Monthly Archives: October 2009

Itinerary of our Trip and Guide to the Succeeding Posts

I just had to post another view of a Maine hiking trail….Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Bowing to my usual frustration with technology, I submit the following guide to my recent posts. They do not appear in the order I intended, as I updoaded photographs in too haphazard a fashion. So, they make sense in this order:

1. The Story of Marguerite and the Isle of Demons
2. Vieux (Old) Quebec I
3. Quebec II
4. Quebec III
5. Jacques Cartier Provincial Park
6. Tadoussac I
7. Tadoussac II
8. Baxter State Park I
9. Baxter State Park II
10. Baxter State Park III
11. Camden and Clark Island
12. Acadia National Park
13. Mount Megunticook
14. Pemaquid
15. Farewell to Maine and Salem, MA

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The Story of Marguerite and the Isle of Demons

On our journey to Quebec, Tadoussac and the Saint Lawrence Seaway, I read aloud to Matt from Francis Parkman’s Pioneers of France in the New World, and here set down a marvelous account of female fortitude in the face of tremendous odds. I will quote Parkman, since these were the terms in which I first heard the tale, but there is more to learn from other references, which I will cite at the end.

First, concerning the Isle of the Demons:

“On this dim verge of the known world (the fisheries of Newfoundland) there were other perils than those of the waves…,other tenants than the seal, the walrus and the screaming sea-fowl, the bears which stole away their fish before their eyes and the wild natives dressed in seal-skins. Griffins…infested the mountains of Labrador. Two islands, north of Newfoundland, were given over to the fiends from whom they derived their name, the Isles of Demons. An old map pictures their occupants at length, devils rampant, with wings, horns, and tail. The passing voyager heard the din of their infernal orgies and woe to the sailor or the fisherman who ventured alone into the haunted woods. ‘True it is,’ writes the old cosmographer Thevet, ‘and I myself have heard in the air, on the tops and about the masts, a great clamor of men’s voices, confused and inarticulate, such as you may hear from the crowd at a fair or market-place; whereupon they well knew that the Isle of Demons was not far off.'” Pioneers of France, Samuel de Champlain Ch. 1

Matt and I spoke to a kayaker on the Saguenay who told us waterfalls on either side of this deep fiord of the Saint Lawrence echo one another back and forth in the fog and sound exactly like human voices conversing!

The Story of Marguerite:

“The ominous adventure of New France had found a champion in the person of Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, a nobleman of Picardy…His commission declares of the objects of the enterprise to be discovery, settlement, and the conversion of the Indians who are described as ‘men without knowledge of God or use of reason.’ — a pious design, held doubless in full sincerity by the royal profligate, now, in his decline, a fervent champion of the Faith and a strenuous tormentor of heretics. The machinery of conversion was of a character somewhat questionable, since Cartier and Roberval were empowered to ransack the prisons for thieves, robbers and other malefactors to complete their crews and strengthen the colony.”

“Roberval…set sail, steering northward to the Straits of Belle Isle and the dreaded Isles of the Demons. And here an incident befell which the all-blieving Thevet records in manifest good faith, and which, stripped of the adornments of superstition and a love of the marvellous, has without doubt a nucleus of truth. I give the tale as I find it.

“The Viceroy’s company was…mixed….There were nobles, officers, soldiers, sailors, adventurers, with women too, and children. Of the women, some were of birth and station, and among them a damsel called Marguerite, a niece of Roberval himself. In the ship was a young gentleman who had embarked for love of her. His love was too well requited; and the stern Viceroy (disorder was dangerous under the iron rule of the inexorable Roberval), scandalized and enraged at a passion which scorned concealment and set shame at defiance, cast anchor by the haunted island, landed his indiscreet relative, gave her four arquebuses for defence, and, whith an old Norman nurse named Bastienne, who had pandered to the lovers, left her to her fate. Her gallant threw himself into the surf, and by desperate effort gained the shore, with two more guns and a supply of ammnunition.

(Notice that Roberval blamed the women only and left them short of lead and gun powder! Wretch!)

“The ship weighed anchor, receded, vanished, and they were left alone. Yet not so, for the demon lords of the island beset them day and night, raging around their hut with a confused and hungry clamoring, striving to force the frail barrier. The lovers had repented of their sin, though not abandoned it, and Heaven was on their side….In the form of beasts or other shapes abominable and unutterably hideous, the brood…, howling in baffled fury, tore at the branches of the sylvan dwelling….Marguerite became pregnant…., but…stood undaunted amid these horrors….Her lover, dismayed and heart-broken, sickened and died. Her child soon followed; then the old Norman nurse found her unhallowed rest in that accursed soil, and Marguerite was left alone. Neither her reason nor her courage failed. When the demons assailed her, she shot at them with her gun, but they answered with hellish merriment, and thence-forth she placed her trust in Heaven alone. There were foes around her of the upper, no less than of the nether world. Of these, the bears were the most redoubtable; yet being vulnerable to mortal weapons, she killed three of them, all, says the story, ‘as white as an egg.’

“It was two years and five months from her landing on the island, when, far out at sea, the crew of a small fishing-craft saw a column of smoke curling upward from the haunted shore. Was it a device of the fiends to lure them to their ruin? They thought so and kept aloof. But misgiving seized them. They warily drew near, and descried a female figure in wild attire waving signals from the strand. Thus at length was Marguerite rescued and restored to her native France, where a few years later, the cosmographer Thevet met her at Natron in Peribord, and heard the tale of wonder from her own lips. (The story is taken from Thevet’s curous manuscript of 1586.)”

For an expanded and less fantastical account read Legends of Newfoundland and Labrador by Donald Wilson Stanley Ryan. There is also a novel called Paradise by Joan Elizabeth Goodman and another called Elle by Douglas Glover (click on Marguerite above).

Sharon Chubbs-Ransom shares her memories of Harrington Island, where her mother showed her the “cave of Marguerite.”

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Quebec III and Samuel de Champlain

These horse-drawn tours circle and circle the upper city and there is quite a lot to see, from the fortifications overlooking the Plains of Abraham on the Southwest, where the French future of Canada received its first blow and Montcalm and Wolfe died, to the Terrace Dufferin and Chateau Frontenac, which overlooks the Saint Lawrence and back up the Grande Allee on which one exits the City Gate and has before one on the right hand, the Hotel du Parliament — not an hotel, but the Parliamentary Buildings and gardens — and beyond to the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park) and the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec (Quebec Museum of Fine Arts). We were unable to go into the later because it was closed on Mondays, but we enjoyed the walk.

Stone dated 1647 , once belonging to Governor Montmagny, who wanted to erect a large, urban city on the heights of Quebec. (He was frustrated by the Ursuline, Augustine and Jesuit religious orders, who held large tracts of land there and refused to have them divided up. For that reason, the old city remained largely administrative and religious in character until the 19th Century, when a few elegant residential neighborhoods developed along five streets.) It now overlooks the central courtyard of the Chateau Frontenac.

Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a nerveless explorer and colonizer. I was thoroughly impressed by his exploits as retold by Francis Parkman. (One can read about his discoveries and activities in his own words, if one reads French.)

Here is a summarization of the man from Pioneers of France in the New World:

“For twenty-seven years he had labored hard and ceaselessly for its (the Colony of Quebec), sacrificing fortune, repose and domestic peace to a cause embraced with enthusiasm and pursued with intrepid persistency. His character belonged partly to the past, partly to the present. The preux chevalier, the crusader, the romance-loving explorer, the curious, knowledge-seeking traveller, the practical navigator, all claimed their share in him. His views, though far beyond those of the mean spirits around him, belonged to his age and his creed. he was less statesman than soldier. He leaned to the most direct and boldest policy….His dauntless courage was matched by an unwearied patience, proved by life-long vexations, and not wholly subdued even by the saintly follies of his wife. He is charged with credulity, from which few of his age were free, and which in all ages has been the foible of earnest and generous natures, too ardent to criticise, and too honorable to doubt the honor of others….The adventurous explorer of Lake Huron, the bold invader of the Iroquois, befits but indifferently the monastic sobrieties of the fort of Quebec, and his sombre environment of priests. Yet Champlain was no formalist, nor was his an empty zeal. A soldier from his youth, in an age of unbridled license, his life had answered to his maxims; and when a generation had passed after his visit to the Hurons, their elders remembered with astonishment the continence of the great French war-chief.

“His books mark the man, — all for his theme and his purpose, nothing for himself. Crude in style, full of the superficial errors of carelessness and haste, rarely diffuse, often brief to a fault, they bear on every page the palpable impress of truth.”

One of many sidewalk cafes, this one in the Lower City.
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Jacques Cartier Provincial Park

After our day in Quebec City, we drove an half hour north to the Jacques Cartier Provincial Park and followed the river. It was misty and mysterious.

Champlain’s exploration of the northern wilds from Pioneers of France:

“Now they glided beneath overhanging cliffs, where, seeing but unseen, the crouched wild-cat eyes them from the thicket; now through the maze of water-girdled rocks, which the white cedar and spruce clasped with serpent-like roots, or among islands where old hemlocks darkened the water with deep green shadow.

“Aloft, the white pine towered above a sea of verdure; old fir trees, hoary and grim, shaggy with pendent mosses, leaned above the stream and beneath, dead and submerged, some fallen oak thrust from the current its bare, bleached limbs, like the skeleton of a drowned giant. In the weedy cove stood the moose, neck-deep in water to escape the flies, wading shoreward, with glistening sides, as the canoes drew near, shaking his broad antlers and writhing his hideous nostril, as with clumsy trot he vanished in the woods.”

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Farewell to Maine and on to Salem, Mass

David, Maria and Devi on Clark Island
My husband, Matt

The House of Seven Gables

It took us only three and a half hours to drive from Warren, MN to Salem, MA. We debated whether to find a hotel and spend the night, but when we mentioned our desire to drive into Boston proper at the Visitor’s Center in Salem, the response was, “Are you crazy?” He quickly took it back, but we decided to head for home a day early.

Fortunately for us, the House of Seven Gables stayed open for tours until seven o’clock, so we had the time to tour another 17th Century Home, the so-called Witch House. I had an interesting conversation with the guide within about the atrocities of Indian Warfare and he reommended a new history of the Salem Witch Trials that suggests the critical paranoia that led to so many arrests and executions had everything to do with the general terror of attack during the Second Indian War, in which New England settlers were massacred by the Indian allies of Count Frontenac in Quebec. The Puritans imagined that these turns of fortune were God’s punishment on them for their sins and set about rooting out the evil in their midst.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Birth Place
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