The perils which beset the missionaries did not spring from the fury of the Iroquois alone, for Nature herself was armed with terror in this stern wilderness of New France.
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Every evening a chief cried aloud through the camp, “Come, my children, come and caress our prisoners!” — and the savage crew thronged jubilant to a large hut, where the captives lay. They stripped off the torn fragment of a cassock, which was the priest’s only garment; burned him with live coals and red-hot stones; forced him to walk on hot cinders; burned off now a finger-nail and now the joint of a finger, — rarely more than one at a time, however, for they economized their pleasures, and reserved the rest for another day. This torture was protracted till one or two o’clock, after which they left him on the ground, fast bound to four stakes, and covered only with a scanty fragment of deer-skin.  The other prisoners had their share of torture; but the worst fell upon the Jesuit, as the chief man of the party. The unhappy boy who attended him, though only twelve or thirteen years old, was tormented before his eyes with a pitiless ferocity.
[1: “Chaque nuit aprčs m’avoir fait chanter, et m’avoir tourmenté comme ie l’ai dit, ils passaient environ un quart d’heure ŕ me brűler un ongle ou un doigt. Il ne m’en reste maintenant qu’un seul entier, et encore ils en ont arraché l’ongle avec les dents. Un soir ils m’enlevaient un ongle, le lendemain la premičre phalange, le jour suivant la seconde. En six fois, ils en brűlčrent presque six. Aux mains seules, ils m’ont appliqué le feu et le fer plus de 18 fois, et i’étais obligé de chanter pendant ce supplice. Ils ne cessaient de me tourmenter qu’ŕ une ou deux heures de la nuit.” — Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 122.
Bressani speaks in another passage of tortures of a nature yet more excruciating. They were similar to those alluded to by the anonymous author of the Relation of 1660: “Ie ferois rougir ce papier, et les oreilles frémiroient, si ie rapportois les horribles traitemens que les Agnieronnons” (the Mohawk nation of the Iroquois) “ont faits sur quelques captifs.” He adds, that past ages have never heard of such. — Relation, 1660, 7, 8.]
At length they left this encampment, and, after a march of several days, — during which Bressani, in wading a rocky stream, fell from exhaustion and was nearly drowned, — they reached an Iroquois town. It is needless to follow the revolting details of the new torments that succeeded. They hung him by the feet with chains; placed food for their dogs on his naked body, that they might lacerate him as they ate; and at last had reduced his emaciated frame to such a condition, that even they themselves stood in horror of him. “I could not have believed,” he writes to his Superior, “that a man was so hard to kill.” He found among them those who, from compassion, or from a refinement of cruelty, fed him, for he could not feed himself. They told him jestingly that they wished to fatten him before putting him to death.
The council that was to decide his fate met on the nineteenth of June, when, to the prisoner’s amazement, and, as it seemed, to their own surprise, they resolved to spare his life. He was given, with due ceremony, to an old woman, to take the place of a deceased relative; but, since he was as repulsive, in his mangled condition, as, by the Indian standard, he was useless, she sent her son with him to Fort Orange, to sell him to the Dutch. With the same humanity which they had shown in the case of Jogues, they gave a generous ransom for him, supplied him with clothing, kept him till his strength was in some degree recruited, and then placed him on board a vessel bound for Rochelle. Here he arrived 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.
[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, 1646, 73.
On Bressani, besides the authorities cited, see Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 399-403; Juchereau, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu, 53; and Martin, Biographie du P. François-Joseph Bressani, prefixed to the Relation Abrégée.
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 Abrégée.]
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,  and conspired with their native fierceness to form a character of unrelenting cruelty rarely equaled.
[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.]
The perils which beset the missionaries did not spring from the fury of the Iroquois alone, for Nature herself was armed with terror in this stern wilderness of New France. On the thirtieth of January, 1646, Father Anne de Nouë 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 Nouë was sixty-three years old, and had come to Canada in 1625.  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. 
[3: See “Pioneers of France,” 393.]
[4: 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.]
The old missionary had for companions two soldiers and a Huron Indian. They were all on snow-shoes, 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, 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 Nouë 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 traveler 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 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 Nouë. 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 Nouë, 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 quick-eyed 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.
[Lalemant, Relation, 1646, 9; Marie de l’Incarnation, Lettre, 10 Sept., 1646; Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 175.
One of the Indians who found the body of De Nouë was killed by the Iroquois at Ossossané, 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 ŕ 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,” 262.) 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.]
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapter 17 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.