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Days of the Discoverers Part 25

THE CHANGELINGS

Out on the road to Fairyland where the dreaming children go, There's a little inn at the Sign of the Rose, that all the fairies know, For Titania lodged in that tavern once, and betwixt the night and the day The children that crowded about her there, she stole their hearts away!

Peaseblossom, Moth and Mustardseed, Agate and Airymouse too, Once were children that laughed and played as children always do, But when Titania kissed their lips, and crowned them with daffodil gold They never forgot what she whispered them, they never knew how to grow old!

Mothers that wonder why little lads forget their homely ways, And little maids put their dolls aside and take to acting plays, Ah, let them be kings and queens awhile, for there's nothing sad or mean In their innocent thought, and their crowns were wrought by the touch o' the Fairy Queen!

Close to the heart o' the world they come, the children who know the way To the little low gateway under the rose, where 't is neither night nor day.

They see what others can never guess, they hear what we cannot hear, And the loathly dragons that waste our life they never learn to fear.

The little inn at the Sign of the Rose,--ah, who can forget the place Where Titania danced with the children small and lent them her elfin grace?

And wherever they go and whatever they do in the years that turn them gray They never forget the charm she said when she stole their hearts away!

XVII

THE GARDENS OF HELeNE

"Is there not any saint of the kitchen, at all?" asked the serious-eyed little demoiselle sorting herbs under the pear-tree. Old Jacqueline, gathering the tiny fagots into her capacious apron, chuckled wisely.

"There should be, if there isn't. Perhaps the good God thinks that the men will take care that there are kitchens, without His help." She hobbled briskly into the house. Helene sat for a few minutes with hands folded, her small nose alert as a rabbit's to the marvelous blend of odors in the hot sunshiny air.

It was a very agreeable place, that old French garden. There had been a kitchen-garden on that very spot for more than five hundred years; at least, so said Monsieur Lescarbot the lawyer, and he knew all about the history of the world. A part of the old wall had been there in the days of the First Crusade, and the rest looked as if it had. When Henry of Navarre dined at the Guildhall, before Ivry, they had come to Jacqueline for poultry and seasoning. She could show you exactly where she gathered the parsley, the thyme, the marjoram, the carrots and the onion for the stuffing, and from which tree the selected chestnuts came. A white hen proudly promenading the yard at this moment was the direct descendant of the fowl chosen for the King's favorite dish of _poulet en casserole_.

But the common herbs were far from being all that this garden held.

Besides the dozen or more herbs and as many vegetables which all cooks used, there were artichokes, cucumbers, peppers of several kinds, marigolds, rhubarb, and even two plants of that curious Peruvian vegetable with the golden-centered creamy white flowers, called po-te-to. Jacqueline's husband, who had been a sea-captain, had brought those roots from Brazil, and she,--Helene,--who was very little then, had disgraced herself by gathering the flowers for a nosegay. It was after that that Jacqueline had begun to teach her what each plant was good for, and how it must be fed and tended. Helene had grown to feel that every plant, shrub or seedling was alive and had thoughts. In the delightful fairy tales that Monsieur Marc Lescarbot told her they were alive, and talked of her when they left their places at night and held moonlight dances.

Lescarbot's thin keen face with the bald forehead and humorous eyes appeared now at the grille in the green door. He swept off his beret and made a deep bow. "Mademoiselle la bien-aimee de la bonne Sainte Marthe,"

he said gravely, "may I come in?"

He had a new name for her every time he came, usually a long one. "But why Sainte Marthe?" she asked, running to let him in.

"She is the patron saint of cooks and housewives, petite. A good cook can do anything. Sainte Marthe entertained the blessed Lord in her own home, and was the first nun of the sisterhood she founded. Moreover when she was preaching at Aix a fearful dragon by the name of Tarasque inhabited the river Rhone, and came out each night to devastate the country until Sainte Marthe was the means of his--conversion."

"Oh, go on!" cried Helene, and Lescarbot sat down on the old bench under the pear-tree and began to help with the herbs.

"Sainte Marthe was an excellent cook, and the first thing she did when she founded her convent was to plant a kitchen-garden. On Saint John's Eve she went into the garden and watered each plant with holy water, blessing it in the use of God. People came from miles around to get roots and seeds from the garden and to ask for Sainte Marthe's recipes for broths and cordials for the sick. Often they brought roots of such plants as rhubarb and--er--marigold, which had been imported from heathen countries, to be blessed and made wholesome." Lescarbot's eye rested on the potato plant, which he distrusted.

"Well. The dragon prowled around and around the convent walls, but of course he could not come in. At last he pretended to be sick and sent for Sainte Marthe to come and cure him. As soon as she set eyes on him she knew what a wicked lie he had told, and resolved to punish him for his impudence. Of course all he wanted of her was to get her recipes for sauces and stews so that he might cook and eat his victims without having indigestion--which is what a good sauce is for. Sainte Marthe promised to make him some broth if he would do no harm while she was gone, and just to make sure he kept his promise she made him hold out his fore-paws and tied them hard and fast with her girdle, while he sat with his fore-legs around his--er--knees, and her broomstick thrust crosswise between. Then she got out her largest kettle and made a good savory broth of all the herbs in her garden--there were three hundred and sixty-five kinds. She knew that if he drank it all, the blessed herbs would work such a change in his inside that he would be like a lamb forever after.

"But one thing neither she nor Tarasque had thought of, and that was, that the broth was hot. Of course he always took his food and drink very cold. When he smelled its delicious fragrance he opened his mouth wide, and she poured it hissing hot down his throat, and it melted him into a famous bubbling spring. People go there to be cured of colic."

Helene drew a long breath. She did not believe that Lescarbot had found that story in any book of legends of the saints, but she liked it none the worse for that.

"I wonder if Sainte Marthe blessed this garden?" she said.

"I have no doubt she did, and that is why it flourishes from Easter to Michaelmas. But I came to-day for a potato. Sieur de Monts desires to see one and to understand the method of its cultivation."

"Oh, I know that," cried Helene, eagerly, and she took one of the queer brown roots from the willow basket by the wall. "See, these are its eyes, one, two, three--seven eyes in this one. You must cut it in pieces, as many pieces as it has eyes, and plant each piece separately; and from each eye springs a plant."

"Ah!" said Lescarbot gravely, and he put the potato in his wallet.

For two years Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts, and the valiant gentlemen Samuel de Champlain, Bienville de Poutrincourt, and others of his company, had been striving to maintain a settlement in the grant of La Cadie or L'Acadie, between the fortieth and forty-sixth degrees of north latitude in the New World, of which the King had made De Monts Lieutenant-General. De Monts engaged Champlain, who had already explored those coasts, as chief geographer, and the merchant Pontgrave was in charge of a store-ship laden with supplies. Fearing the severe winter of the St. Lawrence, the party steered south along the coast and anchored in a tranquil and beautiful harbor surrounded with forest, green lowlands, and hills laced with waterfalls. In his delight with the place Poutrincourt declared that he would ask nothing better than to make it his home; and he received a grant of the harbor, which he named Port Royal. The expedition finally came to rest on an island in a river flowing into Passamaquoddy Bay, where they began their settlement. Their wooden buildings--a house for their viceroy, one for Champlain and other gentlemen, barracks, lodgings, workshops and storehouses,--surrounded a square in the middle of which one fine cedar was left standing, while a belt of them remained to hedge the island from the north winds. The work done, Poutrincourt set sail for France, leaving seventy-nine men to spend the winter at Ile Sainte-Croix. Scurvy broke out, and before spring almost half the company were in their graves. Spring came, but no help from France. It was June 16 before Poutrincourt returned with forty men, and two days later Champlain set sail in a fifteen-ton barque with De Monts and several others, to explore the coast and discover if possible a better place for the colony. They went as far south as Nauset Harbor, and Champlain made charts and kept a journal quaintly illustrated with figures drawn and painted; but De Monts found no place that suited him. Then he bethought himself of the deep sheltered harbor of Port Royal, and they removed everything to that new site, on the north side of the basin below the mouth of a little river which they called the equille. Even parts of the buildings were taken across the Bay of Fundy. But a ship from France brought news to De Monts that enemies at court were working against his Company, and leaving Pontgrave in command he and Poutrincourt returned home, to see what they could do to further the interests of the colony in Paris. Among other things Champlain, who had tried without success to make a garden in the sandy soil of the island, begged them to provide the settlers with seeds, roots, cuttings and implements by which they might raise grain and vegetables and other provisions for themselves. This would improve the health and also reduce the expenses of the colony, and the land about the new site was well adapted for cultivation.

Poutrincourt, foregathering with his friend Lescarbot soon after the lawyer had lost nearly all he possessed in a suit, recounted to him the woes of the colony, and found with pleasure that in spite of the doleful history of the last two years Lescarbot was eager to seek a new career in New France.

Helene came running in one morning in the early spring of 1606, to find old Jacqueline on the steps of the root-cellar with a heap of sprouting potatoes beside her. Lescarbot was packing away in a panier such as she gave him, while under the whitening pear-tree a donkey stood, sleepily shaking his ears as he waited for orders.

"Oh, what are you doing, Uncle Marc?" she cried.

"Making ready to go to the land beyond the sunset, Mademoiselle la Princesse du Jardin de Paradis," he said smiling. "Sit down while the good mother gets the packets of seeds she promised me, and I will tell you a story."

All curiosity and wonder, the little maid settled herself on the ancient worm-eaten bench, and Lescarbot began.

"It happened one day that men came and told the King that a great realm lay beyond the seas, where only wild men and animals lived, and that this realm was all his. Now the wild men were not good for anything, for they had never been taught anything, but since the winters in that country were very cold the animals wore fur coats. The King called to him a Chief Huntsman and told him that he might go and collect tribute from the fur coats of the animals, and that after he had given the King his share, the fur coats of all the animals belonged to him."

"Did the animals know it?"

"I think they did, for they were accustomed to having men try to take away their fur coats. All the other hunters were very angry when they found that the King had given this order, but the Chief Huntsman told them that they might have a share in the hunting, only they must ask his permission and pay tribute to the King; and that satisfied them for a while.

"The Chief Huntsman sailed to the far country and built a castle for himself and his men, and when winter came they found that it was indeed very cold--so cold that the wine and the cider froze and had to be given out by the pound instead of the pint. But that was not the worst of it.

There was a dragon."

Helene's blue eyes grew round with interest.

"A dragon whose poisonous breath tainted the food and caused a terrible plague. They prayed to Saint Luke the Physician for help, and he appeared to them in a vision and said, 'I cannot do anything for you so long as you eat not good food. God made man to live in a garden, not to fill himself with salt fish and salt meat and dry bread.' But they could not plant a garden in the middle of winter, and they had to wait. When the ship went back to France a gallant captain--named Samuel de Champlain--sent a letter to a friend of his in France, praying him to send a gardener with seeds, roots and cuttings that there might be good broths and tisanes and sauces to work magic against the dragon that he slay no more of their folk. And, little Helene, I am filling a pair of paniers with those roots and those seeds, and I am going to be a gardener beyond the sunset."

Helene looked grave. To find her friend and playfellow suddenly dropped away from her into the middle of a fairy-tale was rather terrifying, but it was also thrilling. She slipped down from the bench.

"You shall have cuttings from my very own rose-bushes," said she; and at her direction Lescarbot took up very carefully small rose-shoots that had rooted themselves around the great bushes,--bushes that bore roses white with a faint flush, white with a golden-creamy heart, pure snow-white, sunrise pink and deep glowing crimson with a purple shade.

If Lescarbot had been a superstitious man, he might have been inclined to gloom during his first sea-voyage, for the ship in which he and Poutrincourt set sail from Rochelle on the thirteenth of May, 1606, was called the _Jonas_. But instead he joined in all the diversions possible in their two months' voyage--harpooning porpoises, fishing for cod off the Banks, or dancing on the deck in calm weather,--and in his leisure kept a lively and entertaining journal of the adventure. They ran into dense fog in which they could see nothing; they saw, when the mist cleared, a green and lovely shore, but before it fierce and dangerous rocks on which the breakers pounded. Then a storm broke, with rolling thunder like a salute of cannon. At last on July 27 they sailed into the narrow channel at the entrance of the harbor of Port Royal.

The flag of France, with its golden lilies on a white ground, gleamed in the noon sunlight as they came up the bay toward the little group of wooden buildings in the edge of the forest. Not a man was to be seen on the silent shore; a birch canoe, with one old Indian in it, hovered near the landing. A great fear gripped the hearts of Bienville de Poutrincourt and Marc Lescarbot. Were Pontgrave and Champlain all dead with their people? Had help come too late?

Then from the bastion of the rude fortifications a cannon barked salute, and a Frenchman with a gun in his hand came running down to the beach.

The ship's guns returned the salute, and the trumpets sang loud greeting to whoever might be there to hear.

When they had landed they learned what had happened. There were only two Frenchmen in the fort; Pontgrave and the others, fearing that the supply ship would never arrive, had gone twelve days before in two small ships of their own building to look for some of the French fishing fleet who might have provisions. The two who remained had volunteered to stay and guard the buildings and stores. There was a village of friendly Indians near by, and the chief, Membertou, who was more than a hundred years old, had seen the distant sail of the _Jonas_ and come to warn the white men, who were at dinner. Not knowing whether the strange ship came in peace or war, one of the comrades had gone to the platform on which the cannon were mounted, and stood ready to do what he could in defense, while the other ran down to the shore. When they saw the French flag at the mast-head the cannon spoke joyfully in salute.

All was now eager life and activity. Poutrincourt sent out a boat to explore the coast, which met the two little ships of Pontgrave and Champlain and told the great news. Lescarbot, exploring the meadows under the guidance of some of Membertou's people, saw moose with their young feeding peacefully upon the lush grass, and beavers building their curious habitations in a swamp. Pontgrave took his departure for France in the _Jonas_, and Champlain and Poutrincourt began making plans.

The winter in Port Royal had been less severe than the terrible first winter of the settlement, on the St. Croix, but the two leaders decided to take one of the ramshackle little ships and make another exploring voyage along the coast, to see whether some more comfortable site for the colony could not be found. There was plenty of leeway to the southward, for De Monts was supposed to control everything as far south as the present site of Philadelphia; but the coast had never been accurately charted by the French further south than Cape Cod.

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