After the death of Father Ribourde, Tonty and his companions remained searching for him till noon of the next day, and then, in despair of again seeing him, resumed their journey. They ascended the river, leaving no token of their passage at the junction of its northern and southern branches. For food, they gathered acorns and dug roots in the meadows. Their canoe proved utterly worthless; and, feeble as they were, they set out on foot for Lake Michigan. Boisrondet wandered off, and was lost. He had dropped the flint of his gun, and he had no bullets; but he cut a pewter porringer into slugs with which he shot wild turkeys, by discharging his piece with a firebrand; and after several days he had the good fortune to rejoin the party. Their object was to reach the Pottawattamies of Green Bay. Had they aimed at Michillimackinac, they would have found an asylum with La Forest at the fort on the St. Joseph; but unhappily they passed westward of that post, and, by way of Chicago, followed the borders of Lake Michigan northward. The cold was intense, and they had much ado to grub up wild onions from the frozen ground to save themselves from starving. Tonty fell ill of a fever and a swelling of the limbs, which disabled him from travelling, and hence ensued a long delay. At length they neared Green Bay, where they would have starved had they not gleaned a few ears of corn and frozen squashes in the fields of an empty Indian town. It was the end of November before they found the Pottawattamies, and were warmly greeted by their chief, who had befriended La Salle the year before, and who, in his enthusiasm for the French, was wont to say that he knew but three great captains in the world, Frontenac, La Salle, and himself. [Footnote: Membre, in Le Clercq, ii. 199. Of the three, or rather four narratives, on which this chapter mainly rests, the best is that contained in the manuscript of 1681, entitled the Relation des Decouvertes. This portion of it, which bears every evidence of accuracy, was certainly supplied by Tonty himself or one of his companions. The Memoire of Tonty is wholly distinct. It is a modest and simple statement, of which the chief fault is its brevity. He undoubtedly wrote another and more detailed narrative, which has been used by the editor of the Dernieres Decouvertes, printed with Tonty's name. The editor seems to have taken less liberties with his original in this part of the book than in many others. The narrative of Membre sustains that of Tonty, except in one or two unimportant points, where the writer's vanity seems to have gained the better of his veracity.]
While Tonty rests at Green Bay, and La Salle at the fort on the St. Joseph, we will leave them for a time to trace the strange adventures of the errant friar, Father Louis Hennepin.
THE ILLINOIS TOWN.
The site of the great Illinois town.—This has not till now been determined, though there have been various conjectures concerning it. From a study of the contemporary documents and maps, I became satisfied, first, that the branch of the River Illinois, called the "Big Vermilion," was the Aramoni of the French explorers; and, secondly, that the cliff called "Starved Rock" was that known to the French as Le Rocher, or the Rock of St. Louis. If I was right in this conclusion, then the position of the Great Village was established; for there is abundant proof that it was on the north side of the river, above the Aramoni, and below Le Rocher. I accordingly went to the village of Utica, which, as I judged by the map, was very near the point in question, and mounted to the top of one of the hills immediately behind it, whence I could see the valley of the Illinois for miles, bounded on the farther side by a range of hills, in some parts rocky and precipitous, and in others covered with forests. Far on the right, was a gap in these hills, through which the Big Vermilion flowed to join the Illinois; and somewhat towards the left, at the distance of a mile and a half, was a huge cliff, rising perpendicularly from the opposite margin of the river. This I assumed to be Le Rocher of the French, though from where I stood I was unable to discern the distinctive features which I was prepared to find in it. In every other respect, the scene before me was precisely what I had expected to see. There was a meadow on the hither side of the river, on which stood a farm-house; and this, as it seemed to me, by its relations with surrounding objects, might be supposed to stand in the midst of the space once occupied by the Illinois town.
On the way down from the hill, I met Mr. James Clark, the principal inhabitant of Utica, and one of the earliest settlers of this region. I accosted him, told him my objects, and requested a half hour's conversation with him, at his leisure. He seemed interested in the inquiry, and said he would visit me early in the evening at the inn, where, accordingly, he soon appeared. The conversation took place in the porch, where a number of farmers and others were gathered. I asked Mr. Clark if any Indian remains were found in the neighborhood. "Yes," he replied, "plenty of them." I then inquired if there was any one spot where they were more numerous than elsewhere. "Yes," he answered again, pointing towards the farm-house on the meadow: "on my farm down yonder by the river, my tenant ploughs up teeth and bones by the peck every spring, besides arrow-heads, beads, stone hatchets, and other things of that sort." I replied that this was precisely what I had expected, as I had been led to believe that the principal town of the Illinois Indians once covered that very spot. "If," I added, "I am right in this belief, the great rock beyond the river is the one which the first explorers occupied as a fort, and I can describe it to you from their accounts of it, though I have never seen it except from the top of the hill where the trees on and around it prevented me from seeing any part but the front." The men present now gathered around to listen. "The rock," I continued, "is nearly a hundred and fifty feet high, and rises directly from the water. The front and two sides are perpendicular and inaccessible, but there is one place where it is possible for a man to climb up; though with difficulty. The top is large enough and level enough for houses and fortifications." Here several of the men exclaimed, "That's just it." "You've hit it exactly." I then asked if there was any other rock on that side of the river which could answer to the description. They all agreed that there was no such rock on either side, along the whole length of the river. I then said, "If the Indian town was in the place where I suppose it to have been, I can tell you the nature of the country which lies behind the hills on the farther side of the river, though I know nothing about it except what I have learned from writings nearly two centuries old. From the top of the hills you look out upon a great prairie reaching as far as you can see, except that it is crossed by a belt of woods following the course of a stream which enters the main river a few miles below." (See ante, p. 205, note.) "You are exactly right again," replied Mr. Clark, "we call that belt of timber the 'Vermilion Woods,' and the stream is the Big Vermilion." "Then," I said, "the Big Vermilion is the river which the French called the Aramoni: 'Starved Rock' is the same on which they built a fort called St. Louis, in the year 1682; and your farm is on the site of the great town of the Illinois."
I spent the next day in examining these localities, and was fully confirmed in my conclusions. Mr. Clark's tenant showed me the spot where the human bones were ploughed up. It was no doubt the graveyard violated by the Iroquois. The Illinois returned to the village after their defeat, and long continued to occupy it. The scattered bones were probably collected and restored to their place of burial.
CHAPTER XVIII. 1680. THE ADVENTURES OF HENNEPIN.
HENNEPIN AN IMPOSTOR.—HIS PRETENDED DISCOVERY.—HIS ACTUAL DISCOVERY.—CAPTURED BY THE SIOUX.—THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI.
It was on the last day of the winter that preceded the invasion of the Iroquois, that Father Hennepin, with his two companions, Accau and Du Gay, had set out from Fort Crevecoeur to explore the Illinois to its mouth. It appears from his own later statements, as well as from those of Tonty, that more than this was expected of him, and that La Salle had instructed him to explore, not alone the Illinois, but also the Upper Mississippi. That he actually did so, there is no reasonable doubt; and, could he have contented himself with telling the truth, his name would have stood high as a bold and vigorous discoverer. But his vicious attempts to malign his commander, and plunder him of his laurels, have wrapped his genuine merit in a cloud.
Hennepin's first book was published soon after his return from his travels, and while La Salle was still alive. In it, he relates the accomplishment of the instructions given him, without the smallest intimation that he did more, [Footnote: Description de la Louisiane, nouvellement decouverte, Paris, 1683.] Fourteen years after, when La Salle was dead, he published another edition of his travels, [Footnote: Nouvelle Decouverte d'un tres grand Pays situe dans l'Amerique, Utrecht, 1697] in which he advanced a new and surprising pretension. Reasons connected with his personal safety, he declares, before compelled him to remain silent; but a time at length has come when the truth must be revealed. And he proceeds to affirm that, before ascending the Mississippi, he, with his two men, explored its whole course from the Illinois to the sea, thus anticipating the discovery which forms the crowning laurel of La Salle.
"I am resolved," he says, "to make known here to the whole world the mystery of this discovery, which I have hitherto concealed, that I might not offend the Sieur de la Salle, who wished to keep all the glory and all the knowledge of it to himself. It is for this that he sacrificed many persons whose lives he exposed, to prevent them from making known what they had seen, and thereby crossing his secret plans.... I was certain that if I went down the Mississippi, he would not fail to traduce me to my superiors for not taking the northern route, which I was to have followed in accordance with his desire and the plan we had made together. But I saw myself on the point of dying of hunger, and knew not what to do; because the two men who were with me threatened openly to leave me in the night, and carry off the canoe, and every thing in it, if I prevented them from going down the river to the nations below. Finding myself in this dilemma, I thought that I ought not to hesitate, and that I ought to prefer my own. safety to the violent passion which possessed the Sieur de la Salle of enjoying alone the glory of this discovery. The two men, seeing that I had made up my mind to follow them, promised me entire fidelity; so, after we had shaken hands together as a mutual pledge, we set out on our voyage." [Footnote: Nouvelle Decouverte, 248, 250, 251.]
He then proceeds to recount, at length, the particulars of his alleged exploration. The story was distrusted from the first. [Footnote: See the preface of the Spanish translation by Don Sebastian Fernandez de Medrano, 1699, and also the letter of Gravier, dated 1701, in Shea's Early Voyages on the Mississippi. Barcia, Charlevoix, Kalm, and other early writers, put a low value on Hennepin's veracity.] Why had he not told it before? An excess of modesty, a lack of self-assertion, or a too sensitive reluctance to wound the susceptibilities of others, had never been found among his foibles. Yet some, perhaps, might have believed him, had he not, in the first edition of his book, gratuitously and distinctly declared that he did not make the voyage in question. "We had some designs," he says, "of going down the River Colbert [Mississippi] as far as its mouth; but the tribes that took us prisoners gave us no time to navigate this river both up and down." [Footnote: Description de la Louisiane, 218.]
In declaring to the world the achievement which he had so long concealed and so explicitly denied, the worthy missionary found himself in serious embarrassment. In his first book, he had stated that, on the twelfth of March, he left the mouth of the Illinois on his way northward, and that, on the eleventh of April, he was captured by the Sioux, near the mouth of the Wisconsin, five hundred miles above. This would give him only a month to make his alleged canoe-voyage from the Illinois to the Gulf of Mexico, and again upward to the place of his capture,—a distance of three thousand two hundred and sixty miles. With his means of transportation, three months would have been insufficient. [Footnote: La Salle, in the following year, with a far better equipment, was more than three months and a half in making the journey. A Mississippi trading-boat of the last generation, with sails and oars, ascending against the current, was thought to do remarkably well if it could make twenty miles a day. Hennepin, if we believe his own statements, must have ascended at an average rate of sixty miles, though his canoe was large and heavily laden.] He saw the difficulty; but on the other hand, he saw that he could not greatly change either date without confusing the parts of his narrative which preceded and which followed. In this perplexity, he chose a middle course, which only involved him in additional contradictions. Having, as he affirms, gone down to the Gulf and returned to the mouth of the Illinois, he set out thence to explore the river above; and he assigns the twenty-fourth of April as the date of this departure. This gives him forty-three days for his voyage to the mouth of the river and back. Looking farther, we find that, having left the Illinois on the twenty- fourth, he paddled his canoe two hundred leagues northward, and was then captured by the Sioux on the twelfth of the same month. In short, he ensnares himself in a hopeless confusion of dates. [Footnote: Hennepin here falls into gratuitous inconsistencies. In the edition of 1697, in order to gain a little time, he says that he left the Illinois on his voyage southward on the eighth of March, 1680; and yet, in the preceding chapter, he repeats the statement of the first edition, that he was detained at the Illinois by floating ice till the twelfth. Again, he says in the first edition, that he was captured by the Sioux on the eleventh of April; and in the edition of 1697, he changes this date to the twelfth, without gaining any advantage by doing so.]
Here, one would think, is sufficient reason, for rejecting his story; and yet the general truth of the descriptions, and a certain verisimilitude which marks it, might easily deceive a careless reader and perplex a critical one. These, however, are easily explained. Six years before Hennepin published his pretended discovery, his brother friar, Father Chretien Le Clercq, published an account of the Recollet missions among the Indians, under the title of "Etablissement de la Foi." This book was suppressed by the French government; but a few copies fortunately survived. One of these is now before me. It contains the journal of Father Zenobe Membre, on his descent of the Mississippi in 1681, in company with La Salle. The slightest comparison of his narrative with that of Hennepin is sufficient to show that the latter framed his own story out of incidents and descriptions furnished by his brother missionary, often using his very words, and sometimes copying entire pages, with no other alterations than such as were necessary to make himself, instead of La Salle and his companions, the hero of the exploit. The records of literary piracy may be searched in vain for an act of depredation more recklessly impudent. [Footnote: Hennepin may have copied from the unpublished journal of Membre, which the latter had placed in the hands of his superior, or he may have compiled from Le Clercq's book, relying on the suppression of the edition to prevent detection. He certainly saw and used it, for he elsewhere borrows the exact words of the editor. He is so careless that he steals from Membre passages which he might easily have written for himself, as, for example, a description of the opossum and another of the cougar, animals with which he was acquainted. Compare the following pages of the Nouvelle Decouverte with the corresponding pages of Le Clercq: Hennepin, 252, Le Clercq, ii. 217; H. 253, Le C. ii. 218; H. 257, Le C. ii. 221; H. 259, Le C. ii. 224; H. 262, Le C. ii. 226; H. 265, Le C. ii. 229; H. 267, Le C. ii. 283; H. 270, Le C. ii. 235; H. 280, Le C. ii. 240; H. 295, Le C. ii. 249; H. 296, Le C. ii. 250; H. 297, Le C. ii. 253; H. 299, Le C. ii. 254; H. 301, Le C. ii. 257. Some of these parallel passages will be found in Sparks's Life of La Salle, where this remarkable fraud was first fully exposed. In Shea's Discovery of the Mississippi, there is an excellent critical examination of Hennepin's works. His plagiarisms from Le Clercq are not confined to the passages cited above; for, in his later editions, he stole largely from other parts of the suppressed Etablissement de la Foi.]
Such being the case, what faith can we put in the rest of Hennepin's story? Fortunately, there are tests by which the earlier parts of his book can be tried; and, on the whole, they square exceedingly well with contemporary records of undoubted authenticity. Bating his exaggerations respecting the Falls of Niagara, his local descriptions, and even his estimates of distance, are generally accurate. He constantly, it is true, magnifies his own acts, and thrusts himself forward as one of the chiefs of an enterprise, to the costs of which he had contributed nothing, and to which he was merely an appendage; and yet, till he reaches the Mississippi, there can be no doubt that, in the main, he tells the truth. As for his ascent of that river to the country of the Sioux, the general statement is fully confirmed by allusions of Tonty, and other contemporary writers. [Footnote: It is certain that persons having the best means of information believed at the time in Hennepin's story of his journeys on the Upper Mississippi. The compiler of the Relation des Decouvertes, who was in close relations with La Salle and those who acted with him, does not intimate a doubt of the truth of the report which Hennepin, on his return, gave to the Provincial Commissary of his Order, and which is in substance the same which he published two years later. The Relation, it is to be observed, was written only a few months after the return of Hennepin, and embodies the pith of his narrative of the Upper Mississippi, no part of which had then been published.] For the details of the journey, we must look on Hennepin alone; whose account of the company and of the peculiar traits of its Indian occupation afford, as far as they go, good evidence of truth. Indeed, this part of his narrative could only have been written by one well versed in the savage life of this north-western region. [Footnote: In this connection, it is well to examine the various Sioux words which Hennepin uses incidentally, and which he must have acquired by personal intercourse with the tribe, as no Frenchman then understood the language. These words, as far as my information reaches, are in every instance correct. Thus, he says that the Sioux called his breviary a "bad spirit"—Ouackanche. Wakanshe, or Wakansheclia, would express the same meaning in modern English spelling. He says elsewhere that they called the guns of his companions Manzaouackanche, which he translates, "iron possessed with a bad spirit." The western Sioux to this day call a gun Manzawakan, "metal possessed with a spirit." Chonga (shonka), "a, dog," Ouasi (wahsee), "a pine-tree," Chinnen (shinnan), "a robe," or "garment," and other words, are given correctly, with their interpretations. The word Louis, affirmed by Hennepin to mean "the sun," seems at first sight a wilful inaccuracy, as this is not the word used in general by the Sioux. The Yankton band of this people, however, call the sun oouee, which, it is evident, represents the French pronunciation of Louis, omitting the initial letter. This, Hennepin would be apt enough to supply, thereby conferring a compliment alike on himself, Louis Hennepin, and on the King, Louis XIV., who, to the indignation of his brother monarchs, had chosen the sun as his emblem.
A variety of trivial incidents touched upon by Hennepin, while recounting his life among the Sioux, seem to me to afford a strong presumption of an actual experience. I speak on this point with the more confidence, as the Indians in whose lodges I was once domesticated for several weeks, belonged to a western band of the same people.] Trusting, then, to his guidance in the absence of better, let us follow in the wake of his adventurous canoe.
It was laden deeply; with goods belonging to La Salle, and meant by handing presents to Indians on the way, though the travelers, it appears, proposed to use them in trading of their own account. The friar was still wrapped in his gray capote and hood, shod with sandals, and decorated with the cord of St. Francis. As for his two companions, Accau [Footnote: Called Ako by Hennepin. In contemporary documents it is written Accau, Acau, D'Accau Dacau, Dacan, and d'Accault.] and Du Gay, it is tolerably clear that the former was the real leader of the party, though Hennepin, after his custom, thrusts himself into the foremost place. Both were somewhat above the station of ordinary hired hands; and Du Gay had an uncle who was an ecclesiastic of good credit at Amiens, his native place.
In the forests that overhung the river, the buds were feebly swelling with advancing spring. There was game enough. They killed buffalo, deer, beavers, wild turkeys, and now and then a bear swimming in the river. With these, and the fish which they caught in abundance, they fared sumptuously, though it was the season of Lent. They were exemplary, however, at their devotions. Hennepin said prayers at morning and night, and the angelus at noon, adding a petition to St. Anthony of Padua, that he would save them from the peril that beset their way. In truth, there was a lion in the path. The ferocious character of the Sioux, or Dacotah, who occupied the region of the Upper Mississippi, was already known to the French; and Hennepin, not without reason, prayed that it might be his fortune to meet them, not by night, but by day.
On the eleventh or twelfth of April, they stopped in the afternoon to repair their canoe; and Hennepin busied himself in daubing it with pitch, while the others cooked a turkey. Suddenly a fleet of Sioux canoes swept into sight, bearing a war-party of a hundred and twenty naked savages, who, on seeing the travellers, raised a hideous clamor; and some leaping ashore and others into the water, they surrounded the astonished Frenchmen in an instant. [Footnote: The edition of 1683 says that there were thirty- three canoes: that of 1697 raises the number to fifty. The number of Indians is the same in both. The later narrative is more in detail than the former.] Hennepin held out the peace-pipe, but one of them snatched it from him. Next, he hastened to proffer a gift of Martinique tobacco, which was better received. Some of the old warriors repeated the name Miamiha, giving him to understand that they were a war-party on the way to attack the Miamis; on which Hennepin, with the help of signs and of marks which he drew on the sand with a stick, explained that the Miamis had gone across the Mississippi beyond their reach. Hereupon, he says that three or four old men placed their hands on his head, and began a dismal wailing; while he with his handkerchief wiped away their tears in order to evince sympathy with their affliction, from whatever cause arising. Notwithstanding this demonstration of tenderness, they refused to smoke with him in his peace-pipe, and forced him and his companions to embark and paddle across the river; while they all followed behind, uttering yells and howlings which froze the missionary's blood.
On reaching the farther side, they made their camp-fires, and allowed their prisoners to do the same. Accau and Du Gay slung their kettle; while Hennepin, to propitiate the Sioux, carried to them two turkeys, of which there were several in the canoe. The warriors had seated themselves in a ring, to debate on the fate of the Frenchmen; and two chiefs presently explained to the friar, by significant signs, that it had been resolved that his head should be split with a war-club. This produced the effect which was no doubt intended. Hennepin ran to the canoe, and quickly returned with one of the men, both loaded with presents, which he threw into the midst of the assembly; and then, bowing his head, offered them at the same time a hatchet with which to kill him if they wished to do so. His gifts and his submission seemed to appease them. They gave him and his companions a dish of beaver's flesh; but, to his great concern, they returned his peace-pipe, an act which he interpreted as a sign of danger. That night, the Frenchmen slept little, expecting to be murdered before morning. There was, in fact, a great division of opinion among the Sioux. Some were for killing them, and taking their goods; while others, eager above all things that French traders should come among them with the knives, hatchets, and guns of which they had heard the value, contended that it would be impolitic to discourage the trade by putting to death its pioneers.
Scarcely had morning dawned on the anxious captives, when a young chief, naked, and painted from head to foot, appeared before them, and asked for the pipe, which the friar gladly gave him. He filled it, smoked it, made the warriors do the same, and, having given this hopeful pledge of amity, told the Frenchmen that, since the Miamis were out of reach, the war-party would return home, and that they must accompany them. To this Hennepin gladly agreed, having, as he declares, his great work of exploration so much at heart that he rejoiced in the prospect of achieving it even in their company.
He soon, however, had a foretaste of the affliction in store for him; for, when he opened his breviary and began to mutter his morning devotion, his new companions gathered about him with faces that betrayed their superstitious terror, and gave him to understand that his book was a bad spirit with which he must hold no more converse. They thought, indeed, that he was muttering a charm for their destruction. Accau and Du Gay, conscious of the danger, begged the friar to dispense with his devotions, lest he and they alike should be tomahawked; but Hennepin says that his sense of duty rose superior to his fears, and that he was resolved to repeat his office at all hazards, though not until he had asked pardon of his two friends for thus imperilling their lives. Fortunately, he presently discovered a device by which his devotion and his prudence were completely reconciled. He ceased the muttering which had alarmed the Indians, and, with the breviary open on his knees, sang the service in loud and cheerful tones. As this had no savor of sorcery, and as they now imagined that the book was teaching its owner to sing for their amusement, they conceived a favorable opinion of both alike.
These Sioux, it may be observed, were the ancestors of those who committed the horrible but not unprovoked massacres of 1863, in the valley of the St. Peter. Hennepin complains bitterly of their treatment of him, which, however, seems to have been tolerably good. Afraid that he would lag behind, as his canoe was heavy and slow, [Footnote: And yet it had, by his account, made a distance of thirteen hundred and eighty miles from the mouth of the Mississippi upward in twenty-four days.] they placed several warriors in it, to aid him and his men in paddling. They kept on their way from morning till night, building huts for their bivouac when it rained, and sleeping on the open ground when the weather was fair, which, says Hennepin, "gave us a good opportunity to contemplate the moon and stars." The three Frenchmen took the precaution of sleeping at the side of the young chief who had been the first to smoke the peacepipe, and who seemed inclined to befriend them; but there was another chief, one Aquipaguetin, a crafty old savage, who, having lost a son in war with the Miamis, was angry that the party had abandoned their expedition, and thus deprived him of his revenge. He therefore kept up a dismal lament through half the night; while other old men, crouching over Hennepin as he lay trying to sleep, stroked him with their hands, and uttered wailings so lugubrious that he was forced to the belief that he had been doomed to death, and that they were charitably bemoaning his fate. [Footnote: This weeping and wailing over Hennepin once seemed to me an anomaly in his account of Sioux manners, as I am not aware that such practices are to be found among them at present. They are mentioned, however, by other early writers. Le Sueur, who was among them in 1699-1700, was wept over no less than Hennepin. See the abstract of his journal in La Harpe.]
One night, they were, for some reason, unable to bivouac near their protector, and were forced to make their fire at the end of the camp. Here they were soon beset by a crowd of Indians, who told them that Aquipaguetin had at length resolved to tomahawk them. The malcontents were gathered in a knot at a little distance, and Hennepin hastened to appease them by another gift of knives and tobacco. This was but one of the devices of the old chief to deprive them of their goods without robbing them outright. He had with him the bones of a deceased relative, which he was carrying home wrapped in skins prepared with smoke after the Indian fashion, and gayly decorated with bands of dyed porcupine quills. He would summon his warriors, and, placing these relics in the midst of the assembly, call on all present to smoke in their honor; after which Hennepin was required to offer a more substantial tribute in the shape of cloth, beads, hatchets, tobacco, and the like, to be laid upon the bundle of bones. The gifts thus acquired were then, in the name of the deceased, distributed among the persons present.
On one occasion, Aquipaguetin killed a bear, and invited the chiefs and warriors to feast upon it. They accordingly assembled on a prairie, west of the river; and, the banquet over, they danced a "medicine-dance." They were all painted from head to foot, with their hair oiled, garnished with red and white feathers, and powdered with the down of birds. In this guise, they set their arms akimbo, and fell to stamping with such fury that the hard prairie was dented with the prints of their moccasons; while the chief's son, crying at the top of his throat, gave to each in turn the pipe of war. Meanwhile, the chief himself, singing in a loud and rueful voice, placed his hands on the heads of the three Frenchmen, and from time to time interrupted his music to utter a vehement harangue. Hennepin could not understand the words, but his heart sank as the conviction grew strong within him that these ceremonies tended to his destruction. It seems, however, that, after all the chief's efforts, his party was in the minority, the greater part being averse to either killing or robbing the three strangers. Every morning, at daybreak, an old warrior shouted the signal of departure; and the recumbent savages leaped up, manned their birchen fleet, and plied their paddles against the current, often without waiting to break their fast. Sometimes they stopped for a buffalo-hunt on the neighboring prairies; and there was no lack of provisions. They passed Lake Pepin, which Hennepin called the Lake of Tears, by reason of the howlings and lamentations here uttered over him by Aquipaguetin; and, nineteen days after his capture, landed near the site of St. Paul. The father's sorrows now began in earnest. The Indians broke his canoe to pieces, having first hidden their own among the alder-bushes. As they belonged to different bands and different villages, their mutual jealousy now overcame all their prudence, and each proceeded to claim his share of the captives and the booty. Happily, they made an amicable distribution, or it would have fared ill with the three Frenchmen; and each taking his share, not forgetting the priestly vestments of Hennepin, the splendor of which they could not sufficiently admire, they set out across the country for their villages, which lay towards the north, in the neighborhood of Lake Buade, now called Mille Lac.
Being, says Hennepin, exceedingly tall and active, they walked at a prodigious speed, insomuch that no European could long keep pace with them. Though the month of May had begun, there were frosts at night; and the marshes and ponds were glazed with ice, which cut the missionary's legs as he waded through. They swam the larger streams, and Hennepin nearly perished with cold as be emerged from the icy current. His two companions, who were smaller than he, and who could not swim, were carried over on the backs of the Indians. They showed, however, no little endurance; and he declares that he should have dropped by the way, but for their support. Seeing him disposed to lag, the Indians, to spur him on, set fire to the dry grass behind him, and then, taking him by the hands, ran forward with him to escape the flames. To add to his misery, he was nearly famished, as they gave him only a small piece of smoked meat, once a day, though it does not appear that they themselves fared better. On the fifth day, being by this time in extremity, he saw a crowd of squaws and children approaching over the prairie, and presently descried the bark lodges of an Indian town. The goal was reached. He was among the homes of the Sioux.
CHAPTER XIX. 1680, 1681. HENNEPIN AMONG THE SIOUX.
SIGNS OP DANGER.—ADOPTION.—HENNEPIN AND HIS INDIAN RELATIVES.—THE HUNTING PARTY.—THE SIOUX CAMP.—FALLS OF ST. ANTHONY.—A VAGABOND FRIAR.—HIS ADVENTURES ON THE MISSISSIPPI.—GREYSOLON DU LHUT.—RETURN TO CIVILIZATION.
As Hennepin entered the village, he beheld a sight which caused him to invoke St. Anthony of Padua. In front of the lodges were certain stakes, to which were attached bundles of straw, intended, as he supposed, for burning him and his friends alive. His concern was redoubled when he saw the condition of the Picard Du Gay, whose hair and face had been painted with divers colors, and whose head was decorated with a tuft of white feathers. In this guise, he was entering the village, followed by a crowd of Sioux, who compelled him to sing and keep time to his own music by rattling a dried gourd containing a number of pebbles. The omens, indeed, were exceedingly threatening; for treatment like this was usually followed by the speedy immolation of the captive. Hennepin ascribes it to the effect of his invocations, that, being led into one of the lodges, among a throng of staring squaws and children, he and his companions were seated on the ground, and presented with large dishes of birch bark, containing a mess of wild rice boiled with dried whortleberries; a repast which he declares to have been the best that had fallen to his lot since the day of his captivity. [Footnote: The Sioux, or Dacotah, as they call themselves, were a numerous people, separated into three great divisions, which were again subdivided into bands. Those among whom Hennepin was a prisoner belonged to the division known as the Issanti, Issanyati, or, as he writes it, Issati, of which the principal band was the Meddewakantonwan. The other great divisions, the Yanktons and the Tintonwans, or Tetons, lived west of the Mississippi, extending beyond the Missouri, and ranging as far as the Rocky Mountains. The Issanti cultivated the soil, but the extreme western bands subsisted on the buffalo alone. The former had two kinds of dwelling,—the teepee or skin lodge, and the bark lodge. The teepee, which was used by all the Sioux, consists of a covering of dressed buffalo hide stretched on a conical stack of poles. The bark lodge was peculiar to the eastern Sioux, and examples of it might be seen until within a few years among the bands, on the St. Peter's. In its general character it was like the Huron and Iroquois houses, but was inferior in construction. It had a ridge roof framed of poles extending from the posts which formed the sides, and the whole was covered with elm-bark. The lodges in the villages to which Hennepin was conducted were probably of this kind.
The name Sioux is an abbreviation of Nadouessioux, an Ojibwa word meaning enemies. The Ojibwas used it to designate this people, and occasionally also the Iroquois, being at deadly war with both.
Rev. Stephen R. Riggs, for many years a missionary among the Issanti Sioux, says that this division consists of four distinct bands. They ceded all their lands east of the Mississippi to the United States in 1837, and lived on the St. Peter's till driven thence in consequence of the massacres of 1862, 1863. The Yankton Sioux consist of two bands, which are again subdivided. The Assiniboins, or Hohays, are an offshoot from the Yanktons, with whom they are now at war. The Titonwan or Teton Sioux, forming the most western division, and the largest, comprise seven bands, and are among the bravest and fiercest tenants of the prairie.
The earliest French writers estimate the total number of the Sioux at forty thousand. Mr. Riggs, in 1852, placed it at about twenty-five thousand. Lake many other Indian tribes, they seem practically incapable of civilization.]
This soothed his fears: but, as he allayed his famished appetite, he listened with anxious interest to the vehement jargon of the chiefs and warriors, who were disputing among themselves to whom the three captives should respectively belong; for it seems that, as far as related to them, the question of distribution had not yet been definitely settled. The debate ended in the assigning of Hennepin to his old enemy Aquipaguetin; who, however, far from persisting in his evil designs, adopted him on the spot as his son. The three companions must now part company. Du Gay, not yet quite reassured of his safety, hastened to confess himself to Hennepin, but Accau proved refractory and refused the offices of religion, which did not prevent the friar from embracing them both, as he says, with an extreme tenderness. Tired as he was, he was forced to set out with his self-styled father to his village, which was fortunately not far off. An unpleasant walk of a few miles through woods and marshes brought them to the borders of a sheet of water, apparently Lake Buade, where five of Aquipaguetin's wives received the party in three canoes, and ferried them to an island on which the village stood.
At the entrance of the chief's lodge, Hennepin was met by a decrepit old Indian, withered with age, who offered him the peace-pipe, and placed him on a bear-skin which was spread by the fire. Here, to relieve his fatigue, for he was well-nigh spent, a small boy anointed his limbs with the fat of a wild cat, supposed to be sovereign in these cases by reason of the great agility of that animal. His new father gave him a bark platter of fish, covered him with a buffalo robe, and showed him six or seven of his wives, who were thenceforth, he was told, to regard him as a son. The chief's household was numerous; and his allies and relations formed a considerable clan, of which the missionary found himself an involuntary member. He was scandalized when he saw one of his adopted brothers carrying on his back the bones of a deceased friend, wrapped in the chasuble of brocade which they had taken with other vestments from his box.
Seeing their new relative so enfeebled that he could scarcely stand, the Indians made for him one of their sweating baths, [Footnote: These baths consist of a small hut, covered closely with buffalo-skins, into which the patient and his friends enter, carefully closing every aperture. A pile of heated stones is placed in the middle, and water is poured upon them, raising a dense vapor. They are still, 1868, in use among the Sioux and some other tribes.] where they immersed him in steam three times a week; a process from, which he thinks he derived great benefit. His strength gradually returned, in spite of his meagre fare; for there was a dearth of food, and the squaws were less attentive to his wants than to those of their children. They respected him, however, as a person endowed with occult powers, and stood in no little awe of a pocket compass which he had with him, as well as of a small metal pot with feet moulded after the face of a lion. This last seemed in their eyes a "medicine" of the most formidable nature, and they would not touch it without first wrapping it in a beaver-skin. For the rest, Hennepin made himself useful in various ways. He shaved the heads of the children, as was the custom of the tribe, bled certain asthmatic persons, and dosed others with orvietan, the famous panacea of his time, of which he had brought with him a good supply. With respect to his missionary functions, he seems to have given himself little trouble, unless his attempt to make a Sioux vocabulary is to be regarded as preparatory to a future apostleship. "I could gain nothing over them," he says, "in the way of their salvation, by reason of their natural stupidity." Nevertheless, on one occasion he baptized a sick child, naming it Antoinette in honor of St. Anthony of Padua. It seemed to revive after the rite, but soon relapsed and presently died, "which," he writes, "gave me great joy and satisfaction." In this, he was like the Jesuits, who could find nothing but consolation in the death of a newly baptized infant, since it was thus assured of a paradise which, had it lived, it would probably have forfeited by sharing in the superstitions of its parents.
With respect to Hennepin and his Indian father, there seems to have been little love on either side; but Ouasicoude, the principal chief of the Sioux of this region, was the fast friend of the three white men. He was angry that they had been robbed, which he had been unable to prevent, as the Sioux had no laws, and their chiefs little power; but he spoke his mind freely, and told Aquipaguetin and the rest, in full council, that they were like a dog who steals a piece of meat from a dish, and runs away with it. When Hennepin complained of hunger, the Indians had always promised him that early in the summer he should go with them on a buffalo hunt, and have food in abundance. The time at length came, and the inhabitants of all the neighboring villages prepared for departure, To each several band was assigned its special hunting-ground, and he was expected to accompany his Indian father. To this he demurred; for he feared lest Aquipaguetin, angry at the words of the great chief, might take this opportunity to revenge the insult put upon him. He therefore gave out that he expected a party of "spirits," that is to say, Frenchmen, to meet him at the mouth of the Wisconsin, bringing a supply of goods for the Indians; and he declares that La Salle had in fact promised to send traders to that place. Be this as it may, the Indians believed him; and, true or false, the assertion, as will be seen, answered the purpose for which it was made. The Indians set out in a body to the number of two hundred and fifty warriors, with their women and children. The three Frenchmen, who, though in different villages, had occasionally met during the two months of their captivity, were all of the party. They descended Rum River, which forms the outlet of Mille Lac, and which is called the St. Francis, by Hennepin. None of the Indians had offered to give him passage; and, fearing lest he should be abandoned, he stood on the bank, hailing the passing canoes and begging to be taken in. Accau and Du Gay presently appeared, paddling a small canoe which the Indians had given them; but they would not listen to the missionary's call, and Accau, who had no love for him, cried out that he, had paddled him long enough already. Two Indians, however, took pity on him, and brought him to the place of encampment, where Du Gay tried, to excuse himself for his conduct, but Accau was sullen and kept aloof.
After reaching the Mississippi, the whole party encamped together opposite to the mouth of Rum River, pitching their tents of skin, or building their bark huts, on the slope of a hill by the side of the water. It was a wild scene, this camp of savages among whom as yet no traders had come and no handiwork of civilization had found its way; the tall warriors, some nearly naked, some wrapped in buffalo robes, and some in shirts of dressed deerskin fringed with hair and embroidered with dyed porcupine quills, war-clubs of stone in their hands, and quivers at their backs filled with stone-headed arrows; the squaws, cutting smoke-dried meat with knives of flint, and boiling it in rude earthen pots of their own making, driving away, meanwhile, with shrill cries, the troops of lean dogs, who disputed the meal with a crew of hungry children. The whole camp, indeed, was threatened with, starvation. The three white men could get no food but unripe berries, from the effects of which Hennepin thinks they might all have died, but for timely doses of his orvietan.
Being tired of the Indians, he became anxious to set out for the Wisconsin to find the party of Frenchmen, real or imaginary, who were to meet him at that place. That he was permitted to do so was due to the influence of the great chief Ouasicoude, who always befriended him, and who had soundly berated his two companions for refusing him a seat in their canoe. Du Gay wished to go with him; but Accau, who liked the Indian life as much as he disliked Hennepin, preferred to remain with the hunters. A small birch canoe was given to the two adventurers, together with an earthen pot; and they had also between them a gun, a knife, and a robe of beaver-skin. Thus equipped, they began their journey, and soon approached the Falls of St. Anthony, so named by Hennepin in honor of the inevitable St. Anthony of Padua. [Footnote: Hennepin's notice of the Falls of St. Anthony, though brief, is sufficiently accurate. He says, in his first edition, that they are forty or fifty feet high, but adds ten feet more in the edition of 1697. In 1821, according to Schoolcraft, the perpendicular fall measured forty feet. Great changes, however, have taken place here and are still in progress. The rock is a very soft, friable sandstone, overlaid by a stratum of limestone; and it is crumbling with such rapidity under the action of the water that the cataract will soon be little more than a rapid. Other changes equally disastrous, in an artistic point of view, are going on even more quickly. Beside the falls stands a city, which, by an ingenious combination of the Greek and Sioux languages, has received the name of Minneapolis, or City of the Waters, and which, in 1867, contained ten thousand inhabitants, two national banks, and an opera-house, while its rival city of St. Anthony, immediately opposite, boasted a gigantic water-cure and a State university. In short, the great natural beauty of the place is utterly spoiled.] As they were carrying their canoe by the cataract, they saw five or six Indians, who had gone before, one of whom had climbed into an oak-tree beside the principal fall, whence in a loud and lamentable voice he was haranguing the spirit of the waters, as a sacrifice to whom he had just hung a robe of beaver-skin among the branches. [Footnote: Oanktayhee, the principal deity of the Sioux, was supposed to live under these falls, though he manifested himself in the form of a buffalo. It was he who created the earth, like the Algonquin Manabozho, from mud brought to him in the paws of a musk-rat. Carver, in 1766, saw an Indian throw every thing he had about him into the cataract as an offering to this deity.] Their attention was soon engrossed by another object. Looking over the edge of the cliff which overhung the river below the falls, Hennepin saw a snake, which, as he avers, was six feet long, [Footnote: In the edition of 1683. In that of 1697 he has grown to seven or eight feet. The bank-swallows still make their nests in these cliffs, boring easily into the soft incohesive sandstone.] writhing upward towards the holes of the swallows in the face of the precipice, in order to devour their young. He pointed him out to Du Gay, and they pelted him with stones, till he fell into the river, but not before his contortions and the darting of his forked tongue had so affected the Picard's imagination that he was haunted that night with a terrific incubus.
They paddled sixty leagues down the river in the heats of July, and killed no large game but a single deer, the meat of which soon spoiled. Their main resource was the turtles, whose shyness and watchfulness caused them frequent disappointments, and many involuntary fasts. They once captured one of more than common size; and, as they were endeavoring to cut off his head, he was near avenging himself by snapping off Hennepin's finger. There was a herd of buffalo in sight on the neighboring prairie; and Du Gay went with his gun in pursuit of them, leaving the turtle in Hennepin's custody. Scarcely was he gone when the friar, raising his eyes, saw that their canoe, which they had left at the edge of the water, had floated out into the current. Hastily turning the turtle on his back, he covered him with his habit of St. Francis, on which, for greater security, he laid a number of stones, and then, being a good swimmer, struck out in pursuit of the canoe, which he at length overtook. Finding that it would overset if he tried to climb into it, he pushed it before him to the shore, and then paddled towards the place, at some distance above, where he had left the turtle. He had no sooner reached it than he heard a strange sound, and beheld a long file of buffalo,—bulls, cows, and calves,—entering the water not far off, to cross to the western bank. Having no gun, as became his apostolic vocation, he shouted to Du Gay, who presently appeared, running in all haste; and they both paddled in pursuit of the game. Du Gay aimed at a young cow, and shot her in the head. She fell in shallow water near an island, where some of the herd had landed; and, being unable to drag her out, they waded into the water and butchered her where she lay. It was forty-eight hours since they had tasted food. Hennepin made a fire, while Du Gay cut up the meat. They feasted so bountifully that they both fell ill, and were forced to remain two days on the island, taking doses of orvietan, before they were able to resume their journey.
Apparently they were not sufficiently versed in woodcraft to smoke the meat of the cow; and the hot sun soon robbed them of it. They had a few fish-hooks, but were not always successful in the use of them. On one occasion, being nearly famished, they set their line, and lay watching it. uttering prayers in turn. Suddenly, there was a great turmoil in the water. Du Gay ran to the line, and, with the help of Hennepin, drew in two large cat-fish. [Footnote: Hennepin speaks of their size with astonishment, and says that the two together would weigh twenty-five pounds. Cat-fish have been taken in the Mississippi weighing more than a hundred and fifty pounds.] The eagles, or fish-hawks, now and then dropped a newly caught fish, of which they gladly took possession; and once they found a purveyor in an otter which they saw by the bank, devouring some object of an appearance so wonderful that Du Gay cried out that he had a devil between his paws. They scared him from his prey, which proved to be a spade-fish, or, as Hennepin correctly describes it, a species of sturgeon, with a bony projection from his snout in the shape of a paddle. They broke their fast upon him, undeterred by this eccentric appendage.
If Hennepin had had an eye for scenery, he would have found in these his vagabond rovings wherewith to console himself in some measure for his frequent fasts. The young Mississippi, fresh from its northern springs, unstained as yet by unhallowed union with the riotous Missouri, flowed calmly on its way amid strange and unique beauties; a wilderness, clothed with velvet grass; forest-shadowed valleys; lofty heights, whose smooth slopes seemed levelled with the scythe; domes and pinnacles, ramparts and ruined towers, the work of no human hand. The canoe of the voyagers, borne on the tranquil current, glided in the shade of gray crags festooned with blossoming honeysuckles; by trees mantled with wild grape-vines, dells bright with, the flowers of the white euphorbia, the blue gentian, and the purple balm; and matted forests, where the red squirrels leaped and chattered. They passed the great cliff whence the Indian maiden threw herself in her despair; [Footnote: The "Lover's Leap," or "Maiden's Rock," from which a Sioux girl, Winona, or the "Eldest Born," is said to have thrown herself in the despair of disappointed affection. The story, which seems founded in truth, will be found, not without embellishments, in Mrs. Eastman's Legends of the Sioux.] and Lake Pepin lay before them, slumbering in the July sun; the far-reaching sheets of sparkling water, the woody slopes, the tower-like crags, the grassy heights basking in sunlight or shadowed by the passing cloud; all the fair outline of its graceful scenery, the finished and polished master work of Nature. And when at evening they made their bivouac fire, and drew up their canoe, while dim, sultry clouds veiled the west, and the flashes of the silent heat-lightning gleamed on the leaden water, they could listen, as they smoked their pipes, to the strange, mournful cry of the whippoorwills, and the quavering scream of the owls.
Other thoughts than the study of the picturesque occupied the mind of Hennepin, when one day he saw his Indian father, Aquipaguetin, whom he had supposed five hundred miles distant, descending the river with ten warriors in canoes. He was eager to be the first to meet the traders, who, as Hennepin had given out, were to come with their goods to the mouth of the Wisconsin. The two travellers trembled for the consequences of this encounter; but the chief, after a short colloquy, passed on his way. In three days he returned in ill-humor, having found no traders at the appointed spot. The Picard was absent at the time, looking for game, and Hennepin was sitting under the shade of his blanket, which he had stretched on forked sticks to protect him from the sun, when he saw his adopted father approaching with a threatening look and a war-club in his hand. He attempted no violence, however, but suffered his wrath to exhale in a severe scolding, after which he resumed his course up the river with his warriors.
If Hennepin, as he avers, really expected a party of traders at the Wisconsin, the course he now took is sufficiently explicable. If he did not expect them, his obvious course was to rejoin Tonty on the Illinois, for which he seems to have had no inclination; or to return to Canada by way of the Wisconsin, an attempt which involved the risk of starvation, as the two travellers had but ten charges of powder left. Assuming, then, his hope of the traders to have been real, he and Du Gay resolved, in the mean time, to join a large body of Sioux hunters, who, as Aquipaguetin had told them, were on a stream which he calls Bull River, now the Chippeway, entering the Mississippi near Lake Pepin. By so doing, they would gain a supply of food, and save themselves from the danger of encountering parties of roving warriors.
They found this band, among whom was their companion Accau, and followed them on a grand hunt along the borders of the Mississippi. Du Gay was separated for a time from Hennepin, who was placed in a canoe with a withered squaw more than eighty years old. In spite of her age, she handled her paddle with admirable address, and used it vigorously, as occasion required, to repress the gambols of three children, who, to Hennepin's great annoyance, occupied the middle of the canoe. The hunt was successful. The Sioux warriors, active as deer, chased the buffalo on foot with their stone-headed arrows, on the plains behind the heights that bordered the river; while the old men stood sentinels at the top, watching for the approach of enemies. One day an alarm was given. The warriors rushed towards the supposed point of danger, but found nothing more formidable than two squaws of their own nation, who brought strange news. A war-party of Sioux, they said, had gone towards Lake Superior, and met by the way five "Spirits;" that is to say, five Europeans. Hennepin was full of curiosity to learn who the strangers might be; and they, on their part, were said to have shown great anxiety to know the nationality of the three white men who, as they were told, were on the river. The hunt was over; and the hunters, with Hennepin and his companion, were on their way northward to their towns, when they met the five "Spirits" at some distance below the Falls of St. Anthony. They proved to be Daniel Greysolon du Lhut, with four well-armed Frenchmen.
This bold and enterprising man, stigmatized by the Intendant Duchesneau as a leader of coureurs de bois, was a cousin of Tonty, born at Lyons. He belonged to that caste of the lesser nobles, whose name was legion, and whose admirable military qualities shone forth so conspicuously in the wars of Louis XIV. Though his enterprises were independent of those of La Salle, they were, at this time, carried on in connection with Count Frontenac and certain merchants in his interest, of whom Du Lhut's uncle, Patron, was one; while Louvigny, his brother-in-law, was in alliance with the Governor, and was an officer of his guard. Here, then, was a kind of family league, countenanced by Frontenac, and acting conjointly with him, in order, if the angry letters of the Intendant are to be believed, to reap a clandestine profit under the shadow of the Governor's authority, and in violation of the royal ordinances. The rudest part of the work fell to the share of Du Lhut, who, with a persistent hardihood, not surpassed, perhaps, even by La Salle, was continually in the forest, in the Indian towns, or in remote wilderness outposts planted by himself, exploring, trading, fighting, ruling lawless savages, and whites scarcely less ungovernable, and, on one or more occasions, varying his life by crossing the ocean, to gain interviews with the colonial minister, Seignelay, amid the splendid vanities of Versailles. Strange to say, this man of hardy enterprise was a martyr to the gout, which, for more than a quarter of a century, grievously tormented him; though for a time he thought himself cured by the intercession of the Iroquois saint, Catharine Tegahkouita, to whom he had made a vow to that end. He was, without doubt, an habitual breaker of the royal ordinances regulating the fur-trade; yet his services were great to the colony and to the crown, and his name deserves a place of honor among the pioneers of American civilization. [Footnote: The facts concerning Du Lhut have been gleaned from a variety of contemporary documents, chiefly the letters of his enemy, Duchesneau, who always puts him in the worst light, especially in his despatch to Seignelay of 10 Nov. 1679, where he charges both him and the Governor with carrying on an illicit trade with the English of New York, an example, which, if followed, would ruin the colony by diverting the sources of its support to its rival. Du Lhut built a trading fort on Lake Superior, called Cananistigoyan (La Houtan), or Kamalastigouia (Perrot). It was on the north side, at the mouth of a river entering Thunder Bay, where Fort William now stands. In 1684, he caused two Indians, who had murdered several Frenchmen on Lake Superior, to be shot. He displayed in this affair great courage and coolness, undaunted by the crowd of excited savages who surrounded him and his little band of Frenchmen. The long letter, in which he recounts the capture and execution of the murderers, is before me. Duchesneau makes his conduct on this occasion the ground of a charge of rashness. In 1686, Denonville, then Governor of the colony, ordered him to fortify the Detroit; that is, the strait between Lakes Erie and Huron, He went thither with fifty men and built a palisade fort, which he occupied for some time. In 1687, he, together with Tonty and Durantaye, joined Denonville against the Senecas, with a body of Indians from the Upper Lakes. In 1689, during the panic that followed the Iroquois invasion of Montreal, Du Lhut, with twenty-eight Canadians, attacked twenty-two Iroquois in canoes, received their fire without returning it, bore down upon them, killed eighteen of them, and captured three, only one escaping. In 1695, he was in command at Fort Frontenac. In 1697, he succeeded to the command of a company of infantry, but was suffering wretchedly from the gout at Fort Frontenac. In 1710, Vaudreuil, in a despatch to the minister, Ponchartrain, announced his death as occurring in the previous winter, and added the brief comment, "c'etait un tres-honnete homme." Other contemporaries speak to the same effect. "Mr. Dulhut, Gentilhomme Lionnois, qui a beaucoup de merite et de capacite."—La Hontan, i. 103 (1703). "Le Sieur du Lut, homme d'esprit et d'experience."—Le Clercq, ii. 137. Charlevoix calls him "one of the bravest officers the King has ever had in this colony." His name is variously spelled Du Luc, Du Lud, Du Lude, Du Lut, Du Luth, Du Lhut. For an account of the Iroquois virgin, Tegahkouita, whose intercession is said to have cured him of the gout, see Charlevoix, i. 572.
On a contemporary manuscript map by the Jesuit Raffeix, representing the routes of Marquiette, La Salle, and Du Lhut, are the following words, referring to the last-named discoverer, and interesting in connection with Hennepin's statements: "Mr. du Lude le premier a este chez les Sioux en 1678, et a este proche la source du Mississippi, et ensuite vint retirer le P. Louis (Hennepin) qui avoit este fait prisonnier chez les Sioux." Du Lhut here appears as the deliverer of Hennepin.]
When Hennepin met him, he had been about two years in the wilderness. In September, 1678, he left Quebec for the purpose of exploring the region of the Upper Mississippi, and establishing relations of friendship with the Sioux and their kindred, the Assiniboins. In the summer of 1679, he visited three large towns of the eastern division of the Sioux, including those visited by Hennepin. in the following year, and planted the king's arms in all of them. Early in the autumn, he was at the head of Lake Superior, holding a council with the Assiniboins and the lake tribes, and inducing them to live at peace with the Sioux. In all this, he acted in a public capacity, under the authority of the Governor; but it is not to be supposed that he forgot his own interests or those of his associates. The Intendant angrily complains that he aided and abetted the coureurs de bois in their lawless courses, and sent down in their canoes great quantities of beaver-skins consigned, to the merchants in league with him, under cover of whose names the Governor reaped his share of the profits.
In June, 1680, while Hennepin was in the Sioux villages, Du Lhut set out from the head of Lake Superior with two canoes, four Frenchmen, and an Indian, to continue his explorations. [Footnote: Abstracts of letters in Memoir on the French Dominion in Canada, N. Y. Col. Docs., ix. 781.] He ascended a river, apparently the Burnt Wood, and reached from thence a branch of the Mississippi which seems to have been the St. Croix. It was now that, to his surprise, he learned that there were three Europeans on the main river below; and, fearing that they might be Englishmen or Spaniards, encroaching on the territories of the king, he eagerly pressed forward to solve his doubts. When he saw Hennepin, his mind was set at rest; and the travellers met with a mutual cordiality. They followed the Indians to their villages of Mille Lac, where Hennepin had now no reason to complain of their treatment of him. The Sioux gave him and Du Lhut a grand feast of honor, at which were seated a hundred and twenty naked guests; and the great chief Ouasicoude, with his own hands, placed before Hennepin a bark dish containing a mess of smoked meat and wild rice.
Autumn had come, and the travellers bethought them of going home. The Sioux, consoled by their promises to return with goods for trade, did not oppose their departure; and they set out together, eight white men in all. As they passed St. Anthony's Falls, two of the men stole two buffalo robes which were hung on trees as offerings to the spirit of the cataract. When Du Lhut heard of it, he was very angry, telling the men that they had endangered the lives of the whole party. Hennepin admitted that, in the view of human prudence, he was right, but urged that the act was good and praiseworthy, inasmuch as the offerings were made to a false god; while the men, on their part, proved mutinous, declaring that they wanted the robes and meant to keep them. The travellers continued their journey in great ill humor, but were presently soothed by the excellent hunting which they found on the way. As they approached the Wisconsin, they stopped to dry the meat of the buffalo they had killed, when to their amazement they saw a war-party of Sioux approaching in a fleet of canoes. Hennepin represents himself as showing on this occasion an extraordinary courage, going to meet the Indians with a peace-pipe, and instructing Du Lhut, who knew more of these matters than he, how it behooved him to conduct himself. The Sioux proved not unfriendly, and said nothing of the theft of the buffalo robes. They soon went on their way to attack the Illinois and Missouris, leaving the Frenchmen to ascend the Wisconsin unmolested.
After various adventures, they reached the station of the Jesuits at Green Bay; but its existence is wholly ignored by Hennepin, whose zeal for his own order will not permit him to allude to this establishment of the rival missionaries. [Footnote: On the other hand, he sets down on his map of 1683 a mission of the Recollets at a point north of the farthest sources of the Mississippi, to which no white man had ever penetrated.] He is equally reticent with regard to the Jesuit mission at Michillimackinac, where the party soon after arrived, and where they spent the winter. The only intimation which he gives of its existence consists in the mention of the Jesuit Pierson, who was a Fleming like himself, and who often skated with him on the frozen lake, or kept him company in fishing through a hole in the ice. [Footnote: He says that Pierson had come among the Indians to learn their language; that he "retained the frankness and rectitude of our country," and "a disposition always on the side of candor and sincerity. In a word, he seemed to me to lie all that a Christian ought to be" (1697), 433.] When the spring opened, Hennepin descended Lake Huron, followed the Detroit to Lake Erie, and proceeded thence to Niagara. Here he spent some time in making a fresh examination of the cataract, and then resumed his voyage on Lake Ontario. He stopped, however, at the great town of the Senecas, near the Genessee, where, with his usual spirit of meddling, he took upon him the functions of the civil and military authorities, convoked the chiefs to a council, and urged them to set at liberty certain Ottawa prisoners whom they had captured in violation of treaties. Having settled this affair to his satisfaction, he went to Fort Frontenac, where his brother missionary, Buisset, received him with a welcome rendered the warmer by a story which had reached him, that the Indians had hanged Hennepin with his own cord of St. Francis.
From Fort Frontenac he went to Montreal; and leaving his two men on a neighboring island, that they might escape the payment of duties on a quantity of furs which they had with them, he paddled alone towards the town. Count Frontenac chanced to be here; and, looking from the window of a house near the river, he saw, approaching in a canoe, a Recollet father, whose appearance indicated the extremity of hard service; for his face was worn and sunburnt, and his tattered habit of St. Francis was abundantly patched with scraps of buffalo skin. When at length he recognized the long-lost Hennepin, he received him, as the father writes, "with all the tenderness which a missionary could expect from a person of his rank and quality." [Footnote: (1697), 471.] He kept him for twelve days in his own house, and listened with interest to such of his adventures as the friar saw fit to divulge.
And here we bid farewell to Father Hennepin. "Providence," he writes, "preserved my life that I might make known my great discoveries to the world." He soon after went to Europe, where the story of his travels found a host of readers, but where he died at last in a deserved obscurity. [Footnote: More than twenty editions of Hennepin's travels appeared, in French, English, Dutch, German, Italian, and Spanish. Most of them include the mendacious narrative of the pretended descent of the Mississippi. For a list of them, see Hist. Mag., i. 346; ii. 24.
The following is from a letter of La Salle, dated at Fort Frontenac, 22 Aug. 1681. This, with one or two other passages of his letters, shows that he understood the friar's character, though he could scarcely have foreseen his scandalous attempts to defame him and rob him of his just honors. "J'ai cru qu'il etoit a propos de vous faire le narre des aventures de ce canot (du Picard et d'Accau) parce que je ne doute pas qu'on n'en parle; et si vous souhaitez en conferer avec le P. Louis Hempin (sic) Recollect qui est repasse en France, il faut un peu le connaitre, car il ne manquera pas d'exagerer toutes choses, c'est son caractere, et a moy mesme il m'a ecrit comme s'il eust este tout pres d'estre brule, quoiqu'il n'en ait pas este seulement en danger; mais il croit qu'il lui est honorable de le faire de la sorte, et il parle plus conformement a ce qu'il veut qu'a ce qu'il fait." I am indebted for the above to M. Margry.
In 1699, Hennepin wished to return to Canada; but, in a letter of that year, Louis XIV. orders the Governor to seize him, should he appear, and send him prisoner to Rochefort. This seems to have been in consequence of his renouncing the service of the French crown and dedicating his edition of 1697 to William III. of England.]
CHAPTER XX. 1681. LA SALLE BEGINS ANEW.
HIS CONSTANCY.—HIS PLANS.—HIS SAVAGE ALLIES.—HE BECOMES SNOW-BLIND. —NEGOTIATIONS.—GRAND COUNCIL.—LA SALLE'S ORATORY.—MEETING WITH TONTY.—PREPARATION.—DEPARTURE.
In tracing the adventures of Tonty and the rovings of Hennepin, we have lost sight of La Salle, the pivot of the enterprise. Returning from the desolation and horror in the valley of the Illinois, he had spent the winter at Fort Miami, on the St. Joseph, by the borders of Lake Michigan. Here he might have brooded on the redoubled ruin that had befallen him: the desponding friends, the exulting foes; the wasted energies, the crushing load of debt, the stormy past, the black and lowering future. But his mind was of a different temper. He had no thought but to grapple with adversity, and out of the fragments of his ruin to rear the fabric of a triumphant success.
He would not recoil; but he modified his plans to meet the new contingency. His white enemies had found, or rather perhaps had made, a savage ally in the Iroquois. Their incursions must be stopped, or his enterprise would come to nought; and he thought he saw the means by which this new danger could be converted into a source of strength. The tribes of the West, threatened by the common enemy, might be taught to forget their mutual animosities, and join in a defensive league, with La Salle at its head. They might be colonized around his fort in the valley of the Illinois, where, in the shadow of the French flag, and with the aid of French allies, they could hold the Iroquois in check, and acquire, in some measure, the arts of a settled life. The Franciscan friars could teach them the faith; and La Salle and his associates could supply them with goods, in exchange for the vast harvest of furs which their hunters could gather in these boundless wilds. Meanwhile, he would seek out the mouth of the Mississippi; and the furs gathered at his colony in the Illinois would then find a ready passage to the markets of the world. Thus might this ancient slaughter-field of warring savages be redeemed to civilization and Christianity; and a stable settlement, half-feudal, half-commercial, grow up in the heart of the western wilderness. The scheme was but a new feature, the result of new circumstances, added to the original plan of his great enterprise; and he addressed himself to its execution with his usual vigor, and with an address which never failed him in his dealings with Indians.
There were allies close at hand. Near Fort Miami were the huts of twenty- five or thirty savages, exiles from their homes, and strangers in this western world. Several of the English colonies, from Virginia to Maine, had of late years been harassed by Indian wars; and the Puritans of New England, above all, had been scourged by the deadly outbreak of King Philip's war. Those engaged in it had paid a bitter price for their brief triumphs. A band of refugees, chiefly Abenakis and Mohegans, driven from their native seats, had roamed into these distant wilds, and were wintering in the friendly neighborhood of the French. La Salle soon won them over to his interests. One of their number was the Mohegan hunter, who, for two years, had faithfully followed his fortunes, and who had been for four years in the West, He is described as a prudent and discreet young man, in whom La Salle had great confidence, and who could make himself understood in several western languages, belonging, like his own, to the great Algonquin tongue. This devoted henchman proved an efficient mediator with his countrymen. The New-England Indians, with one voice, promised to follow La Salle, asking no recompense but to call him their chief, and yield to him the love and admiration which he rarely failed to command from this hero-worshipping race.
New allies soon appeared. A Shawanoe chief from the valley of the Ohio, whose following embraced a hundred and fifty warriors, came to ask the protection of the French against the all-destroying Iroquois. "The Shawanoes are too distant," was La Salle's reply; "but let them come to me at the Illinois, and they shall be safe." The chief promised to join him in the autumn, at Fort Miami, with all his band. But, more important than all, the consent and co-operation of the Illinois must be gained; and the Miamis, their neighbors, and of late their enemies, must be taught the folly of their league with the Iroquois, and the necessity of joining in the new confederation. Of late, they had been made to see the perfidy of their dangerous allies. A band of the Iroquois, returning from the slaughter of the Tamaroa Illinois, had met and murdered a band of Miamis on the Ohio, and had not only refused satisfaction, but entrenched themselves in three rude forts of trees and brushwood in the heart of the Miami country. The moment was favorable for negotiating; but, first, La Salle wished to open a communication with the Illinois, some of whom had begun to return to the country they had abandoned. With this view, and also, it seems, to procure provisions, he set out on the first of March, with his lieutenant, La Forest, and nineteen men.
The country was sheeted in snow, and the party journeyed on snow-shoes; but when they reached the open prairies, the white expanse glared in the sun with so dazzling a brightness that La Salle and several of the men became snow-blind. They stopped and encamped under the edge of a forest; and here La Salle remained in darkness for three days, suffering extreme pain. Meanwhile, he sent forward La Forest, and most of the men, keeping with him his old attendant Hunaut, Going out in quest of pine-leaves, a decoction of which was supposed to be useful in cases of snow-blindness, this man discovered the fresh tracks of Indians, followed them, and found a camp of Outagamies, or Foxes, from the neighborhood of Green Bay. From them he heard welcome news. They told him that Tonty was safe among the Pottawattamies, and that Hennepin had passed through their country on his return from among the Sioux. [Footnote: Relation des Decouvertes, MS. A valuable confirmation of Hennepin's narrative.]
A thaw took place; the snow melted rapidly; the rivers were opened; the blind men began to recover; and, launching the canoes which they had dragged after them, the party pursued their way by water. They soon met a band of Illinois. La Salle gave them presents, condoled with them on their losses, and urged them to make peace and alliance with the Miamis. Thus, he said, they could set the Iroquois at defiance; for he himself, with his Frenchmen, and his Indian friends, would make his abode among them, supply them with goods, and aid them to defend themselves. They listened, well pleased, promised to carry his message to their countrymen, and furnished him with a large supply of corn. [Footnote: This seems to have been taken from the secret repositories, or caches, of the ruined town of the Illinois.] Meanwhile, he had rejoined La Forest, whom he now sent to Michillimackinac to await Tonty, and tell him to remain there till he, La Salle, should arrive.
Having thus accomplished the objects of his journey, he returned to Fort Miami, whence he soon after ascended the St. Joseph to the village of the Miami Indians on the portage, at the head of the Kankakee. Here he found unwelcome guests. These were a band of Iroquois warriors, who had been for some time in the place, and who, as he was told, had demeaned themselves with the insolence of conquerors, and spoken of the French with the utmost contempt. He hastened to confront them, rebuked and menaced them, and told them that now, when he was present, they dared not repeat the calumnies which they had uttered in his absence. They stood abashed and confounded, and, during the following night, secretly left the town, and fled. The effect was prodigious on the minds of the Miamis, when they saw that La Salle, backed by ten Frenchmen, could command from their arrogant visitors a respect which they, with their hundreds of warriors, had wholly failed to inspire. Here, at the outset, was an augury full of promise for the approaching negotiations.
There were other strangers in the town,—a band of eastern Indians, more numerous than those who had wintered at the fort. The greater number were from Rhode Island, including, probably, some of King Philip's warriors; others were from New York, and others again from Virginia. La Salle called them to a council, promised them a new home in the West, under the protection of the Great King, with rich lands, an abundance of game, and French traders to supply them with the goods which they had once received from the English. Let them but help him to make peace between the Miamis and the Illinois, and he would insure for them a future of prosperity and safety. They listened with open ears, and promised their aid in the work of peace.
On the next morning, the Miamis were called to a grand council. It was held in the lodge of their chief, from which the mats were removed, that the crowd without might hear what was said. La Salle rose, and harangued the concourse. Few men were so skilled in the arts of forest rhetoric and diplomacy. After the Indian mode, he was, to follow his chroniclers, "the greatest orator in North America." [Footnote: "En ce genre, il etoit le plus grand orateur de l'Amerique Septentrionale."—Relation des Decouvertes, MS.] He began with a gift of tobacco, to clear the brains of his auditory; next, for he had brought a canoe-load of presents to support his eloquence, he gave them cloth to cover their dead, coats to dress them, hatchets to build a grand scaffold in their honor, and beads, bells, and trinkets of all sorts, to decorate their relatives at a grand funeral feast. All this was mere metaphor. The living, while appropriating the gifts to their own use, were pleased at the compliment offered to their dead; and their delight redoubled as the orator proceeded. One of their great chiefs had lately been killed; and La Salle, after a eulogy of the departed, declared that he would now raise him to life again; that is, that he would assume his name, and give support to his squaws and children. This flattering announcement drew forth an outburst of applause; and when, to confirm his words, his attendants placed before them a huge pile of coats, shirts, and hunting-knives, the whole assembly exploded in yelps of admiration.
Now came the climax of the harangue, introduced by a farther present of six guns.
"He who is my master, and the master of all this country, is a mighty chief, feared by the whole world; but he loves peace, and the words of his lips are for good alone. He is called the King of France, and he is the mightiest among the chiefs beyond the great water. His goodness reaches even to your dead, and his subjects come among you to raise them up to life. But it is his will to preserve the life he has given: it is his will that you should obey his laws, and make no war without the leave of Onontio, who commands in his name at Quebec, and who loves all the nations alike, because such is the will of the Great King. You ought, then, to live at peace with your neighbors, and above all with the Illinois. You have had causes of quarrel with them; but their defeat has avenged you. Though they are still strong, they wish to make peace with you. Be content with the glory of having obliged them to ask for it. You have an interest in preserving them; since, if the Iroquois destroy them, they will next destroy you. Let us all obey the Great King, and live together in peace, under his protection. Be of my mind, and use these guns that I have given you, not to make war, but only to hunt and to defend yourselves." [Footnote: Translated from the Relation, where these councils are reported at great length.]
So saying, he gave two belts of wampum to confirm his words; and the assembly dissolved. On the following day, the chiefs again convoked it, and made their reply in form. It was all that La Salle could have wished. "The Illinois is our brother, because he is the son of our Father, the Great King." "We make you the master of our beaver and our lands, of our minds and our bodies." "We cannot wonder that our brothers from the East wish to live with you. We should have wished so too, if we had known what a blessing it is to be the children of the Great King." The rest of this auspicious day was passed in feasts and dances, in which La Salle and his Frenchmen all bore part. His new scheme was hopefully begun; the ground was broken, and the seed sown. It remained to achieve the enterprise, twice defeated, of the discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi, that vital condition of his triumph, without which all other successes were meaningless and vain.
To this end he must return to Canada, appease his creditors, and collect his scattered resources. Towards the end of May, he set out in canoes from Fort Miami, and reached Michillimackinac after a prosperous voyage. Here, to his great joy, he found Tonty and Zenobe Membre, who had lately arrived from Green Bay. The meeting was one at which even his stoic nature must have melted. Each had for the other a tale of disaster; but, when La Salle recounted the long succession of his reverses, it was with the tranquil tone and cheerful look of one who relates the incidents of an ordinary journey. Membre looked on him with admiration. "Any one else," he says, "would have thrown up his hand, and abandoned the enterprise; but, far from this, with a firmness and constancy that never had its equal, I saw him more resolved than ever to continue his work and push forward his discovery." [Footnote: Membre, in Le Clercq, ii. 208. Tonty, in his unpublished memoir, speaks of the joy of La Salle at the meeting. The Relation, usually very accurate, says erroneously, that Tonty had gone to Fort Frontenac. La Forest had gone thither not long before La Salle's arrival.]
Without loss of time, they embarked together for Fort Frontenac, paddled their canoes a thousand miles, and safely reached their destination. Here, in this third beginning of his disastrous enterprise, La Salle found himself beset with embarrassments. Not only was he burdened with the fruitless costs of his two former efforts, but the heavy debts which he had incurred in building and maintaining Fort Frontenac had not been wholly paid. The fort and the seigniory were already deeply mortgaged; yet, through the influence of Count Frontenac, the assistance of his secretary, Barrois, a consummate man of business, and the support of a wealthy relative, he found means to appease his creditors and even to gain fresh advances. To this end, however, he was forced to part with a portion of his monopolies. Having first made his will at Montreal, in favor of a cousin who had befriended him, [Footnote: Copie du testament du deffunt Sr. de la Salle, 11 Aout, 1681, MS. The relative was Francois Plet, M.D., of Paris.] he mustered his men, and once more set forth, resolved to trust no more to agents, but to lead on his followers, in a united body, under his own personal command. [Footnote: "On apprendra a la fin de cette annee, 1682, le sucees de la decouverte qu'il etoit resolu d'achever, au plus tard le printemps dernier, ou de perir en y travaillant. Tant de traverses et de malheurs toujours arrives en son absence l'ont fait resoudre a ne se fier plus a personne et a conduire lui-meme tout son monde, tout son equipage, et toute son entreprise, de laquelle il esperoit une heureuse conclusion."
The above is a part of the closing paragraph of the Relation des Descouvertes, so often cited, and of the excellent guidance of which we are henceforth deprived. It is a compilation made up from material supplied by the various members of La Salle's party, on their return to Canada, in 1681; and the greater portion is substantially the work of La Salle himself. It is a document of great interest and undoubted authority.]
The summer was spent when he reached Lake Huron. Day after day, and week after week, the heavy-laden canoes crept on along the lonely wilderness shores, by the monotonous ranks of bristling moss-bearded firs; lake and forest, forest and lake; a dreary scene haunted with yet more dreary memories,—disasters, sorrows, and deferred hopes; time, strength, and wealth spent in vain; a ruinous past and a doubtful future; slander, obloquy, and hate. With unmoved heart, the patient voyager held his course, and drew up his canoes at last on the beach at Fort Miami.
CHAPTER XXI. 1681-1682. SUCCESS OF LA SALLE.
HIS FOLLOWERS.—THE CHICAGO PORTAGE.—DESCENT OP THE MISSISSIPPI. —THE LOST HUNTER.—THE ARKANSAS.—THE TAENSAS.—THE NATCHEZ. —HOSTILITY.—THE MOUTH OF THE MISSISSIPPI.—LOUIS XIV. PROCLAIMED SOVEREIGN OF THE GREAT WEST.
The season was far advanced. On the bare limbs of the forest hung a few withered remnants of its gay autumnal livery; and the smoke crept upward through the sullen November air from the squalid wigwams of La Salle's Abenaki and Mohegan allies. These, his new friends, were savages, whose midnight yells had startled the border hamlets of New England; who had danced around Puritan scalps, and whom Puritan imaginations painted as incarnate fiends. La Salle chose eighteen of them, "all well inured to war," as his companion Membre writes, and added them to the twenty-three Frenchmen who composed his party. They insisted on taking their women with them, to cook for them, and do other camp work. These were ten in number, besides three children; and thus the expedition included fifty-four persons, of whom some were useless, and others a burden.
On the twenty-first of December, Tonty and Membre set out from Fort Miami with some of the party in six canoes, and crossed to the little river Chicago. [Footnote: La Salle, Relation de la Decouverte, 1682, in Thomassy, Geologie Pratique de la Louisiane, 9; Lettre du Pere Zenoble (Zenobe Membre), 14 Aoust, 1682, MS.; Membre, in Le Clercq, ii. 214; Tonty, Memoire, MS.; Proces Verbal de la Prise de Possession de la Louisiane.
The narrative ascribed to Membre, and published by Le Clercq, is based on the document preserved in the Archives Scientifiques de In Marine, entitled Relation de la Decouverte de l'Embouchure de la Riviere Mississippi faite par le Sieur de la Salle, l'annee passee, 1682. The writer of the narrative has used it very freely, copying the greater part verbatim, with occasional additions of a kind which seem to indicate that he had taken part in the expedition. The Relation de la Decouverte, though written in the third person, is the official report of the discovery made by La Salle; or perhaps for him, by Membre. Membre's letter of August, 1682, is a brief and succinct statement made immediately after his return.] La Salle, with the rest of the men, joined them a few days later. It was the dead of winter, and the streams were frozen. They made sledges, placed on them the canoes, the baggage, and a disabled Frenchman; crossed from the Chicago to the northern branch of the Illinois, and filed in a long procession down its frozen course. They reached the site of the great Illinois village, found it tenantless, and continued their journey, still dragging their canoes, till at length they reached open water below Lake Peoria.
La Salle had abandoned, for a time, his original plan of building a vessel for the navigation of the Mississippi. Bitter experience had taught him the difficulty of the attempt, and he resolved to trust to his canoes alone. They embarked again, floating prosperously down between the leafless forests that flanked the tranquil river; till, on the sixth of February, they issued forth on the majestic bosom of the Mississippi. Here, for the time, their progress was stopped; for the river was full of floating ice. La Salle's Indians, too, had lagged behind; but, within a week, all had arrived, the navigation was once more free, and they resumed their course. Towards evening, they saw on their right the mouth of a great river; and the clear current was invaded by the headlong torrent of the Missouri, opaque with mud. They built their camp fires in the neighboring forest; and, at daylight, embarking anew on the dark and mighty stream, drifted swiftly down towards unknown destinies. They passed a deserted town of the Tamaroas; saw, three days after, the mouth of the Ohio; [Footnote: Called by Membre the Ouabache (Wabash).] and, gliding by the wastes of bordering swamp, landed, on the twenty-fourth of February, near the Third Chickasaw Bluffs. [Footnote: La Salle, Relation de la Decouverte de I'Embouchure, etc.; Thomassy, 10 Membre gives the same date; but the Proces Verbal makes it the twenty-sixth.] They encamped, and the hunters went out for game. All returned, excepting Pierre Prudhomme; and, as the others had seen fresh tracks of Indians, La Salle feared that he was killed. While some of his followers built a small stockade fort on a high bluff [Footnote: Gravier, in his letter of 16 Feb. 1701, says that he encamped near a "great bluff of stone, called Fort Prudhomme, because M. de la Salle, going on his discovery, entrenched himself here with his party, fearing that Prudhomme, who had lost himself in the woods, had been killed by the Indians, and that he himself would be attacked."] by the river, others ranged the woods in pursuit of the missing hunter. After six days of ceaseless and fruitless search, they met two Chickasaw Indians in the forest; and, through them, La Salle sent presents and peace-messages to that warlike people, whose villages were a few days' journey distant. Several days later, Prudhomme was found, and brought in to the camp, half dead. He had lost his way while hunting; and, to console him for his woes. La Salle christened the newly built fort with his name, and left him, with a few others, in charge of it.
Again they embarked; and, with every stage of their adventurous progress, the mystery of this vast New World was more and more unveiled. More and more they entered the realms of spring. The hazy sunlight, the warm and drowsy air, the tender foliage, the opening flowers, betokened the reviving life of Nature. For several days more they followed the writhings of the great river, on its tortuous course through wastes of swamp and cane-brake, till on the thirteenth of March [Footnote: La Salle, Relation; Thomassy, 11.] they found themselves wrapped in a thick fog. Neither shore was visible; but they heard on the right the booming of an Indian drum, and the shrill outcries of the war-dance. La Salle at once crossed to the opposite side, where, in less than an hour, his men threw up a rude fort of felled trees. Meanwhile, the fog cleared; and, from the farther bank, the astonished Indians saw the strange visitors at their work. Some of the French advanced to the edge of the water, and beckoned them to come over. Several of them approached, in a wooden canoe, to within the distance of a gun-shot. La Salle displayed the calumet, and sent a Frenchman to meet them. He was well received; and the friendly mood of the Indians being now apparent, the whole party crossed the river.
On landing, they found themselves at a town of the Kappa band of the Arkansas, a people dwelling near the mouth of the river which bears their name. The inhabitants flocked about them with eager signs of welcome; built huts for them, brought them firewood, gave them corn, beans, and dried fruits, and feasted them without respite for three days. "They are a lively, civil, generous people," says Membre, "very different from the cold and taciturn Indians of the North." They showed, indeed, some slight traces of a tendency towards civilization; for domestic fowls and tame geese were wandering among their rude cabins of bark. [Footnote: Membre, in Le Clercq, ii. 224; Tonty, Memoire, MS.]
La Salle and Tonty at the head of their followers marched to the open area in the midst of the village. Here, to the admiration of the gazing crowd of warriors, women, and children, a cross was raised bearing the arms of France. Membre, in canonicals, sang a hymn; the men shouted Vice le Roi; and La Salle, in the king's name, took formal possession of the country. [Footnote: Proces Verbal de la Prise de Possession du Pays des Arkansas, 14 Mars, 1682, MS.] The friar, not, he flatters himself, without success, labored to expound by signs the mysteries of the faith; while La Salle, by methods equally satisfactory, drew from the chief an acknowledgment of fealty to Louis XIV. [Footnote: The nation of the Akanseas, Alkansas, or Arkansas, dwelt on the west bank of the Mississippi, near the mouth of the Arkansas. They were divided into four tribes, living for the most part in separate villages. Those first visited by La Salle were the Kappas or Quapaws, a remnant of whom still subsists. The others were the Topingas, or Tongengas; the Torimans; and the Osotouoy, or Sauthouis. According to Charlevoix, who saw them in 1721, they were regarded as the tallest and best formed Indians in America, and were known as les Beaux Hommes. Gravier says that they once lived on the Ohio.]