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Ch. 8: The Third Voyage

Nearly five years elapsed after Cartier's return to St
Malo before he again set sail for the New World. His
royal master, indeed, had received him most graciously.
Francis had deigned to listen with pleasure to the recital
of his pilot's adventures, and had ordered him to set
them down in writing. Moreover, he had seen and conversed
with Donnacona and the other captive Indians, who had
told of the wonders of their distant country. The Indians
had learned the language of their captors and spoke with
the king in French. Francis gave orders that they should
be received into the faith, and the registers of St Malo
show that on March 25, 1538, or 1539 (the year is a little
uncertain), there were baptized three savages from Canada
brought from the said country by 'honnete homme [honest
man], Jacques Cartier, captain of our Lord the King.'

But the moment was unsuited for further endeavour in the
New World. Francis had enough to do to save his own soil
from the invading Spaniard. Nor was it until the king of
France on June 15, 1538, made a truce with his inveterate
foe, Charles V, that he was able to turn again to American
discovery. Profoundly impressed with the vast extent and
unbounded resources of the countries described in Cartier's
narrative, the king decided to assume the sovereignty of
this new land, and to send out for further discovery an
expedition of some magnitude. At the head of it he placed
Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, whom, on
January 15, 1540, he created Lord of Norumbega, viceroy
and lieutenant-general of Canada, Hochelaga, Saguenay,
Newfoundland, Belle Isle, Carpunt, Labrador, the Great
Bay, and Baccalaos. The name Norumbega is an Indian word,
and was used by early explorers as a general term for
the territory that is now Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova
Scotia. Baccalaos is the name often given by the French
to Newfoundland, the word itself being of Basque origin
and meaning 'codfish,' while Carpunt will be remembered
as a harbour beside Belle Isle, where Cartier had been
stormbound on his first voyage.

The king made every effort to further Roberval's expedition.
The Lord of Norumbega was given 45,000 livres and full
authority to enlist sailors and colonists for his
expedition. The latter appears to have been a difficult
task, and, after the custom of the day, recourse was
presently had to the prisons to recruit the ranks of the
prospective settlers. Letters were issued to Roberval
authorizing him to search the jails of Paris, Toulouse,
Bordeaux, Rouen, and Dijon and to draw from them any
convicts lying under sentence of death. Exception was
made of heretics, traitors, and counterfeiters, as unfitted
for the pious purpose of the voyage. The gangs of these
miscreants, chained together and under guard, came
presently trooping into St Malo. Among them, it is
recorded, walked a young girl of eighteen, unconvicted
of any crime, who of her own will had herself chained to
a malefactor, as hideous physically as morally, whose
lot she was determined to share.

To Roberval, as commander of the enterprise, was attached
Cartier in the capacity of captain-general and master-pilot.
The letters patent which contain the appointment speak
of him as our 'dear and well-beloved Jacques Cartier,
who has discovered the large countries of Canada and
Hochelaga which lie at the end of Asia.' Cartier received
from Roberval about 31,300 livres. The king gave to him
for this voyage the little ship Emerillon and commanded
him to obtain four others and to arm and equip the five.
The preparations for the voyage seem to have lasted
throughout the winter and spring of the years 1540-41.
The king had urged Cartier to start by the middle of
April, but it was not until May 23, 1541, that the ships
were actually able to set sail. Even then Roberval was
not ready to leave. Cannon, powder, and a varied equipment
that had been purchased for the voyage were still lying
at various points in Normandy and Champagne. Cartier,
anxious to follow the king's wishes, could wait no longer
and, at length, he set out with his five ships, leaving
Roberval to prepare other ships at Honfleur and follow
as he might. From first to last the relations of Cartier
and Roberval appear to need further explanation than that
which we possess. Roberval was evidently the nominal head
of the enterprise and the feudal lord of the countries
to be claimed, but Cartier seems to have been restless
under any attempt to dictate the actual plan to be adopted,
and his final desertion of Roberval may be ascribed to
the position in which he was placed by the divided command
of the expedition.

The expedition left St Malo on May 23, 1541, bearing in
the ships food and victuals for two years. The voyage
was unprosperous. Contrary winds and great gales raged
over the Atlantic. The ships were separated at sea, and
before they reached the shores of Newfoundland were so
hard put to it for fresh water that it was necessary to
broach the cider casks to give drink to the goats and
the cattle which they carried. But the ships came together
presently in safety in the harbour of Carpunt beside
Belle Isle, refitted there, and waited vainly for Roberval.
They finally reached the harbour of the Holy Cross at
Stadacona on August 23.

The savages flocked to meet the ships with a great display
of joy, looking eagerly for the return of their vanished
Donnacona. Their new chief, Agouhanna, with six canoes
filled with men, women, and children, put off from the
shore. The moment was a difficult one. Donnacona and all
his fellow-captives, except only one little girl, had
died in France. Cartier dared not tell the whole truth
to the natives, and he contented himself with saying that
Donnacona was dead, but that the other Indians had become
great lords in France, had married there and did not wish
to return. Whatever may have been the feeling of the
tribe at this tale, the new chief at least was well
pleased. 'I think,' wrote Cartier, in his narrative of
this voyage, 'he took it so well because he remained lord
and governor of the country by the death of the said
Donnacona.' Agouhanna certainly made a great show of
friendliness. He took from his own head the ornament of
hide and wampum that he wore and bound it round the brows
of the French leader. At the same time he put his arms
about his neck with every sign of affection.

When the customary ceremonies of eating and drinking,
speech-making, and presentations had ended, Cartier,
after first exploring with his boats, sailed with his
ships a few miles above Stadacona to a little river where
good anchorage was found, now known as the Cap Rouge
river. It enters the St Lawrence a little above Quebec.
Here preparations were at once made for the winter's
sojourn. Cannon were brought ashore from three of the
ships. A strong fort was constructed, and the little
settlement received the pretentious name Charlesbourg
Royal. The remaining part of the month of August 1541
was spent in making fortifications and in unloading the
ships. On September 2 two of the ships, commanded by Mace
Jalobert, Cartier's brother-in-law and companion of the
preceding voyage, and Etienne Nouel, his nephew, were
sent back to France to tell the king of what had been
done, and to let him know that Roberval had not yet
arrived.

As on his preceding voyages, Cartier was greatly impressed
by the aspect of the country about him. All round were
splendid forests of oak and maple and cedar and beech,
which surpassed even the beautiful woodlands of France.
Grape vines loaded with ripe fruit hung like garlands
from the trees. Nor was the forest thick and tangled,
but rather like an open park, so that among the trees
were great stretches of ground wanting only to be tilled.
Twenty of Cartier's men were set to turn the soil, and
in one day had prepared and sown about an acre and a half
of ground. The cabbage, lettuce, and turnip seed that
they planted showed green shoots within a week.

At the mouth of the Cap Rouge river there is a high point,
now called Redclyffe. On this Cartier constructed a second
fort, which commanded the fortification and the ships
below. A little spring supplied fresh water, and the
natural situation afforded a protection against attack
by water or by land. While the French laboured in building
the stockades and in hauling provisions and equipments
from the ships to the forts, they made other discoveries
that impressed them more than the forest wealth of this
new land. Close beside the upper fort they found in the
soil a good store of stones which they 'esteemed to be
diamonds.' At the foot of the slope along the St Lawrence
lay iron deposits, and the sand of the shore needed only,
Cartier said, to be put into the furnace to get the iron
from it. At the water's edge they found 'certain leaves
of fine gold as thick as a man's nail,' and in the slabs
of black slate-stone which ribbed the open glades of the
wood there were veins of mineral matter which shone like
gold and silver. Cartier's mineral discoveries have
unfortunately not resulted in anything. We know now that
his diamonds, still to be seen about Cap Rouge, are rock
crystals. The gold which he later on showed to Roberval,
and which was tested, proved genuine enough, but the
quantity of such deposits in the region has proved
insignificant. It is very likely that Cartier would make
the most of his mineral discoveries as the readiest means
of exciting his master's interest.

When everything was in order at the settlement, the
provisions landed, and the building well under way, the
leader decided to make a brief journey to Hochelaga, in
order to view more narrowly the rapids that he had seen,
and to be the better able to plan an expedition into the
interior for the coming spring. The account of this
journey is the last of Cartier's exploits of which we
have any detailed account, and even here the closing
pages of his narrative are unsatisfactory and inconclusive.
What is most strange is that, although he expressly says
that he intended to 'go as far as Hochelaga, of purpose
to view and understand the fashion of the saults [falls]
of water,' he makes no mention of the settlement of
Hochelaga itself, and does not seem to have visited it.

The Hochelaga expedition, in which two boats were used,
left the camp at Cap Rouge on September 7, 1541. A number
of Cartier's gentlemen accompanied him on the journey,
while the Viscount Beaupre was left behind in command of
the fort. On their way up the river Cartier visited the
chief who had entrusted his little daughter to the case
of the French at Stadacona at the time of Cartier's
wintering there. He left two young French boys in charge
of this Indian chief that they might learn the language
of the country. No further episode of the journey is
chronicled until on September 11 the boats arrived at
the foot of the rapids now called Lachine. Cartier tells
us that two leagues from the foot of the bottom fall was
an Indian village called Tutonaguy, but he does not say
whether or not this was the same place as the Hochelaga
of his previous voyage. The French left their boats and,
conducted by the Indians, walked along the portage path
that led past the rapids. There were large encampments
of natives beside the second fall, and they received the
French with every expression of good-will. By placing
little sticks upon the ground they gave Cartier to
understand that a third rapid was to be passed, and that
the river was not navigable to the country of Saguenay.

Convinced that further exploration was not possible for
the time being, the French returned to their boats. As
usual, a great concourse of Indians had come to the spot.
Cartier says that he 'understood afterwards' that the
Indians would have made an end of the French, but judged
them too strong for the attempt. The expedition started
at once for the winter quarters at Cap Rouge. As they
passed Hochelay--the abode of the supposed friendly chief
near Portneuf--they learned that he had gone down the
river ahead of them to devise means with Agouhanna for
the destruction of the expedition.

Cartier's narrative ends at this most dramatic moment of
his adventures. He seems to have reached the encampment
at Cap Rouge at the very moment when an Indian assault
was imminent. We know, indeed, that the attack, which,
from certain allusions in the narrative, seems presently
to have been made, was warded off, and that Cartier's
ships and a part at least of his company sailed home to
France, falling in with Roberval on the way. But the
story of the long months of anxiety and privation, and
probably of disease and hostilities with the Indians, is
not recorded. The narrative of the great explorer, as it
is translated by Hakluyt, closes with the following
ominous sentences:

'And when we were arrived at our fort, we understood by
our people that the savages of the country came not any
more about our fort, as they were accustomed, to bring
us fish, and that they were in a wonderful doubt and fear
of us. Wherefore our captain, having been advised by some
of our men which had been at Stadacona to visit them that
there was a wonderful number of the country people
assembled together, caused all things in our fortress to
be set in good order.' And beyond these words, Cartier's
story was never written, or, if written, it has been
lost.

 

Stephen Leacock

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