In Chrysler’s walks he met signs of the excitement even where a long stroll brought him far back into the country.
The one of such corners named Misericorde from its wretchedness, was a hamlet of thirty or forty cabins crowded together among some scrub trees in the midst of a stony moor. The inhabitants, of whom a good share were broken-down beggars and nondescript fishermen, varied their discouraged existences by drinking, wood sawing and doing odd jobs for the surrounding farmers, while their slatternly women idled at the doors and the children grew up wild, trooping over the surrounding waste. Politically, the place was noted for its unreliability. It was well known that every suffrage in it was open to corruption. In ordinary times the Rouges troubled themselves little about this, but the strong combination they had now to fight might make the vote of La Misericorde of considerable importance; hence, there was some value in the trust which had been placed, at the meeting, in Benoit and Spoon.
Here the latter, even more than at Dormilliere, was in his element.
A drinking house, misnamed “hotel,” was the most prominent building in Misericorde. It would not have ornamented a more respectable locality but, on the whole, possessed a certain picturesqueness, among these hovels, and arrested the Ontarian’s steps. Stained a dark grey by at least fifty years of exposure, yet slightly tinted with the traces of a by-gone coat of green, it lifted a high peaked roof in air, which in descent, suddenly curving, was carried far out over a high-set front gallery reached by very steep steps. On the stuck-out sign, which was in the same faded condition as the rest of the building, were with difficulty to be distinguished in a suggestion of yellow color the shapes of a large and small French loaf, and the inscription “BOULONGE,” but the baking had apparently passed away with the paint. While he was curiously surveying this antique bit, a loud voice sounded through the open door, and the heavy form of the “Yankee from Longueuil” precipitated itself proudly, though a trifle unsteadily, forward down the steps and along the middle of the street, swearing, boasting and heading a swarm of men and boys, and loudly drawling a line of Connecticut notions in blasphemy.
It could be seen that Spoon was some kind of a hero in the eyes of Misericorde. Rich,—for he had paid the drinks; travelled,—they had his assertion for it; courageous,—he could anathematize the Archbishop; Misericorde had seldom such a novelty all to itself.
“Sacre! To blazes wit’ you; set ’em up all roun’, you blas’ Canaydjin nigger! Du gin, vite done! John Collins’ pour le crowd! I’m a white man, j’sht un homme blanc, j’sht Americain; I’m from the Unyted States, I am! Sacre bleu! Health to all!”
“A thousand thanks.”
“Set ’em up again, bapteme, you blas’ Canayjin nigger!”