The Right of Way


For the first time in its history Chaudiere was becoming notable in the eyes of the outside world.

"We'll have more girth after this," said Filion Lacasse the saddler to the wife of the Notary, as, in front of the post-office, they stood watching a little cavalcade of habitants going up the road towards Four Mountains to rehearse the Passion Play.

"If Dauphin's advice had been taken long ago, we'd have had a hotel at Four Mountains, and the city folk would be coming here for the summer," said Madame Dauphin, with a superior air.

"Pish!" said a voice behind them. It was the Seigneur's groom, with a straw in his mouth. He had a gloomy mind.

"There isn't a house but has two or three boarders. I've got three," said Filion Lacasse. "They come tomorrow."

"We'll have ten at the Manor. But no good will come of it," said the groom.

"No good! Look at the infidel tailor!" said Madame Dauphin. "He translated all the writing. He drew all the dresses, and made a hundred pictures—there they are at the Cure's house."

"He should have played Judas," said the groom malevolently. "That'd be right for him."

"Perhaps you don't like the Passion Play," said Madame Dauphin disdainfully.

"We ain't through with it yet," said the death's-head groom.

"It is a pious and holy mission," said Madame Dauphin. "Even that Jo Portugais worked night and day till he went away to Montreal, and he always goes to Mass now. He's to take Pontius Pilate when he comes back. Then look at Virginie Morrissette, that put her brother's eyes out quarrelling—she's to play Mary Magdalene."

"I could fit the parts better," said the groom.

"Of course. You'd have played St. John," said the saddler—"or, maybe, Christus himself!"

"I'd have Paulette Dubois play Mary the sinner."

"Magdalene repented, and knelt at the foot of the cross. She was sorry and sinned no more," said the Notary's wife in querulous reprimand.

"Well, Paulette does all that," said the stolid, dark-visaged groom.

Filion Lacasse's ears pricked up. "How do you know—she hasn't come back?"

"Hasn't she, though! And with her child too—last night."

"Her child!" Madame Dauphin was scandalised and amazed.

The groom nodded. "And doesn't care who knows it. Seven years old, and as fine a child as ever was!"

"Narcisse—Narcisse!" called Madame Dauphin to her husband, who was coming up the street. She hastily repeated the groom's news to him.

The Notary stuck his hand between the buttons of his waistcoat. "Well, well, my dear Madame," he said consequentially, "it is quite true."

"What do you know about it—whose child is it?" she asked, with curdling scorn.

"'Sh-'sh!" said the Notary. Then, with an oratorical wave of his free hand: "The Church opens her arms to all—even to her who sinned much because she loved much, who, through woful years, searched the world for her child and found it not—hidden away, as it was, by the duplicity of sinful man"—and so on through tangled sentences, setting forth in broken terms Paulette Dubois's life.

"How do you know all about it?" asked the saddler. "I've known it for years," said the Notary grandly—stoutly too, for he would freely risk his wife's anger that the vain-glory of the moment might be enlarged.

"And you keep it even from madame!" said the saddler, with a smile too broad to be sarcastic. "Tiens! if I did that, my wife'd pick my eyes out with a bradawl."

"It was a professional secret," said the Notary, with a desperate resolve to hold his position.

"I'm going home, Dauphin—are you coming?" questioned his wife, with an air.

"You will remain, and hear what I've got to say. This Paulette Dubois—she should play Mary Magdalene, for—"

"Look—look, what's that?" said the saddler. He pointed to a wagon coming slowly up the road. In front of it a team of dogs drew a cart. It carried some thing covered with black. "It's a funeral! There's the coffin. It's on Jo Portugais' little cart," added Filion Lacasse.

"Ah, God be merciful, it's Rosalie Evanturel and Mrs. Flynn! And M'sieu' Evanturel in the coffin!" said Madame Dauphin, running to the door of the postoffice to call the Cure's sister.

"There'll be use enough for the baker's Dead March now," remarked M. Dauphin sadly, buttoning up his coat, taking off his hat, and going forward to greet Rosalie. As he did so, Charley appeared in the doorway of his shop.

"Look, Monsieur," said the Notary. "This is the way Rosalie Evanturel comes home with her father."

"I will go for the Cure" Charley answered, turning white. He leaned against the doorway for a moment to steady himself, then hurried up the street. He did not dare meet Rosalie, or go near her yet. For her sake it was better not.

"That tailor infidel has a heart. His eyes were leaking," said the Notary to Filion Lacasse, and went on to meet the mournful cavalcade.

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