They hastened to the shore; but the vision of the centenarian sagamore put them all to shame. They could see nothing. At length their doubts were resolved. A small vessel stood on towards them, and anchored before the fort. She was commanded by one Chevalier, a young man from St. Malo, and was freighted with disastrous tidings. Dc Monts's monopoly was rescinded.
Here was a death-blow to all that had remained of De Monts's credit at court; while that unfortunate nobleman, like his old associate, Pontrincourt, was moving with swift strides toward financial ruin. With the revocation of his monopoly, fur-traders had swarmed to the St. Lawrence. Tadoussac was full of them, and for that year the trade was spoiled.
With the coming of spring all began to bestir themselves in various activities, and everything looked hopeful. Alas! a bitter disappointment was at hand. News came from France that Monts's monopoly of the fur-trade had been rescinded.
There were ships at Tadoussac, fast loading with furs; and boats, too, higher up the river, anticipating the trade, and draining De Monts's resources in advance. Champlain, who was left free to fight and explore wherever he should see fit, had provided, to use his own phrase, "two strings to his bow."
The Breton and Basque merchants, who were very hostile to De Monts's monopoly, had succeeded in influencing the government to withdraw its patronage from him and his associates. Soon afterwards the little colony regretfully left Port Royal, which never looked so lovely in their eyes as they passed on to the Bay of Fundy, and saw the whole country in the glory of mid-summer.
The stranger was a fur-trader, pursuing her traffic in defiance, or more probably in ignorance, of De Monts's monopoly. The latter, as empowered by his patent, made prize of ship and cargo, consoling the commander, one Rossignol, by giving his name to the scene of his misfortune. It is now called Liverpool Harbor.
The late king, while deeming it impolitic to continue the monopoly in De Monts's favour, had always countenanced the latter's colonisation schemes in New France; but upon Champlain's arrival he found that with the death of Henry IV De Monts's court influence had ceased, and that his western scheme must stand or fall on its own merits.
De Monts's island was found; and, painfully searching among the sand, the sedge, and the matted whortleberry bushes, the commissioners could trace the foundations of buildings long crumbled into dust; for the wilderness had resumed its sway, and silence and solitude brooded once more over this ancient resting-place of civilization.
The accession of a new sovereign to the French Throne might materially affect De Monts's ability to continue his scheme, and Champlain once more set sail for France to confer with his patron.