an ample supply of powder, blankets, and provisions for his tribe, while
the Intendant added an abundance of all such delicacies as could be
forwarded, for the use and comfort of the lady.

To carry out this scheme without observation, Bigot needed the help of
a trusty friend, one whom he could thoroughly rely upon, to convey
Caroline secretly away from Beaumanoir, and place her in the keeping of
the Montagnais, as well as to see to the further execution of his wishes
for her concealment and good treatment.

Bigot had many friends,--men living on his bounty, who ought only to
have been too happy to obey his slightest wishes,--friends bound to
him by disgraceful secrets, and common interests, and pleasures. But he
could trust none of them with the secret of Caroline de St. Castin.

He felt a new and unwonted delicacy in regard to her. Her name was
dear to him, her fame even was becoming dearer. To his own surprise it
troubled him now as it had never troubled him before. He would not have
her name defiled in the mouths of such men as drank his wine daily and
nightly, and disputed the existence of any virtue in woman.

Bigot ground his teeth as he muttered to himself that they might make a
mock of whatever other women they pleased. He himself could out-do them
all in coarse ribaldry of the sex, but they should not make a mock
and flash obscene jests at the mention of Caroline de St. Castin! They
should never learn her name. He could not trust one of them with
the secret of her removal. And yet some one of them must perforce be
entrusted with it!

He conned over the names of his associates one by one, and one by one
condemned them all as unworthy of confidence in a matter where treachery
might possibly be made more profitable than fidelity. Bigot was false
himself to the heart's core, and believed in no man's truth.

He was an acute judge of men. He read their motives, their bad ones
especially, with the accuracy of a Mephistopheles, and with the same
cold contempt for every trace of virtue.

Varin was a cunning knave, he said, ambitious of the support of the
Church; communing with his aunt, the Superior of the Ursulines, whom he
deceived, and who was not without hope of himself one day rising to be
Intendant. He would place no such secret in the keeping of Varin!

Penisault was a sordid dog. He would cheat the Montagnais of his gifts,
and so discontent them with their charge. He had neither courage nor
spirit for an adventure. He was in his right place superintending the
counters of the Friponne. He despised Penisault, while glad to use him
in the basest offices of the Grand Company.

Le Mercier was a pickthank, angling after the favor of La Pompadour,--a
pretentious knave, as hollow as one of his own mortars. He suspected him
of being a spy of hers upon himself. Le Mercier would be only too glad
to send La Pompadour red-hot information of such an important secret as
that of Caroline, and she would reward it as good service to the King
and to herself.

Deschenaux was incapable of keeping a secret of any kind when he got
drunk, or in a passion, which was every day. His rapacity reached to the
very altar. He would rob a church, and was one who would rather take
by force than favor. He would strike a Montagnais who would ask for
a blanket more than he had cheated him with. He would not trust
Deschenaux.

De Pean, the quiet fox, was wanted to look after that desperate gallant,
Le Gardeur de Repentigny, who was still in the Palace, and must be kept
there by all the seductions of wine, dice, and women, until we have done
with him. De Pean was the meanest spirit of them all. "He would kiss my
foot in the morning and sell me at night for a handful of silver," said
Bigot. Villains, every one of them, who would not scruple to advance
their own interests with La Pompadour by his betrayal in telling her
such a secret as that of Caroline's.

De Repentigny had honor and truth in him, and could be entirely trusted
if he promised to serve a friend. But Bigot dared not name to him a
matter of this kind. He would spurn it, drunk as he was. He was still
in all his instincts a gentleman and a soldier. He could only be used
by Bigot through an abuse of his noblest qualities. He dared not broach
such a scheme to Le Gardeur de Repentigny!

Among his associates there was but one who, in spite of his brutal
manners and coarse speech, perhaps because of these, Bigot would trust
as a friend, to help him in a serious emergency like the present.

Cadet, the Commissary General of New France, was faithful to Bigot as a
fierce bull-dog to his master. Cadet was no hypocrite, nay, he may have
appeared to be worse than in reality he was. He was bold and outspoken,
rapacious of other men's goods, and as prodigal of his own. Clever
withal, fearless, and fit for any bold enterprise. He ever allowed
himself to be guided by the superior intellect of Bigot, whom he
regarded as the prince of good fellows, and swore by him, profanely
enough, on all occasions, as the shrewdest head and the quickest hand to
turn over money in New France.

Bigot could trust Cadet. He had only to whisper a few words in his ear
to see him jump up from the table where he was playing cards, dash his
stakes with a sweep of his hand into the lap of his antagonist, a gift
or a forfeit, he cared not which, for not finishing the game. In three
minutes Cadet was booted, with his heavy riding-whip in his hand ready
to mount his horse and accompany Bigot "to Beaumanoir or to hell," he
said, "if he wanted to go there."

In the short space of time, while the grooms saddled their horses, Bigot
drew Cadet aside and explained to him the situation of his affairs,
informing him, in a few words, who the lady was who lived in such
retirement in the Château, and of his denial of the fact before the
Council and Governor. He told him of the letters of the King and of La
Pompadour respecting Caroline, and of the necessity of removing her at
once far out of reach before the actual search for her was begun.

Cadet's cynical eyes flashed in genuine sympathy with Bigot, and he
laid his heavy hand upon his shoulder and uttered a frank exclamation of
admiration at his ruse to cheat La Pompadour and La Galissonière both.

"By St. Picot!" said he, "I would rather go without dinner for a month
than you should not have asked me, Bigot, to help you out of this
scrape. What if you did lie to that fly-catching beggar at the Castle
of St. Louis, who has not conscience to take a dishonest stiver from a
cheating Albany Dutchman! Where was the harm in it? Better lie to him
than tell the truth to La Pompadour about that girl! Egad! Madame Fish
would serve you as the Iroquois served my fat clerk at Chouagen--make
roast meat of you--if she knew it! Such a pother about a girl! Damn the
women, always, I say, Bigot! A man is never out of hot water when he has
to do with them!"

Striking Bigot's hand hard with his own, he promised; wet or dry,
through flood or fire, to ride with him to Beaumanoir, and take the
girl, or lady,--he begged the Intendant's pardon,--and by such ways
as he alone knew he would, in two days, place her safely among the
Montagnais, and order them at once, without an hour's delay, to pull up
stakes and remove their wigwams to the tuque of the St. Maurice, where
Satan himself could not find her. And the girl might remain there for
seven years without ever being heard tell of by any white person in the
Colony.

Bigot and Cadet rode rapidly forward until they came to the dark forest,
where the faint outline of road, barely visible, would have perplexed
Bigot to have kept it alone in the night. But Cadet was born in
Charlebourg; he knew every path, glade, and dingle in the forest of
Beaumanoir, and rode on without drawing bridle.

Bigot, in his fiery eagerness, had hitherto ridden foremost. Cadet now
led the way, dashing under the boughs of the great trees that overhung
the road. The tramp of their horses woke the echoes of the woods. But
they were not long in reaching the park of Beaumanoir.

They saw before them the tall chimney-stacks and the high roofs and
the white walls of the Château, looking spectral enough in the wan
moonlight,--ghostly, silent, and ominous. One light only was visible in
the porter's lodge; all else was dark, cold, and sepulchral.

The watchful old porter at the gate was instantly on foot to see who
came at that hour, and was surprised enough at sight of his master and
the Sieur Cadet, without retinue or even a groom to accompany them.

They dismounted and tied their horses outside the gate. "Run to the
Château, Marcele, without making the least noise," said Bigot. "Call
none of the servants, but rap gently at the door of Dame Tremblay. Bid
her rise instantly, without waking any one. Say the Intendant desires to
see her. I expect guests from the city."

The porter returned with the information that Dame Tremblay had got up
and was ready to receive his Excellency.

Bidding old Marcele take care of the horses, they walked across the
lawn to the Château, at the door of which stood Dame Tremblay, hastily
dressed, courtesying and trembling at this sudden summons to receive the
Intendant and Sieur Cadet.

"Good night, dame!" said Bigot, in a low tone, "conduct us instantly to
the grand gallery."

"Oh, your Excellency!" replied the dame, courtesying, "I am your humble
servant at all times, day and night, as it is my duty and my pleasure to
serve my master!"

"Well, then!" returned Bigot, impatiently, "let us go in and make no
noise."

The three, Dame Tremblay leading the way with a candle in each hand,
passed up the broad stair and into the gallery communicating with the
apartments of Caroline. The dame set her candles on the table and stood
with her hands across her apron in a submissive attitude, waiting the
orders of her master.

"Dame!" said he, "I think you are a faithful servant. I have trusted you
with much. Can I trust you with a greater matter still?"

"Oh, your Excellency! I would die to serve so noble and generous a
master! It is a servant's duty!"

"Few servants think so, nor do I! But you have been faithful to your
charge respecting this poor lady within, have you not, dame?" Bigot
looked as if his eyes searched her very vitals.

"O Lord! O Lord!" thought the dame, turning pale. "He has heard about
the visit of that cursed Mère Malheur, and he has come to hang me up for
it in the gallery!" She stammered out in reply, "Oh, yes! I have been
faithful to my charge about the lady, your Excellency! I have not failed
wilfully or negligently in any one point, I assure you! I have been at
once careful and kind to her, as you bade me to be, your Excellency.
Indeed, I could not be otherwise to a live angel in the house like her!"

"So I believe, dame!" said Bigot, in a tone of approval that quite
lifted her heart. This spontaneous praise of Caroline touched him
somewhat. "You have done well! Now can you keep another secret, dame?"

"A secret! and entrusted to me by your Excellency!" replied she, in a
voice of wonder at such a question. "The marble statue in the grotto is
not closer than I am, your Excellency. I was always too fond of a secret
ever to part with it! When I was the Charming Josephine of Lake Beauport
I never told, even in confession, who they were who--"

"Tut! I will trust you, dame, better than I would have trusted the
Charming Josephine! If all tales be true, you were a gay girl, dame, and
a handsome one in those days, I have heard!" added the Intendant, with
well-planned flattery.

A smile and a look of intelligence between the dame and Bigot followed
this sally, while Cadet had much to do to keep in one of the hearty
horse-laughs he used to indulge in, and which would have roused the
whole Château.

The flattery of the Intendant quite captivated the dame. "I will go
through fire and water to serve your Excellency, if you want me," said
she. "What shall I do to oblige your Excellency?"

"Well, dame, you must know then that the Sieur Cadet and I have come
to remove that dear lady from the Château to another place, where it is
needful for her to go for the present time; and if you are questioned
about her, mind you are to say she never was here, and you know nothing
of her!"

"I will not only say it," replied the dame with promptness, "I
will swear it until I am black in the face if you command me, your
Excellency! Poor, dear lady! may I not ask where she is going?"

"No, she will be all right! I will tell you in due time. It is needful
for people to change sometimes, you know, dame! You comprehend that! You
had to manage matters discreetly when you were the Charming Josephine. I
dare say you had to change, too, sometimes! Every woman has an intrigue
once, at least, in her lifetime, and wants a change. But this lady is
not clever like the Charming Josephine, therefore we have to be clever
for her!"

The dame laughed prudently yet knowingly at this, while Bigot
continued, "Now you understand all! Go to her chamber, dame. Present our
compliments with our regrets for disturbing her at this hour. Tell her
that the Intendant and the Sieur Cadet desire to see her on important
business."

Dame Tremblay, with a broad smile all over her countenance at her
master's jocular allusions to the Charming Josephine, left at once to
carry her message to the chamber of Caroline.

She passed out, while the two gentlemen waited in the gallery, Bigot
anxious but not doubtful of his influence to persuade the gentle girl to
leave the Château, Cadet coolly resolved that she must go, whether she
liked it or no. He would banish every woman in New France to the tuque
of the St. Maurice had he the power, in order to rid himself and Bigot
of the eternal mischief and trouble of them!

Neither Bigot nor Cadet spoke for some minutes after the departure of
the dame. They listened to her footsteps as the sound of them died away
in the distant rooms, where one door opened after another as she passed
on to the secret chamber.

"She is now at the door of Caroline!" thought Bigot, as his imagination
followed Dame Tremblay on her errand. "She is now speaking to her. I
know Caroline will make no delay to admit us." Cadet on his side was
very quiet and careless of aught save to take the girl and get her
safely away before daybreak.

A few moments of heavy silence and expectation passed over them. The
howl of a distant watch-dog was heard, and all was again still. The low,
monotonous ticking of the great clock at the head of the gallery
made the silence still more oppressive. It seemed to be measuring off
eternity, not time.

The hour, the circumstance, the brooding stillness, waited for a cry of
murder to ring through the Château, waking its sleepers and bidding them
come and see the fearful tragedy that lay in the secret chamber.

But no cry came. Fortunately for Bigot it did not! The discovery of
Caroline de St. Castin under such circumstances would have closed his
career in New France, and ruined him forever in the favor of the Court.

Dame Tremblay returned to her master and Cadet with the information
"that the lady was not in her bedchamber, but had gone down, as was her
wont, in the still hours of the night, to pray in her oratory in the
secret chamber, where she wished never to be disturbed.

"Well, dame," replied Bigot, "you may retire to your own room. I will
go down to the secret chamber myself. These vigils are killing her, poor
girl! If your lady should be missing in the morning, remember, dame,
that you make no remark of it; she is going away to-night with me and
the Sieur Cadet and will return soon again; so be discreet and keep your
tongue well between your teeth, which, I am glad to observe," remarked
he with a smile, "are still sound and white as ivory."

Bigot wished by such flattery to secure her fidelity, and he fully
succeeded. The compliment to her teeth was more agreeable than would
have been a purse of money. It caught the dame with a hook there was no
escape from.

Dame Tremblay courtesied very low, and smiled very broadly to show her
really good teeth, of which she was extravagantly vain. She assured the
Intendant of her perfect discretion and obedience to all his commands.

"Trust to me, your Excellency," said she with a profound courtesy. "I
never deceived a gentleman yet, except the Sieur Tremblay, and he,
good man, was none! When I was the Charming Josephine, and all the gay
gallants of the city used to flatter and spoil me, I never deceived one
of them, never! I knew that all is vanity in this world, but my eyes and
teeth were considered very fine in those days, your Excellency."

"And are yet, dame. Zounds! Lake Beauport has had nothing to equal them
since you retired from business as a beauty. But mind my orders, dame!
keep quiet and you will please me. Good-night, dame!"

"Good-night, your Excellency! Good-night, your Honor!" replied she,
flushed with gratified vanity. She left Bigot vowing to herself that he
was the finest gentleman and the best judge of a woman in New France!
The Sieur Cadet she could not like. He never looked pleasant on a woman,
as a gentleman ought to do!

The dame left them to themselves, and went off trippingly in high
spirits to her own chamber, where she instantly ran to the mirror to
look at her teeth, and made faces in the glass like a foolish girl in
her teens.

Bigot, out of a feeling of delicacy not usual with him, bid Cadet wait
in the anteroom while he went forward to the secret chamber of Caroline.
"The sudden presence of a stranger might alarm her," he said.

He descended the stair and knocked softly at the door, calling in a low
tone, "Caroline! Caroline!" No answer came. He wondered at that, for her
quick ear used always to catch the first sound of his footsteps while
yet afar off.

He knocked louder, and called again her name. Alas! he might have called
forever! That voice would never make her heart flutter again or her eyes
brighten at his footstep, that sounded sweeter than any music as she
waited and watched for him, always ready to meet him at the door.

Bigot anticipated something wrong, and with a hasty hand pushed open
the door of the secret chamber and went in. A blaze of light filled
his eyes. A white form lay upon the floor. He saw it and he saw nothing
else! She lay there with her unclosed eyes looking as the dead only
look at the living. One hand was pressed to her bosom, the other was
stretched out, holding the broken stem and a few green leaves of the
fatal bouquet which La Corriveau had not wholly plucked from her grasp.

Bigot stood for a moment stricken dumb and transfixed with horror, then
sprang forward and knelt over her with a cry of agony. He thought she
might have fallen in a swoon. He touched her pale forehead, her lips,
her hands. He felt her heart, it did not beat; he lifted her head to his
bosom, it fell like the flower of a lily broken on its stem, and he knew
she was dead. He saw the red streaks of blood on her snowy robe, and he
knew she was murdered.

A long cry like the wail of a man in torture burst from him. It woke
more than one sleeper in the distant chambers of the Château, making
them start upon their pillows to listen for another cry, but none came.
Bigot was a man of iron; he retained self-possession enough to recollect
the danger of rousing the house.

He smothered his cries in suffocating sobs, but they reached the ear of
Cadet, who, foreboding some terrible catastrophe, rushed into the room
where the secret door stood open. The light glared up the stair. He ran
down and saw the Intendant on his knees, holding in his arms the half
raised form of a woman which he kissed and called by name like a man
distraught with grief and despair.

Cadet's coarse and immovable nature stood him in good stead at this
moment. He saw at a glance what had happened. The girl they had come
to bear away was dead! How? He knew not; but the Intendant must not be
suffered to make an alarm. There was danger of discovery on all sides
now, and the necessity of concealment was a thousand times greater than
ever. There was no time to question, but instant help was needed.
In amaze at the spectacle before him, Cadet instantly flew to the
assistance of the Intendant.

He approached Bigot without speaking a word, although his great eyes
expressed a look of sympathy never seen there before. He disengaged the
dead form of Caroline tenderly from the embrace of Bigot, and laid it
gently upon the floor, and lifting Bigot up in his stout arms, whispered
hoarsely in his ear, "Keep still, Bigot! keep still! not one word! make
no alarm! This is a dreadful business, but we must go to another room to
consider calmly, calmly, mind, what it means and what is to be done."

"Oh, Cadet! Cadet!" moaned the Intendant, still resting on his shoulder,
"she is dead! dead! when I just wanted her to live! I have been hard
with women, but if there was one I loved it was she who lies dead before
me! Who, who has done this bloody deed to me?"

"Who has done it to her, you mean! You are not killed yet, old friend,
but will live to revenge this horrid business!" answered Cadet with
rough sympathy.

"I would give my life to restore hers!" replied Bigot despairingly. "Oh,
Cadet, you never knew what was in my heart about this girl, and how I
had resolved to make her reparation for the evil I had done her!"

"Well, I can guess what was in your heart, Bigot. Come, old friend, you
are getting more calm, you can walk now. Let us go upstairs to consider
what is to be done about it. Damn the women! They are man's torment
whether alive or dead!"

Bigot was too much absorbed in his own tumultuous feelings to notice
Cadet's remark. He allowed himself to be led without resistance to
another room, out of sight of the murdered girl, in whose presence Cadet
knew calm council was impossible.

Cadet seated Bigot on a couch and, sitting beside him, bade him be a man
and not a fool. He tried to rouse Bigot by irritating him, thinking, in
his coarse way, that that was better than to be maudlin over him, as he
considered it, with vain expressions of sympathy.

"I would not give way so," said he, "for all the women in and out of
Paradise! and you are a man, Bigot! Remember you have brought me here,
and you have to take me safely back again, out of this den of murder."

"Yes, Cadet," replied Bigot, rousing himself up at the sharp tone of his
friend. "I must think of your safety; I care little for my own at this
moment. Think for me."

"Well, then, I will think for you, and I think this, Bigot, that if the
Governor finds out this assassination, done in your house, and that you
and I have been here at this hour of night with the murdered girl, by
God! he will say we have alone done it, and the world will believe it!
So rouse up, I for one do not want to be taxed with the murder of a
woman, and still less to be hung innocently for the death of one. I
would not risk my little finger for all the women alive, let alone my
neck for a dead one!"

The suggestion was like a sharp probe in his flesh. It touched Bigot
to the quick. He started up on his feet. "You are right, Cadet, it only
wants that accusation to make me go mad! But my head is not my own yet!
I can think of nothing but her lying there, dead in her loveliness and
in her love! Tell me what to do, and I will do it."

"Ay, now you talk reasonably. Now you are coming to yourself, Bigot. We
came to remove her alive from here, did we not? We must now remove her
dead. She cannot remain where she is at the risk of certain discovery
to-morrow."

"No, the secret chamber would not hide such a secret as that," replied
Bigot, recovering his self-possession. "But how to remove her? We cannot
carry her forth without discovery." Bigot's practical intellect was
waking up to the danger of leaving the murdered girl in the Château.

Cadet rose and paced the room with rapid strides, rubbing his forehead,
and twitching his mustache violently. "I will tell you what we have got
to do, Bigot! Par Dieu! we must bury her where she is, down there in the
vaulted chamber."

"What, bury her?" Bigot looked at him with intense surprise.

"Yes, we must bury her in that very chamber, Bigot. We must cover up
somebody's damnable work to avert suspicion from ourselves! A pretty
task for you and me, Bigot! Par Dieu! I could laugh like a horse, if I
were not afraid of being overheard."

"But who is to dig a grave for her? surely not you or I," replied Bigot
with a look of dismay.

"Yes, gentlemen as we are, you and I must do it, Bigot. Zounds! I
learned to dig and delve when I was a stripling at Charlebourg, and in
the trenches at Louisbourg, and I have not yet forgotten the knack of
it! But where to get spades, Bigot; you are master here and ought to
know."

"I, how should I know? It is terrible, Cadet, to bury her as if we had
murdered her! Is there no other way?"

"None. We are in a cahot and must get our cariole out of it as best we
can! I see plainly we two shall be taxed with this murder, Bigot, if we
let it be discovered! Besides, utter ruin awaits you from La Pompadour
if she finds out you ever had this girl at Beaumanoir in keeping. Come!
time for parley is past; where shall we find spades? We must to work,
Bigot!"

A sudden thought lighted up the eyes of the Intendant, who saw the
force of Cadet's suggestion, strange and repulsive as it was. "I think I
know," said he; "the gardeners keep their tools in the old tower, and we
can get there by the secret passage and return."

"Bravo!" exclaimed Cadet, encouragingly, "come, show the way, and we
will get the tools in a trice! I always heard there was a private way
underground to the old tower. It never stood its master in better stead
than now; perhaps never worse if it has let in the murderer of this poor
girl of yours."

Bigot rose up, very faint and weak; Cadet took his arm to support him,
and bidding him be firm and not give way again at sight of her dead
body, led him back to the chamber of death. "Let us first look around
a moment," said he, "to find, if possible, some trace of the hellish
assassins."

The lamps burned brightly, shedding a glare of light over every object
in the secret chamber.

Cadet looked narrowly round, but found little trace of the murderers.
The drawers of the escritoire stood open, with their contents in great
disorder, a circumstance which at once suggested robbers. Cadet pointed
it out to Bigot with the question:

"Kept she much money, Bigot?"

"None that I know of. She asked for none, poor girl! I gave her none,
though I would have given her the King's treasury had she wished for
it."

"But she might have had money when she came, Bigot," continued Cadet,
not doubting but robbery had been the motive for the murder.

"It may be, I never questioned her," replied Bigot; "she never spoke of
money; alas! all the money in the world was as dross in her estimation.
Other things than money occupied her pure thoughts."

"Well, it looks like robbers: they have ransacked the drawers and
carried off all she had, were it much or little," remarked Cadet, still
continuing his search.

"But why kill her? Oh, Cadet, why kill the gentle girl, who would have
given every jewel in her possession for the bare asking?"

"Nay, I cannot guess," said Cadet. "It looks like robbers, but the
mystery is beyond my wit to explain. What are you doing, Bigot?"

Bigot had knelt down by the side of Caroline; he lifted her hand first
to his lips, then towards Cadet, to show him the stalk of a rose from
which the flower had been broken, and which she held with a grip so hard
that it could not be loosened from her dead fingers.

The two men looked long and earnestly at it, but failed to make a
conjecture even why the flower had been plucked from that broken stalk
and carried away, for it was not to be seen in the room.

The fragment of a letter lay under a chair. It was a part of that which
La Corriveau had torn up and missed to gather up again with the rest.
Cadet picked it up and thrust it into his pocket.

The blood streaks upon her white robe and the visible stabs of a fine
poniard riveted their attention. That that was the cause of her death
they doubted not, but the mute eloquence of her wounds spoke only to the
heat. It gave no explanation to the intellect. The whole tragedy seemed
wrapped in inexplicable mystery.

"They have covered their track up well!" remarked Cadet. "Hey! but what
have we here?" Bigot started up at the exclamation. The door of the
secret passage stood open. La Corriveau had not closed it after her when
making her escape. "Here is where the assassins have found entrance and
exit! Egad! More people know the secret of your Château than you think,
Bigot!"

They sprang forward, and each seizing a lamp, the two men rushed into
the narrow passage. It was dark and still as the catacombs. No trace of
anything to the purpose could they perceive in the vaulted subterranean
way to the turret.

They speedily came to the other end; the secret door there stood open
also. They ascended the stairs in the tower, but could see no trace of
the murderers. "It is useless to search further for them at this time,"
remarked Cadet, "perhaps not safe at any time, but I would give my best
horse to lay hands on the assassins at this moment."

Gardeners' tools lay around the room. "Here," exclaimed Cadet, "is what
is equally germane to the matter, and we have no time to lose."

He seized a couple of spades and a bar of iron, and bidding Bigot go
before him with the lights, they returned to the chamber of death.

"Now for work! This sad business must be done well, and done quickly!"
exclaimed Cadet. "You shall see that I have not forgotten how to dig,
Bigot!"

Cadet threw off his coat, and setting to work, pulled up the thick
carpet from one side of the chamber. The floor was covered with broad,
smooth flags, one of which he attacked with the iron bar, raised the
flagstone and turned it over; another easily followed, and very soon a
space in the dry brown earth was exposed, large enough to make a grave.

Bigot looked at him in a sort of dream. "I cannot do it, Cadet! I cannot
dig her grave!" and he threw down the spade which he had taken feebly in
his hand.

"No matter, Bigot! I will do it! Indeed, you would only be in my way.
Sit down while I dig, old friend. Par Dieu! this is nice work for the
Commissary General of New France, with the Royal Intendant overseeing
him!"

Bigot sat down and looked forlornly on while Cadet with the arms of a
Hercules dug and dug, throwing out the earth without stopping for the
space of a quarter of an hour, until he had made a grave large and deep
enough to contain the body of the hapless girl.

"That will do!" cried he, leaping out of the pit. "Our funeral
arrangements must be of the briefest, Bigot! So come help me to shroud
this poor girl."

Cadet found a sheet of linen and some fine blankets upon a couch in the
secret chamber. He spread them out upon the floor, and motioned to Bigot
without speaking. The two men lifted Caroline tenderly and reverently
upon the sheet. They gazed at her for a minute in solemn silence, before
shrouding her fair face and slender form in their last winding-sheet.
Bigot was overpowered with his feelings, yet strove to master them, as
he gulped down the rising in his throat which at times almost strangled
him.

Cadet, eager to get his painful task over, took from the slender finger
of Caroline a ring, a love-gift of Bigot, and from her neck a golden
locket containing his portrait and a lock of his hair. A rosary hung at
her waist; this Cadet also detached, as a precious relic to be given
to the Intendant by and by. There was one thread of silk woven into the
coarse hempen nature of Cadet.

Bigot stooped down and gave her pale lips and eyes, which he had
tenderly closed, a last despairing kiss, before veiling her face with
the winding-sheet as she lay, white as a snow-drift, and as cold. They
wrapped her softly in the blankets, and without a word spoken, lowered
the still, lissom body into its rude grave.

The awful silence was only broken by the spasmodic sobs of Bigot as he
leaned over the grave to look his last upon the form of the fair girl
whom he had betrayed and brought to this untimely end. "Mea culpa! Mea
maxima culpa!" said he, beating his breast. "Oh, Cadet, we are burying
her like a dog! I cannot, I cannot do it!"

The Intendant's feelings overcame him again, and he rushed from the
chamber, while Cadet, glad of his absence for a few moments, hastily
filled up the grave and, replacing with much care the stone slabs
over it, swept the debris into the passage and spread the carpet
again smoothly over the floor. Every trace of the dreadful deed was
obliterated in the chamber of murder.

Cadet, acutely thinking of everything at this supreme moment, would
leave no ground of suspicion for Dame Tremblay when she came in the
morning to visit the chamber. She should think that her lady had gone
away with her master as mysteriously as she had come, and no further
inquiry would be made after her. In this Cadet was right.

It was necessary for Cadet and Bigot now to depart by the secret passage
to the tower. The deep-toned bell of the château struck three.

"We must now be gone, Bigot, and instantly," exclaimed Cadet. "Our night
work is done! Let us see what day will bring forth! You must see to
it to-morrow, Bigot, that no man or woman alive ever again enter this
accursed chamber of death!"

Cadet fastened the secret door of the stair, and gathering up his spades
and bar of iron, left the chamber with Bigot, who was passive as a child
in his hands. The Intendant turned round and gave one last sorrowful
look at the now darkened room as they left it. Cadet and he made their
way back to the tower. They sallied out into the open air, which blew
fresh and reviving upon their fevered faces after escaping from the
stifling atmosphere below.

They proceeded at once towards their horses and mounted them, but Bigot
felt deadly faint and halted under a tree while Cadet rode back to the
porter's lodge and roused up old Marcele to give him some brandy, if he
had any, "as of course he had," said Cadet. Brandy was a gate-porter's
inside livery, the lining of his laced coat which he always wore. Cadet
assumed a levity which he did not really feel.

Marcele fortunately could oblige the Sieur Cadet. "He did line his
livery a little, but lightly, as his Honor would see!" said he, bringing
out a bottle of cognac and a drinking-cup.

"It is to keep us from catching cold!" continued Cadet in his peculiar
way. "Is it good?" He placed the bottle to his lips and tasted it.

Marcele assured him it was good as gold.

"Right!" said Cadet, throwing Marcele a louis d'or. "I will take the
bottle to the Intendant to keep him from catching cold too! Mind,
Marcele, you keep your tongue still, or else--!" Cadet held up his whip,
and bidding the porter "good-night!" rejoined Bigot.

Cadet had a crafty design in this proceeding. He wanted not to tell
Marcele that a lady was accompanying them; also not to let him perceive
that they left Beaumanoir without one. He feared that the old porter and
Dame Tremblay might possibly compare notes together, and the housekeeper
discover that Caroline had not left Beaumanoir with the Intendant.

Bigot sat faint and listless in his saddle when Cadet poured out a large
cupful of brandy and offered it to him. He drank it eagerly. Cadet then
filled and gulped down a large cupful himself, then gave another to the
Intendant, and poured another and another for himself until, he said,
he "began to feel warm and comfortable, and got the damnable taste of
grave-digging out of his mouth!"

The heavy draught which Cadet forced the Intendant to take relieved him
somewhat, but he groaned inwardly and would not speak. Cadet respected
his mood, only bidding him ride fast. They spurred their horses, and
rode swiftly, unobserved by any one, until they entered the gates of the
Palace of the Intendant.

The arrival of the Intendant or the Sieur Cadet at the Palace at any
untimely hour of the night excited no remark whatever, for it was the
rule, rather than the exception with them both.

Dame Tremblay was not surprised next morning to find the chamber empty
and the lady gone.

She shook her head sadly. "He is a wild gallant, is my master! No wilder
ever came to Lake Beauport when I was the Charming Josephine and all the
world ran after me. But I can keep a secret, and I will! This secret I
must keep at any rate, by the Intendant's order, and I would rather
die than be railed at by that fierce Sieur Cadet! I will keep the
Intendant's secret safe as my teeth, which he praised so handsomely and
so justly!"

The fact that Caroline never returned to the Château, and that the
search for her was so long and so vainly carried on by La Corne St. Luc
and the Baron de St. Castin, caused the dame to suspect at last that
some foul play had been perpetrated, but she dared not speak openly.

The old woman's suspicions grew with age into certainties, when at
last she chanced to talk with her old fellow servant, Marcele, the
gatekeeper, and learned from him that Bigot and Cadet had left the
Château alone on that fatal night. Dame Tremblay was more perplexed
than ever. She talked, she knew not what, but her talk passed into the
traditions of the habitans.

It became the popular belief that a beautiful woman, the mistress of the
powerful Intendant Bigot, had been murdered and buried in the Château of
Beaumanoir.



CHAPTER XLIII. SILK GLOVES OVER BLOODY HANDS.


It was long before Angélique came to herself from the swoon in which she
had been left lying on the floor by La Corriveau. Fortunately for her it
was without discovery. None of the servants happened to come to her
room during its continuance, else a weakness so strange to her usual
hardihood would have become the city's talk before night, and set all
its idle tongues conjecturing or inventing a reason for it. It would
have reached the ears of Bigot, as every spray of gossip did, and set
him thinking, too, more savagely than he was yet doing, as to the causes
and occasions of the murder of Caroline.

All the way back to the Palace, Bigot had scarcely spoken a word to
Cadet. His mind was in a tumult of the wildest conjectures, and his
thoughts ran to and fro like hounds in a thick brake darting in every
direction to find the scent of the game they were in search of. When
they reached the Palace, Bigot, without speaking to any one, passed
through the anterooms to his own apartment, and threw himself, dressed
and booted as he was, upon a couch, where he lay like a man stricken
down by a mace from some unseen hand.

Cadet had coarser ways of relieving himself from the late unusual strain
upon his rough feelings. He went down to the billiard-room, and joining
recklessly in the game that was still kept up by De Pean, Le Gardeur,
and a number of wild associates, strove to drown all recollections of
the past night at Beaumanoir by drinking and gambling with more than
usual violence until far on in the day.

Bigot neither slept nor wished to sleep. The image of the murdered
girl lying in her rude grave was ever before him, with a vividness so
terrible that it seemed he could never sleep again. His thoughts ran
round and round like a mill-wheel, without advancing a step towards a
solution of the mystery of her death.

He summoned up his recollections of every man and woman he knew in the
Colony, and asked himself regarding each one, the question, "Is it he
who has done this? Is it she who has prompted it? And who could have had
a motive, and who not, to perpetrate such a bloody deed?"

One image came again and again before his mind's eye as he reviewed the
list of his friends and enemies. The figure of Angélique appeared and
reappeared, intruding itself between every third or fourth personage
which his memory called up, until his thoughts fixed upon her with the
maddening inquiry, "Could Angélique des Meloises have been guilty of
this terrible deed?"

He remembered her passionate denunciation of the lady of Beaumanoir,
her fierce demand for her banishment by a lettre de cachet. He knew her
ambition and recklessness, but still, versed as he was in all the ways
of wickedness, and knowing the inexorable bitterness of envy, and the
cruelty of jealousy in the female breast,--at least in such women as he
had for the most part had experience of,--Bigot could hardly admit the
thought that one so fair as Angélique, one who held him in a golden net
of fascination, and to whom he had been more than once on the point of
yielding, could have committed so great a crime.

He struggled with his thoughts like a man amid tossing waves, groping
about in the dark for a plank to float upon, but could find none. Still,
in spite of himself, in spite of his violent asseverations that "it was
IMPOSSIBLE;" in spite of Cadet's plausible theory of robbers,--which
Bigot at first seized upon as the likeliest explanation of the
mystery,--the thought of Angélique ever returned back upon him like a
fresh accusation.

He could not accuse her yet, though something told him he might have to
do so at last. He grew angry at the ever-recurring thought of her, and
turning his face to the wall, like a man trying to shut out the light,
resolved to force disbelief in her guilt until clearer testimony than
his own suspicions should convict her of the death of Caroline. And
yet in his secret soul he dreaded a discovery that might turn out as he
feared. But he pushed the black thoughts aside; he would wait and watch
for what he feared to find.

The fact of Caroline's concealment at Beaumanoir, and her murder at the
very moment when the search was about to be made for her, placed Bigot
in the cruelest dilemma. Whatever his suspicions might be, he dared not,
by word or sign, avow any knowledge of Caroline's presence, still less
of her mysterious murder, in his Château. Her grave had been dug; she
had been secretly buried out of human sight, and he was under bonds as
for his very life never to let the dreadful mystery be discovered.

So Bigot lay on his couch, for once a weak and frightened man,
registering vain vows of vengeance against persons unknown, vows which
he knew at the moment were empty as bubbles, because he dared not move
hand or foot in the matter to carry them out, or make open accusation
against any one of the foul crime. What thoughts came to Bigot's subtle
mind were best known to himself, but something was suggested by the
mocking devil who was never far from him, and he caught and held fast
the wicked suggestion with a bitter laugh. He then grew suddenly still
and said to himself, "I will sleep on it!" and pillowing his head
quietly, not in sleep, but in thoughts deeper than sleep, he lay till
day.

Angélique, who had never in her life swooned before, felt, when she
awoke, like one returning to life from death. She opened her eyes
wondering where she was, and half remembering the things she had
heard as things she had seen, looked anxiously around the room for
La Corriveau. She rose up with a start when she saw she was gone, for
Angélique recollected suddenly that La Corriveau now held the terrible
secret which concerned her life and peace for evermore.

The thing she had so long wished for, and prayed for, was at last done!
Her rival was out of the way! But she also felt that if the murder was
discovered her own life was forfeit to the law, and the secret was in
the keeping of the vilest of women.

A mountain, not of remorse, but of apprehension, overwhelmed her for
a time. But Angélique's mind was too intensely selfish, hard, and
superficial, to give way to the remorse of a deeper nature.

She was angry at her own cowardice, but she feared the suspicions of
Bigot. There was ever something in his dark nature which she could not
fathom, and deep and crafty as she knew herself to be, she feared that
he was more deep and more crafty than herself.

What if he should discover her hand in this bloody business? The thought
drove her frantic, until she fancied she repented of the deed.

Had it brought a certainty, this crime, then--why, then--she had found
a compensation for the risk she was running, for the pain she was
enduring, which she tried to believe was regret and pity for her victim.
Her anxiety redoubled when it occurred to her that Bigot, remembering
her passionate appeals to him for the removal of Caroline, might suspect
her of the murder as the one alone having a palpable interest in it.

"But Bigot shall never believe it even if he suspect it!" exclaimed she
at last, shaking off her fears. "I have made fools of many men for my
pleasure, I can surely blind one for my safety; and, after all, whose
fault is it but Bigot's? He would not grant me the lettre de cachet nor
keep his promise for her removal. He even gave me her life! But he lied;
he did not mean it. He loved her too well, and meant to deceive me and
marry her, and I have deceived him and shall marry him, that is all!"
and Angélique laughed a hysterical laugh, such as Dives in his torments
may sometimes give way to.

"La Corriveau has betrayed her trust in one terrible point," continued
she, "she promised a death so easy that all men would say the lady of
Beaumanoir died of heartbreak only, or by God's visitation! A natural
death! The foul witch has used her stiletto and made a murder of that
which, without it, had been none! Bigot will know it, must know it even
if he dare not reveal it! for how in the name of all the saints is it to
be concealed?

"But, my God! this will never do!" continued she, starting up, "I look
like very guilt!" She stared fiercely in the mirror at her hollow eyes,
pale cheeks, and white lips. She scarcely recognized herself. Her bloom
and brightness had vanished for the time.

"What if I have inhaled some of the poisoned odor of those cursed
roses?" thought she, shuddering at the supposition; but she reassured
herself that it could not be. "Still, my looks condemn me! The pale face
of that dead girl is looking at me out of mine! Bigot, if he sees me,
will not fail to read the secret in my looks."

She glanced at the clock: the morning was far advanced towards noon;
visitors might soon arrive, Bigot himself might come, she dare not deny
herself to him. She would deny herself to no one to-day! She would go
everywhere and see everybody, and show the world, if talk of it should
arise, that she was wholly innocent of that girl's blood.

She would wear her brightest looks, her gayest robe, her hat and
feathers, the newest from Paris. She would ride out into the city,--go
to the Cathedral,--show herself to all her friends, and make every one
say or think that Angélique des Meloises had not a care or trouble in
the world.

She rang for Fanchon, impatient to commence her toilet, for when dressed
she knew that she would feel like herself once more, cool and defiant.
The touch of her armor of fashionable attire would restore her
confidence in herself, and enable her to brave down any suspicion in
the mind of the Intendant,--at any rate it was her only resource, and
Angélique was not one to give up even a lost battle, let alone one half
gained through the death of her rival.

Fanchon came in haste at the summons of her mistress. She had long
waited to hear the bell, and began to fear she was sick or in one of
those wild moods which had come over her occasionally since the night of
her last interview with Le Gardeur.

The girl started at sight of the pale face and paler lips of her
mistress. She uttered an exclamation of surprise, but Angélique,
anticipating all questions, told her she was unwell, but would dress and
take a ride out in the fresh air and sunshine to recruit.

"But had you not better see the physician, my Lady?--you do look so pale
to-day, you are really not well!"

"No, but I will ride out;" and she added in her old way, "perhaps,
Fanchon, I may meet some one who will be better company than the
physician. Qui sait?" And she laughed with an appearance of gaiety
which she was far from feeling, and which only half imposed on the
quick-witted maid who waited upon her.

"Where is your aunt, Fanchon? When did you see Dame Dodier?" asked she,
really anxious to learn what had become of La Corriveau.

"She returned home this morning, my Lady! I had not seen her for days
before, but supposed she had already gone back to St. Valier,--but Aunt
Dodier is a strange woman, and tells no one her business."

"She has, perhaps, other lost jewels to look after besides mine,"
replied Angélique mechanically, yet feeling easier upon learning the
departure of La Corriveau.

"Perhaps so, my Lady. I am glad she is gone home. I shall never wish to
see her again."

"Why?" asked Angélique, sharply, wondering if Fanchon had conjectured
anything of her aunt's business.

"They say she has dealings with that horrid Mère Malheur, and I believe
it," replied Fanchon, with a shrug of disgust.

"Ah! do you think Mère Malheur knows her business or any of your aunt's
secrets, Fanchon?" asked Angélique, thoroughly roused.

"I think she does, my Lady,--you cannot live in a chimney with another
without both getting black alike, and Mère Malheur is a black witch as
sure as my aunt is a white one," was Fanchon's reply.

"What said your aunt on leaving?" asked her mistress.

"I did not see her leave, my Lady; I only learned from Ambroise Gariepy
that she had crossed the river this morning to return to St. Valier."

"And who is Ambroise Gariepy, Fanchon? You have a wide circle of
acquaintance for a young girl, I think!" Angélique knew the dangers of
gossiping too well not to fear Fanchon's imprudences.

"Yes, my Lady," replied Fanchon with affected simplicity, "Ambroise
Gariepy keeps the Lion Vert and the ferry upon the south shore; he
brings me news and sometimes a little present from the pack of the
Basque pedlers,--he brought me this comb, my Lady!" Fanchon turned her
head to show her mistress a superb comb in her thick black hair, and in
her delight of talking of Ambroise Gariepy, the little inn of the ferry,
and the cross that leaned like a failing memory over the grave of
his former wife, Fanchon quite forgot to ease her mind further on the
subject of La Corriveau, nor did Angélique resume the dangerous topic.

Fanchon's easy, shallow way of talking of her lover touched a
sympathetic chord in the breast of her mistress. Grand passions were
grand follies in Angélique's estimation, which she was less capable of
appreciating than even her maid; but flirtation and coquetry, skin-deep
only, she could understand, and relished beyond all other enjoyments.
It was just now like medicine to her racking thoughts to listen to
Fanchon's shallow gossip.

She had done what she had done, she reflected, and it could not be
undone! why should she give way to regret, and lose the prize for which
she had staked so heavily? She would not do it! No, par Dieu! She had
thrown Le Gardeur to the fishes for the sake of the Intendant, and had
done that other deed! She shied off from the thought of it as from an
uncouth thing in the dark, and began to feel shame of her weakness at
having fainted at the tale of La Corriveau.

The light talk of Fanchon while dressing the long golden hair of her
mistress and assisting her to put on a new riding-dress and the plumed
hat fresh from Paris, which she had not yet displayed in public, did
much to restore her equanimity.

Her face had, however, not recovered from its strange pallor. Her eager
maid, anxious for the looks of her mistress, insisted on a little rouge,
which Angélique's natural bloom had never before needed. She submitted,
for she intended to look her best to-day, she said. "Who knows whom I
shall fall in with?"

"That is right, my Lady," exclaimed Fanchon admiringly, "no one could be
dressed perfectly as you are and be sick! I pity the gentleman you meet
to-day, that is all! There is murder in your eye, my Lady!"

Poor Fanchon believed she was only complimenting her mistress, and at
other times her remark would only have called forth a joyous laugh; now
the word seemed like a sharp knife: it cut, and Angélique did not laugh.
She pushed her maid forcibly away from her, and was on the point of
breaking out into some violent exclamation when, recalled by the amazed
look of Fanchon, she turned the subject adroitly, and asked, "Where is
my brother?"

"Gone with the Chevalier de Pean to the Palace, my Lady!" replied
Fanchon, trembling all over, and wondering how she had angered her
mistress.

"How know you that, Fanchon?" asked Angélique, recovering her usual
careless tone.

"I overheard them speaking together, my Lady. The Chevalier de Pean said
that the Intendant was sick, and would see no one this morning."

"Yes, what then?" Angélique was struck with a sudden consciousness of
danger in the wind. "Are you sure they said the Intendant was sick?"
asked she.

"Yes, my Lady! and the Chevalier de Pean said that he was less sick than
mad, and out of humor to a degree he had never seen him before!"

"Did they give a reason for it? that is, for the Intendant's sickness or
madness?" Angélique's eyes were fixed keenly upon her maid, to draw out
a full confession.

"None, my Lady, only the Chevalier des Meloises said he supposed it was
the news from France which sat so ill on his stomach."

"And what then, Fanchon? you are so long of answering!" Angélique
stamped her foot with impatience.

Fanchon looked up at the reproof so little merited, and replied quickly,
"The Chevalier de Pean said it must be that, for he knew of nothing
else. The gentlemen then went out and I heard no more."

Angélique was relieved by this turn of conversation. She felt certain
that if Bigot discovered the murder he would not fail to reveal it to
the Chevalier de Pean, who was understood to be the depository of all
his secrets. She began to cheer up under the belief that Bigot would
never dare accuse any one of a deed which would be the means of
proclaiming his own falseness and duplicity towards the King and the
Marquise de Pompadour.

"I have only to deny all knowledge of it," said she to herself, "swear
to it if need be, and Bigot will not dare to go farther in the matter.
Then will come my time to turn the tables upon him in a way he little
expects! Pshaw!" continued she, glancing at her gay hat in the mirror,
and with her own dainty fingers setting the feather more airily to her
liking. "Bigot is bound fast enough to me now that she is gone! and when
he discovers that I hold his secret he will not dare meddle with mine."

Angélique, measurably reassured and hopeful of success in her desperate
venture, descended the steps of her mansion, and, gathering up her robes
daintily, mounted her horse, which had long been chafing in the hands of
her groom waiting for his mistress.

She bade the man remain at home until her return, and dashed off down
the Rue St. Louis, drawing after her a hundred eyes of admiration and
envy.

She would ride down to the Place d'Armes, she thought, where she knew
that before she had skirted the length of the Castle wall half a dozen
gallants would greet her with offers of escort, and drop any business
they had in hand for the sake of a gallop by her side.

She had scarcely passed the Monastery of the Recollets when she was
espied by the Sieur La Force, who, too, was as quickly discovered by
her, as he loitered at the corner of the Rue St. Ann, to catch sight
of any fair piece of mischief that might be abroad that day from her
classes in the Convent of the Ursulines.

"Angélique is as fair a prize as any of them," thought La Force, as
he saluted her with Parisian politeness, and with a request to be her
escort in her ride through the city.

"My horse is at hand, and I shall esteem it such an honor," said La
Force, smiling, "and such a profit too," added he; "my credit is low in
a certain quarter, you know where!" and he laughingly pointed towards
the Convent. "I desire to make HER jealous, for she has made me madly
so, and no one can aid in an enterprise of that kind better than
yourself, Mademoiselle des Meloises!"

"Or more willingly, Sieur La Force!" replied she, laughing. "But you
overrate my powers, I fear."

"Oh, by no means," replied La Force; "there is not a lady in Quebec but
feels in her heart that Angélique des Meloises can steal away her lover
when and where she will. She has only to look at him across the street,
and presto, change! he is gone from her as if by magic. But will you
really help me, Mademoiselle?"

"Most willingly, Sieur La Force,--for your profit if not for your honor!
I am just in the humor for tormenting somebody this morning; so get your
horse and let us be off!"

Before La Force had mounted his horse, a number of gaily-dressed young
ladies came in sight, in full sail down the Rue St. Ann, like a fleet of
rakish little yachts, bearing down upon Angélique and her companion.

"Shall we wait for them, La Force?" asked she. "They are from the
Convent!"

"Yes, and SHE is there too! The news will be all over the city in an
hour that I am riding with you!" exclaimed La Force in a tone of intense
satisfaction.

Five girls just verging on womanhood, perfect in manner and
appearance--as the Ursulines knew well how to train the young
olive-plants of the Colony,--walked on demurely enough, looking
apparently straight forward, but casting side glances from under their
veils which raked the Sieur La Force and Angélique with a searching
fire that nothing could withstand, La Force said; but which Angélique
remarked was simply "impudence, such as could only be found in Convent
girls!"

They came nearer. Angélique might have supposed they were going to pass
by them had she not known too well their sly ways. The foremost of
the five, Louise Roy, whose glorious hair was the boast of the city,
suddenly threw back her veil, and disclosing a charming face, dimpled
with smiles and with a thousand mischiefs lurking in her bright gray
eyes, sprang towards Angélique, while her companions--all Louises of the
famous class of that name--also threw up their veils, and stood saluting
Angélique and La Force with infinite merriment.

Louise Roy, quizzing La Force through a coquettish eyeglass which she
wore on a ribbon round her pretty neck, as if she had never seen him
before, motioned to him in a queenly way as she raised her dainty foot,
giving him a severe look, or what tried to be such but was in truth an
absurd failure.

He instantly comprehended her command, for such it was, and held out
his hand, upon which she stepped lightly, and sprang up to Angélique,
embracing and kissing her with such cordiality that, if it were not
real, the acting was perfect. At the same time Louise Roy made her
understand that she was not the only one who could avail herself of the
gallant attentions of the Sieur La Force.

In truth Louise Roy was