Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
on towards an encounter with the contemporary landscape, itself marked
by personal 'sites of memory' ('le lieu de leur enfance'): 'Ils venaient
d'apercevoir le clocher d'église de la mission du lac qui resplendissait
alors des feux du soleil levant. Cette vue rappelait en eux de bien doux
souvenirs; chacun croyait voir le clocher de son village; encore un pas
et ils allaient revoir le lieu de leur enfance.' (72; They had just seen the
church steeple of the mission on the lake gleaming in the rays of the
rising sun. This view reminded them of very sweet memories; each
thought he saw the steeple in his village; one more step and they would
see again the place of their childhood.)
When the picturesque portrait of a particularly striking anonymous
voyageur ends with the detail of a necklace suggesting a medallion
(74), the reader, by now, like the Amerindian, the voyageur, or the farmer,
an adept reader of signs, can deduce that it is Charles. This identification
is confirmed when he heads for Gros-Sault, only to find the family farm
inhabited by 'un étranger.' This time, as Charles (now identified by the
narrator) 'comprit tout: son père s'était ruiné, sa terre était vendue, et
l'étranger était insolemment assis au foyer paternel' (75; understood
everything: his father was ruined, his land sold, and the foreigner
seated insolently at the paternal hearth), the reader also understands
through a dialogue in broken French that the stranger is an Englishman,
who takes his place alongside the city dweller as archenemy of the
French Canadian. 3
As Charles searches the city for his family, he comes across Danis, who
leads him to their hovel, and despite his change in appearance, they rec-
ognize him by a more certain sign, his medal, and all, even the rebuffed
dog, welcome him back with open arms (or paws). Used to the freedom
of the wilderness, Charles stifles in the city, and vows to return to the
countryside, which is accomplished when 'le nouveau propriétaire de la
terre de Chauvin paya à son tour le tribut à la nature' (79; the new owner
of Chauvin's land in turn paid his tribute to nature); that is, the new
owner falls victim himself to the forces of economics ('paya') and nature
('la nature'). Having saved his money and having remained faithful to
his family (unlike many a voyageur, as the narrator previously warned),
Charles is able to purchase the farm and return there with his family,
along with Danis and his wife, who all recover their health thanks to the
pure country air and, with the spouses of Charles and Marguerite, carry
on the family tradition, reintegrated into 'la terre paternelle' (80).
Although the ending recalls that of Voltaire's Candide , where a simi-
larly displaced group of characters learns that 'il faut cultiver notre
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