This was an orator and a Solomon. He was a farmer, middle-aged, and somewhat short, whose shaven lips were drawn so over-soberly as to express a complete self-conviction of his own profundity, while his unstable averted glance warned that his alliances were not to be depended on where he was likely to be a material loser. A particularly “fluent” man, accomplished in gestures such as form an ingredient in all French conversation, he was in Zotique’s Sunday afternoons a zestful contestant. His clothes were of homespun, dyed a raw, light blue, and he was proud of his choice of the color, for its singularity.
“Monsieur Genest,” he began, with oratorical impressiveness, coming forward, and bowing to Zotique, “Monsieur l’Honorable; Monsieur;” bowing low; “and Messieurs. I speak not against the clergy, whom the good God and His Pontifical Holiness have set over us for instruction and guidance. I am not speaking against those holy men. But it seems to me to-day that you, my friend, are a little rash—a very little severe—in reproaching my friend, Mr. Cuiller, upon the language which he uses, coming from a foreign country where neither the expressions, nor the customs, are the same as ours; and it seems to me that there is a point a little subtle which should have been noticed by you before commencing, and on which I dare to base my exception to the form; and this point is, I pretend, that Mr. Cuiller has said nothing directly himself against the clergy, but has simply told how they were treated in the United States.”
This beginning, delivered with appropriate gestures—now a bow, now an ultra-crossing of the arms, only to throw them apart again, now a chopping down with both hands from the elbow, now again a graceful clasping of them in front, made a satisfactory impression on Benoit himself, who prepared to continue indefinitely had not Zotique interrupted.
“Benoit, you are too fine for good millstone. But respecting friend Cuiller, we are willingly converted to your delusion. He is honorably acquitted of his crime.”
“And now,” he cried, “Oyez! Let all who have not forgotten how to make their marks, sign the requisition which I observe in the hands of Maitre Descarries.”
Maitre Descarries, Notary, an elderly, active little man, carefully attired and wearing his white hair brushed back from his forehead, in a manner resembling a halo, or some silvery kind of old-time wig, stood at the door holding a document,—a paper nominating Sieur Chamilly Haviland to represent the Electoral District of Argentenaye.
The Notary, advancing, laid it on the bar of the Court, and everybody crowded to look on and see those requested to sign do so.
The Honorable, the first to be called, went forward and affixed his name, and Maitre Descarries turned to a person who was apparently an old farmer, but a man with a face of conspicuous dignity.
“Will you sign, Mr. De La Lande?”