By going back to Saguenay



On the forecastle of the steamboat which was to leave Quebec on Tuesday, at seven o’clock in the morning, Miss Kitty Ellison awaited the happy moment of departure, quietly seated, and without showing too much impatience; for, in fact, if the image of the Saguenay had not shone before her with all her attractive promises, she would have found the greatest happiness to contemplate simply the St. Lawrence and Quebec.

The sun poured a warm, golden light over the upper town belted with greyish walls, and on the pavilion of the citadel asleep along its mast, while shining with a ray full of caresses the tin roofs of the lower town.

To the south, east, and west were mounts of purple hue and plains dotted with white houses, with effects of shadows and damp rays to delight the most gloomy heart.

Opposite, the river cradled a thousand boats of all kinds, and lost mysteriously, in the distance, under layers of silvery vapors.

Misty misty breaths, as well as airless and colorless flames, rose from the surface of the water, the very depths of which seemed to be imbued with shimmering gleams.

Not far away, a big black ship was raising her anchor, unfolding her sails, and the sailors’ voices came in, soft and sad-and yet full of a strange charm-to the ears of the pensive girl, whose dream followed the ship by anticipation. in his race around the globe, and instantly returned to the deck of the steamer which was to take her to the Saguenay.

She was a little bent forward, her hands falling on her knees; and her vagabond thoughts fluttered, according to their caprice, from memories to hopes, around a principal idea: the consciousness of being the happiest of young girls, favored beyond her desires and her merit.

To be gone, like her, for a simple day trip to {4} Niagara, and having been able, thanks to the wardrobe of a cousin, to venture to Montreal and Quebec; to be on the point of seeing the Saguenay, with the prospect of returning by Boston and New York; it was there, in his eyes, more than a mere mortal could desire; and, as she had written to her cousins, she would have liked to share her happiness with the whole population of Eriecreek.

She was very grateful to Colonel Ellison and Fanny for all these beautiful things. But as they were now out of sight, looking for cabins, she did not associate their thoughts with the pleasure that made him feel this morning scene.

She rather regretted the absence of a certain young lady, their traveling companion from Niagara, and to whom she would have liked at that moment to communicate her impressions.

This person was Mrs. Basil March. And although this trip was her wedding day, and she should have been more absorbed in the presence of her husband, she and Miss Kitty had sworn a friendship of sisters, and promised to meet again soon in Boston, at Mrs. March herself.

In her absence, now, Kitty thought of the friendliness of her friend, and wondered if all the inhabitants of Boston were really like her, affable, affectionate, and charming.

In her letter, she had asked her cousins ​​to tell Uncle Jack that he had not in any way overestimated the people of Boston, judging by Mr. and Mrs. March, and that they would help her. certainly to fulfill her instructions as soon as she arrived in that city.

These instructions would seem to be heterogeneous to whoever would know nothing more about this Uncle Jack. But they will certainly look more natural when we know a little better the character in question.

The Ellison family, originally from West Virginia, had come to settle in northwestern New York State, Dr. Ellison-whom Kitty was calling Uncle Jack-too abolitionist to live safely for himself and tranquility for his neighbors in a state where slavery flourished.

In his new home, the doctor had seen three boys and two girls grow up, later joined by Kitty, the only child of a brother, first settled in Illinois, and then-thanks to the ordinary wretchedness to the Kansas-campaign reporters, where, as a member of the Free State Party (party of postage) he had fallen mortally hit in a border brawl.

The mother had died some time later, and Dr. Ellison’s heart had bowed tenderly to the orphan’s cradle.

She was more than dear to him, she was sacred to him like the child of a martyr of the most holy of causes; and the whole family surrounded him with his love.

One of the boys had brought her back from Kansas; and she had grown up among them as their youngest sister.

Yet the doctor, not wishing, by a tender scruple, to usurp, in the child’s mind, a place which did not belong to him, had not permitted him to call him his father. And to obey the rule she soon imposed on their affection, all the family members ended up calling her like her, Uncle Jack. {5}

Yet the Ellison family, while cherishing the little one, did not spoil her unnecessarily, -not more the doctor than her older sons, whom she called the boys, and her cousins, whom she called girls, though they were already grown up on his arrival in the house.

The uncle had made it his favorite, and it was his best friend. She accompanied him so often in his professional visits, that she soon became, in the eyes of the people, an integral part of the doctor’s crew as well as his horse himself.

He instructed him in extreme ideas, tempered with good humor, which formed the basis of his character and that of his family.

They all liked Kitty, and played with her, but also joked her occasionally. They found a way of amusing themselves even subjects on which their father did not hear banter.

There was not even the cause of enfranchisement, which was sometimes presented under a comic aspect. They had more than once faced the danger and suffered in the service of this cause, but none of the opponents of it had more than amused themselves at the expense of the fetish.

Their house was one of the main refuges for black fugitives; and at every moment they helped some to cross the frontier. But boys rarely came back from Canada without having a collection of adventures to keep the whole family in hilarity for a week.

The pleasant side of their proteges was for them a subject of particular study, and more than one of them remained alive in the family’s memories by some grotesque trait of character or physics.

They had nicknames quite irreverent enough for each of those too serious abolitionist orators who never failed to stay with the doctor on their tours. And these “brothers and sisters,” as they were called, paid by all that was laughable in them, the substantial favors they knew to be granted.

Kitty, having the same natural disposition, began from childhood to take part in these innocent reprisals, and to consider life through the same prism of gaiety.

However, she remembered a certain abolitionist visitor about whom no one had ever dared to joke, but that everyone, on the contrary, treated with deference and respect.

He was an old man with a high forehead, narrow and adorned with a tuft of gray hair, rough and thick, who looked at her from beneath his bushy eyebrows with a blue flame in his eyes, which had taken her one evening on his knees, and he had sung: Sound, trumpets, sound!

The uncle and he had spoken of a certain mysterious and remote place, which they called Boston, in such terms that the child’s imagination pictured this place as being very little else. sacred as Jerusalem, and as the homeland of all that was noble and good men, apart from Palestine.

The fact is, Boston had always been Dr. Ellison’s weak.

At the beginning of the great anti-slavery movement, he had exchanged letters-matched, following his expression-with John Quincy Adams, about the murder of Lovejoy. Then he had met several Bostonians at the Free Land Convention held in Buffalo in 1848. {6}

“A little formalistic, a little reserved,” said he, “but excellent polite men, and certainly of irreproachable principles.

This made boys and girls laugh as they grew older, and often provoked in them some parodies, heavily loaded, of these Boston formalities to their father’s address.

The years passed.

The boys left for the West; and when the American Civil War broke out, they took service in the regiments of Iowa and Wisconsin.

One fine day, the proclamation of the President, freeing the slaves, arrived at Eriecreek.

Dick and Bob were there on leave of absence.

After allowing Dr. Ellison to give vent to his joy, Bob exclaimed:

-Well, that’s a terrible blow for the doctor! What are you going to do now, father? Slavery, fugitive slaves and all their charms flying away for ever, everything is torn off at once. That’s tough, is not it? No more men or brothers! No more oligarchy without a soul! Sad prospect, father!

-Oh! No, said one of the girls, there is still Boston.

“But, indeed,” cried Dick, “the President has not abolished Boston. Live for Boston!

And since then the doctor actually lived for an ideal Boston-at least as long as it was a never-abandoned project, never accomplished, to visit the Massachusetts metropolis sometime.

But in the meantime, there was something else. And as the proclamation had given him a country finally worthy of him, he wanted to do honor to it by studying the antiquities.

In his youth, before his mind was so energetically turning to the question of slavery, he already had a decided enough taste for the mysterious prehistoric constructions of Ohio. And each of his boys returned to the camp with instructions to take note of every peculiarity that might shed some light on this interesting subject.

They would have ample leisure for their research, since the proclamation, Dr. Ellison insisted, put a virtual end to the war.

These high antiquities were only a starting point for the doctor. It came from there, by degrees, to historical times; and it was by chance that when Colonel Ellison and his wife, on their way to the East, stopped at Eriecreek in 1870, they found him immersed in the history of the old French war.

The colonel had not yet decided to take the Canadian road; otherwise he would not have escaped the recommendations of having to explore all the interesting places of Montreal and Quebec, having some connection with this ancient struggle.

They left, taking Kitty with them to Niagara Falls-which she had never been to, probably because they were nearby.

But as soon as Dr. Ellison received the despatch announcing that Kitty was to descend the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and that she would return by way of Boston, he went to his desk and wrote him a most explicit letter.

As far as Canada was concerned, it was only for historical points; but when he came to Boston his mind was strangely re-objectified; and his passion for the local antiques did not prevent his old love for the humanitarian preeminence of this city from igniting even more.

He wanted her to visit Faneuil Hall, because of the memories of the revolution, but also because that was where Wendell Phillips made his first speech against slavery.

She had to see the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and, if it was possible, some interesting places in the old Colony, whose names he gave.

But at all odds she absolutely needed a glance from near and far to the author of Biglow Papers, Senator Sumner, Mr. Whittier, Dr. Howe, Colonel Higgenson, and finally to Mr. Garrison.

All these characters were in Dr Ellison’s eyes, Bostonians in the most ideal sense of the word, and he could not picture them one without the others.

Perhaps it was more likely for him that Kitty would see them all together, separately.

Perhaps they were less to his contemporaries in the flesh than the different figures of a great historical picture.

“Finally, I want you to remember, my dear child,” he wrote, “that in Boston you are not only in the cradle of American liberty, but in the even more sacred place of his resurrection. There arose all that is noble, great, liberal and enlightened in our national life. And I am sure you will find there the general character of the population marked with the stamp of the most magnanimous democracy. If I could do anything to you, my dear child, I would certainly send you the advantage that you have to visit a city where the man is appreciated only to his personal value, where the color, the wealth, the family, the profession and other vulgar and false social distinctions, are completely erased by individual merit. ”

Kitty received his uncle’s letter the day before his departure for the Saguenay, and too late to carry out his recommendations concerning Quebec. But as far as Boston was concerned, she was determined to surrender to the old man’s desires to the very limits of the possible.

She knew, moreover, that the amiable Mr. March must be acquainted with some of these characters.

Kitty had her uncle’s letter in her pocket, and was about to pull it out to read it again, when something else caught her attention.

The boat had to leave at seven o’clock and it was already seven-thirty. Three English travelers were striding across the bridge in front of Kitty, with some impatience, for it was known, thanks to the subtle process by which all matters of general interest always transpire in these sorts of places, that lunch would not be served before the the departure of the steamer, and these brave Englishmen seemed to be endowed with the appetite which always accompanies the admirable digestive faculties of their nation.

But they also had a good mood that does not allies so generally with the appetite of these islanders. {8}

The man, who wore an elegant Glengarry cap and a rather common gray suit, gave one of his arms to a lady of a cheerful and unembarrassed exterior, who appeared to be his wife, and the other to an amiable and pretty girl who looked like him enough to be his sister.

He walked quickly up and down, saying that he wanted to open his appetite for lunch.

It made the two ladies laugh so much that the older woman, losing her balance, broke one of her high heels of boots, which she hurled overboard.

Then she sat down, and soon the attention of our three travelers concentrated on the Liverpool steamer, which had just entered the harbor, and was heading towards her quay, with a whole crowd of passengers massed on her forecastle. back.

“He comes from England,” said the husband, expressively.

-It’s true though! said the young woman. Pass me the spyglass, Jenny.

Then, after having examined the ship for a long time:

To say that he left England! She added.

They looked for another two or three minutes, then the thought of the woman turned to the delay of their own ship, as well as the lunch:

“And we are not leaving at seven o’clock, you know,” she said with the air of having found something new, which the English generally take to break their commonplace.

“No,” replied the girl, “we are waiting for the boat from Montreal.

-So suppose that he comes from England! said the other, whose eyes had returned to the Liverpool steamer.

“Here he is, the steamer of Montreal,” exclaimed the husband; he doubles the point there. Do you see the smoke?

He pointed out something in the distance with his spyglass, and tried to pierce the fog that floated on the horizon.

-No, God! it is a mechanical sawmill that can be seen on the shore.

-Oh Harry! exclaimed the two women with an accent of reproach.

“Faith, what do you want? replied he; I did not change the boat into a sawmill. It must be believed that it has always been a sawmill.

Half an hour later, when the steamer from Montreal actually appeared, the two women persisted in mistaking him for a mechanical sawmill until he was completely in the middle of the channel.

Their own boat went upstream in front of him.

The two floating masses touched each other. There was some friction; then we threw a bridge between the two.

A young man, elegantly dressed, was ready to board the Saguenay boat, with a loader at his side loaded with a heavy trunk. He seemed to be the only person to embark.

Our three Englishmen, leaning over the gunwale, stared for a moment at the newcomer with an air of undisguised discontent.

-On my word! exclaimed the older woman, “have we waited so long for one man?”

-How, Edith! interrupted the youngest, it’s an Englishman!

And all three tacitly recognized the right of an Englishman, not only to keep a ship waiting, but to stop the entire solar system if necessary, if he has a ticket for any planet in the firmament; while Mr. Miles Arbuton of Boston, Massachusetts, conveniently passed from one steamer to another.

He had more than once been mistaken for an Englishman, and the mistake of those good people, if he had known it, would not have surprised him at all.

Perhaps it would have had the effect of softening a little the judgment he made of them when he saw them in front of him at the breakfast table. But he knew nothing of it, and he recognized in them rather vulgar Englishmen, with certain airs of cabotins or professional singers.

Instead of a traveling toilet, the girl wore a bright and bright blue dress; and, above her sky-blue eyes and cheeks glistening with freshness, a crown of ripe ear-hair was loosely curled and braided.

It was magnificent, at a distance; but up close, it was a little wild.

Mr. Arbuton dropped his gaze, from his figure to the light blue dress, which was neither new nor very fresh; and, with a slight expression of cold indifference, he concentrated his attention on his mediocre traveler’s breakfast.

At the same moment, he happened to be an object of interest to another young person next to our English, whose soft gray eyes occasionally cast a glance at him. discovered a vague feeling of impressionability.

It was for her that mysterious and divine perhaps that every young man is always for a girl.

Moreover, he surrounded herself with a kind of romantic nimbus, for she recognized in him the same young man with a blonde mustache whom she had seen in Niagara the week before, on the bridge of the Ile aux Chèvres .

The pretty lady sitting next to him found her as handsome, handsome as a young man could be in the eyes of a married woman, but without in any way doing wrong to the husband, this mature gentleman of good humor who had just added a sausage to the eggs and ham he already had on his plate.

He was a handsome man too; but his beard, which he let grow, was red, while the whiskers of Arbuton were fair.

And then his toilet did not have that scrupulous elegance that distinguished that of the Bostonian. There was in his whole person a certain air of negligence, in keeping with some of his clear and lively movements which revealed a former soldier.

“This is a young John Bull of good appearance,” he said to himself, seeing Arbuton.

And he no longer thought of it, feeling no more depreciated in the presence of the pretended Englishman than if he had been French or Spanish.

On the other hand, if Arbuton had met an Englishman as well as he was, he would, on the contrary, have questioned himself in order to realize the individual and national difference that could exist between them.

In his turn he cast a glance at his new traveling companions, and judged that he must have nothing in common with them, in spite of the gray eyes, veiled with long lashes, of which we have spoken.

It was not that we had made the least advance of a nature to provoke a acquaintance, or that Arbuton thought he had the choice of entering or not communicating with them; but he was in the habit of protecting himself against the hazards of life, and made it his duty to avoid any connection which, later on, social reasons might force him to break.

It was sometimes a sacrifice, for it had not yet passed the age when one takes a keen interest in any new knowledge, whatever it may be.

After having breakfasted, when he had gone round the boat and reviewed all his fellow travelers, he told himself that he could have little contact with any of them, and that, probably, he would need to appeal to all the spirit of tolerance which he had had to arm himself for a piece of travel on his own continent, during the beautiful season.

The breeze provoked by the steamer’s march was cold and raw; and the forecastle was almost abandoned to our Englishmen, who had resumed their rapid walk from one bridge to another, laughing and joking as usual, while the wind whipped the girl’s pink cheeks with the golden curls of her flowing hair, and drew her graceful forms under the tight folds of her light blue toilet.

A moment out of breath, they went to sit with a fat American lady whose incisors showed gold in all their interstices, then got up again and began to run to which better of a end to end of the steamer.

Mr. Arbuton turned on his heels with a displeased air.

On the stern he found a larger company.

Most of them slept on novels or magazines they had obtained from the bookseller on board; three ladies listened to a gentleman who read aloud in a newspaper the story of a terrible shipwreck; other ladies and gentlemen traveled constantly between their cabins and the deck, following the custom of certain travelers; others sat with their eyes closed, as if, having come to visit the Saguenay, they had vowed to see nothing of the Saint Lawrence, in order to preserve for the wonders of his tributary all the virginity of their impressions and their admiration .

The St. Lawrence, however, deserved to be watched, as Mr. Arbuton himself admitted, who did not like American landscapes-unlike his compatriots, who extol them as the most picturesque in the world.

Leaving Quebec with its rock crowned by walls, and following the majestic course of the river, you first perceive the snowy cataract of Montmorency, which, in a bluish depression, precipitates its eternal avalanche into the abyss.

In front of you, the magnificent island of Orleans extends its low banks, which, with their cultivated lands and their bunches of pines and oaks, are still as beautiful as the day when the wild vine, festooning the primitive forest, excited the easy admiration of old Jacques Cartier, and made him give this charming residence the name of the island of Bacchus.

A two-hour walk downstream, the two banks of the river are covered with populous villages grouped around their church with slender spire, either at the bottom of some handle dug by the waters, or more picturesque leaning on some graceful hill.

The coasts, now steep and steep, seem cut for one of those majestic rivers of southern countries, wide and dormant, reflecting the azure of the sky, the whole length of the day until sunset. But no palm tree dangles its brilliant silhouette on these edges of a clear and uniform green: the pale birch, slender and delicate, only fires in the water the hibernal whiteness of its foliage.

It is the great desolate river of the terrible countries of the North!

As the day progressed, the mountains, which on one side went away at first almost out of sight, and, on the other, the distance blurred with a hue of dark purple, gradually approached the the shore, and in some places on the north side, even advanced to the water’s edge. The river stretched out before them like a lake.

On their lofts a few cottages, and half-way between stunted pines, a hotel surrounded by verandas announced a popular vacation spot, at the heart of what one would have taken for solitude at first.

Indian huts built of birch bark nested at the foot of the rocks, and shone with their orange and purple hues.

From the top of these huts came a spiral of bluish smoke; and at the entrance of one of them stood a wild woman in a fierce petticoat.

Others, in shining shawls, squatted among the rocky quarters, each surrounded by dogs and small savages.

But all these warm tones served, as at the setting of the winter sun, only to bring out the icy and desolate character of the scene.

The ladies’ light toilets on the verandah were cold on the eye; and on the figure of idle inhabitants strolling along the jetty, the traveler thought he was discovering some sad determination to restrain their tears, when our boat would leave them to continue his journey.

Two or three old villagers were laid on the ground, as if they were coming from a long journey.

Then the men of the crew unloaded a huge quantity of onions, the only luggage that these good old ones had brought from Quebec. Boots after boots of the pungent bulbous were landed with care by the sailors, and counted by the owners.

At last the order was given to remove the bridge, when one of the peasant women uttered a cry of despair, stretching supplicating arms towards the boat. A bunch of onions had been forgotten on board.

One of the sailors seized the precious article, hastily carried it to the ground, and returned, pursued by the blessings of the good woman.

The happy tourists staying at La Malbaie repressed their grief; and at the moment when Arbuton turned his back on them, the steam, resuming the open sea, left them alone in prey to their fashionable boredom.

We set sail on the south shore to disembark passengers at Cacouna, a little town of water larger than Malbaie.

At Quebec, the tide, which rises fifteen feet, is produced only by the impetus given by the sea; the water is not salty. But at Cacouna it is not the same; there is nothing missing from the sea baths except the surf.

There are many Canadians who escape from their cities in the short but hot summer of the northern countries.

Neither the village nor the hotel are within sight of the landing stage; but, as well as at Malbaie, the whole society on vacation encumbered the quay, as if the arrival of the steamer had been for them the great event of the day. This time we had come in numbers, some on foot, others in omnibus or cabriolet.

Suddenly the ranks opened to allow a strange procession to pass, moving towards the steamer, music in mind.

“It’s a wedding of savages,” said one of the officers on board the military-looking gentleman standing beside him near the rail.

And the musicians having departed, Arbuton, who had heard him, could see the groom and the bride.

The first was an ordinary savage, with an impassive face; but his young companion was pretty and almost white, with a certain attitude full of modesty and gentleness.

In front of them was a young American, wearing a Scottish-style beret, with a gravity-like figure suited to the master of this ceremony, of which he was probably the organizer.

Arm in arm he advanced with a heavy Indian chief dressed in black cloth, his chest curiously adorned with two rows of silver discs.

Behind the bride and groom came the whole village, two by two, men, women, and children of all ages, without excepting the babies with the udder; all in vibrant toilets and an indescribably serious look.

They were mated in some way by age and size.

The last ones were two young men who seemed to be, moreover, in an absolutely identical state of drunkenness.

They advanced zigzagging along the pier, and when the rest of the wedding party wanted to crown the day with a visit to the ship, they stumbled across the bridge.

Halfway, they took a lurch.

The spectators uttered a cry; but our two fellows had fortunately skewed in another direction.

They held each other tightly, and a new lurch had victoriously thrown them on board like two parcels.

No sooner had they disappeared than the other people at the wedding-as if they had instantly satisfied their curiosity about the ship-returned to the ground in the same order.

Arbuton waited with some anxiety to see if the two drunkards could repeat their maneuver successfully on a plane inclined from the bottom up.

Now these had just appeared, when he felt a hand slip uncomfortably and unconsciously under his arm, and at the same moment he heard a voice saying to him:

These are two disappointed lovers, probably.

He turned around and saw the girl with the company he had promised to have nothing to sort out, one hand leaning on the gunwale and the other on his arm, his own. as she gave her full attention to what was going on downstairs.

The sort of retired soldier, the chief of the family, and most probably his relative, had gone away unexpectedly, and she had without perceiving seized the arm of Arbuton.

It seemed clear to the young man, but what remained to be done was not so much.

It did not belong to him, he thought, to warn the girl of her error; and yet he was ungenerous in doing nothing.

To leave things where they were, however, seemed to him the simplest, the surest and the most agreeable course of action, for the pressure of the pretty person, leaning slightly on his arm, had something of confidence which was not without charm.

He waited, then, for the moment when the girl had turned to have an answer, and discovering her error, hastily withdrew her hand, with an expression of physiognomy in which stupefaction and the desire to laugh were mingled. But even then he did not know what to say.

To make compliments on this mistake would have been unbecoming; an explanation was useless; to the excuses that the girl stammered for him, he could answer only by a silent greeting.

She fled to her cabin, and Arbuton moved away, leaving our two savages back to the ground as they could.

His arm thought he still supported the same elastic weight; a voice seemed to whisper in his ear: “These are two disappointed lovers, probably.”

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