Изображения страниц

upon his wife with the same respect and admiration as on the day she first won his notice by her excellent step-washing, but as to entering her ventures and undertakings, such a thought never occurred to him, and Regina would certainly not have encouraged any such interest.

III. When Alexandre was twenty-one and Achille eighteen, the great enterprise was begun. In the wide and unbuilt-up spaces to the north-east, in which direction the city was rapidly and unaccountably growing, in a square upon which Regina had long fixed her eye, les magasins Brisson’ began to rise. What emotion, what surge of pride, what impulse to self-congratulation filled her when the corner-stone was laid, the seal of her success, no one even glimpsed. Her eye was no brighter than usual, her head no more uprightly held, and satisfaction, if any, was tightly locked in that indomitable breast.

Mme. Brisson kept firm hold of her original shop, but managed at the same time to visit her new premises at least twice daily. She instructed bricklayers and carpenters and all the other workmen in their respective trades ; she inspected the quality of the bricks, the mortar, the concrete, the beams, and was able to make many admirable corrections and suggestions without throwing out the original plans of the building, and she made herself so feared that the work went forward with astonishing rapidity and a minimum of waste of time, space or material. Her fame was already becoming something of a tradition among her compatriots. She was known to be of enormous ability, of almost fabulous wealth. Pierpont Morgan, Mrs. Hetty Green, Rothschild-all these were wellknown names of moneyed people, but their reputations, their incomes even, were felt to be almost mythical, while reality was stamped upon the capacious Mme. Brisson. Of Pierpont Morgan's beginning who knew anything ? he might have got his money from his father ; but here was a woman whose beginning was known, the wife of a day-labourer, herself penniless, who had made money by honest magic, and who was now about to build such a superb, magnificent and colossal shop as argued her the possessor of untold riches, and bid fair to put the French-Canadian commerce of the city on an entirely new basis. 'She is rich, that Mme. Brisson,' one of her neighbours said in honest admiration, but she gives herself no airs. She is not mean, she can think like a man, and yet she is a woman!'

The ninth of December was the day fixed for the great occasion of the opening. The eighth being a holy day, Regina and her farcily went devoutly to church, and not even her sons knew of the proportions of Regina's offering, given in the name of her favourite saint. The whole Pomminville family came up from Ste. Clorinthe for the opening of the great stores, and a few of Joseph's people came from the other side of the river. At eight o'clock in the morning Regina inserted the new key in the lock of the central door, turned it, and walked into her new kingdom, followed by her awe-stricken family. Outwardly she was tranquil, but it was the culminating moment of her pride, the crown and supreme triumph of her life. The shop gave on three streets, new streets and crude as yet, but full of promise—and had three magnificent doors and twelve showwindows lavishly decorated with red and white Christmas favours, little fir-trees in pots, stars of Bethleheni and Santa Clauses tipsily astride diminutive chimneys, glittering snowflakes, holly wreaths and mottoes appropriate to the season in both French and English. Inside, quality was nothing to quantity and variety, and there was a department for everything from kitchen utensils to first Communion outfits. On the first floor, upon a species of commercial throne surrounded by a gilt railing, with a large desk in front of her on which was the cash register, with a complete command of the three entrances-proud, alert, ineffable, yet calm-sat Mme. Brisson, née Regina-Fleurette Pommin ville. Nothing escaped her vigilance, no transaction, however small, eluded her knowledge, and when she wished to issue an order a sharp clap of her hands brought the sales-girls running in terror to her desk. No inglorious ease was to be hers now that she had realised her ambition ; she was merely a general with a new and more inportant command, with the most important campaign of all opening before her. She had grown ample without becoming very stout, and she was still red-cheeked and as smiling and incisive as ever. Her air of pride became her. This had she achieved unaided. She had dispersed her family throughout the store, as a competent general his tried officers. Joseph, in a very much too large frock-coat from the Men's SemiFitted Department, bewildered and miserably out of his element, wandered among the crockery and groceries with a constant and embarrassed smile on his face, feeling that he was properly despised by the basement staff, and that the reflected glory from Regina was all too brilliant. On the second floor, Alexandre, in a perfectlyfitting floor-walker's costume, with an oiled and perfumed curl falling over his forehead, was all professionalism and grace, full of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


easy but respectful badinage for those of the customers who were young and pretty. Among the Boys' and Men's Furnishings, Carpets and Furniture, was Achille, commanding, alert, selfpossessed, able-his mother's son. The shop was thronged all day, and custom was good, but they closed early in order that Regina might entertain her family.

In a large private room on the first floor a banquet was served such as Ste. Clorinthe was unacquainted with. The guests fell to with appreciation and great liveliness, although at first somewhat awed by the grandeur attained by one of their family. Regina's mother was there, a little, bent, old woman in black, with sharp, shrewd eyes ; and her father, a silent, gaunt old man; and her brothers and sisters, who made jokes and witty speeches; and nieces and nephews of every size, down to babies in arms. And Regina had paid the way of every one of them.

Speeches and more jokes were made, and Alexandre replied to the congratulations for his mother, and did it very well. He bade the guests welcome in his mother's name, and announced that relations would of course be given special privileges of purchase, and he went on to pay graceful tributes to his mother's achievements and gifts. Regina suddenly smiled across at Joseph, and abruptly rose to make a speech herself, ruthlessly interrupting Alexandre's flowery periods. 'You are all very kind to be here to-night,' she said; 'Alexandre has told you that. The name of the store is Brisson, and it is Joseph's store. Without him I could have done nothing, or had he been other than he is-if one has a drunkard or a good-for-nothing for a husband, what can one do-I ask you ?' She shrugged her shoulders. “But my Joseph, like the stepfather of the Holy Family, is a saint. He has worked for us all, and been an example to our sons, and his money has built this. I ask you to drink prosperity to Joseph and to the Store !'

She sat down, and furtively pressed her handkerchief against her eyes for an instant, while the toast was drunk with wild applause. Then she cut short further tributes to herself by inviting the company to go up on the roof to view the crowning glory of the establishment.

When they were assembled in silence, the redoubtable Achille pressed a button somewhere below, and a flaming electric sky-sign in patriotic red, white and blue, announced to the waiting city the name of the new departmental store— Chez Brisson.'

M. G. Cook.

[ocr errors]


We are all very hopeful about the future. We have not spared pains in preparing our plans and have tried to provide for every possible emergency, but it is the unexpected that usually happens and one realises that where risks have to be taken fortune' or 'chance' must play its part. But whatever happens it is pleasant to remember that one has such friends as yourself who will know that we have done our best and will continue to wish us well. And so for the present farewell.

From Captain Scott's last letter sent here ; dated Winter Quarters. October 26, 1911.

As the Cornhill is being made ready for press comes the news, so long looked for, so little expected, that tells of this prophecy come true, in the fate of two best friends of this house—the leader of the Antarctic expedition and his close comrade and almost brother. Neither Robert Falcon Scott nor Edward Adrian Wilson ever wrote in these pages; but both as writers and as men they were so intimately connected with the Editor and others in Waterloo Place that the niagazine to-day must needs set down a few, all-inadequate words of affectionate remembrance and inexpressible admiration.

It is eight years since Captain Scott walked into this office at six o'clock one autumn evening and said, 'I am back from the Antarctic, and I want you to publish my book.'

From that day began a friendship which grew closer with knowledge of the man. Loyal, steadfast, of crystal honour and transparent frankness, ambitious for his country and his comrades, never for himself, full of boyish spirits and as keen to grasp a scientific problem as to shoulder responsibility, he inspired confidence and loyalty. He had a look of both Parry and Franklin in his eye and bearing. The mere landsman could imagine following such a leader anywhere.

His perfect comradeship with Dr. Wilson, the closest companion of his first expedition as of the last, was delightful to behold as they sat together in this room and discussed various points in the forthcoming book, especially as regards the drawings, all of which were from Wilson's hand, for he was an accomplished artist as well as a skilful naturalist and counsellor to the expedition, as

Copyright in the United States of America.



Scott was its moving spirit. One scene among these stands out unforgettably among many less defined memories. The question of the frontispiece to the first volume came up. It was proposed to give a photograph of the Southern sledge party led by Scott himself. Scott regarded it thoughtfully; then suddenly looking up said, at first tentatively, then with growing emphasis : 'What do you think, Bill? I don't think we ought to be there. The Southern party wasn't more than any other sledging party. No, we won't have it.' And it was thrown out to take a more modest place in the text. As substitute a sketch of the good ship Discovery was suggested. Time was short; one remembers the cheery question, ' How long do you think you would take to do it, Bill ?' and the quiet answer, in matter-of-fact tone, “I can get it done in thirty-six hours if I sit up all night to it.'

Another recollection is of the first round table' conference to consider the format of the book-a question in this case something like discussing plans for a new house with an architect. Both took infinite pains to get a clear notion of the details it was necessary to discuss and their bearing upon the work of writer and artist. At the end Scott turned to Wilson. “How do you feel ? I hardly know where I am.' 'No more do I.' Then let's go and have a

' Little personal jottings diversify the private notes of these early conferences as the character of Scott and Wilson began to unfold itself in personal intercourse. "Very fine fellows, admirable to do business with.' “Captain Scott-a real man.' And the impression only deepened with time.

Nor, in return, did he forget any of his friends and helpers. As he left this office for the last time, he turned back expressly to bid farewell to one of the staff whose unceasing care had him and his book through the press years before.

. Captain Scott, like so many men of clear mind and practical power, had a natural gift of writing clearly, simply and forcibly with an unassuming eloquence born of truth and the strength of his impressions. But he had had no experience of formal writing beyond his log and his journals. Now that he set himself to expand these and create a book out of his notes and the scientific records and such amusing ship’s bulletins as the South Polar Times, Illustrated, he found the unaccustomed labour a heavy piece of selfimposed taskwork. He would appear in the office from time to time with a new chapter finished, saying, “This is a treadmill job,

cup of tea.'

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »