“Picault is the Arch Devil—the organizer of the Cave—the man who manipulates the Government for the profit of his accomplices. When they require money the Province calls a loan; it is members of the Cave who negociate it, exacting a secret commission which is itself a fortune. The loan is expended,” he went on, marking each step of his narration by appropriate gestures of his right forefinger, as one who is expounding a science, “on salaries to the Cave supporters, who are appointed to ingenious sinecures. Vast contracts are given at extravagant prices to persons who pay a large share to our friends. Then the works, such as railways, are sold,—if possible to Picault, or through him in the same manner. And finally, by this system no burden is left upon the Treasury except the loan to be paid. Between this and all sorts of minor applications of the principle, though they have not long begun, the end is clear;—yet the electorate persists in being duped by these ruffians. Men cherish their prejudices,” he closed oracularly. “Men cherish their prejudices with more care than their interests.”
“Until, he began to control the politicans,” he immediately resumed, “Picault was a bankrupt financier. Now he is nominally a banker with millions. Once bribed or scandalized, your politician is broken in; and Picault’s favourite maxim is ’You can buy the Pope, and pay less for a Cardinal.’”
“I want to get out of this house!” I cried, no longer able to retain my indignation, “Am I a thief to associate with these criminals?”
“My young man,” said he, holding me quiet by the shoulder. “Accept the good points of Picault and drink your lemonade. The chieftain of fools is ever a knave; he has been tempted by the ignorance of the people.”
Such feelings of contempt and determination nevertheless took possession of me that the relish of Picault’s magnificence and the charms of his assembly soured to very repulsion.
Indignation above all with my own self took possession of me; for this circle was what I was to have exchanged for the world of Alexandra.
Must I endure to be detained here till the time of my appointment with Grace? I went up to her to tell her abruptly I must go—what reason to give I knew not—and as I looked into those trustful, believing eyes and flushed face, feelings of desperate abandon for an instant almost overcame me. But natural resolution increased with the antagonism, “I must leave, Grace,” said I, shortly and fiercely. “I cannot tell you the reason. Good night.”
Next morning my father sent me to France with Quinet.
LA MERE PATRIE.
“Et pour la France un chant
Qu’il brille pur, le ciel de nos aieux!”
“Chamilly! Chamilly! This is the soil of our forefathers!” Quinet and I stood at last on the shores of France. We trod it with veneration, and looked around with joy. It was the sea-port of Dieppe, whose picturesque mediaeval Gothic houses ranged their tall gables before us. Hence my ancestor had sailed to the wild new Canada two centuries before.—O enchanted land!