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News: THE SEARCH FOR ATLANTIS IN CUBA
A Report by Andrew Collins
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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)
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« Reply #105 on: January 27, 2009, 11:41:55 pm »

not before seen, and struck at one of his companions, killing him. Then the leader took the axe and threw it into the water, after which the Skrælings retreated, and were not seen again.

The winter was a mild one, and while it lasted, the Norsemen worked busily at felling wood and house-building. They had also many amusements, in most of which Harald excelled. They used to swim in all weathers. One of their feats was to catch seals and sit on them while swimming; another was to pull one another down and remain as long as possible under water. Harald could swim for a mile or more with his armor on, or with a companion on his shoulder. In-doors they used to play the tug of war, dragging each other by a walrus hide across the fire. Harald was good at this, and was also the best archer, sometimes aiming at something placed on a boy's head, the boy having a cloth tied around his head, and held by two men, that he might not move at all on hearing the whistling of the arrow. In this way Harald could even shoot an

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arrow under a nut placed on the head, so that the nut would roll down and the head not be hurt. He could plant a spear in the ground and then shoot an arrow upward so skilfully that it would turn in the air and fall with the point in the end of the spear-shaft. He could also shoot a blunt arrow through the thickest ox-hide from a cross-bow. He could change weapons from one hand to the other during a fencing match, or fence with either hand, or throw two spears at the same time, or catch a spear in motion. He could run so fast that no horse could overtake him, and play the rough games with bat and ball, using a ball of the hardest wood. He could race on snowshoes, or wrestle when bound by a belt to his antagonist. Then when he and his companions wished a rest, they amused themselves with harp-playing or riddles or chess. The Norsemen even played chess on board their vessels, and there are still to be seen, on some of these, the little holes that were formerly used for the sharp ends of the chessmen, so that they should not be displaced.

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« Reply #106 on: January 27, 2009, 11:42:09 pm »

They could not find that any European had ever visited this place; but some of the Skrælings told them of a place farther south, which they called "the Land of the Whiteman," or "Great Ireland." They said that in that place there were white men who clothed themselves in long white garments, carried before them poles to which white cloths were hung, and called with a loud voice. These, it was thought by the Norsemen, must be Christian processions, in which banners were borne and hymns were chanted. It has been thought from this that some expedition from Ireland--that of St. Brandan, for instance--may have left a settlement there, long before, but this has never been confirmed. The Skrælings and the Northmen were good friends for a time; until at last one of Erik's own warriors killed a Skræling by accident, and then all harmony was at an end.

They saw no hope of making a lasting settlement there, and, moreover, Freydis who was very grasping, tried to deceive the other settlers and get more than her share of everything, so that Harald himself lost patience with her and threatened

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her. It happened that one of the men of the party, Olaf, was Harald's foster-brother. They had once had a fight, and after the battle had agreed that they would be friends for life and always share the same danger. For this vow they were to walk under the turf; that is, a strip of turf was cut and held above their heads, and they stood beneath and let their blood flow upon the ground whence the turf had been cut. After this they were to own everything by halves and either must avenge the other's death. This was their brotherhood; but Freydis did not like it; so she threatened Olaf, and tried to induce men to kill him, for she did not wish to bring upon herself the revenge that must come if she slew him.

This was the reason why the whole enterprise failed, and why Olaf persuaded Harald, for the sake of peace, to return to Greenland in the spring and take a load of valuable timber to sell there, including one stick of what was called massur-wood, which was as valuable as mahogany, and may have been at some time borne by ocean currents to the beach. It is hardly possible that, as some have thought, the colonists

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established a regular trade in this wood for no such wood grows on the northern Atlantic shores. However this may be, the party soon returned, after one winter in Vinland the Good; and on the way back Harald did one thing which made him especially dear to his men.

A favorite feat of the Norsemen was to toss three swords in the air and catch each by the handle as it came down. This was called the handsax game. The young men used also to try the feat of running along the oar-blades of the rowers as they were in motion, passing around the bow of the vessel with a spring and coming round to the stern over the oars on the other side. Few could accomplish this, but no one but Harald could do it and play the handsax game as he ran; and when he did it, they all said that he was the most skilful man at idrottie ever seen. That was their word for an athletic feat. But presently came a time when not only his courage but his fairness and justice were to be tried.

It happened in this way. There was nothing of which the Norsemen were more afraid than of the teredo, or shipworm, which gnaws the wood

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« Reply #107 on: January 27, 2009, 11:42:20 pm »

of ships. It was observed in Greenland and Iceland that pieces of wood often floated on shore which were filled with holes made by this animal, and they thought that in certain places the seas were full of this worm, so that a ship would be bored and sunk in a little while. It is said that on this return voyage Harald's vessel entered a worm-sea and presently began to sink. They had, however, provided a smaller boat smeared with sea-oil, which the worms would not attack. They went into the boat, but found that it would not hold more than half of them all. Then Harald said, "We will divide by lots, without regard to the rank; each taking his chance with the rest." This they thought, the Norse legend says, "a high-minded offer." They drew lots, and Harald was among those assigned to the safer boat. He stepped in, and when he was there a man called from the other boat and said, "Dost thou intend, Harald, to separate from me here?" Harald answered, "So it turns out," and the man said, "Very different was thy promise to my father when we came from Greenland, for the promise was that we should share the same fate."

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[paragraph continues] Then Harald said, "It shall not be thus. Go into the boat, and I will go back into the ship, since thou art so anxious to live." Then Harald went back to the ship, while the man took his place in the boat, and after that Harald was never heard of more.



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« Reply #108 on: January 27, 2009, 11:42:47 pm »

p. 186

XVII
THE SEARCH FOR NORUMBEGA

Sir Humphrey Gilbert, colonel of the British forces in the Netherlands, was poring over the manuscript narrative of David Ingram, mariner. Ingram had in 1568-69 taken the widest range of travel that had ever been taken in the new continent, of which it was still held doubtful by many whether it was or was not a part of Asia. "Surely," Gilbert said to his half-brother, Walter Raleigh, a youth of twenty-three, "this knave hath seen strange things. He hath been set ashore by John Hawkins in the Gulf of Mexico and there left behind. He hath travelled northward with two of his companions along Indian trails; he hath even reached Norumbega; he hath seen that famous city with its houses of crystal and silver."

"Pine logs and hemlock bark, belike," said Raleigh, scornfully.

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"Nay," said Gilbert, "he hath carefully written it down. He saw kings decorated with rubies six inches long; and they were borne on chairs of silver and crystal, adorned with precious stones. He saw pearls as common as pebbles, and the natives were laden down by their ornaments of gold and silver. The city of Bega was three-quarters of a mile long and had many streets wider than those of London. Some houses had massive pillars of crystal and silver."

"What assurance can he give?" asked Raleigh.

"He offers on his life to prove it."

"A small offer, mayhap. There be many of these lying mariners whose lives are as worthless as the stories they relate. But what said he of the natives?"

"Kindly disposed," was the reply, "so far as he went, but those dwelling farther north, where he did not go, were said to be cannibals with teeth like those of dogs, whereby you may know them."

"Travellers' tales," said Raleigh. "Omne ignotum pro mirifico."

"He returned," said Gilbert, disregarding the

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« Reply #109 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:02 pm »

interruption, "in the Gargarine, a French vessel commanded by Captain Champagne."

"Methinks something of the flavor represented by the good captain's name hath got into your Englishman's brain. Good ale never gives such fantasies. Doth he perchance speak of elephants?"

"He doth," said Sir Humphrey, hesitatingly. "Perchance he saw them not, but heard of them only."

"What says he of them?" asked Raleigh.

"He says that he saw in that country both elephants and ounces; and he says that their trumpets are made of elephants' teeth."

"But the houses," said Raleigh; "tell me of the houses."

"In every house," said Gilbert, reading from the manuscript, "they have scoops, buckets, and divers vessels, all of massive silver with which they throw out water and otherwise employ them. The women wear great plates of gold covering their bodies, and chains of great pearls in the manner of curvettes; and the men wear manilions

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or bracelets on each arm and each leg, some of gold and some of silver."

"Whence come they, these gauds?"

"There are great rivers where one may find pieces of gold as big as the fist; and there are great rocks of crystal, sufficient to load many ships."

This was all which was said on that day, but never was explorer more eager than Gilbert. He wrote a "Discourse of a Discoverie for a New Passage to Cathaia and the East Indies"--published without his knowledge by George Gascoigne. In 1578 he had from Queen Elizabeth a patent of exploration, allowing him to take possession of any uncolonized lands in North America, paying for these a fifth of all gold and silver found. The next year he sailed with Raleigh for Newfoundland, but one vessel was lost and the others returned to England. In 1583, he sailed again, taking with him the narrative of Ingram, which he reprinted. He also took with him a learned Hungarian from Buda, named Parmenius, who went for the express purpose of singing the praise of Norumbega in Latin verse,

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« Reply #110 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:14 pm »

but was drowned in Sir Humphrey's great flag-ship, the Delight. This wreck took place near Sable Island, and as most of the supplies for the expedition went down in the flag-ship, the men in the remaining vessels grew so impatient as to compel a return. There were two vessels, the Golden Hind of forty tons, and the Squirrel of ten tons, this last being a mere boat then called a frigate, a small vessel propelled by both sails and oars, quite unlike the war-ship afterwards called by that name. On both these vessels the men were so distressed that they gathered on the bulwarks, pointing to their empty mouths and their ragged clothing. The officers of the Golden Hind were unwilling to return, but consented on Sir Humphrey's promise that they should come back in the spring; they sailed for England on the 31st of August. All wished him to return in the Golden Hind as a much larger and safer vessel; the Squirrel, besides its smallness, being encumbered on the deck with guns, ammunition, and nettings, making it unseaworthy. But when he was begged to remove into the larger vessel, he said, "I will not forsake my little company going

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homeward with whom I have passed so many storms and perils." One reason for this was, the narrator of the voyage says, because of "hard reports given of him that he was afraid of the sea, albeit this was rather rashness than advised resolution, to prefer the wind of a vain report to the weight of his own life."

On the very day of sailing they caught their first glimpse of some large species of seal or walrus, which is thus described by the old narrator of the expedition:--

"So vpon Saturday in the afternoone the 31 of August, we changed our course, and returned backe for England, at which very instant, euen in winding about, there passed along betweene vs and towards the land which we now forsooke a very lion to our seeming, in shape, hair and colour, not swimming after the maner of a beast by moouing of his feete, but rather sliding vpon the water with his whole body (excepting the legs) in sight, neither yet in diuing vnder, and againe rising aboue the water, as the maner is, of Whales, Dolphins, Tunise, Porposes, and all other fish: but confidently

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shewing himselfe aboue water without hiding: Notwithstanding, we presented our selues in open view and gesture to amase him, as all creatures will be commonly at a sudden gaze and sight of men. Thus he passed along turning his head to and fro, yawning and gaping wide, with ougly demonstration of long teeth, and glaring eies, and to bidde vs a farewell (comming right against the Hinde) he sent forth a horrible voyce, roaring or bellowing as doeth a lion, which spectacle wee all beheld so farre as we were able to discerne the same, as men prone to wonder at euery strange thing, as this doubtlesse was, to see a lion in the Ocean sea, or fish in shape of a lion. What opinion others had thereof, and chiefly the Generall himselfe, I forbeare to deliuer: But he tooke it for Bonum Omen [a good omen], reioycing that he was to warre against such an enemie, if it were the deuill."

When they came north of the Azores, very violent storms met them; most "outrageous seas," the narrator says; and they saw little

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« Reply #111 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:32 pm »

lights upon the mainyard called then by sailors "Castor and Pollux," and now "St. Elmo's Fire"; yet they had but one of these at a time, and this is thought a sign of tempest. On September 9, in the afternoon, "the general," as they called him, Sir Humphrey, was sitting abaft with a book in his hand, and cried out more than once to those in the other vessel, "We are as near to heaven by sea as by land." And that same night about twelve o'clock, the frigate being ahead of the Golden Hind, the lights of the smaller vessel suddenly disappeared, and they knew that she had sunk in the sea. The event is well described in a ballad by Longfellow.

The name of Norumbega and the tradition of its glories survived Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In a French map of 1543, the town appears with castle and towers. Jean Allfonsce, who visited New England in that year, describes it as the capital of a great fur country. Students of Indian tongues defined the word as meaning "the place of a fine city"; while the learned Grotius seized upon it as being the same as

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[paragraph continues] Norberga and so affording a relic of the visits of the Northmen. As to the locality, it appeared first on the maps as a large island, then as a smaller one, and after 1569 no longer as an island, but a part of the mainland, bordering apparently on the Penobscot River. Whittier in his poem of "Norumbega" describes a Norman knight as seeking it in vain.


"He turned him back, 'O master dear,
  We are but men misled;
And thou hast sought a city here
  To find a grave instead.

  *    *    *    *    *

"'No builded wonder of these lands
  My weary eyes shall see;
A city never made with hands
  Alone awaiteth me.'"


So Champlain, in 1604, could find no trace of it, and said that "no such marvel existed," while Mark Lescarbot, the Parisian advocate, writing in 1609, says, "If this beautiful town ever existed in nature, I would like to know who pulled it down, for there is nothing here

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but huts made of pickets and covered with the barks of trees or skins." Yet it kept its place on maps till 1640, and even Heylin in his "Cosmography" (1669) speaks of "Norumbega and its fair city," though he fears that the latter never existed.

It is a curious fact that the late Mr. Justin Winsor, the eminent historian, after much inquiry among the present descendants of the Indian tribes in Maine, could never find any one who could remember to have heard the name of Norumbega.



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« Reply #112 on: January 27, 2009, 11:43:59 pm »

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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

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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

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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

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« Reply #113 on: January 27, 2009, 11:44:15 pm »

pocket was large enough to hold a whole ship. This creature habitually made dreadful noises, and several savages who came on board claimed to have heard them. A man from St. Malo in France, the Sieur de Prevert, confirmed this story, and said that he had passed so near the den of this frightful being, that all on board could hear its hissing, and all hid themselves below, lest it should carry them off. This naturally made much impression upon the young Sieur de Brissac, and he doubtless wished many times that he had stayed at home. On the other hand, he observed that both M. de Vignan and M. de Prevert took the tale very coolly and that there seemed no reason why he should distrust himself if they did not. Yet he was very glad when, after passing many islands and narrow straits, the river broadened and they found themselves fairly in the St. Lawrence and past the haunted Bay of Chaleurs. They certainly heard a roaring and a hissing in the distance, but it may have been the waves on the beach.

But this was not their last glimpse of the supposed guardians of the St. Lawrence. As the

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ship proceeded farther up the beautiful river, they saw one morning a boat come forth from the woods, bearing three men dressed to look like devils, wrapped in dogs' skins, white and black, their faces besmeared as black as any coals, with horns on their heads more than a yard long, and as this boat passed the ship, one of the men made a long address, not looking towards them. Then they all three fell flat in the boat, when Indians rowed out to meet them and guided them to a landing.

Then many Indians collected in the woods and began a loud talk which they could hear on board the ships and which lasted half an hour. Then two of their leaders came towards the shore, holding their hands upward joined together, and meanwhile carrying their hats under their upper garments and showing great reverence. Looking upward they sometimes cried, "Jesus, Jesus," or "Jesus Maria." Then the captain asked them whether anything ill had happened, and they said in French, "Nenni est il bon," meaning that it was not good. Then they said that their god Cudraigny had spoken in

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[paragraph continues] Hochelaga (Montreal) and had sent these three men to show to them that there was so much snow and ice in the country that he who went there would die. This made the Frenchmen laugh, saying in reply that their god Cudraigny was but a fool and a noddy and knew not what he said. "Tell him," said a Frenchman, "that Christ will defend them from all cold, if they will believe in him." The Indians then asked the captain if he had spoken with Jesus. He answered No; but that his priests had, and they had promised fair weather. Hearing this, they thanked the captain and told the other Indians in the woods, who all came rushing out, seeming to be very glad. Giving great shouts, they began to sing and dance as they had done before. They also began to bring to the ships great stores of fish and of bread made of millet, casting it into the French boats so thickly that it seemed to fall from heaven. Then the Frenchmen went on shore, and the people came clustering about them, bringing children in their arms to be touched, as if to hallow them. Then the captain in return arranged the women in order

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« Reply #114 on: January 27, 2009, 11:44:28 pm »

and gave them beads made of tin, and other trifles, and gave knives to the men. All that night the Indians made great fires and danced and sang along the shore. But when the Frenchmen had finally reached the mouth of the Ottawa and had begun to ascend it, under Vignan's guidance, they had reasons to remember the threats of the god Cudraigny.

Ascending the Ottawa in canoes, past cataracts, boulders, and precipices, they at last, with great labor, reached the island of Allumette, at a distance of two hundred and twenty-five miles. Often it was impossible to carry their canoes past waterfalls, because the forests were so dense, so that they had to drag the boats by ropes, wading among rocks or climbing along precipices. Gradually they left behind them their armor, their provisions, and clothing, keeping only their canoes; they lived on fish and wild fowl, and were sometimes twenty-four hours without food. Champlain himself carried three French arquebuses or short guns, three oars, his cloak, and many smaller articles; and was harassed by dense clouds of mosquitoes all the

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time. Vignan, Brissac, and the rest were almost as heavily loaded. The tribe of Indians whom they at last reached had chosen the spot as being inaccessible to their enemies; and thought that the newcomers had fallen from the clouds.

When Champlain inquired after the salt sea promised by Vignan, he learned to his indignation that the whole tale was false. Vignan had spent a winter at the very village where they were, but confessed that he had never gone a league further north. The Indians knew of no such sea, and craved permission to torture and kill him for his deceptions; they called him loudly a liar, and even the children took up the cry and jeered at him. They said, "Do you not see that he meant to cause your death? Give him to us, and we promise you that he shall not lie any more." Champlain defended him from their attacks, bore it all philosophically, and the young Brissac went back to France, having given up hope of reaching the salt sea, except, as Champlain himself coolly said, "in imagination." The guardians of the St. Lawrence had at least exerted their spell to

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the extent of saying, Thus far and no farther. Vignan never admitted that he had invented the story of the Gougou, and had bribed the Indians who acted the part of devils,--and perhaps he did not,--but it is certain that neither the giantess nor the god Cudraigny has ever again been heard from.



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« Reply #115 on: January 27, 2009, 11:44:53 pm »

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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

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« Reply #116 on: January 27, 2009, 11:45:13 pm »

of the ships often came, cap in hand, to ask or answer questions--one of those frank and manly French fishermen and pilots, whom the French novelists describe as "un solide gaillard," or such as Victor Hugo paints in his "Les Travailleurs de la Mer." The son of a notary, Etienne Gosselin was better educated than most of the young noblemen whom Marguerite knew, and only his passion for the sea and for nautical construction had kept him a shipbuilder. No wonder that the young Marguerite, who had led the sheltered life of the French maiden, was attracted by his manly look, his open face, his merry blue eyes, and curly hair. There was about her a tinge of romance, which made her heart an easier thing to reach for such a lover than for one within her own grade; and as the voyage itself was a world of romance, a little more or less of the romantic was an easy thing to add. Meanwhile Madame de Noailles read her breviary and told her beads and took little naps, wholly ignorant of the drama that was beginning its perilous unfolding before her. When the Sieur de Roberval

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returned, the shipbuilder became a mere shipbuilder again.

Three tall ships sailed from Honfleur on August 22, 1541, and on one of them, La Grande Hermine,--so called to distinguish it from a smaller boat of that name, which had previously sailed with Cartier,--were the Sieur de Roberval, his niece, and her gouvernante. She also had with her a Huguenot nurse, who had been with her from a child, and cared for her devotedly. Roberval naturally took with him, for future needs, the best shipbuilder of St. Malo, Etienne Gosselin. The voyage was long, and there is reason to think that the Sieur de Roberval was not a good sailor, while as to the gouvernante, she may have been as helpless as the seasick chaperon of yachting excursions. Like them, she suffered the most important events to pass unobserved, and it was not till too late that she discovered, what more censorious old ladies on board had already seen, that her young charge lingered too often and too long on the quarter-deck when Etienne Gosselin was planning ships for the uncle. When she found it out, she was roused

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« Reply #117 on: January 27, 2009, 11:45:32 pm »

to just indignation; but being, after all, but a kindly dowager, with a heart softened by much reading of the interminable tales of Madame de Scudéry, she only remonstrated with Marguerite, wept over her little romance, and threatened to break the sad news to the Sieur de Roberval, yet never did so. Other ladies were less considerate; it all broke suddenly upon the angry uncle; the youth was put in irons, and threatened with flogging, and forbidden to approach the quarter-deck again. But love laughs at locksmiths; Gosselin was relieved of his irons in a day or two because he could not be spared from his work in designing the forthcoming ship, and as both he and Marguerite were of a tolerably determined nature, they invoked, through the old nurse, the aid of a Huguenot minister on board, who had before sailed with Cartier to take charge of the souls of some Protestant vagabonds on the ship, and who was now making a second trip for the same reason. That night, after dark, he joined the lovers in marriage; within twenty-four hours Roberval had heard of it, and had vowed a vengeance quick and sure.

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The next morning, under his orders, the vessel lay to under the lee of a rocky island, then known to the sailors as l’Isle des Demons from the fierce winds that raged round it. There was no house there, no living person, no tradition of any; only rocks, sands, and deep forests. With dismay, the ship's company heard that it was the firm purpose of Roberval to put the offending bride on shore, giving her only the old nurse for company, and there to leave her with provisions for three months, trusting to some other vessel to take the exiled women away within that time. The very ladies whose love of scandal had first revealed to him the alleged familiarities, now besought him with many tears to abandon the thought of a doom so terrible. Vainly Madame de Noailles implored mercy for the young girl from a penalty such as was never imposed in any of Madame de Scudéry's romances; vainly the Huguenot minister and the Catholic chaplain, who had fought steadily on questions of doctrine during the whole voyage, now united in appeals for pardon. At least they implored him to let

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the offenders have a man-servant or two with them to protect them against wild beasts or buccaneers. He utterly refused until, at last wearied out, his wild nature yielded to one of those sudden impulses which were wont to sweep over it; and he exclaimed, "Is it that they need a man-servant, then? Let this insolent caitiff, Gosselin, be relieved of his irons and sent on shore. Let him be my niece's servant or, since a Huguenot marriage is as good as any in the presence of bears and buccaneers, let her call the hound her husband, if she likes. I have done with her; and the race from which she came disowns her forever."

Thus it was done. Etienne was released from his chains and sent on shore. An arquebus and ammunition were given him; and resisting the impulse to send his first shot through the heart of his tyrant, he landed, and the last glimpse seen of the group as the Grande Hermine sailed away, was the figure of Marguerite sobbing on his shoulder, and of the unhappy nurse, now somewhat plethoric, and certainly not the person to be selected as a pioneer, sitting

p. 213

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« Reply #118 on: January 27, 2009, 11:45:50 pm »

upon a rock, weeping profusely. The ship's sails filled, the angry Roberval never looked back on his deserted niece, and the night closed down upon the lonely Isle of Demons, now newly occupied by three unexpected settlers, two of whom at least were happy in each other.

A few boxes of biscuits, a few bottles of wine, had been put on shore with them, enough to feed them for a few weeks. They had brought flint and steel to strike fire, and some ammunition. The chief penalty of the crime did not lie, after all, in the cold and the starvation and the wild beasts and the possible visits of pirates; it lay in the fact that it was the Island of Demons where they were to be left; and in that superstitious age this meant everything that was terrible. For the first few nights of their stay, they fancied that they heard superhuman voices in every wind that blew, every branch that creaked against another branch; and they heard, at any rate, more substantial sounds from the nightly wolves or from the bears which ice-floes had floated to that northern

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isle. They watched Roberval sail away, he rejoicing, as the old legend of Thevet says, at having punished them without soiling his hands with their blood (ioueux de les auior puniz sans se souiller les mains en leurs sang). They built as best they could a hut of boughs and strewed beds of leaves, until they had killed wild beasts enough to prepare their skins. Their store of hard bread lasted them but a little while, but there were fruits around them, and there was fresh water near by. "Yet it was terrible," says Thevet's old narrative, "to hear the frightful sounds which the evil spirits made around them, and how they tried to break down their abode, and showed themselves in various forms of frightful animals; yet at last, conquered by the constancy and perseverance of these repentant Christians, the tormentors afflicted or disquieted them no more, save that often in the night they heard cries so loud that it seemed as if more than five thousand men were assembled together" (plus de cent mil homes qui fussent ensemble).

So passed many months of desolation, and

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alas! the husband was the first to yield. Daily he climbed the rocks to look for vessels; each night he descended sadder and sadder; he waked while the others slept. Feeling that it was he who had brought distress upon the rest, he concealed his depression, but it soon was past concealing; he only redoubled his care and watching as his wife grew the stronger of the two; and he faded slowly away and died. His wife had nothing to sustain her spirits except the approach of maternity--she would live for her child. When the child was born and baptized in the name of the Holy Church, though without the Church's full ceremonies, Marguerite felt the strength of motherhood; became a better huntress, a better provider. A new sorrow came; in the sixteenth or seventeenth month of her stay, the old nurse died also, and not long after the baby followed. Marguerite now seemed to herself deserted, even by Heaven itself; she was alone in that northern island without comradeship; her husband, child, and nurse gone; dependent for very food on the rapidly diminishing supply of ammunition. Her head swam; for months she saw visions almost

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« Reply #119 on: January 27, 2009, 11:46:08 pm »

constantly, which only strenuous prayer banished, and only the acquired habit of the chase enabled her, almost mechanically, to secure meat to support life. Fortunately, those especial sights and sounds of demons which had haunted her imagination during the first days and nights on the island, did not recur; but the wild beasts gathered round her the more when there was only one gun to alarm them; and she once shot three bears in a day,--one a white bear, of which she secured the skin.

What imagination can depict the terrors of those lonely days and still lonelier nights? Most persons left as solitary tenants of an island have dwelt, like Alexander Selkirk, in regions nearer the tropics, where there was at least a softened air, a fertile soil, and the Southern Cross above their heads; but to be solitary in a prolonged winter, to be alone with the Northern Lights,--this offered peculiar terrors. To be ice-bound, to hear the wolves in their long and dreary howl, to protect the very graves of her beloved from being dug up, to watch the floating icebergs, not knowing what new and savage visitor might be borne by

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them to the island, what a complication of terror was this for Marguerite!

For two years and five months in all she dwelt upon the Isle of Demons, the last year wholly alone. Then, as she stood upon the shore, some Breton fishing-smacks, seeking codfish, came in sight. Making signals with fire and calling for aid, she drew them nearer; but she was now dressed in furs only, and seemed to them but one of the fancied demons of the island. Beating up slowly and watchfully toward the shore, they came within hearing of her voice and she told her dreary tale. At last they took her in charge, and bore her back to France with the bearskins she had prepared; and taking refuge in the village of Nautron, in a remote province (Perigord), where she could escape the wrath of Roberval, she told her story to Thevet, the explorer, to the Princess Marguerite of Navarre (sister of Francis I.), and to others. Thevet tells it in his "Cosmographie," and Marguerite of Navarre in her "Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles."

She told Thevet that after the first two months, the demons came to her no more, until she was

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