Travel Reference
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Champ-de-Mars de Montréal. On passait ces clochers aussi vite qu'on
passe les poteaux de télégraphe, quand on voyage en chemin de fer. Et
nous filions toujours comme tous les diables, passant par-dessus les villa-
ges, les forêts, les rivières et laissant derrière nous comme une traînée
d'étincelles … Attendez un peu, cria Baptiste. Nous allons raser Montréal
… En effet, nous apercevions déjà les mille lumières de la grande ville et
Baptiste, d'un coup d'aviron, nous fit descendre à peu près au niveau des
tours de Notre-Dame … Bien qu'il fût près de deux heures du matin, nous
vîmes des groupes s'arrêter dans les rues pour nous voir passer, mais nous
filions si vite qu'en un clin d'œil nous avions dépassé Montréal et ses fau-
bourgs, et alors je commançai à compter les clochers: la Longue-Pointe, la
Pointe-aux-Trembles, Repentigny, Saint-Sulpice, et enfin les deux flèches
argentées de Lavaltrie qui dominaient le vert sommet des grands pins du
domaine. [25-8; During a quarter of an hour, thereabouts, we navigated
above the forest without seeing anything else but bunches of large black
pines. It was a superb night, and the full moon illuminated the firmament
like a beautiful noon-day sun … Soon we saw a light, the Gatineau River
whose polished icy surface sparkled below us like an immense mirror.
Then, little by little we saw the lights of farmhouses; then church steeples
that glowed like soldiers' bayonets during drills on the Champ-de-Mars in
Montreal. We were passing these steeples as quickly as one passes by tele-
graph poles on a train ride. And we were still flying like the devil, passing
above villages, forests, rivers, and leaving behind us a trail of sparks …
Wait a bit, yelled Baptiste. We're going to skim Montreal … In effect, we
could already see big city lights by the thousands, and Baptiste, with a
turn of the oar, took us down to about the level of the Notre-Dame towers
… Even though it was nearly two o'clock in the morning, we saw groups
of people stop in the street to watch us go by, but we were flying so fast
that in the wink of an eye we had gone past Montreal and its outskirts, and
then I began to count the church steeples: Longue-Pointe, Pointe-aux-
Trembles, Repentigny, Saint-Sulpice, and finally the two silvery steeples of
Lavaltrie, which rose above the green summit of the area's large pines.]
Although the situation is, of course, imaginary, the scene itself involves
real places depicted in a highly visual manner, from the repeated desig-
nation of the viewpoint ('Nous aperçumes,' 'nous aperçumes,' 'nous
apercevions,' 'nous vîmes') to the description of luminous effects,
which delimit various sections of the landscape and take the spectator
from the wilderness ('la lune,' 'illuminait le firmament'), to the river
('une éclaircie, c'était la Gatineau dont la surface glacée et polie étince-
lait'), to the first signs of civilization ('des lumières dans les maisons
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