The Chateau De Vaudreuil

A short distance to the south-west is the spot on which stood the

Chateau and famous gardens of the Marquis de Vaudreuil, the last French

Governor of Canada. Imagination can forget the miles of docks and

warehouses, the electricity and commerce with which we are entering the

twentieth century, and fancy it sees again the old vice-regal palace, a

miniature in Canadian forests of the gay court at the Tuilleries, with

bewitchment of lace, silk and velvet, powdered wigs and the

exaggerated politeness and exquisite bows of la grande dame and le

chevalier of the time.

Let us step back to the winter of 1758 and '59. The mountain is

snow-capped and the St. Lawrence is frozen several feet thick, making

good roads for the shaggy Canadian pony and cariole, or heavy

traineau with wooden runners. In the early winter's evening, lights

gleam through the small windows of the earthen citadel which guards the

Porte St. Martin, and the clash of arms or halberds, and the pacing of

the sentries' footsteps, are heard at every closed gate of the little

walled town. Patches of warm light from candle and hearth checker the

snow which lies glistening on the sidewalks, for there are no street

lamps on the St. Paul, St. Mary or Notre Dame streets of these old days.

Under the night sky, the storehouses look like gloomy prisons, but

cheerful groups talk and laugh, as the beaux and belles bend their steps

along the narrow streets to the Governor's salon. As the guests of the

Marquis de Vaudreuil assemble, the brilliance of their costumes is

heightened in effect by the gorgeous livery of the attendants and the

blue and white of the soldiers' regimentals. Groups around the

spindle-legged card tables exchange bon-mots and play, while others

dance and promenade on the polished floors until the morning light

breaks over the river.

The gaiety and frivolity, feasting and gossip are in strange contrast to

the grey gown of the Jesuit priest hurrying from the monastery opposite,

to shrive some sinner, or to administer "Extreme Unction" to some dying

saint. Within the convent walls pious sisters, followers of Mademoiselle

Mance and Madame d'Youville, tend the sick and unfortunate, whom the

tide of life has cast upon this far away shore. From the taverns on the

corners and on the river front comes the sound of mirth and merriment,

as with the cup of good Gascon wine are passed around tales of the high

seas or of times gone by in the old-world towns of Brittany.

On the altars of the chapels lights burn dimly in a silence unbroken,

save by the murmuring of prayers and telling of beads by suppliants

driven hither by sin, sorrow or homesickness.

A narrow little street, named St. Amable, running west from the

Governor's mansion, has been subjected to so little change since those

days of long ago that the passer-by on its two feet of sidewalk sees it

just as it was when its vaulted warehouses held the cargoes of the

weather-beaten sailing craft that anchored at the shore below. Where now

the French habitant sits chattering with his confreres and smoking

his pipe filled with home-grown tabac were once the shady walks and

stiff parterres of the ancient garden. Here, under the summer moons,

were doubtless stolen meetings as sweet, vows as insincere, and

intrigues as foolish as those in the exquisite bowers of Le Petit

Trianon at Versailles. On its paths have fallen the martial tread of

"de Levis, de Beaujeu, and many a brave soldier and dainty courtier,

official guests at the Governor's Chateau." Among them was one who

eclipsed all others in sad interest, the courtly young commander, Louis

Joseph Saint Veran de Montcalm. Any spot associated with this ill-fated

general is of immortal memory. After his skillful manoeuvering at the

battle of Carillon, his march to Montreal was a triumph. At the close of

this engagement, as, accompanied by de Levis and his staff, he rode

along the ranks, thanking his troops, who idolized him, in the name of

their king, for their glorious display of French valour in a field where

thirty-six hundred men had for six hours withstood fifteen thousand, he

was in every particular a worthy and capable general. He spoke of his

own share in the glory of the day with simplicity and modesty, writing

the next day to Vaudreuil:--

"The only credit I can claim as accruing to me is the glory of

commanding troops so valorous."

On one occasion, the capture of Oswego, which is described as the most

brilliant military exploit then known in Canadian history, he with his

own hand snatched the colours from a British officer and sent the trophy

to Quebec, to adorn the walls of the Cathedral of that city; as many a

time before had been done for old-world Minsters by knights on the

battlefields of Europe, whose empty armour now hangs in the baronial

halls of England.

Montcalm had been summoned to Montreal to confer with the Governor on

the further conduct of the war, and, as he marched forth to take command

of the Citadel of Quebec, all hearts centred on him, saying, "Save for

France her fair dominion in the West;" but the gallant soldier, in his

endeavour to do so, met his tragic and untimely end.

Entrenched behind the ramparts of Quebec, he prepared for the great

struggle which was to decide the fortunes of the then two foremost

powers of Europe. He and de Levis, although a considerable distance from

each other, had seventeen thousand men under their command, with a

splendid line of fortifications running from Montmorenci to the St.

Charles, supplementing the granite defences of the Citadel. Montcalm

being in doubt for some time at what point to look for attack from the

enemy, sent orders along the whole line for his troops to be in perfect

readiness everywhere. He was several years older than Wolfe, and was an

old campaigner, having served his king with honour and distinction in

Germany, Italy and Bohemia.