We who are among them in the summer are citizens of another and an unknown world. New York and Chicago, Boston and Washington, Toronto and Montreal are to us realities with one or other of which, in some way, each of us is linked. To this simple people they are all merely that outer world whence come their fleeting visitors of summer, as out of the unknown come the migrant birds to pause and rest awhile. We bring with us substantial material benefits; but it is not clear that our moral influence is good. Leaving his farm the habitant brings to the village his horse and caleche to become a hired charretier. He often gets good fares but there is much idle waiting. Bad habits are formed and regular industry is discouraged. The cure finds Malbaie a difficult sphere. We alone get unmixed benefit from this fair scene, its days of glad serenity, and of almost solemn stillness, when even a bird’s note is heard but rarely.
Because all that concerns it interests us I have tried to put together from scattered fragments the story long forgotten of the past of Malbaie. In it there is abundance of the tragedy never remote from man’s life: if the telling of the tale has been a pleasure it has proved not less a sad pleasure. But the story adds only a deeper meaning to our beautiful playground. After all it is man and his activities which give to nature’s scenes their deepest interest; Quebec’s chief charm is due to Wolfe and Montcalm, St. Helena’s to Napoleon. The shaggy mountain crests which we view from our valley, the glistening blue river, the strong north-east wind which clouds the sky, turns the river to grey, and sprinkles its surface with white caps,—all are full for us of joyous beauty. But how much less of interest would there be did the white spire of the village church not peep out above the green trees up the bay to tell of man’s weakness and his hopes! The story of the brave old soldier who peopled this valley, the pathetic tragedy of his successor’s fate, add something here to the bloom of nature. It may be that the chief service of the chequered and half-forgotten past when it speaks is to show how vain and transient is all we think and plan,—“what shadows we are and what shadows we pursue.” But be it so. One would not miss from life this last joy of knowing what it really means.
CHAPTER I.—For Jacques Cartier see his Voyages of 1535-36, in French (Ed. D’Avezac) Paris, 1863, translated into English (Ed. Baxter), New York, 1906. For Champlain see his Oeuvres (Ed. Laverdiere) Quebec, 1870. Bourdon’s Act of Faith and Homage is in Canadian Archives, Series M., Vol. I, p. 387. M. B. Sulte gives an account of the Carignan Regiment in the Proc. and Trans. of the Royal Society of Canada for 1902. The account of the Sieur de Comporte in France is in Canadian Archives Series B., F., 213, p. 46; that of the auction sale of his property is in a MS. preserved