Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

rived on the fifteenth of November; and in the following spring, maimed and disfigured, but with health restored, embarked to dare again the knives and firebrands of the Iroquois.1 It should be noticed, in justice to the Iroquois, that, ferocious and cruel as past all denial they were, they were not so bereft of the instincts of humanity as at first sight might appear. An inexorable severity towards enemies was a very essential element, in their savage conception, of the character of the warrior. Pity was a cowardly weakness, at which their pride revolted. This, joined to their thirst for applause and their dread of ridicule, made them smother every movement of compassion,2 and conspired with their native fierceness to form a character of unrelenting cruelty rarely equalled. The perils which beset the missionaries did not spring from the fury of the Iroquois alone, for Na

1 Immediately on his return to Canada he was ordered to set out again for the Hurons. More fortunate than on his first attempt, he arrived safely, early in the autumn of 1645. — Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1640, 73.

On Bressani, besides the authorities cited, see Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 390-403; Juehereau, Histoire de I'lIStel-Dieu, 63; and Martin, Binoraphie da P. Frangois-Josrph Bressani, prefixed to the Relation Abregee.

He made no converts while a prisoner, but he baptized a Huron catechumen at the stake, to the great fury of the surrounding Iroquois. He has left, besides his letters, some interesting notes on his captivity, preserved in the Relation Abreqee.

2 Thus, when Bressani, tortured by the tightness of the cords that bound him, asked an Indian to loosen them, he would reply by mockery, if others were present; but if no one saw him, he usually complied.

[merged small][ocr errors]

ture herself was armed with terror in this ster n wilderness of New France. On the thirtieth of January, 1646, Father Anne de Noue set out from Three Rivers to go to the fort built by the French at the mouth of the river Richelieu, where he was to say mass and hear confessions. De Noue was sixtythree years old, and had come to Canada in 1625.1 As an indifferent memory disabled him from mastering the Indian languages, he devoted himself to the spiritual charge of the French, and of the Indians about the forts within reach of an interpreter. For the rest, he attended the sick, and in times of scarcity fished in the river, or dug roots in the woods for the subsistence of his flock. In short, though sprung from a noble family of Champagne, he shrank from no toil, however humble, to which his idea of duty or his vow of obedience called him.2

The old missionary had for companions two soldiers and a Huron Indian. They were all on snowshoes, and the soldiers dragged their baggage on small sledges. Their highway was the St. Lawrence, transformed to solid ice, and buried, like all the country, beneath two or three feet of snow, which, far and near, glared dazzling white under the clear winter sun. Before night they had walked eighteen miles, 1 See "Pioneers of France," 435.

a He was peculiarly sensitive as regarded the cardinal Jesuit virtue of obedience; and both Lalemant and Bressani say, that, at the age of sixty and upwards, he was sometimes seen in tears, when he imagined that he had not fulfilled to the utmost the commands of his Superior. and the soldiers, unused to snow-shoes, were greatly fatigued. They made their camp in the forest, on the shore of the great expansion of the St. Lawrence called the Lake of St. Peter, — dug away the snow, heaped it around the spot as a barrier against the wind, made their fire on the frozen earth in the midst, and lay down to sleep. At two o'clock in the morning De Noue awoke. The moon shone like daylight over the vast white desert of the frozen lake, with its bordering fir-trees bowed to the ground with snow; and the kindly thought struck the Father that he might ease his companions by going in advance to Fort Richelieu, and sending back men to aid them in dragging their sledges. He knew the way well. He directed them to follow the tracks of his snow-shoes in the morning; and, not doubting to reach the fort before night, left behind his blanket and his flint and steel. For provisions, he put a morsel of bread and five or six prunes in his pocket, told his rosary, and set forth. Before dawn the weather changed. The air thickened, clouds hid the moon, and a snow-storm set in. The traveller was in utter darkness. He lost the points of the compass, wandered far out on the lake, and when day appeared could see nothing but the snow beneath his feet, and the myriads of falling flakes that encompassed him like a curtain, impervious to the sight. Still he toiled on, winding hither and thither, and at times unwittingly circling back on his own footsteps. At night he dug a hole in the 1616 ] SEARCH FOR DE NOUfi. 355

snow under the shore of an island, and lay down, without fire, food, or blanket. Meanwhile the two soldiers and the Indian, unable to trace his footprints, which the snow had hidden, pursued their way for the fort; but the Indian was ignorant of the country, and the Frenchmen were unskilled. They wandered from their course, and at evening encamped on the shore of the island of St. Ignace, at no great distance from De Noue. Here the Indian, trusting to his instinct, left them and set forth alone in search of their destination, which he soon succeeded in finding. The palisades of the feeble little fort, and the rude buildings within were whitened with snow, and half buried in it. Here, amid the desolation, a handful of men kept watch and ward against the Iroquois. Seated by the blazing logs, the Indian asked for De Noue, and, to his astonishment, the soldiers of the garrison told him that he had not been seen. The captain of the post was called; all was anxiety; but nothing could be done that night. At daybreak parties went out to search. The two soldiers were readily found, but they looked in vain for the missionary. All day they were ranging the ice, firing their guns and shouting; but to no avail, and they returned disconsolate. There was a converted Indian, whom the French called Charles, at the fort, one of four who were spending the winter there. On the next morning, the second of February, he and one of his companions, together with Baron, a French soldier, resumed the search; and, guided by the slight depressions in the snow which had fallen on the wanderer's footprints, the quickeyed savages traced him through all his windings, found his camp by the shore of the island, and thence followed him beyond the fort. He had passed near without discovering it, — perhaps weakness had dimmed his sight, —stopped to rest at a point a league above, and thence made his way about three leagues farther. Here they found him. He had dug a circular excavation in the snow, and was kneeling in it on the earth. His head was bare, his eyes open and turned upwards, and his hands clasped on his breast. His hat and his snow-shoes lay at his side. The body was leaning slightly forward, resting against the bank of snow before it, and frozen to the hardness of marble. Thus, in an act of kindness and charity, died the first martyr of the Canadian mission.1 1 Lalemant, Relation, 1646, 9; Marie de l'lnearnation, Lettre, 10 Sept., 1646; Bressani, Relation Abregee, 175.

One of the Indians who found the body of De Noue was killed by the Iroquois at Ossossanc", in the Huron country, three years after. He received the death-blow in a posture like that in which he had seen the dead missionary. His body was found with the hands still clasped on the breast. — Lettre de Chaumonot d Lalemant, 1 Juin, 1649.

The next death among the Jesuits was that of Masse, who died at Sillery, on the twelfth of May of this year, 1646, at the age of seventy-two. He had come with Biard to Acadia as early as 1611. (See"Pioneers of France," 292.) Lalemant, in the Relation of 1646, gives an account of him, and speaks of penances which he imposed on himself, some of which are to the last degree disgusting.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »