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THE FURON MISSION-HOUSE.
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.”2
“What does the Captain say?" was the frequent question; for by this title of honor they designated the clock.
1 "Ils ont pensé qu'elle entendoit, principalement quand, pour rire, quelqu'vn de nos François s'escrioit au dernier coup de mar teau, 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 quelquefois plusieurs, afin de la pouuoir ouyr parler.” — Brébeuf, Relation des Ilurons, 1635, 33.
2 Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 33.
1631–35.) THE JESUITS AND THEIR GUESTS. 149
“When he strikes twelve times, he says, 'Hang on the kettle'; and when he strikes four times, he says, “Get up, and go home.'”1
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 ana-. lyzing its construction and deducing its hidden laws, these intelligent and highly cultivated minds found a congenial employment.
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
· Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 17 (Cramoisy).
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. 1
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
1 Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 86.
ATTEMPTS AT CONVERSION.
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. 1
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.” 2
1 Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1636, 81. For the use of wampum belts, see Introduction, 18–19.
2 “Le seiziesme du mesme mois, deux petits Sauvages furent changez 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.