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Olier and his associates had resolved, though not from any collapse of zeal, to postpone the establish'ment of the seminary and the college until after a settlement should be formed. The hospital, however, might, they thought, be begun at once; for blood and blows would be the assured portion of the first settlers. At least, a discreet woman ought to embark with the first colonists as their nurse and housekeeper. Scarcely was the need recognized when it was supplied.
Mademoiselle Jeanne Mance was born of an honorable family of Nogent-le-Roi, and in 1640 was thirtyfour years of age. These Canadian heroines began their religious experiences early. · Of Marie de l'Incarnation we read, that at the age of seven Christ appeared to her in a vision;1 and the biographer of Mademoiselle Mance assures us, with admiring grav. ity, that, at the same tender age, she bound herself to God by a vow of perpetual chastity. This singular infant in due time became a woman, of a delicate constitution, and manners graceful yet dignified. Though an earnest devotee, she felt no vocation for the cloister; yet, while still “in the world,” she led the life of a nun. The Jesuit Relations, and the example of Madame de la Peltrie, of whom she had heard, inoculated her with the Canadian enthusiasm, then so prevalent; and, under the pretence of visiting relatives, she made a journey to Paris, to take
1 Casgrain, Vie de Marie de l'Incarnation, 78. 2 Faillon, l'ie de Jlle Vance, i. 3.
counsel of certain priests. Of one thing she was assured: the Divine will called her to Canada, but to what end she neither knew nor asked to know; for she abandoned herself as an atom to be borne to unknown destinies on the breath of God. At Paris, Father St. Jure, a Jesuit, assured her that her vocation to Canada was, past doubt, a call from Heaven, while Father Rapin, a Récollet, spread abroad the fame of her virtues, and introduced her to many ladies of rank, wealth, and zeal. Then, well supplied with money for any pious work to which she might be summoned, she journeyed to Rochelle, whence ships were to sail for New France. Thus far she had been kept in ignorance of the plan with regard to Montreal; but now Father La Place, a Jesuit, revealed it to her. On the day after her arrival at Rochelle, as she entered the Church of the Jesuits, she met Dauversière coming out. “Then,” says her biographer, “these two persons, who had never seen nor heard of each other, were enlightened supernaturally, whereby their most hidden thoughts were mutually made known, as had happened already with M. Olier and this same M. de la Dauversière.” 1 A long conversation ensued between them; and the delights of this interview were never effaced from the mind of Mademoiselle Mance. “She used to speak of it like a seraph,” writes one of her nuns, “and far better than many a learned doctor could have done.” 1
1 Faillon, Vie de M le Mance, i. 18. Here again the Abbé Fer land, with his usual good sense, tacitly rejects the supernat uralism.
She had found her destiny. The ocean, the wil. derness, the solitude, the Iroquois, — nothing daunted her. She would go to Montreal with Maisonneuve and his forty men. Yet when the vessel was about to sail, a new and sharp misgiving seized her. How could she, a woman, not yet bereft of youth or charms, live alone in the forest, among a troop of soldiers ? Her scruples were relieved by two of the men, who at the last moment refused to embark without their wives, — and by a young woman, who, impelled by enthusiasm, escaped from her friends, and took passage, in spite of them, in one of the vessels.
All was ready; the ships set sail; but Olier, Dauversière, and Fancamp remained at home, as did also the other Associates, with the exception of Maisonneuve and Mademoiselle Mance. In the following February, an impressive scene took place in the Church of Notre Dame, at Paris. The Associates, at this time numbering about forty-five, 2 with Olier at their head, assembled before the altar of the Virgin, and, by a solemn ceremonial, consecrated Montreal to the Holy Family. Henceforth it was to be called Villemarie de Montreal, 3 — a sacred town,
1 La Sæur Morin, Annales des Hospitalières de Villemarie, MS. cited by Faillon.
? Dollier de Casson, A.D. 1641-42, MS. Vimont says thirty-five.
8 Vimont, Relation, 1642, 37. Compare Le Clerc, Établissement de la Foy, ii. 49.
reared to the honor and under the patronage of Christ, St. Joseph, and the Virgin, to be typified by three persons on earth, founders respectively of the three destined communities, — Olier, Dauversière, and a maiden of Troyes, Marguerite Bourgeoys: the seminary to be consecrated to Christ, the Hôtel-Dieu to St. Joseph, and the college to the Virgin.
But we are anticipating a little; for it was several years as yet before Marguerite Bourgeoys took an active part in the work of Montreal. She was the daughter of a respectable tradesman, and was now twenty-two years of age. Her portrait has come down to us; and her face is a mirror of frankness, loyalty, and womanly tenderness. Her qualities were those of good sense, conscientiousness, and a warm heart. She had known no miracles, ecstasies, or trances; and though afterwards, when her religious susceptibilities had reached a fuller development, a few such are recorded of her, yet even the Abbé Faillon, with the best intentions, can credit her with but a meagre allowance of these celestial favors.
Though in the midst of visionaries, she distrusted the supernatural, and avowed her belief that in His government of the world God does not often set aside its ordinary laws. Her religion was of the affections, and was manifested in an absorbing devotion to duty. She had felt no vocation to the cloister, but had taken the vow of chastity, and was attached, as an externe, to the Sisters of the Congregation of Troyes, who were fevered with eagerness to go to Canada. Marguerite, however, was content to wait until there was a prospect that she could do good by going; and it was not till the year 1653, that, renouncing an inheritance, and giving all she had to the poor, she embarked for the savage scene of her labors. To this day, in crowded school-rooms of Montreal and Quebec, fit monuments of her unobtrusive virtue, her successors instruct the children of the poor, and embalm the pleasant memory of Marguerite Bourgeoys. In the martial figure of Maisonneuve, and the fair form of this gentle nun, we find the true heroes of Montreal.
Maisonneuve, with his forty men and four women, reached Quebec too late to ascend to Montreal that season. They encountered distrust, jealousy, and opposition. The agents of the Company of the Hundred Associates looked on them askance; and the Governor of Quebec, Montmagny, saw a rival governor in Maisonneuve. Every means was used to persuade the adventurers to abandon their project, and settle at Quebec. Montmagny called a council of the principal persons of his colony, who gave it as their opinion that the new-comers had better exchange Montreal for the Island of Orleans, where they would be in a position to give and receive succor; while, by persisting in their first design, they would expose themselves to destruction, and be of use to nobody.? Maisonneuve, who was present, expressed his surprise
1 For Marguerite Bourgeoys, see her Life by Faillon. ? Juchereau, 32; Faillon, Colonie Française, i. 423.