Le Braillard de la Magdeleine[1]

by Francis Clement Kelley

THIS is the story that the old sailor from Tadousac told me when the waves were leaping, snapping, and frothing at us from the St. Lawrence, and over the moan of the wind and the anger of the waters rose the wail of the Braillard de la Magdeleine.

"You hear him? Every storm he calls so loud. I think of my own baby when I hear him, always the same, always so sorrowful. Poor baby!

"Yes, it is a baby. Across there you might see, but the storm darkens everything, yonder toward Gaspe, where the little mother lived—pauvre mêre. She was only a child, innocent and good and happy, when he came—the great lord, the Grand Seigneur, from France—came with the Commandant to Quebec and then to Tadousac.

"She loved him, loved him and forgot—forgot her father and mother—forgot the good name they gave her—forgot the innocence that made her beautiful—forgot the pure Mother and the good God,  for him and his love. She went to Quebec with him, but the Curé had not blessed them in the church.

"Then the baby came. That is the baby who cries out there in the storm. The Grand Seigneur killed the little baby, killed it to save her from disgrace, killed it without baptism, and it cries and wails out there, pauvre enfant.

"The mother? She is here, too, in the storm. She has been here for more than two hundred years listening to her baby cry. Poor mother. The baby calls her and she wanders through the storm to find him. But she never sees, only hears him cry for her—and God. Till the great Day of Judgment will the baby cry, and she—pauvre mêre—will pay the price of her sin, pay it out of her empty mother heart and hungry mother arms, that will not be filled. You hear the soft wind from the shore battle with the great wind from the Gulf? Perhaps it is she, pauvre mêre—perhaps.

"The Grand Seigneur? He never comes, for he died unrepentant and unpardoned. The lost do not return to Earth and Hope. He never comes. Only the mother comes—the mother who weeps and seeks, and hears the baby cry."


[1] Near the mouth of the St. Lawrence can be heard a sound like wailing whenever there is a great storm. The people call it Le Braillard de la Magdeleine and countless tales are told concerning it.