Copyright
J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 16 of 59)
Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 16 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


reach the Cemetery. [72] This road, which terminated at the Parish Church,
[73] divided itself into two, - on one side it led to the Jesuits (Jesuits'
College) and to the Hospital (Hôtel Dieu); and on the other, to the Indian
Fort [74] and to the Castle of Saint Louis. The Castle and King's Fort,
guarded by soldiers night and day, under the orders of the Governor, was
of an irregular shape, flanked by bastions, fortified by pieces of
artillery, and contained in its interior several _suites_ of apartments
separated one from the other. At the distance of about forty toises (240
feet) from the Castle was seen, on the south side, a small garden, fenced
in, for the use of the Governor, and in front, towards the west, was the
_Place d'Armes_ (now the _Ring_), in the form of a trapezium."

St. John street, for years without a rival as chief commercial
thoroughfare for retail trade in dry goods, sees its former busy aspect
daily fleeting since the invasion of that bitter foe to wheeled vehicles -
the street railway. Its glory is departing: the mercer's showy counter and
shelves are gradually replaced by vegetable and fruit stores. Stately
shops on Desfosses, Crown and Craig streets are rapidly diverting the
_Pactolus_ of the city custom northwards. In the dark ages of the
Ancient Capital, when this lengthy, narrow lane was studded with one-story
wooden or stone tenements, Old Sol occasionally loved to look down and
gladden with his rays its miry footpaths. To our worthy grandfathers 'twas
a favorite _rendezvous_ - the _via sacra_ - the Regent street - the
_Boulevard des Italiens_ - where the _beau monde_ congregated at 4 P.M.,
sharp; where the merry jingle of the tandem _grelots_ invaded the frosty
air in January; where the freshest toilettes, the daintiest bonnets - those
"ducks of bonnets" invented fifty years ago by Mrs. T - d - ensnared
admirers; where marten or "silver fox" muffs of portentous size - all the
rage then - kept warm and coursing the stream of life in tiny, taper hands,
cold, alas! now in Death's pitiless grasp; where the old millionaire,
George Pozer, chinked his English guineas or piled up in his desk his army
bills. Alas! Jean Bourdon, the pioneer of our land surveyors, you, who,
more than two centuries ago, left your name to this vaunted locality - your
street as well as your name are getting to be things of the past! Shall we
bid adieu to this oft travelled over thoroughfare without deigning a
parting glance, as we saunter on, at that low old-fashioned house, No. 84,
on the north side of the street, where, for a quarter of a century and
more, Monsieur Charles Hamel's book and church ornament emporium held its
own against all the other book stores? It is now occupied as a dwelling
and a notarial office by an ex-Mayor and late member for the city, P. A.
Tourangeau, Esq., N.P. Vividly, indeed, can we recall the busy aspect of
its former counter, studded with gilt madonnas, rosaries, some in brass
mountings, variegated Job beads for the million; others set in ebony and
silver for rich _dévotes_, flanked with wax tapers, sparkling church
ornaments, bronze crucifixes - backed with shelves of books bearing, some,
the _visa_ of Monseigneur de Tours - the latter for the faithful; others in
an inner room, without the _visa_ - these for city _littérateurs_; whilst
in a shady corner-cupboard, imported to order - sometimes without order -
stood a row of short-necked but robust bottles, labelled "_Grande
Chartreuse_" and "_Bénédictine_," for the especial delectation of a few
Quebec Brillat-Savarins - the _gourmets_!

Monsieur Hamel, a sly, courteous, devout old bachelor, had a honied word,
a holy, upturned glance, a jaunty welcome for all and every one of his
numerous "dévotes" or fashionable _pratiques_. A small fortune was
the result of the attention to business, thrift and correct calculations
of this pink of French politeness. Monsieur Chas. Hamel, honoured by his
familiars with the sobriquet "Lily Hamel," possibly because his urbanity
was more than masculine, in fact, quite lady-like - the _crème de la
crème_ of commercial suavity. This stand, frequented by the Quebec
gentry from 1840 to 1865, had gradually become a favourite stopping place,
a kind of half-way house, where many aged valetudinarians tarried a few
minutes to gossip with friends equally aged, homeward bound, on bright
winter afternoons, direct from their daily "constitutional" walk, as far
as the turnpike on St. John's road. Professor Hubert Larue [75] will
introduce us to some of the _habitués_ of this little club, which he
styles _Le Club des Anciens_, a venerable brotherhood uniting choice
spirits among city _littérateurs_, antiquarians, superannuated Militia
officers, retired merchants: Messrs. Henry Forsyth, Long John Fraser,
Lieut.-Colonel Benjamin LeMoine, F. X. Garneau, G. B. Faribault, P. A. De
Gaspé, Commissary-General Jas. Thompson, Major Lafleur, Chs. Pinguet, the
valiant Captain of the City Watch in 1837. The junior members counted from
fifty to sixty summers; their seniors had braved some sixty or seventy
winters. After discussing the news of the day, local antiquities and
improvements, there were certain topics, which possessed the secret of
being to them eternally young, irresistibly attractive: the thrilling era
of Colonel De Salaberry and General Sir Isaac Brock; the Canadian
_Voltigeurs_, [76] the American War of 1812-14, where a few of these
veterans had clanked their sabres and sported their epaulettes, &c. With
the exception of an esteemed and aged Quebec merchant, Long John Fraser,
all now sleep the long sleep, under the green sward and leafy shades of
Mount Hermon or Belmont cemeteries, or in the moist vaults of some city
monastery.

On revisiting lately these once famous haunts of our forefathers, the new
proprietor, ex-Mayor Tourangeau, courteously exhibited to us the
_antiques_ of this heavy walled tenement, dating back possibly to the
French _régime_, perhaps the second oldest house in St. John street.
In a freshly painted room, on the first story, in the east end, hung two
ancient oil paintings, executed years ago by a well-remembered artist,
Jos. Legaré, for the owners, two octogenarian inmates - his friends,
Messrs. Michel and Charles Jourdain, architects and builders. They were
charged some seventy years ago with the construction of the District Court
House (burnt in 1872) and City Jail (now the Morrin College.) Messrs.
Jourdain had emigrated to Canada after the French Revolution of 1789. They
had a holy horror of the guillotine, though, like others of the
_literati_ of Quebec in former days, they were well acquainted with
the doctrines and works of Voltaire, Diderot, and d'Alembert. One of the
Jourdains, judging from his portrait, must have been a shrewd, observant
man. Later on, the old tenement had sheltered the librarian of the
Legislative Council, Monsieur Jourdain - a son - quite a _savant_ in
his way, and whose remains were escorted to their last resting place by
the _élite_ of the Canadian population. It is a mistake to think that
culture and education were unknown in those early times; in some instances
the love of books prevailed to that degree that, in several French-
Canadian families, manuscript copies then made at Quebec exist to this
day, of the Latin and French classics from the difficulty of procuring
books; there being little intercourse then with Paris book-stores, in
fact, no importations of books. Among many quaint relics of the distant
days of the Messrs. Jourdain and of their successor, Monsieur Audiverti
_dit_ Romain, we saw a most curiously inlaid _Marqueterie_ table, dating,
we might be tempted to assert, from the prehistoric era!

Innumerable are the quaint, pious or historical souvenirs, mantling like
green and graceful ivy, the lofty, fortified area, which comprises the
Upper Town of this "walled city of the North". An incident of our early
times - the outraged Crucifix of the Hôtel Dieu Convent, [77] and the
Military Warrant, appropriating to urgent military wants, the revered seat
of learning, the Jesuits' College, naturally claim a place in these pages.
The _Morning Chronicle_ will furnish us condensed accounts, which we
will try and complete: -


_LE CRUCIFIX OUTRAGÉ._

"An interesting episode in the history of Canada during the last
century attaches to a relic in the possession of the Reverend Ladies
of the Hôtel Dieu, or, more properly, "the Hospital of the Most
Precious Blood of Jesus Christ," of which the following is a synopsis
taken from l'Abbé H. G. Casgrain's history of the institution: -

"On the 5th October, 1742, it was made known that a soldier in the
garrison in Montreal, named Havard de Beaufort, professed to be a
sorcerer, and, in furtherance of his wicked pretensions, had profaned
sacred objects. He had taken a crucifix, and having besmeared it with
some inflammable substance - traces of which are still to be seen upon
it - had exposed it to the flames, whilst he at the same time recited
certain passages of the Holy Scripture. The sacrilege had taken place
in the house of one Charles Robidoux, at Montreal. Public indignation
at this profanation of the sacred symbol and of the Scripture was
intense; the culprit was arrested, tried and convicted, and sentenced
to make a public reparation, after which he was to serve three years
in the galleys. To this end he was led by the public executioner, with
a cord around his neck, bareheaded and barefooted, wearing only a long
shirt, and having a placard on his breast and back on which was
inscribed the legend "Desecrator of holy things" (_Profanateur des
choses saintes_), in front of the parish church in Montreal, and
being placed on his knees, he made the _amende honorable_ to God,
to the King and to Justice, and declared in a loud and intelligible
voice that he had rashly and wickedly desecrated the sacred image of
Jesus Christ, and had profaned the words of Holy Scripture. He was
then brought to all the cross-roads of the town, where he was scourged
by the public executioner, and afterwards lodged in prison to await
the sailing of the vessel which was to convey him to France, where he
was to undergo the remainder of his sentence. The Bishop of Quebec,
(whose vast diocese then included all of North America) immediately
wrote a letter to Montreal, inviting the people to make reparation by
penances and public prayers for the outrage committed, and ordering a
public procession from the parish church to that of Notre Dame de
Bonsecours, where the veneration of the cross took place. He then
obtained the crucifix from the magistrates, and forwarded it to the
reverend ladies of the Hôtel Dieu in Quebec, accompanied by a letter
in which he directed that it should be placed in their chapel, and
that on a certain day the veneration of it should be made in
reparation of the insult offered the Saviour of the world in his
sacred image on the cross. The nuns placed it in a reliquary, and to
this day it occupies a prominent position on the high altar. In virtue
of a brief of His Holiness the Pope, dated the 15th December, 1782, a
plenary indulgence was granted to any one who, having fulfilled the
usual conditions, should visit the Hôtel Dieu chapel on the first
Friday in March of each year. By an indult of the Supreme Pontiff,
dated 21st March, 1802, this indulgence was transferred to the first
Friday of October, when the veneration of the relic takes place
annually.

The cross is of some sort of dark wood, about five or six inches long,
bearing a brass figure of our Saviour, with the inscription I. N. R.
I. (_Jesus Nazarene Rex Judaeorum_) overhead and the skull and
cross-bones beneath. Attached to it is the certificate of authenticity
and the seal of the Bishop, Monseigneur de Pontbriand. In accordance
with this arrangement, public service was held in the chapel of the
hospital yesterday. The crucifix, enclosed in a gorgeous reliquary and
surrounded with a number of lighted tapers, flowers and other
ornaments, was placed on one of the lateral altars. Solemn mass was
sung at eight o'clock by the Rev. Mr. Rhéaume, of the Seminary, the
musical portion being rendered in a most impressive manner by the
reverend mothers, to organ accompaniment. In the afternoon, at two
o'clock, solemn vespers were chanted by the community, after which an
eloquent and impressive sermon was preached by Rev. Father Lepinto,
S.J., followed by the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, which was
given, by Rev. Mr. Fraser, of the Seminary, who had previously read a
solemn form of "Reparation" in the name of all present, and in which
all joined. The _Tantum Ergo_ and other hymns were sung by the
nuns, and after the chanting of the CXVI. Psalm, the relic was
venerated, each one devoutly kissing it, during which the choir of
nuns sang the _Crux fidelis_. Altogether the ceremony was a very
impressive one, as was evidenced by the solemn, subdued manner of the
large congregation assembled." - (_Morning Chronicle_, _2nd Oct._,
1880.)

_THE JESUITS' BARRACKS._

"At the present moment, in 1871, when, it is said, the Jesuits'
Barrack is on the eve of being returned to the Quebec authorities, our
readers will no doubt be pleased to learn how and when this valuable
property came into the possession of the Military Government. We are
indebted to J. M. LeMoine, Esq., President of the Literary and
Historical Society, for a copy of the ukase of Governor Murray
converting the old College of the Jesuits, on the Upper Town Market
Place, into a barrack, which it has remained ever since. It is
extracted from some rare old manuscripts belonging to that
institution. The orthographical mistakes exist in the original, and we
have allowed them to reappear: -

By His Excellency the Hon. James Murray, Esq., Capt. General and
Governor-in-Chief of the Province of Quebec and the territories
thereupon depending in America, Vice-Admiral of the same, Major-
General of His Majesty's Forces, and Colonel Commandant of the 2nd
Battalion of the Royal American Regiment of Foot, &c., &c., &c.

To Captain James Mitchelson, Captain William Martin, Lieut. Smith,
Messieurs Amiot, Boisseau and Moore:

Whereas it appears to me that proper Quarters and Barracks are much
wanted for the officers and troops in this garrison, and it being
apprehended that the Jesuits' College may be fitted up for that
purpose - You are hereby authorized and impowered to survey the same,
calling to your assistance such number of tradesmen as you may judge
necessary, in which survey, regard is to be had to a sufficient number
of Fire Places and Chimneys, to ascertain with precision the number of
officers and private soldiers the said College will contain, and to
make an estimate of the expense that will attend the repairs thereof.
And whereas the Contractors' provisions are at present lodged in the
said college, other magazines should be found to lodge the same. You
are therefore further impowered to inspect and survey that building
known by the name of the Intendant's Palace, and to ascertain also the
charges that will attend the fitting up the same to contain the
quantity of six thousand barrels, reporting to me on the back hereof
your proceedings upon the warrant, which shall be to you and every of
you sufficient authority.

Given under my hand and seal at Quebec, this 4th day of June, 1765.
(sd) JAS. MURRAY. By His Excellency's command.
(Counters'd,) J. GOLDFRAP, D. Sectry.

General Arnold's soldiers having during the winter of 1775 established
themselves in and near the French Intendant's Palace, facing the St.
Charles, Governor Carleton decided to sacrifice the stately pile of
buildings in order to dislodge the enemy. A lively fire was in
consequence opened from the guns on the ramparts, near Palace Gate,
and the magnificent structure was soon riddled with shot. It stood in
rear of Vallière's furniture factory and Boswell's brewery. Thus was
acquired the Jesuits' Barrack, and thus perished the Intendant's
Palace." - (_Chronicle_, 27_th Dec._, 1871.)

D'Auteuil street, bounded to the west by an open space - the Esplanade -
lined on one side by shade trees, on the other by the verdant slopes of
the glacis and city walls, deserves a passing notice. Bouchette describes
it thus: - "The Esplanade, between St. Louis and St. John's Gate, has a
length of 273 yards, by an average breadth of 80, except at the Ste.
Ursula bastion, where it is 120 yards. It is tolerably level, in some
places presenting a surface of bare rock. This is the usual place of
parade for the troops of the garrison, from whence every morning in summer
the different guards of the town are mounted; in winter the Jesuits'
Barracks drill ground is generally used for parades. The musters and
annual reviews of the militia belonging to the city are held there. [78]

The Esplanade is still used as a parade ground, if not by our city militia
by our provincial troops. Right well can we recall the manly form of the
Commander of the "B" Battery, Lieut.-Colonel T. B. Strange, bestriding a
noble charger, putting his splendid, though not numerous corps, through
their drill on the Esplanade. We have also sometimes caught sight there of
our gay Volunteers. Occasionally these grounds are used by the divers
lacrosse clubs for their athletic games - the _doyen_ of our city
_littérateurs_, the Hon. P. J. O. Chauveau, in a graphic portraiture
of the "Quebec of the Past," has most feelingly retraced the vanished
glories, the military pageants, the practical jokers, the City Watch, the
social gatherings, which his youthful eyes witnessed of yore on the
Esplanade and on Durham Terrace. We have attempted to render in English a
striking chapter of this sparkling effusion: -


_OLDEN TIMES IN THE ANCIENT CAPITAL._

"There is not only the quaint city of Champlain - of Montmagny - of
Frontenac - of Bishop Laval - of Governor de Vaudreuil and Montcalm - of
Lord Dorchester and Colonel Dambourges - that is rapidly fading away;
there is not merely the grim fortress of the French _régime_, the
city of early English rule, disappearing piecemeal in the dissolving
shadows of the past. A much more modern town - newer even than that so
graphically pictured by our old friend Monsieur de Gaspé - the Quebec
of our boyhood - of our youth - the Quebec embalmed in the haunted
chambers of memory prior to 1837 - it also each day seems retreating -
crumbling - evanescing.

Where are those dashing regiments which every Sunday at 4 p.m. (we
were not such Puritans then as now) paraded in the open space facing
the Esplanade walls, under the approving eye of the beauty and fashion
of all Quebec, assembled from outside and from inside of the walls -
the men proud of their bottle-green or dark-blue coats and white duck
pants - all the vogue then - while the softer sex and juveniles were
apparelled in the gayest of toilettes - brightest of colors - loudest of
contrasts: white - pink - green! How densely packed, our Esplanade!
Little boys and girls crowding in every corner of the lovely
precipitous lawn which, amphitheatre-like, stretches down - a hanging
garden of verdure and beauty. The splendid regimental bands of music,
the gaudily uniformed staff officers curvetting on their chargers,
with nodding plumes and heavy, glittering epaulettes (alas! the navy
now seems to have monopolised the gold lace for their shoulder-
straps), and those irresistible sappers with their bushy beards
heading the pageant, and those incomparable drum-majors, who could
fling high in the air their _batons_, and catch them so gracefully in
their descent. How their glittering coats did enrapture the crowd! All
these wondrous sights of our youth, where will we now find them?

The mounting guard, the _Grand Rounds_ at noon, when one of the
regimental bands (there were here nearly always two, and an honorable
rivalry existed between them) struck up a martial strain, whilst every
sentry in the city was relieved. What a treat this was to every one,
without forgetting the Seminary Externes (pupils), with their blue
coats and sashes of green or of variegated tints.

More than one of those lithesome youths came to grief for having
rushed away from the _Gradus ad Parnassum_ to those Elysian Fields,
ostensibly to hear the band - possibly to cast a sly glance at "sweet
sixteen" chatting with the _Militaires_ off duty. Here,
too, was the spot where amateurs came to hear new pieces of music - the
latest from London. Durham Terrace was the favoured locality from
whence the new waltz - the fashionable march - the latest opera - was
launched into city existence; from thence it found its way to the
_salons_ of the wealthy: such the history of _Di tanti palpiti_ and
other sweet emanations of great masters.

Where, now, are those squads of jolly tars, in navy blue,
irrepressible in their humors when on shore, far from the quarterdecks
of the trim frigates anchored under Cape Diamond: upsetting the cake-
stands, the spruce beer kegs - helping open-handed to the contents the
saucy street urchins, or, handing round, amidst the startled
wayfarers, pyramids of horse cakes, trays of barley-sugar and
peppermints, like real princes dispensing the coin of the realm. Where
are those noisy gangs of swaggering raftsmen - those _voyageurs_ from
the _pays d'en haut_, with their glittering costumes - hats festooned
with red or blue ribbons, sashes of variegated colors, barred shirts -
tightly wedged, three by three, in _calèches_, like Neapolitans -
patrolling the streets - interlarding a French song occasionally with
an oath, tolerably profane - at all times to be met, whether in the
light of day or the still hours of night. No police in those halcyon
days; but with the thickening shades of evening issued forth that
venerable brotherhood, the City Watch.

The watch, did we say? Where are now these dreamy wanderers of the
night, carolling forth, like the muezzin in Eastern cities, their
hourly calls, "All's well!" "Fine night!" "Bad weather!" as the case
might be - equally ready with their rattles to sound the dread alarm of
fire, or with their long _bâtons_ to capture belated midnight
brawlers, that is, when they saw they had a good chance of escaping
capture themselves. Their most formidable foes were not the thieves,
but the gay Lotharios and high-fed swells of the time, returning from
late dinners, and who made it a duty, nay, a crowning glory, to thrash
the Watch! Where now are those practical jokers who made collections
of door-knockers (the house-bell was not then known), exchanged sign-
boards from shop-doors, played unconscionable tricks on the simple-
minded peasants on market-days - surreptitiously crept in at suburban
balls, in the guise of the evil one, and, by the alarm they at times
created, unwittingly helped _Monsieur le Curé_ to frown down upon
these mundane junkettings.

One of these escapades is still remembered here. [79]

Four of these gentlemanly practical jokers, one night, habited in
black like the Prince of Darkness, drove silently through the suburbs
in a _cariole_ drawn by two coal-black steeds, and meeting with a
well-known citizen, overcome by drink, asleep in the snow, they
silently but vigorously seized hold of him with an iron grip; a
_cahot_ and physical pain having restored him to consciousness,
he devoutly _crossed_ himself, and, presto! was hurled into another
snow-drift. Next day all Quebec had heard in amazement how, when and
where Beelzebub and his infernal crew had been seen careering in state
after nightfall. Oh! the jolly days and gay nights of olden times!

But the past had other figures more deserving of our sympathy. The
sober-sided sires of the frolicsome gentry just described: the
respected tradesmen who had added dollar to dollar to build up an
independence - whose savings their children were squandering so



Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 16 of 59)