(as later reported to Mesnard by a then captured but later released
Ottawa maiden who witnessed the martyrdom).
In one sense the entire story revolves around the reading or misread-
ing of signs. Mesnard's manuscript is illegible, not only to the illiterate
farmer, but also to the educated traveller because 'l'écriture est presque
effacée' (25; the ink has faded ). But if these written signs remain in-
decipherable, material ones prove easier to read, especially for Bouchard's
native guide, who easily interprets the age, sex, and marital status of
recent visitors to Mesnard's resting place, based on their offerings (29).
And, just as Mesnard is able to read the future from a black shadow,
Françoise's mother can read impending vengeance through natural
signs: 'Le jour de la vengeance de ton père viendra; j'en ai entendu la
promesse dans le souffle des vents et le murmure des eaux.' (34; The
day of your father's vengeance will come - I have heard the promise in
the murmuring stream, and in the rushing wind .)
Indeed, the entire final scene of the story can be characterized as a
battle of signs between Françoise and her father, who, like two stub-
born semioticians of different generations and schools, debate the
meaning and value of certain symbols, especially the cross. The word
'signe' itself occurs no fewer than six times on the final page, as her fa-
ther rips the cross from Françoise's hands and cuts a cross-shaped inci-
sion into her breast, exclaiming: 'Voilà, dit-il, le signe que tu aimes; le
signe de la ligne avec les ennemis de ton père, le signe qui t'a rendue
sourde à la voix de tes parents' (43; 'Behold!' he said, 'the sign thou
lovest - the sign of thy league with thy father's enemies - the sign that
made thee deaf to the voice of thy kind' ). Françoise promptly re-
torts by triumphantly thanking him - 'Je te remercie, mon père, répli-
qua Françoise en souriant d'un air de triomphe; j'ai perdu la croix que
tu m'a ôtée; mais celle que tu m'as donnée, je la porterai même après
ma mort' (43; 'Thank thee, my father!' replied Françoise, with a trium-
phant smile; 'I have lost the cross thou hast taken from me, but this
which thou hast given me, I shall bear even after death!' ) - after
which she is consumed by flames, 'et la martyre iroquoise y périt' (43;
and the IROQUOISE MARTYR perished ).
The story ends here, with no return to the narrative framework.
Guided into the remote past, the reader is stranded there, left to ponder
the story's import, namely, who has won the battle: Culture or Nature?
To be sure, a Christian symbol ends the tale, but it is most effective
when transformed from a cultural sign into a natural one, engraved on
Françoise's flesh. To be sure, Françoise dies to preserve her faith, but