In New France, spiritual and temporal interests were inseparably blended, and, as will hereafter appear, the conversion of the Indians was used as a means of commercial and political growth. But, with the single-hearted founder of the colony, considerations of material advantage, though clearly recognized, were no less clearly subordinate. He would fain rescue from perdition a people living, as he says, "like brute beasts, without faith, without law, without religion, without God." While the want of funds and the indifference of his merchant associates, who as yet did not fully see that their trade would find in the missions its surest ally, were threatening to wreck his benevolent schemes, he found a kindred spirit in his friend Houd, secretary to the King, and comptroller-general of the salt-works of Bronage. Near this town was a convent of Recollet friars, some of whom were well known to Houel. To them he addressed himself; and several of the brotherhood, "inflamed," we are told, "with charity," were eager to undertake the mission. But the Recollets, mendicants by profession, were as weak in resources as Champlain himself. He repaired to Paris, then filled with bishops, cardinals, and nobles, assembled for the States-General. Responding to his appeal, they subscribed fifteen hundred livres for the purchase of vestments, candles, and ornaments for altars. The King gave letters patent in favor of the mission, and the Pope gave it his formal authorization. By this instrument the papacy in the person of Paul the Fifth virtually repudiated the action of the papacy in the person of Alexander the Sixth, who had proclaimed all America the exclusive property of Spain.

The Recollets form a branch of the great Franciscan Order, founded early in the thirteenth century by Saint Francis of Assisi. Saint, hero, or madman, according to the point of view from which he is regarded, he belonged to an era of the Church when the tumult of invading heresies awakened in her defence a band of impassioned champions, widely different from the placid saints of an earlier age. He was very young when dreams and voices began to reveal to him his vocation, and kindle his high-wrought nature to sevenfold heat. Self-respect, natural affection, decency, became in his eyes but stumbling-blocks and snares. He robbed his father to build a church; and, like so many of the Roman Catholic saints, confounded filth with humility, exchanged clothes with beggars, and walked the streets of Assisi in rags amid the hootings of his townsmen. He vowed perpetual poverty and perpetual beggary, and, in token of his renunciation of the world, stripped himself naked before the Bishop of Assisi, and then begged of him in charity a peasant's mantle. Crowds gathered to his fervid and dramatic eloquence. His handful of disciples multiplied, till Europe became thickly dotted with their convents. At the end of the eighteenth century, the three Orders of Saint Francis numbered a hundred and fifteen thousand friars and twenty-eight thousand nuns. Four popes, forty-five cardinals, and forty-six canonized martyrs were enrolled on their record, besides about two thousand more who had shed their blood for the faith. Their missions embraced nearly all the known world; and, in 1621, there were in Spanish America alone five hundred Franciscan convents.

In process of time the Franciscans had relaxed their ancient rigor; but much of their pristine spirit still subsisted in the Recollets, a reformed branch of the Order, sometimes known as Franciscans of the Strict Observance.

Four of their number were named for the mission of New France, - Denis Jamay, Jean Dolbean, Joseph le Caron, and the lay brother Pacifique du Plessis. "They packed their church ornaments," says Champlain, "and we, our luggage." All alike confessed their sins, and, embarking at Honfleur, reached Quebec at the end of May, 1615. Great was the perplexity of the Indians as the apostolic mendicants landed beneath the rock. Their garb was a form of that common to the brotherhood of Saint Francis, consisting of a rude garment of coarse gray cloth, girt at the waist with the knotted cord of the Order, and furnished with a peaked hood, to be drawn over the head. Their naked feet were shod with wooden sandals, more than an inch thick.

Their first care was to choose a site for their convent, near the fortified dwellings and storehouses built by Champlain. This done, they made an altar, and celebrated the first mass ever said in Canada. Dolbean was the officiating priest; all New France kneeled on the bare earth around him, and cannon from the ship and the ramparts hailed the mystic rite. Then, in imitation of the Apostles, they took counsel together, and assigned to each his province in the vast field of their mission, - to Le Caron the Hurons, and to Dolbean the Montagnais; while Jamay and Du Plessis were to remain for the present near Quebec.

Dolbean, full of zeal, set out for his post, and in the next winter tried to follow the roving hordes of Tadoussac to their frozen hunting-grounds. He was not robust, and his eyes were weak. Lodged in a hut of birch bark, full of abominations, dogs, fleas, stench, and all uncleanness, he succumbed at length to the smoke, which had wellnigh blinded him, forcing him to remain for several days with his eyes closed. After debating within himself whether God required of him the sacrifice of his sight, he solved his doubts with a negative, and returned to Quebec, only to depart again with opening spring on a tour so extensive that it brought him in contact with outlying bands of the Esquimaux. Meanwhile Le Caron had long been absent on a more noteworthy mission.

While his brethren were building their convent and garnishing their altar at Quebec, the ardent friar had hastened to the site of Montreal, then thronged with a savage concourse come down for the yearly trade. he mingled with them, studied their manners, tried to learn their languages, and, when Champlain and Pontgrave arrived, declared his purpose of wintering in their villages. Dissuasion availed nothing. "What," he demanded, "are privations to him whose life is devoted to perpetual poverty, and who has no ambition but to serve God?"

The assembled Indians were more eager for temporal than for spiritual succor, and beset Champlain with clamors for aid against the Iroquois. He and Pontgrave were of one mind. The aid demanded must be given, and that from no motive of the hour, but in pursuance of a deliberate policy. It was evident that the innumerable tribes of New France, otherwise divided, were united in a common fear and hate of these formidable bands, who, in the strength of their fivefold league, spread havoc and desolation through all the surrounding wilds. It was the aim of Champlain, as of his successors, to persuade the threatened and endangered hordes to live at peace with each other, and to form against the common foe a virtual league, of which the French colony would be the heart and the head, and which would continually widen with the widening area of discovery. With French soldiers to fight their battles, French priests to baptize them, and French traders to supply their increasing wants, their dependence would be complete. They would become assured tributaries to the growth of New France. It was a triple alliance of soldier, priest, and trader. The soldier might be a roving knight, and the priest a martyr and a saint; but both alike were subserving the interests of that commerce which formed the only solid basis of the colony. The scheme of English colonization made no account of the Indian tribes. In the scheme of French colonization they were all in all.

In one point the plan was fatally defective, since it involved the deadly enmity of a race whose character and whose power were as yet but ill understood, - the fiercest, boldest, most politic, and most ambitious savages to whom the American forest has ever given birth.

The chiefs and warriors met in council, - Algonquins of the Ottawa, and Hurons from the borders of the great Fresh-Water Sea. Champlain promised to join them with all the men at his command, while they, on their part, were to muster without delay twenty-five hundred warriors for an inroad into the country of the Iroquois. He descended at once to Quebec for needful preparation; but when, after a short delay, he returned to Montreal, he found, to his chagrin, a solitude. The wild concourse had vanished; nothing remained but the skeleton poles of their huts, the smoke of their fires, and the refuse of their encampments. Impatient at his delay, they had set out for their villages, and with them had gone Father Joseph le Caron.

Twelve Frenchmen, well armed, had attended him. Summer was at its height, and as his canoe stole along the bosom of the glassy river, and he gazed about him on the tawny multitude whose fragile craft covered the water like swarms of gliding insects, he thought, perhaps, of his whitewashed cell in the convent of Brouage, of his book, his table, his rosary, and all the narrow routine of that familiar life from which he had awakened to contrasts so startling. That his progress up the Ottawa was far from being an excursion of pleasure is attested by his letters, fragments of which have come down to us.

"It would be hard to tell you," he writes to a friend, "how tired I was with paddling all day, with all my strength, among the Indians; wading the rivers a hundred times and more, through the mud and over the sharp rocks that cut my feet; carrying the canoe and luggage through the woods to avoid the rapids and frightful cataracts; and half starved all the while, for we had nothing to eat but a little sagantite, a sort of porridge of water and pounded maize, of which they gave us a very small allowance every morning and night. But I must needs tell you what abundant consolation I found under all my troubles; for when one sees so many infidels needing nothing but a drop of water to make them children of God, one feels an inexpressible ardor to labor for their conversion, and sacrifice to it one's repose and life."

Another Recollet, Gabriel Sagard, followed the same route in similar company a few years later, and has left an account of his experience, of which Le Caron's was the counterpart. Sagard reckons from eighty to a hundred waterfalls and rapids in the course of the journey, and the task of avoiding them by pushing through the woods was the harder for him because he saw fit to go barefoot, "in imitation of our seraphic father, Saint Francis." "We often came upon rocks, mudholes, and fallen trees, which we had to scramble over, and sometimes we must force our way with head and hands through dense woods and thickets, without road or path. When the time came, my Indians looked for a good place to pass the night. Some went for dry wood; others for poles to make a shed; others kindled a fire, and hung the kettle to a stick stuck aslant in the ground; and others looked for two flat stones to bruise the Indian corn, of which they make sagamite."

This sagamite was an extremely thin porridge; and, though scraps of fish were now and then boiled in it, the friar pined away daily on this weak and scanty fare, which was, moreover, made repulsive to him by the exceeding filthiness of the cookery. Nevertheless, he was forced to disguise his feelings. "One must always keep a smiling, modest, contented face, and now and then sing a hymn, both for his own consolation and to please and edify the savages, who take a singular pleasure in hearing us sing the praises of our God." Among all his trials, none afflicted him so much as the flies and mosquitoes. "If I had not kept my face wrapped in a cloth, I am almost sure they would have blinded me, so pestiferous and poisonous are the bites of these little demons. They make one look like a leper, hideous to the sight. I confess that this is the worst martyrdom I suffered in this country; hunger, thirst, weariness, and fever are nothing to it. These little beasts not only persecute you all day, but at night they get into your eyes and mouth, crawl under your clothes, or stick their long stings through them, and make such a noise that it distracts your attention, and prevents you from saying your prayers." He reckons three or four kinds of them, and adds, that in the Montagnais country there is still another kind, so small that they can hardly be seen, but which "bite like devils' imps." The sportsman who has bivouacked in the woods of Maine will at once recognize the minute tormentors there known as "no-see-'ems."

While through tribulations like these Le Caron made his way towards the scene of his apostleship, Champlain was following on his track. With two canoes, ten Indians, Etienne Brule his interpreter, and another Frenchman, he pushed up the Ottawa till he reached the Algonquin villages which had formed the term of his former journeying. He passed the two lakes of the Allumettes; and now, for twenty miles, the river stretched before him, straight as the bee can fly, deep, narrow, and black, between its mountain shores. He passed the rapids of the Joachims and the Caribou, the Rocher Capitamne, and the Deux Rivieres, and reached at length the trihutary waters of the Mattawan. He turned to the left, ascended this little stream forty miles or more, and, crossing a portage track, well trodden, reached the margin of Lake Nipissing. The canoes were launched again, and glided by leafy shores and verdant islands till at length appeared signs of human life and clusters of bark lodges, half hidden in the vastness of the woods. It was the village of an Algonquin band, called the Nipissings, - a race so beset with spirits, infested by demons, and abounding in magicians, that the Jesuits afterwards stigmatized them as "the Sorcerers." In this questionable company Champlain spent two days, feasted on fish, deer, and bears. Then, descending to the outlet of the lake, he steered his canoes westward down the current of French River.

Days passed, and no sign of man enlivened the rocky desolation. Hunger was pressing them hard, for the ten gluttonous Indians had devoured already nearly all their provision for the voyage, and they were forced to subsist on the blueberries and wild raspberries that grew abundantly in the meagre soil, when suddenly they encountered a troop of three hundred savages, whom, from their strange and startling mode of wearing their hair, Champlain named the Cheveux Releves. "Not one of our courtiers," he says, "takes so much pains in dressing his locks." Here, however, their care of the toilet ended; for, though tattooed on various parts of the body, painted, and armed with bows, arrows, and shields of bison-hide, they wore no clothing whatever. Savage as was their aspect, they were busied in the pacific task of gathering blueberries for their winter store. Their demeanor was friendly; and from them the voyager learned that the great lake of the Hurons was close at hand.

Now, far along the western sky was traced the watery line of that inland ocean, and, first of white men except the Friar Le Caron, Champlain beheld the "Mer Douce," the Fresh-Water Sea of the Hurons. Before him, too far for sight, lay the spirit-haunted Manitonalins, and, southward, spread the vast bosom of the Georgian Bay. For more than a hundred miles, his course was along its eastern shores, among islets countless as the sea-sands, - an archipelago of rocks worn for ages by the wash of waves. He crossed Byng Inlet, Franklin Inlet, Parry Sound, and the wider bay of Matchedash, and seems to have landed at the inlet now called Thunder Bay, at the entrance of the Bay of Matchedash, and a little west of the Harbor of Penetanguishine.

An Indian trail led inland, through woods and thickets, across broad meadows, over brooks, and along the skirts of green acclivities. To the eye of Champlain, accustomed to the desolation he had left behind, it seemed a land of beauty and abundance. He reached at last a broad opening in the forest, with fields of maize, pumpkins ripening in the sun, patches of sunflowers, from the seeds of which the Indians made hair-oil, and, in the midst, the Huron town of Otonacha. In all essential points, it resembled that which Cartier, eighty years before, had seen at Montreal, - the same triple palisade of crossed and intersecting trunks, and the same long lodges of bark, each containing several families. Here, within an area of thirty or forty miles, was the seat of one of the most remarkable savage communities on the continent. By the Indian standard, it was a mighty nation; yet the entire Huron population did not exceed that of a third or fourth class American city.

To the south and southeast lay other tribes of kindred race and tongue, all stationary, all tillers of the soil, and all in a state of social advancement when compared with the roving bands of Eastern Canada: the Neutral Nation west of the Niagara, and the Eries and Andastes in Western New York and Pennsylvania; while from the Genesee eastward to the Hudson lay the banded tribes of the Iroquois, leading members of this potent family, deadly foes of their kindred, and at last their destroyers.

In Champlain the Hurons saw the champion who was to lead them to victory. There was bountiful feasting in his honor in the great lodge at Otonacha; and other welcome, too, was tendered, of which the Hurons were ever liberal, but which, with all courtesy, was declined by the virtuous Champlain. Next, he went to Carmaron, a league distant, and then to Tonagnainchain and Tequenonquihayc; till at length he reached Carhagouha, with its triple palisade thirty-five feet high. Here he found Le Caron. The Indians, eager to do him honor, were building for him a bark lodge in the neighboring forest, fashioned like their own, but much smaller. In it the friar made an altar, garnished with those indispensable decorations which he had brought with him through all the vicissitudes of his painful journeying; and hither, night and day, came a curious multitude to listen to his annunciation of the new doctrine. It was a joyful hour when he saw Champlain approach his hermitage; and the two men embraced like brothers long sundered.

The twelfth of August was a day evermore marked with white in the friar's calendar. Arrayed in priestly vestments, he stood before his simple altar; behind him his little band of Christians, - the twelve Frenchmen who had attended him, and the two who had followed Champlain. Here stood their devout and valiant chief, and, at his side, that pioneer of pioneers, Etienne Brule the interpreter. The Host was raised aloft; the worshippers kneeled. Then their rough voices joined in the hymn of praise, Te Deum laudamus; and then a volley of their guns proclaimed the triumph of the faith to the okies, the manitous, and all the brood of anomalous devils who had reigned with undisputed sway in these wild realms of darkness. The brave friar, a true soldier of the Church, had led her forlorn hope into the fastnesses of hell; and now, with contented heart, he might depart in peace, for he had said the first mass in the country of the Hurons.