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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 3242 times)
Lisa Wolfe
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« Reply #105 on: January 27, 2009, 11:44:53 pm »

p. 205

XIX
THE ISLAND OF DEMONS

Those American travellers who linger with delight among the narrow lanes and picturesque, overhanging roofs of Honfleur, do not know what a strange tragedy took place on a voyage which began in that quaint old port three centuries and a half ago. When, in 1536, the Breton sailor Jacques Cartier returned from his early explorations of the St. Lawrence, which he had ascended as high as Hochelaga, King Francis I. sent for him at the lofty old house known as the House of the Salamander, in a narrow street of the quaint town of Lisieux. It now seems incredible that the most powerful king in Europe should have dwelt in such a meagre lane, yet the house still stands there as a witness; although a visitor must now brush away the rough, ready-made garments and fishermen's

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overalls which overhang its door. Over that stairway, nevertheless, the troubadours, Pierre Ronsard and Clement Marot, used to go up and down, humming their lays or touching their viols; and through that door De Lorge returned in glory, after leaping down into the lions' den to rescue his lady's glove. The house still derives its name from the great carved image of a reptile which stretches down its outer wall, from garret to cellar, beside the doorway.

In that house the great king deigned to meet the Breton sailor, who had set up along the St. Lawrence a cross bearing the arms of France with the inscription Franciscus Primus, Dei gratia Francorum Rex regnat; and had followed up the pious act by kidnapping the king Donnacona, and carrying him back to France. This savage potentate was himself brought to Lisieux to see his French fellow-sovereign; and the jovial king, eagerly convinced, decided to send Cartier forth again, to explore for other wonders, and perhaps bring back other kingly brethren. Meanwhile, however, as it was getting

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to be an affair of royalty, he decided to send also a gentleman of higher grade than a pilot, and so selected Jean François de la Roche, Sieur de Roberval, whom he commissioned as lieutenant and governor of Canada and Hochelaga. Roberval was a gentleman of credit and renown in Picardy, and was sometimes jocosely called by Francis "the little king of Vimeu." He was commissioned at Fontainebleau, and proceeded to superintend the building of ships at St. Malo.

Marguerite Roberval, his fair-haired and black-eyed niece, was to go with him on the voyage, with other ladies of high birth, and also with the widowed Madame de Noailles, her gouvernante. Roberval himself remained at St. Malo to superintend the building of the ships, and Marguerite and her gouvernante would sit for hours in a beautiful nook by the shipyards, where they could overlook the vessels in rapid construction, or else watch the wondrous swirl of the tide as it swept in and out, leaving the harbor bare at low tide, but with eight fathoms of water when the tide was full. The designer

p. 208

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