The windmill and the cot of Le Brun stood in a birch-grown hollow, not far off, where a stream cascaded into the St. Lawrence, and had worn down the precipitous bank of earth. It was a wild picture. The gable of the cot was stained Indian red down to the eaves, and a stone chimney was embedded irregularly in its log side. The windmill, towering its conical roof and rusty weather-vane a little distance off, and stretching out its gray skeleton arms as if to creak more freely in the sweep of gales from the river, was one of those rembrandtesque relics which prove so picturesquely that Time is an artist inimitable by man. A clay oven near the cot completed this group of erections, around and behind which the silver birches and young elms grew up and closed.
No, Messieurs, Le Brun was not at home; he had gone to Isle of Ducks; and all the blessings of the saints upon Monseigneur for his kindness to a poor old woman.—“Ah, Seigneur!”
Chamilly took his skiff from the boathouse himself, and was soon pulling swiftly from the shore, while as they got out upon it the vastness and power of the stream became apparent.
From its broad surface the mists began to rise gracefully in long drifts, moved by the early winds and partly obscuring the distant shores, whose fringe of little shut up houses still suggested slumber. The dews had freshened the pines of Dormilliere, and the old Church stood majestically forward among them, throwing back its head and keeping sleepless watch towards the opposite side. Gradually receding, too, the Manoir showed less and less gable among its mass of foliage.
If the Church is one great institution of that country, the St. Lawrence is no less another,—displaying thirty miles unbroken blue on a clear day in the direction of the distant hill of Montreal, and on the other hand, towards Lake St. Peter, a vista oceanlike and unhorizoned. In certain regions numerous flat islands, covered by long grasses and rushes intersected by labyrinthine passages, hide the boatman from the sight of the world and form innumerable nooks of quiet which have a class of scenery and inhabitants altogether their own. As the chaloupe glides around some unsuspected corner, the crane rises heavily at the splash of a paddle, wild duck fly off low and swiftly, the plover circle away in bright handsome flocks, the gorgeous kingfisher leaves his little tree. In the water different spots have their special finny denizens. In one place a broad deep arm of the river—which throws off a dozen such arms, each as large as London’s Thames, without the main stream appearing a whit less broad—shelters among its weeds exhaustless tribes of perch and pickerel; in another place a swifter and profounder current conceals the great sturgeon and lion-like maskinonge; while among certain shallower, less active corners, the bottom is clothed with muddy cat fish.
They approached a region of this kind, skimmed along by spirited athletic strokes, and had arrived at the head of the low-lying archipelago just described, where they came upon a motionless figure sitting fishing in a punt, some distance along a broad passage to the left.