Sidor som bilder

1650.] JESPAIR.

517 “My pen,' writes Ragueneau, “has no ink black enough to describe the fury of the Iroquois.” Still the goadings of famine were relentless and irresistible. “It is said,” adds the Father Superior, “that hunger will drive wolves from the forest. So, too, our starving Hurons were driven out of a town which had become an abode of horror. It was the end of Lent. Alas, if these poor Christians could have had but acorns and water to keep their fast upon! On Easter Day we caused them to make a general confession. On the following morning they went away, leaving us all their little possessions; and most of them declared publicly that they made us their heirs, knowing well that they were near their end. And, in fact, only a few days passed before we heard of the disaster which we had foreseen. These poor people fell into ambuscades of our Iroquois enemies. Some were killed on the spot; some were dragged into captivity; women and children were burned. A few made their escape, and spread dismay and panic everywhere. A week after, another band was overtaken by the same fate. Go where they would, they met with slaughter on all sides. Famine pursued them, or they encountered an enemy more cruel than cruelty itself; and, to crown their misery, they heard that two great armies of Iroquois were on the way to exterminate them. ... Despair was universal.” 1

The Jesuits at St. Joseph knew not what course s'eschappa, qui vint nous en apporter les nouuelles.” — Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 23, 24.

i Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 24,

to take. The doom of their flock seemed inevitable. When dismay and despondency were at their height, two of the principal Huron chiefs came to the fort, and asked an interview with Ragueneau and his companions. They told them that the Indians had held a council the night before, and resolved to abandon the island. Some would disperse in the most remote and inaccessible forests; others would take refuge in à distant spot, apparently the Grand Manitoulin Island; others would try to reach the Andastes; and others would seek safety in adoption and incorporation with the Iroquois themselves.

“Take courage, brother," continued one of the chiefs, addressing Ragueneau. “You can save us, if you will but resolve on a bold step. Choose a place where you can gather us together, and prevent this dispersion of our people. Turn your eyes towards Quebec, and transport thither what is left of this ruined country. Do not wait till war and famine have destroyed us to the last man. We are in your hands. Death has taken from you more than ten thousand of us. If you wait longer, not one will remain alive; and then you will be sorry that you did not save those whom you might have snatched from danger, and who showed you the means of doing so. If you do as we wish, we will form a church under the protection of the fort at Quebec. Our faith will not be extinguished. The examples of the French and the Algonquins will encourage us in our duty, and their charity will relieve some of our misery, 1650.;



At least, we shall sometimes find a morsel of bread for our children, who so long have had nothing but bitter roots and acorns to keep them alive.” 1

The Jesuits were deeply moved. They consulted together again and again, and prayed in turn during forty hours without ceasing, that their minds might be enlightened. At length they resolved to grant the petition of the two chiefs, and save the poor remnant of the Hurons by leading them to an asylum where there was at least a hope of safety. Their resolution once taken, they pushed their preparations with all speed, lest the Iroquois might learn their purpose, and lie in wait to cut them off. Canoes were made ready, and on the tenth of June they began the voyage, with all their French followers and about three hundred Hurons. The Huron mission was abandoned.

“It was not without tears," writes the Father Superior, “ that we left the country of our hopes and our hearts, where our brethren had gloriously shed their blood.” 2 The fleet of canoes held its melancholy way along the shores where two years before had been the seat of one of the chief savage communities of the continent, and where now all was a waste of death and desolation. Then they steered northward, along the eastern coast of the Georgian Bay, with its countless rocky islets; and everywhere they saw the traces of the Iroquois. When they reached Lake Nipissing, they found it deserted, nothing remaining of the Algonquins who dwelt on its shore, except the ashes of their burnt wigwams. A little farther on, there was a fort built of trees, where the Iroquois who made this desolation had spent the winter; and a league or two below, there was another similar fort. The river Ottawa was a solitude. The Algonquins of Allumette Island and the shores adjacent had all been killed or driven away, never again to return. “When I came up this great river, only thirteen years ago," writes Ragueneau, “I found it bordered with Algonquin tribes, who knew no God, and in their infidelity thought themselves gods on earth; for they had all that they desired, — abundance of fish and game, and a prosperous trade with allied nations: besides, they were the terror of their enemies. But since they have embraced the Faith and adored the cross of Christ, He has given them a heavy share in this cross, and made them a prey to misery, torture, and a cruel death. In a word, they are a people swept from the face of the earth. Our only consolation is, that, as they died Christians, they have a part in the inheritance of the true children of God, who scourgeth every one whom He receiveth.”1

1 Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 25. It appears from the MS. Journal des Supérieurs des Jésuites, that a plan of bringing the reninant of the Hurons to Quebec was discussed and approved by Lalemant and his associates, in a council held by them at that place in April.

% Compare Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 288.

1 Ragueneau, Relation des Ilurons, 1650, 27. These Algonquins of the Ottawa, though broken and dispersed, were not destroyed, as Ragueneau supposes.




As the voyagers descended the river, they had a serious alarm. Their scouts came in, and reported that they had found fresh footprints of men in the forest. These proved, however, to be the tracks, not of enemies, but of friends. In the preceding autumn Bressani had gone down to the French settlements with about twenty Hurons, and was now returning with them, and twice their number of armed Frenchmen, for the defence of the mission. His scouts had also been alarmed by discovering the footprints of Ragueneau's Indians; and for some time the two parties stood on their guard, each taking the other for an enemy. When at length they discovered their mistake, they met with embraces and rejoicing. Bressani and his Frenchmen had come too late. All was over with the Hurons and the Huron mission; and, as it was useless to go farther, they joined Ragueneau's party, and retraced their course for the settlements.

A day or two before, they had had a sharp taste of the mettle of the enemy. Ten Iroquois warriors had spent the winter in a little fort of felled trees on the borders of the Ottawa, hunting for subsistence, and waiting to waylay some passing canoe of Hurons, Algonquins, or Frenchmen. Bressani's party outnumbered them six to one; but they resolved that it should not pass without a token of their presence. Late on a dark night, the French and Hurons lay encamped in the forest, sleeping about their fires. They had set guards; but these, it seems, were

« FöregåendeFortsätt »