Sidor som bilder

sailed together on the eighteenth of April, 1632. The sea treated them roughly; Le Jeune was wretchedly sea-sick; and the ship nearly foundered in a gale. At length they came in sight of “that miserable country,” as the missionary calls the scene of his future labors. It was in the harbor of Tadoussac that he first encountered the objects of his apostolic cares; for, as he sat in the ship’s cabin with the master, it was suddenly invaded by ten or twelve Indians, whom he compares to a party of maskers at the Carnival. Some had their cheeks painted black, their noses blue, and the rest of their faces red. Others were decorated with a broad band of black across the eyes; and others, again, with diverging rays of black, red, and blue on both cheeks. Their attire was no less uncouth. Some of them wore shaggy bear-skins, reminding the priest of the pictures of St. John the Baptist.

After a vain attempt to save a number of Iroquois prisoners whom they were preparing to burn alive on shore, Le Jeune and his companions again set sail, and reached Quebec on the fifth of July. Having said mass, as already mentioned, under the roof of Madame Hébert and her delighted family, the Jesuits made their way to the two hovels built by their predecessors on the St. Charles, which had suffered woful dilapidation at the hands of the English. Here they made their abode, and applied themselves, with such skill as they could command, to repair the shattered tenements and cultivate the waste meadows around.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The beginning of Le Jeune's missionary labors was neither imposing nor promising. He describes himself seated with a small Indian boy on one side and a small negro on the other, the latter of whom had been left by the English as a gift to Madame Hébert. As neither of the three understood the language of the others, the pupils made little progress in spiritual knowledge. The missionaries, it was clear, must learn Algonquin at any cost; and, to this end, Le Jeune resolved to visit the Indian encampments. Hearing that a band of Montagnais were fishing for eels on the St. Lawrence, between Cape Diamond and the cove which now bears the name of Wolfe, he set forth for the spot on a morning in October. As, with toil and trepidation, he scrambled around the foot of the cape, — whose precipices, with a chaos of loose rocks, thrust themselves at that day into the deep tide-water, — he dragged down upon himself the trunk of a fallen tree, which, in its descent, wellnigh swept him into the river. The peril past, he presently reached his destination. Here, among the lodges of bark, were stretched innumerable strings of hide, from which hung to dry an incredible multitude of eels. A boy invited him into the lodge of a withered squaw, his grandmother, who hastened to offer him four smoked eels on a piece of birch-bark, while other squaws of the household instructed him how to roast them on a forked stick over the embers. All shared the feast together, his entertainers using as napkins their own hair or that of their dogs; while Le Jeune, intent on increasing his knowledge of Algonquin, maintained an active discourse of broken words and pantomime. 1

The lesson, however, was too laborious and of too little profit to be often repeated, and the missionary sought anxiously for more stable instruction. To find such was not easy. The interpreters — Frenchmen, who, in the interest of the fur company, had spent years among the Indians — were averse to Jesuits, and refused their aid. There was one resource, however, of which Le Jeune would fain avail himself. An Indian, called Pierre by the French, had been carried to France by the Récollet friars, instructed, converted, and baptized. He had lately returned to Canada, where, to the scandal of the Jesuits, he had relapsed into his old ways, retaining of his French education little besides a few new vices. He still haunted the fort at Quebec, lured by the hope of an occasional gift of wine or tobacco, but shunned the Jesuits, of whose rigid way of life he stood in horror. As he spoke good French and good Indian, he would have been invaluable to the embarrassed priests at the mission. Le Jeune invoked the aid of the Saints. The effect of his prayers soon appeared, he tells us, in a direct interposition of Providence, which so disposed the heart of Pierre that he quarrelled with the French commandant, who thereupon closed the fort against him. He then repaired to his friends and relatives in the woods, but 1632–33.] WINTER AT THE MISSION-HOUSE. 105 only to encounter a rebuff from a young squaw to whom he made his addresses. On this, he turned his steps towards the mission-house, and, being unfitted by his French education for supporting himself by hunting, begged food and shelter from the priests. Le Jeune gratefully accepted him as a gift vouchsafed by Heaven to his prayers, persuaded a lackey at the fort to give him a cast-off suit of clothes, promised him maintenance, and installed him as his teacher.

1 Le Jeune, Relation, 1633, 2.

Seated on wooden stools by the rough table in the refectory, the priest and the Indian pursued their studies. “How thankful I am,” writes Le Jeune, “ to those who gave me tobacco last year! At every difficulty I give my master a piece of it, to make him more attentive.”1

Meanwhile, winter closed in with a severity rare even in Canada. The St. Lawrence and the St. Charles were hard frozen; rivers, forests, and rocks were mantled alike in dazzling sheets of snow. The humble mission-house of Notre-Dame des Anges was half buried in the drifts, which, heaped up in front where a path had been dug through them, rose two feet above the low eaves. The priests, sitting at night before the blazing logs of their wide-throated chimney, heard the trees in the neighboring forest cracking with frost, with a sound like the report of a pistol. Le Jeune's ink froze, and his fingers were benumbed, as he toiled at his declensions and conjugations, or translated the Pater Noster into blundering Algonquin. The water in the cask beside the fire froze nightly, and the ice was broken every morning with hatchets. The blankets of the two priests were fringed with the icicles of their congealed breath, and the frost lay in a thick coating on the lozenge-shaped glass of their cells. 1

1 Relation, 1633, 7. He continues : “Ie ne sçaurois assez rendre graces à Nostre Seigneur de cet heureux rencontre. ... Que Dieu soit beny pour vn iamais, sa prouidence est adorable, et sa bonté n'a point de limites."

By day, Le Jeune and his companion practised with snow-shoes, with all the mishaps which attend beginners, — the trippings, the falls, and headlong dives into the soft drifts, — amid the laughter of the Indians. Their seclusion was by no means a solitude. Bands of Montagnais, with their sledges and dogs, often passed the mission-house on their way to hunt the moose. They once invited De Nouë to go with them; and he, scarcely less eager than Le Jeune to learn their language, readily consented. In two or three weeks he appeared, sick, famished, and half dead with exhaustion. “Not ten priests in a hundred," writes Le Jeune to his Superior, “could bear this winter life with the savages.” But what of that? It was not for them to falter. They were but instruments in the hands of God, to be used, broken, and thrown aside, if such should be His will.2

1 Le Jeune, Relation, 16:33, 14, 15.

2 “Voila, mon Reuerend Pere, vn eschantillon de ce qu'il faut souffrir courant apres les Sauuages. . . . Il faut prendre sa vie, et tout ce qu'on a, et le ietter à l'abandon, pour ainsi dire, se content. ant d'vne croix bien grosse et bien pesante pour toute richesse. Il

« FöregåendeFortsätt »