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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 endeavor 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 harbor of Carpunt beside Belle Isle, refitted there, and waited vainly for Roberval. They finally reached the harbor 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 labored 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.


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Chronicles of Canada, The Mariner of St Malo, A Chronicle of the Voyages of Jacques Cartier, 1915

 

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