Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

these proved intolerable nuisances, they took what Lalemant calls the honnete liberty of turning out the most intrusive and impracticable, — an act performed with all tact and courtesy, and rarely taken in dudgeon. Having thus winnowed their company, they catechised those that remained, as opportunity offered. In the intervals, the guests squatted by the fire and smoked their pipes. As among the Spartan virtues of the Hurons that of thieving was especially conspicuous, it was necessary that one or more of the Fathers should remain on guard at the house all day. The rest went forth on their missionary labors, baptizing and instructing, as we have seen. To each priest who could speak Huron1 was assigned a certain number of houses, — in some instances, as many as forty; and as these often had five or six fires, with two families to each, his spiritual flock was as numerous as it was intractable. It was his care to see that none of the number died without baptism, and by every means in his power to commend the doctrines of his faith to the acceptance of those in health. At dinner, which was at two o'clock, grace was said in Huron, — for the benefit of the Indians present,— and a chapter of the Bible was read aloud during the meal. At four or five, according to the season, the Indians were dismissed, the door closed, and the evening spent in writing, reading, studying 1 At the end of the year 1638, there were seven priests rrho spoke Huron, and three who had begun to learn it

1638-40.] MISSIONARY EXCURSIONS. 223 the language, devotion, and conversation on the affairs of the mission. The local missions here referred to embraced Ossossané and the villages of the neighborhood; but the priests by no means confined themselves within these limits. They made distant excursions, two in company, until every house in every Huron town had heard the annunciation of the new doctrine. On these journeys, they carried blankets or large mantles at their backs, for sleeping in at night, besides a supply of needles, awls, beads, and other small articles to pay for their lodging and entertainment; for the Hurons, hospitable without stint to each other, expected full compensation from the Jesuits. At Ossossané, the house of the Jesuits no longer served the double purpose of dwelling and chapel. In 1638, they had in their pay twelve artisans and laborers, sent up from Quebec,1 who had built, before the close of the year, a chapel of wood.2 Hither they removed their pictures and ornaments; and here, in winter, several fires were kept burning, for the comfort of the half-naked converts.3 Of these they now had at Ossossane* about sixty, — a large, though evidently not a very solid nucleus for the Huron church, — and they labored hard and anxiously to confirm and multiply them. Of a Sunday morning in win- 1 Du Peron in Carayon, 173.

2 "La chapelle est faite d'une charpente bien jolie, semblable prcsque en facon et grandeur, a notre chapelle de St. Julien." — Ibid., 183.

8 Lalemant. Relation des Hurons, 1039. 62.

ter, one could have seen them coming to mass, often from a considerable distance, "as naked," says Lalemant, "as your hand, except a skin over their backs like a mantle, and in the coldest weather a few skins around their feet and legs." They knelt, mingled with the French mechanics, before the altar, — very awkwardly at first, for the posture was new to them, — and all received the sacrament together: a spectacle which, as the missionary chronicler declares, repaid a hundred times all the labor of their conversion.1 Some of the principal methods of conversion are curiously illustrated in a letter written by Garnier to a friend in France. "Send me," he says, "a picture of Christ without a beard." Several Virgins are also requested, together with a variety of souls in perdition, — S.mes damnees, — most of them to be mounted in a portable form. Particular directions are given with respect to the demons, dragons, flames, and other essentials of these works of art. Of souls in bliss, — &mes bienheureuses, — he thinks that one will be enough. All the pictures must be in full face, not in profile; and they must look directly at the beholder, with open eyes. The colors should be bright; and there must be no flowers or animals, as these distract the attention of the Indians.2 1 Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1639, 62.

a Gamier, Lettre 17TM", MS. These directions show an excellent knowledge of Indian peculiarities. The Indian dislike of a beard is well known. Catlin, the painter, once caused a fatal quarrel among a party of Sioux, by representing one of them in profile, whereupon he was jibed by a rival as being but half a man.

16:i8-40.] CONDITIONS OF BAPTISM. 225 The first point with the priests was of course to bring the objects of their zeal to an acceptance of the fundamental doctrines of the Roman Church; but as the mind of the savage was by no means that beautiful blank which some have represented it, there was much to be erased as well as to be written. They must renounce a host of superstitions, to which they were attached with a strange tenacity, or which may rather be said to have been ingrained in their very natures. Certain points of Christian morality were also strongly urged by the missionaries, who insisted that the convert should take but one wife, and not cast her off without grave cause, and that he should renounce the gross license almost universal among the Hurons. Murder, cannibalism, and several other offences were also forbidden. Yet while laboring at the work of conversion with an energy never surpassed, and battling against the powers of darkness with the mettle of paladins, the Jesuits never had the folly to assume towards the Indians a dictatorial or overbearing tone. Gentleness, kindness, and patience were the rule of their intercourse.1 They 1 The following passage from the "Divers Sentimens," before cited, will illustrate this point: "Pour conuertir les Sauuages, il n'y faut pas tant de science que de bonté et vertu bien solide. Les quatre Elemens d'vn homme Apostolique en la Nouuelle France sont l'Affabilite, I'Humilité, la Patience et vne Charité genereuse. Le zele trop ardent brusle plus qu'il n'eschauffe, et gaste tout; il faut vne grande magnanimité et condescendance, pour attirer peu a peu ces Sauuages. Us n'entendent pas bien nostre Theologie, mais ils entendent parfaictement bien nostre humilité et nostre affabilité, et se laissent gaigner." So too Brelieuf, in a letter to Vitelleschi, General of the Jesuits studied the nature of the savage, and conformed themselves to it with an admirable tact. Far from treating the Indian as an alien and barbarian, they would fain have adopted him as a countryman; and they proposed to the Hurons that a number of young Frenchmen should settle among them, and marry their daughters in solemn form. The listeners were gratified at an overture so flattering. "But what is the use," they demanded, "of so much ceremony? If the Frenchmen want our women, they are welcome to come and take them whenever they please, as they always used to do."1 The Fathers are well agreed that their difficulties did not arise from any natural defect of understanding on the part of the Indians, who, according to Chaumonot, were more intelligent than the French peasantry, and who in some instances showed in their way a marked capacity. It was the inert mass of pride, sensuality, indolence, and superstition that opposed the march of the Faith, and in which the Devil lay intrenched as behind impregnable breastworks.2 (see Carayon, 163): "Ce qu'il faut demander, avant tout, des ouvriers destines a cette mission, c'est une douceur inalterable et une patience a toute épreuve."

1 Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 100.

2 In this connection, the following specimen of Indian reasoning is worth noting. At the height of the pestilence, a Huron said to one of the priests," I see plainly that your God is angry with us because we will not believe and obey him. Ihonatiria, where you first taught his word, is entirely ruined. Then you came here to Ossossane, and we would not listen; so Ossossané is ruined too

« FöregåendeFortsätt »