When Stars Begin to Fall – Part Three

The Long Wait

In July 1671, News spread throughout the province that a ship would soon arrive with the future brides for the eligible bachelors of the area. Everyone talked about its arrival, excited about future celebrations, and the growth of their hamlets.

One early morning as Jean and Antoine repaired a stretch of fence, Jean remarked, “Well, my friend, looks like you be shopping soon for a new bride.”

Antoine smiled and nodded at his friend. “I hope she likes my home.”

“What’s not to like, and you’re acting like a fussy old woman.”

Playfully Antoine pushed his friend, but he was nervous. “How do you know when you’re ready?”

“Hmm, you haven’t even met your bride, and you’re running scared!” Jean teased his friend. But in a serious tone, he told Antoine, “You will know.”

A World Away

On her journey on the ship Le Prince Maurice, Jeanne, and her new friend, Marguerite Laisne, shared their secrets and hopes for their future lives in the colonies. Marguerite was from the village Amiens, Picardy in France 

The two met the day before they left and shared their final night on the Normandy coast in the Saint Francois Convent. The nuns made them soup and bread before they showed the girls the dormitories. 

The two women sat together, and as they ate, the two began talking.

“When it’s time to go to our rooms, let’s stay together,” Jeanne told Marguerite.

“Agreed,” her new friend responded.

In a large room filled with rows of beds, the two women maneuvered to the beds in the farthest corner and placed their bags. Excitement filled the air as the chatted about their new adventures. Since it was a lovely evening, the nuns suggested that the woman take a final stroll on dry land before heading off to sea. Many in the group never saw the ocean and asked if they could walk to the harbor.

“Of course,” Sister Therese replied. She was a friendly older nun that wanted to make the ladies feel welcome during their short stay. The women and their chaperones grouped together in the convent’s courtyard and listened to Mother Maria’s instructions before they were allowed to leave the church grounds.

Marguerite grabbed Jeanne’s hand and whispered, “I have never seen the ocean. Have you?”

“No, so this will be another first we share together.” The two ladies laughed and admitted they wanted to leave their group and run in the direction of the sea. Soon, they knew they were close once they smelled the salt in the air.  

Talking in excited whispers, the women could not contain their enthusiasm. Laughing at their delight, Sister Therese told her charges, “Just around these buildings.” Once the beach came into view, most of the women gasped. The ocean went on for miles with no end in sight. Without waiting for permission, the group moved towards the sand. It was not easy walking in the sandy depths, and they laughed at their clumsiness. 

Walking along the shoreline was more manageable, and the women admired the magnificence the sea shared with them. Seagulls cried overhead, and sandpipers ran to and fro, dodging the tide as it rolled into the land. Even the gentle waves made a soothing sound and added to the joyful symphony.    

When the sun began to set along La Manche, Jeanne marveled at the radiant site. It was as reverent as her church, so she sent a silent request..  Peace for her mother, kindheartedness for her future husband, and protection for their long journey.

All too soon, the nuns told the ladies it was time to leave. Marguerite continued to collect any seashells she found. Jeanne laughed at her new friend when she even scooped up several handfuls of sand and shoved them in her pockets. “Souvenirs of our last night in our homeland,” Marguerite simply commented.

The Arrival

The month of July flew by in a frenzy of activities for Antoine and Jean as they worked long hours at the farm. For Jeanne, time on the ship almost seemed to stop, and with little to keep her occupied, she would have gone crazy if not for her friend, Marguerite.  

The two women had slipped from below deck. Even with the open hatches, the smell below the bridge was overwhelming. The fresh sea air refreshed them, and the two found a quiet place to sit and chat

“I will never complain about household chores again,” complained a bored Marguerite.

Laughing, Jeanne replied, “And I will remind you of this when you are bouncing a baby on your hip while stirring stew on the stove.”

“Are you nervous about your future husband?” Marguerite asked.

“Yes and no. I don’t know how I feel. Excited too. What about you?”

Marguerite frowned, “I’m worried. I almost married once, but my fiancé was a mean drunk that hid his cruelty to the world. My father chased him off, but that man spent my dowry. So here I am.” Marguerite sighed. “I hope I find a kind soul this time.”

Jeanne took her friend’s hand, and the two promised to watch over one another in their new home. Silently, they worried they would be separated, but did not voice their concerns. For the remainder of the evening, they watched the stars and talked about their hopes for their future.

While their voyage seemed endless to the women, the day finally arrived when the Le Prince Maurice finally reached New France. In time, the ship began its journey along the Rivière du Canada. As the ship made its way along the river, Jeanne and Marguerite stood on the deck and took in the scene before them. This wilderness was vast. The rolling hills were lush and green, and the grand mountain peaks rose from behind, framing this land in awe-inspiring grandeur.

After their two-month journey, the women were anxious to leave the ship and step onto dry ground. 

“I want to eat real food, drink water without restrictions, and bathe from head to toe,” Marguerite sighed as the ship approached land. On their trip, the two were always together, and they worried about being separated.

Oh, mon ami et ma souer, I hope we are not separated once we marry. You are the sister I always longed for when I lived at home,” Jeanne told her friend.  

“We will find a way to stay together,” Marguerite told her friend.

Grasping her friend’s hand, a determined Jeanne simply stated, “Together.”

“Together,” Marguerite echoed.

The arrival of the ship, Le Prince Maurice, was a momentous occasion for Quebec City. Many came to witness the latest entry of the femmes from France. Men, women, and children lined the shore, waiting to get a glimpse of the women. Excitement filled the air as the men joked about their future wives.  

“Finally, someone to keep me warm at night! One disheveled old man loudly announced.

“Martin, you forgot how to bathe, not even the cows would want to sleep alongside you,” his neighbor told his friend.

The crowd laughed and buzzed with anticipation until les dames started leaving the ship and carefully made their descent. With quiet reverence, each person watched the group of women and wondered what circumstances would cause these ladies to leave their homeland. Every femme forte in the crowd understood that starting a new life in the colonies was their best option for a better life. Most did not regret their decision, for they had more freedom and opportunities. While frontier life was difficult, the women had a purpose and a determination to establish themselves in this new land.

As the parade of women continued, the awed silence ceased. Overhead, seagulls cried as if they formally announced the arrival of the precious cargo. One by one, around 90 women walked to the waiting wagons that would carry their chests and bags to the church where the Ursuline Nuns would watch over them until it was time for them to marry.

Antoine gasped when he first caught a glimpse of a beauty that walked hand-in-hand with another woman. He knew the moment that he laid eyes on her that she was the only one for him. His heart raced, and the farmer tried to shake off the strange feelings that caused him to lose control of his emotions. Mumbling awkwardly to himself, surely, he was not experiencing love at first sight, e coup de foudre. 

The memorable woman was taller than the rest and had a slight figure. At first, he wondered if she would be able to handle the demanding life of living on a farm. Still, as light brown curls escaped from her coiffure, and the soft golden highlights danced in the sun, he pushed those thoughts from his head. The enthralled man followed her every movement, each graceful step. With a natural poise, she strolled towards the wagons. As she drew closer, many men openly gasped at her outward beauty, but it was when she turned his way, and he caught her gaze, he stopped breathing. She smiled at him, and her warm brown eyes caught his attention. She had the eyes of a doe, and he knew, at that very moment, he would battle to win her heart.

Before he knew what, he was doing, his feet moved in her direction, and he stepped up to assist her and her companion with their bags. He offered his hand to help them climb onto the wagon. “Mercimonsieur,” Jeanne told the handsome man, bel homme.  

His brain had stopped working, and in return, all he could manage was a nod and a smile. The men on the sidelines observed their neighbor’s sudden lack of confidence. They began to laugh at his unusual bout of shyness.

“Le coup de foudre!” A voice from the crowd shouted. The others joined in with their good-humored jabs, which caught Antoine’s attention. The mocking man was right in his assumption, for when Antoine saw this beauty, “lightning did strike.” He turned to his friends, whisked off his hat, and bowed to the crowd.  

As they clamored and laughed, he remembered his manners and spoke softly to the woman. “Welcome, Mademoiselle. I hope you will enjoy our province.”  

With that, he turned and began helping a crew of men load the women’s trunks onto the wagons. As he walked away, he glanced one more time in her direction. She was talking with her friend, and the two put their heads together, laughing and smiling as they chatted.

Photo by alejandro gonzalez on Unsplash

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