CHAPTER IV. THE SECOND VOYAGE - THE ST LAWRENCE
The second voyage of Jacques Cartier, undertaken in the years 1535 and 1536, is the exploit on which his title to fame chiefly rests. In this voyage he discovered the river St Lawrence, visited the site of the present city of Quebec, and, ascending the river as far as Hochelaga, was enabled to view from the summit of Mount Royal the imposing panorama of plain and river and mountain which marks the junction of the St Lawrence and the Ottawa. He brought back to the king of France the rumour of great countries still to be discovered to the west, of vast lakes and rivers reaching so far inland that no man could say from what source they sprang, and the legend of a region rich with gold and silver that should rival the territory laid at the feet of Spain by the conquests of Cortez. If he did not find the long-sought passage to the Western Sea, at least he added to the dominions of France a territory the potential wealth of which, as we now see, was not surpassed even by the riches of Cathay.
The report of Cartier's first voyage, written by himself, brought to him the immediate favour of the king. A commission, issued under the seal of Philippe Chabot, admiral of France, on October 30, 1534, granted to him wide powers for employing ships and men, and for the further prosecution of his discoveries. He was entitled to engage at the king's charge three ships, equipped and provisioned for fifteen months, so that he might be able to spend, at least, an entire year in actual exploration. Cartier spent the winter in making his preparations, and in the springtime of the next year (1535) all was ready for the voyage.
By the middle of May the ships, duly manned and provisioned, lay at anchor in the harbour of St Malo, waiting only a fair wind to sail. They were three in number - the Grande Hermine of 120 tons burden; a ship of 60 tons which was rechristened the Petite Hermine, and which was destined to leave its timbers in the bed of a little rivulet beside Quebec, and a small vessel of 40 tons known as the Emerillon or Sparrow Hawk. On the largest of the ships Cartier himself sailed, with Claude de Pont Briand, Charles de la Pommeraye, and other gentlemen of France, lured now by a spirit of adventure to voyage to the New World. Mace Jalobert, who had married the sister of Cartier's wife, commanded the second ship. Of the sailors the greater part were trained seamen of St Malo. Seventy-four of their names are still preserved upon a roll of the crew. The company numbered in all one hundred and twelve persons, including the two savages who had been brought from Gaspe in the preceding voyage, and who were now to return as guides and interpreters of the expedition.
Whether or not there were any priests on board the ships is a matter that is not clear. The titles of two persons in the roll - Dom Guillaume and Dom Antoine - seem to suggest a priestly calling. But the fact that Cartier made no attempt to baptize the Indians to whom he narrated the truths of the Gospel, and that he makes no mention of priests in connection with any of the sacred ceremonies which he carried out, seem to show that none were included in the expedition. There is, indeed, reference in the narrative to the hearing of mass, but it relates probably to the mere reading of prayers by the explorer himself. On one occasion, also, as will appear, Cartier spoke to the Indians of what his priests had told him, but the meaning of the phrase is doubtful.
Before sailing, every man of the company repaired to the Cathedral Church of St Malo, where all confessed their sins and received the benediction of the good bishop of the town. This was on the day and feast of Pentecost in 1535, and three days later, on May 19, the ships sailed out from the little harbour and were borne with a fair wind beyond the horizon of the west. But the voyage was by no means as prosperous as that of the year before. The ships kept happily together until May 26. Then they were assailed in mid-Atlantic by furious gales from the west, and were enveloped in dense banks of fog. During a month of buffeting against adverse seas, they were driven apart and lost sight of one another.
Cartier in the Grande Hermine reached the coast of Newfoundland safely on July coming again to the Island of Birds. 'So full of birds it was,' he writes, 'that all the ships of France might be loaded with them, and yet it would not seem that any were taken away.' On the next day the Grande Hermine sailed on through the Strait of Belle Isle for Blanc Sablon, and there, by agreement, waited in the hope that her consorts might arrive. In the end, on the 26th, the two missing ships sailed into the harbour together. Three days more were spent in making necessary repairs and in obtaining water and other supplies, and on the 29th at sunrise the reunited expedition set out on its exploration of the northern shore. During the first half of August their way lay over the course already traversed from the Strait of Belle Isle to the western end of Anticosti. The voyage along this coast was marked by no event of especial interest. Cartier, as before, noted carefully the bearing of the land as he went along, took soundings, and, in the interest of future pilots of the coast, named and described the chief headlands and landmarks as he passed. He found the coast for the most part dangerous and full of shoals. Here and there vast forests extended to the shore, but otherwise the country seemed barren and uninviting.