« AnkstesnisTęsti »
By the Author of " Le Vieux Montréal," etc., etc.
WITH PICTURES BY HENRI JULIEN.
the rude faces of the men with curious effects
of clair-obscur. ELL, then, since you seem to Joe, the cook, was homely little man who
desire it so very much, I will laughed at his own physical defects, and who W tell you a roarin' story that did not take offense when his comrades chaffed
ought to be a lesson to all of him on the subject, and called him le bossu, you. If there is among the the hunchback. He had worked in the shan
crowd any renegade who in- ties for the last forty years, and his experience tends to run la chasse-galerie or the loup-garou, was only equaled by the facility with which he he had better skip and go outside to see whether could relate his adventures when he had taken the owls are screeching in the storm, in con- a glass of bonne vieille Jamaïque. verse with Old Nick himself, because I intend “I was telling you,” said Joe, “that I was a to begin my story by making a big sign of the pendard in my youth, but it is long since I cross. That will be a regular set-back to le mended my ways, and now I never joke about diable, who always tries, at this time, to snatch religious matters. I go to confession regularly a poor shantyman's soul by promising him all every year, and what I am about to relate took kinds of nonsense. I have had enough of that place years and years ago, when I feared ni in my young days to understand his tricks." Dieu, ni diable. It was on a night like this, a
Not a man moved. On the contrary, all New Year's eve, thirty-four or thirty-five years gathered closer round the fireplace, where the ago. Gathered round the fireplace with all the cook had dragged the provision-chest, and upon camarades, we made merry; and if it is true, which he had taken his seat on a camp-stool, as we say in French, that'small rivulets make preparatory to relating his experience under the large rivers,' it is just as true that small drinks wiles of the mauvais esprit.
empty large barrels. And in those days, peoIt was on New Year's eve of the year 1858, in ple drank more than to-day, and evenings of the depth of the forest, in the Ross timber camp, this kind generally ended in a boxing-match, at the head of the Gatineau River. The winter outside, in the snow. The rhum was no better had fairly set in, and the snow outside had al- than it is to-night, but it was bougrement bon, ready piled up to the roof of the shanty. The I can assure you. I will be frank with you and boss, according to custom, had ordered the dis- tell you that about eleven o'clock my head tribution of the contents of a small barrel of began to feel dizzy, and I lay down on my bufJamaica rum among the men, and the cook falo-robe to take a nap, while waiting for the had terminated early his preparations of a suc- midnight jump that we always take over the culent ragout of pigs' feet and of a large tin full head of a pork-barrel, from the old year into of glissantes for the New Year's dinner. A big the new one. We will repeat the same thing kettle, half full of molasses, was already sim- to-night before we go to visit the neighboring mering on the fire, as there was to be a candy- camps to wish them the compliments of the pull to finish the evening's entertainment.
Every man had filled his pipe with good, Strong Canadian tobacco, and a thick cloud of smoke darkened the interior of the shanty. A “I HAD slept for quite a while, when I was few pine-branches thrown at intervals on the rudely awakened by a second boss, Baptiste fire produced a reddish glare that illuminated Durand, who said to me: 'Joe, it is past mid
1 This narrative is founded on a popular super- tively that he had seen bark canoes traveling in midstition dating back to the days of the coureurs des bois, air, full of men paddling and singing away, under the under the French régime, and perpetuated among the protection of Beelzebub, on their way from the timber voyageurs in the Canadian Northwest. The shanty: camps of the Ottawa to pay a flying visit to their sweetmen of a later date have taken up the tradition, and it hearts at home. is in the French settlements, bordering the St. Law- It is hardly necessary to apologize for having used in rence River, that the legends of la chasse-galerie are the narrative expressions typical of the rude life and specially well known at the present time. The writer character of the men whose language and superstition has met many an old voyageur who affirmed most posi- it is the intention of the writer to portray.
night, and you are late for the barrel-jump. The signal to go. I must say that my mind was camarades have gone to the other camps, and somewhat confused, but Baptiste Durand, who I am going to Lavaltrie to see my sweetheart. was a hard customer,-for, it was said, he had Will you come with me?'
not been to confession for seven years, - gave “ To Lavaltrie,' said I,' are you crazy? We me no time for reflection. He was standing are three hundred miles away from there, and in the stern, and exclaimed in a ringing voice: you could not travel the distance in two months, “« Are you ready?' through the forest, when there are no roads
"Ready.' beaten in the snow. And what about our work “Repeat after me.' the day after to-morrow?'
"And we repeated together : “ Imbécile! don't you understand me? We “« Satan! king of the infernal regions, we will travel in our bark canoe, and to-morrow promise to sell you our souls, if within the folmorning at six o'clock we will be back here for lowing six hours we pronounce le nom du bon breakfast.'
Dieu, your master and ours, or if we touch a “I understood. Baptiste Durand proposed cross on the voyage. On that condition you that I should join him and run la chasse- will transport us through the air, wherever we galerie ; risk the salvation of my soul for the may want to go, and bring us back sound and fun of going to give a New Year's kiss to my safe to the shanty. Acabris, Acabras, Acabram! blonde at Lavaltrie. That was a little too much Fais nous voyager par-dessus les montagnes.'' for me. It was true that I was a mauvais sujet, that I did not practise la religion, and that I took a drink too much now and then; but between that and the fact of selling my soul to "The last words were hardly pronounced, le diable there was a big difference, and I said: when we felt the canoe rising in the air to a “No, siree! Pas un tonnerre !'
height of five or six hundred feet. I felt as “Oh, you are a regular old woman,' an- light as a feather, and at Baptiste's command, swered Baptiste tauntingly. “There is no dan- we commenced paddling like sorcerers that we ger whatever. We can go to Lavaltrie and back were. At the first stroke of the paddle the canoe in six hours. Don't you know that with la shot out like an arrow, and off we went under chasse-galerie we can travel 150 miles an hour, the protecting wing of le diable himself. It when one can handle the paddles as well as we fairly took my breath away, and I could hear all do. All there is to it is that we must not the bow of the canoe whizzing through the pronounce le nom du bon Dieu during the voy- crisp air of the night. age, and that we must be careful not to touch “We went faster than the wind, and during the crosses on the steeples when we travel. the first fifteen minutes we sailed over the forest, That 's easy enough, and, to be all right, all a without perceiving anything else than the dark man has to do is to look where he goes, think heads of the great pines. It was a beautiful about what he says, and not touch a drop of night, and a full moon lighted up the sky like liquor on the way. I have made the trip five the midday sun. It was terribly cold though, times, and le diable has not got me yet. Come, and our mustaches were fairly frozen, while mon vieux, stiffen up your courage, and in two our bodies were all in a perspiration. We were hours we will be at Lavaltrie. Think of Liza paddling like demons at work in the lower reGuimbette, and the pleasure you will have in gions. We soon perceived a bright, glistening kissing her “ a happy New Year.” There are belt of clear ice, that shone like a mirror. That already seven of us to make the trip, but we was the Gatineau River; and then the lights must be two, four, six, or eight, to make up the in the farm-houses, which were mostly lit up on crew of the canoe.'
New Year's eve. We began passing the tin" • Yes, that 's all right, but you must make covered steeples as quickly as telegraph-poles an engagement with le diable, and he is not the fly past in a railway-train, and the spires shone kind of a bourgeois that I want to make any in the air like the bayonets of the soldiers drillbargain with.'
ing on the Champ de Mars, in Montréal. On "* A simple formality if we are careful where we went like tous les diables, passing over forwe go and not to drink. A man is not a child, ests, rivers, towns, villages, and leaving behind pardieu ! Come on! The camarades are wait- us a trail of sparks. It was Baptiste Durand, ing outside, and the canoe is already in the the posséilé, who steered the canoe because he clearing. Come, come!'
knew the route, and we soon came to the Ot“ And I was led outside of the shanty, where tawa River, which we followed down to the I saw the six men who were awaiting us, pad- Lac des Deux Montagnes ! dle in hand. The large canoe was lying on a “Look out there,' said Baptiste; "we will snowbank, and before I had time to think twice just skim over Montréal and frighten some of about it, I was seated in the bow, awaiting the the fellows who may be out at this hour of the
night. Joe, clear your whistle and get ready to We had only four hours before us, and we sing your best canoe-song, “ Canot d'écorce," must return to the shanty before six o'clock in my boy.'
the morning, if we wanted to escape from the “ The excitement of the trip had braced me clutches of Old Nick, with whom we had made up, and I was ready for anything. Already we such a desperate bargain. And we all knew could see the lights of the great city, and with that he was not the kind of a customer to let an adroit stroke of his paddle, Baptiste brought us off, in the event of any delay on our part. us down on a level with the summit of the “* Acabris, Acabras, Acabram! Fris nous towers of Notre-Dame. I cleared my throat voyager par-dessus les montagnes !' shouted and sang. Canot d'écorce,' while my camarailes Baptiste once more. joined heartily in the chorus.
"And off we went again, paddling through
the air, like renegades that we were, every one " • Mon père n'avait fille que moi, of us. We crossed the river in less time than it Canot d'écorce qui va voler,
requires to tell it, and we descended in a snowEt dessus la mer il m'envoie :
bank close to Batissette Augé's house, where Canot d'écorce qui vole, qui vole, Canot d'écorce qui va voler !' etc.
we could hear the laughter of the dancers, and see their shadows through the bright windows.
“We dragged our canoe on the riverside, IV.
to hide it among the hummocks produced by ** ALTHOUGH it was well on toward two the ice-shove. o'clock in the morning, we saw some groups “Now,' said Baptiste, in a last warning, of men who stopped in the middle of the street ‘no nonsense! Do you hear? Dance as much to watch us go by, but we went so fast that in as you can, but not a single glass of rum or a twinkle we had passed Montréal and its sub- whisky. And at the first sign, follow me out urbs. We were nearing the end of our voyage, without attracting attention. We can't be too and we commenced counting the steeples, - careful!' Longue Pointe, Pointe-aux-Trembles, Repen- “ And we went and knocked at the door. tigny, St. Sulpice,- and at last we saw the two shining spires of Lavaltrie that gleamed among the dark-green pines of the domain.
** Look out over there!' shouted Baptiste. « Old Batissette came and opened the door * We will land on the edge of the wood, in the himself, and we were received with open arms fieldof my godfather, Jean-Jean-Gabriel. From by the guests, who knew us all. there we will proceed on foot to go and sur- “Where do you come from?' prise our acquaintances in some fricot or dance “I thought you were in the chantiers, up in the neighborhood.'
the Gatineau?' "We did as directed, and five minutes later “* What makes you come so late ?' our canoe lay in a snowbank, at the edge of "Come and take a smile.' the wood of Jean-Jean-Gabriel. We started in · Baptiste came to the rescue by saying:
Indian file to go to the village. It was no small “First and foremost, let us take our coats off, • job, because the snow reached to our waists and give us a chance to dance. That 's what we
and there was no trace of any kind of a road. came here for, and if you still feel curious in the Baptiste, who was the most daring of the crowd, morning, I will answer all your questions.' went and knocked at the door of his godfather's " For my part, I had already spied Liza house, where we could see a light, but there Guimbette, who was chatting away with little was no one there except a servant, who told Boisjoli of Lanoraie. I made my révérence in us that the old folks had gone to a snaque at due style, and at once asked for the favor of old man Robillard's place, and that the young the next dance, which was a four-handed reel. people of the village — boys and girls — were She accepted with a smile that made me foracross the St. Lawrence at Batissette Auge's, get that I had risked the salvation of my soul at the Petite Misère, below Contrecoeur, where to have the pleasure of pressing her soft white there was a New Year's hop.
hand in mine and of cutting pigeonwings as *** Let us go to the dance at Batissette Auge's,' her partner. During two hours the dancing said Baptiste; “ we are sure to find our sweet- went on without stopping, and, if I do say so hearts over there.'
myself, we shanty fellows cut a shine in the ** Let us go to Batissette Augé's!' dance that made the hayseeds tired before
“ And we returned to our canoe, while cau- morning. I was so busy with my partner that tioning one another against the great danger at first I did not notice that Baptiste was visthat there was in pronouncing certain words, iting the buffet rather often with some of the in touching anything in the shape of a cross, other boys, and once I caught him lifting his and especially in drinking liquor of any kind. elbow in rather a suspicious manner. But I had
no idea that the fellow would get tipsy, after never reach the Gatineau alive, and le diable all the lecturing he had given us on the road. was probably smacking his lips, as I supposed, When four o'clock struck, all the members of at the bare idea of making a New Year's mess our crew began to edge out of the house with- of us. And I can tell you that the disaster was out attracting attention, but I had to drag not long in coming. While we were passing Baptiste before he would consent to go. At over the city, Baptiste Durand uttered a yell, last we were all out, with just two hours before and, flourishing his paddle over his head, gave us to reach the camp, and three hundred miles it a twist that sent us plunging into a snowto ride in our canoe, under the protection of drift, in a clearing on the mountain-side. LuckBeelzebub. We had left the dance like wild ily the snow was soft, and none of us were Indians without saying good-by to anybody, hurt, nor was the canoe injured in any way. not even to Liza Guimbette, whom I had in- But Baptiste got out and declared most emvited for the next cotillon. I always thought phatically that he was going down-town to that she bore me a grudge for that, because have un verre. We tried to reason with him, when I reached home the next summer she was but our efforts proved useless, as is generally Madame Boisjoli.
the case with les ivrognes. He would go down “ “We found our canoe all right in the hum- if le diable himself were to catch hold of him mocks, but I need hardly tell you that we were
I held a moment's consultation all put out when we found that Baptiste Du- with mes camarades, and, before Baptiste knew rand had been drinking. He was to steer the what we were about, we had him down in the boat, and we had no time to lose in humoring snow, where we bound him hand and foot so the fancies of a drunken man. The moon was as to render him incapable of interfering with not quite so bright as when we started from the our movements. We placed him in the bottom camp, and it was not without misgivings that of the canoe, and gagged him so as to prevent I took my place in the bow of the canoe, well him from speaking any words that might give decided to keep a sharp lookout ahead for ac- us up to perdition. cidents. Before starting I said to Baptiste : “ And Acabris! Acabras ! Acabram !' up
“ • Look out, Baptiste, old fellow! Steer we went again, this time steering straight for straight for the mountain of Montréal, as soon the Gatineau. I had taken Baptiste's place as you can get a glimpse of it.'
in the stern. We had only a little over an “I know my business,' answered Baptiste hour to reach camp, and we all paddled away sharply, “and you had better mind yours.' for dear life and eternal salvation. We fol
“What could I do? And before I had time lowed the Ottawa River as far as the Pointefor further reflections:
Gatineau, and then steered due north by the “ Acabris! Acabras. Acabram! Fais nous polar star for our shanty. We were fairly flyvoyager par-dessus les montagnes.''
ing in the air, and everything was going well when that rascal of a Baptiste managed to slip the ropes we had bound him with and to
pull off his gag. We had been so busy pad“AND up we went again like lightning, dling that, the first thing we knew, he was steering southwest, if the wild way in which standing in the canoe, paddle in hand, and Baptiste managed our boat could be called swearing like a pagan. I felt that our end had steering. We passed over the steeple of the come if he pronounced a certain sacred word, church at Contrecoeur, coming pretty close to and it was out of the question to appease him it, but instead of going west Baptiste made us in his frenzy. We had only a few miles to go to take a sheer toward the Richelieu River. A reach camp, and we were floating over the few minutes later we were skimming over Bel- pine forest. The position was really terrible. cil Mountain, and we came within ten feet of Baptiste was using his paddle like a shillalah striking the big cross that the Bishop of Que- and making a moulinet that threatened every bec planted there, during a temperance picnic moment to crush in some one's head. I was held a few years before by the clergy of his so excited that by a false movement of my own diocese.
paddle I let the canoe come down on a level “To the right, Baptiste! steer to the right, with the pines, and it was upset as it struck the or else you will send us all to le diable if you head of a big tree. We all fell out and began keep on going that way.'
dropping down from branch to branch like “And Baptiste did instinctively turn to the partridges shot from the tamarack-tops. I don't right, and we steered straight for the mountain know how long I was coming down, because of Montréal, which we could perceive in the dis- I fainted before we reached the snow beneath, tance by the dim lights of the city. I must say but my last recollection was like the dream of that I was becoming frightened, because if Bap- a man who feels himself dropping down a well tiste kept on steering as he had done, we would without ever reaching bottom.