CROWDED OUT!
And other Sketches

by Seranus (Susie Frances Harrison)


 


The Story of Etienne Chezy D’Alencourt.
——

CHAPTER I.


     As my friends know, I was born an Englishman, spending the first twenty-four years of my life in England.  On my twenty-fifth birthday I set foot on the shore of the great North American Continent, destined for a time to be my home.  Two days afterwards I entered the office set apart for me in the handsome Government Buildings at Ottawa, and began my duties.  A transfer had recently been effected between the Home and Canadian Civil Service, and I had been chosen to fill the vacant colonial post.  Having no ties or obligations of any kind I had nothing to lose by the transaction except the pleasure and advantage of living in England, which, however, had ceased for one or two reasons to be dear to me.
     I did not, however, remain very long in the Service.  I found it pleasant work but monotonous, and receiving shortly after I went out a legacy bequeathed by a widowed aunt I had almost forgotten, determined to leave it and devote myself to study and travel.  Like many Englishmen, I had taken no trouble to ascertain the real points of interest about me.  I had been content with mastering and getting through my work, and with mingling out of hours with the small but thoroughly charming set I had found ready to welcome me on my arrival as the “new Englishman.”  On the whole, I was popular, though one great flaw—i.e.—lack of high birth and desirable home connections, weighed to an alarming extent with the dowagers of the Capital.
     I had, on leaving the Service, made up my mind to study the people of the Dominion.  The English Canadians were easily [page 61] disposed of in this way; most of them were Scotch, and the rest appeared to be Irish.  I then began on the Indian population.  But this was not so easy.  It seemed impossible to find even a single Indian without going some distance.
     At last I unearthed one descendant of the Red man who kept a small tavern in the lower part of the town; a dirty frame tenement almost entirely hidden by an immense sign hanging outside, having the figure, heroic size of an Iroquois in full evening dress, feathers, bare legs and tomahawk.
     This place was known as “Tommy’s.”  But Tommy himself was only half an Indian, and swore such bad swears in excellent English, that I was forced to leave after a minute’s inspection.
     Then I began on the French-Canadians.  There were plenty of them.  In the Buildings, on the streets, in the markets, in shops, they were all over.  Some of the most charming people I know were French-Canadians.  My landlady and her husband, quiet, sober, devout people, were French-Canadians.
     What I wanted to find, though, was a genuine unadulterated French-Canadian of the class known as the habitans.  I could recollect many dark-eyed, fierce-moustached men whom I had seen since my residence in Canada, and whom I conjectured must have been habitans.  Up the Gatineau and down the St. Lawrence, it would be easy to find whom I wanted, but I preferred to wait on in town.  I had many a disappointment.  One day it would be a cabman, another day a clerk.  Though they all looked French, they invariably turned out to be English or Scotch.  My notions of hair and skin and eyes were being all turned upside down; my favourite predispositions annulled, my convictions changed to fallacies—in short I was thoroughly bewildered.  I could not find my habitant.  At the same time, when I did find him, he would have to know how to speak some English, for I could only speak very little French.  I read it well of course, wrote it quite easily, but on essaying conversation was always seized with that instinctive horror of making a fool of myself, which besets most Englishmen when they would attempt a foreign language.  Besides, the patois these people spoke was vastly different from ordinary French, as taught in schools and colleges, and what it might be like I had not in those days the faintest idea, not having read Rabelais.
     The worst désillusionnement I suffered I will recount.  One day I noticed an elderly man clad in corduroy trousers, shabby [page 62] brown velveteen coat, conical straw hat and dirty blue shirt, lounging about a wharf I sometimes frequented, where at one time would lay from thirty to fifty barges laden with lumber.  Bargetown it might have been called; it was a veritable floating colony of French and Swede, Irish and Scotch, jabbering and smoking by day and lying quietly at night under the stars, save for the occasional jig and scrape of the fiddle of some active Milesian.  Here, had I fully known it, was my chance for observation, but I was ignorant at that time of the ways of these people and did not venture among them.  But the man in the velvet coat interested me.  He gesticulated the whole time most violently, waved his arms about and made great use of his pipe, which he used to point with.  I could not hear what he was saying for his back was turned to me and the wind carried all he said to the bargemen, as he wished it to do I suppose.
     How splendidly that coat becomes him, thought I.  The descendant of some fine old French settler, how superbly he carries himself!
     The conical becomes on him a cocked had and in place of ragged fringe and buttons hanging by a single string, I see the buckles and bows, the sword and cane of a by-gone age!
     I made up my mine to address him, when to my disgust he got into one of the barges, which moved off slowly, transporting him, as I supposed, to his northern home.
     The next morning the bell of my front door attracted my attention by ringing three or four times.  Evidently my landlady was out.  I sauntered to the door and found my habitant of the velveteen coat and dirty blue shirt!
     Gracious heaven!  I was overcome!  By what occult power had be been driven here to deliver himself into my hands?  Before I could speak, he said:
     “Av ye plaze, sorr, will yez be having any carrpets to bate?  I’m taking orders against the sphring claning, sorr.”
     “Oh! are you?” said I.  I began to feel very sorry for myself, very sorry, indeed, at this supreme instant.  “Do you live near here?”  I further inquired.
     “Shure and I do, sorr.  Jist beyant yez.  I pass yez every day in the week.  Me number’s 415”—He was about handing me a greasy bit of paper, when I slammed the door in his [page 63] face and retired to my own room to meditate on the strange accent and peculiar calling of this descendant of the “fine old French settler.”
     My next choice, however, proved a fortunate one.  I got into a street-car one evening late in the month of March.  It was the winter street-car, a great dark caravan, with a long narrow bench down either side and a mass of hay all along the middle, with a melancholy lamp at the conductor’s end.  Although fairly light outside, it was quite dark inside the caravan, so the conductor set about lighting the lamp.  This is the way he did it.  Opening the door he put his head in, looked all around, shut the door and stopped his horses.  Then he opened the door again and put his head in again, keeping the door open this time that we might inhale the fresh March night air.  I say we, because when I grew accustomed to the dark, I saw there was another occupant of the car, a man seated on the opposite seat a little way down.  The conductor felt under the seat for something which I suppose was the can which, taken presently by him to the corner grocery before which we had stopped, came back replenished with coal oil.  After he had filled the lamp, he lit in succession three matches, persistently holding them up so that they all went out one after the other.  He felt in his pockets but he had no more.  Then he asked me.  I had none.  Then he asked the other man.  The other man laughed and replied in French.  I did not understand what he said but saw him supply the conductor with a couple of matches.  When the lamp was finally lighted I looked more closely at him.  He was a working man from his attire: colored shirt, coat of a curious bronze colour much affected by the Canadian labourer, old fur cap with ears, and moccasins.  At his feet stood a small tin pail with a cover.  His face was pale and singularly well-cut.  His hair was black and very smooth and shiny; a very slight moustache gave character to an otherwise effeminate countenance and his eyes were blue, very light blue indeed and mild in their expression.  We smiled involuntarily as the conductor departed.  The man was the first to speak:
     “De conductor not smoke, surely,” he said, showing me his pipe in one hand.  “I always have the matches.”
     “So do I, as a general thing,”  I rejoined.  “One never knows when a match may be wanted in this country.”  I spoke rather surlily, for I had been getting dreadfully chilled while the [page 64] conductor was opening and shutting the door.  The man bent forward eagerly, though without a trace of rudeness in his manner.
     “You do not live here, eh?”
     “Oh! yes, I do now, but I was thinking of England when I spoke.”
     “That is far away from here, surely.”
     “Ah! yes,” I sighed.  So did the man opposite me.  We were silent then for a few moments when he spoke again.
     “There is a countree I should like to see and dat is France.  I hear, sir, I hear my mother talk of dat countree, and I tink—I should like to go there.  But that is far away from here, too far away, sure.”
     My heart leapt up.  Here, if ever, must be the man I was in search of.
     “You are a French-Canadian, I suppose?”
     “Yes, Sir, I am dat.”
     “And where do you live?” said I.
     “I work in de mill; de largess mill in the Chaudière,  You know dat great water, the fall under the bridge, dat we call the Chaudière.”
     “I know it well,” said I, “but I have never gone properly over any of the mills.  I should like to go some day very much.  Should I see you anywhere if I went down?”
     He stared, but gave me the name of his mill.  It belonged to one of the wealthiest lumber kings of the district.  I resolved to go down the next day.
     “What is your name,” I asked.  The man hesitated a minute before he replied.
     “Netty.”
     “Netty!” I repeated.  “What a curious name!  You have another name, I expect.  That must only be a nickname.”
     “Mais oui Monsieur.  My name is much longaire than dat.  My whole name is Etienne Guy Chèzy D’Alencourt, but no man call me dat, specially in de mill.  ‘Netty’—dey all know ‘Netty.’”
     It was a long name, truly, and a high-sounding one, but I preferred thinking of him by it than by the meaningless soubriquet of “Netty.”  At the next corner he got out, touching his cap to me quite politely as he passed.
     I was in high spirits that evening, for I believed I had found my habitant.   I went down to the Chaudière the following day, and got permission to go over Mr. ---------‘s mill.  I found it [page 65] very interesting, but my mind was not sufficiently centered on planks and logs and booms to adequately appreciate them.  I wanted “Netty.”  After I had made the complete round of the mill I came upon him hard at work in his place turning off planks in unfailing order as they whizzed along.  The noise was deafening, of bolts and bars, and saws and chains, with the roar of the great cascade outside.  He saw me and recognized me on my approach, but he could not speak for some time.  It was most monotonous work, I thought.  No conversation allowed, not even possible; the truly demoniacal noise, yet just outside on the other side of a small window, the open country, the mighty waters of the ever-boiling “Kettle,” or Chauldron, and the steep spray-washed cliff.  Standing on my toes I could, looking out of Netty’s small window, discover all this.  The ice was still in the river, half the fall itself was frozen stiff, and reared in gabled arches to the sky.  I watched the two scenes alternately until at 6 o’clock the wheels ran down, the belts slackened and he men knocked off.
     Netty walked out with me at my request, and learning that he had to return in an hour I proposed we should have a meal together somewhere and talk at the same time.  He must have been greatly astonished at a complete stranger in another walk of life fastening upon him in this manner, but he gave no hint of either surprise or fear, and maintained the same mild demeanour I had noticed in him the day before.
     It was darkening rapidly and I did not know where to go for a meal.  Netty told me he ought to go to St. Patrick St.  I knew the locality and did not think it necessary to go all that way, “unless anybody will be waiting for you, expecting you.”
     “Oh! not dat.  I live in a boarding house, my mother—she in the countree, far from here.”
     “Then,” I said, “you can go where you like.  Do you know any place near here where we can get a cup of tea and some eggs?  What will do for you, I daresay, and I hardly want as much.”
     But he knew of no reliable place and after walking about for a quarter of an hour we finally went to the refreshment room at the station and ordered beer and tea and sandwiches.
     “I daresay you wonder at my bringing you out here with me.  You’d get a better meal perhaps at your boarding-house.  But do you know I’ve taken a fancy to you and I want to see a little [page 66] more of you and learn how you live, if you will kindly tell me.  I am interested in your people, the French-Canadians.”
     This sounds very clumsily put and so it did then, but I was obliged to explain my actions in some way and what is better than the truth?  Lies, I have no doubt to some people, but I was compelled to be truthful to this man who carried a gentle and open countenance with him.  No gentleman could have answered me more politely than he did now.
     “Sir I am astonish—oui un peu, but if there is anything I can tell you, anything I can show you I shall be ver glad.  The mill—how do you find dat, Sir?”
     “I like to watch you work very much, but the noise”—
     Netty laughed, showing his radiant white teeth.
     “Mais oui, de noise is bad, but one soon custom to dat.  I am in de mill for four year.  I come from up in de north—from the Grand Calumet—do you know there, Sir?”
     “That is an island is it not?  Yes, I know where it is, near Allumette, but I have never been so far up on the Ottawa.  And the Gatineau, that is a river, is it not?  What pretty names these French ones are! Gatineau!”  I repeated thinking.  “That comes, I fancy having heard somewhere, from Demoiselle Marie Josephe Gatineau Duplessis, the wife of one of the first French settlers, wife of one of the first French settlers.  By the way your name is a curious one.  Say it again.”
     Netty very gravely repeated, “Etienne Guy Chèzy D’Alencourt.”
     “Was your father a native Canadian?”
     “Oui Monsieur.”
     “The name seems familiar to me,” I remarked.  “I daresay if you cared to look the matter up, you might find that your great grandfather was something or other under the Intendant Bigot or Vaudreuil, or earlier still under Maisonneuve the gallant founder of Montreal.  Ah! how everybody seems to have forgotten about those old days.  Even in Canada, you see, there is something to look back upon.”
     My companion seemed rather puzzled as I talked in this strain.  Very probably it was over his head.  I found he could neither read nor write, had been reared in the pine-clad and icy fastnesses of Grand Calumet Island all alone by his mother—an old dame now about seventy.  He himself was about thirty he judged, though he was far from sure.  He was a good Catholic in intention, though very ignorant of all ritual.  From his youth he [page 67] had been employed on the rafts and lumber-slides of the Ottawa river until his four years’ session at the mill, where he had picked up the English he knew.  He had made no friends he told me.  The more I conversed with him the more I was impressed with his simple and polite manners, his innate good breeding, and his faith and confidence in the importance of daily toil and all honest labour.  He smoked a little, drank a little, but never lost his head, became obtrusively familiar, noisy or inquisitive.  I felt ashamed to think how deliberately I had sought him out, to pry into the secrets and facts of his daily life, but solaced myself into the assurance that it could not at least bode him harm and it might possibly to him some service.
     When we returned to the mill, I was astonished at the weirdness of the scene.  The entire premises were flooded with the electric light and the men were working away, and the saws, belts and bars all in motion as if it were the middle of the day.  What a pandemonium of sound and colour and motion it was!  The strong resinous odor of the pine-wood mingled with the fresh air blown in from the river, and I inhaled both eagerly.
     It was almost powerful enough to affect the head, and I fancied I caught myself reeling a little as I walked out onto the bridge, swaying just the least bit as the torrent of angry water swept under it.  I had said “Bonsoir” to my friend the Frenchman and was free to go home.  But I lingered long on the heaving bridge, though it was cold and starless, and I got quite wet with the dashed-up spray.
     Up the river gleamed the icy masses of the frozen fall, beyond that the northern country of the northern waters stretched away up to the North Pole with little, if any, human interruption.
     Down the river on the three superb cliffs, rising high out of the water, sparkled the many lights in the Gothic windows of the Buildings.  On either side were the illuminated mills with their rushing logs and their myriad busy hands piling, smoothing and sawing the monsters of the forest helpless under the fetters of leather and steel. [page 68]

 

CHAPTER II.


     For the events which followed, I hold myself alone and altogether responsible.  Nearly every evening I spend at the Chaudière, either watching my new friend at his work or lounging on the bridge, and always finishing the day by walking home with him to his boarding house.  Thus I got to know him very well, and I soon discovered one thing that he was far from strong.  Even a life-long residence among the purifying and strengthening airs of the keen fresh North had not protected him from the insidious ravages of that dread complaint—consumption.  I fancied the hereditary taint must be on his father’s side, for he always alluded to his mother as being exceptionally healthy.  On Sundays I accompanied him to Church in the morning at the Basilica; in the afternoons we used to walk all over the town in various directions.  Of course, on all these excursions, I did most of the talking.  He was a good listener, and readily improved in understanding and appreciation.  Noticing that he was particularly fond of any story connected with the life of the early French in Canada, I read up all the works I could find on the subject, going often to the Parliamentary Library for that purpose, and retailing the more interesting and intelligible facts to him afterwards.  Crusoe did not watch over and educate Friday any more carefully than I my mild and gentlemanly “Shantyman” in his blue shirt and canvas trowsers.
     I grew at last, after three months’ intimacy with him, quite to love him, and I am sure my affection was reciprocated for he ever welcomed me with a strong, clinging pressure of my hand and a smile which was a brighter one than that which his face had worn when I met him first.  A strange friendship, but one which I felt to be so absorbing that I could not have endured other friends.  April passed, and May, and with the hot weather Etienne, whose health gave way all at once, would have to return for a short visit to the old mother all by herself on the island of Grand Calumet. [page 69]
     I feared to let him go, he looked more delicate in my eyes every day, but I knew it would be good for him in many ways.  So a day came that saw my friend D’Alencourt go back to his northern home.  He would not ask me to go and visit him, he had too much natural pride for that, but I made up my mind to find him out, for all that.  As may be supposed I was like the traditional fish out of the traditional water for some time after his departure.
     I read and amused myself in any way that offered, but cared not to experiment on any more French-Canadians.
     In my reading I read for two, and made notes of anything I thought would interest Etienne.  One day I came across the same name as his own, borne by a certain young soldier, a sprig of the French noblesse who had followed in the train of Bigot, the dissolute and rapacious Governor of New France.  I meditated long over this.  The name was identical—Guy Chézy D’Alencourt.  In the case of my friend the mill-hand there was simply the addition of Etienne, the first Christian name.  Could he possibly be the descendant of this daring and gallant officer, of whose marriage and subsequent settling in Canada I could find no mention?  The thing seemed unlikely, yet perfectly possible.  I had predicted it myself.  As if to fasten my thoughts even more securely on the absent Etienne that very day arrived a letter from Grand Calumet.  It was addressed to me in a laboured but most distinct hand.  I thought that Etienne had commissioned the priest doubtless to write for him or some other friend, but when I opened it I found to my great surprise that it was from Etienne himself and in his own handwriting, the result he told me of work at home in his Lower Town boarding-house.
     I dropped the letter.  He had taught himself to write!  This was the first fruit of my intimacy with him, and I hardly knew whether I was pleased or not. But I clearly saw that this night-work added to the arduous toil and late hours imposed upon him by his place in the mill had probably been the cause of undermining his bodily strength.  The letter itself ran
     “Dear Sir,—The friend of Etienne D’Alencourt, he can write you-he can send you a lettre from the Grand Calumet, his island that is green, Monsieur, and full of sweet berries.  If you would come, Mossier, you would find Etienne and his mother reddy to do all they can.  Still, Monsieur shall in this please always himself, the frend and benefactor of Etienne Chézy D’Alencourt.
     GRAND CALUMET ISLAND.
[page 70]
     “It was at night, when Monsieur had gone home, that I learnt myself to write and thank him for all teaching from the books beside,

“E.”                                                               

     Of course, I would accept the invitation.  I decided to go in a week’s time and wrote to that effect.  I wished to reprimand him for having overtaxed his strength as I was sure he had done in sitting up teaching himself how to write, but respect for the dear fellow’s perseverance and ability restrained me.
     Only when I got him again, I said to myself, I would stop that.  I took with me a gun, fishing rods and tackle, a mosquito-net, plenty of cigars and a hamper of tinned meats, tea, coffee and biscuits.
     My journey was nearly altogether by water and I enjoyed every inch of the beautiful river.  After I reached the landing stage, a place called Lichfield, I had to wait an hour before proceeding in the direction which I had found out it would be necessary to follow in order to find Etienne and his mother.
     I shall never forget the delight of that one hour passed in rambling through the lonely green wood that covered the island down to the shore.  The ferns were young and freshly unfurled, the moss was everywhere, green and close and soft like velvet and star-clustering, gray and yellow.  The surviving flowers were the large white blossoms of the woodland lily, and the incoming Linnæa began to show the faint pink of its twin bells, afterwards to be so sweet and fragrant.
     I thought of that passage in the letter which told of “the island that was green and full of sweet berries.”  Not a bad description for a person whom the world must perforce term an illiterate man.
     When my conveyance arrived, it proved to be a stage of antiquated type and I suffered horribly during the journey of three hours.  At the end of that time, I was set down with my luggage at the gate of a small log hut, with a little garden in front, bordered with beautiful pink and green stones, the like of which I had never seen before.  A snake fence ran in front of this and on two sides, at the back was a thick wood.
     Etienne was ready for me at which I rejoiced, fearing to make myself known to the dame his mother.
     Once more I felt that honest and affectionate hand grasp, once more I met those clear and steady blue eyes, and I noted [page 71] the flush of pride which overspread his face when I told him that I had received his letter and marvelled at it.
     “Mossieu know so much and Etienne so ver little.”  But when the flush had died away, I was pained exceedingly to see the pallor of his cheeks and the prominence of his high cheek-bones.  His walk was unsteady too, he put his feet down, I noticed, as if they were light instead of solid supports for his body, a sure sign of great physical weakness.  My worst fears were realized when I saw on the deal table in the front room, furnished with home-made rugs drawn from woollen rags dyed all colors and some plain deal furniture stained brown, a little pile of books.  There were two copy-books, two dictionaries, a small “Histoire de Canada” and some illustrated magazines.  I saw that he could read, too, pretty well, for he presently drew my attention to a very old book indeed, that lay on a shelf, a little Roman Catholic missal with tarnished gold clasps and scarlet edges.
     “Dat was belong to my fader,” he said, “for many a year; and it was from his fader he get it.”
     I looked at it eagerly all over.  The fly-leaf bore no inscription, but up in one corner, in faded red ink, was something that looked like a monogram with a device underneath.  I would have examined it at once but that Etienne was anxious to read me a little of the Latin which he had picked out with infinite patience, I should think.  I promised to help him a little occasionally, but told him that he was not looking well and had better be content with ignorance in this lovely summer weather.
     “When the winter comes and you are back at the mill, you can study as much as you like.”
     The old dame was sallow and sunken from a life of incessant hard work.  The climate itself, so changeable as well as inclement in these northern wilds, is enough to pinch the face and freeze the blood, although at the time of my visit it was hot, intensely hot for so early in the summer.  Moreover, the old dame was not given to talking.  So taciturn a Frenchwoman I never met elsewhere.  They are usually characterized by a vivacious loquacity which is the seal of their nationality.  But this one was silent in the extreme and had, as her son told me, never once held a conversation with him on any subject whatever.  Of his father he knew literally only this fact—that he had been a “shantyman” in his time too, and was killed by a strained rope striking him [page 72] across the middle.  Etienne did not remember him.  The time sped on.  They made me as comfortable as they could in the front or “best” room, but, when I thought it would not offend them, I spelt outside—“couchant à la belle etoile,” as Rousseau has it—and beautiful nights those were I spent in this manner.  We had plenty of fruit—wild strawberries and raspberries—pork and beans and potatoes forming the staple articles of diet.  There was no cow, no horse, no dog belonging to the house.  Fish we could get ourselves in plenty, and eggs made their appearance in a farmer’s waggon about twice a week.  Etienne and I spent entire days out-of-doors, shooting, fishing, walking, reading.  I tried to take his mind off his books, but it was of no use.  He had got so attached to his studies and new pursuits in life that one day he startled me by asserting that he did not intend to go back to the mill in future.  I remonstrated gently with him, reminding him that as yet his education was very incomplete, that few situations of the kind he probably aspired to would be open to him for some time to come, and that in the meantime he must suffer from want of money, and thus be the cause of seeing his mother suffer as well.  But he startled me further in reply by stating that he knew himself to be slowly dying of consumption and that he would shortly be of little use to anyone.  His wish was to leave Canada altogether and die in—France!  France, the country of his dreams, the goal of his dying ambition, the land of the golden fleur de lis, of the chivalrous soldiers, the holy women and the pious fathers who colonized the land of his birth!
     I remonstrated with him as I have said.  I expostulated in every key; I took his mother into my confidence as well as I could since she knew not a word of English; I laughed at him, I wept over him, I endeavoured by every argument in my power to make him change my mind, but—
     I failed.  Then when I understood how firmly his mind was set upon this extraordinary idea, I made up my mind to accompany him, in fact, not to leave him at all until he either grew wiser and stronger, or else died the death he predicted for himself.  I found that the old dame had quite a store of money saved by her, little by little every year from Etienne’s earnings, and from what she made by selling the rugs I mentioned.  These sold for a dollar and upwards according to the size.  Putting some of my own to this fund of hers, I calculated she had enough to go upon for at least a year.  Wants are few in that district.  Then I turned my [page 78] attention to Etienne.  He was growing worse; he would lie for hours reading or attempting to read with great beads of perspiration mounting on his brow.  The heat was excessive and proved very bad for him.  I judged he would be better in town and after I had been on the island for about two months, I begged him to return with me.  I promised him that once there, I would not leave him for a day, and would even consider the possibility of taking him across the ocean.  He still maintained his calm and perfect manners and insisted upon paying his fare down the river which I let him do, knowing that soon his stock of money would be exhausted and he would then be at my mercy.  No sign of cupidity was apparent in his demeanour, yet I wondered how he ever thought to reach France unless I paid his way.  Like all consumptives, he had a tick of rallying now and then and appearing better than he really was.  This occurred on our arrival in town.  He took long walks with me again daily and seemed so much stronger that I again dared to suggest the propriety of his returning to the mill, but to no purpose.  He drooped at the very thought, and I perceived that his apparent recovery was but a delusion, I soon saw he was weaker than ever.  But whenever he was at all able, he persisted in reading what he could understand and really his progress was a marvel to me.  So it came about that one evening, towards the close of September where we had sometimes to light the lamp as early as half-past six, I returned to my rooms about that hour of the day (we shared rooms together, so fond had I grown of him, and I trust, he of me) to find him poring over the little Catholic Missal.
     “In this light?  This will never do.  And you could not light the lamp yourself, my poor Etienne!”
     When it lighted, I saw indeed from his weak and excited appearance that he was unable to do anything for himself.  Lying on my sofa, he had in one hand the scarlet-edged missal, and in the other the book I have referred to, which contained a short sketch of Guy Chézy D’Alencourt the handsome and reckless lieutenant of La Nouvelle France.
     He could hardly speak but through his gasping I could gather that he wished me to examine the words in the corner of the fly-leaf I had once noticed before and believed to be a monogram.  I quieted him a little, then bringing the lamp-light to bear upon the faded ink, I was able to decipher the device, which comprised [page 74] a crown, three fleurs-de-lis under, and a lamb bearing a banner, with the letters I.H.S upon it.
     “The arms of Rouen!” I exclaimed “and above them some initials, yes, a monogram!”
     My companion sat up in his excitement.
     “Ah! dat is what I cannot make quite out!  Tree letter—oui, vite, cher mossieu, vite!”
     I had to look very closely indeed to decipher these, but with the aid of a small lens I found them to be “G. C. D’A.”
     There could be little doubt that Etienne was the lineal descendent of Guy Chézy D’Alencourt, native of Rouen, who came to Canada in the same year as Bigot.  I told him so and wondered what his thoughts could be, for clasping my hands with as much force as he possessed—and that is at times a wonderful force in the clasp of the dying—he said with a great effort:
     “If dat is so, mossieu, if dat is so I have O le bon Dieu—I have—mossieu, I have—O if dat is true”—
     He fell back and I caught no more.  The excitement proved too much for my poor friend.  When I spoke to him, he was unconscious and he never fully recovered his senses.  Alas! he lay in a few weeks, beneath the sod of Grand Calumet Island, and France is ignorant of the fact that a true aristocrat and simple-hearted gentleman existed in the humble person of my friend the habitant, Etienne Guy Chézy D’Alencourt, alias “Netty.” [page 75]

 

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