All these things, I say, I saw go on about me. Yet in truth as to the inner workings of this I could gain but little actual information. I saw England’s ships, but it was not for me to know whether they were to turn Cape Hope or the Horn. I saw Canada’s voyageurs, but they might be only on their annual journey, and might go no farther than their accustomed posts in the West. In French town and English town, among common soldiers, voyageurs, inn-keepers and merchants, I wandered for more than one day and felt myself still helpless.
That is to say, such was the case until there came to my aid that greatest of all allies, Chance.
THE OTHER WOMAN
The world is the book of women.—Rousseau.
I needed not to be advised that presently there would be a meeting of some of the leading men of the Hudson Bay Company at the little gray stone, dormer-windowed building on Notre Dame Street. In this old building—in whose vaults at one time of emergency was stored the entire currency of the Canadian treasury—there still remained some government records, and now under the steep-pitched roof affairs were to be transacted somewhat larger than the dimensions of the building might have suggested. The keeper of my inn freely made me a list of those who would be present—a list embracing so many scores of prominent men whom he then swore to be in the city of Montreal that, had the old Chateau Ramezay afforded twice its room, they could not all have been accommodated. For myself, it was out of the question to gain admittance.
In those days all Montreal was iron-shuttered after nightfall, resembling a series of jails; and to-night it seemed doubly screened and guarded. None the less, late in the evening, I allowed seeming accident to lead me in a certain direction. Passing as often as I might up and down Notre Dame Street without attracting attention, I saw more than one figure in the semi-darkness enter the low chateau door. Occasionally a tiny gleam showed at the edge of a shutter or at the top of some little window not fully screened. As to what went on within I could only guess.
I passed the chateau, up and down, at different times from nine o’clock until midnight. The streets of Montreal at that time made brave pretense of lighting by virtue of the new gas works; at certain intervals flickering and wholly incompetent lights serving to make the gloom more visible. None the less, as I passed for the last time, I plainly saw a shaft of light fall upon the half darkness from a little side door. There emerged upon the street the figure of a woman. I do not know what led me to cast a second glance, for certainly my business was not with ladies, any more than I would have supposed ladies had business there; but, victim of some impulse of curiosity, I walked a step or two in the same direction as that taken by the cloaked figure.