Instead of striking a balance of impressions, I passed for the time from the extreme of admiration to the extreme of criticism, and at last turned into the supper room to think. A dapper man of sanguine complexion and grey moustache and hair, a cynical gentleman-of-leisure and old-established visitor at my grandmother’s, was taking wine there, and he addressed me familiarly. I began to question him about several people:
“Who is that man with the mass of locks and the queer beard?”
“That,” replied he like a showman, “is the Honorable Grandmoulin, the National Liar, Premier Minister of the Province, and First Juggler of its finances:—a profligate in public in the name of the Church—in secret in the name of Free-Thought—beau diseur—demagogue of the rabble and chieftain of the Cave.”
He lifted his glass of ruby liquid and faced me across it. “You may not know, my simple Ali Baba, that the Government of this Province is the private property of Forty Thieves.”
“What are these thieves—this Cave?—I do not understand what you mean, sir.”
“Chevaliers of the highway my child,” (he had just enough in him to make him free of speech), “who obtain office through the credulity of Jean Baptiste the industrious Beaver, who, like Jacques in France, bears everything. Jean Baptiste labors. It is the duty of Jean Baptiste to believe everything he is told. Monsieur of the Forty and Company must live upon something. Tsha! The Beavers were created to sweat—to load up their pack mules and be plundered. Quebec is the cave of the Forty,—and plunder is their sesame.”
“But how does such a man come to be received into society?” exclaimed I, disturbed.
The answer was prompt.
“He is successful.”
Reason only too obvious. It staggered me to watch the man receiving and being greeted.
Presently I asked again: “Are more of them present?” “Assuredly. Like devils they fly in swarms: like the Apostles they never travel less than two—one to preach you the relics and the other to pick the pocket in the tails of your coat. The man with the Oriental beard there looks respectable, does he not? Tell me,—does he not?”
“It is true.”
“He is the honest-man-figure-head and book-keeper of the Cave. This fellow near us,” (gesturing towards a scraggy-looking little man), “has got himself appointed a judge and once securely off the raft, poses as a little tyrant to young advocates, on the Kamouraska Bench.”
“What does our host, Mr. Picault do?” I said, to change the subject.
What was my surprise when he answered: