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1634.1 LE JEUNE LEAVES THE INDIANS. 127 Repeatedly, before the spring, they were thus threatened with starvation. Nor was their case exceptional. It was the ordinary winter life of all those Northern tribes who did not till the soil, but lived by hunting and fishing alone. The desertion or the killing of the aged, sick, and disabled, occasional cannibalism, and frequent death from famine were natural incidents of an existence which during half the year was but a desperate pursuit of the mere necessaries of life under the worst conditions of hardship, suffering, and debasement. At the beginning of April, after roaming for five months among forests and mountains, the party made their last march, regained the bank of the St. Lawrence, and waded to the island where they had hidden their canoes. Le Jeune was exhausted and sick, and Mestigoit offered to carry him in his canoe to Quebec. This Indian was by far the best of the three brothers, and both Pierre and the sorcerer looked to him for support. He was strong, active, and daring, a skilful hunter, and a dexterous canoeman. Le Jeune gladly accepted his offer; embarked with him and Pierre on the dreary and tempestuous river; and, after a voyage full of hardship, during which the canoe narrowly escaped being ground to atoms among the floating ice, landed on the Island of Orleans, six miles from Quebec. The afternoon was stormy and dark, and the river was covered with ice, sweeping by with the tide. They were forced to encamp. At midnight the moon had risen, the river was comparatively unencumbered, and they embarked once more. The wind increased, and the waves tossed furiously. Nothing saved them but the skill and courage of Mestigoit. At length they could see the rock of Quebec towering through the gloom, but piles of ice lined the shore, while floating masses were drifting down on the angry current. The Indian watched his moment, shot his canoe through them, gained the fixed ice, leaped out, and shouted to his companions to follow. Pierre scrambled up, but the ice was six feet out of the water, and Le Jeune's agility failed him. He saved himself by clutching the ankle of Mestigoit, by whose aid he gained a firm foothold at the top, and, for a moment, the three voyagers, aghast at the narrowness of their escape, stood gazing at each other in silence. It was three o'clock in the morning when Le Jeune knocked at the door of his rude little convent on the St. Charles; and the Fathers, springing in joyful haste from their slumbers, embraced their longabsent Superior with ejaculations of praise aud benediction.
CHAPTER V. 1633, 1634. THE HURON MISSION. Plans Of Conversion. — Aims And Motives. — Indian Diplo
MACV. HURONS at QUEBEC. — COUNCILS. TlIE Jesuii
Chapel. — Le Borgne.— The Jesuits Thwarted.— Their Perseverance. — The Journey To The Hurons. — Jean De Breoeuf. — The Mission Begun.
Le Jeune had learned the difficulties of the Algonquin mission. To imagine that he recoiled or faltered would be an injustice to his Order; but on two points he had gained convictions: first, that little progress could be made in converting these wandering hordes till they could be settled in fixed abodes; and, secondly, that their scanty numbers, their geographical position, and their slight influence in the politics of the wilderness offered no flattering promise that their conversion would be fruitful in further triumphs of the Faith. It was to another quarter that the Jesuits looked most earnestly. By the vast lakes of the West dwelt numerous stationary populations, and particularly the Hurons, on the lake which bears their name. Here was a hopeful basis of indefinite conquests; for, the Hurons won over, the Faith would spread in wider and wider circles, embracing, one by one, the kindred tribes, — the Tobacco Nation, the Neutrals, the Eries, and the Andastes. Nay, in His own time, God might lead into His fold even the potent and ferocious Iroquois. The way was pathless and long, by rock and torrent and the gloom of savage forests. The goal was more dreary yet. Toil, hardship, famine, filth, sickness, solitude, insult, — all that is most revolting to men nurtured among arts and letters, all that is most terrific to monastic credulity, —such were the promise and the reality of the Huron mission. In the eyes of the Jesuits, the Huron country was the innermost stronghold of Satan, his castle and his donjon-keep.1 All the weapons of his malice were prepared against the bold invader who should assail him in this, the heart of his ancient domain. Far from shrinking, the priest's zeal rose to tenfold ardor. He signed the cross, invoked St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, or St. Francis Borgia, kissed his reliquary, said nine masses to the Virgin, and stood prompt to battle with all the hosts of Hell. A life sequestered from social intercourse and remote from every prize which ambition holds worth the pursuit, or a lonely death under forms perhaps the most appalling, — these were the missionaries' alternatives. Their maligners may taunt them, if they will, with credulity, superstition, or a blind
i "Une des principalis forteresses & comme un donjon des Demons."— Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639,100 (Cramoisy).
1633.] JESUIT SCHEMES. 131 enthusiasm; but slander itself cannot accuse them of hypocrisy or ambition. Doubtless, in their propagandism they were acting in concurrence with a mundane policy; but, for the present at least, this policy was rational and humane. They were promoting the ends of commerce and national expansion. The foundations of French dominion were to be laid deep in the heart and conscience of the savage. His stubborn neck was to be subdued to the "yoke of the Faith." The power of the priest established, that of the temporal ruler was secure. These sanguinary hordes, weaned from intestine strife, were to unite in a common allegiance to God and the King. Mingled with French traders and French settlers, softened by French manners, guided by French priests, ruled by French officers, their now divided bands would become the constituents of a vast wilderness empire, which in time might span the continent. Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him. Policy and commerce, then, built their hopes on the priests. These commissioned interpreters of the Divine Will, accredited with letters patent from Heaven and affiliated to God's anointed on earth, would have pushed to its most unqualified application the Scripture metaphor of the shepherd and the sheep. They would have tamed the wild man of the woods to a condition of obedience, unquestioning, passive, and absolute, — repugnant to manhood, and