The Catholic Iroquois


The Catholic Iroquois


Catholic missionaries on the Canadian colonial frontier; Native captivity, conversion.


The historical story of Pere Mesnard is combined with an account of a young Native captive who becomes a Catholic martyr.


Catharine Maria Sedgwick


Tales and Sketches.


Carey, Lea, & Blanchard.




D. Gussman


First published in The Atlantic Souvenir, 72-103. Philadelphia: H.C. Carey & Lea, 1826. Also collected (with editorial changes) in Stories of American Life, vol. 3., edited by Mary Russell Mitford. London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1830.




The Catholic Iroquois

A Few years since, a gentleman, on his way from Niagara to Montreal, arrived at Coteau du Lac. While the pilot, in conformity to the law, was obtaining a clearance for the lower province, the clouds, which had been all day threatening a storm, poured out their stores of thunder, lightning, and rain with such violence, that it was deemed most prudent to defer the conclusion of the voyage till the following day. The Boatmen’s Inn was the only place of refuge, and the stranger was at first glad of the shelter within it. But he was an amateur traveller, and gentlemen of that fastidious class do not patiently submit to inconveniences. The inn was thronged with a motley crew of Scotch and Irish emigrants - Canadians - and boatmen, besides loiterers from the vicinity, who were just reviving from the revels of the preceding night. The windows were obscured with smoke, and the walls tapestried with cobwebs. The millennium of spiders and flies seemed to have arrived, for myriads of this defenceless tribe buzzed fearlessly around the banners of their natural enemy, as if, inspired by the kindliness of my uncle Toby, he had said, “poor fly, this world is wide enough for thee and me.”

The old garments and hats that had been substituted for broken panes of glass, were blown in, and the rain pattered on the floor. Some of the doors hung by one hinge - others had no latches; some of the chairs were without bottoms, and some without legs

-- the bed-rooms were unswept; the beds unmade; and in short, the whole establishment, as a celebrated field-preacher said of a very incommodious part of the other world, was “altogether inconvenient.”

The traveller, in hopes of winning the hostess’s good-will, and thereby securing a clean pair of sheets, inquired his way to the kitchen, where he found her surrounded by some half dozen juvenile warriors in a state of open hostility, far more terrible than the war of the elements. Having succeeded, by means of a liberal distribution of sugarplums, in procuring a temporary suspension of arms, he introduced himself to his hostess by some civil inquiries, in answer to which he ascertained that she was a New England woman, though unfortunately she possessed none of those faculties for getting along, which are supposed to be the birthright of every Yankee. She did express a regret that her children were deprived of “school and meeting privileges,” and entertained something of a puritanical aversion to her Catholic neighbours; but save these relics of local taste or prejudice, she retained none of the peculiarities of her native land. The gentleman was not long in discovering, that the unusual ingress of travellers reduced them all to the level of primitive equality, and that so far from the luxury of clean sheets, he must not hope for the exclusive possession of any.

On further inquiry he learned, that there was a French village at a short distance from the inn, and after waiting till the fury of the storm had abated, he sallied forth in quest of accommodation and adventure. He had not walked far, when his exploring eye fell on a creaking sign-board, on which was inscribed “Auberge et laugement.” But lodgment it would not afford our unfortunate traveller. Every apartment - every nook and corner was occupied by an English part, on their way to the Falls.

Politeness is

an instinct in French, or if not an instinct, it is so interwoven in the texture of their character, that it remains a fast colour, when all other original distinction have faded. The Canadian peasant, though he retains nothing of the activity and ingenuity of his forefathers, salutes a stranger with an air of courtesy rarely seen in any other uneducated American. The landlord of the Auberge was an honourable exemplification of this remark. He politely told the stranger that he would have to conduct him to a farm-house, where he might obtain a clean room and a nice bed. The offer was gratefully accepted, and out traveller soon found himself comfortably established in a neat whitewashed cottage, in the midst of a peasant’s family, who were engaged in common rural occupations. The wants of his body being thus provided for, he resorted to the usual expedients to enliven the hours that must intervene before bed-time. He inquired of the master of the house how he provided for his family, and after learning that he lived, as his father and grandfather before him, by carrying the few products of his farm to Montreal, he turned to the matron, and asked her why her children were not taught English. “Ah!” she replied, :the English have done us too much wrong.” She then launched into a relation of her sufferings during the last war. She had, like honest Dogberry, “had her losses,” and found the usual consolation in recounting them. The militia had spoiled her of her flocks and herds, and des veaux – des moutons - des dindons - et des poulets, bled afresh in her sad tale. If her children were not taught English, one of them, the mother said had been sent to a boarding-school at the distance of twenty miles, and she could now read like any priest. Little Marie was summoned, and she read with a tolerable fluency from her school-book a collection of extracts from the Fathers, while her simple parents sat bending over her with their mouths wide open, and their eyes sparkling, and occasionally turn—

ing on the stranger with an expression of wonder and delight, as if they would have said, “did you ever see any thing equal to that?”

The good-natured stranger listened and lavished his praises, and then, in hope of escaping from any further display of the child’s erudition, he offered to assist her elder sister, who was winding a skein of yarn. This proved a more amusing resource. The girl was pretty, and lively and showed by the upward inclination of the corners of her arch mouth, and flashes of her laughing eye that she could understand the compliments, and return the raillery of her assistant. The pretty Louise had been living at Seignorie with the madame, a rich widow - “si riche - si bonne,” she said, but “trop agée pour Monsieur, parce qu’elle a peut être trente ans; et d’ailleurs, elle n’est pas assez belle pour Monsieur.” Monsieur was a bachelor of forty years standing, and his vanity was touched by Louise’s adroit compliment. The skein slipped off his hands, Louise bent her head to arrange it, her fair round cheek was very near Monsieur’s lips, perhaps her mother thought too near, for she called to Louise to lay aside her yarn and prepare the tea, and after tea the pretty girl disappeared. Our traveller yawned for an hour or two over the only book the house afforded, Marie’s readings from St. Augustine and St. Chrysostom, and then begged to be shown to his bed. On entering his room, his attention was attracted to an antique, worm-eaten, travelling port-folio. It was made of morocco, and bound and clasped with silver, and, compared with the rude furniture of the humble apartment, it had quite an exotic air. He took it up and looked at the initials on the clasp. “That is a curious affair, said his landlord, “and older than you or I.”

“Something in that way,: replied the landlord

“ there is a big letter in it which has been like so much blank paper to us, for we have never had a scholar in the family that could read it. I have thought to take it some day to Pére Martigné at the Cedars, but I shall let it rest till the next year when Marie - bless her ! will be able to read writing. ” The stranger said that if his landlord had no objection, he would try to read it. The old man’s eyes glistened - he unclasped the port-folio, took out the manuscript and put it into the stranger’s hands. “You are heartily welcome,” he said, “it would be best but an uncouth for Marie, for, as you see, the leaves are mouldy, and the ink has faded.”

The stranger’s zeal abated when he perceived the difficulty of the enterprise. “It is some old family record I imagine,” he said, unfolding it with an air of indifference.

“Heaven knows,” replied the landlord ; “I only know that it is no record of my family. “We have been but simple peasants from the beginning, and not a single line has been written about us, except what is on my grandfather’s grave-stone at the Cedars - God Bless him! I remember well as if it were yesterday, his sitting in that old oaken chair by the casements, and telling us all about his travels to the great western lakes, with one Bonchard, a young Frenchman, who was sent to our trading establishments - people did not go about the world then, as they do now-a-days, just to look at rapids and waterfalls.”

“Then this,” said the stranger, in the hope of at last obtaining a clue to the manuscript, “this I presume is some account of the journey?”

“Oh, no,” replied the old man. “Bonchard found this on the shore of Lake Huron, in a strange wild place - sit down, and I will tell you all I have heard my grandfather say about it; bless the good old man, he loved to talk of his journey.” And so did his grandson, and the stranger listened patiently to the fol-

lowing particulars, which are only varied in language from the landlord’s narration.

It appeared that about the year 1700, young Bonchard and his attendants, on their return from Lake Superior, arrived on the shore of Lake Huron, near Saganaw Bay. From an eminence, they described an Indian Village, or, to use their descriptive designation, a “smoke.” Bonchard despatched his attendants with Seguin, his Indian guide, to the village, to obtain canoes to transport them over the lake, and in the mean time he sought for some place that might afford him shelter and repose. The shore was rocky and precipitous. Practice and experience had rendered Bonchard as agile and courageous as a Swiss Mountaineer, and he descended the precipice leaping from crag to crag as unconscious of an emotion of fear, as the wild bird that flapped her wings over him, and whose screeches alone broke the stillness of the solitude. Having attained the margin of the lake, he loitered along the water’s edge, till turning an angle of the rocks, he came to a spot which seemed to have been contrived by nature for a place of refuge. It was a little interval of ground in the form of an amphitheatre, nearly infolded by the rocks, which as they projected boldly into the lake at the extremities of the semi circle, looked as if their giant forms had been set there to defend this temple of nature. The ground was probably inundated after the easterly winds, for it was soft and marshy and among the ranks of weeds that covered it there were some aquatic flowers. The lake had once washed the base of the rocks here as elsewhere; they were worn perfectly smooth in some places, and in others broken and shelving. Bonchard was attracted by some gooseberries that had forced themselves through crevices in the rocks, and which seemed to form, with their purple berries and bright green leaves, a garland around the bald brow of the precipice. They are among the few indigenous fruits of the

wilderness, and doubtless looked as tempting to Bonchard, as the most delicious fruits of the Hesperides would, in his own sunny valleys of France. In reconnoitering for the best mode of access to the fruit, he discovered a small cavity in the rock, that so much resembled a berth in a ship, as to appear to have been the joint work of nature and art. It had probably supplied the savage hunter or fisherman with a place of repose, for it was strewn with decayed leaves, so matted together as to form a luxurious couch for one accustomed for many months to sleeping on a blanket, spread on the bare ground. After possessing himself of the berries, Bonchard crept into the recess, and, (for there is companionship in water,) he forgot, for a while, the tangled forests, and the wide unbroken wilderness that interposed between him and his country.
He listened to the soft musical sounds of the light waves, as they broke on the shelving rock and reedy bank; and he gazed on the bright element which reflected the blue vault of heaven, and the fleecy summer cloud, till his sense became oblivious of this, their innocent and purest indulgence, and he sunk into a deep sleep, from which he was awakened by the dashing of oars.

Bonchard looked out upon the lake, and saw, approaching the shore, a canoe, in which were three Indians - a young man who rowed the canoe, an old man, and a maiden. They landed not far from him, and without observing him, turned towards the opposite extremity of the semicircle. The old man proceeded with a slow, measured steps and removing a sort of door, formed a flexible brush-wood and matting, (which Bonhard had not before noticed,) they entered an excavation in the rocks, deposited something which they had brought in their hands, prostrated themselves for a few moments, and then slowly returned to the canoe; and, as long as Bonchard could discern the bark, glancing like a water-fowl over the

deep blue waters, he heard the sweet voice of the girl, accompanied at regular intervals by her companions, hymning, as he fancied, some explanation of their mute worship, for their expressive gestures, pointed first to the shore, and then to the skies.

As soon as the canoe disappeared, Bonchard crept out of his berth, and hastened to the cell. It proved to be a natural excavation, was high enough to admit a man of ordinary stature, and extended for several feet, when it contracted to a mere channel in the rocks. On one side, a little rivulet penetrated the arched roof, and fell in large crystal drops into a natural basin, which it had worn in the rock. In the centre of the cell there was a pyramidal heap of stones; on the top of the pile lay a breviary and santanne; and on the side of it ere arranged the votive offerings Bonchard had seen deposited there. He was proceeding to examine them, when he heard the shrill signal whistle of his guide: he sounded his horn in reply, and in a few moments Sequin descended the precipice, and was at his side. Bonchard told him what he had seen, and Sequin, after a moment’s reflection, said, “This must be the place of which I have so often heard our ancients speak- a good man died here. He was sent by the Great Spirit to teach our nation good things: and the Hurons yet keep many of his sayings in their hearts. They say he fasted all of his lifetime, and he should feast now, so they bring him provisions from their festivals. Let us see what offerings are these?” Sequin first took up a wreath of wild flowers and evergreens, interwoven- “this,” he said, “was a nuptial offering;” and he inferred, that the young people were newly married. Next was the calumet- “this,” said Sequin, “is an emblem of peace, an old man’s gift- and these,” he added, unrolling a skin that enveloped some ripe ears of Indian corn, “are the emblems of abundance; and the different occupations of a man and woman. The husband hunts the deer,

--the wife cultivates the maize; and those,” he concluded, pointing to some fresh scalps, and smiling at Bonchard’s shuddering, “those are the emblems of victory.” Bonchard took up breviary, and as he opened it, a manuscript dropped from between its leaves-he eagerly seized, and was proceeding to examine it, when his guide pointed to the lengthening shadows on the lake, and informed him that the canoes were ready at the rising of the full moon. Bonchard was a good Catholic; and like all good Catholics, a good Christian. He reverenced all the saints in
the calendar; and he loved the memory of a good man, albeit never canonized. He crossed himself, and repeated a paternoster, and then followed his guide to the place of rendezvous. The manuscript he kept as a holy relic, and that which fell into the hands of our traveller at the cottage of the Canadian peasant, was a copy he had made to transmit to France. The original was written by Père Mésnard, (whose blessed memory had consecrated the cell on Lake Huron,) and contained the following particulars:

This holy man was educated at the seminary of St. Sulpice. The difficult and dangerous enterprise of propagating his religion among the savages of the western world, appears early to have taken possession of his imagination, and to have inspired him with the ardour of an apostle, and with the resolution of a martyr. He came to America under the auspices of Madame de Bouillon, who had, a few years before, founded the Hotel Dieu at Montreal. With her sanction and aid, he established himself at a little village of the Utawas, on the borders lake St. Louis, at the junction of the Utawa river and the St. Lawrence. His pious efforts won some of the savages to his religion, and to the habits of civilized life; and others he persuaded to bring their children to be trained in a yoke, which they could not bear themselves.

On one occasion, an Utawa chief appeared before

Père Mésnard with two girls whom he had captured from the Iroquois - a fierce and powerful nation, most jealous of the encroachment of the French, and resolute to exclude from their territory the emissaries of the Catholic religion. The Utawa chief presented the children to the father, saying, “They are the daughters of my enemy, of Talasco, the mightiest chief of the Iroquois-the eagle of his tribe : he hates Christians - he calls them dogs-make his children Christian, and I shall be revenged.” This was the only revenge to which the good father would have been accessory. He adopted the girls in the name of the church and St. Joseph, to whom he dedicated them, intending that when they arrived at the suitable age to make voluntary vows, they should enrol themselves with the religieuses of the Hotel Dieu. They were baptized by the Christian names of Rosalie and Françoise. They lived in Père Mésnard’s cabin and were strictly trained to the prayers and penances of the church ; Rosalie was a natural devotee- the father had recorded surprising instances of her voluntary mortifications. When only twelve years old, she walked on the ice around an island, three miles in circumference, on her bare feet- she strewed her bed with thorns, and seared her forehead with a red hot iron, that she might, as
she said bear the mark of the “slave of Jesus.” The father magnifies the piety of Rosalie, with the exultation of a true son of the church, yet as a man, he appears to have felt far more tenderness for Françoise, whom he never names without some epithet, expressive of affection or pity. If Rosalie was like a sunflower, that lives but to pay homage to a single object, Francoise resembled a luxuriant plant, that shoots out its flowers on every side, and imparts the sweetness of its perfume to all who wander by. Père Mésnard says she could not pray all her time. She loved to roam in the woods; to sit gazing on the rapids, singing the wild native songs, for which the Iroquois are so much

celebrated-she shunned all intercourse with the Utawas, because they were the enemies of her people. Père Mésnard complains that she often evaded her penances, but, he adds, she never failed in her benevolent duties.

On one occasion, when the father had gone to the Cedars on a religious errand, Françoise entered the cabin hastily- Rosalie was kneeling before a crucifix. She rose at her sister’s entrance, and asked her with an air of rebuke, where she had been sauntering? Françoise said she had been to the Sycamores, to get some plants to dye quills for Julie’s wedding moccasins.

“You think quite too much of weddings,” rescued Rosalie, “for one whose thoughts should all be upon a heavenly marriage.”
“I am not a nun yet,” said Françoise, “but oh! Rosalie, Rosalie, it was not of weddings I was thinking - as I came through the wood I heard voices whispering - our names were pronounced - not our Christian names, but those they called us by at Onnontagué.”

“You surely dared not stop to listen!” exclaimed her sister.

“I could not help it, Rosalie - it was our mother’s voice” - An approaching footstep at this moment startled both the girls. They looked out, and beheld their mother, Genanhatenna, close to them. Rosalie sunk down before the crucifix, Françoise sprang towards her mother in the ecstacy of a youthful and natural joy. Genanhatenna, after looking silently at her children for a few moments, spoke to them with all the energy of strong and irrepressible feeling. She entreated, she commanded them to return with her to their own people. Rosalie was cold and silent, but Françoise laid her head on her mother’s lap, and wept bitterly. Her resolution was shaken, till Genanhatenna arose to depart, and the moment of decision

could not be deferred ; she then pressed the cross that hung at her neck to her lips, and said, “Mother, I have made a Christian vow, and must not break it.”

“Come with me then to the wood,” replied her mother ; “if we must part, let it be there - come quickly - the young chief Allewemi awaits me - he has ventured his life to attend me here. If the Utawas see him, their cowardly spirits will exult in a victory over a single man.”

“Do not go,” whispered Rosalie, “you are not safe beyond the call of our cabins.” Francoise’s feelings were in too excited a state to regard the caution, and and she followed her mother. When they reached the wood, Genanhatenna renewed her passionate entreaties. “Ah! Françoise,” she said, “they will shut you within stone walls, where you will never again breathe the fresh air - never hear the songs of birds, nor the dashing of waters. The Christian Utawas have slain your brothers - your father was the stateliest tree in our forests, but his branches are all lopped, or withered, and if you return not, he perishes without a single scion from his stock. alas! alas! I have borne sons and daughters, and I must die a childless mother.”

Françoise’s heart was touched - “I will- I will return with you mother,” she said, “only promise me that my father will suffer me to be a Christian.”

“That I cannot, Françoise,” replied Genanhatenna, “your father has sworn by the God Areouski,* [* The God of War] that no Christian shall live among the Iroquois.”

“Then, mother,” said Francoise, summoning all her resolution, “we must part- I am signed with this holy sign,” she crossed herself, “and the daughter of Talasco should no longer waver.”
“Is it so?” cried the mother, and starting back from Françoise’s offered embrace, she clapped her hands and shrieked in a voice that rung through the wood;

the shriek was answered by a wild shout, and in a moment after Talasco and the young Allewemi rushed on them. “You are mine,” said Talasco, “in life and in death you are mine.” Resistance would have been in vain. Francoise was placed between the two Indians, and hurried forward. As the party issued from the wood, they were met by a company of Frenchmen, armed, and commanded by a young officer eager for adventure. He perceived, at a glance, Françoise’s European dress - knew she must be a captive, and determined to rescue her. He levelled his musket at Talasco ; Françoise sprang before her father, and shielded him with her own person, while she explained in French that he was her father. “Rescue me,” she said, “but spare him-do not detain him-the Utawas are his deadly foes- they will torture him to death, and I, his unhappy child, shall be the cause of all his misery.

Talasco said nothing. He had braced himself to the issue, whatever it might be, with savage fortitude. He disdained to sue for a life which it would have been his pride to resign without shuddering, and when the Frenchmen filed off to the right and left, and permitted him to pass, he moved forward without one look or word that indicated he was receiving a favour at their hands. His wife followed him. “Mother - one parting word,” said Françoise, in a voice of tender appeal.

“One word,” echoed Genanhatenna, pausing for an instant; “Yes, one word - Vengeance. The day of your father’s vengeance will come - I have heard the promise in the murmuring stream and in the rushing wind - it will come.”

Françoise bowed her head as if she had been smitten, grasped her rosary, and invoked her patron saint. The young officer, after a moment’s respectful silence, asked whither he should conduct her? “To Père Mésnard’s,” she said.

“Père Mésnard’s,” reiterated the office. “Père Mésnard is my mother’s brother, and I was on my way to him when I was so fortunate as to meet you.”

The officer’s name was Eugene Brunon. He remained for some days at Sy. Louis. Rosalie was engrossed in severe religious duties, preparatory to her removal to the covent. She did not see the strangers, and she complained that Françoise no longer participated her devotions. Françoise pleaded that her time was occupied with arranging the hospitalities of their scanty household; but when she was released from this duty by the departure of Eugene, her spiritual taste did not revive. Eugene returned successful from the expedition on which he had been sent by the government; then for the first time, did Père Mésnard perceive some token of danger, that St. Joseph would lose his votary; and when he reminded Françoise that he had dedicated her to a religious life, she frankly confessed that she and Eugene had reciprocally plighted their faith. The good father reproved and remonstrated- and represented in the strongest colours, “the sin of taking the heart from the altar, and devoting it to an earthly love” - but Françoise answered that she could not be bound by vows she had not herself made. “Oh! Father,” she said, “let Rosalie be a nun and a saint - I can serve God in some other way.”

“And you may be called to do so in a way, my child,” replied the father with solemnity, “that you think not of.”

“And if I am,” said Françoise smiling, “I doubt not good father, that I shall feel the virtue of all your prayers and labours in my behalf.” This was the sportive reply of a light, unapprehensive heart, but it sunk deeply into the Father’s mind, and was indelibly fixed there by subsequent circumstances. A year passed on - Rosalie was numbered with the black nuns

of the Hotel Dieu. Eugene paid frequent visits to St. Lous, and Père Mésnard, finding further opposition useless, himself administered the holy sacrament of marriage. Here the father pauses in his narrative, to eulogize the union of pure and loving hearts, and pronounces that, next to a religious consecration, this is most acceptable to God.

The wearisome winter of Canada was past - summer had come forth in her vigour, and clothed with her fresh green the woods and valleys of St. Louis; the full Utawa had thrown off its icy mantle, and proclaimed its freedom in a voice of gladness. Père Mésnard had been, according to his daily custom, to visit the huts of his little flock. He stopped before the crucifix which he had caused to be erected in the centre of the village - he looked about upon the fields prepared for summer crops - up on the fruit trees gay with herald blossoms - he saw the women and children busily at work in their little garden patches, and he raised his heart in devout thankfulness to God, who had permitted him to be the instrument of redeeming these poor savages from a suffering life. He cast his eye on the holy symbol before which he knelt, and saw, or fancied he saw, a shadow flit over it. He thought it was a passing cloud, but when he looked upward, he perceived the sky was cloudless, and then he knew full well it was a presage of coming evil. But when he entered his own cabin, the sight of Françoise dispelled his gloomy presentiments. “Her face,” he says, “was as clear and bright as the lake, when not a breath of wind was sweeping across it, and the clear sun shone upon it.” She had, with her simple skill, been ornamenting a scarf for Eugene. She held it up for Père Mésnard as he entered. “See father,” she said, “I have finished it, and I trust Eugene will never have a wound to soil it. Hark!” she added, “he will be here presently, I hear the chorus of his French boatmen swelling on the air.” The good Father would

have said, “You think too much of Eugene, my child,” but he could not bear to check the full tide of her youthful happiness, and he only said with a simple, “When your bridal moon is in the wane, Françoise, I shall expect you to return to penances and prayers.” She did not heed him, for at that instant she caught a glimpse of her husband, and bounded away, fleet as a startled deer, to meet him. Père Mésnard observed them as they drew near the cabin. Eugene’s brow was contracted, and though it relaxed for a moment at the childish caresses of Françoise, it was evident from his hurried step and disturbed mein, that he feared some misfortune. He suffered Françoise to pass in before him, and, unobserved by her, beckoned to Père Mésnard. “Father,” he said, “there is danger near. An Iroquois captive was brought into Montreal yesterday, who confessed that some of his tribe were out on a secret expedition; I saw strange canoes moored in the cove at Cedar Island - you must instantly return with Françoise in my boat to Montreal.”

“What!” exclaimed the father, “think you that I will desert my poor lambs at the moment the wolves are coming upon them!”

“You cannot protect them, father,” replied Eugene.

“Then I will die with them.”

“Nay father,” urged Eugene, “be not so rash. Go - if not for your own sake, for my poor Françoise - what will become of her if we are slain? The Iroquois have sworn vengeance on her, and they are fierce and relentess as tigers. Go, I beseech you - every moment is winged with death. The boatmen are ordered to await you at the Grassy Point. Take your way through the maple wood - I will tell Françoise that Rosalie has sent for her - that I will join her to-morrow - any thing to hasten your departure.”

“Oh, my son - I cannot go - the true Shepherd will not leave his sheep.”

The good father continued inexorable, and the only alternative was to acquaint Françoise, and persuade her to depart alone. She positively refused to go without her husband. Eugene represented to her that he should be for ever disgraced if he deserted a settlement under the protection of his government, at the moment of peril - “My life, Françoise,” he said, “I would lay down for you - but my honour is a trust for you - for my country - I must not part with it.” He changed his intreaties into commands.

“Oh, do not be angry with me,” said Françoise; “I will go, but I do not fear to die here with you.” She had scarcely uttered these words, when awful sounds broke on the air - “It was my father’s war-whoop,” she cried - “St. Joseph aid us! - we are lost.”

“Fly-fly, Françoise,” exclaimed Eugene- “To the maple wood before you are seen.”

Poor Françoise threw her arms around her husband - clung to him in one long, heart-breaking embrace, and then ran towards the wood. The terrible war-cry followed, and there mingled with it, as if shrilly whispered in the ear, “Vengeance - they day of your father’s vengeance will come.” She attained the wood, and mounted a sheltered eminence, from which she could look back upon the green valley. She stopped for an instant. The Iroquois canoes had shot out of the island cove, and were darting towards the St. Louis, like vultures, eager for they prey. The Utawas rushed from their huts, some armed with musket, others simply with bows arrows. Père Mésnard walked with a slow but assured step towards the crucifix, and having reached it, he knelt, seemingly insensible to the gathering storm, and as calm as at his usual vesper prayer. “Ah,” thought Françoise, “the first arrow will drink his life-blood.” Eugene was every where at the same instant - urging some forward, and repressing others; and in a few moments all were marshalled in battle array around the crucifix.

The Iroquois had landed. Françoise forgot now her promise to her husband, forgot every thing in her intense interest in the issue of the contest. She saw Père Mésnard advance in front of his little host, and make a signal to Talasco. “Ah, holy Father,” she exclaimed, “thou knowest not the eagle of his tribe - thou speakest words of peace to the whirlwind.” Talasco drew his bow - Françoise sunk to her knees, “God of mercy shield him!” she cried. Père Mésnard fell pierced by the arrow - the Utawas were panic struck. In vain Eugene urged them forward - in vain he commanded them to discharge their muskets. All with the exception of five men turned and fled. Eugene seemed determined to sell his life as dearly as possible. The savages rushed on him and his brave companions with their knives and tomahawks. “He must die!” exclaimed Françoise; and instinctively she rushed from her concealment. A yell of triumph apprized her that her father’s band descried her - she faltered not - she saw her husband pressed on every side. “Oh, spare him - spare him!” she screamed - “he is not your enemy.” Her father darted a look at her - “A Frenchman! - a Christian!” he exclaimed, :and not my enemy!” and turned again to his work of death. Françoise rushed into the thickest of the fray - Eugene uttered a faint scream at the sight of her. He had fought like a blood hound while he believed he was redeeming moments for her flight; but when the hope of saving her forsook him, his arms dropped nerveless, and he fell to the ground. Françoise sunk down beside him - she locked her her arms around him, and laid her cheek to his. For one moment her savage foes fell back, and gazed on her in silence - there was a chord in their natures that vibrated to a devotedness which triumphed over fear of death; but their fierce passions were suspended only for a moment. Talasco raised his tomahawk - “Do not strike, father,” said Françoise, in a faint calm

voice, “he is dead.” “Then let him bear the death-scar,” replied the unrelenting savage, and with one stroke he clove her husband’s head asunder. One long loud shriek pealed on the air, and Françoise sunk into as utter unconsciousness as the mangled form she clasped. The work of destruction went on - the huts of the Utawas burned, and women and children in one indiscriminate slaughter.

The father relates that he was passed, wounded and disregarded, in the fury of the assault - that he remained in a state of insensibility till midnight, when he found himself lying by the crucifix with a cup of water, and an Indian cake beside him. He seems at a loss whether to impute this succour to his saint, or to some compassionate Iroquois. He languished for a long time in a state of debility, and when he recovered, finding every trace of cultivation obliterated from St. Louis, and the Utawas disposed to impute their defeat to the enervating effect of his peaceful doctrines - he determined to penetrate further into the wilderness; faithfully to sow the good seed, and to leave the harvest to the Lord of the field. In his pilgrimage he met with an Utawa girl who had been taken from St. Louis with Françoise, and who related him all that happened to his beloved disciple after her departure, till she arrived at Onnontagué, the chief village of the Iroquois.

For some days she remained in a state of torpor, and was borne on the shoulders of the Indians. Her father never spoke to her - never approached her, but her permitted Allewemi to render her every kindness. It was manifest that he intended to give his daughter to this young chieftain. When they arrived at Onnontagué, the tribe came out to meet them, apparelled in their garments of victory, consisting of beautiful skins and mantles of feathers, of the most brilliant colours. They all saluted Françoise, but she was as one deaf, and dumb, and blind. They sung their songs of greet-

ing and of triumph, and the deep voice of the old chief Talasco swelled the chorus. Françoise’s step did not falter, nor her cheek blench; her eyes were cast down, and her features had the fixedness of death. Once, indeed when she passed her mother’s hut, some tender recollection of her childhood seemed to move her spirit, for tears were seen to steal from beneath her eye-lids. The wild procession moved on to the green, a place appropriated in every Indian village to councils and sports. The Indians formed a circle around an oak tree - the ancients were seated - the young men stood respectfully without the circle. Talasco arose, and drawing from his bosom a roll, he cut a cord that bound it, and threw it on the ground - “Brothers and sons,” he said, “behold the scalps of the Christian Utawas! - their bodies are mouldering on the sands of St. Louis: thus perish all the enemies of the Iroquois. Brothers, behold my child - the last of the house of Talasco. I have uprooted her from the strange soil where our enemies had planted her; she shall be reset in the warmest valley of the Iroquois, if she marries the young chief Allewemi and abjures that sign,” and he touched with the point of his knife the crucifix that hung at Françoise’s neck. He paused for a moment; Françoise did not raise her eyes, and he added, in a voice of thunder, “hear me, child; if thou dost not again link thyself in the chain of thy people-if thou dost not abjure that badge of thy slavery to the Christian dogs, I will sacrifice thee- as I swore before I went forth to battle, I will sacrifice thee to the god Areouski - life and death are before thee -- speak.”

Françoise calmly arose, and sinking on her knees, she raised her eyes to Heaven, pressed the crucifix to her lips, and made the sign of the cross on her forehead. Talasco’s giant frame shook like a trembling child while he looked at her - for one brief moment the flood of natural affection rolled over his fierce passions, and he uttered a piercing cry as if a life-cord were severed; but after

one moment of agony, the sight of which made the old men’s head to shake, and young eyes to overflow with tears, he brandished his knife, and commanded the youths to prepare the funeral pile. A murmur arose among the old men.

“Nay, Talasco,” said one of them, “the tender sapling should not be so hastily condemned to the fire. Wait till the morning’s sun - suffer thy child to be conducted to Genanhatenna’s hut - the call of the mother bird may bring the wanderer back to the nest.”
Françoise turned impetuously towards her father, and clasping her hands she exclaimed, “Oh do not - do not send me to my mother - this only mercy I ask of you - I can bear any other torture - pierce me with those knives on which the blood of my husband is scarcely dry - consume me with your fires - I will not shrink from any torment - a Christian martyr can endure as firmly as the proudest captive of your tribe.”

“Ha!” exclaimed the old man, exultingly, “the pure blood on the Iroquois runs in her veins - prepare the pile - the shadows of this night shall cover her ashes.”

While the young men were obeying the command, Françoise beckoned to Allewemi. “You are a chieftain,” she said, “and have power - release that poor Utawas child from her captivity - send her to my sister Rosalie, and let her say to her, that if an earthly love once came between me and Heaven, the sin is expiated - I gave suffered more in a few hours - in a few moments, than all her sisterhood can suffer by long lives of penance. Let her say that in my extremity I denied not the cross, but died courageously.” Allewemi promised all she asked, and faithfully performed his promise.

A child of faith - a martyr does not perish without the ministry of celestial spirits. The expression of despair vanished from Françoise’s face. A supernatu-

ral joy beamed from her eyes, which were cast upwards - her spirit seemed eager to spring from its prison-house - she mounted the pile most cheerfully, and standing erect and undaunted, pressed the crucifix to her lips, and signed to her executioners to put fire to the wood. They stood motionless with the fire-brands in their hands. Françoise appeared to be a voluntary sacrifice, not a victim.

Her father was maddened by her victorious constancy. He leaped upon the pile, and tearing the crucifix from her hands, he drew his knife from his girdle, and made an incision on her breast in the form of a cross – “Behold!” he said, “the sign, thou lovest—the sign of thy league with thy father’s enemies—the sign that made thee deaf to the voice of thy kindred.”

“Thank thee, my father!” replied Francoise, with a triumphant smile; “I might have lost the cross thou hast taken from me, but this which thou hast given me, I shall bear even after death.”*

The pile was fired - the flames curled upwards; and the IROQUOIS MARTYR perished.

* This circumstance in the martyrdom of an Indian girl, is related by Charlevoix. [Sedgwick’s note]



Catharine Maria Sedgwick, “The Catholic Iroquois,” Sedgwick Stories: The Periodical Writings of Catharine Maria Sedgwick, accessed March 1, 2024,