THE CURES OF MALBAIE
Of the early missionaries I have found no record, though no doubt one could be compiled from the episcopal archives. The registers at Malbaie do not begin until 1790 but I find a note that in 1784 there were sixty-five communicants. Isle aux Coudres, Les Eboulements and Malbaie were then united under one cure, M. Compain, who lived at Isle aux Coudres. He served Malbaie from 1775 to 1788. This cure has a share in the legend of Pere de La Brosse, which, since it is characteristic of the region, is worth repeating.
Pere de La Brosse was a much loved and saintly missionary priest, dwelling in his later years at Tadousac. On the evening of April 11th, 1872, he played cards at Tadousac at the house of one of the officers of the post. Rising to go at about nine o’clock he said to the company:
“I wish you good night, my dear friends, for the last time; for at midnight I shall be a dead man. At that hour you will hear the bell of my chapel ring. I beg you not to touch my body. To-morrow you will send for M. Compain at Isle aux Coudres. He will be waiting for you at the lower end of the island. Do not be afraid if a storm comes. I will answer for those whom you shall send.”
At first the company thought the good father was joking. None the less did they become anxious to see what should happen. Watch in hand they waited for the hour named. Exactly at midnight the bell of the chapel rang three times. They ran to the chapel and there found Pere de La Brosse upon his prie-dieu dead.
The next day, Sunday, a south-east wind blew with violence. Huge white-capped waves made the great river so dangerous that the employes of the post refused to undertake the journey to Isle aux Coudres of forty or fifty miles in a canoe over a raging sea. But the chief clerk at the post said to them: “You know well that the Father never deceived you. You ought to have confidence in his word. Is there no one among you who will carry out his last wish?”
Then three or four men agreed to go. When they put their canoe in the water, behold a wonder! To the great surprise of every one the sea subsided so that before them lay a pathway of calm water. To their further amazement, they made the journey to Isle aux Coudres with incredible rapidity. As they neared the shore they could see M. Compain walking up and down, a book in his hand. When they were within hearing distance he called out “Pere de La Brosse is dead. You come to get me to bury him. I have been waiting an hour for you.” When the canoe touched the shore M. Compain embarked and they carried him to Tadousac. At Isle aux Coudres the bell of the chapel had distinctly sounded three times at midnight as at Tadousac. M. Compain knew what it meant for Pere de La Brosse had told him what he told his friends at Tadousac. Other church bells in the neighbourhood also rang miraculously on that night. Pere de La Brosse had said while cure at Isle Verte, “If I die elsewhere than here, you will have certain knowledge of the fact at the moment of my death.”