NEAR Perce, on the Gaspe peninsula, rearing nearly 300 feet from the sea which bathes its base, is a rock. The wonder of scientists, it is pierced by a vast arch. Separated from it by a narrow channel of water is another rock. Its shape has suggested many images. But those who know Le Rocher de Perce see it as one—a mystic ship in full sail.
Three centuries ago, Blanche de Beaumont, young and lovely fiancee of the Chevalier Raymond de Nerac, sailed from Old France, bound to join her beloved, then stationed in the Citadel of New France.
Quebec. When almost in sight of the Gaspe coast the vessel was attacked by pirates, the crew murdered and the maid taken prisoner.
Rather than submit to indignities, she leaped overboard and perished. Next day the privateersman arrived off Rocher de Perce. Caution urged the captain to beware, but, lured by some uncanny power, he ordered that the ship be
taken close in. Suddenly, on ^he edge of the cliff, appeared a white-veiled figure. Horrified, the pirates recognized it as the wraith of Blanche de Beaumont. Slowly she raised her hands. From the throats of the sailors there came a concerted shriek. Instantly the vessel and its cutthroat crew were turned into rock. And to this day
the sea-gulls never rest upon it.
The Legend of the Ghost Ship is but one of many one hears to this day in the out of the way places of the Province of Quebec. Hardly a hamlet along the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence but has its weird tale of a phantom priest, of a Chasse Galerie, of the Loup-Garou. An entrancing land this country of the habitant, this country still living in the glory of an historic past.
Even its cities are linked inseparably with a colorful past. Quebec City, upon its majestic height enclosed by anc ent battlements, hard by the field stained with the blood of two gallant gentlemen,
Wolfe of England, Montcalm of France, Montreal, from whose wooded hill the visitor overlooks the broad river which bore the courageous craft of Cartier and Champlain, of Frontenac and Maisonneuve, sees the stately spires of a hundred churches, takes in the far-flung harbor-front of Canada’s greatest port, the great arteries of traffic whereon rushing streams born of industry pass sandalled monks and gentle-faced nuns.
Then the Laurentians, evolved by Nature in her earliest spasms, great ranges of Ice Age hills, now covered with spruce and pine, holding in their laps sparkling lakes—thousands of lakes. The paradise of the fisherman, of the man of the forest.
The Eastern Townships, far-famed for their dairying, with vast stretches of skilfully tilled farms, with busy and picturesquely situated towns.
Here and there a ruin bespeaking the valor of olden
days, when the dreaded Iroquois were wont to swoop down upon the rough stockades of the French pioneers. That is the Province of Quebec, wherein one could spend a life-time of travel and yet not know all its charm. Manners, customs, language, quaint dwellings, narrow
fields, antiquated windmills, old churches—each district bears its characteristic features.
Father of the Parish
FROM Quebec to Cap Tourmente, from Quebec to Rimouski, village after village, six miles apart, separated by fertile farms which have given sustenance to eight, ten generations. Norman-roofed dwellings cluster about the village church. The curé still remains the father of the parish. He is the adviser of his flock on all matters pertaining to their interest. He encourages early marriages, advocates large families and maintains a high standard for the race.
In contrast, the counties of Stanstead, Missiquoi and Brome. Colonized by American refugees after the War'of Independence, they have kept something of the New England spirit. English, Scotch and FrenchCanadian settlers have added to the complexity of this corner of the province. And then again, between
Quebec and Montreal, magnificent roads studded with neat white houses. To the north the Laurentians limiting the plain and closing in the horizon. To the south, little round mountains decked in green and standing in sharp relief against long yellow fields of wheat. Everywhere, in
unexpected places, revelations of the culture of Old France. For the French nobleman of yore lives on in the peasant who offers you a glass of water invites you to his table, or, in passing, bids you ben jour.
To the traveler whose hours of leisure are limited, the Island of Montreal alone enables him to absorb much of the color of French Canada. Within easy reach of the gay, grand old city itself, is a wealth of less metropolitan interest. There is Chambly, with its ancient fort; the Back River, with scores of typical hamlets; Lake St. Louis, skirted by concrete highways which lead to places famed in history and overflowing with modern charm.
Three hours by train and one is in the heart of the Laurentians. There the seeker of sport can find it. There the seeker of something “different” need go no further. St. Jerome, with its Passion Play alone is worth the journey.
On to Quebec City and one is in still another world, to walk in the footsteps of Montcalm along the battlements; pass under the St. Louis Gate, the Kent Gate; to visit the Basilica, dating back to 1647; the Anglican Cathedral gifted by George III, the only church in Canada with royal pew; the ruined Chateau of the Intendent Bigot of infamous memory; Sillery, where stands to this day the oldest house in Canada, its walls three feet thick; Kent House, where dwelt the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria and, within stone’s throw, Montmorency Falls.
On to St. Anne de Beaupre, to see the shrined bone of St. Anne, to see the stacks of crutches, to hear the curé tell of wondrous miracles.
Cross to the Island of Orleans, a revelation of antiquity. On to Lake St. John, centre of legends; to Murray Bay, mirror of fashion and magnet for society’s highest.
On and on through a province criss-crossed with roads unequalled in Canada, roads on which $75,000,000 have been expended in the past fifteen years; roads which cover 31,000 miles; roads which lead to the days of powdered gallants and sedan chairs.
That is Quebec. A score of guide books will tell you of its delights. Only actual contact can tell you of the charm of its people
Satan, our master fair, Heave us up in the air . . Wing, wang, wong!
Wong, wang, wing!
Drive us along
On the night’s dark wing!”
But no—no. For all their incantations the canoe would not stir. The night’s dark wing was motionless. Titange —little angel!—was so furious that he chopped the canoe to pieces; but as he attacked the bow, something whirled the axe out of his hand, and threw it so that it cut the sinews of his wrist clean through.
Years afterwards Titange was seen on the steps of the same chapel where he had tried to put le bon Dieu en cache, a poor ailing beggar holding out a maimed arm. And it was all because Fiddle Joe had taken care to pin, with secrecy, a little picture of the Holy Infant right on the bow of the craft. Against its might even Chasse Galerie is powerless.
ONE of the most familiar of French-Canadian legends is that of Loup-Garou, probably an adaptation from the German werewolf, but none the less typical of the early French-Canadian reverence for things spiritual and belief in supernatural intervention. Loup-Garou overtakes only a faithless soul. One who fails for seven years to partake of the Easter Sacrament, for instance, may be compelled to roam about every night in the shape and skin of a wolf or other animal, and, as in the story of Parsifal, only a bloody wound can save him.
There are many versions of the legend, but one relating to Joachim Crete, a miller of Beausejour, is often told. Joachim Crete was not a bad man, for he observed Lent and Fridays. Still, he jeered at church collections and did not control his irreligious hired man, Hubert Sauvageau, because he was a good partner at checkers.
One Christmas Eve, when the bells were ringing for the midnight mass, the two men were as usual drinking and playing together. Neighbors passing the house stopped and begged them to come to church on this holy night. Instead they deliberately went on playing, and further to show their defiance even set the mill rolling as though it were a Monday morning.
When Joachim heard the last toll of the church bell there was just one moment that he thought regretfully of the Mass—and then the game went on. The bell was silent . . . Crack . . . The mill stopped dead, as silent as the bell. They laughed and went to start it up again, but that was an impossibility, for you would think that a hand had stopped it.
“Devil take the whole concern!” shouted Joachim Crete, “let us go!”
It was then that the lantern went out, and Hubert fell headlong down the mill stairs, and his master left him and went alone to drink, and presently heard a deep moaning and turned and saw a huge dog as tall as a man sit up on his haunches and stare at him with savage eyes. He called to Hubert, but there was no answer. As the terrible dog was about to fall on the trembling man, the church bell, pealing for the Elevation, was heard.
As he fell on his knees a reaping hook on the wall caught his clothes. He seized it and hit the brute . . . Everything disappeared in the dark.
When he came to life again there was Hubert throwing water on his face.
“What is the drop of blood on your ear?”
“Nothing, master, I fell two days ago in the mill.”
“Miserable!” he cried. “It was you!”
And the poor miller, who had persistently disregarded the call of the midnight bell, lay back on his pillow, never again to recover his senses.
The Phantom Head
TWO centuries ago the canoe men at Pointe Levis led a dangerous life in winter, when crossing to Quebec was made in heavy canoes, or dug-outs with flat keels. The captain, in his red shirt, longlegged moccasins and fur cap, stood alert as he paddled. The passengers were huddled on the flat bottom and in bad weather every safe trip seemed a miracle. There were false openings, ice-jambs, crevices and, worst of all, the “chariot” of floating ice-blocks which would mass together and leave the St. Lawrence apparently clear, only to rush back and hurl itself against the ice-bridge that bars the way to the Gulf.
The legend of the Phantom Head concerns one Peter Soulard, and goes to show that courage is one thing and braggadocio another. Peter loved to take a chance. One clear mid-winter day when the sky and water were cobalt blue, and the “chariot” away up the river, everything seemed favorable. But a passenger wasted Peter’s time, and at last, when he was ready to start, the tide had turned. “Too late!” objected the crew.
“Am I a greenhorn?” asked the vainglorious Peter. “All aboard! Embarque! Embarque! Nageons, nos gens!”
Twenty minutes later the swift chariot was opposite Quebec. The passengers were drowned in the ice-jamb, but Peter and one paddler escaped.
It was two years later tnat witn an those lives on his conscience, he set out once more against the tide. This time, capsized in mid-stream, a knife-like wedge of ice, thin and keen, struck him a fair blow in the neck. The head bounded off and slid, slid, slid away, leaving a crimson trail behind it.
Still, in that most dangerous spot, entres les deux eqlises, between the two Churches of St. Joseph and Beauport, on foggy or snow-drifting weather, a sailor sometimes sees emerging from the pale darkness a slab of floating silver on which seems to move restlessly a dark, shapeless thing, hardly to be distinguished in the eerie light. It is Peter’s head—the Phantom Head of one who thought he could outwit the ice. And they who see it must die within the year.
The “Habitan/’ •
THE rural French Canadian, known as the habitant, has long been famed in song and story, sharing honors with the picturesque voyageur. But under modern conditions, they have both undergone such a rapid change that they have now almost vanished. An influence that has contributed much to modernize the younger generation is the accessibility of the cities by automobile, one effect of which is seen in the prevalence of city fashions among the women-folk of the country. The spinning-wheel has been removed to the attic and the étoffé du pays is no longer seen except to be sold to unsophisticated tourists. Still a steady, industrious, thrifty home-loving individual strongly attached to his church and fond of political discussion just as much as formerly, the habitant has, in the meantime, evolved into a practical farmer. He reads the city and agricultural papers, wants a rural mail and good roads. Although much of the boisterous enthusiasm of the old-time Rouges et Bleus has disappeared, the habitant has remained a keen politician and there is yet a weak spot in his heart for a good orator. Strongly attached to the soil, he generally places his sons on the land round him, but aims at sending some of his daughters to convent and some of his sons to college; for his pride is to have a priest, a lawyer or a doctor in the family. Talks at the church door after service and occasional soirées fill up his social programme, but the folk dances and songs are disappearing before phonographs, pianos and modern dances, especially in the vicinity of cities and towns.
Temperate, law-abiding, traditionally prudent in social matters and having never tasted the hard life of European workers, he is not a ready listener to the labor agitator or socialistic propagandist. Strong, willing and resourceful, he makes a valuable employee in mills. He is sought after for his unequalled ability as a woodman and has figured largely in the lumbering and river driving operations for which Quebec is prominent.
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