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their furs and tobacco for kettles, hatchets, knives, cloth, beads, iron arrow-heads, coats, shirts, and other commodities; on the fifth, they were feasted by the French; and at daybreak of the next morning, they embarked and vanished like a flight of birds.

[ “Comme une volée d’oiseaux.”–Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 190 (Cramoisy). –The tobacco brought to the French by the Hurons may have been raised by the adjacent tribe of the Tionnontates, who cultivated it largely for sale. See Introduction. ]

On the second day, then, the long file of chiefs and warriors mounted the pathway to the fort,–tall, well-moulded figures, robed in the skins of the beaver and the bear, each wild visage glowing with paint and glistening with the oil which the Hurons extracted from the seeds of the sunflower. The lank black hair of one streamed loose upon his shoulders; that of another was close shaven, except an upright ridge, which, bristling like the crest of a dragoon’s helmet, crossed the crown from the forehead to the neck; while that of a third hung, long and flowing from one side, but on the other was cut short. Sixty chiefs and principal men, with a crowd of younger warriors, formed their council- circle in the fort, those of each village grouped together, and all seated on the ground with a gravity of bearing sufficiently curious to those who had seen the same men in the domestic circle of their lodge-fires. Here, too, were the Jesuits, robed in black, anxious and intent; and here was Champlain, who, as he surveyed the throng, recognized among the elder warriors not a few of those who, eighteen years before, had been his companions in arms on his hapless foray against the Iroquois. [ See “Pioneers of France,” 370. ]

Their harangues of compliment being made and answered, and the inevitable presents given and received, Champlain introduced to the silent conclave the three missionaries, Brébeuf, Daniel, and Davost. To their lot had fallen the honors, dangers, and woes of the Huron mission. “These are our fathers,” he said. “We love them more than we love ourselves. The whole French nation honors them. They do not go among you for your furs. They have left their friends and their country to show you the way to heaven. If you love the French, as you say you love them, then love and honor these our fathers.” [ Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 274 (Cramoisy); Mercure Français, 1634. 845. ]

Two chiefs rose to reply, and each lavished all his rhetoric in praises of Champlain and of the French. Brébeuf rose next, and spoke in broken Huron,–the assembly jerking in unison, from the bottom of their throats, repeated ejaculations of applause. Then they surrounded him, and vied with each other for the honor of carrying him in their canoes. In short, the mission was accepted; and the chiefs of the different villages disputed among themselves the privilege of receiving and entertaining the three priests.

On the last of July, the day of the feast of St. Ignatius, Champlain and several masters of trading vessels went to the house of the Jesuits in quest of indulgences; and here they were soon beset by a crowd of curious Indians, who had finished their traffic, and were making a tour of observation. Being excluded from the house, they looked in at the windows of the room which served as a chapel; and Champlain, amused at their exclamations of wonder, gave one of them a piece of citron. The Huron tasted it, and, enraptured, demanded what it was. Champlain replied, laughing, that it was the rind of a French pumpkin. The fame of this delectable production was instantly spread abroad; and, at every window, eager voices and outstretched hands petitioned for a share of the marvellous vegetable. They were at length allowed to enter the chapel, which had lately been decorated with a few hangings, images, and pieces of plate. These unwonted splendors filled them with admiration. They asked if the dove over the altar was the bird that makes the thunder; and, pointing to the images of Loyola and Xavier, inquired if they were _okies_, or spirits: nor was their perplexity much diminished by Brébeuf’s explanation of their true character. Three images of the Virgin next engaged their attention; and, in answer to their questions, they were told that they were the mother of Him who made the world. This greatly amused them, and they demanded if he had three mothers. “Oh!” exclaims the Father Superior, “had we but images of all the holy mysteries of our faith! They are a great assistance, for they speak their own lesson.” [ Relation, 1633, 38. ] The mission was not doomed long to suffer from a dearth of these inestimable auxiliaries.

The eve of departure came. The three priests packed their baggage, and Champlain paid their passage, or, in other words, made presents to the Indians who were to carry them in their canoes. They lodged that night in the storehouse of the fur company, around which the Hurons were encamped; and Le Jeune and De Nouë stayed with them to bid them farewell in the morning. At eleven at night, they were roused by a loud voice in the Indian camp, and saw Le Borgne, the one-eyed chief of Allumette Island, walking round among the huts, haranguing as he went. Brébeuf, listening, caught the import of his words. “We have begged the French captain to spare the life of the Algonquin of the Petite Nation whom he keeps in prison; but he will not listen to us. The prisoner will die. Then his people will revenge him. They will try to kill the three black-robes whom you are about to carry to your country. If you do not defend them, the French will be angry, and charge you with their death. But if you do, then the Algonquins will make war on you, and the river will be closed. If the French captain will not let the prisoner go, then leave the three black-robes where they are; for, if you take them with you, they will bring you to trouble.”

Such was the substance of Le Borgne’s harangue. The anxious priests hastened up to the fort, gained admittance, and roused Champlain from his slumbers. He sent his interpreter with a message to the Hurons, that he wished to speak to them before their departure; and, accordingly, in the morning an Indian crier proclaimed through their camp that none should embark till the next day. Champlain convoked the chiefs, and tried persuasion, promises, and threats; but Le Borgne had been busy among them with his intrigues, and now he declared in the council, that, unless the prisoner were released, the missionaries would be murdered on their way, and war would ensue. The politic savage had two objects in view. On the one hand, he wished to interrupt the direct intercourse between the French and the Hurons; and, on the other, he thought to gain credit and influence with the nation of the prisoner by effecting his release. His first point was won. Champlain would not give up the murderer, knowing those with whom he was dealing too well to take a course which would have proclaimed the killing of a Frenchman a venial offence. The Hurons thereupon refused to carry the missionaries to their country; coupling the refusal with many regrets and many protestations of love, partly, no doubt, sincere,–for the Jesuits had contrived to gain no little favor in their eyes. The council broke up, the Hurons embarked, and the priests returned to their convent.

Here, under the guidance of Brébeuf, they employed themselves, amid their other avocations, in studying the Huron tongue. A year passed, and again the Indian traders descended from their villages. In the meanwhile, grievous calamities had befallen the nation. They had suffered deplorable reverses at the hands of the Iroquois; while a pestilence, similar to that which a few years before had swept off the native populations of New England, had begun its ravages among them. They appeared at Three Rivers–this year the place of trade–in small numbers, and in a miserable state of dejection and alarm. Du Plessis Bochart, commander of the French fleet, called them to a council, harangued them, feasted them, and made them presents; but they refused to take the Jesuits. In private, however, some of them were gained over; then again refused; then, at the eleventh hour, a second time consented. On the eve of embarkation, they once more wavered. All was confusion, doubt, and uncertainty, when Brébeuf bethought him of a vow to St. Joseph. The vow was made. At once, he says, the Indians became tractable; the Fathers embarked, and, amid salvos of cannon from the ships, set forth for the wild scene of their apostleship.

They reckoned the distance at nine hundred miles; but distance was the least repellent feature of this most arduous journey. Barefoot, lest their shoes should injure the frail vessel, each crouched in his canoe, toiling with unpractised hands to propel it. Before him, week after week, he saw the same lank, unkempt hair, the same tawny shoulders, and long, naked arms ceaselessly plying the paddle. The canoes were soon separated; and, for more than a month, the Frenchmen rarely or never met. Brébeuf spoke a little Huron, and could converse with his escort; but Daniel and Davost were doomed to a silence unbroken save by the occasional unintelligible complaints and menaces of the Indians, of whom many were sick with the epidemic, and all were terrified, desponding, and sullen. Their only food was a pittance of Indian corn, crushed between two stones and mixed with water. The toil was extreme. Brébeuf counted thirty-five portages, where the canoes were lifted from the water, and carried on the shoulders of the voyagers around rapids or cataracts. More than fifty times, besides, they were forced to wade in the raging current, pushing up their empty barks, or dragging them with ropes. Brébeuf tried to do his part; but the boulders and sharp rocks wounded his naked feet, and compelled him to desist. He and his companions bore their share of the baggage across the portages, sometimes a distance of several miles. Four trips, at the least, were required to convey the whole. The way was through the dense forest, incumbered with rocks and logs, tangled with roots and underbrush, damp with perpetual shade, and redolent of decayed leaves and mouldering wood. [ 1 ] The Indians themselves were often spent with fatigue. Brébeuf, a man of iron frame and a nature unconquerably resolute, doubted if his strength would sustain him to the journey’s end. He complains that he had no moment to read his breviary, except by the moonlight or the fire, when stretched out to sleep on a bare rock by some savage cataract of the Ottawa, or in a damp nook of the adjacent forest.

[ 1 “Adioustez à ces difficultez, qu’il faut coucher sur la terre nue, ou sur quelque dure roche, faute de trouuer dix ou douze pieds de terre en quarré pour placer vne chetiue cabane; qu’il faut sentir incessamment la puanteur des Sauuages recreus, marcher dans les eaux, dans les fanges, dans l’obscurité et l’embarras des forest, où les piqueures d’vne multitude infinie de mousquilles et cousins vous importunent fort.”– Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 25, 26. ]

All the Jesuits, as well as several of their countrymen who accompanied them, suffered more or less at the hands of their ill-humored conductors. [ 1 ] Davost’s Indian robbed him of a part of his baggage, threw a part into the river, including most of the books and writing-materials of the three priests, and then left him behind, among the Algonquins of Allumette Island. He found means to continue the journey, and at length reached the Huron towns in a lamentable state of bodily prostration. Daniel, too, was deserted, but fortunately found another party who received him into their canoe. A young Frenchman, named Martin, was abandoned among the Nipissings; another, named Baron, on reaching the Huron country, was robbed by his conductors of all he had, except the weapons in his hands. Of these he made good use, compelling the robbers to restore a part of their plunder.

[ 1 “En ce voyage, il nous a fallu tous commencer par ces experiences a porter la Croix que Nostre Seigneur nous presente pour son honneur, et pour le salut de ces pauures Barbares. Certes ie me suis trouué quelquesfois si las, que le corps n’en pouuoit plus. Mais d’ailleurs mon âme ressentoit de tres-grands contentemens, considerant que ie souffrois pour Dieu: nul ne le sçait, s’il ne l’experimente. Tous n’en ont pas esté quittes à si bon marché.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 26.

Three years afterwards, a paper was printed by the Jesuits of Paris, called Instruction pour les Pères de nostre Compagnie qui seront enuoiez aux Hurons, and containing directions for their conduct on this route by the Ottawa. It is highly characteristic, both of the missionaries and of the Indians. Some of the points are, in substance, as follows.–You should love the Indians like brothers, with whom you are to spend the rest of your life.–Never make them wait for you in embarking.–Take a flint and steel to light their pipes and kindle their fire at night; for these little services win their hearts.–Try to eat their sagamite as they cook it, bad and dirty as it is.–Fasten up the skirts of your cassock, that you may not carry water or sand into the canoe.–Wear no shoes or stockings in the canoe; but you may put them on in crossing the portages.–Do not make yourself troublesome, even to a single Indian.–Do not ask them too many questions.–Bear their faults in silence, and appear always cheerful.–Buy fish for them from the tribes you will pass; and for this purpose take with you some awls, beads, knives, and fish-hooks.–Be not ceremonious with the Indians; take at once what they offer you: ceremony offends them.–Be very careful, when in the canoe, that the brim of your hat does not annoy them. Perhaps it would be better to wear your night-cap. There is no such thing as impropriety among Indians.–Remember that it is Christ and his cross that you are seeking; and if you aim at anything else, you will get nothing but affliction for body and mind. ]

Descending French River, and following the lonely shores of the great Georgian Bay, the canoe which carried Brébeuf at length neared its destination, thirty days after leaving Three Rivers. Before him, stretched in savage slumber, lay the forest shore of the Hurons. Did his spirit sink as he approached his dreary home, oppressed with a dark foreboding of what the future should bring forth? There is some reason to think so. Yet it was but the shadow of a moment; for his masculine heart had lost the sense of fear, and his intrepid nature was fired with a zeal before which doubts and uncertainties fled like the mists of the morning. Not the grim enthusiasm of negation, tearing up the weeds of rooted falsehood, or with bold hand felling to the earth the baneful growth of overshadowing abuses: his was the ancient faith uncurtailed, redeemed from the decay of centuries, kindled with a new life, and stimulated to a preternatural growth and fruitfulness.

Brébeuf and his Huron companions having landed, the Indians, throwing the missionary’s baggage on the ground, left him to his own resources; and, without heeding his remonstrances, set forth for their respective villages, some twenty miles distant. Thus abandoned, the priest kneeled, not to implore succor in his perplexity, but to offer thanks to the Providence which had shielded him thus far. Then, rising, he pondered as to what course he should take. He knew the spot well. It was on the borders of the small inlet called Thunder Bay. In the neighboring Huron town of Toanché he had lived three years, preaching and baptizing; [ 1 ] but Toanché had now ceased to exist. Here, Étienne Brulé, Champlain’s adventurous interpreter, had recently been murdered by the inhabitants, who, in excitement and alarm, dreading the consequences of their deed, had deserted the spot, and built, at the distance of a few miles, a new town, called Ihonatiria. [ Concerning Brulé, see “Pioneers of France,” 377-380. ] Brébeuf hid his baggage in the woods, including the vessels for the Mass, more precious than all the rest, and began his search for this new abode. He passed the burnt remains of Toanché, saw the charred poles that had formed the frame of his little chapel of bark, and found, as he thought, the spot where Brulé had fallen. [ 2 ] Evening was near, when, after following, bewildered and anxious, a gloomy forest path, he issued upon a wild clearing, and saw before him the bark roofs of Ihonatiria.

[ 1 From 1626 to 1629. There is no record of the events of this first mission, which was ended with the English occupation of Quebec. Brébeuf had previously spent the winter of 1625-26 among the Algonquins, like Le Jeune in 1633-34.–Lettre du P. Charles Lalemant au T. R. P. Mutio Vitelleschi, 1 Aug., 1626, in Carayon. ]

[ 2 “Ie vis pareillement l’endroit où le pauure Estienne Brulé auoit esté barbarement et traîtreusement assommé; ce qui me fit penser que quelque iour on nous pourroit bien traitter de la sorte, et desirer au moins que ce fust en pourchassant la gloire de N. Seigneur.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 28, 29.–The missionary’s prognostics were but too well founded. ]

A crowd ran out to meet him. “Echom has come again! Echom has come again!” they cried, recognizing in the distance the stately figure, robed in black, that advanced from the border of the forest. They led him to the town, and the whole population swarmed about him. After a short rest, he set out with a number of young Indians in quest of his baggage, returning with it at one o’clock in the morning. There was a certain Awandoay in the village, noted as one of the richest and most hospitable of the Hurons,–a distinction not easily won where hospitality was universal. His house was large, and amply stored with beans and corn; and though his prosperity had excited the jealousy of the villagers, he had recovered their good-will by his generosity. With him Brébeuf made his abode, anxiously waiting, week after week, the arrival of his companions. One by one, they appeared: Daniel, weary and worn; Davost, half dead with famine and fatigue; and their French attendants, each with his tale of hardship and indignity. At length, all were assembled under the roof of the hospitable Indian, and once more the Huron mission was begun.


1634, 1635.



Where should the Fathers make their abode? Their first thought had been to establish themselves at a place called by the French Rochelle, the largest and most important town of the Huron confederacy; but Brébeuf now resolved to remain at Ihonatiria. Here he was well known; and here, too, he flattered himself, seeds of the Faith had been planted, which, with good nurture, would in time yield fruit.

By the ancient Huron custom, when a man or a family wanted a house, the whole village joined in building one. In the present case, not Ihonatiria only, but the neighboring town of Wenrio also, took part in the work,–though not without the expectation of such gifts as the priests had to bestow. Before October, the task was finished. The house was constructed after the Huron model. [ See Introduction. ] It was thirty-six feet long and about twenty feet wide, framed with strong sapling poles planted in the earth to form the sides, with the ends bent into an arch for the roof,–the whole lashed firmly together, braced with cross-poles, and closely covered with overlapping sheets of bark. Without, the structure was strictly Indian; but within, the priests, with the aid of their tools, made innovations which were the astonishment of all the country. They divided their dwelling by transverse partitions into three apartments, each with its wooden door,–a wondrous novelty in the eyes of their visitors. The first served as a hall, an anteroom, and a place of storage for corn, beans, and dried fish. The second–the largest of the three–was at once kitchen, workshop, dining-room, drawing-room, school-room, and bed-chamber. The third was the chapel. Here they made their altar, and here were their images, pictures, and sacred vessels. Their fire was on the ground, in the middle of the second apartment, the smoke escaping by a hole in the roof. At the sides were placed two wide platforms, after the Huron fashion, four feet from the earthen floor. On these were chests in which they kept their clothing and vestments, and beneath them they slept, reclining on sheets of bark, and covered with skins and the garments they wore by day. Rude stools, a hand-mill, a large Indian mortar of wood for crushing corn, and a clock, completed the furniture of the room.

There was no lack of visitors, for the house of the black-robes contained marvels [ 1 ] the fame of which was noised abroad to the uttermost confines of the Huron nation. Chief among them was the clock. The guests would sit in expectant silence by the hour, squatted on the ground, waiting to hear it strike. They thought it was alive, and asked what it ate. As the last stroke sounded, one of the Frenchmen would cry “Stop!”–and, to the admiration of the company, the obedient clock was silent. The mill was another wonder, and they were never tired of turning it. Besides these, there was a prism and a magnet; also a magnifying-glass, wherein a flea was transformed to a frightful monster, and a multiplying lens, which showed them the same object eleven times repeated. “All this,” says Brébeuf, “serves to gain their affection, and make them more docile in respect to the admirable and incomprehensible mysteries of our Faith; for the opinion they have of our genius and capacity makes them believe whatever we tell them.” [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 33. ]

[ 1 “Ils ont pensé qu’elle entendoit, principalement quand, pour rire, quelqu’vn de nos François s’escrioit au dernier coup de marteau, c’est assez sonné, et que tout aussi tost elle se taisoit. Ils l’appellent le Capitaine du iour. Quand elle sonne, ils disent qu’elle parle, et demandent quand ils nous viennent veoir, combien de fois le Capitaine a desia parlé. Ils nous interrogent de son manger. Ils demeurent les heures entieres, et quelquesfois plusieurs, afin de la pouuoir ouyr parler.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 33. ]

“What does the Captain say?” was the frequent question; for by this title of honor they designated the clock.

“When he strikes twelve times, he says, ‘Hang on the kettle’; and when he strikes four times, he says, ‘Get up, and go home.'”

Both interpretations were well remembered. At noon, visitors were never wanting, to share the Fathers’ sagamite; but at the stroke of four, all rose and departed, leaving the missionaries for a time in peace. Now the door was barred, and, gathering around the fire, they discussed the prospects of the mission, compared their several experiences, and took counsel for the future. But the standing topic of their evening talk was the Huron language. Concerning this each had some new discovery to relate, some new suggestion to offer; and in the task of analyzing its construction and deducing its hidden laws, these intelligent and highly cultivated minds found a congenial employment. [ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 17 (Cramoisy). ]

But while zealously laboring to perfect their knowledge of the language, they spared no pains to turn their present acquirements to account. Was man, woman, or child sick or suffering, they were always at hand with assistance and relief,–adding, as they saw opportunity, explanations of Christian doctrine, pictures of Heaven and Hell, and exhortations to embrace the Faith. Their friendly offices did not cease here, but included matters widely different. The Hurons lived in constant fear of the Iroquois. At times the whole village population would fly to the woods for concealment, or take refuge in one of the neighboring fortified towns, on the rumor of an approaching war-party. The Jesuits promised them the aid of the four Frenchmen armed with arquebuses, who had come with them from Three Rivers. They advised the Hurons to make their palisade forts, not, as hitherto, in a circular form, but rectangular, with small flanking towers at the corners for the arquebuse-men. The Indians at once saw the value of the advice, and soon after began to act on it in the case of their great town of Ossossané, or Rochelle. [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 86. ]

At every opportunity, the missionaries gathered together the children of the village at their house. On these occasions, Brébeuf, for greater solemnity, put on a surplice, and the close, angular cap worn by Jesuits in their convents. First he chanted the Pater Noster, translated by Father Daniel into Huron rhymes,–the children chanting in their turn. Next he taught them the sign of the cross; made them repeat the Ave, the Credo, and the Commandments; questioned them as to past instructions; gave them briefly a few new ones; and dismissed them with a present of two or three beads, raisins, or prunes. A great emulation was kindled among this small fry of heathendom. The priests, with amusement and delight, saw them gathered in groups about the village, vying with each other in making the sign of the cross, or in repeating the rhymes they had learned.

At times, the elders of the people, the repositories of its ancient traditions, were induced to assemble at the house of the Jesuits, who explained to them the principal points of their doctrine, and invited them to a discussion. The auditors proved pliant to a fault, responding, “Good,” or “That is true,” to every proposition; but, when urged to adopt the faith which so readily met their approval, they had always the same reply: “It is good for the French; but we are another people, with different customs.” On one occasion, Brébeuf appeared before the chiefs and elders at a solemn national council, described Heaven and Hell with images suited to their comprehension, asked to which they preferred to go after death, and then, in accordance with the invariable Huron custom in affairs of importance, presented a large and valuable belt of wampum, as an invitation to take the path to Paradise. [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 81. For the use of wampum belts, see Introduction. ]

Notwithstanding all their exhortations, the Jesuits, for the present, baptized but few. Indeed, during the first year or more, they baptized no adults except those apparently at the point of death; for, with excellent reason, they feared backsliding and recantation. They found especial pleasure in the baptism of dying infants, rescuing them from the flames of perdition, and changing them, to borrow Le Jeune’s phrase, “from little Indians into little angels.”

[ “Le seiziesme du mesme mois, deux petits Sauvages furent changes en deux petits Anges.”–Relation, 1636, 89 (Cramoisy).

“O mon cher frère, vous pourrois-je expliquer quelle consolation ce m’etoit quand je voyois un pauure baptisé mourir deux heures, une demi journée, une ou deux journées, après son baptesme, particulièrement quand c’etoit un petit enfant!”–Lettre du Père Garnier à son Frère, MS.–This form of benevolence is beyond heretic appreciation.

“La joye qu’on a quand on a baptisé un Sauvage qui se meurt peu apres, & qui s’envole droit au Ciel, pour devenir un Ange, certainement c’est un joye qui surpasse tout ce qu’on se peut imaginer.”–Le Jeune, Relation, 1635, 221 (Cramoisy). ]

The Fathers’ slumbers were brief and broken. Winter was the season of Huron festivity; and, as they lay stretched on their hard couch, suffocating with smoke and tormented by an inevitable multitude of fleas, the thumping of the drum resounded all night long from a neighboring house, mingled with the sound of the tortoise-shell rattle, the stamping of moccasined feet, and the cadence of voices keeping time with the dancers. Again, some ambitious villager would give a feast, and invite all the warriors of the neighboring towns; or some grand wager of gambling, with its attendant drumming, singing, and outcries, filled the night with discord.

But these were light annoyances, compared with the insane rites to cure the sick, prescribed by the “medicine-men,” or ordained by the eccentric inspiration of dreams. In one case, a young sorcerer, by alternate gorging and fasting,–both in the interest of his profession,–joined with excessive exertion in singing to the spirits, contracted a disorder of the brain, which caused him, in mid-winter, to run naked about the village, howling like a wolf. The whole population bestirred itself to effect a cure. The patient had, or pretended to have, a dream, in which the conditions of his recovery were revealed to him. These were equally ridiculous and difficult; but the elders met in council, and all the villagers lent their aid, till every requisition was fulfilled, and the incongruous mass of gifts which the madman’s dream had demanded were all bestowed upon him. This cure failing, a “medicine-feast” was tried; then several dances in succession. As the patient remained as crazy as before, preparations were begun for a grand dance, more potent than all the rest. Brébeuf says, that, except the masquerades of the Carnival among Christians, he never saw a folly equal to it. “Some,” he adds, “had sacks over their heads, with two holes for the eyes. Some were as naked as your hand, with horns or feathers on their heads, their bodies painted white, and their faces black as devils. Others were daubed with red, black, and white. In short, every one decked himself as extravagantly as he could, to dance in this ballet, and contribute something towards the health of the sick man.” [ Relation des Hurons, 1636, 116. ] This remedy also failing, a crowning effort of the medical art was essayed. Brébeuf does not describe it, for fear, as he says, of being tedious; but, for the time, the village was a pandemonium. [ 1 ] This, with other ceremonies, was supposed to be ordered by a certain image like a doll, which a sorcerer placed in his tobacco-pouch, whence it uttered its oracles, at the same time moving as if alive. “Truly,” writes Brébeuf, “here is nonsense enough: but I greatly fear there is something more dark and mysterious in it.”

[ 1 “Suffit pour le present de dire en general, que iamais les Bacchantes forcenées du temps passé ne firent rien de plus furieux en leurs orgyes. C’est icy à s’entretuer, disent-ils, par des sorts qu’ils s’entreiettent, dont la composition est d’ongles d’Ours, de dents de Loup, d’ergots d’Aigles, de certaines pierres et de nerfs de Chien; c’est à rendre du sang par la bouche et par les narines, ou plustost d’vne poudre rouge qu’ils prennent subtilement, estans tombez sous le sort, et blessez; et dix mille autres sottises que ie laisse volontiers.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 117. ]

But all these ceremonies were outdone by the grand festival of the _Ononhara_, or Dream Feast,–esteemed the most powerful remedy in cases of sickness, or when a village was infested with evil spirits. The time and manner of holding it were determined at a solemn council. This scene of madness began at night. Men, women, and children, all pretending to have lost their senses, rushed shrieking and howling from house to house, upsetting everything in their way, throwing firebrands, beating those they met or drenching them with water, and availing themselves of this time of license to take a safe revenge on any who had ever offended them. This scene of frenzy continued till daybreak. No corner of the village was secure from the maniac crew. In the morning there was a change. They ran from house to house, accosting the inmates by name, and demanding of each the satisfaction of some secret want, revealed to the pretended madman in a dream, but of the nature of which he gave no hint whatever. The person addressed thereupon threw to him at random any article at hand, as a hatchet, a kettle, or a pipe; and the applicant continued his rounds till the desired gift was hit upon, when he gave an outcry of delight, echoed by gratulatory cries from all present. If, after all his efforts, he failed in obtaining the object of his dream, he fell into a deep dejection, convinced that some disaster was in store for him.

[ Brébeuf’s account of the Dream Feast is brief. The above particulars are drawn chiefly from Charlevoix, Journal Historique, 356, and Sagard, Voyage du Pays des Hurons, 280. See also Lafitau, and other early writers. This ceremony was not confined to the Hurons, but prevailed also among the Iroquois, and doubtless other kindred tribes. The Jesuit Dablon saw it in perfection at Onondaga. It usually took place in February, occupying about three days, and was often attended with great indecencies. The word ononhara means turning of the brain. ]

The approach of summer brought with it a comparative peace. Many of the villagers dispersed,–some to their fishing, some to expeditions of trade, and some to distant lodges by their detached corn-fields. The priests availed themselves of the respite to engage in those exercises of private devotion which the rule of St. Ignatius enjoins. About midsummer, however, their quiet was suddenly broken. The crops were withering under a severe drought, a calamity which the sandy nature of the soil made doubly serious. The sorcerers put forth their utmost power, and, from the tops of the houses, yelled incessant invocations to the spirits. All was in vain; the pitiless sky was cloudless. There was thunder in the east and thunder in the west; but over Ihonatiria all was serene. A renowned “rain-maker,” seeing his reputation tottering under his repeated failures, bethought him of accusing the Jesuits, and gave out that the red color of the cross which stood before their house scared the bird of thunder, and caused him to fly another way. [ 1 ] On this a clamor arose. The popular ire turned against the priests, and the obnoxious cross was condemned to be hewn down. Aghast at the threatened sacrilege, they attempted to reason away the storm, assuring the crowd that the lightning was not a bird, but certain hot and fiery exhalations, which, being imprisoned, darted this way and that, trying to escape. As this philosophy failed to convince the hearers, the missionaries changed their line of defence.

[ 1 The following is the account of the nature of thunder, given to Brébeuf on a former occasion by another sorcerer.

“It is a man in the form of a turkey-cock. The sky is his palace, and he remains in it when the air is clear. When the clouds begin to grumble, he descends to the earth to gather up snakes, and other objects which the Indians call _okies_. The lightning flashes whenever he opens or closes his wings. If the storm is more violent than usual, it is because his young are with him, and aiding in the noise as well as they can.”–Relation des Hurons, 1636, 114.

The word oki is here used to denote any object endued with supernatural power. A belief similar to the above exists to this day among the Dacotahs. Some of the Hurons and Iroquois, however, held that the thunder was a giant in human form. According to one story, he vomited from time to time a number of snakes, which, falling to the earth, caused the appearance of lightning. ]

“You say that the red color of the cross frightens the bird of thunder. Then paint the cross white, and see if the thunder will come.”

This was accordingly done; but the clouds still kept aloof. The Jesuits followed up their advantage.

“Your spirits cannot help you, and your sorcerers have deceived you with lies. Now ask the aid of Him who made the world, and perhaps He will listen to your prayers.” And they added, that, if the Indians would renounce their sins and obey the true God, they would make a procession daily to implore his favor towards them.

There was no want of promises. The processions were begun, as were also nine masses to St. Joseph; and, as heavy rains occurred soon after, the Indians conceived a high idea of the efficacy of the French “medicine.”

[ “Nous deuons aussi beaucoup au glorieux sainct Ioseph, espoux de Nostre Dame, et protecteur des Hurons, dont nous auons touché au doigt l’assistance plusieurs fois. Ce fut vne chose remarquable, que le iour de sa feste et durant l’Octaue, les commoditez nous venoient de toutes parts.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 41.

The above extract is given as one out of many illustrations of the confidence with which the priests rested on the actual and direct aid of their celestial guardians. To St. Joseph, in particular, they find no words for their gratitude. ]

In spite of the hostility of the sorcerers, and the transient commotion raised by the red cross, the Jesuits had gained the confidence and good-will of the Huron population. Their patience, their kindness, their intrepidity, their manifest disinterestedness, the blamelessness of their lives, and the tact which, in the utmost fervors of their zeal, never failed them, had won the hearts of these wayward savages; and chiefs of distant villages came to urge that they would make their abode with them. [ Brébeuf preserves a speech made to him by one of these chiefs, as a specimen of Huron eloquence.–Relation des Hurons, 1636, 123. ] As yet, the results of the mission had been faint and few; but the priests toiled on courageously, high in hope that an abundant harvest of souls would one day reward their labors.


1636, 1637.



Mention has been made of those great depositories of human bones found at the present day in the ancient country of the Hurons. [ See Introduction. ] They have been a theme of abundant speculation; [ 1 ] yet their origin is a subject, not of conjecture, but of historic certainty. The peculiar rites to which they owe their existence were first described at length by Brébeuf, who, in the summer of the year 1636, saw them at the town of Ossossané.

[ 1 Among those who have wondered and speculated over these remains is Mr. Schoolcraft. A slight acquaintance with the early writers would have solved his doubts. ]

The Jesuits had long been familiar with the ordinary rites of sepulture among the Hurons; the corpse placed in a crouching posture in the midst of the circle of friends and relatives; the long, measured wail of the mourners; the speeches in praise of the dead, and consolation to the living; the funeral feast; the gifts at the place of burial; the funeral games, where the young men of the village contended for prizes; and the long period of mourning to those next of kin. The body was usually laid on a scaffold, or, more rarely, in the earth. This, however, was not its final resting-place. At intervals of ten or twelve years, each of the four nations which composed the Huron Confederacy gathered together its dead, and conveyed them all to a common place of sepulture. Here was celebrated the great “Feast of the Dead,”–in the eyes of the Hurons, their most solemn and important ceremonial.

In the spring of 1636, the chiefs and elders of the Nation of the Bear–the principal nation of the Confederacy, and that to which Ihonatiria belonged–assembled in a general council, to prepare for the great solemnity. There was an unwonted spirit of dissension. Some causes of jealousy had arisen, and three or four of the Bear villages announced their intention of holding their Feast of the Dead apart from the rest. As such a procedure was thought abhorrent to every sense of propriety and duty, the announcement excited an intense feeling; yet Brébeuf, who was present, describes the debate which ensued as perfectly calm, and wholly free from personal abuse or recrimination. The secession, however, took place, and each party withdrew to its villages to gather and prepare its dead.

The corpses were lowered from their scaffolds, and lifted from their graves. Their coverings were removed by certain functionaries appointed for the office, and the hideous relics arranged in a row, surrounded by the weeping, shrieking, howling concourse. The spectacle was frightful. Here were all the village dead of the last twelve years. The priests, connoisseurs in such matters, regarded it as a display of mortality so edifying, that they hastened to summon their French attendants to contemplate and profit by it. Each family reclaimed its own, and immediately addressed itself to removing what remained of flesh from the bones. These, after being tenderly caressed, with tears and lamentations, were wrapped in skins and adorned with pendent robes of fur. In the belief of the mourners, they were sentient and conscious. A soul was thought still to reside in them; [ 1 ] and to this notion, very general among Indians, is in no small degree due that extravagant attachment to the remains of their dead, which may be said to mark the race.

[ 1 In the general belief, the soul took flight after the great ceremony was ended. Many thought that there were two souls, one remaining with the bones, while the other went to the land of spirits. ]

These relics of mortality, together with the recent corpses,–which were allowed to remain entire, but which were also wrapped carefully in furs,–were now carried to one of the largest houses, and hung to the numerous cross-poles, which, like rafters, supported the roof. Here the concourse of mourners seated themselves at a funeral feast; and, as the squaws of the household distributed the food, a chief harangued the assembly, lamenting the loss of the deceased, and extolling their virtues. This solemnity over, the mourners began their march for Ossossané, the scene of the final rite. The bodies remaining entire were borne on a kind of litter, while the bundles of bones were slung at the shoulders of the relatives, like fagots. Thus the procession slowly defiled along the forest pathways, with which the country of the Hurons was everywhere intersected; and as they passed beneath the dull shadow of the pines, they uttered at intervals, in unison, a dreary, wailing cry, designed to imitate the voices of disembodied souls winging their way to the land of spirits, and believed to have an effect peculiarly soothing to the conscious relics which each man bore. When, at night, they stopped to rest at some village on the way, the inhabitants came forth to welcome them with a grave and mournful hospitality.

From every town of the Nation of the Bear,–except the rebellious few that had seceded,–processions like this were converging towards Ossossané. This chief town of the Hurons stood on the eastern margin of Nottawassaga Bay, encompassed with a gloomy wilderness of fir and pine. Thither, on the urgent invitation of the chiefs, the Jesuits repaired. The capacious bark houses were filled to overflowing, and the surrounding woods gleamed with camp-fires: for the processions of mourners were fast arriving, and the throng was swelled by invited guests of other tribes. Funeral games were in progress, the young men and women practising archery and other exercises, for prizes offered by the mourners in the name of their dead relatives. [ Funeral games were not confined to the Hurons and Iroquois: Perrot mentions having seen them among the Ottawas. An illustrated description of them will be found in Lafitau. ] Some of the chiefs conducted Brébeuf and his companions to the place prepared for the ceremony. It was a cleared area in the forest, many acres in extent. In the midst was a pit, about ten feet deep and thirty feet wide. Around it was reared a high and strong scaffolding; and on this were planted numerous upright poles, with cross-poles extended between, for hanging the funeral gifts and the remains of the dead.

Meanwhile there was a long delay. The Jesuits were lodged in a house where more than a hundred of these bundles of mortality were hanging from the rafters. Some were mere shapeless rolls; others were made up into clumsy effigies, adorned with feathers, beads, and belts of dyed porcupine-quills. Amidst this throng of the living and the dead, the priests spent a night which the imagination and the senses conspired to render almost insupportable.

At length the officiating chiefs gave the word to prepare for the ceremony. The relics were taken down, opened for the last time, and the bones caressed and fondled by the women amid paroxysms of lamentation. [ 1 ] Then all the processions were formed anew, and, each bearing its dead, moved towards the area prepared for the last solemn rites. As they reached the ground, they defiled in order, each to a spot assigned to it, on the outer limits of the clearing. Here the bearers of the dead laid their bundles on the ground, while those who carried the funeral gifts outspread and displayed them for the admiration of the beholders. Their number was immense, and their value relatively very great. Among them were many robes of beaver and other rich furs, collected and preserved for years, with a view to this festival. Fires were now lighted, kettles slung, and, around the entire circle of the clearing, the scene was like a fair or caravansary. This continued till three o’clock in the afternoon, when the gifts were repacked, and the bones shouldered afresh. Suddenly, at a signal from the chiefs, the crowd ran forward from every side towards the scaffold, like soldiers to the assault of a town, scaled it by rude ladders with which it was furnished, and hung their relics and their gifts to the forest of poles which surmounted it. Then the ladders were removed; and a number of chiefs, standing on the scaffold, harangued the crowd below, praising the dead, and extolling the gifts, which the relatives of the departed now bestowed, in their names, upon their surviving friends.

[ 1 “I’admiray la tendresse d’vne femme enuers son pere et ses enfans; elle est fille d’vn Capitaine, qui est mort fort âgé, et a esté autrefois fort considerable dans le Païs: elle luy peignoit sa cheuelure, elle manioit ses os les vns apres les autres, auec la mesme affection que si elle luy eust voulu rendre la vie; elle luy mit aupres de luy son Atsatone8ai, c’est à dire son pacquet de buchettes de Conseil, qui sont tous les liures et papiers du Païs. Pour ses petits enfans, elle leur mit des brasselets de Pourcelaine et de rassade aux bras, et baigna leurs os de ses larmes; on ne l’en pouuoit quasi separer, mais on pressoit, et il fallut incontinent partir.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 134. ]

During these harangues, other functionaries were lining the grave throughout with rich robes of beaver-skin. Three large copper kettles were next placed in the middle, [ 1 ] and then ensued a scene of hideous confusion. The bodies which had been left entire were brought to the edge of the grave, flung in, and arranged in order at the bottom by ten or twelve Indians stationed there for the purpose, amid the wildest excitement and the uproar of many hundred mingled voices. [ 2 ] When this part of the work was done, night was fast closing in. The concourse bivouacked around the clearing, and lighted their camp-fires under the brows of the forest which hedged in the scene of the dismal solemnity. Brébeuf and his companions withdrew to the village, where, an hour before dawn, they were roused by a clamor which might have wakened the dead. One of the bundles of bones, tied to a pole on the scaffold, had chanced to fall into the grave. This accident had precipitated the closing act, and perhaps increased its frenzy. Guided by the unearthly din, and the broad glare of flames fed with heaps of fat pine logs, the priests soon reached the spot, and saw what seemed, in their eyes, an image of Hell. All around blazed countless fires, and the air resounded with discordant outcries. [ 3 ] The naked multitude, on, under, and around the scaffold, were flinging the remains of their dead, discharged from their envelopments of skins, pell-mell into the pit, where Brébeuf discerned men who, as the ghastly shower fell around them, arranged the bones in their places with long poles. All was soon over; earth, logs, and stones were cast upon the grave, and the clamor subsided into a funereal chant,–so dreary and lugubrious, that it seemed to the Jesuits the wail of despairing souls from the abyss of perdition. [ 4 ]

[ 1 In some of these graves, recently discovered, five or six large copper kettles have been found, in a position corresponding with the account of Brébeuf. In one, there were no less than twenty-six kettles. ]

[ 2 “Iamais rien ce m’a mieux figuré la confusion qui est parmy les damnez. Vous eussiez veu décharger de tous costez des corps à demy pourris, et de tous costez on entendoit vn horrible tintamarre de voix confuses de personnes qui parloient et ne s’entendoient pas.”–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 135. ]

[ 3 “Approchans, nous vismes tout à fait une image de l’Enfer: cette grande place estoit toute remplie de feux & de flammes, & l’air retentissoit de toutes parts des voix confuses de ces Barbares,” etc.–Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 209 (Cramoisy). ]

[ 4 “Se mirent à chanter, mais d’un ton si lamentable & si lugubre, qu’il nous representoit l’horrible tristesse & l’abysme du desespoir dans lequel sont plongées pour iamais ces âmes malheureuses.”–Ibid., 210.

For other descriptions of these rites, see Charlevoix, Bressani, Du Creux, and especially Lafitau, in whose work they are illustrated with engravings. In one form or another, they were widely prevalent. Bartram found them among the Floridian tribes. Traces of a similar practice have been observed in recent times among the Dacotahs. Remains of places of sepulture, evidently of kindred origin, have been found in Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio. Many have been discovered in several parts of New York, especially near the River Niagara. (See Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of New York.) This was the eastern extremity of the ancient territory of the Neuters. One of these deposits is said to have contained the bones of several thousand individuals. There is a large mound on Tonawanda Island, said by the modern Senecas to be a Neuter burial-place. (See Marshall, Historical Sketches of the Niagara Frontier, 8.) In Canada West, they are found throughout the region once occupied by the Neuters, and are frequent in the Huron district.

Dr. Taché writes to me,–“I have inspected sixteen bone-pits,” (in the Huron country,) “the situation of which is indicated on the little pencil map I send you. They contain from six hundred to twelve hundred skeletons each, of both sexes and all ages, all mixed together purposely. With one exception, these pits also contain pipes of stone or clay, small earthen pots, shells, and wampum wrought of these shells, copper ornaments, beads of glass, and other trinkets. Some pits contained articles of copper of aboriginal Mexican fabric.”

This remarkable fact, together with the frequent occurrence in these graves of large conch-shells, of which wampum was made, and which could have been procured only from the Gulf of Mexico, or some part of the southern coast of the United States, proves the extent of the relations of traffic by which certain articles were passed from tribe to tribe over a vast region. The transmission of pipes from the famous Red Pipe-Stone Quarry of the St. Peter’s to tribes more than a thousand miles distant is an analogous modern instance, though much less remarkable.

The Taché Museum, at the Laval University of Quebec, contains a large collection of remains from these graves. In one instance, the human bones are of a size that may be called gigantic.

In nearly every case, the Huron graves contain articles of use or ornament of European workmanship. From this it may be inferred, that the nation itself, or its practice of inhumation, does not date back to a period long before the arrival of the French.

The Northern Algonquins had also a solemn Feast of the Dead; but it was widely different from that of the Hurons.–See the very curious account of it by Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1642, 94, 95. ]

Such was the origin of one of those strange sepulchres which are the wonder and perplexity of the modern settler in the abandoned forests of the Hurons.

The priests were soon to witness another and a more terrible rite, yet one in which they found a consolation, since it signalized the saving of a soul,–the snatching from perdition of one of that dreaded race, into whose very midst they hoped, with devoted daring, to bear hereafter the cross of salvation. A band of Huron warriors had surprised a small party of Iroquois, killed several, and captured the rest. One of the prisoners was led in triumph to a village where the priests then were. He had suffered greatly; his hands, especially, were frightfully lacerated. Now, however, he was received with every mark of kindness. “Take courage,” said a chief, addressing him; “you are among friends.” The best food was prepared for him, and his captors vied with each other in offices of good-will. [ This pretended kindness in the treatment of a prisoner destined to the torture was not exceptional. The Hurons sometimes even supplied their intended victim with a temporary wife. ] He had been given, according to Indian custom, to a warrior who had lost a near relative in battle, and the captive was supposed to be adopted in place of the slain. His actual doom was, however, not for a moment in doubt. The Huron received him affectionately, and, having seated him in his lodge, addressed him in a tone of extreme kindness. “My nephew, when I heard that you were coming, I was very glad, thinking that you would remain with me to take the place of him I have lost. But now that I see your condition, and your hands crushed and torn so that you will never use them, I change my mind. Therefore take courage, and prepare to die tonight like a brave man.”

The prisoner coolly asked what should be the manner of his death.

“By fire,” was the reply.

“It is well,” returned the Iroquois.

Meanwhile, the sister of the slain Huron, in whose place the prisoner was to have been adopted, brought him a dish of food, and, her eyes flowing with tears, placed it before him with an air of the utmost tenderness; while, at the same time, the warrior brought him a pipe, wiped the sweat from his brow, and fanned him with a fan of feathers.

About noon he gave his farewell feast, after the custom of those who knew themselves to be at the point of death. All were welcome to this strange banquet; and when the company were gathered, the host addressed them in a loud, firm voice: “My brothers, I am about to die. Do your worst to me. I do not fear torture or death.” Some of those present seemed to have visitings of real compassion; and a woman asked the priests if it would be wrong to kill him, and thus save him from the fire.

The Jesuits had from the first lost no opportunity of accosting him; while he, grateful for a genuine kindness amid the cruel hypocrisy that surrounded him, gave them an attentive ear, till at length, satisfied with his answers, they baptized him. His eternal bliss secure, all else was as nothing; and they awaited the issue with some degree of composure.

A crowd had gathered from all the surrounding towns, and after nightfall the presiding chief harangued them, exhorting them to act their parts well in the approaching sacrifice, since they would be looked upon by the Sun and the God of War. [ Areskoui (see Introduction). He was often regarded as identical with the Sun. The semi-sacrificial character of the torture in this case is also shown by the injunction, “que pour ceste nuict on n’allast point folastrer dans les bois.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 114. ] It is needless to dwell on the scene that ensued. It took place in the lodge of the great war chief, Atsan. Eleven fires blazed on the ground, along the middle of this capacious dwelling. The platforms on each side were closely packed with spectators; and, betwixt these and the fires, the younger warriors stood in lines, each bearing lighted pine-knots or rolls of birch-bark. The heat, the smoke, the glare of flames, the wild yells, contorted visages, and furious gestures of these human devils, as their victim, goaded by their torches, bounded through the fires again and again, from end to end of the house, transfixed the priests with horror. But when, as day dawned, the last spark of life had fled, they consoled themselves with the faith that the tortured wretch had found his rest at last in Paradise.

[ Le Mercier’s long and minute account of the torture of this prisoner is too revolting to be dwelt upon. One of the most atrocious features of the scene was the alternation of raillery and ironical compliment which attended it throughout, as well as the pains taken to preserve life and consciousness in the victim as long as possible. Portions of his flesh were afterwards devoured. ]


1636, 1637.



Meanwhile from Old France to New came succors and reinforcements to the missions of the forest. More Jesuits crossed the sea to urge on the work of conversion. These were no stern exiles, seeking on barbarous shores an asylum for a persecuted faith. Rank, wealth, power, and royalty itself, smiled on their enterprise, and bade them God-speed. Yet, withal, a fervor more intense, a self-abnegation more complete, a self-devotion more constant and enduring, will scarcely find its record on the page of human history.

Holy Mother Church, linked in sordid wedlock to governments and thrones, numbered among her servants a host of the worldly and the proud, whose service of God was but the service of themselves,–and many, too, who, in the sophistry of the human heart, thought themselves true soldiers of Heaven, while earthly pride, interest, and passion were the life-springs of their zeal. This mighty Church of Rome, in her imposing march along the high road of history, heralded as infallible and divine, astounds the gazing world with prodigies of contradiction: now the protector of the oppressed, now the right arm of tyrants; now breathing charity and love, now dark with the passions of Hell; now beaming with celestial truth, now masked in hypocrisy and lies; now a virgin, now a harlot; an imperial queen, and a tinselled actress. Clearly, she is of earth, not of heaven; and her transcendently dramatic life is a type of the good and ill, the baseness and nobleness, the foulness and purity, the love and hate, the pride, passion, truth, falsehood, fierceness, and tenderness, that battle in the restless heart of man.

It was her nobler and purer part that gave life to the early missions of New France. That gloomy wilderness, those hordes of savages, had nothing to tempt the ambitious, the proud, the grasping, or the indolent. Obscure toil, solitude, privation, hardship, and death were to be the missionary’s portion. He who set sail for the country of the Hurons left behind him the world and all its prizes. True, he acted under orders,– obedient, like a soldier, to the word of command: but the astute Society of Jesus knew its members, weighed each in the balance, gave each his fitting task; and when the word was passed to embark for New France, it was but the response to a secret longing of the fervent heart. The letters of these priests, departing for the scene of their labors, breathe a spirit of enthusiastic exaltation, which, to a colder nature and a colder faith, may sometimes seem overstrained, but which is in no way disproportionate to the vastness of the effort and the sacrifice demanded of them.

[ The following are passages from letters of missionaries at this time. See “Divers Sentimens,” appended to the Relation of 1635.

“On dit que les premiers qui fondent les Eglises d’ordinaire sont saincts: cette pensée m’attendrit si fort le cœur, que quoy que ie me voye icy fort inutile dans ceste fortunée Nouuelle France, si faut-il que i’auoüe que ie ne me sçaurois defendre d’vne pensée qui me presse le cœur: Cupio impendi, et superimpendi pro vobis, Pauure Nouuelle France, ie desire me sacrifier pour ton bien, et quand il me deuroit couster mille vies, moyennant que ie puisse aider à sauuer vne seule âme, ie seray trop heureux, et ma vie tres bien employée.”

“Ma consolation parmy les Hurons, c’est que tous les iours ie me confesse, et puis ie dis la Messe, comme si ie deuois prendre le Viatique et mourir ce iour là, et ie ne crois pas qu’on puisse mieux viure, ny auec plus de satisfaction et de courage, et mesme de merites, que viure en un lieu, où on pense pouuoir mourir tous les iours, et auoir la deuise de S. Paul, Quotidie morior, fratres, etc. mes freres, ie fais estat de mourir tous les iours.”

“Qui ne void la Nouuelle France que par les yeux de chair et de nature, il n’y void que des bois et des croix; mais qui les considere auec les yeux de la grace et d’vne bonne vocation, il n’y void que Dieu, les vertus et les graces, et on y trouue tant et de si solides consolations, que si ie pouuois acheter la Nouuelle France, en donnant tout le Paradis Terrestre, certainement ie l’acheterois. Mon Dieu, qu’il fait bon estre au lieu où Dieu nous a mis de sa grace! veritablement i’ay trouué icy ce que i’auois esperé, vn cœur selon le cœur de Dieu, qui ne cherche que Dieu.” ]

All turned with longing eyes towards the mission of the Hurons; for here the largest harvest promised to repay their labor, and here hardships and dangers most abounded. Two Jesuits, Pijart and Le Mercier, had been sent thither in 1635; and in midsummer of the next year three more arrived,– Jogues, Chatelain, and Garnier. When, after their long and lonely journey, they reached Ihonatiria one by one, they were received by their brethren with scanty fare indeed, but with a fervor of affectionate welcome which more than made amends; for among these priests, united in a community of faith and enthusiasm, there was far more than the genial comradeship of men joined in a common enterprise of self-devotion and peril. [ 1 ] On their way, they had met Daniel and Davost descending to Quebec, to establish there a seminary of Huron children,–a project long cherished by Brébeuf and his companions.

[ 1 “Ie luy preparay de ce que nous auions, pour le receuoir, mais quel festin! vne poignée de petit poisson sec auec vn peu de farine; i’enuoyay chercher quelques nouueaux espics, que nous luy fismes rostir à la façon du pays; mais il est vray que dans son cœur et à l’entendre, il ne fit iamais meilleure chere. La ioye qui se ressent à ces entreueuës semble estre quelque image du contentement des bien-heureux à leur arriuée dans le Ciel, tant elle est pleine de suauité.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 106. ]

Scarcely had the new-comers arrived, when they were attacked by a contagious fever, which turned their mission-house into a hospital. Jogues, Garnier, and Chatelain fell ill in turn; and two of their domestics also were soon prostrated, though the only one of the number who could hunt fortunately escaped. Those who remained in health attended the sick, and the sufferers vied with each other in efforts often beyond their strength to relieve their companions in misfortune. [ Lettre de Brébeuf au T. R. P. Mutio Vitelleschi, 20 Mai, 1637, in Carayon, 157. Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 120, 123. ] The disease in no case proved fatal; but scarcely had health begun to return to their household, when an unforeseen calamity demanded the exertion of all their energies.

The pestilence, which for two years past had from time to time visited the Huron towns, now returned with tenfold violence, and with it soon appeared a new and fearful scourge,–the small-pox. Terror was universal. The contagion increased as autumn advanced; and when winter came, far from ceasing, as the priests had hoped, its ravages were appalling. The season of Huron festivity was turned to a season of mourning; and such was the despondency and dismay, that suicide became frequent. The Jesuits, singly or in pairs, journeyed in the depth of winter from village to village, ministering to the sick, and seeking to commend their religious teachings by their efforts to relieve bodily distress. Happily, perhaps, for their patients, they had no medicine but a little senna. A few raisins were left, however; and one or two of these, with a spoonful of sweetened water, were always eagerly accepted by the sufferers, who thought them endowed with some mysterious and sovereign efficacy. No house was left unvisited. As the missionary, physician at once to body and soul, entered one of these smoky dens, he saw the inmates, their heads muffled in their robes of skins, seated around the fires in silent dejection. Everywhere was heard the wail of sick and dying children; and on or under the platforms at the sides of the house crouched squalid men and women, in all the stages of the distemper. The Father approached, made inquiries, spoke words of kindness, administered his harmless remedies, or offered a bowl of broth made from game brought in by the Frenchman who hunted for the mission. [ Game was so scarce in the Huron country, that it was greatly prized as a luxury. Le Mercier speaks of an Indian, sixty years of age, who walked twelve miles to taste the wild-fowl killed by the French hunter. The ordinary food was corn, beans, pumpkins, and fish. ] The body cared for, he next addressed himself to the soul. “This life is short, and very miserable. It matters little whether we live or die.” The patient remained silent, or grumbled his dissent. The Jesuit, after enlarging for a time, in broken Huron, on the brevity and nothingness of mortal weal or woe, passed next to the joys of Heaven and the pains of Hell, which he set forth with his best rhetoric. His pictures of infernal fires and torturing devils were readily comprehended, if the listener had consciousness enough to comprehend anything; but with respect to the advantages of the French Paradise, he was slow of conviction. “I wish to go where my relations and ancestors have gone,” was a common reply. “Heaven is a good place for Frenchmen,” said another; “but I wish to be among Indians, for the French will give me nothing to eat when I get there.” [ It was scarcely possible to convince the Indians, that there was but one God for themselves and the whites. The proposition was met by such arguments as this: “If we had been of one father, we should know how to make knives and coats as well as you.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 147. ] Often the patient was stolidly silent; sometimes he was hopelessly perverse and contradictory. Again, Nature triumphed over Grace. “Which will you choose,” demanded the priest of a dying woman, “Heaven or Hell?” “Hell, if my children are there, as you say,” returned the mother. “Do they hunt in Heaven, or make war, or go to feasts?” asked an anxious inquirer. “Oh, no!” replied the Father. “Then,” returned the querist, “I will not go. It is not good to be lazy.” But above all other obstacles was the dread of starvation in the regions of the blest. Nor, when the dying Indian had been induced at last to express a desire for Paradise, was it an easy matter to bring him to a due contrition for his sins; for he would deny with indignation that he had ever committed any. When at length, as sometimes happened, all these difficulties gave way, and the patient had been brought to what seemed to his instructor a fitting frame for baptism, the priest, with contentment at his heart, brought water in a cup or in the hollow of his hand, touched his forehead with the mystic drop, and snatched him from an eternity of woe. But the convert, even after his baptism, did not always manifest a satisfactory spiritual condition. “Why did you baptize that Iroquois?” asked one of the dying neophytes, speaking of the prisoner recently tortured; “he will get to Heaven before us, and, when he sees us coming, he will drive us out.” [ Most of the above traits are drawn from Le Mercier’s report of 1637. The rest are from Brébeuf. ]

Thus did these worthy priests, too conscientious to let these unfortunates die in peace, follow them with benevolent persecutions to the hour of their death.

It was clear to the Fathers, that their ministrations were valued solely because their religion was supposed by many to be a “medicine,” or charm, efficacious against famine, disease, and death. They themselves, indeed, firmly believed that saints and angels were always at hand with temporal succors for the faithful. At their intercession, St. Joseph had interposed to procure a happy delivery to a squaw in protracted pains of childbirth; [ Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 89. Another woman was delivered on touching a relic of St. Ignatius. Ibid., 90. ] and they never doubted, that, in the hour of need, the celestial powers would confound the unbeliever with intervention direct and manifest. At the town of Wenrio, the people, after trying in vain all the feasts, dances, and preposterous ceremonies by which their medicine-men sought to stop the pest, resolved to essay the “medicine” of the French, and, to that end, called the priests to a council. “What must we do, that your God may take pity on us?” Brébeuf’s answer was uncompromising:–

“Believe in Him; keep His commandments; abjure your faith in dreams; take but one wife, and be true to her; give up your superstitious feasts; renounce your assemblies of debauchery; eat no human flesh; never give feasts to demons; and make a vow, that, if God will deliver you from this pest, you will build a chapel to offer Him thanksgiving and praise.” [ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 114, 116 (Cramoisy). ]

The terms were too hard. They would fain bargain to be let off with building the chapel alone; but Brébeuf would bate them nothing, and the council broke up in despair.

At Ossossané, a few miles distant, the people, in a frenzy of terror, accepted the conditions, and promised to renounce their superstitions and reform their manners. It was a labor of Hercules, a cleansing of Augean stables; but the scared savages were ready to make any promise that might stay the pestilence. One of their principal sorcerers proclaimed in a loud voice through the streets of the town, that the God of the French was their master, and that thenceforth all must live according to His will. “What consolation,” exclaims Le Mercier, “to see God glorified by the lips of an imp of Satan!” [ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 127, 128 (Cramoisy). ]

Their joy was short. The proclamation was on the twelfth of December. On the twenty-first, a noted sorcerer came to Ossossané. He was of a dwarfish, hump-backed figure,–most rare among this symmetrical people,–with a vicious face, and a dress consisting of a torn and shabby robe of beaver-skin. Scarcely had he arrived, when, with ten or twelve other savages, he ensconced himself in a kennel of bark made for the occasion. In the midst were placed several stones, heated red-hot. On these the sorcerer threw tobacco, producing a stifling fumigation; in the midst of which, for a full half-hour, he sang, at the top of his throat, those boastful, yet meaningless, rhapsodies of which Indian magical songs are composed. Then came a grand “medicine-feast”; and the disappointed Jesuits saw plainly that the objects of their spiritual care, unwilling to throw away any chance of cure, were bent on invoking aid from God and the Devil at once.

The hump-backed sorcerer became a thorn in the side of the Fathers, who more than half believed his own account of his origin. He was, he said, not a man, but an _oki_,–a spirit, or, as the priests rendered it, a demon,–and had dwelt with other _okies_ under the earth, when the whim seized him to become a man. Therefore he ascended to the upper world, in company with a female spirit. They hid beside a path, and, when they saw a woman passing, they entered her womb. After a time they were born, but not until the male oki had quarrelled with and strangled his female companion, who came dead into the world. [ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 72 (Cramoisy). This “petit sorcier” is often mentioned elsewhere. ] The character of the sorcerer seems to have comported reasonably well with this story of his origin. He pretended to have an absolute control over the pestilence, and his prescriptions were scrupulously followed.

He had several conspicuous rivals, besides a host of humbler competitors. One of these magician-doctors, who was nearly blind, made for himself a kennel at the end of his house, where he fasted for seven days. [ See Introduction. ] On the sixth day the spirits appeared, and, among other revelations, told him that the disease could be frightened away by means of images of straw, like scarecrows, placed on the tops of the houses. Within forty-eight hours after this announcement, the roofs of Onnentisati and the neighboring villages were covered with an army of these effigies. The Indians tried to persuade the Jesuits to put them on the mission-house; but the priests replied, that the cross before their door was a better protector; and, for further security, they set another on their roof, declaring that they would rely on it to save them from infection. [ “Qu’en vertu de ce signe nous ne redoutions point les demons, et esperions que Dieu preserueroit nostre petite maison de cette maladie contagieuse.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 150. ] The Indians, on their part, anxious that their scarecrows should do their office well, addressed them in loud harangues and burned offerings of tobacco to them. [ Ibid., 157. ]

There was another sorcerer, whose medical practice was so extensive, that, unable to attend to all his patients, he sent substitutes to the surrounding towns, first imparting to them his own mysterious power. One of these deputies came to Ossossané while the priests were there. The principal house was thronged with expectant savages, anxiously waiting his arrival. A chief carried before him a kettle of mystic water, with which the envoy sprinkled the company, [ 1 ] at the same time fanning them with the wing of a wild turkey. Then came a grand medicine-feast, followed by a medicine-dance of women.

[ 1 The idea seems to have been taken from the holy water of the French. Le Mercier says that a Huron who had been to Quebec once asked him the use of the vase of water at the door of the chapel. The priest told him that it was “to frighten away the devils”. On this, he begged earnestly to have some of it. ]

Opinion was divided as to the nature of the pest; but the greater number were agreed that it was a malignant oki, who came from Lake Huron. [ 1 ] As it was of the last moment to conciliate or frighten him, no means to these ends were neglected. Feasts were held for him, at which, to do him honor, each guest gorged himself like a vulture. A mystic fraternity danced with firebrands in their mouths; while other dancers wore masks, and pretended to be hump-backed. Tobacco was burned to the Demon of the Pest, no less than to the scarecrows which were to frighten him. A chief climbed to the roof of a house, and shouted to the invisible monster, “If you want flesh, go to our enemies, go to the Iroquois!”–while, to add terror to persuasion, the crowd in the dwelling below yelled with all the force of their lungs, and beat furiously with sticks on the walls of bark.

[ 1 Many believed that the country was bewitched by wicked sorcerers, one of whom, it was said, had been seen at night roaming around the villages, vomiting fire. (Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 134.) This superstition of sorcerers vomiting fire was common among the Iroquois of New York.–Others held that a sister of Étienne Brulé caused the evil, in revenge for the death of her brother, murdered some years before. She was said to have been seen flying over the country, breathing forth pestilence. ]

Besides these public efforts to stay the pestilence, the sufferers, each for himself, had their own methods of cure, dictated by dreams or prescribed by established usage. Thus two of the priests, entering a house, saw a sick man crouched in a corner, while near him sat three friends. Before each of these was placed a huge portion of food,–enough, the witness declares, for four,–and though all were gorged to suffocation, with starting eyeballs and distended veins, they still held staunchly to their task, resolved at all costs to devour the whole, in order to cure the patient, who meanwhile ceased not in feeble tones, to praise their exertions, and implore them to persevere.

[ “En fin il leur fallut rendre gorge, ce qu’ils firent à diuerses reprises, ne laissants pas pour cela de continuer à vuider leur plat.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 142.–This beastly superstition exists in some tribes at the present day. A kindred superstition once fell under the writer’s notice, in the case of a wounded Indian, who begged of every one he met to drink a large bowl of water, in order that he, the Indian, might be cured. ]

Turning from these eccentricities of the “noble savage” [ 1 ] to the zealots who were toiling, according to their light, to snatch him from the clutch of Satan, we see the irrepressible Jesuits roaming from town to town in restless quest of subjects for baptism. In the case of adults, they thought some little preparation essential; but their efforts to this end, even with the aid of St. Joseph, whom they constantly invoked, [ 2 ] were not always successful; and, cheaply as they offered salvation, they sometimes railed to find a purchaser. With infants, however, a simple drop of water sufficed for the transfer from a prospective Hell to an assured Paradise. The Indians, who at first had sought baptism as a cure, now began to regard it as a cause of death; and when the priest entered a lodge where a sick child lay in extremity, the scowling parents watched him with jealous distrust, lest unawares the deadly drop should be applied. The Jesuits were equal to the emergency. Father Le Mercier will best tell his own story.

[ 1 In the midst of these absurdities we find recorded one of the best traits of the Indian character. At Ihonatiria, a house occupied by a family of orphan children was burned to the ground, leaving the inmates destitute. The villagers united to aid them. Each contributed something, and they were soon better provided for than before. ]

[ 2 “C’est nostre refuge ordinaire en semblables necessitez, et d’ordinaire auec tels succez, que nous auons sujet d’en benir Dieu à iamais, qui nous fait cognoistre en cette barbarie le credit de ce S. Patriarche aupres de son infinie misericorde.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 153.–In the case of a woman at Onnentisati, “Dieu nous inspira de luy vouër quelques Messes en l’honneur de S. Joseph.” The effect was prompt. In half an hour the woman was ready for baptism. On the same page we have another subject secured to Heaven, “sans doute par les merites du glorieux Patriarche S. Joseph.” ]

“On the third of May, Father Pierre Pijart baptized at Anonatea a little child two months old, in manifest danger of death, without being seen by the parents, who would not give their consent. This is the device which he used. Our sugar does wonders for us. He pretended to make the child drink a little sugared water, and at the same time dipped a finger in it. As the father of the infant began to suspect something, and called out to him not to baptize it, he gave the spoon to a woman who was near, and said to her, ‘Give it to him yourself.’ She approached and found the child asleep; and at the same time Father Pijart, under pretence of seeing if he was really asleep touched his face with his wet finger, and baptized him. At the end of forty-eight hours he went to Heaven.

“Some days before, the missionary had used the same device (_industrie_) for baptizing a little boy six or seven years old. His father, who was very sick, had several times refused to receive baptism; and when asked if he would not be glad to have his son baptized, he had answered, No. ‘At least,’ said Father Pijart, ‘you will not object to my giving him a little sugar.’ ‘No; but you must not baptize him.’ The missionary gave it to him once; then again; and at the third spoonful, before he had put the sugar into the water, he let a drop of it fall on the child, at the same time pronouncing the sacramental words. A little girl, who was looking at him, cried out, ‘Father, he is baptizing him!’ The child’s father was much disturbed; but the missionary said to him, ‘Did you not see that I was giving him sugar?’ The child died soon after; but God showed His grace to the father, who is now in perfect health.”

[ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 165. Various other cases of the kind are mentioned in the Relations. ]

That equivocal morality, lashed by the withering satire of Pascal,–a morality built on the doctrine that all means are permissible for saving souls from perdition, and that sin itself is no sin when its object is the “greater glory of God,”–found far less scope in the rude wilderness of the Hurons than among the interests, ambitions, and passions of civilized life. Nor were these men, chosen from the purest of their Order, personally well fitted to illustrate the capabilities of this elastic system. Yet now and then, by the light of their own writings, we may observe that the teachings of the school of Loyola had not been wholly without effect in the formation of their ethics.

But when we see them, in the gloomy February of 1637, and the gloomier months that followed, toiling on foot from one infected town to another, wading through the sodden snow, under the bare and dripping forests, drenched with incessant rains, till they descried at length through the storm the clustered dwellings of some barbarous hamlet,–when we see them entering, one after another, these wretched abodes of misery and darkness, and all for one sole end, the baptism of the sick and dying, we may smile at the futility of the object, but we must needs admire the self- sacrificing zeal with which it was pursued.





Before pursuing farther these obscure, but noteworthy, scenes in the drama of human history, it will be well to indicate, so far as there are means of doing so, the distinctive traits of some of the chief actors. Mention has often been made of Brébeuf,–that masculine apostle of the Faith,–the Ajax of the mission. Nature had given him all the passions of a vigorous manhood, and religion had crushed them, curbed them, or tamed them to do her work,–like a dammed-up torrent, sluiced and guided to grind and saw and weave for the good of man. Beside him, in strange contrast, stands his co-laborer, Charles Garnier. Both were of noble birth and gentle nurture; but here the parallel ends. Garnier’s face was beardless, though he was above thirty years old. For this he was laughed at by his friends in Paris, but admired by the Indians, who thought him handsome. [ “C’est pourquoi j’ai bien gagne quitter la France, où vous me fesiez la guerre de n’avoir point de barbe; car c’est ce qui me fait estimes beau des Sauvages.”–Lettres de Garnier, MSS. ] His constitution, bodily or mental, was by no means robust. From boyhood, he had shown a delicate and sensitive nature, a tender conscience, and a proneness to religious emotion. He had never gone with his schoolmates to inns and other places of amusement, but kept his pocket-money to give to beggars. One of his brothers relates of him, that, seeing an obscene book, he bought and destroyed it, lest other boys should be injured by it. He had always wished to be a Jesuit, and, after a novitiate which is described as most edifying, he became a professed member of the Order. The Church, indeed, absorbed the greater part, if not the whole, of this pious family,–one brother being a Carmelite, another a Capuchin, and a third a Jesuit, while there seems also to have been a fourth under vows. Of Charles Garnier there remain twenty-four letters, written at various times to his father and two of his brothers, chiefly during his missionary life among the Hurons. They breathe the deepest and most intense Roman Catholic piety, and a spirit enthusiastic, yet sad, as of one renouncing all the hopes and prizes of the world, and living for Heaven alone. The affections of his sensitive nature, severed from earthly objects, found relief in an ardent adoration of the Virgin Mary. With none of the bone and sinew of rugged manhood, he entered, not only without hesitation, but with eagerness, on a life which would have tried the boldest; and, sustained by the spirit within him, he was more than equal to it. His fellow-missionaries thought him a saint; and had he lived a century or two earlier, he would perhaps have been canonized: yet, while all his life was a willing martyrdom, one can discern, amid his admirable virtues, some slight lingerings of mortal vanity. Thus, in three several letters, he speaks of his great success in baptizing, and plainly intimates that he had sent more souls to Heaven than the other Jesuits.

[ The above sketch of Garnier is drawn from various sources. Observations du P. Henri de St. Joseph, Carme, sur son Frère le P. Charles Garnier, MS.–Abrégé de la Vie du R. Père Charles Garnier, MS. This unpublished sketch bears the signature of the Jesuit Ragueneau, with the date 1652. For the opportunity of consulting it I am indebted to Rev. Felix Martin, S. J.–Lettres du P. Charles Garnier, MSS. These embrace his correspondence from the Huron country, and are exceedingly characteristic and striking. There is another letter in Carayon, Première Mission.–Garnier’s family was wealthy, as well as noble. Its members seem to have been strongly attached to each other, and the young priest’s father was greatly distressed at his departure for Canada. ]

Next appears a young man of about twenty-seven years, Joseph Marie Chaumonot. Unlike Brébeuf and Garnier, he was of humble origin,–his father being a vine-dresser, and his mother the daughter of a poor village schoolmaster. At an early age they sent him to Châtillon on the Seine, where he lived with his uncle, a priest, who taught him to speak Latin, and awakened his religious susceptibilities, which were naturally strong. This did not prevent him from yielding to the persuasions of one of his companions to run off to Beaune, a town of Burgundy, where the fugitives proposed to study music under the Fathers of the Oratory. To provide funds for the journey, he stole a sum of about the value of a dollar from his uncle, the priest. This act, which seems to have been a mere peccadillo of boyish levity, determined his future career. Finding himself in total destitution at Beaune, he wrote to his mother for money, and received in reply an order from his father to come home. Stung with the thought of being posted as a thief in his native village, he resolved not to do so, but to set out forthwith on a pilgrimage to Rome; and accordingly, tattered and penniless, he took the road for the sacred city. Soon a conflict began within him between his misery and the pride which forbade him to beg. The pride was forced to succumb. He begged from door to door; slept under sheds by the wayside, or in haystacks; and now and then found lodging and a meal at a convent. Thus, sometimes alone, sometimes with vagabonds whom he met on the road, he made his way through Savoy and Lombardy in a pitiable condition of destitution, filth, and disease. At length he reached Ancona, when the thought occured to him of visiting the Holy House of Loretto, and imploring the succor of the Virgin Mary. Nor were his hopes disappointed. He had reached that renowned shrine, knelt, paid his devotions, and offered his prayer, when, as he issued from the door of the chapel, he was accosted by a young man, whom he conjectures to have been an angel descended to his relief, and who was probably some penitent or devotee bent on works of charity or self-mortification. With a voice of the greatest kindness, he proffered his aid to the wretched boy, whose appearance was alike fitted to awaken pity and disgust. The conquering of a natural repugnance to filth, in the interest of charity and humility, is a conspicuous virtue in most of the Roman Catholic saints; and whatever merit may attach to it was acquired in an extraordinary degree by the young man in question. Apparently, he was a physician; for he not only restored the miserable wanderer to a condition of comparative decency, but cured him of a grievous malady, the result of neglect. Chaumonot went on his way, thankful to his benefactor, and overflowing with an enthusiasm of gratitude to Our Lady of Loretto.

[ “Si la moindre dame m’avoit fait rendre ce service par le dernier de ses valets, n’aurois-je pas dus lui en rendre toutes les reconnoissances possibles? Et si après une telle charité elle s’étoit offerte à me servir toujours de mesme, comment aurois-je dû l’honorer, lui obéir, l’aimer toute ma vie! Pardon, Reine des Anges et des hommes! pardon de ce qu’après avoir reçu de vous tant de marques, par lesquelles vous m’avez convaincu que vous m’avez adopté pour votre fils, j’ai eu l’ingratitude pendant des années entières de me comporter encore plutôt en esclave de Satan qu’en enfant d’une Mère Vierge. O que vous êtes bonne et charitable! puisque quelques obstacles que mes péchés ayent pu mettre à vos graces, vous n’avez jamais cessé de m’attirer au bien; jusque là que vous m’avez fait admettre dans la Sainte Compagnie de Jésus, votre fils.”–Chaumonot, Vie, 20. The above is from the very curious autobiography written by Chaumonot, at the command of his Superior, in 1688. The original manuscript is at the Hôtel Dieu of Quebec. Mr. Shea has printed it. ]

As he journeyed towards Rome, an old burgher, at whose door he had begged, employed him as a servant. He soon became known to a Jesuit, to whom he had confessed himself in Latin; and as his acquirements were considerable for his years, he was eventually employed as teacher of a low class in one of the Jesuit schools. Nature had inclined him to a life of devotion. He would fain be a hermit, and, to that end, practised eating green ears of wheat; but, finding he could not swallow them, conceived that he had mistaken his vocation. Then a strong desire grew up within him to become a Récollet, a Capuchin, or, above all, a Jesuit; and at length the wish of his heart was answered. At the age of twenty-one, he was admitted to the Jesuit novitiate. [ 1 ] Soon after its close, a small duodecimo volume was placed in his hands. It was a Relation of the Canadian mission, and contained one of those narratives of Brébeuf which have been often cited in the preceding pages. Its effect was immediate. Burning to share those glorious toils, the young priest asked to be sent to Canada; and his request was granted.

[ 1 His age, when he left his uncle, the priest, is not mentioned. But he must have been a mere child; for, at the end of his novitiate, he had forgotten his native language, and was forced to learn it a second time.

“Jamais y eut-il homme sur terre plus obligé que moi à la Sainte Famille de Jésus, de Marie et de Joseph! Marie en me guérissant de ma vilaine galle ou teigne, me délivra d’une infinité de peines et d’incommodités corporelles, que cette hideuse maladie qui me rongeoit m’avoit causé. Joseph m’ayant obtenu la grace d’être incorporé à un corps aussi saint qu’est celui des Jésuites, m’a preservé d’une infinité de misères spirituelles, de tentations très dangereuses et de péchés très énormes. Jésus n’ayant pas permis que j’entrasse dans aucun autre ordre qu’en celui qu’il honore tout à la fois de son beau nom, de sa douce présence et de sa protection spéciale. O Jésus! O Marie! O Joseph! qui méritoit moins que moi vos divines faveurs, et envers qui avez vous été plus prodigue?”–Chaumonot, Vie, 37. ]

Before embarking, he set out with the Jesuit Poncet, who was also destined for Canada, on a pilgrimage from Rome to the shrine of Our Lady of Loretto. They journeyed on foot, begging alms by the way. Chaumonot was soon seized with a pain in the knee, so violent that it seemed impossible to proceed. At San Severino, where they lodged with the Barnabites, he bethought him of asking the intercession of a certain poor woman of that place, who had died some time before with the reputation of sanctity. Accordingly he addressed to her his prayer, promising to publish her fame on every possible occasion, if she would obtain his cure from God. [ “Je me recommandai à elle en lui promettant de la faire connoître dans toutes les occasions que j’en aurois jamais, si elle vn’obtenoit de Dieu ma guérison.”–Chaumonot, Vie, 46. ] The intercession was accepted; the offending limb became sound again, and the two pilgrims pursued their journey. They reached Loretto, and, kneeling before the Queen of Heaven, implored her favor and aid; while Chaumonot, overflowing with devotion to this celestial mistress of his heart, conceived the purpose of building in Canada a chapel to her honor, after the exact model of the Holy House of Loretto. They soon afterwards embarked together, and arrived among the Hurons early in the autumn of 1639.

Noël Chabanel came later to the mission; for he did not reach the Huron country until 1643. He detested the Indian life,–the smoke, the vermin, the filthy food, the impossibility of privacy. He could not study by the smoky lodge-fire, among the noisy crowd of men and squaws, with their dogs, and their restless, screeching children. He had a natural inaptitude to learning the language, and labored at it for five years with scarcely a sign of progress. The Devil whispered a suggestion into his ear: Let him procure his release from these barren and revolting toils, and return to France, where congenial and useful employments awaited him. Chabanel refused to listen; and when the temptation still beset him, he bound himself by a solemn vow to remain in Canada to the day of his death. [ Abrégé de la Vie du Père Noël Chabanel, MS. This anonymous paper bears the signature of Ragueneau, in attestation of its truth. See also Ragueneau, Relation, 1650, 17, 18. Chabanel’s vow is here given verbatim. ]

Isaac Jogues was of a character not unlike Garnier. Nature had given him no especial force of intellect or constitutional energy, yet the man was indomitable and irrepressible, as his history will show. We have but few means of characterizing the remaining priests of the mission otherwise than as their traits appear on the field of their labors. Theirs was no faith of abstractions and generalities. For them, heaven was very near to earth, touching and mingling with it at many points. On high, God the Father sat enthroned: and, nearer to human sympathies, Divinity incarnate in the Son, with the benign form of his immaculate mother, and her spouse, St. Joseph, the chosen patron of New France. Interceding saints and departed friends bore to the throne of grace the petitions of those yet lingering in mortal bondage, and formed an ascending chain from earth to heaven.

These priests lived in an atmosphere of supernaturalism. Every day had its miracle. Divine power declared itself in action immediate and direct, controlling, guiding, or reversing the laws of Nature. The missionaries did not reject the ordinary cures for disease or wounds; but they relied far more on a prayer to the Virgin, a vow to St. Joseph, or the promise of a _neuvaine_, or nine days’ devotion, to some other celestial personage; while the touch of a fragment of a tooth or bone of some departed saint was of sovereign efficacy to cure sickness, solace pain, or relieve a suffering squaw in the throes of childbirth. Once, Chaumonot, having a headache, remembered to have heard of a sick man who regained his health by commending his case to St. Ignatius, and at the same time putting a medal stamped with his image into his mouth. Accordingly he tried a similar experiment, putting into his mouth a medal bearing a representation of the Holy Family, which was the object of his especial devotion. The next morning found him cured. [ Chaumonot, Vie, 73. ]

The relation between this world and the next was sometimes of a nature curiously intimate. Thus, when Chaumonot heard of Garnier’s death, he immediately addressed his departed colleague, and promised him the benefit of all the good works which he, Chaumonot, might perform during the next week, provided the defunct missionary would make him heir to his knowledge of the Huron tongue. [ 1 ] And he ascribed to the deceased Garnier’s influence the mastery of that language which he afterwards acquired.

[ 1 “Je n’eus pas plutôt appris sa glorieuse mort, que je lui promis tout ce que je ferois de bien pendant huit jours, à condition qu’il me feroit son héritier dans la connoissance parfaite qu’il avoit du Huron.”–Chaumonot, Vie, 61. ]

The efforts of the missionaries for the conversion of the savages were powerfully seconded from the other world, and the refractory subject who was deaf to human persuasions softened before the superhuman agencies which the priest invoked to his aid.

[ As these may be supposed to be exploded ideas of the past, the writer may recall an incident of his youth, while spending a few days in the convent of the Passionists, near the Coliseum at Rome. These worthy monks, after using a variety of arguments for his conversion, expressed the hope that a miraculous interposition would be vouchsafed to that end, and that the Virgin would manifest herself to him in a nocturnal vision. To this end they gave him a small brass medal, stamped with her image, to be worn at his neck, while they were to repeat a certain number of Aves and Paters, in which he was urgently invited to join; as the result of which, it was hoped the Virgin would appear on the same night. No vision, however, occurred. ]

It is scarcely necessary to add, that signs and voices from another world, visitations from Hell and visions from Heaven, were incidents of no rare occurrence in the lives of these ardent apostles. To Brébeuf, whose deep nature, like a furnace white hot, glowed with the still intensity of his enthusiasm, they were especially frequent. Demons in troops appeared before him, sometimes in the guise of men, sometimes as bears, wolves, or wildcats. He called on God, and the apparitions vanished. Death, like a skeleton, sometimes menaced him, and once, as he faced it with an unquailing eye, it fell powerless at his feet. A demon, in the form of a woman, assailed him with the temptation which beset St. Benedict among the rocks of Subiaco; but Brébeuf signed the cross, and the infernal siren melted into air. He saw the vision of a vast and gorgeous palace; and a miraculous voice assured him that such was to be the reward of those who dwelt in savage hovels for the cause of God. Angels appeared to him; and, more than once, St. Joseph and the Virgin were visibly present before his sight. Once, when he was among the Neutral Nation, in the winter of 1640, he beheld the ominous apparition of a great cross slowly approaching from the quarter where lay the country of the Iroquois. He told the vision to his comrades. “What was it like? How large was it?” they eagerly demanded. “Large enough,” replied the priest, “to crucify us all.” [ 1 ] To explain such phenomena is the province of psychology, and not of history. Their occurrence is no matter of surprise, and it would be superfluous to doubt that they were recounted in good faith, and with a full belief in their reality.

[ 1 Quelques Remarques sur la Vie du Père Jean de Brébeuf, MS. On the margin of this paper, opposite several of the statements repeated above, are the words, signed by Ragueneau, “Ex ipsius autographo,” indicating that the statements were made in writing by Brébeuf himself.

Still other visions are recorded by Chaumonot as occurring to Brébeuf, when they were together in the Neutral country. See also the long notice of Brébeuf, written by his colleague, Ragueneau, in the Relation of 1649; and Tanner, Societas Jesu Militans, 533. ]

In these enthusiasts we shall find striking examples of one of the morbid forces of human nature; yet in candor let us do honor to what was genuine in them,–that principle of self-abnegation which is the life of true religion, and which is vital no less to the highest forms of heroism.





The town of Ossossané, or Rochelle, stood, as we have seen, on the borders of Lake Huron, at the skirts of a gloomy wilderness of pine. Thither, in May, 1637, repaired Father Pijart, to found, in this, one of the largest of the Huron towns, the new mission of the Immaculate Conception. [ The doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, recently sanctioned by the Pope, has long been a favorite tenet of the Jesuits. ] The Indians had promised Brébeuf to build a house for the black-robes, and Pijart found the work in progress. There were at this time about fifty dwellings in the town, each containing eight or ten families. The quadrangular fort already alluded to had now been completed by the Indians, under the instruction of the priests. [ Lettres de Garnier, MSS. It was of upright pickets, ten feet high with flanking towers at two angles. ]

The new mission-house was about seventy feet in length. No sooner had the savage workmen secured the bark covering on its top and sides than the priests took possession, and began their preparations for a notable ceremony. At the farther end they made an altar, and hung such decorations as they had on the rough walls of bark throughout half the length of the structure. This formed their chapel. On the altar was a crucifix, with vessels and ornaments of shining metal; while above hung several pictures,–among them a painting of Christ, and another of the Virgin, both of life-size. There was also a representation of the Last Judgment, wherein dragons and serpents might be seen feasting on the entrails of the wicked, while demons scourged them into the flames of Hell. The entrance was adorned with a quantity of tinsel, together with green boughs skilfully disposed.

[ “Nostre Chapelle estoit extraordinairement bien ornée, . . nous auions dressé vn portique entortillé de feüillage, meslé d’oripeau, en vn mot nous auions estallé tout ce que vostre R. nous a enuoié de beau,” etc., etc.–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 175, 176.–In his Relation of the next year he recurs to the subject, and describes the pictures displayed on this memorable occasion.–Relation des Hurons, 1638, 33. ]

Never before were such splendors seen in the land of the Hurons. Crowds gathered from afar, and gazed in awe and admiration at the marvels of the sanctuary. A woman came from a distant town to behold it, and, tremulous between curiosity and fear, thrust her head into the mysterious recess, declaring that she would see it, though the look should cost her life. [ Ibid., 1637, 176. ]

One is forced to wonder at, if not to admire, the energy with which these priests and their scarcely less zealous attendants [ 1 ] toiled to carry their pictures and ornaments through the most arduous of journeys, where the traveller was often famished from the sheer difficulty of transporting provisions.

[ 1 The Jesuits on these distant missions were usually attended by followers who had taken no vows, and could leave their service at will, but whose motives were religious, and not mercenary. Probably this was the character of their attendants in the present case. They were known as _donnés_, or “given men.” It appears from a letter of the Jesuit Du Peron, that twelve hired laborers were soon after sent up to the mission. ]

A great event had called forth all this preparation. Of the many baptisms achieved by the Fathers in the course of their indefatigable ministry, the subjects had all been infants, or adults at the point of death; but at length a Huron, in full health and manhood, respected and influential in his tribe, had been won over to the Faith, and was now to be baptized with solemn ceremonial, in the chapel thus gorgeously adorned. It was a strange scene. Indians were there in throngs, and the house was closely packed: warriors, old and young, glistening in grease and sunflower-oil, with uncouth locks, a trifle less coarse than a horse’s mane, and faces perhaps smeared with paint in honor of the occasion; wenches in gay attire; hags muffled in a filthy discarded deer-skin, their leathery visages corrugated with age and malice, and their hard, glittering eyes riveted on the spectacle before them. The priests, no longer in their daily garb of black, but radiant in their surplices, the genuflections, the tinkling of the bell, the swinging of the censer, the sweet odors so unlike the fumes of the smoky lodge-fires, the mysterious elevation of the Host, (for a mass followed the baptism,) and the agitation of the neophyte, whose Indian imperturbability fairly deserted him,–all these combined to produce on the minds of the savage beholders an impression that seemed to promise a rich harvest for the Faith. To the Jesuits it was a day of triumph and of hope. The ice had been broken; the wedge had entered; light had dawned at last on the long night of heathendom. But there was one feature of the situation which in their rejoicing they overlooked.

The Devil had taken alarm. He had borne with reasonable composure the loss of individual souls snatched from him by former baptisms; but here was a convert whose example and influence threatened to shake his Huron empire to its very foundation. In fury and fear, he rose to the conflict, and put forth all his malice and all his hellish ingenuity. Such, at least, is the explanation given by the Jesuits of the scenes that followed. [ 1 ] Whether accepting it or not, let us examine the circumstances which gave rise to it.

[ 1 Several of the Jesuits allude to this supposed excitement among the tenants of the nether world. Thus, Le Mercier says, “Le Diable se sentoit pressé de prés, il ne pouuoit supporter le Baptesme solennel de quelques Sauuages des plus signalez.”–Relation des Hurons, 1638, 33.– Several other baptisms of less note followed that above described. Garnier, writing to his brother, repeatedly alludes to the alarm excited in Hell by the recent successes of the mission, and adds,–“Vous pouvez juger quelle consolation nous étoit-ce de voir le diable s’armer contre nous et se servir de ses esclaves pour nous attaquer et tâcher de nous perdre en haine de J. C.” ]

The mysterious strangers, garbed in black, who of late years had made their abode among them, from motives past finding out, marvellous in knowledge, careless of life, had awakened in the breasts of the Hurons mingled emotions of wonder, perplexity, fear, respect, and awe. From the first, they had held them answerable for the changes of the weather, commending them when the crops were abundant, and upbraiding them in times of scarcity. They thought them mighty magicians, masters of life and death; and they came to them for spells, sometimes to destroy their enemies, and sometimes to kill grasshoppers. And now it was whispered abroad that it was they who had bewitched the nation, and caused the pest which threatened to exterminate it.

It was Isaac Jogues who first heard this ominous rumor, at the town of Onnentisati, and it proceeded from the dwarfish sorcerer already mentioned, who boasted himself a devil incarnate. The slander spread fast and far. Their friends looked at them askance; their enemies clamored for their lives. Some said that they concealed in their houses a corpse, which infected the country,–a perverted notion, derived from some half-instructed neophyte, concerning the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Others ascribed the evil to a serpent, others to a spotted frog, others to a demon which the priests were supposed to carry in the barrel of a gun. Others again gave out that they had pricked an infant to death with awls in the forest, in order to kill the Huron children by magic. “Perhaps,” observes Father Le Mercier, “the Devil was enraged because we had placed a great many of these little innocents in Heaven.”

[ “Le diable enrageoit peutestre de ce que nous avions placé dans le ciel quantité de ces petits innocens.”–Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, 12 (Cramoisy). ]

The picture of the Last Judgment became an object of the utmost terror. It was regarded as a charm. The dragons and serpents were supposed to be the demons of the pest, and the sinners whom they were so busily devouring to represent its victims. On the top of a spruce-tree, near their house at Ihonatiria, the priests had fastened a small streamer, to show the direction of the wind. This, too, was taken for a charm, throwing off disease and death to all quarters. The clock, once an object of harmless wonder, now excited the wildest alarm; and the Jesuits were forced to stop it, since, when it struck, it was supposed to sound the signal of death. At sunset, one would have seen knots of Indians, their faces dark with dejection and terror, listening to the measured sounds which issued from within the neighboring house of the mission, where, with bolted doors, the priests were singing litanies, mistaken for incantations by the awe-struck savages.

Had the objects of these charges been Indians, their term of life would have been very short. The blow of a hatchet, stealthily struck in the dusky entrance of a lodge, would have promptly avenged the victims of their sorcery, and delivered the country from peril. But the priests inspired a strange awe. Nocturnal councils were held; their death was decreed; and, as they walked their rounds, whispering groups of children gazed after them as men doomed to die. But who should be the executioner? They were reviled and upbraided. The Indian boys threw sticks at them as they passed, and then ran behind the houses. When they entered one of these pestiferous dens, this impish crew clambered on the roof, to pelt them with snowballs through the smoke-holes. The old squaw who crouched by the fire scowled on them with mingled anger and fear, and cried out, “Begone! there are no sick ones here.” The invalids wrapped their heads in their blankets; and when the priest accosted some dejected warrior, the savage looked gloomily on the ground, and answered not a word.

Yet nothing could divert the Jesuits from their ceaseless quest of dying subjects for baptism, and above all of dying children. They penetrated every house in turn. When, through the thin walls of bark, they heard the wail of a sick infant, no menace and no insult could repel them from the threshold. They pushed boldly in, asked to buy some trifle, spoke of late news of Iroquois forays,–of anything, in short, except the pestilence and the sick child; conversed for a while till suspicion was partially lulled to sleep, and then, pretending to observe the sufferer for the first time, approached it, felt its pulse, and asked of its health. Now, while apparently fanning the heated brow, the dexterous visitor touched it with a corner of his handkerchief, which he had previously dipped in water, murmured the baptismal words with motionless lips, and snatched another soul from the fangs of the “Infernal Wolf.” [ 1 ] Thus, with the patience of saints, the courage of heroes, and an intent truly charitable, did the Fathers put forth a nimble-fingered adroitness that would have done credit to the profession of which the function is less to dispense the treasures of another world than to grasp those which pertain to this.

[ 1 _Ce loup infernal_ is a title often bestowed in the Relations on the Devil. The above details are gathered from the narratives of Brébeuf, Le Mercier, and Lalemant, and letters, published and unpublished, of several other Jesuits.

In another case, an Indian girl was carrying on her back a sick child, two months old. Two Jesuits approached, and while one of them amused the girl with his rosary, “l’autre le baptise lestement; le pauure petit n’attendoit que ceste faueur du Ciel pour s’y enuoler.” ]

The Huron chiefs were summoned to a great council, to discuss the state of the nation. The crisis demanded all their wisdom; for, while the continued ravages of disease threatened them with annihilation, the Iroquois scalping-parties infested the outskirts of their towns, and murdered them in their fields and forests. The assembly met in August, 1637; and the Jesuits, knowing their deep stake in its deliberations, failed not to be present, with a liberal gift of wampum, to show their sympathy in the public calamities. In private, they sought to gain the good-will of the deputies, one by one; but though they were successful in some cases, the result on the whole was far from hopeful.

In the intervals of the council, Brébeuf discoursed to the crowd of chiefs on the wonders of the visible heavens,–the sun, the moon, the stars, and the planets. They were inclined to believe what he told them; for he had lately, to their great amazement, accurately predicted an eclipse. From the fires above he passed to the fires beneath, till the listeners stood aghast at his hideous pictures of the flames of perdition,–the only species of Christian instruction which produced any perceptible effect on this unpromising auditory.

The council opened on the evening of the fourth of August, with all the usual ceremonies; and the night was spent in discussing questions of treaties and alliances, with a deliberation and good sense which the Jesuits could not help admiring. [ Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, 38. ] A few days after, the assembly took up the more exciting question of the epidemic and its causes. Deputies from three of the four Huron nations were present, each deputation sitting apart. The Jesuits were seated with the Nation of the Bear, in whose towns their missions were established. Like all important councils, the session was held at night. It was a strange scene. The light of the fires flickered aloft into the smoky vault and among the soot-begrimed rafters of the great council- house, [ 1 ] and cast an uncertain gleam on the wild and dejected throng that filled the platforms and the floor. “I think I never saw anything more lugubrious,” writes Le Mercier: “they looked at each other like so many corpses, or like men who already feel the terror of death. When they spoke, it was only with sighs, each reckoning up the sick and dead of his own family. All this was to excite each other to vomit poison against us.”

[ 1 It must have been the house of a chief. The Hurons, unlike some other tribes, had no houses set apart for public occasions. ]

A grisly old chief, named Ontitarac, withered with age and stone-blind, but renowned in past years for eloquence and counsel, opened the debate in a loud, though tremulous voice. First he saluted each of the three nations present, then each of the chiefs in turn,–congratulated them that all were there assembled to deliberate on a subject of the last importance to the public welfare, and exhorted them to give it a mature and calm consideration. Next rose the chief whose office it was to preside over the Feast of the Dead. He painted in dismal colors the woful condition of the country, and ended with charging it all upon the sorceries of the Jesuits. Another old chief followed him. “My brothers,” he said, “you know well that I am a war-chief, and very rarely speak except in councils of war; but I am compelled to speak now, since nearly all the other chiefs are dead, and I must utter what is in my heart before I follow them to the grave. Only two of my family are left alive, and perhaps even these will not long escape the fury of the pest. I have seen other diseases ravaging the country, but nothing that could compare with this. In two or three moons we saw their end: but now we have suffered for a year and more, and yet the evil does not abate. And what is worst of all, we have not yet discovered its source.” Then, with words of studied moderation, alternating with bursts of angry invective, he proceeded to accuse the Jesuits of causing, by their sorceries, the unparalleled calamities that afflicted them; and in support of his charge he adduced a prodigious mass of evidence. When he had spent his eloquence, Brébeuf rose to reply, and in a few words exposed the absurdities of his statements; whereupon another accuser brought a new array of charges. A clamor soon arose from the whole assembly, and they called upon Brébeuf with one voice to give up a certain charmed cloth which was the cause of their miseries. In vain the missionary protested that he had no such cloth. The clamor increased.

“If you will not believe me,” said Brébeuf, “go to our house; search everywhere; and if you are not sure which is the charm, take all our clothing and all our cloth, and throw them into the lake.”

“Sorcerers always talk in that way,” was the reply.

“Then what will you have me say?” demanded Brébeuf.

“Tell us the cause of the pest.”

Brébeuf replied to the best of his power, mingling his explanations with instructions in Christian doctrine and exhortations to embrace the Faith. He was continually interrupted; and the old chief, Ontitarac, still called upon him to produce the charmed cloth. Thus the debate continued till after midnight, when several of the assembly, seeing no prospect of a termination, fell asleep, and others went away. One old chief, as he passed out said to Brébeuf, “If some young man should split your head, we should have nothing to say.” The priest still continued to harangue the diminished conclave on the necessity of obeying God and the danger of offending Him, when the chief of Ossossané called out impatiently, “What sort of men are these? They are always saying the same thing, and repeating the same words a hundred times. They are never done with telling us about their _Oki_, and what he demands and what he forbids, and Paradise and Hell.” [ The above account of the council is drawn from Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, Chap. II. See also Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 163. ]

“Here was the end of this miserable council,” writes Le Mercier; . . . “and if less evil came of it than was designed, we owe it, after God, to the Most Holy Virgin, to whom we had made a vow of nine masses in honor of her immaculate conception.”

The Fathers had escaped for the time; but they were still in deadly peril. They had taken pains to secure friends in private, and there were those who were attached to their interests; yet none dared openly take their part. The few converts they had lately made came to them in secret, and warned them that their death was determined upon. Their house was set on fire; in public, every face was averted from them; and a new council was called to pronounce the decree of death. They appeared before it with a front of such unflinching assurance, that their judges,