The Order of Good Cheer

The Order of Good Cheer

Bill Gaston

Language: English

Pages: 352

ISBN: 0887848168

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A fascinating yet little-known figure in North American history, the French explorer and mapmaker Samuel de Champlain was the subject of a recent best-selling biography by historian David Hackett Fischer. The Order of Good Cheer, a highly readable novel by master storyteller Bill Gaston, offers a beautifully shaded, fictionalized portrait of Champlain, as well as a marvelous window into Canadian culture past and present. In 1607, Champlain and his companions struggled to establish a French colony on foreign soil while warding off scurvy. Separated by the breadth of a continent and exactly 400 years is 21st-century blue-collar worker Andy Winslow and his friends, whose urban landscape is threatened by encroaching environmental and economic disaster. In alternating narratives, Gaston bridges the divide across land and time in this illuminating story about survival, love, feast, and friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He remembered one hiking date to Stutz Rapids. It was that phase of their relationship where the main point was to find a secluded spot, unfurl a coat, and under nature’s green witness make out with that ferocity known only to eighteen-year-olds who have decided that, having done it once, they are allowed to never stop. The destination was a treeless knoll Andy thought he could find. It threatened rain and they hadn’t been together for a week. Andy remembered trembling with anticipation, and to cover his horniness talking non-stop.

Yet this grand day they will celebrate, and take from it and bring to it what good cheer they can. Membertou has hunted up and this morning delivered to the cookhouse three woodland birds as he long boasted he would, after hearing about this especial Christian day. One fowl he has stored overlong and in a thaw it has turned, but not badly, and Bonneville reckons a handful of juniper berries will o’ercrow it. Membertou will bring his family tonight to join them, as they wish to be all the more Christian.

Samuel himself discovered sores on his legs but then on closer scrutiny they were nit bites. And then Poutrincourt’s own children, beautiful twin girls, were there mewling and dying this foulest of deaths, all the while dutifully placing their bloody fallen teeth into an ornament box, as all chaste girls will keep things, whispering over them as over a dowry, and at this juncture Samuel was shocked awake and it was morning, and in the way of dreams he was disturbed long into the day, tendrils of it clutching and befouling his moods — until he became drunk.

It would make her understand him better perhaps, though it also carried the danger of showing her their impossible distance, and driving her away. He is wary of his desire to impress her. There is something troubling in how confident she is with him. She is not in awe of the French, or of him. Though neither is Membertou, who is possibly her uncle. None of them seem to be. Though they love — love — their bread, and would indeed trade meat for it in equal size. It begins to rain and, looking up, Lucien thinks the clouds are swift enough to pass in time, so he will stay.

Bonneville has but moments ago brought and deposited the meat platter angrily, perhaps because he knows he needs must deliver it again, reheated, once Poutrincourt and the others return. All day they’ve been off in the longboat seeking what salt marsh might be diked and drained. A wind has risen to fight their return, and Samuel hopes this is the sole reason they are late. He nudges a bird breast with a knuckle. The flesh does not give. Perhaps it wasn’t anger on the cook’s face — perhaps Bonneville is shamed by his own fare.

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