“Think,” he said, “and pray to Him about it, and hope a little for Francois. He loves you. It would be so cruel to him to lose you.”
Henri’s voice broke joyously out of the shrubbery:—
“Good at all times
Is sweet bread,
But specially when
With sugar spread.”
Chrysler moved away, and passing through the trees stood on the bank, looking down on the beach and the sunny surface of the River. He had helped to right one little matter anyway, in Dormilliere.
A guttural call in a low voice startled him,—a subdued longdrawn “Hoioch!—hoioch!—hoioch!” followed by a few words of instructions rapidly uttered in what seemed a kind of patois—and on turning he saw below, along the shore at the left, the little figure of the Bonhomme rapidly pulling in one end of a net through the water, while the other end was managed by a younger fisherman attired as rudely and queerly. It needed a close glance to see that the second man was Francois, assisting his father. Together they suggested that strange caste—the fishers of the great river—a caste living in the midst of a civilization, yet as little of it as the gipsies—families handing down apart among themselves from generation to generation manners, customs, haunts, unique secrets of localities, and sometimes apparently a marvellous skill. These are the true geographers and unboasting Nimrods. You who have ever seen the strange sight of the spearing under the flame of immense torches in the rapids of the Buisson, where no straining of your own eyes could ever discern the trace of a fish; and you with whom it was an article of faith that certain death waited in every channel, swirl and white horse of the thundering Lachine Rapids, until one day some one speculated how the market boats of the lake above could turn up every morning safe and regular at the Bonsecours Market,—will be ready to understand.
However, it was not long before the net was drawn up and Chrysler stood beside them, the greetings were over and all three were duly seated, each on his chosen boulder under the green poplar saplings, talking:
“Francois,” said the Bonhomme to his son, “Monsieur does not think it probable that Cuiller will marry Josephte.”
The young man’s unconquerable cheerfulness faded for a moment. He was silent.
“Why is it Mr. Benoit will not accept you?”—Chrysler asked, very interested.
“Solely because I lost my money, air. I was coming to receive his blessing on our wishes.”
“How was the money lost? That was a singular circumstance.”
“I had seven hundred and fifty dollars in my pocket. It was on the steamboat down from Montreal, at night time, in the lower cabin. I got a corner with Cuiller between two barrels and a bale of blankets and went to sleep from time to time. The lamps did not burn well. There was a crowd of people. A pedlar was next me whose features I have forgotten. Cuiller says it was that pedlar who took my money. I will not blame a man without knowing something about him; but the truth is that when I got up and searched my pockets, my purse, my money, my pleasure, my life’s profit,—all were lost, and I had nothing for it but to sit down and cry tears, after enquiring of all the people.”