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

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

Macloune

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.

 

I

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.

 

II

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.

 

III

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?

 

IV

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.

 

V

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.

 

Footnotes

[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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I'm a Western Canadian writer, carver, and fiddler who has a special place in his heart for history and the unexplained.

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