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Fantastic tales

By Booksland

This narrative is founded on a popular superstition
dating back to the days of the coureurs des bois, under
the French régime, and perpetuated among the
voyageurs in the Canadian Northwest. The shantymen
of a later date have taken up the tradition, and it is in
the French settlements, bordering the St. Lawrence
River, that the legends of la chasse-galerie are specially
well known at the present time. The writer has met
many an old voyageur who affirmed most positively
that he had seen bark canoes traveling in mid-air, full of
men paddling and singing away, under the protection of
Beelzebub, on their way from the timber camps of the
Ottawa to pay a flying visit to their sweethearts at
home.
It is hardly necessary to apologize for having used in
the narrative expressions typical of the rude life and
character of the men whose language and superstition it
is the intention of the writer to portray.
4
I
“Well, then, since you seem to desire it so very
much, I will tell you a roarin’ story that ought to be a
lesson to all of you. If there is among the crowd any
renegade who intends to run la chasse-galerie or the
loup-garou, he had better skip and go outside to see
whether the owls are screeching in the storm, in
converse with Old Nick himself, because I intend to
begin my story by making a big sign of the cross. That
will be a regular set-back to le diable, who always tries,
at this time, to snatch a poor shantyman’s soul by
promising him all kinds of nonsense. I have had enough
of that in my young days to understand his tricks.”
Not a man moved. On the contrary, all gathered
closer round the fireplace, where the cook had dragged
the provision-chest, and upon which he had taken his
seat on a camp-stool, preparatory to relating his
experience under the wiles of the mauvais esprit.

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