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IV. FATHER BIARD'S STORY.
MOST historians assert that Father Biard and Father Massé, the two Jesuit missionaries who had quarreled with Biencourt, the lordly ruler of Port Royal, departed thence by themselves directly to Mount Desert, which the Indians had represented to be " a goodly land abounding in game and fish." The facts as set forth in Father Biard's simple and dramatic narrative, in the " Jesuit Relations," are quite different.
Although the priests had had difficulties, even on the ship that brought them from France, with Pourtrincourt, the first commander of Port Royal, who had told them it was "his part to rule them on earth, and theirs only to guide him to heaven," and afterwards with Bien-court, Pourtrincourt's son, who had threatened them with the whipping post, they seem to have still lingered at Port Royal until aid and countenance came to them in the shape of De Monts's surrender of his patent to Mme. de Guercheville. She was a woman famed among the attendants of Marie de Médicis for her beauty and her piety. The great desire of her heart was to plant the Roman Catholic faith in the wilds of America, and in the spring of 1613 she sent her agent, M. Saussaye, to take possession of the land in her name, and to set up her arms.
M. Saussaye evidently proceeded first to Port Royal (now Annapolis, Nova Scotia), and there the two priests embarked with him to seek a place where a French settlement could be established under more favorable auspices than had attended the one at Port Royal. Two other priests, Father Quentin and Father du Thet, were of the party.
This is the tale as told by Father Biard himself: "We were detained five days at Port Royal by adverse winds, when, a favorable northeaster having arisen, we set out with the intention of sailing up Pentagoet [Penobscot] River to a place called Kadesquit [Bangor], which had been chosen for our new residence, and which possessed great advantages for this purpose. But the good God willed otherwise, for when we had reached the southeastern coast of the island of Menan the weather changed, and the sea was covered with a fog so dense that we could not distinguish day from night.'
"We were greatly alarmed, for this place is full of breakers and rocks, upon which we feared, in the darkness, our vessel might drift. The wind not permitting us to put out to sea, we remained in this position two days and two nights, veering sometimes to one side, sometimes to another, as God inspired us.
"Our tribulation led us to pray to God to deliver us from danger and send us to some place where we might contribute to His glory. He heard us in His mercy, for on the same evening we began to discover the stars, and in the morning the fog had cleared away. We then discovered that we were near the coast of Mount Desert, an island which the savages call Pemetic.
"The pilot steered toward the eastern shore, and landed us in a large and beautiful harbor. We returned thanks to God, elevating the cross, and singing praises, with the holy sacrifice of the mass. We named the place and harbor St. Saviour." This was probably Northeast Harbor.
"Now, in this place (St. Saviour) a violent quarrel arose between our sailors and the other passengers. The cause of it was that the charter granted and the agreement made in France were to the effect that the said sailors should be bound to put into any port in Acadia that we should designate, and should remain there three months.
"The sailors insisted that they had arrived at a port in Acadia, and that the term of three months ought to date from this arrival. To this the answer was that this port was not the one designated, which was Kadesquit, and that therefore the time that they were in St. Saviour should not be taken into account.
"There was much argument over this question, and while it was still unsettled the savages made a fire, in order that we might see the smoke. This signal meant that they had observed us, and wished to see if we needed them, which we did.
"The pilot found an opportunity to let them know that the fathers from Port Royal were in his ship.
"The savages replied that they would be very glad to see one whom they had known at Pentagoet two years before. This was I, Father Biard, and I went immediately to see them, and inquired the route to Kadesquit, telling them that we intended to live there.
"'But,' said they, 'why do you not remain, instead, with us, who have as good a place as Kadesquit?'
"They then began to praise their settlement, assuring us that, it was so healthful and so pleasant and so delightful in every way that when the natives were ill anywhere else they were brought there and were quickly cured.
"These eulogies did not greatly impress us, because we knew well that the savages, like other people, sometimes overrated their own possessions. Nevertheless, they knew how to induce us to remain, for they said: 'You must come, for our sagamore, Asticou, is dangerously ill, and if you do not come he will die without baptism, and will not go to heaven; and you will be the cause of it, for he wishes to be baptized.'
"This reason finally persuaded us, since there were but three leagues to travel, and it would be no greater loss of time than a single afternoon.
"We embarked in the savages' canoe, with Sieur de la Motte and Simon, the interpreter. When we arrived at Asticou's wigwam, we found him ill, but not dangerously so, for he was suffering only from rheumatism. And after discovering this, we decided to pay a visit to the place which the Indians had boasted was so much better than Kadesquit for Frenchmen.
"We found that the savages had indeed reasonable grounds for their eulogies. We felt very well satisfied with it ourselves, and having carried these tidings to the rest of the crew, it was unanimously agreed that we should remain there, and not seek farther, seeing that God himself seemed to intend it, by the train of happy accidents that had occurred, and by the miraculous cure of a child, which I shall relate elsewhere. This place is a beautiful hill, sloping gently to the seashore, and supplied with water by a spring on each side.
"The ground comprises from twenty-five to thirty acres, covered with grass which in some places reaches the height of a man. It fronts the south and east toward Pentagoet Bay, into which are discharged the waters of several pretty streams abounding in fish. The land is rich and fertile. The port and harbor are the finest possible, in a position commanding the entire coast; the harbor especially is as smooth as a pond, being shut in by the large island of Mount Desert, besides being surrounded by certain small islands which break the force of the winds and waves and fortify the entrance.
"It is large enough to hold any fleet, and is navigable for the largest ships up to a cable's length from the shore. It is in latitude 44 1/2° N., a position more northerly than that of Bordeaux.1
"When we had landed in this place, and planted the cross, we set to work; and with the work began our disputes, the omen and origin of our misfortunes. The cause of these disputes was that our captain, La Saussaye, wished to attend to agriculture, and our other leaders besought him not to occupy the workmen in that manner and thereby delay the erection of dwellings and fortifications. He would not comply with their requests; and from these disputes arose others, which lasted until the English obliged us to make peace in the manner I am about to relate.
"The English colonists in Virginia are in the habit of coming every year to the islands of Pencoit, twenty-five leagues from St. Saviour, in order to provide food [fish] for the winter. While on their way, as usual, in the summer of 1613, they were overtaken out at sea by fogs and mists, which in this region often overspread both land and sea in summer. These lasted some days, in which the tide drifted them gradually farther than they intended. They were about eighty leagues farther in New France than they supposed, but they did not recognize the place."
Father Biard means, of course, within the limits of the territory granted to De Monts and now transferred to Mme. de Guercheville.
Samuel Argall, whose ship was now swooping down upon the little French settlement on the shore of Somes Sound, was nominally a trader, but practically a pirate. He went fishing in a vessel manned by eighty sailors and carrying fourteen guns. He plundered every French ship that he could lay hold of, and piously prayed for the blessing of God upon his voyages. Having now lost his reckoning, he improved the unexpected opportunity to rob and murder the French.
Father Biard continues: "Some savages observed their vessel, and went to meet them, supposing them to be Frenchmen in search of us. The Englishmen understood nothing of what the savages said, but conjectured from their signs that there was a vessel near, and that this vessel was French. They understood the word 'Normans,' which the savages called us, and in the polite gestures of the natives they recognized the French ceremonies of courtesy.
"Then the Englishmen, who were in need of provisions and of everything else, ragged, half naked, and in search of plunder, inquired carefully how large our vessel was, how many cannon we had, and how many men; and having received a satisfactory answer, uttered cries of joy, demonstrating that they had found what they wanted, and that they intended to attack us.
"The savages did not so interpret their demonstrations, however, for they supposed the Englishmen to be our friends who earnestly desired to see us. Accordingly, one of them guided the Englishmen to our vessel.
"As soon as the Englishmen saw us, they began to prepare for combat, and their guide then saw that he had made a mistake, and began to weep, and to curse those who had deceived him. Many times afterwards he wept and implored pardon for his error, of us and of the others, because they wished to avenge our misfortune on him, believing that he had acted through malice.
"On seeing this vessel approach us, we knew not whether we were to meet friends or enemies, Frenchmen or foreigners. The pilot, therefore, went forward in a sloop to reconnoiter, while the rest were arming themselves. La Saussaye remained on shore, and with him the greater number of the men. Lieutenant La Motte, Ensign Ronfère, Sergeant Joubert, and the rest went on board the ship.
"The English ship moved with the swiftness of an arrow, having the wind astern. It was hung at the waist with red, the arms of England floated over it, and three trumpets and two drums were ready to sound. Our pilot, who had gone forward to reconnoiter, did not return to the ship, fearing, as he said, to fall into their hands, to avoid which he rowed himself around an island.
"Thus the ship did not contain one half its crew, and was defended only by ten men, of whom but one, Captain Flory, had had any experience of naval contests. Although not lacking in prudence or courage, the captain had not time to prepare for conflict, nor had his crew. There was not even time to weigh anchor so as to disengage the ship, which is the first step to be taken in sea fights. It would, however, have been of little use to weigh the anchor, since the sails were fastened; for, as it was summer, they had been arranged as an awning to shade the decks.
"This mishap, however, had a good result; for, our men being sheltered during the combat, and out of reach of the Englishmen's guns, fewer of them were killed or wounded.
"As soon as the Englishmen approached, our sailors hailed them; but they replied only by threatening cries, and by discharges of musketry and cannon. They had fourteen pieces of artillery and sixty artillerymen, who ranged themselves along the side of their vessel, firing rapidly without taking aim.
"The first discharge was terrible. The whole ship was shrouded in fire and smoke. On our side the guns remained silent. Captain Flory shouted out, 'Put the cannon in position!' but the gunner was absent. Father Gilbert du Thet, who had never been guilty of cowardice in his life, hearing the captain's order, and seeing that no one obeyed, took the match and fired the cannon as loudly as the enemy's. The misfortune was that he did not aim carefully.
"The Englishmen, after their first attack, made ready to board our vessel. Captain Flory cut the cable, and thus arrested, for a time, the progress of the enemy. They then fired another volley, and in this Du Thet was wounded by a musket, and fell across the helm.
"Captain Flory and three others were also wounded, and they cried out that they surrendered.
"The Englishmen, on hearing this cry, went into their boat to board our vessel, when our men imprudently rushed into theirs, in order to put off to shore before the arrival of the visitors. The conquerors cried out to them to return, or they would fire on them, and two of our men, in their terror, threw themselves into the water and were drowned, either because they were wounded or, more probably, were shot while in the water.
"They were both promising young men, one named Le Moine, from Dieppe, and the other named Nenen, from Beauvais. Their bodies were found nine days afterwards, and carefully interred. Such was the history of the capture of our vessel.
"The victorious English made a landing at the place where we had begun to erect our tents and dwellings, and searched Captain Flory to find his commission, saying that the land was theirs, but if we could show that we had acted in good faith, and under the authority of our prince, they would not drive us away, since they did not wish to imperil the amicable relations between our two sovereigns.
"The trouble was that they did not find La Saussaye, but they seized his desk, searched it carefully, and having found our commission and royal letters, seized them. Then, putting everything in its place, they closed and locked the desk.
"On the next day, when he saw La Saussaye, the English captain greeted him' politely, and then asked to see his commission. La Saussaye replied that his papers were in his desk, which was accordingly brought to him, and he found that it was locked and in perfect order, but the papers were missing.
"The English captain immediately changed his tone and manner, saying: 'Then, sir, you are imposing upon us! You give us to understand that you hold a commission from your king, and yet you can produce no evidence of it. You are all rogues and pirates, and deserve to be executed.' He then gave his soldiers permission to plunder us, in which work they spent the entire afternoon.
"We witnessed the destruction of our property from the shore, the Englishmen having fastened our vessels to theirs; for we had two, a ship, and a boat newly constructed and equipped. We were thus reduced to a miserable condition, and this was not all. Next day they landed and robbed us of all we still possessed, destroying also our clothing and other things.
"At one time they committed some personal violence on two of our people, which so enraged them that they fled into the woods like poor crazed creatures, half naked and without any food, not knowing what was to become of them.
"I have told you that Father du Thet was wounded by a musket shot during the fight. The Englishmen, on entering our ship, placed him under the care of their surgeon, with the other wounded men. The surgeon was a Catholic and a very charitable man, and he treated us with great kindness. The captain allowed Father du Thet to be carried ashore, so that he had an opportunity to receive the last sacraments, and to praise the just and merciful God, in company with his brethren. He died with much resignation, calmness, and devotion, twenty-four hours after he was wounded. He was buried, the next day, at the foot of a large cross which we had erected On our arrival.
"It was not until then that the Englishmen recognized the Jesuits to be priests. I, Father Biard, and Father Ennemond Massé went to the ship to speak to the English captain, and frankly explained to him that we were Jesuits who had come to this heathen land to convert the savages to the true faith, and implored him, by the Redeemer who died for us all, to leave us in peace. From that time the captain made Father Massé and me share his table, showing us much kindness and respect. But one thing annoyed him greatly—the escape of the pilot and sailors, of whom he could hear nothing.
"The pilot was a native of Rouen named La Pailleur. The English captain was an able and artful man, a gentleman and a man of courage.
"It is difficult to believe how much sorrow we experienced at this time, for we did not know what was to be our fate. On the one hand, we expected either death or slavery from the English, and, on the other, to remain in this country, and live an entire year among the savages, seemed to us a lingering and painful death. But we did not see any hope before us, and we did not see how we could live in such a desert."
La Saussaye, Father Massé, and thirteen others were mercilessly cast off in an open boat. Being joined among the islands by the pilot in his boat, they made their way eastward by the aid of oars, until, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, they found two trading vessels, and secured passage to Saint-Malo. Father Biard and thirteen others were carried prisoners to Virginia, where Sir Thomas Dale, governor of Virginia, threatened to hang them, and would doubtless have made good his threat if Argall had not, at length, been moved to confess that he had stolen the commission.
They were at last allowed to take passage on a vessel bound for the Azores, and from those islands the captain of the vessel decided to sail to a port in Wales. There Father Biard went also, and was favorably received by the Protestant clergymen.
Later he returned to France, and became a professor in a theological seminary. But a more roving life was better suited to his taste, and he was soon made a chaplain in the French army, where he remained until his death.
Mme. de Guercheville soon abandoned or was bereft of her claim. M. Cadillac next received from Louis XIV. a grant of a hundred thousand acres on both sides of the bay and comprising a large part of the island of Mount Desert.
Cadillac was always proud of his domain, although he remained in the region but a little time. He obtained many offices and honors in the New World, and was at one time governor of Louisiana; and as long as he lived he took to himself the high-sounding title, Lord of Mount Desert. But he never attempted to make any settlement upon the island, and, indeed, there never was another French settlement there, although, many years after M. Cadillac's death, Mme. Gregoire proved herself to be his lineal descendant, and, establishing a claim to a part of his possessions, came from France with her husband, and made her home at Mount Desert.
They settled at Hulls Cove, near Bar Harbor. The island had by that time been partially settled by fishermen, but it was still a half-savage land, and the highborn French emigrants must have led a strange and lonely life. M. Gregoire was a recluse, or such is the impression of him that remains with the descendants of the fishermen who knew him; but Mme. Gregoire was a spirited and energetic woman, who affiliated with fisherfolk and Indians, and made the best of the wild life that she had, perhaps ignorantly, chosen. They never returned to France, although their children did. Their bodies are buried outside the little cemetery at Hulls Cove,—outside probably because they were Roman Catholics,—and the wild roses, that know no creeds, have wandered through the rude cemetery fence and impartially bedecked their graves.
1 This was evidently Fernalds Point, on the western side of Somes Sound.