A song awakened us before daylight. A man was singing lustily in French below our window. In the darkness we could hear the jingle of sleigh bells along the village street as he drove past and, above the bells, the mellow voice, booming out of a mighty chest. It was an old French song, such a peasant song as the troubadours must have sung in the lost France where these Quebec people came from, long ago. Slowly the song faded with a dying tinkle of bells, far down the Island of Orleans, towards the St. Lawrence.
We lay there in our huge, carved bed, under the eaves, and listened to the last faint sound, trying to picture the unseen man on the sleigh, whose fathers had sung carelessly like this, here on their Island, for three hundred years; trying hard to forget that this was 1941 and no songs in the world any more.
Then the great, cranky bell of the church clanged out, suddenly, fiercely, with sharp tongue and morning temper, rousing the villagers to worship. The priest would be there in the freezing church, pulling the bell rope as it had been pulled regularly every morning, without fail, since 1717. When the clanging ceased, grudgingly, we could still hear the thin sound of sleigh bells, far off, and a last frail shred of song.
Now Madame Garneau was moving about downstairs, lighting the new, white-enameled stove, just shipped on mail order from Quebec and the finest on the Island. In a little while we could feel the heat of it, ascending through the big trap door