One evening when I came home after my evening meal at the Chinese restaurant where I usually ate - it was near St. Eustache on St. Jeans Street - I found Berthe (Mme. Côté) standing on the dining room table being fitted for a new dress by a stranger, a freckle-faced, bob-haired girl who was introduced to me as Berthe's sister-in-law, Yvonnette Côté from Trois Pistoles. At the same time I made the acquaintance of Hélène Côté, her sister. The two girls were traveling together from Trois Pistoles to Montréal and had decided that, instead of going the whole distance by train, they would get off in Québec, visit Berthe and Georgeanne for a few hours, then make the rest of the trip by night boat. Besides seeing Berthe and her children it would give them a chance to get a good night's sleep on the over-night trip on the boat.
After the fitting was finished, which took only a few minutes, I was invited to come to the living room and talk. It was near the end of my vacation and my French had improved considerably since I had arrived in Québec. When it came time to walk down to the boat dock on the river below, I offered to go along to help carry their luggage, a couple of light hand bags. Yvette was very friendly and took my arm while Hélène and Georgeanne walked on ahead. I was informed the next day that Hélène was on her way to Montréal where she was going to enter a convent with the intention of becoming a nun while Yvette had been a nun in the convent of Perpetual Adoration in Québec City and was now on her way to get a job in Ottawa after a few months at home in Trois Pistoles to let her hair grow out again. I hadn't known before that under those big coifs nuns were practically bald. I found Yvette lively and attractive but no great beauty and if anyone had suggested then I would marry her at the end of two more years I wouldn't have believed it. Her hair was dark then and cut in a short bob, just beginning to be fashionable, whereas Hélène was a light blonde.
I had become well acquainted with both Montréal and Québec during the summer and decided that, before going back to Michigan I would stop off for a couple of days in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, as it was only slightly out of the way. I think I wrote Yvette I was coming but she says I didn't. At any rate, when I got off the train at the station there - it is right downtown, opposite the Chateau Laurier, the principal hotel - she was there. The lawyer's office where she worked was only a short distance down the street. She told me she often walked to the station during her lunch hour to watch the trains come in. I'm a little hazy about what happened next but I think she took me to a friend's house who had an extra room. I can't remember going to a hotel and I do remember M. and Mme. Dennis, Yvette and I being together in the Dennis' living room. M. Dennis had tickets for a wrestling match and he took me instead of his wife, who didn't care for such things, and she and Yvette remained at home and waited for us. Their house was a very poorly built structure in Hull, across the Ottawa River from the capital. Mme. Dennis was a full-blooded Indian and M. Dennis worked for "Le Devoir," reputed to be the best French language paper in the province. She worked somewhere also but I can't remember what she did. Wrestling bouts had become a very popular spectator sport at that time, both in the United States and Canada, but, judging from what I saw, the bouts were mostly faked. The action looked brutal tho and I think that is what attracted the crowds.
The next day must have been Saturday because Yvette didn't have to work. We went out to the Canadian National Exposition grounds just south of town and spent most of the day there. The Exposition was like a glorified county fair. By the time my train was due to leave, Yvette seemed like an old friend I had known all my life. She came to the station with me and the last thing she did was kiss me goodbye. I hadn't expected it but it didn't displease me at all. I couldn't get her out of my mind and wrote her a long letter as soon as I got back to Muskegon Heights. From then on we kept in touch with each other, tho at times our correspondence was on the point of being broken off. A year or so later I went thru a period of depression when she wrote that she might marry her Spanish teacher, even tho I had given no thought to marrying her myself up to that time. I was greatly relieved when I learned that she had broken off with him. Besides Spanish, she had been studying both voice and violin but hadn't carried either of them very far and had gone to Ottawa in the first place to learn English. She had learned shorthand in French, then after learning English, had made some revisions so that she was able to take notes in either language. Her employment as secretary in her brother's legal office in Rivière du Loup and then in Mr. Vincent's in Ottawa gave her a knowledge of legal documents and terms which had made her very valuable to both of them.
Last modified on 27 November 2017 @ 19:31