Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
of residence of the main characters, which launches the telling of their
story and lends it verisimilitude. 2 Indeed, the components laid out in
the initial landscape and developed throughout come to govern the
spectrum of characters and the structure of the plot for the entire short
novel, as Antoine Sirois contends, albeit somewhat regretfully: 'Le pas-
sage d'un lieu physique à l'autre et non l'évolution intérieure des per-
sonnages engendre les péripéties.' ('Espace,' 64; The passage from one
physical location to another, not the interior evolution of the characters,
engenders the turn of events.)
The first detail that we learn about the land is that it has always been
in the same family, which can trace its occupation progressively, through
a succession of ancestors from Jean Chauvin, a sergeant in one of the first
French regiments sent to this area and the farm's first concessionary as of
1670, to Jean-Baptiste Chauvin, its present occupant. The unbroken fam-
ily chain of owners running from the past to the present is not unlike the
cascade of narrators in stories like L'Iroquoise , and it serves, as in the tales,
to construct a sort of memorial, here to the Chauvin family, but also to
the larger categories of French ('un des premiers régiments français') and
French Canadians ('en ce pays') that it represents.
The present generation of the Chauvin family consists of Jean-Baptiste,
his wife, referred to primarily by her family role, 'la mère Chauvin,' an
elder son named for the father, a younger son, Charles, and a daughter,
Marguerite. Linked together by the land, the family lives in perfect
peace, unity, prosperity, and happiness: 'Heureux, oh! trop heureux les
habitants des campagnes, s'ils connaissaient leur bonheur!' (30; Happy,
oh! Too happy are the country folk, if they realized their happiness!) This
unbridled happiness, which the author (himself a notary for the religious
order of Sulpicians, not a farmer!) has the narrator extol and exalt, is to
be, as the condition ('si') suggests, short-lived.
Through a combination of natural and economic forces, the mother
and Charles, after selling their goods at the market, are stranded in the
city by a February snowstorm. Sequestered at a neighbouring inn,
Charles overhears a series of conversations between young men who
have just signed up with the North West Company, engaged in fur trad-
ing, and several veterans, who tell their tales of adventure, capturing
the imagination of the enrapt Charles: 'D'ailleurs, la passion pour ces
courses aventureuses (qui heureusement s'en va diminuant de jour en
jour) était alors comme une tradition de famille, et remontait à la forma-
tion de ces diverses compagnies qui, depuis la découverte du pays, se
sont partagés successivement le commerce des pelleteries.' (34-5; By
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