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Classic French-Canadian Folktales: Volume I

Classic French-Canadian Folktales: Volume I

By Honore Beaugrand and Louis Frechette

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A short English-language anthology of classic French-Canadian legends and folktales written around the turn of the 20th Century by writers Honore Beaugrand and Louis-Honore Frechette.

These stories include:

  • La Chasse-Galerie
  • The Werwolves (Le Loup-Garou)
  • The Miser’s Ghost (La Fantome de L’Avare)
  • Un Relique: La Corriveau
  • The Goblins (Les Lutins)

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Legends of the Nahanni Valley (2018 book)

Legends of the Nahanni Valley

By Hammerson Peters, 2018

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A non-fiction exploring some of Northern Canada’s greatest forgotten mysteries- the stories and legends surrounding the watershed of the South Nahanni River.

Deep in the heart of the Canadian North lies a mysterious valley shrouded in legend. Lured by tales of lost gold, prospectors who enter it tend to lose their heads or vanish without a trace. Some say that the valley is cursed- haunted by an evil spirit whose wailings echo in the canyons. Others claim that it is home to monsters- relics of its prehistoric past. What secrets could the valley be hiding? What mysteries lie buried beneath its misty shroud?


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La Fantome de L’Avare (The Miser’s Ghost; English Translation)

La Fantome de L’Avare


The Miser’s Ghost

From Honore Beaugrand’s La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English Translation); With Annotations by Hammerson Peters

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.


YOU ALL KNOW, old men and young folks, this story that I will tell you. The moral of this story cannot be repeated too often; remember that behind the legend is the terrible lesson of a retributive God who commands the rich to be charitable.

It was New Years’ Eve, 1857. There was a dry, biting cold.

The main road which runs along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence from Montreal to Berthier was covered with a thick layer of snow which had fallen before Christmas.

The roads were as smooth as a Venetian mirror, and the sons of the local farmers took pleasure in driving their dashing horses, which flew like the wind to the joyful sound of silver bells from their harnesses.

I was in vigil [1] with Father Joseph Hervieux, whom you all know. You also know that his house, which is built of stone, is located halfway between the churches of Lavaltrie and Lanoraie. There was a party that night at Father Hervieux’s. After supper, all the family members gathered in the large reception hall.

It is customary for each Canadian family to host a feast on the last day of each year, so that we might, at midnight, with all pomp and ceremony, greet the arrival of the unknown, which brings us all a share of joy and pain.

It was ten o’clock in the evening.

The toddlers, driven by sleepiness, allowed themselves, one after the other, to roll onto the buffalo robes which had been spread around the huge stove in the kitchen.

The parents and young people alone wanted to stay up to a late hour and wish each other a happy new year before retiring for the night.

One lively and alert little girl, who saw the conversation languishing, suddenly stood up and placed a respectful kiss on the forehead of the family patriarch, an old man of nearly one hundred years, and said to him in a voice that she knew was irresistible:

“Grandfather, please tell us the story of your meeting with the spirit of poor Jean-Pierre Beaudry- may God have mercy on his soul- which you told us about last year; it will help us pass the time until midnight.”

“Oh! Yes, grandfather, the story of New Year’s Day!” repeated the guests in chorus, almost all of whom were descendants of the old man.

“My children,” replied the white-haired patriarch in a trembling voice, “I have repeated this story of my youth every New Year’s Eve for a very long time. I am very old, and perhaps this evening will be the last time I will repeat it to you. Take care and observe the terrible punishment that God reserves for those who refuse hospitality to the traveler in distress.”

The old man brought his chair to the stove, and his children having made a circle around him, he began his story:

“It was seventy years ago to this day. I was twenty years old then.

“On my father’s orders, I left early in the morning for Montreal, where I was to buy various items for the family; among others, a magnificent demijohn of Jamaica [2], which was absolutely necessary for us to treat friends with dignity on the occasion of New Year’s Eve. At three o’clock in the afternoon, I had finished shopping, and was preparing to take the road to Lanoraie. My carriage was fairly full, and as I wanted to return home before nine o’clock, I whipped my horse to excess. At half past five, I reached the end of the island, and I had made good time up to that point. But the sky gradually darkened, and there was every indication of an imminent heavy snowfall. I hit the road, and before I reached Repentigny, it was snowing full time.

“I have seen heavy snowstorms in my life, but I don’t remember any that were as terrible as that one. I saw neither heaven nor earth, and I could hardly follow the highway in front of me, the markers of which having not yet been laid.

“I passed the church of Saint-Sulpice at dusk; but soon, a deep darkness and a blowing snow which whipped my face completely prevented me from continuing. I was not quite sure of my location, but I suspected that I was in the vicinity of Father Robillard’s farm. I thought that the best thing I could do was to tie my horse to a stake at the end of the road and head out in search of a house in which I might take refuge while waiting for the storm to abate.

“I wandered for a few minutes and began to lose heart when I saw, on the left side of the highway, a hut half-buried in the snow which I did not recall seeing before. I struggled through the snowbanks towards this house, which I thought at first abandoned. I was wrong, however; the door was closed, but I could see through the window the reddish glow of a good hardwood fire burning in the hearth. I knocked, and immediately heard the steps of the person who came forward to greet me.

“‘Who’s ‘there?’

“Conservatively, I replied, shivering, that I had lost my way, and I had the immediate pleasure of hearing my interrogator raise the latch. He only half-opened the door, to keep the cold out as much as possible, and I entered, shaking my clothes, which were covered with a thick layer of snow.

“‘Welcome,’ said the host of the hovel, holding out a warm hand and helping me remove my sash and my hood of local fabric.

“I explained to him in a few words the cause of my visit, and after thanking him for his kind welcome, and after accepting a comforting glass of brandy, I took a seat on a rickety chair at the corner of the hearth which he pointed out to me with his hand. He went outside, telling me that he was going to the road to fetch my horse and carriage and put them under a shed, where they would be sheltered from the storm.

“I couldn’t help but take a curious look at the quaint furnishings of the room in which I sat. In a corner, a miserable cot on which was stretched a buffalo robe served as a bed for the tall old man with hunched shoulders who had opened the door for me. An old musket, probably dating from the French regime, was adhered to the raw wooden joists that supported the thatched roof of the house. Several heads of deer, bear, and moose were hung as hunting trophies on whitewashed walls. Close to the hearth, a lonely oak log seemed to be the only vacant seat that the master of this house had to offer to the traveler who, by chance, knocked on his door asking for hospitality.

“I wondered who this individual could be, who thus lived in the wild in the middle of the parish of Saint-Sulpice, without my ever having heard of it. I wracked my head in vain. I thought I knew everyone from Lamoraie to Montreal, but I could come up with nothing. Meanwhile, my host returned and, without saying a word, took a seat opposite me, at the other corner of the hearth.

“‘Thank you very much for your good care,’ I said, ‘but would you please inform me to whom I owe such honest hospitality. I, who know the parish of Saint-Sulpice like my Pater [3] – I did not know until today that there was a house in this place, and your countenance is unknown to me.’

“As I said these words, I looked him in the face, and I observed for the first time the strange rays produced by my host’s eyes; they looked like the eyes of a wildcat. I instinctively pulled my seat back, under the penetrating gaze of the old man, who looked me in the face, but who did not answer me.

“The silence was wearying, and my host continued to stare at me, his eyes bright like the embers of the hearth.

“I began to be afraid.

“Gathering all my courage, I asked for his name again. This time, my question prompted him to leave his seat. He approached me slowly, and placing his bony hand on my trembling shoulder, he said to me in a sad voice like the wind that moaned in the fireplace:

“‘Young man, you are not yet twenty years old, and you ask how it is that you do not know Jean-Pierre Beaudry, formerly the village richard [4]. I’ll tell you, because your visit this evening saves me from the flams of purgatory where I have been burning for fifty years, without ever having been able to fulfill the penance that God has imposed on me unto today. I am the one who once, in a circumstance just like this, had refused to open his door to a traveler exhausted by cold, hunger, and fatigue.’

“My hair stood up on end, my knees clashed, and I trembled like the poplar leaf in a strong northern wind. But the old man, without paying attention to my fright, continued in a slow voice:

“‘Fifty years ago. It was long before the Englishman had ever walked the soil of your native parish. I was rich, very rich, and at that time I lived in the house here, in which I have received you this evening. It was New Years’ Eve, like today, and alone in my home, I enjoyed the comfort of a shelter from the storm and a good fire which protected me from the cold that cracked the stones on the walls of my house. There was a knock on my door, but I was hesitant to open it. I feared that it was some thief who, knowing my wealth, had come to loot me, and who knows, perhaps murder me.

“‘I turned a deaf ear and after a few moments the blows stopped. I soon fell asleep, only to wake up the next day in broad daylight, to the hellish noise made by two young men from the neighbourhood who were shaking my door with great kicks. I hastily got up to go chastise them for their impudence, when I saw, opening the door, the lifeless body of a young man who had died of cold and misery on the threshold of my house. I had, out of love for my gold, left a man knocking on my door to die; I was almost a murderer. I went mad with pain and repentance.

“‘After having sung a solemn service for the repose of the soul of the unfortunate, I divided my fortune among the poor of the neighborhood, praying to God to accept this sacrifice in expiation for the crime that I had committed. Two years later, I was burned alive in my house and I had to report to my Creator on my conduct on this earth that I had left in such a tragic way. I was not found worthy of the happiness of the elect and I was condemned to return here every New Year’s Eve to wait for a traveler to come knocking at my door, so that I might give him the hospitality that I had refused one of my fellow men during my lifetime. For fifty winters, I came, on God’s orders, to spend the night of the last day of each year here, without a traveler in distress ever knocking on my door. You finally came tonight, and God forgave me. Forever be blessed to have been the cause of my deliverance from the flames of purgatory, and believe that whatever happens to you here below, I will pray to God for you up there.’

“The ghost, which it most certainly was, was still speaking when, succumbing to the terrible emotions of fear and astonishment which agitated me, I lost consciousness…

“I woke up in my carriage, on the highway, opposite the Lavaltrie church.

“The storm had subsided, and I resumed the road to Lanoraie, doubtless thanks to the assistance of my hose from the other world.

“I was still trembling with fear when I arrived here at one o’clock in the morning, and told the assembled guests of my terrible adventure.

“My late father- may God have mercy on his soul- brought us to our knees, and we recited the rosary in recognition of the special protection of which I had been found worthy, to bring a soul in purgatory its deliverance, for which it had waited so long.

“Since that time, my children have never failed to recite, on each anniversary of my memorable adventure, a rosary in honour of the Virgin Mary, for the repose of the souls of poor travelers exposed to the cold and storm.

“A few days later, while visiting Saint-Sulpice, I had the opportunity to tell my story to the parish priest. He told me that the registers of his church did indeed mention the tragic death of a man named Jean-Pierre Beaudry, whose properties were then located where little Pierre Sansregret now lives. A few hard-headed characters have claimed that I dreamed on the road. But where did I learn the name of the late Beaudry and the facts pertaining to his farm fire, of which I had never heard before? The parish priest of Lanoraie, to whom I told my story, said nothing about it except that the finger of God was in all things and that we were to bless His holy name.”

The schoolmaster stopped talking for a few moments, and no one dared to break the sacred silence which they had maintained while listening to his strange tale. The shaken and fearful young girls looked timidly without daring to make a movement, and the men remained thoughtful while reflecting on all that was extraordinary and marvelous in the supernatural appearance of the old miser, fifty years after his death.

Father Montepel finally put a stop to this awkward situation by offering his guests a last swig of good Jamaican brandy, in honor of the happy return of the travelers.

However, they drank this last toast with less enthusiasm than the others, because the schoolmaster’s tale had struck a chord with them, as it would in the hearts of all French-Canadian peasants, who have a natural tendency towards belief in ghosts and all things supernatural.

After cordially greeting the master and mistress of the house, and after saying goodbye to each other, the boys and girls returned to their homes. And while traversing the highway which skirts the bank of the river, the young girls embraced their companions, trembling in the arms of their riders, watching the swaying canopies of old poplars in the dark; and hearing the rustling of the leaves, they still thought, despite the sweet words of their lovers, about the legend of the miser’s ghost.



[1] Attending a nocturnal prayer service.


[2] Rum.


[3] Latin for “Father”; my home parish.


[4] Moneybag; a wealthy person.

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Les Lutins (The Goblins) by Louis Frechette (English Translation)

Les Lutins


The Goblins

By Louis-Honore Frechette, in the 1905 issue of Almanach du peuple de la librairie Beauchemin (English translation)

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.

LUTINS, CHILDREN? You ask if I know what the lutins are? Do you think that someone like me, who has worked for thirty beautiful years in the woods, on the rafts and in the timber camps, would not know, inside and out, everything there is to know about these types of creatures? Yes, Jos Violon knows a little about them!”

It goes without saying that it was precisely Jos Violon himself, our usual protagonist, who had the floor, and who was preparing to treat us to one of his timber camps stories which he had witnessed, in which he had played a decisive role.

“First of all, what do elves do?” asked someone from the audience. “Are they everywhere? Are they demons?”

“That is more than I could tell you,” replied the veteran of the aforementioned countries. “All I know is that you shouldn’t mess around with them. I wouldn’t say that they are absolutely harmful, but when you annoy them, or provoke them too much, you have to be wary of them. They play tricks on you that are not funny: one time, for example, they made this young bride ride through the woods on horseback all night long on her wedding night, and brought her back all out of breath, and nearly unconscious, at five o’clock in the morning. Is that a nice thing to do?

“First, everyone who knows anything about lutins, myself included, will tell you that if they are not demons, they are certainly not children of the child Jesus. Imagine little men, eighteen inches tall, with nothing but an eye in the middle of their foreheads, with noses like hazelnuts, a bullfrog’s mouth split up to the ears, arms like toads’ feet, with bellies like tomatoes and big pointed hats that make them look like spring mushrooms.

“The eye that they have in the middle of their forehead glows like a burning coal; and that’s what lights them up, because these folks sleep during the day, and come out at night to cause mischief, you know.

“They live in the ground, behind stumps, between the rocks, and especially in the stables, because, if they have a penchant for anything, it’s for horses.

“Ah! When it comes to tending horses, there are no stablemen in Beauce [1] to match them. When they take a liking to a horse, its manger is always full, and you wouldn’t believe how its coat shines! A real mirror, children, up to its belly. And its mane and tail is as dainty as any dolled-up creature; you would have to see it as I have. Listen, I’ll tell you all about it, if you would just give me a moment to light my pipe.”

And, after carefully lighting his pipe with the flame of a candle, he resumed his tale. “Speak, spake, spoke,” the old narrator began, as he always did at the start of his stories:

“So, I was telling you, children, that one time, I went to winter on the Chene River [2], in the service of old Gilmore [3], with a gang of fellows recruited from the heights of Pointe-Levis, and from the coves of Cap-Blanc.

“Although our camp was in the vicinity of Saint-Maurice, old Gilmore did not want to have anything to do with the rustics of Trois-Rivieries. They wanted decent workers, not blasphemers, nor drunkards nor sorcerers. It seems they had had enough of the runners of la chasse-galerie [4], those owls who talk to the devil and sell the Poule Noir [5].

“So, we were all living pretty cleanly, despite the fact that we did not have the opportunity to attend low mass [6] every morning.

“As you ought to know, children, the Chene River is not exactly ‘at the neighbours’ [7], as they say, but it’s not the green devil either. Starting from Trois-Rivieres, we travelled there in two-and-a-half-day journeys; and since there are no obstructions in the road, we had the chance to cart our things by horse.

“The boss had two horses when he left: a large black bronco, and a small ash-coloured filly, fine as silk. Belzemire, she was called. An ‘eel in the necklace’, children, a real ‘dust on the road’. I tell you, she was a cute little beast! Everyone loved her. She was the kind of horse for whom you’d steal a little piece of sugar from the wagon.

          “Did I tell you that the great Zebe Roberge was part of our gang? Well, it was he who was in charge of the stable and the wagon train. Zebe Roberge was a good fellow, as you know. And since he and I both came from the same place, we were a pair of friends, and on Sundays, in good weather, we often went to smoke pipes together at the door of the stable, where we could keep our pipes from guttering out.

“‘Father Jos,’ he asked me one day, ‘do you believe in lutins?’

“‘In lutins?’


“‘Why do you ask me that?’

“‘Do you believe in them?’

“‘Holy Mary, it’s just my opinion. It’s not Gospel; you don’t have to believe it.’

“‘That’s what I always thought,’ said Zebe Roberge. ‘Well, listen! It’s not religion, but God forgive me, I’m starting to believe it anyway!’

“‘In the lutins?’

“‘In the lutins!’

“‘Pantoute! [8] Here, put yourself in my place, Father Jos. Every Monday morning when I wake up, guess what I find in the stable?’

“‘Holy Mary…’

“‘You’re right, I don’t understand it. Belzemire is already well-groomed, his crib full of hay, his feeder full of oats, his hair like satin, but he’s all out of breath as if he’d just been fifteen leagues d’une bauche.’ [9]

“‘That’s impossible!’

“That’s what I thought! I was puzzled at first, but I didn’t think too much of it, since I didn’t notice the main thing; of course, you don’t see everything by the lantern light. Something caught my ear last Monday, when France Lapointe said to Pierre Fecteau: ‘Look how the greate Zebe takes care of his Belzemire! It sure looks like he’s spending all Sunday there, dolling her up and grooming her!’ In fact, Father Jos, the naughty mare had her hair combed into wavy, frizzy braids. I’m not kidding you, it was criminal. I said to myself, ‘Something strange is going on. I’ll have to keep my eye on this.’’

“‘Have you been watching?’

“‘All the following week, Father Jos.’



“‘What about Monday morning?’

“‘Always the same story; the mare’s sides are beaten like a drum; and the horsehair… Come and see, Father Jos, it’s not yet untangled.’

“Believe me, children, when I saw it, I nearly passed out like a drunk on my back. I’d say it was more than curly: one would have sworn that the damned filly was going to a ball. All that was missing were earrings and a brooch. We were wondering, Zebe and I, what it all meant, when we heard, from the side of the door, a voice calling us fools. We turned around, and saw that it was ‘Gingerbread’ who had entered.

“Gingerbread, children (I don’t know if I told you about him) was a fellow who always had a pipe in his mouth, a man from the coves whose name was Baptiste Lanouette, but whom the boys nicknamed ‘Gingerbread’. We don’t really know why. He was a good sort, I think, but also a bit of a sneaker. He approached us on tiptoe and whispered in our ears:

“‘Don’t you see? It’s the lutins!’


“Can’t you see that she is being groomed by the lutins? It’s obvious enough.’

“Zebe Roberge rearranged the tobacco in his mouth with a dazed look.

“‘I was just talking about this with Father Jos, and he said the same thing.’

“‘Tut, tut! ‘Gingerbread’, don’t beat about the bush. There is no doubt that some sort of magic is involved here, but I don’t think there’s cause for concern. The lutins have not harmed you since the beginning of winter. Well, let it go. They are not harmful, nor mischevious. Just don’t talk about them. If we don’t bother them, they won’t bother us. For myself, personally, the lutins conjured up a vision of my dear late father, who was a carpenter.’

“I tell you, children, that story- it bothered me a little.

“‘All this is fine,’ I told Zebe Roberge the next evening. ‘But I wouldn’t mind seeing the lutins myself. There is no harm; they are not dangerous; and I heard that if you manage to capture one, you’ll be rich! Most of them are female, and if you manage to catch one- as a wealthy merchant did in the Ouelle River- you can exchange its freedom for a barrel full of gold. Say, Zebe, if we’re smart enough, you understand…’

“At first, Zebe had made a face; but when he heard about the barrel full of gold, I saw that it piqued his interest. Finally, so that we might make the abduction as quickly as possible, we both decided to hide in the barn on Sunday evening, and to catch the little imps when they came to do their shenanigans with Belzemire.

“Sunday evening arrived as usual, and at half past seven, the two of us, Zebe Roberge and I, crouched in a corner of a stable behind two-foot-deep bales of hay. We seemed to have forgotten our lantern (which did not shine too brightly) on the shelf behind the filly.

“We weren’t on the lookout for long. It wasn’t quite eight o’clock when the air began to stir all around us. It left us trembling like leaves; we are brave, eh?

“Jos Violon was a poule mouillee [10] then, and that made two of us, you know; well, I don’t know what kept me from making a break for the door to save myself. It must have been Zebe who held me back, because I realized his hand was frozen like an ice cream. I knew something strange was going on. And my suspicions were realized when, a stone’s throw from our hiding place, guess what happened, children? One of the planks from the floor rose gently as if it had been pushed from below. It couldn’t be a rat: we jumped, of course. Crack! The plank went back into place, just like before. I thought I had imagined it.

“‘Did you see that?’ I whispered to Zebe.

“He barely had the strength to answer me:

“‘Yes, Father Jos: this is the end of me, I’m sure!’

“‘Don’t move!’ I said, and Zebe, who was a good Christian, made the sign of the cross with both hands.

“Suddenly, the board began to stir again; and we watched. This time, the hole beneath was very clear in the light of our lantern. The first thing we saw was the end of a pointed hat, then a large half-closed lid above something glowing like an ember, which seemed to us like a lit pipe, but which I later understood to be that blazing eye those folks have in the middle of their foreheads. Without that, God as my witness, I almost thought I recognized ‘Gingerbread’ with his brule-gueule [11]. But that was just my imagination! I even thought I heard him mumble:

“‘Hey, Zebe forgot to put out his lantern!’

“Immediately, I put my hand in my pocket to get my rosary. Bang! Out came my knife, which slammed into the ground. Zebe shouted, the pointed hat disappeared, and my partner and I raced for the door, thoughts of silver bars and barrels of gold being far from our minds, I assure you.

“As you can imagine, children, we were in no hurry to talk about our adventure. We were safely out of reach of the paws of that infernal society into which we just had a glimpse. We learned what we wanted to know, didn’t we; it wasn’t worth inviting the ridicule of our fellows. We let business continue as usual.

“Every Monday morning, Zebe found Belzemire well looked-after, and her grooming completed. It was a lot worse on New Years’ Day; Belzemire was gone! She reappeared in her stall the next morning, fresh as a rose. What had become of her during that time? ‘Gingerbread’, who had spent the day hunting, swore to use that he had seen her running far above the trees as if the devil had taken her away.

I inquired from time to time about what was going on; but whenever I opened my mouth:

“‘Please, Father Jos, big Zebe would say to me, ‘let’s not talk about it. It’s better that way. Whenever I set foot in the stable, I’m always afraid that ragamuffin will show up with his damned pointed hat. I won’t stay here for long; all of Saint-Maurice is bewitched, it seems!’

“Jos Violon wouldn’t deny it, children, because, as truly as you are sitting there – and I don’t know if it’s because of the neighbourhood of Trois-Rivieres- but I never spent another winter in the vicinity of Saint-Maurice without experiencing similar mischief.

“Anyways, as the priest says, spring is coming, and they didn’t have to ask us twice to head down to the riverbank. The rafts were ready and loaded up with everyone’s helmets, snowshoes, tools, rifles, traps, Fifi Labranche’s violin, Bram Couture’s checkerboard, etc.

“The boss asked Zebe Roberge and I to bring back the two horses. We both left in a train with Belzemire in the lead, and the big black fellow taking up the rear. We were well on our way when, at a place called the Fork, the mare made to go left instead of heading right along the river. Zebe spurred, clubbed, and whipped, but to no effect. Belzemire had made up her mind. What did it mean?

“Finally, I said ‘Let it go, we will reach the river later.’

“We made a good fifty leagues down this branch, and had reached the open road, when we saw a house.

“‘Well,’ I said, ‘we’ll be able to get a little respite from the elements!’

I had no sooner opened my mouth than Belzemire stopped right outside the door.

“‘Hey!’ said Zebe Roberge, ‘it looks like the horse knows the way, yet she has never ridden by here.’

“As soon as he said that, the door opened, and we heard a clear little voice say:

“Hey! She’s Monsieur Baptiste’s mare! See if she is alright, see if she remembers. She never came during the day…”

“‘Shut up and shut the door!’ cried a big, gruff voice from the back of the house.

“It smelled like lutins, that’s for sure.


“The next year, who do you think I met at the end of the Cul-de-sac [12] in Quebec? Baptiste ‘Gingerbread’ Lanouette, with his pipe in his mouth, of course, dressed in a large pointed hat which immediately made me think of the one I had seen on the head of the lutin, at the Chene River. He told me that he had nearly caught one in the same stable where Zebe and I saw ours, and had come so close that he snatched its hat off.

“I recognized it right away!

“‘Gingerbread, you rascal, you’re kidding me! If you had grabbed a little more, you would be very rich right now.’


“If you ever pass through the coves of Cap-Blanc, children, ask Bapstiste Lanouette about it: you will see if Jos Violon is a liar!”



[1] A historic region south of Quebec City.

[2] Known today as the Rouge River, a tributary of the Ottawa.

[3] The Gilmore Lumber Company, a great Canadian logging syndicate.

[4] Fly over the forest in canoes with the help of the Devil; see ‘La Chasse-Galerie’.

[5] Literally the “Black Hen”; a 19th Century French grimoire, or book of spells.

[6] The simpler of the two Tridentine Catholic Masses (the other being the High Mass), celebrated without singing or incense.

[7] A friendly and wholesome place.

[8] Literally “Not at all!”; an Quebec expression used to emphasize a negative statement.

[9] Literally “from the beam”; a French-Canadian idiom meaning “led astray” or “enticed from duty”.

[10] Literally “wet hen”; a wimp or sissy.

[11] Short pipe.

[12] The Rue du Cul-de-sac, a historic road in Quebec City.

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‘Une Relique: La Corriveau’ by Louis-Honore Frechette (English Translation)

Un Relique: La Corriveau


A Relic: The Corriveau

By Louis-Honore Frechette in the 1913 Almanach du peuple de la librairie Beauchemin (English translation)

FROM THE TOP of the Dufferin terrace, in Québec, the eye sees shining in the distance, on the opposite shore, a few miles downstream, a graceful bell tower with lanterns covered in tinplate.

It is that of the small parish church of Saint -Joseph de Lévis, picturesquely sitting on this point of land jutting out into the river, in front of the Montmorency waterfall, facing the southwest end of the Isle of Orléans.

From there, the public road rises gradually towards the west, until it reaches an elevation on which stood, a few years ago, an elegant ionic column surmounted by a golden cross.

It was called the “Temperance Monument”.

There, in the evening, outdoors, novenas were made in time of epidemic, the monthly devotions to Mary; and when Corpus-Christi arrived, it was at the foot of this column that the rest house was built, where the procession of the Blessed Sacrament ended.

We got there by a monumental staircase.

However, a stone’s throw from this place, on the left, there is a fork of paths that was once famous.

Let me tell you why.

In 1849, the year when I followed the preparatory exercises for First Communion in the church of Saint-Joseph de Lévis, I witnessed a very strange event.

One fine morning, two gravediggers – one named Bourassa and one named Samson, if I am not mistaken – were busy digging a grave in the eastern part of the cemetery, which, as in all Canadian regions, was then adjacent to the church.

Suddenly, one of the spades creaked on something metallic. What was it?

They dug, they upset, they cleared away, and finally they exhumed an iron cage having the exact shape of a horrible human figure.

Although it seemed to have been buried for years, the grim machine was perfectly preserved.

I can still see it.

Barely had the rust broken through the solid stripes of heavy metal and the wrought iron circles of which it was made.

These stripes and circles, strongly linked together by stout rivets, twisted, rolled up, crossed and knotted with art, following, like the frames of a ship, all the contours of the thighs, shins, and torso of what would have been a human body.

All was complemented by strong rings around the ankles, knees, wrist, elbows, neck, and waist.

On the top of the head, a large hook with a pivoting base must have been used to hang this singular coffin.

And it was a coffin, no doubt, since it still contained some bones belonging to a woman of remarkable proportions, if memory serves.

Where did this funeral relic come from?

What mystery was contained in this sinister iron network?

The popular traditions preserved by the oldest inhabitants of the place soon resolved the problem.

We had there, before our eyes, a dark witness to the barbarism of another age, the last vestige of a terrible judicial drama which has become legendary to the mind of the people.

We had there, right under our hand, something once gloomily famous, and about which the most fantastic rumors had run, an object which had, for years, filled many a mind with dread, produced nightmares in many a conscience, and which was said to have been kidnapped by the devil and dragged with its contents into the depths of Hell.

This discovery removed a little color from the legend, but on the other hand provided a nice subject for the investigations of historians and archaeologists. Their research went back to the previous century; and, thanks to the traditions supported by certain documents collected here and there, here is what they exuded from oblivion.

Just a hundred years before the date mentioned above – that is to say, 1749 – on a radiant spring day, the small village of Saint-Vallier, located a few twenty miles below that of Saint-Joseph of Lévis, was jubilant.

A joyful crowd, in Sunday clothes, crowded around the parish church, laughing, chatting and joking, to the silvery sound of a bell recently imported from France, and which for the first time, invited the faithful to a wedding mass.

The entire population of the fort – to use a local expression – seemed ready to decorate their houses and to sow flowers on the steps of the church, on the steps of which climbed, arm-in-arm with her father, the prettiest girl of ten parishes around, the shy and blushing bride, Marie-Josette Corriveau.

More than one envious glance greeted the young farmer with a martial bearing who, his arm resting on that of his own father, entered the small church at the same time, the happy winner in a struggle for the palm of which the most beautiful and the richest young men of the district had contested.

But he himself was rich and handsome; and, moreover, he accepted his triumph so modestly that everyone forgave him his happiness. His happiness! During eleven years, one single cloud seemed to alter its serenity.

Unlike what usually happens in Canadian households generally, the young couple lived alone, and the little pink and blonde heads missed their homes.[1]

What strange things were going on between these two lonely spouses? No one ever knew.

One fine morning, the neighbours, surprised, saw the young woman arrive in town, disheveled, out of her wits, and apparently struck with terror.

Sobbing, she said she had just found her husband dead in bed.

The deceased was popular; he was sincerely missed, and everyone expressed their deepest sympathies to the young widow.

Her pain seemed so natural that no suspicion arose in anyone’s mind.

However, when she married a second husband- a young man by the name of Louis Dodier- only three months after the death of her first husband, it caused a stir.

The new couple was watched.

But three years having passed without anything out of the ordinary having taken place to confirm them, all the suspicions gradually disappeared… until, on the morning of January 27, 1763, someone found the body of Louis Dodier in his stable, near the feet of his horse, his skull smashed by what appeared at first to be the animal’s iron shoes.

This time, the authorities were informed.

A regular investigation showed that the unfortunate man had not been struck by the studs of a horse, but by an iron fork, which was found near the scene of the crime still stained with blood.

The first husband’s body was exhumed, and it was found that his death must have been caused by molten lead having been poured into his ears – probably during sleep.

New suspicious circumstances followed one after the other, and soon – for the murder of Dodier at least – the evidence piled up so overwhelmingly against the widow that no one had any shadow of doubt about her guilt.

The trial took place before a court martial, the only court then in existence in the country, which had been ceded to England just days after the crime.

Something to remember is that the accused was tried on behalf of the King of England for a crime committed on French territory, and – according to technical expression – against “the crown and dignity of the King of France”.

The evidence, although circumstantial, was conclusive.

The testimony of a young girl named Isabelle Sylvain above all convinced the court, which was preparing to pronounce the death sentence, when an incident of the highest drama occurred.

An old man with white hair rose from the audience and advanced towards the judges.

“Stop, gentlemen!” he said in a voice shattered by emotion. “Do not condemn an innocent woman. It was I who killed Louis Dodier.” And the old man, melting into sobs, knelt down adding:

“I am the only culprit; do whatever you want with me.”

It was the father of the accused, Joseph Corriveau, who, mad with pain when he saw no other way to save the head of his daughter whom he adored, had just sacrificed himself for her.

We can imagine the effect of this scene. The person who seemed the least affected was the culprit herself; she coldly accepted her father’s sacrifice, and let the supreme sentence fall on the head of this martyr of paternal affection without protesting.

Here is the authentic text of the judgment which was rendered in this famous case. It is extracted from a military document, property of the Nearn family, of La Malbaie. It’s to Mr. Aubert de Gaspé to which we owe this discovery.

Québec, April 10 1763.

          General Order.

          The Court Martial, presided over by Lieutenant-Colonel Morris, having heard the testimonies of Mr. Joseph Corriveau and Marie-Josephte Corriveau, Canadians, accused of the murder of Louis Dodier, and the trial of Isabelle Sylvain, Canadian accused of perjury in the same cause, the governor ratifies and confirms the following sentences:

          Joseph Corriveau, having been found guilty of the crime imputed to his charge, is consequently condemned to be hanged.

          The Court is also of the opinion that Marie-Josephte Corriveau, his daughter, widow of the late Dodier, is guilty of complicity in the said murder before the fact, and consequently orders her to receive sixty lashes with nine straps, on the back naked, at three different places, namely: under the scaffold, on the market place in Quebec, and in the parish of Saint-Vallier, twenty lashes at each place, and to be marked on the left hand with the letter M with a red iron.

          The Court also condemns Isabelle Sylvain to receive sixty lashes with nine straps on her bare back, in the same way, in the same places and at the same time as the so-called Josephte Corriveau, and to be marked in the same way with the letter P on the left hand.

The old man’s unexpected confession had naturally destroyed the poor girl’s testimony. Her statements were attributed to hatred against the accused.

She was found guilty of perjury, and sentenced accordingly.

As for Joseph Corriveau, bent under the weight of age even less than under the burden of infamy of which he had just voluntarily taken charge, he walked toward the prison, next to his daughter, who, stricken by the joy of having escaped the scaffold, did not even deign to glance at him with pity and gratitude.

The superior of the Jesuits in Quebec was then a reverend father by the name of Clapion. It was he who was called to the condemned man. After having received the old man’s confession, the priest made him understand that, even supposing that he had the right to sacrifice his life and to defeat the ends of justice, his conscience did not allow him to punish and dishonor the poor young girl, Isabelle Sylvain, for a crime she had not committed. The heroic old man was a Christian; he would gladly have walked on the scaffold to save his daughter, but he could not sacrifice his soul. The truth was revealed to the authorities, whose sentiments towards the murderer became all the more implacable, seeing that she had cowardly consented to see her old father undergo the ultimate punishment for a crime of which she alone was guilty. A new trial took place, and here is the text of the judgment; it is drawn from the same sources as the preceding document:

          Québec, Avril 15 1763.

          General order,

          The Court Martial, chaired by Lieutenant-General Morris, is dissolved.

          The General Court Martial, having tried Marie-Josephte Corriveau, accused of murdering her husband Dodier, found her guilty. The governor (Murray) ratifies and confirms the following sentence: – Marie-Josephte Corriveau will be put to death for this crime, and her body will be chained and suspended in the place that the governor thinks he should designate.

          Signed, THOMAS MILLS.

La Corriveau – to use the name that tradition has given her – has long passed since she was locked up alive in the famous iron cage, and many people are still under the impression that she died of hunger.

They are mistaken.

She was first executed in the ordinary way, that is to say hanged on the Plains of Abraham[2], which, three years prior, was the setting of the famous battle which conquered a territory larger than the whole of Europe for the dying King George II.

After the execution, this singular enclosure was forged around the victim’s corpse, and the whole thing was suspended from the arm of an immense gibbet which was erected on the heights of Levis, at the crossroads of which I spoke earlier.

      We can understand what a subject of terror this frightening exhibition was for the inhabitants of the place and for the passers-by. This corpse, surrounded by iron, which the birds of prey and night came to shred, which lamentably stretched its grotesque arms to the horizon, and which swayed in the wind, creaking on the rusty hook from which it depended, was soon the subject of a thousand black legends.

La Corriveau descended from her gallows each night and pursued unwary travelers.

On the darkest nights, she plunged into the graveyard, and, iron-clad vampire, she satiated her horrible appetite on the inmates of the newly-dug graves. The corpse of everyone who died without receiving the sacraments belonged to her by right.

All the doors were locked at sunset.

If it happened that a traveler stopped on the road to gaze upon the spectre, the ground he touched became cursed, and accidents of all kinds multiplied there, until the blessing a priest came to ward off the curse. Under the gallows, the grass was still burnt to the roots.

Les ames en peine[3] met there, and devilish patrols sometimes held interminable sarabandes[4] there.

Several trustworthy people had seen great black beasts lying there, whispering appalling secrets into the corpse’s ear. They were dreadful werewolves who were said to be asking for marriage.

        In former times – so the stories go – especially on Saturdays, at the stroke of midnight, the gallows stopped creaking, and one could see some formidable phantom- God knows what- glide awkwardly in the dark night and advance along the cemetery wall, making a sinister clatter of chains and old iron with each step it took. Those who were still watching crossed themselves with trembling hands and knelt to stammer out a De Profundis.[5] It was la Corriveau on her way to the Witches’ Sabbath with the wizards of the Isle of Orleans. At daybreak, she returned to her post, and the gibbet resumed its dismal creaking.

It couldn’t last forever.

One morning, la Corriveau did not reappear. Life is full of surprises. Word spread that the horrible contraption had been taken away by the devil. There was even a faint smell of sulfur in the atmosphere.

The truth is that la Corriveau was not only a subject of consternation for the neighborhood; it had also become a scarecrow for strangers. The inhabitants of Saint-Michel, Saint-Charles, Saint-Gervais and other parishes down the river no longer dared to go to Pointe-Lévi, and came by water to carry their food and do their shopping in Quebec. This caused considerable harm to the small traders and innkeepers of the place.

Self-interest got the better of fear. Some daring fellows, less superstitious than the rest of the population, had detached the cage from the gallows overnight, and had buried it with its contents along the perimeter wall of the cemetery, in a small space reserved for the criminals and the nameless drowned. As was to be expected, the matter was kept secret for fear of the authorities.

In 1830, when the parish church was destroyed by fire and rebuilt, the cemetery was enlarged on this side; this explains the presence of the strange relic in the interior of the consecrated enclosure.

Quite naturally, the press being unfamiliar at the time with Marie Corriveau’s true history, public rumor had considerably enlarged its proportions. It was soon no longer only two individuals whom la Corriveau had murdered. The husbands increased so well in number that when the cage was exhumed before my eyes in 1849, I remember having heard that la Corriveau’s victims numbered seven or eight, with great detail given as to their age, their character, their profession, and especially the certain tragic circumstances which accompanied their deaths.

One can imagine the crowds of visitors attracted by this curious discovery. It lasted a couple of weeks.

But, one fine morning, we noticed that la Corriveau’s cage, which had been kept locked in the basement of the sacristy, was again gone. The devil had taken it off again. But the devil, this time, was called P.-T. Barnum. Now those who visit the Boston Museum can see, in a corner little frequented by the public, an oblong showcase placed vertically, where, piled up in disorder, lies a mass of old scrap metal, broken, twisted, tangled, and eaten away by rust and fire. On the upper part of the frame, a small sign bears this inscription:

From Québec.

This is all that remains of the famous cage de la Corriveau.



[1] The couple had no children.

[2] The Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a major battle of the Seven Years’ War, fought on September 13th, 1759, in which Great Britain captured the city of Quebec from France.

[3] Literally “suffering souls”; the souls of suicides which, according to French folklore, are condemned to walk the earth after death.

[4] A Spanish dance with Moorish origins; similar to a waltz.

[5] Literally “Out of the Depths” in Latin; Psalm 130, an appeal to God from one in great distress.

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La Bete a Grand’Queue (The Big-Tailed Beast; English Translation)

La Bete a Grand’Queue


The Big-Tailed Beast

From Honore Beaugrand’s La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English Translation)

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.



IT’S ABSOLUTELY like I tell you”, insisted little Pierriche Desrosiers, “I saw the tail of the beast. One scarlet-red hairy tail cut in ripples near the core. A tail of six feet, my friend!”

“Yes, it’s pretty good to see the tail of the beast, but this Fanfan Lazette is such a fibber that I would more proof than that before I would believe him.”

“First,” said Pierriche, “you have to agree that he’s the perfect candidate to get pursued by the big-tailed beast. He’s a joker, like you just said; he likes to drink, everybody knows; and it’s been rumoured that he’s gone to confession after Easter for eight years. If you manage to neglect your Easter duties for seven years without being turned into a werewolf, you’ll surely be attacked by the big-tailed beast. He met the beast in front of Dautraye Manor, in the big trees near the road where the sun never penetrates even in midday. The same place where Louison Laroche lost one eye to a wolf about ten years ago.

And so were Pierriche Desrosiers and Maxime Sanssouci talking and covertly enjoying some drinks inside the house of their old friend, Andre Laliberte, who was offering liquor here and there to people that he knew, without bothering about the local laws or the priest’s pretentions.

“And you, Andre, what do you think about all this?” asked Pierriche. “You must have seen lots of big-tailed beasts in your time. Do you believe that Fanfan Lazette met one at Dautraye?”

“That’s what he says, my son, and since he’s just coming in for his regular ration, you might as well ask him yourself if you want to know more.”



Fanfan Lazette was a bad fellow and the despair of his parents, mocking the priest’s sermons, sowing disorder in the parish, and, unfortunately, was the darling of all the pretty girls in the neighborhood.

Father Lazette has sent him to L’Assomption College, where he ran away to pursue work in Montreal. Then he worked a couple of seasons in the timber camps just to come back home to his aging father who needed a foreman on the farm.

Fanfan was a tough guy at work, you’ve got to give him that, and a working horse when motivated; but he was just a worker, like we say in this country, and often did things which were not always under the invocation of St. Francois-Xavier.

Because he was self-minded, he had taken the habit of going to confession after the period of grace, and had developed some disbelief towards the sacraments and the doctrines of the church.

For a time, Fanfan was a carefree individual and the subject of all the village gossip, and whom all the mothers with unmarried daughters feared like the plague. All considered him either a harmless rascal or a bad character.

Pierriche Desrosiers and Maxime Sanssouci stood up to welcome him with invitation to have a drink, which he acknowledge with no hesitation.

“And now, Fanfan, tell us the story of the big-tailed beast. Incredulous Maxime can’t believe it and thinks that you are just trying to make a tale for us.”

“Indeed! Well, all I can say is that if Maxime Sansscouci had met the beast instead of me, I think there would be nobody here to tell the story today.”

Then addressing Maxime Sanssouci:

“And you, my little Max, all I wish is for you to never be in such company; your arms are not long enough, your back is not strong enough, and your strength is not solid enough for you to survive such an encounter. Listen to my story, and you be the judge yourself.


“Andre, three small Molson.” [1]



“First and foremost, I have no objection acknowledging that it’s been seven years that I’ve been late under the rules of pardon. [2] Come to think of it, I confess that I did not do it for two years when I was in the timber camps. I had it coming to meet the beast, if we trust the words of Baptist Gallien, who studied all those things in the big books that he found at Latour notary.

“I used to laugh at that sort of thing; but, after I tell you what happened to me at Dautraye, that particular Saturday night and Sunday morning, you will tell me otherwise. I was on my way to Berthier on Saturday morning with twenty-five sacks of oats to deliver at Remi Tranchemontagne’s, and to pick up some merchandise: a small barrel of molasses, one quart of brown sugar, one cheese wheel, a Jamaican carboy and few pounds of tea for the winter. ‘Longneck’ Big-Louis Champagne was along for the ride and we were doing the trip with my blonde filly hauling the big chariot – the best horse of the parish, and I don’t want to brag but she was. We got to Berthier at eleven in the morning and after doing business with Tranchemontagne, unloading our oats and packing the provisions, all we had to do was have a little drink and wait for the cool evening breeze to ride back on Lanoraie road. ‘Longneck’ Champagne was seeing a Laviolette girl from Berthier River and he just went along to flirt with his alleged bride before we headed back out.

“I was supposed to take him on the run around 8 pm so, to kill some time, I went to meet some friends, first Jalbert, then Gagnon and Guillemette, where we had a few drinks, but without anybody losing it seriously. It was a nice day, but by evening the temperature was getting heavy and I noticed that a thunderstorm was on the way. I would have departed around 6 o’clock, but I had agreed to meet with ‘Longneck’ at eight and I did not want to bother my friend without serious cause. I waited patiently and fed my filly, because I intended to hop back to Lanoraie on the double. At 8 o’clock sharp, I was at the creek, at Father Laviolette’s, where I had to unsaddle to take a drink and toast everyone. As the old saying goes, we never leave on one leg. We had another round of drinks to be air, as Baptist Gallien says, and after bidding everyone goodnight, we hit the highway.

“Rain was not falling yet, but we could tell that it was on its way, and it was in vain that I kicked my filly in an effort to spur her home.



“When I walked in at Father Laviolette’s, I noticed right away that ‘Longneck’ had a little too much to drink; and it’s easy to see that, because you know he’s got eyes like a frozen cod when he parties, but the last two rounds took him out and he fell asleep like a groundhog to the rocking of the wagon. I put his head on a haystack that I had in the cart and then just took off full speed. I had travelled barely half a league when the storm just came in furiously. You remember that storm last Saturday. Rain fell like a flood, the wind whistled in the trees, and it was only by the light of the lightning that I saw the path. Lucky enough, my filly had enough instinct to keep me on the right track, because it was as dark as an oven. ‘Longneck’ was still sleeping even though he was soaked like a mop. I don’t have to tell you that I was in the same boat. We arrived at Louis Trempe’s, whose yellow house I saw in a lightning bolt that blinded me, which was followed by a thunderclap that made my filly tremble in fear and made her stop abruptly. ‘Longneck’ woke up from his dreams and shouted aggressively in terror:

“‘Look, Fanfan! The big-tailed beast!’

“I looked back to see two big eyes burning like fire behind the wagon. At the same moment, a strike of lightning revealed an animal, which roared like a seven-headed beast and swept its six-foot-long tail from side to side. I have the tail at my place, and I will show it to you whenever you wish!

“I don’t usually fear anything, but I have to admit, in the dark, alone with a drunk fellow, in the middle of a storm in front of a beast like that, I felt a shiver pass through my spine, so I jumped on my filly with a strong whip and we just set off like an arrow. I would have figured that I’d have had twice as great a chance of breaking my neck or rolling down to the bottom of the hill than coming face-to-face with the famous big-tailed beach which everyone talked about, but in which I never really believed. It was at this moment that all my missed confessions came to mind, and I swore to do my duties like everyone else if God would help me this one time.

I knew that the only way to get out of this would be to confront the beast at close quarters and cut its tail off at the base. I double-checked my pocket for this good knife from the timber camps which cuts like a razor. As these thoughts flashed through my mind, and as my horse flew vigorously, ‘Longneck’ Champagne, half sober by fear, shouted:

“Whip, Fanfan! The beast is following us. I see those eyes in the darkness.”

“We rode like hell. We passed the village of Blais and continued down the road alongside Dautraye Manor. The road is narrow, as you know. On one side was a hedgerow guarding a deep ditch dividing the park and the road, and on the other side, a row of tall trees bordering the roadside towards Dautraye Bridge. Lightning barely penetrated through the foliage of the trees, and any false move from my filly would throw us into the ditch of the manor, or break the cart in pieces crashing upon the big trees. I told Louis:

“‘Hold on tight ,my friend! We will have an accident.’”

“And Bam! Badaboum! A great thunderclap burst, and my panicked filly plunged right into the ditch, flipping our cart upside down. It was dark enough that we could not see the ends of our noses, but as I rose I saw above me the two eyes glaring at me fiercely. Fumbled to see if I had broken any bones. I had no pain, so my first thought was to grab the tail of this animal and get rid of this jaw of hell. I crawled on the ground, opened up my spring knife which I had put in my belt, and at the moment when the beast rushed towards me bellowing an infernal roar, I stepped aside and grabbed his tail firmly with both my hands. You should have seen the fight that followed. The beast, feeling my tight grip, made terrible jumps, trying to shake me off, but I was holding and grasping like a desperate man. All this went on for at least fifteen minutes. I was flying right, flying left, like a flea at the end of a dog’s tail, nevertheless holding on. I would have loved to take out my knife to cut off the devil’s tail, but it was impossible to do so with the monster’s brutal antics. In the end, realizing that she could not toss me away, she took off down the road at a gallop, with me, of course, trailing behind.

“I never traveled so fast in my life. My hair curled in spite of the rain, which was still coming down hard. The beast bellowed intensely, hoping to make me more afraid, and by the light of a lucky thunderbolt, I realized that we were heading to Dautraye Bridge. I was thinking about my knife, but I would not risk using it with one hand. When we arrived at the bridge, the beast turned to the left tried to jump the fence. The damned animal wanted to jump in the water to drown me. Fortunately, the first attempt failed; with the air I would had acquired, I certainly would have taken the plunge. She stepped back to gain new momentum, and that was what gave me my chance. I grabbed my knife with my right hand, and as she jumped, I used all my strength and hit just right, and the tail stayed in my hand. I was free, and heard the beast struggling in the waters of the Dautraye River and finally disappear in the current. I went to the mill where I told my story to the miller, and we both examined the tail that I just retrieved. It was a five to six-foot-long scarlet-red hairy tail; a real tail of a demon!

“The storm calmed down, so with a lantern I sought my cart that I found stuck in the ditch, with ‘Longneck’ Champagne, who was completely sober, and able to unleash my horse and gather our cargo, which was strewn all over the place.

“Louis was flabbergasted to see me coming back in one piece, because he actually believed that the demon had taken me away.

“After borrowing a harness from the miller to replace ours, which we had cut in half to free the horse, we headed down the path to the village and arrived at midnight.

“That’s my story, and I invite you to visit my place one of these days to check out the tail. Baptist Lambert is in the process of stuffing it.”



This story gave rise, few days later, to an unprecedented affair still famous in the criminal records of Lanoraie. To prevent a real trial and the ruinous costs which would necessarily accompany it, recourse was made to arbitration, the minutes of which are as follows:

This 7th day of November 1856, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we, the undersigned, Jean-Baptiste Gallien, graduate teacher and master cantor of Parish of Lanoraie, Onesime Bombenlert, beadle [3] of this parish, and Damase Briqueleur, grocer, having been chosen as arbitrators of the will of the interested parties in this case, have rendered the following arbitration in the dispute between Francois-Xavier Trempe, nicknamed Francis Jean-Jean, and Joseph, nicknamed Fanfan Lazette.  

The above-named F.X. Trempe claims damages, at the sum of 100 francs, to Fanfan Lazette, accusing him of cutting the tail of his red bull in the night of this last Saturday, October 3rd, and caused the death of said bull in a cruel, illegal, and surreptitious manner, on the bridge over the Dautraye River, near the manor of the lords of Lanoraie.

Said Fanfan Lazette vigorously denies the accusation of said F.X. Trempe and declares it malicious and irreverent, at the highest degree. He acknowledges having cut the tail of an animal known in our countryside as the big-tailed beast in conditions dangerous for his bodily life and the salvation of his soul, but to defend himself because it was the only way he believed he could get rid of the beast.

Each party called forth one witness to sustain their pretentions, as agreed in the terms of arbitration.

Pierre Busseau engaged the services of said F.X. Tempering, declaring that the tail produced by the aforesaid Fanfan Lazette appears to him to be the tail of the late bull of his master, whose carcass was discovered on the shore a few days earlier in a state of advanced decomposition. The bull disappeared precisely on the night of October 3rd, when the said Fanfan Lazette claims to have met the big-tailed beast. What confirms this in his conviction is the color of the aforementioned tail of the aforementioned bull which, a few days before, took pleasure in scratching itself against a fence recently painted with vermillion. [4]

Next to present was Louis Champagne, nicknamed Tall-big-Louis, who wished to confirm in the most absolute way the statements of Fanfan Lazette, because he was with him during the storm of October 3rd and distinctly saw the big-tailed beast as described in the deposition of said Lazette.

In view of these testimonies and depositions and:

Considering that the existence of the big-tailed beast was from time immemorial recognized as real, in our campaigns, and that the only way to protect oneself against the above-mentioned beast is to cut its tail as seems to have been done bravely by Fanfan Lazette, one of the interested parties in this case;

Considering, on the other hand, that a red bull belonging to F.X. Trempe disappeared on the same date and that the carcass of this animal was recovered without a tail on the shores of the St. Lawrence by witness Pierre Busseau a few days later;

          Considering, in light of such contradictory testimonies, it is difficult to please everyone, while remaining within the bounds of a premptory decision;

          We decide:

  1. that in the future, said Fanfan Lazette will be forced to make his pre-Eastern confessions under the conditions prescribed by our Holy Mother Church, which will protect him against encounters with werewolves, big-tailed beasts, and wills-o’-the-wisp of any kind from Berthier or elsewhere.
  2. The above F.X. Trempe be forced to shut up his bulls so as to prevent them from frequenting public roads and attacking passers-by in the darkness, at odd hours of the day and night.
  3. That both interested parties in this case, the aforesaid Fanfan Lazette and F.X. Trempe, are condemned to take the tail cut by Fanfan Lazette and put it in a lottery among the inhabitants of the parish so as to raise money to compensate for this arbitration, and for following the good tradition that in dubious trials, judges and lawyers are paid, regardless of the plight of the litigants dismissed back to back, each paying fees.

In faith whereof we have signed,

Jean Baptiste Gallien,

Onesime Bombenlert,

Damase Briqueleur.

Copy: H. Beaugrand

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Le Pere Louison: From La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English Translation)

Le Pere Louison

La Chasse Galerie: Legendes Canadiennes (1900; English Translation); With Annotations by Hammerson Peters

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.



THERE ONCE WAS a tall old man, lean, straight as an arrow, as they say in the country, with a swarthy complexion, and his head and face covered with thick hair and a long salt-and-pepper beard.

All the villagers knew Father Louison, and his reputation even extended to neighboring parishes; his job as a ferryman put him in touch with all the foreigners who wanted to cross the St. Lawrence, a league in width in this place.

This section of the river had been nicknamed the Grand Trunk, a funny nickname by which it was generally known. The origin of its name is something of a mystery, as is that of its namesake, the railway [1] which provoked such acrimonious discussions in the political meetings of the time. Some said that the name came from Father Louison’s ferry, which comprised a canoe hollowed out in one piece from a gigantic tree trunk.

Although everyone in the village knew the Grand Trunk, no one could say the same about its history.

Father Louison had arrived at ‘L’ a long time ago – the old folks said that it was at least twenty-five years ago – without drum or trumpet. He had bought a small patch of land as big as his hand on the banks of the St. Lawrence, very close to the shore and a few acres from the church, where he had built a miserable hut with the remains of a boat cabin he had found one fine morning washed up on a nearby shore.

He earned his living with difficulty, ferrying travelers from one shore of the St. Lawrence to the other and fishing from the ice breakup until the last days of autumn. He was sure to take the first eel, the first walleye, the first bass and the first shad of the season. He also hunted bustards, ducks, plovers, larks and woodcocks with a long flintlock rifle that appeared to date from the French regime.

You never met him without his paddle, his rifle, or his fishing rod on his shoulder. He went quietly on his way, nodding pleasantly to the friendly greetings that most afforded him, and to the shy tips of the hat that he received from the children, who all considered him a bogeyman who was to be feared and avoided.

Despite being ignorant of his true history, most made it their mission to fabricate one, making it bad rather than good, because Father Louison loved and practiced solitude too much to have become popular among the villagers. He was generally satisfied with offering the products of his fishing or hunting to his usual customers: the parish priest, the doctor, the notary and the village merchant, and if the fish or game was exceptionally abundant, he would sell the surplus on the Joliette, Sorel, and Berthier markets.

If we allowed ourselves to take an honest look at his character, however, he could not be accused of any wrongdoing, because his reputation for integrity was known ten leagues around. He had even risked his life several times to save the reckless or the unfortunate who had almost perished on the waters of the St. Lawrence, and he had behaved in particular with the greatest bravery during a storm which had thrown large numbers of boats at the coast, flying to the rescue of the shipwrecked with his big canoe.

The priest further affirmed that Father Louison was a good man who fulfilled his religious duties with the utmost punctuality. Always ready to render a service when asked to, he made it a point to never ask for anything himself, and that was probably what he was not forgiven for.

The world is so funny and so capriciously selfish.

Every evening, at dusk on long summer days, the old man went to anchor his canoe with two or three ropes to the shore, in a place where he cast out his varveaux [2]. Sitting in the middle of his boat, he remained there in the most perfect stillness until late at night. Its silhouette was first cut out sharply and precisely on the mirror of the sleeping river, but soon took on indecisive lines like those from a painting by Millet, in the dark, when one only hears the murmur of small waves lazily caressing the silver sand of the shore.

The involuntary fear of Father Louison did not exist only in children; many a superstitious young woman, chatting with her lover under the large poplars lining the coast, had convulsively clutched the arm of her companion in seeing the old fisherman’s canoe in the last gleams of twilight.

In short, the poor old man was more feared than loved in the village, and the children involuntarily quickened their pace to a trot when they saw his taciturn figure in the distance.



There was at ‘L’ … a bad boy, as is found in all the villages of the world, and this kid hated Father Louison, of whom he was, however, terribly afraid. The old fisherman had caught this prankster one day when he was cruelly beating an old Barbet [3] dog which he had uselessly tried to drown. The old man had simply pulled the boy’s ear and threatened to tell his parents about his behavior.

Now, the father of the boy in question was a rough customer named Rivet, who sought rather than avoided a quarrel, and one morning while Father Louison was repairing his nets quietly in front of his hut, he heard himself being called:

“Hey! You, there, the Grand Trunk! Who allowed you to lay a hand on my boy?’’

“Your boy cruelly beat a dog that he could not drown, and I thought I was doing you a service by preventing him from martyring a poor animal who did not even defend himself.’’

“It was none of your business”, replied Rivet, “and I don’t know what keeps me from making you pay for the blows you gave my son straight away.’’

And the man raised his voice in a threatening tone, and some curious people had already gathered to find out the cause of the commotion.

“Sorry, my friend,” replied the old man quietly. “What I did, I did with good intentions, and you also know that I did no harm to your child.’’

“It does not matter. You weren’t allowed to touch him’’, and he held out his hand high towards the old fisherman who was quietly tying his net. The old man look up too late to parry the blow which struck him in the face, without, however, doing much harm.

Words cannot describe the transformation which took place in the countenance of Father Louison in response to this brutal affront. He straightened up to his full height, violently threw the net he was holding in both hands, and bounded like a panther on the ruffian who had just struck him without provocation.

His eyes flashed with anger, and before he could be stopped, he grabbed his opponent by the waist and lifted him up as he would have done with a child, above his head, and at the length of his long arms, he threw him with incredible violence on the sand of the shore, uttering a roar of a wild beast.

The poor devil, who had thought of attacking a helpless old man, had just awakened the anger and the power of Hercules. He fell unconscious, unable to get up or make any movement.

Father Louison considered him for a moment, but only one moment, and, rushing on him, picked him up again, advanced towards the waters of the river, held him for a moment suspended in the air and threw him forcefully on the wet sand hardened by the waves. The victim was already half-dead and crashed with a dull sound like that of a bag of grain dropped on the ground.

The spectators, who were becoming numerous, did not dare to intervene and timidly watched this tragic scene.

Before anyone could step in to stop, the old fisherman rushed again to Rivet, and this time holding the end of his arm, he ran into the water with the obvious intention of drowning him.

A clamor arose among the crowd:

“He’s going to drown him! He will drown him!’’

And, indeed, Father Louison continued to advance into the water, which was already lapping at his waist. Although no longer advancing as quickly as he had started, he continued until the water reached his armpits; then, swinging poor Rivet two or three times above his head, he plunged him into the river, to a depth where it would have been necessary to be a good swimmer to be able to regain the shore.

The old man then seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if to make sure that his victim had disappeared underwater, before returning to the shore in measured steps and locking himself in his miserable cabin, without any of the curious people who were there daring to raise their hands or even open their mouths to ask for mercy for the life of the unfortunate Rivet.

As soon as Father Louison had disappeared, however, they all rushed towards the canoes that were there, to fly to the rescue of the drowned man who had not yet appeared on the surface. But the emotion of the moment prevented rather than accelerated the movements of these men of good will, and poor Rivet would certainly have lost his life had some unexpected saviors not come to the rescue.

A cage [4] descended offshore with the current and a bark canoe containing two men was detached from it. It was only two or three acres from the shore where Father Louison had advanced into the river to precipitate his attacker. The two men in the boat had followed all the ups and downs of the drama, and when poor Rivet’s body reappeared on the water after a few minutes of immersion, they were able to seize him by his clothes and place him in their boat, to applause of the crowd that was still growing on the shore.

Two vigorous strokes of the two paddlers landed the canoe, and the inanimate body of poor Rivet was laid on the shore to await the arrival of the priest and the doctor who had been sent to see him.

It was not too soon, for the asphyxiation was almost complete, and it was necessary to, have recourse to all the means prescribed by science for the rescue of the drowned, in order to bring back a sign of life to the unfortunate Rivet whose wife and children had rushed to the scene and filled the air with their lamentations and their cries of despair.

The parish priest had taken the precaution of giving absolution in articulo mortis [5], but the physician declared before long that there was reason for hope, and the dying man was transported to his home, where he received visits and keen care from all of the village busybodies.



If it were true that Father Louison enjoyed the reputation of a peaceful and harmless man and that Rivet, on the contrary, passed for a grumpy and quarrelsome man, such a terrible revenge for a simple punch could not lack, nevertheless, to produce a general emotion in all the inhabitants of ‘L’.

The parish priest, the notary, the doctor and the other local notables met the same evening with the militia captain, who was at the same time the magistrate of the parish, to deliberate on what should be done in such serious circumstances.

The gentlemen decided to hold an investigation the next morning and to call Father Louison to appear before the magistrate, and to wait for the doctor to give a final opinion on the patient’s condition, which seemed to be improving sufficiently to rule out any notion of an imminent or even probably death.

The village bailiff was asked to inform the old fisherman that his appearance was requested the next morning at nine o’clock, in the public hall of the village where the preliminary investigation would be held, and this news, thrown in pasture to the good women, soon went around the fort, as we still say in our countryside.

Father Louison had not reappeared since he had locked himself in his cabin. So, it was not without a feeling of terror that the bailiff had come to knock on his door, in order to communicate to him the magistrate’s orders.

“Monsieur Louison! Monsieur Louison!’’ he said, in a low, trembling voice.

But to his surprise, the door opened immediately and the old man walked out quietly;

“How may I help you Jean- Thomas?’’

“The magistrate told me to inform you that he wanted to see you tomorrow morning in the public hall for … for …’’

“Very well, Jean-Thomas, tell the magistrate that I will be there when the time comes.’’

And he quietly closed the door as if nothing extraordinary had happened, and as if he had answered a customer who asked him for a bunch of eels or panfish.



The next day, at the appointed hour, the public room was packed and the doctor first announced that Rivet’s condition was continuing to improve. A sigh of relief escaped from all chests and the investigation began.

Father Louison had been punctual at the magistrate’s order, but he was sitting alone in a corner, hunched over, elbows on his knees, and his head in both hands.

When the magistrate called, asking him to recount the events of the previous day, while telling him that he was not forced to incriminate himself, he got up quietly and recited, his eyes lowered, and in a voice heartbreaking with regret and shame, all that had happened, without forgetting the least incident. He ended with these words:

“I got carried away by an insurmountable fit of anger and I behaved like a brute and not like a Christian. I beg your pardon, Mr. Magistrate, I beg forgiveness of Rivet and his family and I beg forgiveness of the inhabitants of the village who witnessed the great scandal that I caused by my anger and by my brutality. I thank God for having spared Rivet’s life and I am ready to undergo the punishment I deserve. ’’

“It is fortunate for you, Father Louison,’’ replied the magistrate, “that Rivet’s life is not in danger, because I would have had to send you to prison. However, your evidence must be corroborated, so we will ask the travelers who saved Rivet to share what they saw and what they did during yesterday’s event.”

The elder of the travelers, a member of the parish who had been returning from a winter spent in the Gatineau logging camps, simply told the facts of the rescue and corroborated Father Louison’s testimony. His companion, who was also a man in his sixties, came forward to tell his story, when he found himself face to face with the accused, whom he had not yet seen. He looked him straight in the face, hesitated for a moment, then in a voice tinged with fear and astonishment, said:

“Louis Vanelet!”

Father Louison raised his head in an involuntary movement of terror and looked at the man who had just pronounced this name, unknown in the parish of ‘L’.

The eyes of the two men crisscrossed like two blades of steel shocked by the first clash of a swordfight, then lowered immediately, and the old raftsman recounted the rescue in which he had taken part and the drama which he had witnessed, without making any other allusion to this name which he had just thrown in the pasture to public curiosity.

It was evident that despite the painful events of the day before, the sympathies of the audience leaned towards Father Louison, and few aside from the magistrate paid much attention to the necessary statements of the witness and the accused. After all, we are naturally inclined to indulgence when it comes to our countryside inhabitants, and the investigation was promptly terminated by the magistrate, who simply ordered the old fisherman to return home, to go about his business, and to keep himself at the disposal of justice.

The crowd dispersed slowly and Father Louison returned to lock himself in his hut to escape the curious glances which followed him.

The magistrate, before leaving, approached the last witness and ordered him to come and see him, at his house, the same evening, at eight o’clock. He wanted to talk to him.



Faithful to the meeting which had been imposed on him, the old traveler found himself, at the appointed hour, in the presence of the judge, the parish priest and the notary who had met for the occasion.

He had some suspicions regarding the reason for this new kind of tribunal before which he had been called. So, he was not taken by surprise when he was asked point blank:

“You have known Father Louison for a long time and you gave him the name of Louis Vanelet this morning at the hearing.’’

“It is true, judge,” replied the traveler, without hesitation.

“Tell us then, where, when and how, you got to know him?’’

“Oh! It has been a long, long time. It was at the time of my first trip to Gatineau. We were working for the Gilmour [6], and Louis Vanelet and I were logging in the same camp. He was a good worker, a good hewer and a good chap. Everyone especially liked to hear him tell stories in the evening around the lazarette [7]. One day, a squad of workers arrived to share our site and there was one among the new arrivals who knew Vanelet and who came from the same parish as him, near Montreal. They barely greeted each other and it was evident that there had been tension between them. Nothing extraordinary happened to disturb the harmony, until one day when Vanelet came to me and asked me to be his witness in a boxing match he would have the next day with his co-parishioner. “We love,” he said to me, “the same girl in the country, and since we cannot both marry her, we want to settle the matter with a game of boxing.’’ The proposal seemed to me quite reasonable, because we fight willingly and for very small reasons in the logging camps. So I accepted, and the next morning, early in the morning, before working hours, the adversaries were face-to-face in a nearby clearing. The battle began fairly smoothly; but hardly had the first blows been struck before Vanelet was absolutely out of himself, in a fit of black fury. Stronger and more dexterous than his adversary, he dealt him terrible blows, under which the other crumpled as if hit by a club. I tried in vain, with the other witness, to intervene and put an end to the fight, but Vanelet, mad with rage and strong as a bull, continued to strike until his adversary, with swollen eyes and the bloody face, fell senseless and could not get up. Then Vanelet grabbed him and threw him at the end of his arms, threw him on the hardened and icy snow which covered the ground. The poor devil was unconscious and blood came out of his nose and his ears. Vanelet was about to rush to his victim again when we threw ourselves on him and it was with the greatest pain that we succeeded in preventing a murder. I had never seen a man so strong, in such terrible fury. He did, however, calm after a while and ran like crazy through the forest. My companion went to the timber camp to obtain a sled to transport the inanimate body of our comrade. Although it was February and we were in the middle of the forest, very far from any habitation, Louis Vanelet disappeared from the site. I saw him again yesterday for the first time since that memorable time, because none of us knew what had become of him. The poor man whom he had almost knocked out lingered for a long time between life and death and we brought him back, in the spring, in a pitiful state, to send him back to his family. I have learned since that he recovered and that he ended up marrying the one for whom he had almost sacrificed his life. ”

The magistrate, the parish priest and the notary, after having listened to this story carefully, consulted each other for a long time and finally decided that, in view of Father Louison’s irascible character, his terrible anger and his Herculean strength, it was necessary to make an example of him and bring him before the Criminal Court which sat in Sorel.

The bailiff would receive instructions to this effect.



When the law enforcement official went the following morning to arrest Louis Vanelet, he found the cabin empty. During the night, the old man had disappeared, carrying his hunting and fishing gear in his canoe. No one had seen him leave and it was not known which direction he had taken.

A few days later, the captain of an ‘L’ boat said that during a strong gale from the northeast, he had encountered a long canoe floating on Lake St. Pierre, bobbing with the waves and winds.

He thought he recognized Father Louisin’s boat, but the canoe was empty and half full of water.



[1] The Grand Trunk Railway, which operated in Quebec and Ontario, and in the American states of Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

[2] An Indian-style fishing net.

[3] A French water dog.

[4] Log raft.

[5] Latin for “the moment of death”.

[6] The Gilmour Lumber Company, a great Canadian timber company.

[7] The area surrounding the cockpit of a boat.

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Macloune: From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘New Studies of Canadian Folklore’ (1904)


From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘New Studies of Canadian Folklore’ (1904)

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.


THE AUTHOR HAS translated his own story into English from the French, and has attempted to follow almost word for word the phraseology of the original. This will explain a few Gallicisms and the turn of certain phrases. The story has been taken from life and is true in almost every detail.



Although they had given him at baptism the surname of Maxime, everyone in the village called him Macloune. And that, because his mother, Marie Gallien, had a defect of articulation which hindered her from pronouncing distinctly his name. She said Macloune in the place of Maxime, and the villagers called him likewise.

He was a poor wretch who was born and who had grown up in the most profound and in the most respectable property.

His father was a brave boatman who was drowned when Macloune was yet in the cradle; and his mother had succeeded in going about, right and left, to drag out a laborious existence and to save the life of her child, who was born rickety, and who had lived and grown up in spite of all the predictions and the gossips of the villagers.

The boy was a monster of ugliness. Ill made to the extreme, he had a body to which was attached long arms and long, lanky legs, which terminated by feet and hands that had hardly human semblance. He was bandy, cripple, hunchback, and the unfortunate boy looked like an ape escaped from a travelling menagerie. Nature had forgotten to endow him with a chin, and two long yellowish teeth stood out from a little hole which served him as a mouth. He could not masticate his ailments, and it was a curiosity to see him eat.

His language was composed of phrases incoherent and of sounds inarticulate, which he accompanied with a pantomime absolutely comical. He managed well enough to make himself understood, even by those who heard him for the first time.

In spite of this ugliness truly repulsive and of this difficulty of language, Macloune was adored by his mother and loved by all the villagers.

It is true that he was as good as he was ugly, and he had two great blue eyes that were fixed on you as if to say:

“It is true I am very horrible to see, but such as you see me I am the only support of my old mother, and as miserable as I am it is necessary for me to work to give her bread.”

And not a gamin, even among the most wicked, would have dared to mock his ugliness or to abuse his feebleness.

And besides, they took him in pity because they said at the village that an old squaw had thrown a spell on Marie Gallien several months before the birth of Macloune. This savagess was a maker of baskets and drank bad whisky as soon as she had been able to gather together enough pennies to buy a bottle, and it was then an orgy which remained forever graven in the memory of those who were witnesses of her pranks. The miserable creature roamed about the streets screaming cries of wild beasts and in tearing her hair. One must see the savage under the influence of alcohol to form an idea of these scenes. It is in one of these occasions that the savages had tried to force the door of the little house of Marie Gallien, and she had cursed the poor woman who was half dead with fear and who had refused to allow her to enter her house. And they believed generally at the village it was the malediction of the savagess that was the cause of the ugliness of poor Macloune. They said also, but without confirming it categorically, that a beggar of St. Michel d’Yamaska, who had the reputation to be something of a sorcerer, had thrown another spell on Marie Gallien because that poor woman had not been able to give him alms when that she was herself in the most abject poverty during her convalescence, after the birth of her infant.



Macloune had grown up by working and making himself useful when he was able, and he was always ready to render a service, to do an errand, or to lend a hand when occasion presented itself. He had never been to school, and it is only very late, at the age of thirteen or fourteen years, that the cure [1] of the village had permitted him to make his first communion. Although he was not what one calls a simpleton, his intelligence was not very active and had never been cultivated. Since the age of ten years he aided his mother to help to boil the pot and to gather the firewood for the winter. It was generally on the beach of the St. Lawrence that he passed long hours gathering the floating branches that had come down with the current and were stranded on the shore.

Macloune had developed early a learning for barter, and it was a great day when he could go to Montreal to buy some articles of easy sale, like thread, needles, buttons, which he peddled afterwards in a basket along with fruits and candies.

There was no more misery in the little family to date from this epoch; but the poor boy had counted without the malady which commenced to attack his poor worn body already so feeble and so cruelly tried.

But Macleoune was brave, and there was rarely times when they missed him on the wharf, at the landing places of the market boat, or before and after high mass [2] every Sunday and holiday of the year. During the long evenings of summer he went fishing in the waters of the great river, and he had become very clever in managing a small boat either with the oar or with the sail when the winds were favorable. During the great breezes of the northeast they often perceived Macloune alone in his boat, hairs to the wind, beating down the river or heading away towards the Isles de Contrecoeur.

During the season of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, he had organized a little commerce which brought him some very good profits. He bought these fruits of the villagers to resell them on the markets of Montreal. It is about at that time that he made the acquaintance of a poor girl, who had brought her blueberries from the shore opposite where she lived in the concession of La Petite Misere.



The meeting of this poor girl was a revolution in the existence of Macloune. For the first time he had dared to raise his eyes on a woman, and he became violently in love. The young girl, who was called Marie Joyelle, was neither rich nor beautiful. She was an orphan, thin, sickly, wasted by work, that an uncle had taken in charity; and he made her labor like a slave in exchange for a meagre pittance and for vestments of refuse which sufficed hardly to cover her decently. The poor little thing had never worn stockings in all her life, and a little shawl, black with red checks, served to cover her head and shoulders.

The first evidence of affection that Macloune gave her was a pair of store shoes and a flowered dress, which he brought to her one day from Montreal, and which he offered timidly, saying in his particular language:

“Dress, mam’selle? Shoes, mam’selle? Macloune buy these for you. You take, hey?”

And Marie Joyelle had accepted simply before the look of inexpressible affection with which Macloune offered his gift.

It was the first time that the poor Marichette, as they called her always, was the object of an offering which did not issue from a sentiment of pity. She had comprehended Macloune, and, without occupying herself with his ugliness and his jargon, her heart had been profoundly touched.

And dating from that moment Macloune and Marichette loved each other as one loves at eighteen, forgetting that nature had made them beings apart and that they must not even think of uniting by marriage. Macloune, in his candour and in his simplicity, related to his mother that which had come to pass, and old Marie Gallien found it quite natural that her son had chosen a bonne amie [3] and that he had thought of marriage.

All the village was soon in the secret, for the Sunday following Macloune had set out early with his boat to betake himself to La Petite Misere with the object of praying Marichette to accompany him to the high mass, at Lanoraie. And she had agreed, finding the request absolutely natural since she had accepted Macloune as her cavalier by receiving his presents.

Marichette brought out her fine clothes for the occasion. She put on her flowered dress and her store shoes. She lacked nothing more than a hat with feathers, the same as worn by the girls of Lanoraie, to fancy herself a young lady of fashion. Her uncle, who had befriended her, was a poor devil who found himself at the head of a numerous family, and who asked nothing better than to get rid of her in marrying her to the first comer; and for him, Macloune was worthy as any other.

It must be acknowledged that they produced a certain sensation in the village when, on the tolling of the third bell for the high mass, Macloune appeared giving his arm to Marichette. Every one had too much affection for the poor boy to mock him openly, but they turned away their heads to hide the smiles they were not able to suppress entirely. The two lovers entered the church without appearing to busy themselves with those who stopped to watch them, and walked to the head of the great aisle on one of the benches of wood reserved for the poor of the parish.

And there, without turning their heads a single time and without taking notice of the effect which they produced, they heard the mass with the greatest piety.

They went out in the same manner that they entered, as if they might have been all alone in the world, and they betook themselves tranquilly, with steps measured, to Marie Gallien’s, where awaited them the dinner of Sunday.

“Macloune has made a sweetheart! Macloune wants to get married! Macloune keeps company with the Marichette!”

And the commentaries went their way among the crowd which gathers always after high mass before the church of the parish, to chat about the events of the week.

“He is a brave and honest boy,” said every one, “but there was no sense for an ape like him to think of marriage.”

This was the popular verdict!

The doctor, who was a bachelor and dined with the cure every Sunday, whispered a word of the matter during the repast, and it was agreed between them that it was necessary to prevent this marriage at any price. They thought that it would be a crime to permit Macloune, sick, infirm, rickety and deformed as eh was, to become the father of a progeny which would be condemned in advance to a condition of intellectual inferiority and physical decrepitude. Nothing hurried in the meanwhile, and it would be always time to stop the marriage when they would come to place the banns [4] at the church.

And then! this marriage: was it really serious after all?



Macloune who spoke rarely, only when he was forced to do so by his little business, was ignorant of the conspiracies that they were hatching against his happiness. He attended to his occupations as usual, but each evening, by dusk, when all was tranquil in the village, he embarked in his boat and he crossed to La Petite Misere, to meet Marichette, who awaited him on the beach. As poor as he was, he found always means to bring a little present to his bonne amie– a bit of ribbon, a kerchief of cotton, a fruit, a bonbon- which had been given him and which he had preserved. Some wild flowers, which he had gathered in the fields or on the borders of the high road, he offered always with the same:

“Bojou, Maichette!” (Good Day, Marichette!”)

“Bon jour, Macloune!” (Good day, Macloune!”

And this was all their conversation. They seated themselves on the side of the skiff which Macloune had drawn up on the beach, and they waited there sometimes during an entire hour, until the moment when a voice from the house:

“Marichette! oh! Marichette!”

It was the aunt who proclaimed the hour of return to bed. The two lovers took each other’s hands, and looking at each other fixedly said:

“Bosoi, Maichette!” (Good-night, Maichette!)

“Bon soir, Macloune!” (Good night, Macloune!)

And the cripple drew from his pocket a little box of white cardboard, from which he drew a ring of gold, very modest, and which he passed on the finger of the young girl.

“Us two, married at St. Michel, Hey Maichette!”

“Yes, Macloune, when thou shalt wish.”

And the two outcasts, to each other, gave a kiss very chaste. And this was all.

The marriage being decided for Michaelmas [5], there was nothing more to do than to place the banns at the church. The parents consented to the marriage, and it was quite useless to see the notary for the marriage contract, for the two would commence life together in misery and in poverty. There could not be a question of heritage, of dower, or of separation of community of wealth.

The next day, at four in the afternoon, Macloune put on his Sunday clothes and wended his way towards the presbytery, where he found the cure, who was promenading in the walks of his garden, reciting his breviary.

“Bon jour, Maxime!”

The cure alone in the village called him by his real name.

“Bojou, Mosieu Cure!” (Good-day Mr. Cure!)

“I learn, Maxime, that thou hast the intention of marrying.”

“Yes, Mosieu Cure.”

“With Marichette Joyelle, of Contrecoeur?”

“Yes, Mosieu Cure.”

“It must not be thought of, my poor Maxime. Thou hast not the means of keeping a wife. And thy poor mother, what would become of her without thee to give her bread?”

Macloune, who had never thought that there could be any impediments to his marriage, regarded the cure with an hopeless air, and disheartened, and with the resignation of a dog that sees himself cruelly struck by his master, without comprehending why they maltreated him so.

“Ah, no! my poor Maxime, it must not be thought of. Thou art feeble, sickly. It is necessary to postpone that when thou shalt be of age.”

Macloune, stricken, was not able to answer. The respect which he had for the cure would have prevented him, if a sob, which he could not control and which choked him, had not placed him in the impossibility of pronouncing a single word.

All that which he understood was that they were going to hinder him from marrying Marichette, and in his simple credulity he construed the words of the cure as fatal. He gave a long look of reproach to him, who thus sacrificed his happiness, and without thinking to question the judgement that struck him so cruelly, he set off running towards the beach, which he followed, to return to his own home, in order to escape from the curiosity of the villagers who would have seen him weeping. He threw himself in the arms of his mother, who comprehended nothing of his trouble. The unhappy cripple sobbed thus during an hour, and to the questions reiterated by his mother could only respond:

“Mosieu Cure will not let me marry Maichette; me die mamam.”

And it is in vain that the poor woman, in her language uncouth, tried to console him. She would go herself to see the cure and to him explain the situation. She saw not why they wished to prevent her Macloune from marrying her whom he loved.

But Macloune was inconsolable. He would not eat at the repast of the evening, and as soon as the obscurity came he took his paddle and wended his way to the beach with the evident intention of crossing over to La Petite Misere for there to see Marichette. His mother tried to dissuade him, for the sky was heavy, the air was cold, and great clouds were rolling up on the horizon. They were going to have rain and perhaps high winds. But Macloune heard not or seemed not to understand the objections of his mother. He kissed her tenderly, straining her in his arms, and then leaping into his skiff, he disappeared into the sombre night.

Marichette was waiting for him on the shore at the usual place. The darkness hindered her from remarking the haggard face of her love, and she advanced towards him with the usual salutation:

“Bon jour, Macloune!”

“Bojou, Maichette!”

And taking her frantically in his arms he drew her tightly to his breast, stammering phrases incoherent, broken with sobs heartrending.

“Thou knowest, Maichette, Mosieu Cure wishes not us to marry- too poor, us- too ugly, me- too ugly- too ugly to marry thee- me wish not to live- me want to die.”

And the poor Marichette, comprehending the terrible misfortune which had stricken them, mingled her tears with the lamentations and with the sobs of the unhappy Macloune.

And they both wept in the dark night, without heeding the rain which commenced to fall in torrents and the cold wind of the north, which moaned in the tall poplars that bordered the bank.

Hours went by. The rain fell in torrents. The great river, torn by the tempest, was covered with foam, and the waves rolled far up on the beach; from time to time, coming to cover the feet of the lovers, who wept and stammered plaintive lamentations, locked in a close embrace. The poor children were soaked by the rain, but they forgot all in their despair. They had neither the intelligence to discuss the situation nor the courage to shake off the torpor which had taken possession of them.

Thus they passed the night, and it is only at the first glimmering of the dawn that they separated with the last convulsive embrace. They shivered, for the thin rags which covered them protected them very little against the wind of the north which blew now in a tempest.

Was it by presentiment or simply by despair that they to each other said:

“Adieu, Macloune!”

“Adieu, Maichette!”

And the poor little girl, soaked and benumbed to the marrow, her teeth chattering, returned to her uncle’s, where they had not perceived her absence, whilst Macloune launched his skiff in the surf and directed it towards Lanoraie. He had a head wind, and it was necessary to use his skillfulness to prevent the frail boat from being submerged in the great waves. He had two hours of work incessant before reaching the shore opposite.

The mother had passed the night while waiting in a mortal inquietude. Macloune threw himself on the bed all exhausted, shivering, his face lit up by fever, and all that which poor Marie Gallien could do to warm him was useless.

The doctor called about nine in the morning, declared that he was suffering from an inflammation of the lungs and that it was necessary to seek the priest at once.

The good cure brought the sacrament to the dying boy, who moaned in his delirium and stammered words incomprehensible. Macloune recognized at times the priest who prayed by his side; and he expired, in casting on him a look of gentle reproach and of inexpressible hopelessness murmuring the name of Marichette.



A month later, at Michaelmas, the hears of the paupers carried to the cemetery of Contrecoeur Marichette Joyelle, dead of quick consumption, at her uncle’s, of La Petite Misere.

These poor outcasts from life, from happiness and form love, had even not had the mournful privilege of being united in death under the same mound, in a corner obscure of the same churchyard.



[1] Priest.

[2] A full Catholic Tridentine mass celebrated with singing and incense; distinguished from the shorter Low Mass, which is celebrated without singing or incense.

[3] Literally “good female friend”; a girlfriend.

[4] Public announcement of an intended marriage.

[5] The Christian feast day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, celebrated on September 29th.

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The Goblin Lore of French Canada- From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘New Studies of Canadian Folklore’ (1904)

The Goblin Lore of French Canada

From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘New Studies of Canadian Folklore’ (1904)

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.


THE LORE OF the Werwolves has been the subject of a study published some years ago by the writer, and the Goblin Lore is among the most popular and the best known among the Canadian population of French origin. Some typical drawings from nature have been secured by the artist and accompany the following sketch. The readers who are familiar with peasant life in the Province of Quebec can testify to their picturesque accuracy.

It is evident that the Goblin Lore of Canada was imported from France, and that very few changes have even taken place in the primitive form, except, perhaps, in things connected with the difference in climatic or geological surroundings. The French etymology of the world itself is rather obscure, while some lexicologists even pretend that its origin is unknown. The Dictionnaire de L’Academic Francaise makes the word come from the old Norman lutine, which means a ghost, a white lady, or from the Walloon [1] luton [2] or nuton [3]. The most ancient form in French is luiton. Frisch [4] ascribes to it a German origin, and makes it come from laut, sound, noise, while Grimm [5] gives it a Latin derivation, and says it might possibly come from lutus, morning. Grandmadge takes it from the Saxon lytel, which has formed the modern English little. There seems to be something serious in this last etymology, inasmuch as the Goblin lore is of Saxon origin, and particularly as the most distinguishing characteristic of the lutin is its diminutive size. Be that as it may, authors seem to be divided on the origin of the word, but all agree that the superstition obtains, under different forms, in all countries of Europe, of Scandinavian, Saxon, Celtic and Latin traditions. In the French-speaking parishes of the Province of Quebec the lutins are considered as mischievous fun-loving little spirits, which may be protecting or annoying household gods or demons, according to the treatment that they receive form the inmates of the house where they have chosen to dwell. It generally takes the form of a domestic pet, such as a dog, a cat, a bird, a rabbit, or even a reptile of the inoffensive species, or, again, rats and mice that have learned to become familiar with the members of the household.

Black cats always had a rather suspicious reputation as associates of sorceresses and witches, but it is singular that among our peasants they are regarded as protecting goblins, and that no one would think of parting with them, chasing them away or ill-treating them in any manner. Lucky is the man whose house, or barn, or stable, have been chosen as a home by a large family of black cats. White cats (they must be of spotless white) are also considered as lutins, but I do not think that their protective abilities are as highly appreciated as those of their brothers of sombre hue. The same may be said of rabbits, birds or dogs, which have never attained the popularity of the cats, but who occupy sometimes the popular position of household spirits, but rather in a lesser degree. I have known an old farmer, in the parish where I was born, to get in a great excitement and give a good thrashing to a boy who had innocently killed a small yellow snake which he had seen crawling along the grass in front of his house. The old man said that he would have preferred losing his best horse rather than see that snake killed. It had been living in his cellar for some years past, and he considered it as a good lutin bringing him luck and prosperity. I have said that lutins could be protective or annoying, according to the treatment that they received. The most fantastic powers are attributed to the good lutins, and there is hardly any good action or any favorable intervention of which they are not capable. They will procure good weather for the crops, they will watch over favorite animals, they will intercede for the recovery of the sick members of the household, and I have heard of an enterprising lutin who would, during the night, shave the face of his master and black his boots for Sunday morning.

So much for the good lutins, who are treated in a proper and affectionate manner, but woe to the wicked or unhappy man who willingly or unluckily offends his household spirit, be it under the form of a black cat, white dog or yellow snake. Life for him will become a burden, and his days, and especially his nights, will become a pretext for a long series of annoyances and persecutions of all kinds. On rising in the morning he will find his boots filled with peas or with pebbles; his pantaloons will be sewed up at the knee; he will find salt in his porridge and pepper in his tea, and the meat in his soup-kettle shall be turned into pieces of stone. If he goes cutting hay or grain, he cannot get his scythe or his sickle to cut properly; in winter time the water will freeze in his well and his wife never can cook a good tourtiere- meat pie, without burning the crust into a crisp. These are only a few of the ills that await the poor man at his house or in his field; but the stable is the favorite place where the lutin will make his power felt. He loves to take his revenge on the favorite horse of his offender. He will nightly, during months and months, braid or entangle the hair of the tail and mane of the animal, and when the farmer comes in the morning to groom his roadster he will find it in a terrible plight; all covered with thistles or burrs. The lutins will even go further than that when they have been gravely insulted. They will find their way into the stable during the night, mount the horse, and ride it at the highest speed until the wee hours of the morning, returning it to its stall completely tired out, broken down and all in a lather of sweat. And what is the farmer to do to cope with its ghostly enemy and to prevent his carrying out his system of persecution? He will sprinkle with salt the path that leads to the stable, and he will place a bag of salt against the door at the interior of the stable, so that the salt will be spilt when the lutin tries to enter. It would seem that lutins have a holy horror for salt, and that they cannot pass where that condiment has been strewn in their way. But lutins will even evade the salt and enter the building to play their ghostly tricks. Then, there is only one way of putting a stop to their annoyances. The peasant will have to kill one black and one white cat, and, with the strips of raw hides resulting from that double murder, he will make lattice screen doors and windows for his stable, and the lutin never was known that could crawl through an aperture so protected against his wiles. Friendly lutins will attach themselves to favorite children and guide them safely through the infantine maladies of their tender years. They will befriend sweet and comely maidens, and favor them in subjugation of a recalcitrant sweetheart, but they must be treated in a just, proper and affectionate manner, because they seem to ignore the doctrine of forgiveness, and, come what may, they are bound to get even with those who have had the bad luck to incur their ill will or their anger. Such is the lore of the lutins of French Canada.



[1] A people native to southeastern Belgium and northeastern France.

[2] Leprechaun-like goblin.

[3] A small, legendary elf-like or dwarf-like creature said to inhabit caves in the French Ardennes and Belgium.

[4] Johann Leonhard Frisch, a 17th/18th Century German linguist, entomologist, and ornithologist, and a pioneer in the field of comparative linguistics.

[5] The ‘Brothers Grimm’ – brothers Jacob Ludwig Karl and Wilhelm Carl Grimm; 18th/19th Century German folklorists and linguists.



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La Quete de L’Enfant Jesus: From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘La Chasse Galerie and Other Canadian Stories’ (1900)

La Quete de L’Enfant Jesus

From Honore Beaugrand’s ‘La Chasse Galerie and Other Canadian Stories’  (1900); With Annotations by Hammerson Peters

Back to Honore Beaugrand’s Classic French-Canadian Folktales.


WHEN FANFAN Dalcour received a message from M’sieu le Cure [1] of Lanoraie, asking him to call at the presbytere [2] on the following Sunday, after Vespers [3], he hardly knew what to say, and hesitated for a moment or two before lifting his eyes towards the beadle [4], who stood waiting for an answer:

“Well, tell M’sieu le Cure that I will go;” and after another pause: “that’s all.”

            “Bonjour, M’sieu Fanfan.”  [5]

            “Au revior, pere Landry!”  [6]

Fanfan Dalcour was a robust and handsome young farmer, who had lately returned from the North-west country, where he had been hunting and trapping among the Indians and Half-breeds [7] on the head waters of the Saskatchewan River.

His sudden departure from home, some two years before, had been connected with a scandal in the rural parish of Lanoraie, and since his return he had not yet been to pay his respects to the venerable old priest who had baptized him twenty years before.

Fanfan was sulking, and even appeared inclined to forego his allegiance to his old parish church. Instead of accompanying his father and mother to the church at Lanoraie, as he was wont to do with pride in the days of his boyhood, he had always, since his return, started alone before the others to go to the neighbouring village of Lavaltrie to perform his Sunday devotions. And that, much to the chagrin and disappointment of the old cure [8], who had always taken great interest in him, and who, probably, wanted to give him a bit of pastoral advice.

There was no way of avoiding the meeting since he had formally promised to go, and Fanfan began at once to build up a defensive argument against the reproaches that he thought would surely fall upon his guilty head.



Fanfan Dalcour, from his earliest boyhood, had always been considered as a protégé of M’sieu le Cure, and specially so, when at the age of ten he became an enfant de choeur [9], with a black soutanelle [10] and a little daintily plaited white muslin surplice that M’amselle Marguerite, the cure’s housekeeper, had made expressly for him. He had then learned his catechism and made his first communion, and had soon become noted as the favorite altar boy who could most prettily make a bow and a genuflexion, and most carefully pour the wine out of the burettes [11] for the holy sacrifice of the mass.

His father, Pierriche Dalcour, who was a well-to-do habitant [12], took great pride in the accomplishments of his son, and his heart fairly thumped with delight when, one evening at the service of the Mois de Marie [13], he recognized the voice of Fanfan leading the first verse of a sacred song to the Virgin:

Salut! O Vierge immaculee!

Brilliante etoile du matin. [14]

And Fanfan had also become the smartest pupil of the old village schoolmaster, and it had even been rumoured that he had begun to study Latin with the intention of going to college to become a priest, a lawyer, a doctor or a notary. But that was only idle talk, and old Pierriche Dalcour declared that he wanted his firstborn to stay at home to till the farm as he and his father and his forefathers had done for two hundred years before him, on the banks of the St. Lawrence. And that suited Fanfan’s inclinations. He loved to rise with the lark in summer, and to work in the broad fields with the farm hands. In the evening he enjoyed boating and swimming in the waters of the big river that flowed lazily and majestically past his father’s old homestead. He would shoot ducks and wild geese as they passed every spring and autumn in their regular migrations, and in winter time he loved to speed his horse on the polished surface of the ice-bound river. Fanfan had grown to be a strong, active lad who took the lead in all the sports of the parish, but as he reached manhood he remained faithful in his attendance at church, and in his gratitude for the unbounded kindness of M’sieu le Cure.

He had also become the leading singer in the church choir, and the whole congregation was proud of his deep, powerful voice when he led the Kyrie Eleison, the Gloria in excelsis, the Credo or the Sanctus.



The old secular parish church of Lanoraie had ever been without an organ, and it was an eventful Sunday when M’sieu le Cure announced from the pulpit that, after due consultation with ces messieurs du banc-d’oeuvre [15], he had come to the conclusion of purchasing an instrument in Montreal, and that it would be put up in the jube [16], during the following week, in time for the approaching Christmas celebration.

The daughter of the village trader, Juliette Leblanc, who had just completed her studies at the convent of Berthier, had volunteered her services as organist gratuitously, for the first year.

This naturally brought Fanfan Dalcour in contact with Juliette Leblanc, who was a pretty girl just budding into womanhood. And the usual result followed. La vieille, vieille histoire [17] was repeated.

A few rehearsals became necessary before the inauguration of the organ, which would take place on the occasion of the midnight mass on Christmas Eve, and Fanfan and Juliette, who had merely known each other by sight from childhood, were now brought together almost every day for the purpose of choral practice and service organization.

Juliette Leblanc, who was naturally endowed with musical talents, had received a fairly good training from her teachers at school, and with much patience and a few days’ hard work, she succeeded in preparing a Messe Bordelaise [18] that was sure to create a sensation among the music-loving population of a French-Canadian parish.

Fanfan now assumed the duties of maître-chantre [19] in the choir, and naturally took great pride in his new position.

Every thing was in readiness for la messe de minuit [20], and the church had been elaborately decorated and illuminated for the occasion. When the last stroke of the bell had finished tolling the midnight hour, every pew was filled with a pious and expectant congregation. A soft prelude was heard, and every one instinctively held breath to listen to Fanfan’s voice, accompanied by the swelling chords of the organ, in the ancient canticle announcing the coming of the Messiah:

Ca, bergers, assemblons-nous;

Allons voir le Messie.

Cherchons cet enfant si doux

Dans les bras de Marie.

Je l’entends, il nous appellee tous,

O sort digne d’envie! [22]

M’sieu le Cure, who was putting on his sacred vestments in the sacristie, [20] stopped and wept like a child and declared that his musique [23] was sweeter than any thing he had ever heard in the cathedral of Notre-Dame, in Montreal.

The whole choral service was indeed a success, as well as the rendering of the ancient Noels, sacred echoes of distant France, that had, from time immemorial, been sung in the old church during the Christmas festivities.

And when the service was over, the old priest in a simple allocation related the incidents of the birth of the Infant Saviour, and the whole congregation joined with him in a sacred song of exaltation:

Nouvelle agreable!

Un Sauveur enfant nous est ne.

C’est davs une etable,

Qu’il nous est donne. [24]

At the reveillon [25] that followed the midnight mass, at the residence of Jean-Jean Leblanc, Juliette and Fanfan were congratulated and toasted on the success that they had achieved in so short a time of practice.

And the old people, in returning home that night, declared that such a talented young man and such a pretty girl who could so well sing and play together, would naturally fall in love with each other and that there certainly was a new mariage a l’horizon. [26]

The prediction was soon realized, for at the New Years’ gatherings, it became a matter of public gossip that Fanfan and Juliette were fiances and that they were to be married aux jours gras [27], at carnival time. Both families were respectable and well to do, and it was universally acknowledged that it was a mariage de bon sens [28] as well as a mariage d’amour. [29]

The old priest was all smiles when he heard the news, and he sent for Fanfan and Juliette to tell them of the gladness of his heart and to give them his blessing in anticipation of the marriage ceremony.

His protégé and master-singer wedded to his organist! – what a boon for the church and what a happy realization of his own dreams!

But “he that reckons without his host must reckon twice,” says an old French proverb, and M’sieu le Cure had not reckoned with “politics,” when he had considered the future organization of his choir as settled beyond peradventure by the marriage of Fanfan and Juliette.



Early in January, the news came that an election to choose a member of Parliament for the country of Berthier would take place on the first day of the following month, to replace the old member who had been called to the Senate.

And with the new election came a host of stump speakers and district canvassers from Montreal, with the usual accompaniment of committee-meetings and other evils inseparable from the free and untrammeled judgement of the people on such occasions.

The parish soon became invested with a spirit of acrimonious discussion that oftentimes degenerated into enmity and quarrels among the younger voters.

Old Pierriche Dalcour was an outspoken liberal, un rouge [30], and Jean-Jean Leblanc always voted with les bleus [31], the conservatives. Fanfan, as a matter of course, followed his father’s political proclivities, but on the other hand, it is hardly necessary to state that Juliette knew nothing of party preference and intrigues, and that she was absolutely indifferent to the burning topics that were discussed around her. She was all wrapped up in Fanfan’s love, and was awaiting with delight the hour when she would become his wife.

Not so with the old folks, who generally become quite excited when, once in four years, they were called to vote against each other’s favorite candidate.

Pierriche Dalcour had said to Fanfan:

“Until after election, you had better be on your guard, when you go to see Juliette. You know that her father’s house is looked upon as the headquarters of the conservatives, and that it is always filled with canvassers and speakers from the city. They might think it to their advantage to say that you have joined the bleus and use your name in connection with their party. My father fought at St. Denis [32], under Papineau [33,34], and I would not have it said for all the world that one of us has gone back on the party.”

“Never fear, father,” answered Fanfan, smiling. “Juliette and I never talk ‘politics’ and I shall be very careful with the others.”



There was to be a grand rally of the voters on the following Sunday afternoon, after Vespers, when speakers of both parties were to meet at the church door to discuss public matters.

Two young advocates from Montreal had already arrived and were the guests of Jean-Jean Leblanc. One of them had even offered to join the church choir for the occasion. As he was known as a singer of considerable repute in the great city, the offer was thankfully accepted by Fanfan, and at High Mass, the congregation were delighted to hear a stranger sing an Ave Maria in a clear, cultivated tenor voice. It was even acknowledged, after the service, that the young man from the city could sing almost as well as Fanfan Dalcour.

Fanfan himself had been the first to offer his congratulations as he was leaving the church to go and take his dinner with M’sieu le Cure, as he had been in the habit of doing, every Sunday, for many years past.

The repast over, and after a few moments’ conversation with the priest, Fanfan lighted his pipe and walked leisurely towards Jean-Jean Leblanc’s, to have a chat with his comrades, before Vespers. The house was full of people and when he entered it he heard the voice of his new acquaintance, the tenor, rehearsing a Magnificat, with piano accompaniment, in the sitting-room, up stairs. The men down stairs were discussing the political situation, and one of them, at the sight of Fanfan, said tauntingly:

“Look out, Fanfan, mon garcon! [35] The Conservatives are going to defeat you in this election, and if you are not very careful the young advocate, up there, after disputing your laurels as a singer, will also beat you out of your sweetheart. Don’t you hear them warble together?”

A peal of laughter greeted these remarks, because, politically, Fanfan found himself alone among his opponents, at this particular moment. He felt somewhat embarrassed, and he hardly knew whether to laugh or to be vexed, but he passed on without answering. With his accustomed familiarity he walked up stairs, where the women had been listening to the music that had just stopped.

Juliette Leblanc was sitting at the piano with her back turned to the door, and the young advocate, with the assumed freedom of an old acquaintance, was just bending over her and whispering in hear ears words that made the young girl laugh and blush at the same time. And then, raising his voice so that he could be heard by every one in the room:

“I have been told, Mademoiselle Juliette, that you are engaged to be married to the maître-chantre of your choir, an obstinate liberal who surely does not deserve such a prize, the prettiest girl of conservative parentage in the parish.”

“But Monsieur!” pleaded the girl.

“Well, Mademoiselle, I am sorry to see it, and were it not for the fact that I am probably too late, I would myself—!”

“What would you do yourself Monsieur le godelureau?”  [36] interrupted Fanfan, taking a step forward toward the speaker, who was somewhat nonplussed at his appearance, but who prided himself, as a politician, in never being taken by surprise.

“I would enter the field against you, Monsieur Fanfan, and with a little patience, I think I would be as sure of winning the contest against you as we are of beating you and your friends in the coming election.”

This was said with an air of conceit and sarcasm that put Fanfan fairly beside himself.

Poor Juliette saw that a quarrel was imminent, and she got up pale and trembling, and attempted to interpose herself between the two men. But before she had time to act, Fanfan had stepped up to the young politician and with glaring eyes and clenched fists:

“You are both a braggart and a malappris, M’sieu l’avocat! to act and speak as you have done. And if it were not for the respect I have for the ladies here present, and for the house of Mr. Leblanc, I would give you a thrashing that would take the conceit out of you before you return to Montreal.

The advocate turned pale, but did not lose his self-control. With a constrained smile:

“Oh, you are also a village bully, Monsieur Fanfan, but need I tell you that such as I are not afraid of such as you.”

The words were hardly out of his mouth before Fanfan had caught him by the throat, and heedless of the shrieks of the women present, and before any one could interfere, he lifted him from his feet, carried him towards the door at the dead of the stairs and flung him down among the crowd below.

All this had happened so quickly that Fanfan had time to run down stairs himself and to make his way out of the house before the people know what it was all about.

Juliette had fainted upstairs and could not answer the inquiries of her father, who had come to see what was the trouble, and it took fully ten minutes before the circumstances were explained.

The lawyer was not seriously hurt, although badly shaken up, but the scandal was great. The news spread like wildfire among the crowd that were now wending their way toward the church to attend the afternoon service.

The psalms and the hymns, at Vespers, that afternoon, were chanted without the organ accompaniment, and the old cure who inquired the cause, was told that Mam’selle Juliette had suddenly been taken sick and that there was no one to replace her.

“But where is Fanfan Dalcour?” continued the pastor.

No one seemed to know, or cared to tell him the news.

Fanfan, on coming out of the house of Jean-Jean Leblanc, had driven home at full speed, and had told his father about what had just taken place.

“Oh, les bleus! les bleus! [37] the rascals! Did I not tell you to look out for them! You did right, Fanfan, to resent the insult of that young coxcomb. But what are you going to do now?”

“Do? I don’t know, but I suppose that the best thing that the lawyer can do himself is to have me arrested for assault, and put in jail, but I won’t give him the chance to do that. I will keep away from home for some time to let the thing blow over. Anyhow, my engagement with Juliette is at an end, and I don’t care what I do now. What, if I go to Manitoba to see uncle Thomas, who lives at St. Boniface? He has often written to us inviting me to go. Now is the time; I can leave for Montreal by the next train and escape the vengeance which that pettifogger of a lawyer will surely try to take on me.”

“Well, I suppose it is the best thing that you can do under the circumstances. Get your things ready, and I will drive you to the station. I will write soon to let you know the effects of your escapade.”

And Fanfan had disappeared from Lanoraie without giving any explanations to the cure or to his fiancée.

Poor Juliette Leblanc had been ill for some time after Fanfan’s departure, and it had been fully three months before she had resumed her place at the organ.

She had never spoken about Fanfan, had never even pronounced his name, but she was known to have said that “politics” were not only delusive, but they were also mendacious and pitiless. She never would permit any one to allude to the trouble between her lover and the Montreal politician, and when the young man had called to say good-bye before leaving Lanoraie, she had refused to see him.

The old cure had called to comfort her, and she had resigned herself to a state of apparent indifference that puzzled her father. Fully half-a-dozen offers of marriage had since been made to her, but she had refused very one, declaring that she would not marry. That was all.



Such were the causes of Fanfan Dalcour’s trip to the North-West country, whence he had lately returned after a two years’ absence, when the Cure of Laoraie had sent him that message, to ask his presence at the presbytere on the following Sunday, after Vespers.

Fanfan kept his own counsel until the appointed hour, when he simply said to his old mother:

“I am going to harness up to pay a visit to M’sieu le Cure. I will return for supper.”

And he went, wondering what reception the good old cure would give him; because, apart from the scandal his departure had caused, the church choir had been very badly disorganized by his absence.

When Fanfan drove up to the presbytere, he found the old priest awaiting him alone in his reception room. He embraced him affectionately, asked him about the most important events that had taken place during his journey, but never alluded to the cause of his sudden departure for the North-West.

“Now that you are back among your friends, I hope to see you take your place in the parish among your old comrades. Meanwhile, I desire you to accompany me next week for la quete de l’Enfant Jesus.

Fanfan was deeply moved by the kindness of his old pastor, and could not refuse his request, although he dreaded the ordeal of facing every household in the parish.

La quete de l’Enfant Jesus– “the collection for the Infant Jesus”- is an annual visit made in every French parish in Canada, for the purpose of gathering candles for the illumination of the church at the Christmas midnight mass. The women also contribute bits of lace, and ribbons, and artificial flowers, for the decoration of the holy manger, where a scene representing the birth of the infant Savior is exposed for the veneration of the faithful.

The parish priest makes that his annual call, and is usually accompanied by the marguiller en charge [38], the oldest among the church wardens. M’sieu le Cure, in his fatherly affection for Fanfan, had selected him this year, for the purpose of facilitating his first meeting, since his return, with all the parishioners, who would be sure to welcome him cordially on such an errand, and especially in such company.

The following Monday, Fanfan harnessed his favorite horse to his best sleigh, and at the hour appointed, 9 o’clock in the morning, knocked at the door of the presbytere, where M’sieu le Cure was already waiting for him. The collection having been announced in the pulpit the day before, every one was on the alert to welcome the visitors, who stopped at every house as they proceeded on their way. Fanfan was thus brought in contact with every family, until he stopped his horse at the door of the residence of Jean-Jean Leblanc. Here, he hesitated a moment before following his old friend, who led the way. The cure, who had expected as much, came to the rescue:

“Come Fanfan, you can’t stop now that you have come so far. Courage, mon ami!”  [39]

And, while speaking, the priest had already knocked at the door, and before Fanfan had time to reply, Jean-Jean Leblanc stood on the threshold:

“Welcome, M’sieu le Cure; do me the honor to walk in.”

And perceiving Fanfan, who held back, pretending to be busy with his horse:

Bonjour, Fanfan! Come in, mon ami. Happy to see you. Come in, come in!”

And he walked down the steps, and extended his hand in such a cordial manner that Fanfan could not help accepting it as heartily as it was offered.

The visit was necessarily a short one, but the ice was broken, and when Jean-Jean Leblanc had contributed his donation:

“My wife and Juliette are away at Berthier, but they will return to-morrow, to be on hand to help in decorating the church for the midnight mass. Come and see us, Fanfan. I know the ladies will be happy to meet you. Bonjour, M’sieu le Cure! Bonjour, Fanfan! give my regards to your father and mother, and bring them along with you when you return this way.”

And late in the evening, after the visits had all been made, and when the priest had insisted that Fanfan should take his supper with him before returning home:

“We have done a good day’s work, have we not, Fanfan? The collection has been a large one, and our old church will look beautiful at the midnight mass. What kind, generous souls we have in our parish! And then the day has not been a bad one for you, Fanfan. You have met all your old friends and acquaintances after a prolonged absence, and I only need your promise that you will take your place in the choir, now. The people will be so happy to hear you.”

“I will, M’sieu le Cure, and I hardly know how to express my thanks for your kind offices in arranging my reconciliation with so many persons that I had offended by my childish display of anger two years ago. It will be a lesson to me, and you can rest assured that I will watch over my temper in the future.”

“Well, well!” interrupted the old priest, “let bygones be bygones, and let us see that we take good care of the present.”

When Fanfan went home that night it had been arranged that he would bring a load of pine boughs and evergreens sometime during the week, and that he would help the beadle to put up and decorate the old-fashioned branch chandeliers that were always used to light up the church during the Christmas festivities.

Old Pierriche Dalcour, when he was told of what had happened, was delighted to hear the good news. The absence of his son, for two long years, had appeased his resentment, and he declared that, for his part, he would be the first, under the circumstances, to go and offer his hand to Jean-Jean Leblanc, and that no later than the following Sunday, when he went to church.

Christmas was now fast approaching, and the young girls were busy with the church decorations. One of the lateral chapels had been converted into a bower of verdure, where could be seen a representation of the interior of a stable. According to custom, a dainty wax figure of the Infant Saviour would be laid upon the straw of the holy manger, during the celebration of the midnight Mass.

Fanfan Dalcour, in fulfilment of his promise, had brought a load of green boughs and had unloaded them at the church door. Taking an armful of the fragrant greens, he walked into the temple, looking for a place where he could deposit them, when he suddenly found himself face to face with Juliette Leblanc, who was perched upon a step ladder, arranging some draperies above the crèche. [40]

They had both been looking forward to an early meeting, but neither of them had dreamed that it would be brought about in such an embarrassing manner. They stood at a moment staring at each other, being quite incapable of making a move, or saying a word that would relieve the awkwardness of the situation.

Happily for them, M’sieu le Cure was in the chancel at the same time supervising the ornamentation of the great altar, and the noise made by Fanfan in entering the church had attracted his attention.

The good old pastor took in the situation at a glance, and came to the rescue.

“That’s right, Fanfan, drop those branches just where you are. Mademoiselle Juliette needs them to complete her decorations.”

And with a twinkle, full of engaging kindness, in his merry eye:

“Come down, Juliette, from the ladder, and let Fanfan help you to do that part of the work, while I return to my altar. And do not forget that the members of your choir will soon be here for practice.”

And M’sieu le Cure went away, leaving the young couple together to heal the breach that had caused a separation of two long years.

Few words were spoken, and scarcely any allusions were made to the misunderstanding that had estranged them from one another.

“Will you forgive me, Juliette?” said Fanfan, simply, in taking a hand that she did not attempt to withdraw.

“I was probably as indiscreet as you were hasty. Let us forget the past,” ingenuously answered the girl.

And the conversation turned on the incidents of Fanfan’s journey and his life among the Indians and Halfbreeds. When the priest returned, half an hour later, he found his young friends quietly conversing together.

“Now, Fanfan, with the permission of Mademoiselle Juliette, I expect you to take your old place as leader of our choir for the coming midnight Mass, and I think that you might take this occasion to have a little practice together. What say you, Juliette?”

A votre service [41], M’sieu le Cure. I am entirely at your disposal.”

And the reconciliation was sealed by Fanfan and Juliette going to the organ and singing together the old Christmas song of joy and praise:

Le anges dans nos campagnes,

Ont entonne l’hymme des cieux;

Et l’echo de nos montagnes

Redit ce chant melodieux-

Gloria in excelsis Deo. [42]



Among the public announcements that were made from the pulpit by the pastor at the Christmas midnight service, was the following:

“I call the banns [43] of marriage between Francois Dalcour, minor son, born of the sacred wedlock of Pierre Dalcour and Madeleine Hervieu, of the first part; and Juliette Leblanc, minor daughter, born of the sacred wedlock of Jean-Jean Leblanc and Angelique Lafontaine, of the second part. First and last bann. The marriage bill will be celebrated on the second day of January next, at the parish church of Lanoraie, at 9 o’clock in the morning.”

And again at the reveillon that followed the Mass, the fiances were toasted and congratulated by their friends, and Jean-Jean Leblanc and Pierriche Dalcour united their voices in the solemn declaration that no “politics” could interfere this time with the happiness of their children.



[1] Mister Priest.

[2] A presbytery, or rectory.

[3] Evening prayers.

[4] A minor church official.

[5] Good day, Mr. Fanfan

[6] Goodbye, father Landry!

[7] Metis; people of First Nations and French of Scottish extraction.

[8] Priest.

[9] Choir boy.

[10] Cassock.

[11] Cruets.

[12] Farmer.

[13] Literally “Month of Mary”; a special Roman Catholic devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, held every evening throughout the month of May.

[14] Hail! O immaculate Virgin. Brilliant start of the morning.

[15] Literally “those gentlemen of the work bench.” The expression is popularly used in French Canadian churches to designate the Board of Churchwardens. (original footnote)

[16] An ornamental wooden or stone screen separating the chancel, or space around the altar, from the nave, or main area, of the church.

[17] The old, old story.

[18] Literally “Bordeaux Mass”; an 18th Century French plainchant Mass.

[19] Master cantor

[20] Midnight Mass.

[21] Shepherds, let us go; Let us go to see the Messiah. Let us look for this sweet child In the arms of Mary. I hear him, he calls us all, O fate worthy of envy!

[22] Sacristy; the room in a church where the priest prepares for Mass.

[23] Music.

[24] New pleasant! A child Savior is born to us. In a stable, that it is given to us.

[25] In this context, a dinner held on Christmas Eve.

[26] Wedding on the horizon.

[27] Literally “on fat days”; in the carnival week before Lent.

[28] Marriage of good sense.

[29] Marriage of love.

[30] A red.

[31] The blues.

[32] The 1837 Battle of Saint-Denis, the first engagement of the Lower Canada Rebellion, fought between the British Royal Army and members of the Patriote movement. The Patriotes were French-Canadian nationalists and republicans who fought for representative government in Lower Canada, a British province surrounding the St. Lawrence River.

[33] Louis-Joseph Papineau was a Quebec-born politician and a leader of the Patriote movement- a French-Canadian nationalist and republican movement which hoped to replace Lower Canada’s (i.e. Quebec’s) Legislative Assembly, whose members were appointed by Lower Canada’s British governor, with a similar body whose members were elected by the citizens of Lower Canada. From 1837-1838, the Patriotes clashed with the Canadian militia and the British Royal Army in what is known as the Lower Canada Rebellion. After the Patriots were defeated, Papineau fled with other rebel leaders to the United States. He returned to Canada in 1845, after he was granted amnesty by the new Province of Canada, an amalgamation of Lower and Upper Canada created as a result of the Lower Canada Rebellion and its contemporaneous Upper Canadian counterpart.

[34] In fact, Louis-Joseph Papineau did not fight in the Battle of Saint-Denis. Although he was in the town of Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu at the start of the battle, he fled to the nearby down of Saint-Charles shortly after the first shots were fired for reasons unknown.

[35] My boy.

[36] Mister Swain.

[37] Literally “the blues”; an expression of distress.

[38] Warden in charge.

[39] Courage, my friend.

[40] A representation of the Nativity of Christ.

[41] At your service.

[42] (In French) The angels in our countrysides, hear the hymn of heaven; And the echo of our mountains Repeat this melodious song- (In Latin) Glory to God in the highest

[43] A public announcement of an intended marriage.

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