J.M. Le Moine.

Picturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present online

. (page 46 of 59)
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indentures in the walls for fire-places, which are built of cut masonry;
from the angle of one a song sparrow flew out uttering an anxious note. We
searched and discovered the bird's nest, with five spotted, dusky eggs in
it. How strange! in the midst of ruin and decay, the sweet tokens of hope,
love and harmony! What cared the child of song if her innocent offspring
were reared amidst these mouldering relics of the past, mayhap a guilty
past? Could she not teach them to warble sweetly, even from the roof which
echoed the dying sighs of the Algonquin maid? Red alder trees grew rank
and vigorous amongst the disjointed masonry, which had crumbled from the
walls into the cellar; no trace existed of the wooden staircase mentioned
by Mr. Papineau; the timber of the roof had rotted away or been used for
camp fires by those who frequent and fish the elfish stream which winds
its way over a pebbly ledge towards Beauport. It is well stocked with
small trout, which seem to breed in great numbers in the dam near the
Château - a stream, did we say?

"A hidden brook,
In the leafy mouth of June,
That to the sleeping woods all night
Singeth a quiet tune"

"Enough! enough! cried my poetic companion. The fate of the fair maid, the
song of birds, the rustling of groves, the murmur of yonder brook, - does
not all this remind you of the accents of our laurel-crowned poet, he who
sang of Claribel?"

Those who wish to visit the Hermitage, are strongly advised to take the
cart-road which leads easterly from the Charlesbourg church, turning up.
Pedestrians prefer the route through the fields; they may, in this case,
leave their vehicle at Gaspard Huot's boarding-house - a little higher than
the church at Charlesbourg, - and then walk through the fields, skirting,
during the greater part of the road, the trout stream I have previously
mentioned; but by all means _let them take a guide_ with them.

Let us now translate and condense, from the interesting narrative of a
visit paid to the Hermitage in 1831, by Mr. Amédée Papineau and his
talented father, the Hon. Louis Joseph Papineau, the legend which attaches
to it:



"We drove, my father and I, with our vehicle to the foot of the
mountain, and there, took a foot-path which led us through a dense
wood. We encountered and crossed a rivulet, and then ascended a
plateau cleared of wood, a most enchanting place; behind us and on our
right was a thick forest: on our left the eye rested on boundless
green fields, diversified [325] with golden harvests and with the neat
white cottages of the peasantry. In the distance was visible the broad
and placid waters of the St. Lawrence, at the foot of the citadel of
Quebec, and also the shining cupolas and tin roofs of the city houses;
in front of us, a confused mass of ruins, crenelated walls embedded in
moss and rank grass, together with a tower half destroyed, beams, and
the mouldering remains of a roof. After viewing the _tout ensemble_,
we attentively examined each portion in detail - every fragment was
interesting to us; we with difficulty made our way over the wall,
ascending the upper stories by a staircase which creaked and trembled
under our weight. With the assistance of a lighted candle we
penetrated into the damp and cavernous cellars, carefully exploring
every nook and corner, listening to the sound of our own footsteps,
and occasionally startled by the rustling of bats which we disturbed
in their dismal retreat. I was young, and consequently very
impressionable. I had just left college; these extraordinary sounds
and objects would at times make me feel very uneasy. I pressed close
to my father and dared scarcely breathe; the remembrance of this
subterranean exploration will not easily be forgotten. What were my
sensations when I saw a tombstone, the reader can imagine? 'Here we
are at last,' exclaimed my father and echo repeated his words.
Carefully did we view this monument; presently we detected the letter
'C,' nearly obliterated by the action of time; after remaining there a
few moments, to my unspeakable delight we made our exit from the
chamber of death, and stepping over the ruins, we again alighted on
the green sward. Evidently where we stood had formerly been a garden;
we could still make out the avenues, the walks and plots, over which
plum, lilac and apple trees grew wild.

"I had not yet uttered a word, but my curiosity getting the better of
my fear, I demanded an explanation of this mysterious tombstone. My
father beckoned me towards a shady old maple; we both sat on the turf,
and he then told me as follows: - You have, no doubt, my son, heard of
a French Intendant, of the name of Bigot, who had charge of the public
funds in Canada somewhere about the year 1757; you have also read how
he squandered these moneys and how his Christian Majesty had him sent
to the Bastille when he returned to France, and had his property
confiscated. All this you know. I shall now tell you what, probably,
you do not know. This Intendant attempted to lead in Canada the same
dissolute life which the old _noblesse_ led in France before the
Revolution had _levelled_ all classes. He it was who built this
country seat, of which you now contemplate the ruins. Here he came to
seek relaxation from the cares of office; here he prepared
entertainments to which the rank and fashion of Quebec, including the
Governor General, eagerly flocked; nothing was wanting to complete the
_éclat_ of this _little_ Versailles. Hunting was a favorite pastime of
our ancestors, and Bigot was a mighty hunter. As active as a chamois,
as daring as a lion was this indefatigable Nimrod, in the pursuit of
bears and moose.

"On one occasion, when tracking with some sporting friends an old bear
whom he had wounded, he was led over mountainous ridges and ravines
very far from the castle. Nothing could restrain him; on he went in
advance of every one, until the bloody trail brought him on the
wounded animal, which he soon dispatched.

"During the chase the sun had gradually sunk over the western hills;
the shades of evening were fast descending; how was the lord of the
manor to find his way back? he was alone in a thick forest; in this
emergency his heart did not fail him, - he hoped by the light of the
moon to be able to return to his stray companions. Wearily he walked
on, ascending once or twice a lofty tree, in order to see further, but
all in vain; soon the unpleasant conviction dawned on him that like
others in similar cases, he had been walking round a circle. Worn out
and exhausted with fatigue and hunger, he sat down to ponder on what
course he should adopt. The Queen of night, at that moment shedding
her silvery rays around, only helped to show the hunter how hopeless
was his present position. Amidst these mournful reflections, his ear
was startled by the sound of footsteps close by; his spirits rose at
the prospect of help being at hand; soon he perceived the outlines of
a moving white object. Was it a phantom which his disordered
imagination had conjured up; terrified he seized his trusty gun and
was in the act of firing, when the apparition, rapidly advancing
toward him, assumed quite a human form; a little figure stood before
him with eyes as black as night, and raven tresses flowing to the
night wind; a spotless garment enveloped in its ample folds this airy
and graceful spectre. Was it a sylph, the spirit of the wilderness?
Was it Diana, the goddess of the chase, favoring one of her most
ardent votaries with a glimpse of her form divine? It was neither. It
was an Algonquin beauty, one of those ideal types whose white skin
betray their hybrid origin - a mixture of European blood with that of
the aboriginal races. It was Caroline, a child of love, born on the
shores of the great Ottawa river; a French officer was her sire, and
the powerful Algonquin tribe of the Beaver claimed her mother.

"The Canadian Nimrod, struck at the sight of such extraordinary
beauty, asked her name, and after relating his adventure, he begged of
her to shew him the way to the castle in the neighborhood, as she must
be familiar with every path in the forest. Such is the story told of
the first meeting between the Indian beauty and the Canadian Minister
of Finance and Feudal Judge in the year 175 - .

"The Intendant was a married man; [326] his lady resided in the
capital of Canada. She seldom accompanied her husband on his hunting
excursions, but soon it was whispered that something more than the
pursuit of wild animals attracted him to his country seat; an intrigue
with an Indian beauty was hinted at. These discreditable rumors came
to the ears of her ladyship; she made several visits to the castle in
hopes of verifying her worst fears; jealousy is a watchful sentinel.

"The Intendant's dormitory was on the ground floor of the building; it
is supposed the Indian girl occupied a secret apartment on the flat
above; that her boudoir was reached through a long narrow passage,
ending with a hidden staircase opening on the large room which
overlooked the garden.

"The King, therefore, for his defence
Against the furious Queen,
At Woodstock builded such a bower,
As never yet was seen.
Most curiously that bower was built,
Of stone and timber strong."
(Ballad of Fair Rosamond.)

"Let us now see what took place on this identical spot on the 2nd
July, 176 - . It is night; the hall clock has just struck eleven; the
murmur of the neighboring brook, gently wafted on the night wind, is
scarcely audible; the Song Sparrow [327] has nearly finished his
evening hymn, while the _Sweet Canada_ [328] bird, from the top
of an old pine, merrily peals forth his shrill clarion. Silence the
most profound pervades the whole castle; every light is extinguished;
the pale rays of the moon slumber softly on the oak floor, reflected
as they are through the gothic windows; every inmate is wrapped in
sleep, even fair Rosamond who has just retired. Suddenly her door is
violently thrust open; a masked person, with one bound rushes to her
bed-side, and without saying a word, plunges a dagger to the hilt in
her breast. Uttering a piercing shriek, the victim springs in the air
and falls heavily on the floor. The Intendant, hearing the noise,
hurries up stairs, raises the unhappy girl who has just time to point
to the fatal weapon, still in the wound, and then falls back in his
arms a lifeless corpse. The whole household are soon on foot; search
is made for the murderer, but no clue is discovered. Some of the
inmates fancied they had seen the figure of a woman rush down the
secret stair and disappear in the woods about the time the murder took
place. A variety of stories were circulated, some pretended to trace
the crime to the Intendant's wife, whilst others alleged that the
avenging mother of the creole was the assassin; some again urged that
Caroline's father had attempted to wipe off the stain on the honour of
his tribe, by himself despatching his erring child. A profound mystery
to this day surrounds the whole transaction. Caroline was buried in
the cellar of the castle, and the letter 'C' engraved on her
tombstone, which, my son, you have just seen."

Half a century has now elapsed since the period mentioned in this
narrative. In vain do we search for several of the leading characteristics
on which Mr. Papineau descants so eloquently; time, the great destroyer,
has obliterated many traces. Nothing meets one's view but mouldering
walls, over which green moss and rank weeds cluster profusely.
Unmistakable indications of a former garden there certainly are, such as
the outlines of walks over which French cherry, apple and gooseberry trees
grow in wild luxuriance. I took home from the ruins a piece of bone; this
decayed piece of mortality may have formed part of Caroline's big toe, for
aught I can establish to the contrary; Château-Bigot brought back to my
mind other remembrances of the past. I recollected reading that pending
the panic consequent on the surrender of Quebec in 1759, the non-
combatants of the city crowded within its walls; this time not to
realized, but to seek concealment until Mars had inscribed another victory
on the British flag. Who would be prepared to swear that later, when
Arnold and Montgomery had possession of the environs of Quebec, during the
greater portion of the winter, of 1775-6, some of those prudent English
merchants, (Adam Lymburner at their head), who awaited at Charlesbourg and
Beauport the issue of the contest, did not take a quiet drive, to Château-
Bigot, were it only to indulge in a philosophical disquisition on the
mutability of human events?

We are indebted to Mr. John D. Stewart of Quebec for a copy of the
following letter from his grandfather, written in 1776, from the Château.

(Mr. Charles Stewart, father of the late Mr. Charles Grey Stewart,
Comptroller of Customs, to his father.)

"HERMITAGE, June 25th, 1776.

"MY DEAR FATHER, - I was overjoyed to hear by a letter from Mr. Gray,
that you and my dear mother were in good health. Nothing can give me
greater pleasure than to hear so. I was very sorry to hear that my
sister had been ill. I hope she is now getting better.

We have been here for this winter in a very dismal situation. The
rebels came here and blocked up the town of Quebec, at the end of
November. I had been not at all well for two months previous, and at
that time had not got better with a pain which obliged me to stay in
the country, where I had been all the summer, although greatly against
my inclination. I was allowed to remain peaceably by the rebels, until
the middle of January, when I was taken and carried with sword and
(fixed) bayonets before their general; the reason why, was, that after
their attack upon the town on the 31st December, the Yankees were
obliged to demand assistance of the country people to join them. I had
spoken and done what I could to hinder the people of the village where
I resided from going and taking arms with them. This came to light,
and I was told at their head-quarters their general, one Arnold, a
horse jockey or shipmaster, who then had the command, threatened to
send me over to the (New England) colonies. After being detained a ...
and two days, Arnold asked me, if he had not seen me before in Quebec.
I said he had, and put him in remembrance of having once dined with
him; upon which he said, on condition that I gave my word of honour
not to meddle in the matter, he would allow me to go away. I told him
the inhabitants were a parcel of scoundrels, and beyond a gentleman's
notice; upon this I got off, and remained for upwards of two months
without molestation, till the tracks of persons going to town from
Beauport had been observed; the country people immediately suspected
me, and came with drawn cutlasses to take me; luckily I was from home,
having gone two days before about fifteen miles to see an
acquaintance, and when I got back they had found out who had gone in
(to town). The ill-nature of the peasants to me made me very uneasy on
account of all the papers I had of Mr. Gray's, and dreading their
malice much, I determined to go from them. I found out a place about
five miles up amongst the woods, the Hermitage which being vacant I
immediately retired to it, and carried all my papers with me. Mr.
Peter Stewart had gone from his house in Beauport, down with his
family to the Posts, and gave me the charge of it, and having heard
that they (the Yankees) were going to put 150 men in it, I sent all
his furniture, &c., to the house I had taken, so that I had my house
all furnished; this was in the beginning of March; since which I have
remained there. The people who left the town in the fall have not been
allowed to go back. A Mr. Vi... one of the most considerable
merchants, went in immediately after the 6th of May, (the day when the
town people made a sally with about 900 men in all, who drove nigh
3000 of the Yankees from their camp, and relieved the town) and was
sent to prison and kept several days. Major John Nairn was so obliging
as to come out 8 or 9 days after that affair to see me; he asked me
why I had not been in town. I told him the reason; I had got no pass.
The next day he sent me one; except another, this is the only one
which had been granted by the Governor as yet, and it is thought some
won't be allowed to go in this summer, why, I cannot say. Every person
had liberty to leave or stay by a proclamation for that purpose, but
as it is military law, no person dare say it is wrong

I am going now again to remain in town, having now learned a little of
the French. I understand every word almost that is said, although I
cannot speak it as well; however I could wish that my brother John
knew as much of it. I three days ago wrote him they were gone to
Halifax, but am told they are to go from there to New York soon....

I am at present studying a little of the French law. If I do not make
use it, it will do me no harm. I expect you have had letters from my
brother Andrew....

I wish you would send me your vouchers of all your Jamaica debts I
could go easily from here to there. If I cannot get money I can get
rum, which sells and will sell, at a great price in this place. I can
only stay there a few months."

Nor must we forget the jolly pic-nics the barons held there some eighty
years ago. [329]

On quitting these silent halls, from which the light of other days had
departed, and from whence the voice of revelry seems to have fled forever,
I re-crossed the little brook, already mentioned, musing on the past. The
solitude which surrounds the dwelling and the tomb of the dark-haired
child of the wilderness, involuntarily brought to mind that beautiful
passage of Ossian, [330] relating to the daughter of Reuthamir, the
"white-bosomed" Moina: - "I have seen the walls of Balclutha, but they
were desolate. The fire had resounded in the halls, and the voice of the
people is heard no more. The thistle shook there its lonely head; the moss
whistled to the wind. The fox looked out of the windows, the rank grass of
the wall waved round its head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina, silence
is in the house.... Raise the, song of mourning, O bards! over the land of
strangers. They have but fallen before us: for one day, we must fall."


After perusing the Legend of _Caroline, the Algonquin Maid_, the lover of
Canadian story, can find a more artistically woven plot in one of Mr.
Marmette's historical novels L'Intendant Bigot. The following passage
is from a short critique we recently published thereon:

"It is within the portals of Beaumanoir (Château-Bigot) that several
of the most thrilling scenes in Mr. Marmette's novel are supposed to
have taken place. A worthy veteran of noble birth, M. de Rochebrune,
had died in Quebec through neglect and hunger, on the very steps of
Bigot's luxurious palace, then facing the St Charles, leaving an only
daughter, as virtuous as she was beautiful. One day, whilst returning
through the fields (where St. Rochs has since been built) from
visiting a nun in the General Hospital, she was unexpectedly seized by
a strong arm and thrown on a swift horse, whose rider never stopped
until he had deposited his victim at Bigot's country seat,
Charlesbourg. The name of this cold-blooded villain was Soumois. He
was a minion of the mighty and unscrupulous Bigot. Mdlle. de
Rochebrune had a lover. A dashing young French officer was Raoul de
Beaulac. Maddened with love and rage he closely watched Bigot's
movements in the city, and determined to repossess his treasure, it
mattered not, at what sacrifice. Bigot's was a difficult game to play.
He had a _liaison_ with one of the most fascinating and fashionable
married ladies of Quebec, and was thus prevented from hastening to see
the fair prey awaiting him at Beaumanoir. Raoul played a bold game,
and calling jealousy to his help, he went and confided the deed to
Madame Pean, Bigot's fair charmer, entreating her immediate
interference, and after some hairbreadth escapes, arrived at the
Château with her just in time to save Mdlle de Rochebrune from

Madame Pean was returning to the city with Mdlle de Rochebrune and
Raoul, when on driving past the walls of the Intendant's palace, close
to the spot where Desfosses street now begins, her carriage was
attacked by a band of armed men - a reconnoitering party from Wolfe's
fleet, anchored at Montmorency. A scuffle ensued, shots were fired,
and some of the assailants killed; but in the _mêlée_ Mdlle. de
Rochebrune was seized and hurried into the English boat commanded by
one Capt. Brown. During the remainder of the summer the Canadian maid,
treated with every species of respect, remained a prisoner on board
the admiral's ship. (It is singular that Admiral Durell, whose beloved
young son was at the time a prisoner of war at Three Rivers, did not
propose an exchange of prisoners.) In the darkness and confusion which
attended the disembarking of Wolfe's army on the night of the 12th of
September, 1759, at Sillery, Mdlle. de Rochebrune slipped down the
side of the vessel, and getting into one of the smaller boats, drifted
ashore with the tide, and landed at Cap Rouge, just as her lover
Raoul, who was a Lieutenant in La Roche-Beaucour's Cavalry was
patrolling the heights of Sillery. Overpowered with joy, she rode
behind him back to the city, and left him on nearing her home; but, to
her horror, she spied dodging her footsteps her arch enemy the
Intendant, and fell down in a species of fit, which turned out to be
catalepsy. This furnishes, of course, a very moving _tableau_. The
fair girl - -supposed to be dead - -was laid out in her shroud, when
Raoul, during the confusion of that terrible day for French Rule, the
13th September, calling to see her, finds her a corpse just ready for
interment. Fortunately for the heroine, a bombshell forgotten in the
yard, all at once and in the nick of time igniting, explodes,
shattering the tenement in fragments. The concussion recalls Mdlle. de
Rochebrune to life; a happy marriage soon after ensues. The chief
character in the novel, the Intendant sails shortly after for France,
where he was imprisoned, as history states, in the Bastile, during
fifteen months, and his ill-gotten gains confiscated. All this, with
the exception of Mdlle. de Rochebrune's career, is strictly


A tourist of a cultured mind and familiar with classic lore, standing on
the lofty brow of the _Chaudière_, might, without any peculiar flights of
imagination, fancy he beholds around him a solitary dell of that lovely
TEMPE immortalized in song:

"Est nemos Haemoniae, praerupta quod undique claudit
Silva; vocant Tempe; per quae Peneus ab imo
Effusus Pindo, spumosis volvitur undis,
Dejectuque gravi tenues agitantia fumos
Nubila conducit, sommasque aspergine silvas
Impluit, et sonitu plus quam vicina fatigat."
_Ovid Met_. I - 568.

The Falls of the _Chaudière_, in their chief features, differ entirely
from the majestic cascade of Montmorency.

"To a person who desires nothing more than the primary and sudden electric
feeling of an overpowering and rapturous surprise, the cascade of
Montmorency would certainly be preferable, but to the visitor, whose
understanding and sensibilities are animated by an infusion of antiquated
romance, the Falls of the _Chaudière_ would be more attractive." [331]

Online LibraryJ.M. Le MoinePicturesque Quebec : a sequel to Quebec past and present → online text (page 46 of 59)