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· Serpents, Some Uses of. By ERNEST INGERSOLL. . . . 272
Shakespeare and Napoleon III. By THEODORE CHILD. .
• . . 156
A Johnson Commemoration-Mr. Ruskin's New History of
. . . . . . 101
Plagiarist. . .
History of Taxation .
Stories preserved by Hill Burton-Contemporary Verdicts upon
in Holland. ..
Harold-Sunday Lectures for the Operative Classes—The
Book-Hunter--İndian Troops in England . . .
Great-Curiosities of Taxation-Another Bridge across Two
Aspect of Sir Henry Taylor's Autobiography. .
XVIII. In Hyde Park .
Uses, Some, of Serpents. By ERNEST INGERSOLL
By Alice O’HANLON.
IN THE BACKWOODS. ALMOST due north of Quebec, a hundred and twenty-five A miles in a straight line across unbroken spruce forests, lies a ... large, oddly-shaped sheet of water-a lake deep, and dark, and lonely. Thirty miles at its greatest width, and the cradle of one of the deepest rivers in the world, this lake stretches in every direction long arms, like the radiations of some gigantic star-fish, far into the surrounding solitudes.
At present there exists on its banks a flourishing and growing colony; but forty years ago-with which time we have to do the settlement, though not quite in its infancy, was at least comparatively small. It consisted of some dozen houses—all modest, one-storied structures of hewn pine-logs, with cone-shaped roofs and projecting eaves-clustered at irregular distances about a clap-boarded church, nearly large enough (like the churches of most Canadian villages) to contain them all.
The clearing effected amidst that primeval forest had proved remarkably fertile. The soil was rich and warm, for the climate, owing to the northern sweep of the isothermal line, is there some degrees milder than on the banks of the St. Lawrence, so far to the south, and spring dawns, as a rule, a week or two earlier.
But whilst plentiful harvests rewarded the settler's toil, there was no market for their produce nearer than Quebec, a distance which, although for the loon, or crow, only that specified above, was represented to those wingless French peasants by two hundred and fifty miles of water, in addition to a tedious land journey. Further, it
YOL. CCLVIII. NO. 1849.
was only during certain months of the year that this journey could be made at all. Throughout the long winter, communication with the outer world became well-nigh impossible. Shut in then by barriers of snow and ice, the isolated colony formed its own world. And, to tell the truth, with one single exception, none of the little community appeared to be at all troubled on the score of this reclu. sion. “The world forgetting, by the world forgot,” life, such as it was, proved quite equal to their demands upon it. A hardy, honest, sober race, those simple French Canadians retained, almost un. changed, the dress, manners, and songs, the religion and superstitions, brought by their forefathers, two centuries earlier, from the banks of the sunny Loire. Their most characteristic virtue (a virtue fatal, perhaps, to progress, but felicitous to the possessor) was contentment. Steady work in the day-time, tobacco-smoking and social festivity in the evening, filled up for them the happy and innocent hours. Of work, indeed—even in those sharp, dry winters, when the air cut like a razor and the sky overhead was so blue and the world around so white-there was plenty. Then would that remote forest ring to the stroke of the axe, felling and lopping and squaring the logs, to be afterwards dragged by the stout “lumberers” over miles of snow and ice, and bound into rafts to await the melting of the watery roadways. Then, too, there was hunting and trapping to be done, for a trade in the skins of bear, buffalo, and moose was by no means the settler's least source of gain.
But notwithstanding that the winter possessed for our colonists no special terror, the advent of spring was hailed by them with universal satisfaction. The sweet greenery which burst forth with the melting of the snow, proved always a new delight to the eye which had begun to ache with the eternal whiteness. There were drawbacks, however, to this season, in the continuous dripping and all-pervading moisture -occasionally, even, a little danger through the sudden slip of an avalanche from some pointed roof. The perfection of the year only came with the early summer, before the great heat fell, or the black flies of the woods grew to be a pest. Then, indeed, that forest-bound solitude, on the shores of the deep-blue lake, became an oasis of smiling fertility-a paradise of beauty.
It was early summer now, and the evening of what had been a glorious day. Two women, one very old and very wrinkled, the other of comely middle-age, sat together on a rude bench beneath the spreading eaves of the largest and decidedly the most pretentiouslooking dwelling in the clearing. From a half-open door to their right issued a confused sound of laughter (not very silvery),
commingled with the sputtering and frying of something in a pan, and much voluble chattering in the French-Canadian patois.
The women outside were not talking, but their silence, which was of the serenest order, was presently interrupted by a greeting.
“ Ah ! vous voilà, Mother Crépin and Annette Jalbert ! ”
The speaker was a hale, elderly man, who had just approached round a corner of the house. His hair, white as the vanished snow, crowned a face of placid benignity but no great intelligence. His garb, of coarse woollen cloth, was that of an ecclesiastic. “ And how goes the rheumatism, Mère Crépin ?"
“Better, better, M. le Curé," responded the elder dame, stretching out a pair of withered hands to catch the golden rays of the declining luminary. “Thank God for this warm sun! It thaws the frost out of the old bones. It cheers the heart like eau de vie.”
“Yes, yes, it is good,” murmured the priest, rubbing his own palms together softly. “They are merry in there, are they not? And, ma foi, what an agreeable odour !” A gratified sniff added emphasis to this latter remark. The good father was blest with an excellent appetite, and this was not a fast day. He made up his mind on the spot (and his countenance beamed pleasantly at the prospect) to render ample justice to the savoury repast which he expected shortly to be called upon to bless. For it was by invitation that the Curé, as well as the company already assembled within doors, was here. To-day was the jour de naissance of Madame Vandeleur, the mistress of this house, as also that of her only child, the little Louis. By the custom of the community, birthdays were held in high regard as suitable occasions for social conviviality, and in accordance witlı established precedent, madame had invited her neighbours and friends to celebrate with her the double event.
“Yes, yes," resumed the Cure, with another complacent sniff. “As you say, Mère Crépin, the sun is an excellent boon. One could not well do without it. The good Lord, it is true, might send us the long days and the warm summer weather alone, but it needs the sun also to ripen the fruits of the earth.”
M. le Cure, worthy man, knew sufficient Latin to stumble through his Breviary, but his notions of physical science were, to say
of his auditors saved them from detecting any absurdity in their pastor's remark.
“You say well, mon père," observed Annette Jalbert, regarding him with a smile of reverential affection. "And things look well, do they not? The corn, and likewise the potatoes? There will be plenty in the coming year to fill the mouths. The rafts, too, with this fine weather, they will get safely down the river, and our husbands will soon be back. All this, it makes the spirits light and the heart contented.”
“Contented ? Bah, my friends, you are always contented !” broke in a new voice, with a suspicion of contempt in its tone. “For my part, I am never contented.”
The personage who uttered this assertion, and who accompanied it with a little laugh, as though she meant it to be taken jocularly, was the hostess herself, Madanie Vandeleur. With the three companions whom she had just stepped forth to join (as, for the matter of that, with every other inhabitant of the village), Madame Vandeleur presented, physically, a striking contrast. Still young, for this was but her twenty-eighth birthday, she was a handsome woman, but in a peculiar style. Her hair, which she wore well brushed away from a low, broad forehead, was blue-black and very abundant in quantity. Her eyes were dark and penetrative, and her features, chiselled with the perfection of a well-cut cameo, were for her position in life singularly refined. In figure she was small and extremely slight, and this, added to the fact that her complexion was of an almost dead white, gave her an appearance of great delicacy, an appearance, however, which was somewhat deceptive. As a rule, Madame Vandeleur's expression was by no means disagreeable, but there was that about the set of her obstinate little chin and determined mouth which gave her at times a hard, imperious look.
“No,” she repeated, slightly modifying her observation, " for my part, I am seldom quite satisfied.”
“But, my daughter, one ought to feel satisfied with one's lot in life. Not to do so argues ingratitude to a kind Providence."
M. le Curé offered this remonstrance with a somewhat deprecating air. Every other member of his flock he could reprove with that authority which befitted his position ; but with Madame Vandeleur he felt always a little timid. And in this he was not singular. The whole village, with her husband at its head, held this small woman in a curious kind of awe. Why this was no one knew, or sought to know. They accepted facts as they stood, those simple, unreasoning peasants. Madame was a mystery to them, but a mystery with which they had now been familiar for six years, so that naturally they had long ago ceased to trouble their minds with any attempt to fathom it. Ever since she had first arrived in the settle.