1610, 1611. THE JESUITS AND THEIR PATRONESS.
Poutrincourt, we have seen, owned Port Royal in virtue of a grant from De Monts. The ardent and adventurous baron was in evil case, involved in litigation and low in purse; but nothing could damp his zeal. Acadia must become a new France, and he, Poutrincourt, must be its father. He gained from the King a confirmation of his grant, and, to supply the lack of his own weakened resources, associated with himself one Robin, a man of family and wealth. This did not save him from a host of delays and vexations; and it was not until the spring of 1610 that he found himself in a condition to embark on his new and doubtful venture.
Meanwhile an influence, of sinister omen as he thought, had begun to act upon his schemes. The Jesuits were strong at court. One of their number, the famous Father Coton, was confessor to Henry the Fourth, and, on matters of this world as of the next, was ever whispering at the facile ear of the renegade King. New France offered a fresh field of action to the indefatigable Society of Jesus, and Coton urged upon the royal convert, that, for the saving of souls, some of its members should be attached to the proposed enterprise. The King, profoundly indifferent in matters of religion, saw no evil in a proposal which at least promised to place the Atlantic betwixt him and some of those busy friends whom at heart he deeply mistrusted. Other influences, too, seconded the confessor. Devout ladies of the court, and the Queen herself, supplying the lack of virtue with an overflowing piety, burned, we are assured, with a holy zeal for snatching the tribes of the West from the bondage of Satan. Therefore it was insisted that the projected colony should combine the spiritual with the temporal character, - or, in other words, that Poutrincourt should take Jesuits with him. Pierre Biard, Professor of Theology at Lyons, was named for the mission, and repaired in haste to Bordeaux, the port of embarkation, where he found no vessel, and no sign of preparation; and here, in wrath and discomfiture, he remained for a whole year.
That Poutrincourt was a good Catholic appears from a letter to the Pope, written for him in Latin by Lescarbot, asking a blessing on his enterprise, and assuring his Holiness that one of his grand objects was the saving of souls. But, like other good citizens, he belonged to the national party in the Church, those liberal Catholics, who, side by side with the Huguenots, had made head against the League, with its Spanish allies, and placed Henry the Fourth upon the throne. The Jesuits, an order Spanish in origin and policy, determined champions of ultramontane principles, the sword and shield of the Papacy in its broadest pretensions to spiritual and temporal sway, were to him, as to others of his party, objects of deep dislike and distrust. He feared them in his colony, evaded what he dared not refuse, left Biarci waiting in solitude at Bordeax, and sought to postpone the evil day by assuring Father Coton that, though Port Royal was at present in no state to receive the missionaries, preparation should be made to entertain them the next year after a befitting fashion.
Poutrincourt owned the barony of St. Just in Champagne, inherited a few years before from his mother. Hence, early in February, 1610, he set out in a boat loaded to the gunwales with provisions, furniture, goods, and munitions for Port Royal, descended the rivers Aube and Seine, and reached Dieppe safely with his charge. Here his ship was awaiting him; and on the twenty-sixth of February he set sail, giving the slip to the indignant Jesuit at Bordeaux.
The tedium of a long passage was unpleasantly broken by a mutiny among the crew. It was suppressed, however, and Poutrincourt entered at length the familiar basin of Port Royal. The buildings were still standing, whole and sound save a partial falling in of the roofs. Even furniture was found untouched in the deserted chambers. The centenarian Membertou was still alive, his leathern, wrinkled visage beaming with welcome.
Pontrincourt set himself without delay to the task of Christianizing New France, in an access of zeal which his desire of proving that Jesuit aid was superfluous may be supposed largely to have reinforced. He had a priest with him, one La Fleche, whom he urged to the pious work. No time was lost. Membertou first was catechised, confessed his sins, and renounced the Devil, whom we are told he had faithfully served during a hundred and ten years. His squaws, his children, his grandchildren, and his entire clan were next won over. It was in June, the day of St. John the Baptist, when the naked proselytes. twenty-one in number, were gathered on the shore at Port Royal. Here was the priest in the vestments of his office; here were gentlemen in gay attire, soldiers, laborers, lackeys, all the infant colony. The converts kneeled; the sacred rite was finished, Te Deum was sung, and the roar of cannon proclaimed this triumph over the powers of darkness. Membertou was named Henri, after the King; his principal squaw, Marie, after the Queen. One of his sons received the name of the Pope, another that of the Dauphin; his daughter was called Marguerite, after the divorced Marguerite de Valois, and, in like manner, the rest of the squalid company exchanged their barbaric appellatives for the names of princes, nobles, and ladies of rank.