The south shore of the St. Lawrence River around Montmagny and l’Islet is in places lacking in topographical variety. There are no cliffs nor steep slopes, but rather grassy beaches burgeoning with wild rice and sedges, murky from the fine clay of the tides. Towards the north are vast horizons, along which the Laurentians are visible when the weather is clear. In the morning, the fog hides them away and drowns them in the ephemeral cottony mist that rises from the waters, and after nightfall, one may discern them by the illusory beacons that the fires are always lighting here and there upon their granite slopes.
L’Islet is an old village, a “bourg” as they say over there, slumbering peaceably by the tranquil waves, guarded since time immemorial by its rocky island, “l’Islette,” which is generally deserted. At most, a schooner may sometimes happen to moor there. A few barrels are unloaded, a few planks of wood carried aboard, and that’s the end of it.
The inhabitants of l’Islet, a population of old-timers, have many legends, and none is better substantiated than that of the Rocher Panet (“Panet’s rock”). This rock forms a pair with “l’Islette,” and is the visible outcropping of a little mountain submerged under the mud, surrounded by the tides, and which almost disappears at high water. It is really next to nothing, but this next to nothing has its own legend, which is perhaps only a tall tale. Everybody there knows it off by heart (or almost). It was written down in a little booklet by J. T. Jemmat, who relates it with great enthusiasm. Listen:
“A wretched woman, whose name and shame the legend has suppressed, had dared to sell her immortal soul and her eternal felicity to the devil, in exchange for dishonorable passions. The impure spirit appeared unsatisfied by this bargain, and wished to also possess the body of his unfortunate victim. Abusing of his power, his infernal malice cast her upon the rock, which had not the gloomy appearance that it has today: One would have thought it was an emerald floating upon the waves, resplendent in the greenness of its shrubbery and the brilliant hues of its flowers. No sooner had that cursed foot made contact with the island, however, that the petals folded inwards and wilted away, the shrubbery shriveled up and died. Continue reading