1616-1627. HOSTILE SECTS. - RIVAL INTERESTS.
At Quebec the signs of growth were faint and few. By the water-side, under the cliff, the so-called "habitation," built in haste eight years before, was already tottering, and Champlain was forced to rebuild it. On the verge of the rock above, where now are seen the buttresses of the demolished castle of St. Louis, he began, in 1620, a fort, behind which were fields and a few buildings. A mile or more distant, by the bank of the St. Charles, where the General Hospital now stands, the Recollets, in the same year, built for themselves a small stone house, with ditches and outworks for defence; and here they began a farm, the stock consisting of several hogs, a pair of asses, a pair of geese, seven pairs of fowls, and four pairs of ducks. The only other agriculturist in the colony was Louis Hebert, who had come to Canada in 1617 with a wife and three children, and who made a house for himself on the rock, at a little distance from Champlain's fort.
Besides Quebec, there were the three trading-stations of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Tadoussac, occupied during a part of the year. Of these, Tadoussac was still the most important. Landing here from France in 1617, the Recollet Paul Huet said mass for the first time in a chapel built of branches, while two sailors standing beside him waved green boughs to drive off the mosquitoes. Thither afterward came Brother Gervais Mohier, newly arrived in Canada; and meeting a crowd of Indians in festal attire, he was frightened at first, suspecting that they might be demons. Being invited by them to a feast, and told that he must not decline, he took his place among a party of two hundred, squatted about four large kettles full of fish, bear's meat, pease, and plums, mixed with figs, raisins, and biscuit procured at great cost from the traders, the whole boiled together and well stirred with a canoe-paddle. As the guest did no honor to the portion set before him, his entertainers tried to tempt his appetite with a large lump of bear's fat, a supreme luxury in their eyes. This only increased his embarrassment, and he took a hasty leave, uttering the ejaculation, "ho, ho, ho!" which, as he had been correctly informed, was the proper mode of acknowledgment to the master of the feast.
A change had now begun in the life of Champlain. His forest rovings were over. To battle with savages and the elements was more congenial with his nature than to nurse a puny colony into growth and strength; yet to each task he gave himself with the same strong devotion.
His difficulties were great. Quebec was half trading-factory, half mission. Its permanent inmates did not exceed fifty or sixty persons, - fur-traders, friars, and two or three wretched families, who had no inducement, and little wish, to labor. The fort is facetiously represented as having two old women for garrison, and a brace of hens for sentinels. All was discord and disorder. Champlain was the nominal commander; but the actual authority was with the merchants, who held, excepting the friars, nearly everybody in their pay. Each was jealous of the other, but all were united in a common jealousy of Champlain. The few families whom they brought over were forbidden to trade with the Indians, and compelled to sell the fruits of their labor to the agents of the company at a low, fixed price, receiving goods in return at an inordinate valuation. Some of the merchants were of Ronen, some of St. Malo; some were Catholics, some were Huguenots. Hence unceasing bickerings. All exercise of the Reformed religion, on land or water, was prohibited within the limits of New France; but the Huguenots set the prohibition at naught, roaring their heretical psalmody with such vigor from their ships in the river that the unhallowed strains polluted the ears of the Indians on shore. The merchants of Rochelle, who had refused to join the company, carried on a bold illicit traffic along the borders of the St. Lawrence, endangering the colony by selling fire-arms to the Indians, eluding pursuit, or, if hard pressed, showing fight; and this was a source of perpetual irritation to the incensed monopolists.
The colony could not increase. The company of merchants, though pledged to promote its growth, did what they could to prevent it. They were fur-traders, and the interests of the fur-trade are always opposed to those of settlement and population. They feared, too, and with reason, that their monopoly might be suddenly revoked, like that of De Monts, and they thought only of making profit from it while it lasted. They had no permanent stake in the country; nor had the men in their employ, who formed nearly all the scanty population of Canada. Few, if any, of these had brought wives to the colony, and none of them thought of cultivating the soil. They formed a floating population, kept from starving by yearly supplies from France.