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Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

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Author Topic: Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic  (Read 3240 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #105 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:59 pm »

p. 196

XVIII
THE GUARDIANS OF THE ST. LAWRENCE

When in 1611 the Sieur de Champlain went back to France to report his wonderful explorations in Canada, he was soon followed by a young Frenchman named Vignan, who had spent a whole winter among the Indians, in a village where there was no other white man. This was a method often adopted by the French for getting more knowledge of Indian ways and commanding their confidence. Vignan had made himself a welcome guest in the cabins, and had brought away many of their legends, to which he added some of his own. In particular, he declared that he had penetrated into the interior until he had come upon a great lake of salt water, far to the northwest. This was, as it happened, the very thing which the French government and all Europe had most hoped to find. They

p. 197

had always believed that sooner or later a short cut would be discovered across the newly found continent, a passage leading to the Pacific Ocean and far Cathay. This was the dream of all French explorers, and of Champlain in particular, and his interest was at once excited by anything that looked toward the Pacific. Now Vignan had prepared himself with just the needed information. He said that during his winter with the Indians he had made the very discovery needed; that he had ascended the river Ottawa, which led to a body of salt water so large that it seemed like an ocean; that he had just seen on its shores the wreck of an English ship, from which eighty men had been taken and slain by the savages, and that they had with them an English boy whom they were keeping to present to Champlain.

This tale about the English ship was evidently founded on the recent calamities of Henry Hudson, of which Vignan had heard some garbled account, and which he used as coloring for his story. The result was that Champlain was thoroughly

p. 198

interested in the tale, and that Vignan was cross-examined and tested, and was made at last to certify to the truth of it before two notaries of Rochelle. Champlain privately consulted the chancellor de Sillery, the old Marquis de Brissac, and others, who all assured him that the matter should be followed up; and he resolved to make it the subject of an exploration without delay. He sailed in one vessel, and Vignan in another, the latter taking with him an ardent young Frenchman, Albert de Brissac.

M. de Vignan, talking with the young Brissac on the voyage, told him wonderful tales of monsters which were, he said, the guardians of the St. Lawrence River. There was, he said, an island in the bay of Chaleurs, near the mouth of that river, where a creature dwelt, having the form of a woman and called by the Indians Gougou. She was very frightful, and so enormous that the masts of the vessel could not reach her waist. She had already eaten many savages and constantly continued to do so, putting them first into a great pocket to await her hunger. Some of those who had escaped said that this

p. 199

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