his eye on the compass, securely heading the ship towards its assigned destination. One cannot help thinking that this rough sea, almost always raging, is precisely the same where, long before Christopher Columbus, sailors from Northern Europe were venturing, and if these mobile waves could speak, they would tell us, if not the fate, at least the names of these bold men who, the very first, entrusted it with their frail boats; they would tell us how many of these human lives they have swallowed up, this without ever managing to stop the irresistible urge driving the eastern gate towards the western shores !
Greed alone fails to explain such daring; in that case, we must admit that our ancestors were driven, perhaps not fully consciously, by that instinctive force, the quest for the unknown, this pungent, wild poetry which surrounds the hazards of enterprise.
It is from the shores of Iceland that these tough sailors departed towards faraway cities that they apparently invested during centuries, before the other peoples of Southern Europe became aware of their existence. Jean and Sébastien Cabot were apparently the first to provide us with documented information on those regions. Some of these documents only refer to hitherto unpublished knowledge collected by the Icelanders to perform their famous expeditions.
After having initially aroused the ambitious enthusiasm of many, including the King of England himself, the Canadian land proved a disappointment: no precious metal was found and, following Jacques Cartier's explorations, the country was left to its primeval wilderness.
Later, under the direction of Jacques Cartier from Saint Malo who described the greatness of these faraway lands to his compatriots, the French took up Cabot's projects, and from that time (1534) can be dated the start of France's civilization of Canada. Today, we have lost this land forever. Hence, for a Frenchman, so many recollections lie along the Saint Lawrence!
The steamships usually follow the river's bank and, since its mouth is several hundred kilometers wide, one is already far inland before realizing it.
The names of landmarks, mountains, rivers that the crew show us are French, though sometimes hard to recognize as such when pronounced by English or even French Canadian mouths, and it is a great delight to find so well preserved colloquialisms and accents while, back in the motherland, they have all merged and worn down. Finally, we can see both banks of the Saint Lawrence. Here is "Rivière-du-loup", "Les Trois Saumons", "L'Île d'Orléans", and finally, Québec! Québec perched on its sheer rock and overseeing the great river! Québec whose 70,000 inhabitants are almost all the sons of Jacques Cartier's companions and remain, of all French Canadians, the most uncompromising as far as the English are concerned; this is why l'angleterre has endeavored to restrain the city's development by shifting the terminal of the shipping lines upstream in Montréal so that, since the trade warehouses are no longer located in Québec, this latter city stopped developing. When, from the deck of our ship, under the flag of angleterre, we admired the high and sheer hill on which Québec stands and its old fortress, we realized that only treason, as history tells us, could have caused this citadel to fall into English hands; we were shown, up the cliff and overlooking the river, the traces of the narrow path along which a traitor guided the English troops one night in 1759, a forever night of infamy, since it marked the end of several centuries of efforts and our despoilment to the benefit of an enemy race.
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