1611, 1612. JESUITS IN ACADIA.

The voyage was one of inordinate length, - beset, too, with icebergs, larger and taller, according to the Jesuit voyagers, than the Church of Notre Dame; but on the day of Pentecost their ship, "The Grace of God," anchored before Port Royal. Then first were seen in the wilderness of New France the close black cap, the close black robe, of the Jesuit father, and the features seamed with study and thought and discipline. Then first did this mighty Proteus, this many-colored Society of Jesus, enter upon that rude field of toil and woe, where, in after years, the devoted zeal of its apostles was to lend dignity to their order and do honor to humanity.

Few were the regions of the known world to which the potent brotherhood had not stretched the vast network of its influence. Jesuits had disputed in theology with the bonzes of Japan, and taught astronomy to the mandarins of China; had wrought prodigies of sudden conversion among the followers of Bralinra, preached the papal supremacy to Abyssinian schismatics, carried the cross among the savages of Caffraria, wrought reputed miracles in Brazil, and gathered the tribes of Paraguay beneath their paternal sway. And now, with the aid of the Virgin and her votary at court, they would build another empire among the tribes of New France. The omens were sinister and the outset was unpropitious. The Society was destined to reap few laurels from the brief apostleship of Biard and Masse.

When the voyagers landed, they found at Port Royal a band of half-famished men, eagerly expecting their succor. The voyage of four months had, however, nearly exhausted their own very moderate stock of provisions, and the mutual congratulations of the old colonists and the new were damped by a vision of starvation. A friction, too, speedily declared itself between the spiritual and the temporal powers. Pontgrave's son, then trading on the coast, had exasperated the Indians by an outrage on one of their women, and, dreading the wrath of Poutrincourt, had fled to the woods. Biard saw fit to take his part, remonstrated for him with vehemence, gained his pardon, received his confession, and absolved him. The Jesuit says that he was treated with great consideration by Poutrincourt, and that he should be forever beholden to him. The latter, however, chafed at Biard's interference.

"Father," he said, "I know my duty, and I beg you will leave me to do it. I, with my sword, have hopes of paradise, as well as you with your breviary. Show me my path to heaven. I will show you yours on earth."

He soon set sail for France, leaving his son Biencourt in charge. This hardy young sailor, of ability and character beyond his years, had, on his visit to court, received the post of Vice-Admiral in the seas of New France, and in this capacity had a certain authority over the trading-vessels of St. Malo and Rochelle, several of which were upon the coast. To compel the recognition of this authority, and also to purchase provisions, he set out along with Biard in a boat filled with armed followers. His first collision was with young Pontgrave, who with a few men had built a trading-hut on the St. John, where he proposed to winter. Meeting with resistance, Biencourt took the whole party prisoners, in spite of the remonstrances of Biard. Next, proceeding along the coast, he levied tribute on four or five traders wintering at St. Croix, and, continuing his course to the Kennebec, found the Indians of that region greatly enraged at the conduct of certain English adventurers, who three or four years before had, as they said, set dogs upon them and otherwise maltreated them. These were the colonists under Popham and Gilbert, who in 1607 and 1608 made an abortive attempt to settle near the mouth of the river. Nothing now was left of them but their deserted fort. The neighboring Indians were Abenakis, one of the tribes included by the French under the general name of Armouchiquois. Their disposition was doubtful, and it needed all the coolness of young Biencourt to avoid a fatal collision. On one occasion a curious incident took place. The French met six canoes full of warriors descending the Kennebec, and, as neither party trusted the other, the two encamped on opposite banks of the river. In the evening the Indians began to sing and dance. Biard suspected these proceedings to be an invocation of the Devil, and "in order," he says, "to thwart this accursed tyrant, I made our people sing a few church hymns, such as the Salve, the Ave Mans Stella, and others. But being once in train, and getting to the end of their spiritual songs, they fell to singing such others as they knew, and when these gave out they took to mimicking the dancing and singing of the Armouchiquois on the other side of the water; and as Frenchmen are naturally good mimics, they did it so well that the Armouchiquols stopped to listen; at which our people stopped too; and then the Indians began again. You would have laughed to hear them, for they were like two choirs answering each other in concert, and you would hardly have known the real Armouchiquois from the sham ones."

Before the capture of young Pontgrave, Biard made him a visit at his camp, six leagues up the St. John. Pontgrave's men were sailors from St. Malo, between whom and the other Frenchmen there was much ill blood, Biard had hardly entered the river when he saw the evening sky crimsoned with the dancing fires of a superb aurora borealis, and he and his attendants marvelled what evil thing the prodigy might portend. Their Indian companions said that it was a sign of war. In fact, the night after they had joined Pontgrave a furious quarrel broke out in the camp, with abundant shouting, gesticulating and swearing; and, says the father, "I do not doubt that an accursed band of furious and sanguinary spirits were hovering about us all night, expecting every moment to see a horrible massacre of the few Christians in those parts; but the goodness of God bridled their malice. No blood was shed, and on the next day the squall ended in a fine calm."

He did not like the Indians, whom he describes as "lazy, gluttonous, irreligious, treacherous, cruel, and licentious." He makes an exception in favor of Memberton, whom he calls "the greatest, most renowned, and most redoubted savage that ever lived in the memory of man," and especially commends him for contenting himself with but one wife, hardly a superlative merit in a centenarian. Biard taught him to say the Lord's Prayer, though at the petition, "Give us this clay our daily bread," the chief remonstrated, saying, "If I ask for nothing but bread, I shall get no fish or moose meat." His protracted career was now drawing to a close, and, being brought to the settlement in a dying state, he was placed in Biard's bed and attended by the two Jesuits. He was as remarkable in person as in character, for he was bearded like a Frenchman. Though, alone among La Fleche's converts, the Faith seemed to have left some impression upon him, he insisted on being buried with his heathen forefathers, but was persuaded to forego a wish fatal to his salvation, and slept at last in consecrated ground.

Another of the scanty fruits of the mission was a little girl on the point of death, whom Biard had asked her parents to give him for baptism. "Take her and keep her, if you like," was the reply, "for she is no better than a dead dog." "We accepted the offer," says Biard, "in order to show them the difference between Christianity and their impiety; and after giving her what care we could, together with some instruction, we baptized her. We named her after Madame the Marquise de Guercheville, in gratitude for the benefits we have received from that lady, who can now rejoice that her name is already in heaven; for, a few days after baptism, the chosen soul flew to that place of glory."

Biard's greatest difficulty was with the Micmac language. Young Biencourt was his best interpreter, and on common occasions served him well; but the moment that religion was in question he was, as it were, stricken dumb, - the reason being that the language was totally without abstract terms. Biard resolutely set himself to the study of it, - a hard and thorny path, on which he made small progress, and often went astray. Seated, pencil in hand, before some Indian squatting on the floor, whom with the bribe of a mouldy biscuit he had lured into the hut, he plied him with questions which he often neither would nor could answer. What was the Indian word for Faith, Hope, Charity, Sacrament, Baptism, Eucharist, Trinity, Incarnation? The perplexed savage, willing to amuse himself, and impelled, as Biard thinks, by the Devil, gave him scurrilous and unseemly phrases as the equivalent of things holy, which, studiously incorporated into the father's Indian catechism, produced on his pupils an effect the reverse of that intended. Biard's colleague, Masse, was equally zealous, and still less fortunate. He tried a forest life among the Indians 'with signal ill success. Hard fare, smoke, filth, the scolding of squaws, and the cries of children reduced him to a forlorn condition of body and mind, wore him to a skeleton, and sent him back to Port Royal without a single convert.

The dark months wore slowly on. A band of half-famished men gathered about the huge fires of their barn-like hall, moody, sullen, and quarrelsome. Discord was here in the black robe of the Jesuit and the brown capote of the rival trader. The position of the wretched little colony may well provoke reflection. Here lay the shaggy continent, from Florida to the Pole, outstretched in savage slumber along the sea, the stern domain of Nature, - or, to adopt the ready solution of the Jesuits, a realm of the powers of night, blasted beneath the sceptre of hell. On the banks of James River was a nest of woe-begone Englishmen, a handful of Dutch fur-traders at the mouth of the Hudson, and a few shivering Frenchmen among the snow-drifts of Acadia; while deep within the wild monotony of desolation, on the icy verge of the great northern river, the hand of Champlain upheld the fleur-de-lis on the rock of Quebec. These were the advance guard, the forlorn hope of civilization, messengers of promise to a desert continent. Yet, unconscious of their high function, not content with inevitable woes, they were rent by petty jealousies and miserable feuds; while each of these detached fragments of rival nationalities, scarcely able to maintain its own wretched existence on a few square miles, begrudged to the others the smallest share in a domain which all the nations of Europe could hardly have sufficed to fill.

One evening, as the forlorn tenants of Port Royal sat together disconsolate, Biard was seized with a spirit of prophecy. He called upon Biencourt to serve out the little of wine that remained, - a proposal which met with high favor from the company present, though apparently with none from the youthful Vice-Admiral. The wine was ordered, however, and, as an unwonted cheer ran round the circle, the Jesuit announced that an inward voice told him how, within a month, they should see a ship from France. In truth, they saw one within a week. On the twentythird of January, 1612, arrived a small vessel laden with a moderate store of provisions and abundant seeds of future strife.

This was the expected succor sent by Poutrincourt. A series of ruinous voyages had exhausted his resources but he had staked all on the success of the colony, had even brought his family to Acadia, and he would not leave them and his companions to perish. His credit was gone; his hopes were dashed; yet assistance was proffered, and, in his extremity, he was forced to accept it. It came from Madame de Guercheville and her Jesuit advisers. She offered to buy the interest of a thousand crowns in the enterprise. The ill-omened succor could not be refused; but this was not all. The zealous protectress of the missions obtained from De Monts, whose fortunes, like those of Poutrincouirt, had ebbed low, a transfer of all his claims to the lands of Acadia; while the young King, Louis the Thirteenth, was persuaded to give her, in addition, a new grant of all the territory of North America, from the St. Lawrence to Florida. Thus did Madame de Guercheville, or in other words, the Jesuits who used her name as a cover, become proprietors of the greater part of the future United States and British Provinces. The English colony of Virginia and the Dutch trading-houses of New York were included within the limits of this destined Northern Paraguay; while Port Royal, the seigniory of the unfortunate Poutrincourt, was encompassed, like a petty island, by the vast domain of the Society of Jesus. They could not deprive him of it, since his title had been confirmed by the late King, but they flattered themselves, to borrow their own language, that he would be "confined as in a prison." His grant, however, had been vaguely worded, and, while they held him restricted to an insignificant patch of ground, he claimed lordship over a wide and indefinite territory. Here was argument for endless strife. Other interests, too, were adverse. Poutrincourt, in his discouragement, had abandoned his plan of liberal colonization, and now thought of nothing but beaver-skins. He wished to make a trading-post; the Jesuits wished to make a mission.

When the vessel anchored before Port Royal, Biencourt, with disgust and anger, saw another Jesuit landed at the pier. This was Gilbert du Thet, a lay brother, versed in affairs of this world, who had come out as representative and administrator of Madame de Guercheville. Poutrincourt, also, had his agent on board; and, without the loss of a day, the two began to quarrel. A truce ensued; then a smothered feud, pervading the whole colony, and ending in a notable explosion. The Jesuits, chafing under the sway of Biencourt, had withdrawn without ceremony, and betaken themselves to the vessel, intending to sail for France. Biencourt, exasperated at such a breach of discipline, and fearing their representations at court, ordered them to return, adding that, since the Queen had commended them to his especial care, he could not, in conscience, lose sight of them. The indignant fathers excommunicated him. On this, the sagamore Louis, son of the grisly convert Membertou, begged leave to kill them; but Biencourt would not countenance this summary mode of relieving his embarrassment. He again, in the King's name, ordered the clerical mutineers to return to the fort. Biard declared that he would not, threatened to excommunicate any who should lay hand on him, and called the Vice-Admiral a robber. His wrath, however, soon cooled; he yielded to necessity, and came quietly ashore, where, for the next three months, neither he nor his colleagues would say mass, or perform any office of religion. At length a change came over him; he made advances of peace, prayed that the past might be forgotten, said mass again, and closed with a petition that Brother du Thet might be allowed to go to France in a trading vessel then on the coast. His petition being granted, he wrote to Poutrincourt a letter overflowing with praises of his son; and, charged with this missive, Du Thet set sail.