I have had enough of the dark-colored flesh of our enemies,” said a young brave; “I wish to know the taste of white meat, and I will eat yours.”
Previously in The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century.
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In other Tobacco towns their reception was much the same; but at the largest, called by them St. Peter and St. Paul, they fared worse. They reached it on a winter afternoon. Every door of its capacious bark houses was closed against them; and they heard the squaws within calling on the young men to go out and split their heads, while children screamed abuse at the black-robed sorcerers. As night approached, they left the town, when a band of young men followed them, hatchet in hand, to put them to death. Darkness, the forest, and the mountain favored them; and, eluding their pursuers, they escaped. Thus began the mission of the Tobacco Nation.
In the following November, a yet more distant and perilous mission was begun. Brébeuf and Chaumonot set out for the Neutral Nation. This fierce people, as we have already seen, occupied that part of Canada which lies immediately north of Lake Erie, while a wing of their territory extended across the Niagara into Western New York.  In their athletic proportions, the ferocity of their manners, and the extravagance of their superstitions, no American tribe has ever exceeded them. They carried to a preposterous excess the Indian notion, that insanity is endowed with a mysterious and superhuman power. Their country was full of pretended maniacs, who, to propitiate their guardian spirits, or okies, and acquire the mystic virtue which pertained to madness, raved stark naked through the villages, scattering the brands of the lodge-fires, and upsetting everything in their way.
[1 Introduction. — The river Niagara was at this time, 1640, well known to the Jesuits, though none of them had visited it. Lalemant speaks of it as the “famous river of this nation” (the Neutrals). The following translation, from his Relation of 1641, shows that both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie had already taken their present names.
“This river” (the Niagara) “is the same by which our great lake of the Hurons, or Fresh Sea, discharges itself, in the first place, into Lake Erie (le lac d’Erié), or the Lake of the Cat Nation. Then it enters the territories of the Neutral Nation, and takes the name of Onguiaahra (Niagara), until it discharges itself into Ontario, or the Lake of St. Louis; whence at last issues the river which passes before Quebec, and is called the St. Lawrence.” He makes no allusion to the cataract, which is first mentioned as follows by Ragueneau, in the Relation of 1648.
“Nearly south of this same Neutral Nation there is a great lake, about two hundred leagues in circuit, named Erie (Erié), which is formed by the discharge of the Fresh Sea, and which precipitates itself by a cataract of frightful height into a third lake, named Ontario, which we call Lake St. Louis.” — Relation des Hurons, 1648, 46.]
The two priests left Sainte Marie on the second of November, found a Huron guide at St. Joseph, and, after a dreary march of five days through the forest, reached the first Neutral town. Advancing thence, they visited in turn eighteen others; and their progress was a storm of maledictions. Brébeuf especially was accounted the most pestilent of sorcerers. The Hurons, restrained by a superstitious awe, and unwilling to kill the priests, lest they should embroil themselves with the French at Quebec, conceived that their object might be safely gained by stirring up the Neutrals to become their executioners. To that end, they sent two emissaries to the Neutral towns, who, calling the chiefs and young warriors to a council, denounced the Jesuits as destroyers of the human race, and made their auditors a gift of nine French hatchets on condition that they would put them to death. It was now that Brébeuf, fully conscious of the danger, half starved and half frozen, driven with revilings from every door, struck and spit upon by pretended maniacs, beheld in a vision that great cross, which as we have seen, moved onward through the air, above the wintry forests that stretched towards the land of the Iroquois. [See ante, chapter 9 second last paragraph (page 109).]
Chaumonot records yet another miracle. “One evening, when all the chief men of the town were deliberating in council whether to put us to death, Father Brébeuf, while making his examination of conscience, as we were together at prayers, saw the vision of a spectre, full of fury, menacing us both with three javelins which he held in his hands. Then he hurled one of them at us; but a more powerful hand caught it as it flew: and this took place a second and a third time, as he hurled his two remaining javelins. . . . Late at night our host came back from the council, where the two Huron emissaries had made their gift of hatchets to have us killed. He wakened us to say that three times we had been at the point of death; for the young men had offered three times to strike the blow, and three times the old men had dissuaded them. This explained the meaning of Father Brébeuf’s vision.” [Chaumonot, Vie, 55.]
They had escaped for the time; but the Indians agreed among themselves, that thenceforth no one should give them shelter. At night, pierced with cold and faint with hunger, they found every door closed against them. They stood and watched, saw an Indian issue from a house, and, by a quick movement, pushed through the half-open door into this abode of smoke and filth. The inmates, aghast at their boldness, stared in silence. Then a messenger ran out to carry the tidings, and an angry crowd collected.
“Go out, and leave our country,” said an old chief, “or we will put you into the kettle, and make a feast of you.”
“I have had enough of the dark-colored flesh of our enemies,” said a young brave; “I wish to know the taste of white meat, and I will eat yours.”
A warrior rushed in like a madman, drew his bow, and aimed the arrow at Chaumonot. “I looked at him fixedly,” writes the Jesuit, “and commended myself in full confidence to St. Michael. Without doubt, this great archangel saved us; for almost immediately the fury of the warrior was appeased, and the rest of our enemies soon began to listen to the explanation we gave them of our visit to their country.” [Ibid., 57.]
The mission was barren of any other fruit than hardship and danger, and after a stay of four months the two priests resolved to return. On the way, they met a genuine act of kindness. A heavy snow-storm arresting their progress, a Neutral woman took them into her lodge, entertained them for two weeks with her best fare, persuaded her father and relatives to befriend them, and aided them to make a vocabulary of the dialect. Bidding their generous hostess farewell, they journeyed northward, through the melting snows of spring, and reached Sainte Marie in safety.
[Lalemant, in his Relation of 1641, gives the narrative of this mission at length. His account coincides perfectly with the briefer notice of Chaumonot in his Autobiography. Chaumonot describes the difficulties of the journey very graphically in a letter to his friend, Father Nappi, dated Aug. 3, 1640, preserved in Carayon. See also the next letter, Brébeuf au T. R. P. Mutio Vitelleschi, 20 Aoűt, 1641.
The Récollet La Roche Dallion had visited the Neutrals fourteen years before, (see Introduction, note,) and, like his two successors, had been seriously endangered by Huron intrigues.]
The Jesuits had borne all that the human frame seems capable of bearing. They had escaped as by miracle from torture and death. Did their zeal flag or their courage fail? A fervor intense and unquenchable urged them on to more distant and more deadly ventures. The beings, so near to mortal sympathies, so human, yet so divine, in whom their faith impersonated and dramatized the great principles of Christian truth, — virgins, saints, and angels, — hovered over them, and held before their raptured sight crowns of glory and garlands of immortal bliss. They burned to do, to suffer, and to die; and now, from out a living martyrdom, they turned their heroic gaze towards an horizon dark with perils yet more appalling, and saw in hope the day when they should bear the cross into the blood-stained dens of the Iroquois. [This zeal was in no degree due to success; for in 1641, after seven years of toil, the mission counted only about fifty living converts, — a falling off from former years.]
But, in this exaltation and tension of the powers, was there no moment when the recoil of Nature claimed a temporary sway? When, an exile from his kind, alone, beneath the desolate rock and the gloomy pine-trees, the priest gazed forth on the pitiless wilderness and the hovels of its dark and ruthless tenants, his thoughts, it may be, flew longingly beyond those wastes of forest and sea that lay between him and the home of his boyhood. Or rather, led by a deeper attraction, they revisited the ancient centre of his faith, and he seemed to stand once more in that gorgeous temple, where, shrined in lazuli and gold, rest the hallowed bones of Loyola. Column and arch and dome rise upon his vision, radiant in painted light, and trembling with celestial music. Again he kneels before the altar, from whose tablature beams upon him that loveliest of shapes in which the imagination of man has embodied the spirit of Christianity. The illusion overpowers him. A thrill shakes his frame, and he bows in reverential rapture. No longer a memory, no longer a dream, but a visioned presence, distinct and luminous in the forest shades, the Virgin stands before him. Prostrate on the rocky earth, he adores the benign angel of his ecstatic faith, then turns with rekindled fervors to his stern apostleship.
Now, by the shores of Thunder Bay, the Huron traders freight their birch vessels for their yearly voyage; and, embarked with them, let us, too, revisit the rock of Quebec.
I have traced, in another volume, the life and death of the noble founder of New France, Samuel de Champlain. It was on Christmas Day, 1635, that his heroic spirit bade farewell to the frame it had animated, and to the rugged cliff where he had toiled so long to lay the corner- stone of a Christian empire.
Quebec was without a governor. Who should succeed Champlain and would his successor be found equally zealous for the Faith, and friendly to the mission? These doubts, as he himself tells us, agitated the mind of the Father Superior, Le Jeune; but they were happily set at rest, when, on a morning in June, he saw a ship anchoring in the basin below, and, hastening with his brethren to the landing-place, was there met by Charles Huault de Montmagny, a Knight of Malta, followed by a train of officers and gentlemen. As they all climbed the rock together, Montmagny saw a crucifix planted by the path. He instantly fell on his knees before it; and nobles, soldiers, sailors, and priests imitated his example. The Jesuits sang Te Deum at the church, and the cannon roared from the adjacent fort. Here the new governor was scarcely installed, when a Jesuit came in to ask if he would be godfather to an Indian about to be baptized. “Most gladly,” replied the pious Montmagny. He repaired on the instant to the convert’s hut, with a company of gayly apparelled gentlemen; and while the inmates stared in amazement at the scarlet and embroidery, he bestowed on the dying savage the name of Joseph, in honor of the spouse of the Virgin and the patron of New France. [Le Jeune, Relation, 1636, 5 (Cramoisy). “Monsieur le Gouverneur se transporte aux Cabanes de ces pauures barbares, suivy d’une leste Noblesse. Je vous laisse ŕ penser quel estonnement ŕ ces Peuples de voir tant d’écarlate, tant de personnes bien faites sous leurs toits d’écorce!”] Three days after, he was told that a dead proselyte was to be buried; on which, leaving the lines of the new fortification he was tracing, he took in hand a torch, De Lisle, his lieutenant, took another, Repentigny and St. Jean, gentlemen of his suite, with a band of soldiers followed, two priests bore the corpse, and thus all moved together in procession to the place of burial. The Jesuits were comforted. Champlain himself had not displayed a zeal so edifying. [Ibid., 83 (Cramoisy).]
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapters 12 and 13 by Francis Parkman
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.